Friday, October 24, 2014

Sierra Madre City Government: Is It Really Pay To Play?

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So let's say you are a resident concerned about the future of Sierra Madre, and you are especially worried that last week's Planning Commission decision on One Carter could lead to an explosion of the kind of McMansion insanity going on down in Arcadia. The good news is that you do have some options.

And one of them would be to appeal that unfortunate decision to the City Council. Except there is this one problem. Yes, your government will allow you to challenge that decision. And yes, you will be able to stand before every man, woman and child in this town and declare you are convinced their conclusions were wrong, and that the City Council needs to examine all of the evidence before ever allowing the building to begin at One Carter. And perhaps even redress your appeal by sending it once again back to the Planning Commission for a more thorough, and heavily General Plan based, review.

But to do this you would have to pay City Hall some money. Actually, a lot of money.

In this town defending your rights as a taxpaying citizen is apparently done on a pay to play basis. Sure you can issue an appeal to the City Council to reexamine the Planning Commission's decision. One that could possibly open the floodgates to a wholesale McMansionization of Sierra Madre. Certainly you can point out that every third or fourth house in Sierra Madre might potentially be bought and torn down to help overseas nationals with more money than taste launder their ill gotten monetary gains. This and build the kinds of things antithetical to what most of those living here actually want. Exactly as it is being done in Arcadia.

But to do this you would need to kick in a lot of cash. Otherwise? You are flat out of luck.

How much money you ask? A cool $7,500, baby. Do you have that kind of sugar sitting around in the family cookie jar right now? You know, that little bit of saved up mad money you might want to spend on something as burdensome to city staff as defending your basic rights as a taxpaying American citizen?

According to the moneychangers down at City Hall the math goes like this. The cost to appeal the One Carter decision to your elected City Council needs to be 75% of the $10,000 application (or filing) fee the CETT folks paid a while back on their McMansion gambit.

But there is also another level to the madness. That $7,500 might not be the end of it. In the eyes of the appreciative salaried employees at City Hall, that appeal fee is a kind of deposit. It will hold you a place at their table. But should things go a little off the tracks during this appeal "process," your cost could go up. Way up if they decide something a little extra is needed. Like hiring a consultant.

So do you feel lucky? Do you?

Think of it as the meter in a cab whose driver doesn't ever want to ever let you out. Or at least until your credit card is wiped and he can't possibly get any more money out of you.

You might believe that you're doing the right and noble thing here, but apparently the city only sees you as a potential profit center. And you know how they feel about your money.

Perhaps it is your belief that because you are already paying some rather impressive taxes to this town, you somehow have the right to petition your local government agency and redress a grievance. After all, aren't you already footing the bill to keep the City Hall lights on, plus the employees supplied with groceries, CalPers and platinum $36K a year health care plans?

Yes, you are. And because you have already have paid once for the services of the city employees who would work on your appeal, you've already ponied up all that you need.

I mean, when you consider that you're currently paying the highest utility tax rates in all of California, could anyone there actually have the brass to accuse you of asking for something for nothing?

Unfortunately they do. In City Hall's eyes your taxes only pay to keep the employees seated at their desks. If you want to get them to do some actual work on something that many here feel is kind of important, like saving this town from an aesthetic and spiritual obliteration, you will need to pay extra.

In the case of an appeal of that unfortunate One Carter decision, that extra comes to $7,500. And it could be just the price of admission.

In other words, if you don't come up with pay to play money, you have no right to appeal anything in Sierra Madre. Apparantly everything at City Hall has a price tag attached to it. A very big price tag. And your government only has time for those with money enough to attract their attention. Like McMansion developers, crass overseas investors and their lawyers.

Your taxes only pay for the doors that other money opens. You might think you have the right to issue an appeal to your local government over something as important as this. But you don't. That is something you will need to buy.

Apparently it really is pay to play in Sierra Madre. You either fork over your money or go away. And if you don't buy in there is always someone else who will.

And that is who the City is really hoping to hear from.

http//:sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

55 comments:

  1. Elaine will cover the legal fees of any pedifile that wants to challenge the city's ordinance to protect children from being raped, but if a non-deviant wishes to exercise a challenge to the operations that are breaking this town, those individuals will be subjected to as many fees and legal stalls that courts will allow.

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    1. Pedophiles are an oppressed minority struggling to be free.

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    2. the two issues have nothing in common except that Elaine really is clueless

      anybody that will over charge a non-profit fundraising event, invoicing that the city spent 200 staff hours and a bill of $ 18,000 for event consulting etc

      well they dont need our money cause they ripping off local events

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  2. Gotta pay for those Platinum Pensions.

    You know, the gift that keeps on taking (from the taxpayers).

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    1. it's just a ponzi scheme that we can't do anything about

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  3. Tom Sawyer Fishing Derby, resident appeal on a development project. It's all the same.

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  4. Anybody taking the water tour this morning?

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  5. This is unlegislated taxation. City Hall is double dipping.

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    1. City Council could waive that $7,500 fee with a snap of the finger. Will they?

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    2. The three dudes fear having to vote on One Carter. The town would never let them hear the end of it if they come down on CETT's side. They will sit in stony faced silence and hope it all goes away.

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    3. Of course they will cave into CETT, and their cheerleader will be the city attorney.
      If the Planning Commissioners caved, and there are more people who actually care about the town on that, what chance is there the council won't? The only question is whether all of them will give a predatory developer some love, or just some of them.

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    4. The city council is between a rock and a hard place. The three fellows want the CETT projects to go through because of the income they will provide to the city. But they also want to appear to be against these McMansion projects for political reasons. Being forced to vote on anything to do with a One Carter appeal is definitely not what they want. We will witness more wiggling Tuesday evening than you'd ever see at a twist contest.

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    5. There is so much fraud in our local government that it can make a person dizzy trying to follow the lies.

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    6. It would actually make poltical sense to be one of the council members who calls it up for review and saves the residents all the appeal money. Those two would be heroes. What happens later will be what it is.

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    7. The residents should demand a review by the City Council. After a 10 year fight, let's follow the process to the end and make sure we truly have gotten it right. This is not a decision that should be made by an unelected Planning Commission. It needs to be made by the City Council and they need to have the courage to make the call.

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    8. The key once again is John Capoccia. Let's hope he's on board because its doubtful that the others would call it up for review. Don't forget that Rochelle Arizmendi may not be allowed to vote or call it up.

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  6. So a general plan will work if you pay the city to use it?

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    1. Everything is for sale at City Hall. It is the Crazy Johnny Fall Clearance. And it is all your fault for passing Measure UUT.

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    2. They have nothing I want. Except their resignations.

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  7. Only need two council members to call it up for free. We need to push very publicly for accountability.

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    1. can we sue the city for ineptness?

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    2. Yes. But only if you pay a $7,500 fee first.

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  8. The City Council must vote. Any Councilmember who votes against the appeal has to be regarded as someone who favors McMansions.

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    1. Agreed but the Kicker must be :
      the Recall process is on a hair trigger,ready to fire any Council member who votes against the interest of the Sierra Madre citizens seeking to preserve the unique character of this town
      Without the 'incentive' of a recall they will not respond responsibly.

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    2. It's an interesting thing to observe how citizens start out being pro-residents and then get elected and morph into being pro-staff, pro-developers and anti-residents.

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    3. The strangest change I have ever seen was in John Capoccia. Sometimes I wonder if maybe the pod people got him.

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    4. But there won't be a vote. The CC is going to hide behind the PC and pretend that they had nothing to do with it. And there won't be a recall either, because that's all talk and hot air. What there will be is 20+ McMansions at 1 Carter -- and more to follow at stonehouse, then the monestary.

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    5. If the 3 Dudes do not support the call for an appeal, then it is a vote. Also you should not underestimate the strong feelings people in this town have about keeping it from being turned into Arcadiia. Take a second and think about it. What do the residents of Sierra Madre have to lose by fighting back against a faithless city government?

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    6. "you should not underestimate the strong feelings people in this town have about keeping it from being turned into Arcadiia"

      As much as I agree with this statement, we need to remember that feelings are cheap. Talk is cheap. The next week will show how much this town is willing to act to save itself. The 1 Carter developer (and others) are watching.

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    7. Relax. It is always a relatively small amount of people who get involved in the issues of this town. On both sides. The vast majority of residents in town haven't a clue about any of this. These battles are always fought on the periphery.

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    8. I have cheap feelings once in a while.

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    9. Those who vote against the appeal have essentially voted in favor of the project but its worse because they did not even give the residents a chance to prove their case. I would not castigate any council member who calls it up for appeal but then who listens to all the arguements and from any legal advice and then denies the appeal. That would be fair and just. But to try to let the unelected Planning Commission make the final call on this would be political cowardice.

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  9. Was CETT charged back when they appealed to the City Council? How much?

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  10. Go Patriots!

    We all need to be brave and vote with the Patriots!

    Smaller government is best!

    If Sierra Madre had less employees, maybe we would have more money in the bank to oversee our community problems! Such as the McMansion issue in front of us and No water to pump from Sierra Madre dried up water wells!

    It will be coming to a vote - We need to take money away from city hall, this is the only way which they will wake up!

    We the residents need to Repeal all UUT !

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    1. I am not particularly in favor of stripping the city of all utility taxes. On the other hand, if the folks downtown don't start to recognize that they work for the people of this community rather than the other way around I am not against casting a protest vote.

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    2. When will I get to vote on ending utility taxes in Sierra Madre?

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    3. We have to vote to increase the UUT. If we don't, they will close the library and lay off police.

      Oh, wait, we defeated increases in 2012 and 2014.

      Is the Library still open?

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    4. It is. They also had enough extra cash to buy some yard signs.

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    5. This has nothing to do with Patriots!!!!

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    6. Correct. I'd leave the Raiders out of it as well.

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    7. And the Angels.

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  11. You all are very naïve if you think Sierra Madre is the only city to charge fees for an appeal, or for any other service. The City Attorney is there to protect the city from a lawsuit. If her advice is that they can't legally stop the project, they will not stop the project. Threat of recall will not do one iota of difference. If they get the advice of the attorney that they will be sued, they will not vote for an appeal. The only way we can force an appeal is to raise the money to do it. Are you in?

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    1. The city council will not stop the project because they don't want to stop the project. The city council wants the revenue, but would also like to avoid any political fallout by appearing to be on the side of McMansions. The genius of the appeal is that it flushes them out so we will know exactly where each of them stands on one of the most important issues to come down here in years. The city attorney is a development puppet. She's a joke. A very expensive one.

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    2. The city attorney's boss, Michael Colantuono, is the man who originally scared a council into allowing this violation of the then general plan in the first place. That was behind the scenes - in public, he said that if the city had to defend the hillside management zone, the city would win. Attorney Highsmith is not going to break ranks with Colantuono.

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    3. Colantuono specializes in screwing residents on behalf of developers. It is disgusting that our taxes go into his pocket.

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    4. Colantuono & Highsmith are still around thanks to John Harabedian, Josh Moran and Nancy Walsh.

      Be sure to thank John, Josh and Nancy when you see them.

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    5. City Council Members will also suffer the consequences of voting "present" should they not call the Planning Commission decision up for review.

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    6. Right 3:29. Instead of having a law firm with an expertise in water rights. Who would need that?

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  12. Been around awhile and have never heard of such a significant fee requirement when filing an appeal.....most cities charge little to nothing for the process. Usually a waiver provision is in the code, if a Council Member supports hearing the appeal - no charge.

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    1. Have you ever heard of a city charging a kids' fishing derby $85 an hour for unneeded employee help?

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  13. I wonder if the city ever would defend the General Plan.

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    1. You kidding? The city is doing everything it can to make sure the new General Plan never sees the light of day.

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  14. Ok, you all realize that the house approved for One Carter is 3150 sq ft INCLUDING the garage. A far cry from the 4000+they started out with. There are no yards at One Carter. This developer isn't going to be making a fortune like he wants too. I am skeptical he will even build it. As far as I'm concerned the PC did their job. This property was settled long before these commissioners were even elected. We sold our souls to the devil on One Carter. FACT. They get to build more than the 35% footprint. FACT. It's called suing the city. The PC was left with that mess. Each home must go through the PC first, before it can be built at One Carter.

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    1. I think it also has a basement that will be used for a living quarters. We did sell our souls to the devil but its not over yet. The process allows for an appeal or being called up for review by two City Council members. It would look really good for all of them to call it up. Doing so does not get anyone into a lawsuit. You know the developer would have done it had their project been denied. Who cares more about that property, the developer or the residents who have fought against it for 10 years? I sure hope its the residents otherwise we are in big trouble. 150 teardowns of older homes in Arcadia projected for this year. Can you imagine what that would do to Sierra Madre? You are naive if you think it won't happen here. Its happending and will only get worse as time goes on. Let's make a stand now and see how we do. We can't be any worse off even if we lost and the developer will know we are willing to take him to the mat on every project he puts forward. Because he doesn't want to have that delay each time, they may actually give us a better project next time.

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    2. The law suit canard is the same crap Colantuono fed the stoopid 2004 City Council where the One Carter disaster began. You'd think Dear Michael could come up with a new story every decade or so. This guy has made $100s of thousands of dollars off this town, and all he has caused is misery.

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