Monday, July 14, 2014

Something Happened: Why Did This City's Establishment Get On Board With the Water and Building Moratoriums?

~:  City Hall Gulch  :~
I don't know about you, but I have to admit to being a bit perplexed about a couple of things. I've been kicking this around for a few days now, and I have yet to figure it out. Why exactly did this City's local government and political establishment get on board with the two moratorium measures?

Until recently there appeared to be strong establishment opposition to either of the moratoriums. It took nearly two months for Denise Delmar's requests on these emergency measures to get safely past the Mayor's resistance and before the public. Yet at last Tuesday's City Council meeting support for both fell easily into place, and they passed unanimously. It appears to have been quite a change.

So what was the reason for this? It isn't often in this City that you witness so radical a mood swing, especially when it could have a serious financial impact on the ability of our local government agency to fund platinum retirement and benefits packages for itself. The most sacred of all the cows now housed in the City Hall barn.

While there were a few persons who did show up at last week's meeting to voice opposition, I'm guessing as a last gasp attempt by the now sadly diminished Buchanan/Doyle crowd to somehow stop the two moratorium bids, they had no effect whatsoever on the final outcome.

As a matter of fact, the response of the attending public appeared to be one of either astonishment or just plain anger at what these far too professional and chatty gentlemen had to say. An indication of just how out of touch and marginalized this once influential group has become. Even at City Hall, which apparently didn't even bother to let them know that the fix was already in.

It was not just surprising at how easily the old regime was pushed in front of the bus, it is almost as if this was done for our benefit.

The Mountain Views News, our city's adjudicated newspaper, which is almost entirely dependent upon taxpayer funded legal advertising for its meagre survival, presents pretty much a mirror image of the thinking at City Hall. A Pravda-like press obedience to government diktat that never strays far from officially approved versions of current events.

There is little that gets published in the Mountain Views News that doesn't kowtow to the wishes of either the City Manager or the previous four Mayors. Many of these articles sounding like they were dictated by our city government itself, rather than anything an independent and skeptical press would provide. And as such the MVN has unintentionally become one of the best indications we have for what is going on internally at City Hall.

I thought I would cite three recent Mountain Views News articles showing the speedy, and radical, evolution of this city's thinking on the building and water moratorium fronts. A rapid change that, in a few short weeks, went from complete support for McMansionizing places like Mater Dolorosa, to bringing the entire process to a screeching halt.

Without once even acknowledging the change, by the way.

The first cite comes from a May 31st Mountain Views News piece called, "The Talk of the Town: Mater Dolorosa Development Board Issues Statement To Clear Air."

Neither of the moratoriums were taken seriously in this article. And in that last paragraph, it is as if whatever you might think about Mater Dolorosa doesn't even matter. The authorities and big money had spoken, and the Mater Dolorosa McMansion development was going through. Your concerns about this matter being of no consequence whatsoever.

Events, of course, were to prove this MVN version wrong.

Things changed. From a complete and utter certainty about development impact fee enriching projects such as the Mater Dolorosa debacle happening, doubt began to creep into the official message just a few short weeks later. This from the June 28 version in the Mountain Views News:


A rather cautious approach, but quite different from the previous nonsense. Of course, that Phase III gambit was greeted with the catcalls and rotten tomatoes it deserved. After two water rate jack ups of nearly 100% combined, and in fewer than 5 years no less, that the City would even think of instituting cash penalties predicated on a 30% forced decrease in water usage was just plain nuts. Plus if instituted it could very well have led to a city-wide political uprising. Which explains why City Hall was packed last Tuesday evening, with a crowd that filled the lobby and spilled out into the street.

The bit about the City Council not dictating land use policy becomes a absolute hoot in light of the next MVN article cite. The following unmedicated hysteria is taken from this weekend's edition:


From declaring that housing at Mater Dolorosa was going to be built no matter what, to this over the top celebration of everything that we here at The Tattler had been advocating like … forever? All in just six weeks? Talk about having an Attention Deficit Disorder. This is a mood swing so rapid that the author of those three little numbers really ought to get herself to a doctor and checked out for whiplash. And soon. Her head just might fall off.

Of course, I don't have much of a problem with any of this. My hope was always that the two moratoriums would succeed. Along with zero penalties for not knuckling under to that absurdly large 30% water use cutback demand. Something that almost everybody in town would have trouble meeting, thereby making any new water use penalties a de facto third city water rate increase.

We won. We beat them. So what do I have to complain about?

Nothing. At least for the moment. But I still want to know why Harabedian, Goss and Capoccia, along with the City Manager and City Attorney, capitulated so completely. To me this is the other big event, and nearly as important as the two moratoriums themselves. The Tattler being so very political and all.

I have two theories. Here they are:

Theory #1: We won. City Hall finally figured out that there was a full-scale uprising in town, and they would soon to find themselves in an extremely untenable political position. One where extremely irate residents could start organizing a Councilmember recall or two, plus other possibly inconvenient unpleasantries. The matter had to be defused.

City Hall, along with its two union enabling shills on the City Council, also feared that this sudden burst of purposeful energy amongst the townies could soon extend to such issues as those obscene 30% (plus) health care plans they've been giving themselves. Plus with the remaining 6% of the UUT going on the ballot in November? Better to just kick the developers to the curb and let the lawyers sort it out.

Theory #2: They didn't really mean it. And at the next City Council meeting, when all the details on these moratoriums are going to be worked out, most everything will be parsed, processed and finagled away.

In other words, last Tuesday was for show, and with Council Chambers back to being nearly empty, they'll do what they always do. Make a pig's ear out of a silk purse.

Personally, I fear that in the end we will not have won that much. And if we don't show up at the next City Council meeting, with the exact same energy and resolve, we will lose everything we thought we'd achieved. You know, all of the stuff that Susan Henderson talks about in this weekend's version of the Mountain Views News.

Which changes its opinions with the wind. Just like our City Council does. And could once again if we are not there in sufficient numbers to stare them down.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

66 comments:

  1. Let's play chessJuly 14, 2014 at 6:29 AM

    or number 3- They impose a 30% water reduction and when folks do their best to comply, the UUT tax monies flowing into the city coffers goes down and thus they have a grand argument to raise the UUT tax yet again.

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    1. Nah. Have you seen your latest SCE bill? Insert inside states electrical rates are increasing over 10% soon. The City will get 10% more UUT as well.

      Also, water rates increased 18% on 7/1. This city will be swimming in UUT $$.

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    2. doesn't matter what the facts are. UUT revenue from water will be down and therefore the library will have to close and the firefighters and paramedics and police will be in jeopardy, too. It's all about the messaging and the fearmongering.

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    3. We're all gonna die!!!! (at some point)

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    4. Drink bottled water.

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  2. One way in which the city could save a lot of money, is to get all employee's (of which we have too many of) health benefits that don't cost a bloody fortune. I see the amount of money being paid for these health plans, and do not understand why the heck they are so expensive. We have over 200 employee's with excellent health insurance plans, dental, eyes, etc. The same as these city employee's yet we don't pay that much for it. Not even close. The city could save a bundle if they just had reasonable health insurance costs. I seriously don't understand why the cost for just this is so much. they need to shop around. They could save more then 50%, most likely even more if they just took the time to do some searching. I have never seen these prices for health insurance, never. With the exception of our Government, of course.

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    1. you mean the city manager has to get off her rear and actually do some work?

      in a country where people don't have the basic health insurance, the public sector gives outlandish perks and salaries which has to stop very soon

      I'm really okay with the pension union imploding and having to start over in the real world

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  3. The Tatler as usual offers a very astute analysis of the recent events here in town. But maybe the answer is really very simple. The "people" rose up and participated in this wonderful democracy. Because our City Council members represent the people, it is nice to see that they actually listened to the people. That's what American is all about.

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    1. nah, the city and a few Councilmembers just figure this is like when there was a smart Council majority, it'll pass and then it'll go back to the way it's always been

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    2. Remember, the three big city hall tactics are stall, delay and drag their feet. Sometimes all at once. They count on residents having a short attention span for this stuff.

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    3. I don't think this issue is going to "go away". If anything, it is only going to accelerate. The drought is in all likelihood going to get worse, El Nino or no El Nino. We need to conserve what resources we do have and not put any further strain on them by additional development and additional water users. Once the existing residents are taken care of both now and for the future, then and only then, can we contemplate additional development.

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  4. We also have a unique issue that is all getting rolled up into one thing. Its not just about Mater Dolorosa or One Carter or Stonehouse, it comes down to to preserving this town and its resources and putting Sierra Madre on a sustainable path. You had a perfect storm here. You have all these development projects suddenly springing up. You have people regretting the massive structure they drive past every day a the Kenisngton. You have one of the worst droughts in California's history. The water we do get is yellow and unhealthy. You have our water rates going up. Everyone can see for themselves the McMansionizaton in our neighboring towns. If you live in Sierra Madre, you have to want to keep what we have. This is not like the usual issues that come up and divide the town along the usual political lines like liberals vs. conservatives or republicans vs. democrats or environmentalists vs. big business. Preserving Sierra Madre and putting it on a sustainable path cuts across the usual political divides. That is what has happened here.

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    1. this would all be a nonissue if it weren't for those who fought for Measure V

      don't forget, the Buchanan/Doyle team endorses candidates in every election so when they endorse, you know it's bad for SM

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    2. They endorsed Noah Pants. Just to show us how smart they are.

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    3. (sniff) I always wanted to be a Sierra Madre City Councilman. Even when I wasn't voting and didn't live in Sierra Madre.

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    4. It is ok Noah. They told me that I was going to be an Assemblyman. When that fell through I quit.

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    5. You also have the people supporting this cause who simply look at the money and don't even care about open space. The fact is that our property values will continue to go up if we keep Sierra Madre unique. If Sierra Madre starts to look and feel just like any other town, then buyers have a lot of options. You can live in Arcadia, South Pas, San Marino etc... They're all just the same. But right now there is no town in the San Gabriel Valley like Sierra Madre. To maintain our property values, we also need a reliable water source. Without that, any city becomes a precarious place to live. You also want to have reasonable water rates. Onerous water rates from unreliable sources can also cause property values to go down. So for those people who don't care about open space and even don't care if Sierra Madre were to look like Arcadia, that's another reason to support this cause - self-interest and the bottom line.

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    6. So why is Arcadia's real estate so much more valuable?

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    7. Why do you lie?

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    8. 12:05, Denial is not a river in Egypt.

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    9. If Arcadia's real estate is " so much more valuable" than ours (which I do not necessarily believe), it has more to do with school districts than the 6,000 square foot homes those nouveau riche buttheads live in.

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    11. Well, duh, 12:58.

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    13. I think that is a conversation we can probably live without.

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  5. I share the Mods. skepticism about this 'conversion of convenience'. It is as cynical as their pilfering of our City tax dollars for Cadillac health plans , job for life policy and idleness on the job and retiring at 50.
    The one thing we can do is show up at the Meetings -democracy works, thank God!
    The other is to keep the "recall the bums' option alive. If they represent themselves at election time as wanting to serve Sierra Madre's Taxpayers and then turn around (once they are in) and slavishly follow some other shallow political agenda -Recall -and fast !Then we may actually get Council Members who are honest to their promises.

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    1. sure, in one obvious vote, now I trust John Harabedian...nope

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    2. The Cadillac health plans will be discussed by the City Council in September. Again put on the agenda by Denise Delmar. That will be a huge battle. The unions will fight this very hard.

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    3. I agree with the old adage, "trust but verify". On this issue, I would tend to give the City Council members the benefit of the doubt that they truly want to do what's best for Sierra Madre. There are other issues that I'm sure we'll all disagree about. This issue is different. We should continue to go to meetings and continue to monitor things very closely, but until any of the Council members prove otherwise, I will commend them for making the right decision on one of the most important issues facing Sierra Madre.

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    4. Agreed, 11:17.

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    5. How right you all - fill the chambers to overflowing again on the 22nd. We must let City Council know that we are still paying attention to the details as they work it out.

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    6. Might want to look at what is on the agenda before you put out the call for attendance. The residents have made a wonderful effort, but past experience teaches us that there are only just so many meetings you can count on people coming to. Make sure the agenda items you care about are included.

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    7. Both the water and building moratoriums are on the agenda for a week from Tuesday. It will be " the devil is in the details" night.

      Have you been out of town or something?

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  6. Democracy only works when the people are involved. Otherwise you are just giving your tax money to people who will do with it as they like.

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    1. like extravagent pension plans where someone retires at age 50 with almost a full salary for not working anymore?

      shocking how the taxpayers are paying now and in the past for employees to get 20 years in and then we are stuck paying more taxes just to cover a pension plan that is morally corrupt

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  7. Hope for the best but prepare for worst. BG

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  8. Susan will write what she's told to write

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  9. at least Susan didn't quote Allen Graves, even she knows he's a lost cause to defend

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  10. I have always been prepared to go to the next several meetings. We need to fill chambers again. We must be committed. All of this has been too easy.

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    1. I will be there. This is now a second job.

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    2. Susan tried to save Tom Love and almost made Love look like an alarmist about the water crises. Love tried to damage the cause by, despite all the evidence, trying to convince the City Council that we don't have a water crises. All of Susan's quotes from Love were not out of Love's initial rosy presentation, but only came after Arizmeni and Capoccia asked some probing questions that took the shine off of of his presentation. Only then did Love concede the inevitable.

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  11. City Hall turned off our water.
    We turned off their $$.

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    1. Good one!
      Allen Graves advised us to remember that developers play hardball. I believe that's exactly how it's done. They control the meter. But we control the $pigot. If they try to bean us, they need to know they're gonna get plunked, too.

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  12. That last article was not written by Harriet Susan Poole Henderson, or whatever her real name is. The style is sure and the article is well-written. Same is true with the "There is no water emergency" article. So who's the new ghost writer?

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    1. Somebody being paid out of our taxes is my guess.

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    2. City sure as hell threw the Doyle crowd under the bus with that "there is no water emergency" stuff. Even City hall must think Bart is a stinker.

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  13. No matter how you feel about abolishing the UUT completely this November, please consider this. It is a wonderful threat to hold over the City's heads. This is scaring the hell out of them. As long as abolishing the UUT remains a credible threat, they will be willing to give us whatever we want. Think political, my friends. Think political.

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    1. Follow the money. Always follow the money.

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  14. Yes, but the only way they have looted our City is because idle taxpayers did not show up and comment at Council meetings. It is a sad observation but -when we show up in large numbers they behave honestly ,and when we don't....
    Vigilance !

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  15. I'm out of town, or I would have been at the last City Council meeting. I just watched Allan Graves with incredulity! He kept saying, "We must know the facts," followed by "I don't know the amounts." Mr. Graves, do you really live in Sierra Madre? Which developer do you work for??? "We must form a committee." Where were you during the four years the General Plan Update Steering Committee was, in fact, updating the General Plan? Where were you during the three Town Hall Forums? Your remarks were so uninformed as to be ludicrous!

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    1. he's a lawyer so cut him some slack, they are used to speaking and not saying anything of consequence

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  16. So Susan Henderson told three completely different stories about the exact same thing? Since when is that news?

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    1. you're surprised? Susan told several different stories about herself and her background.

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    2. Really? Were any of them true?

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    3. My guess? Like any good con, she made sure that there were bits and pieces of truth in all of them....

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  17. Anyone going to the big EENER meeting on water Wednesday?

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    1. I'd like to but it is my cat's birthday.

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    2. Has there been any public outreach about it?

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    3. There was supposed to be. But that was before there wasn't any.

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    4. I've heard they're announcing that you can no longer get water in plastic bags here.

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    5. I'm guessing they'll tell us there's a drought.

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    6. Because of this morning's brief passing shower Tom Love has declared that the drought is finally over.

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    7. I am going. BG

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  18. I think the time has come to fire Water Wise Owl and replace it with Whoop Ass Water Bottle. Who is with me?

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  19. well during the time they tried to sneak in the Downtown Specific plan with plans for 450 mixed used units up to 3 stories with low income units to be put on East Montecito the council put in place a building moratorium downtown stopping any other building till they put in their codes and regulations with the plan to enable the build out. So you are right why did they agree to the blding and water moratorium so easily because all is not what it appears to be. As long as you have Elaine Aguilar, Bruce Inman, Danny Castro and the old Colantuano attorney group steering us toward over development for monetary gain this will not stop get the foxes out of the hen house....and that is up to the city council to clean clock but not so easy if a couple or more of the council members are foxes too.....

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