Monday, March 31, 2014

Why Pat Alcorn Is Changing Her Vote On Measure UUT

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(Mod: If you had been watching City Council meetings over the past few months, you could have witnessed Pat Alcorn stepping up to the podium during public comment and speaking about why she planned to cast a "Yes" vote for Measure UUT. However, as more facts started to come out, Pat began to question her support for increasing Sierra Madre's utility user tax rates ... We are reprinting the letter Pat published this weekend in the Mountain Views News, a print medium with a readership in Sierra Madre that many believe has now fallen to less than 300 people. Her letter deserves a wider readership, and we felt we needed to do our part.)

I am asking the citizens to Vote NO on the current UUT measure on the ballot. I have spoken out at City Council Meetings expressing my opinion to extend the 10% Utility Tax was the way to go to help maintain the budget of Sierra Madre services.

I have since changed my mind after reviewing facts, figures, and the Sierra Madre budget.  I believe that the City of Sierra Madre can sustain all of the current services and activities without the extension (which is essentially a tax raise) and still operate at its current level.  

Here is why:

The sunset clause will not occur until July 1, 2015.  That means on July 1st 2015, the rate will go down to 8% -- more than a year from now.
In the meantime, Edison, The Gas Co. and the Sierra Madre Water Department have raised their rates (water rates will increase 61% over the next five years) which will bring in additional revenue from UUT taxes.
Sierra Madre property taxes rise from one year to the next, and nothing in the horizon tells us that the City will not gain additional property tax revenue.
There are new businesses coming to town which will help increase our sales tax base.
On July 1, 2016 the UUT rate is scheduled to be reduced to 6%.  This is what the administration calculated to be the figure in 2008, and was confirmed by the Citizens by a vote in 2012.

I am Chairman of the Community Services Commission and am President of the Friends of the Library. I’m not speaking for either organization but as a concerned citizen. Would I like to see services of either the Library or Community Services suffer because of a lack of funds?  Of course not.  My heart and volunteer efforts have always gone to enhance the quality of life of Sierra Madre Citizens.

I have seen nothing in the figures that will compromise the police, paramedics, fire, library, public works or community services.  And, in the worst case scenario, another vote can always come up in 2016 to either hold the line at 8% or some other figure.

I urge the citizens of Sierra Madre to vote NO on the tax increase of the UUT.

Sincerely, Pat Alcorn

(Mod: John Lewis is one of two CPAs who came to the podium last Tuesday evening to speak out against the stiff utility tax increases that are part and parcel to Measure UUT. His "simple math" approach to the otherwise overwrought and highly political mess handed to us by City Hall is a breath of fresh air.)

My name is John Lewis and I am a resident of Sierra Madre ...  I am also a CPA and co-author of the NO on UUT tax argument.  I'd like to take just a moment to share with you a couple of quick thoughts about the tax increase.

I am not here to argue for lower revenue for the city, but I am here to argue for common sense and simple math.

Revenue that a government derives out of a particular tax is a function of two things: the tax rate and the tax base.  in this case, as we all known the tax base is our utility bills, and I think we are all painfully aware already that our water rates, which dominate our utility bills, have begun to increase and will continue to increase through next July to a total of more than 50%. 

That means the tax base against which the tax is assessed will be substantially larger than it has been.  What that means is, that based on simple math, it is highly unlikely that to allow the UUT rate to reduce as previously agreed will result in a lower total revenue to the city.

I think, as a result, arguments that the UUT rate and its scheduled decline will result in risk to the city's basic services are at best silly, and at worst deceptive. Thank you.

(Mod: John Capoccia has now written a three part "War & Peace" sized tome on the Measure UUT controversy. If brevity is the soul of wit, then John has written something quite different. He certainly does try hard to conflate city employee benefits with salaries. Apples, oranges, and maybe bok choy were not spared in the concocting of this special brew. But just below is my favorite part.)

The total compensation we offer our employees is far less that our neighbors (don't take my word for it, I invite you to peruse the "Transparent California" website to do your own comparisons - call me and tell me what you find!) Sierra Madre offers its employees a total compensation package that is merely sufficient to retain and recruit competent employees. 

(Mod: What other cities pay their employees should have little influence on what we have to offer. There is no bigger story in California these days than how badly government employees are being overcompensated, with some cities actually going into bankruptcy because of it. To me that is a race we should have backed out of 15 years ago … But since Councilmember Capoccia did mention Transparent California, I do have a chart here from them that I can share with you. The numbers highlighted in pink represent some of the highest health plan costs in the state. I guess to go along with our highest utility taxes in the state.)


(Mod: So let me ask you this. These "low" salaries that John Capoccia speaks of are listed above. If these jobs were put on the market and people invited to interview for them, how long do you think the line of applicants would be? Maybe from City Hall all the way over to Michillinda? … I really don't see why we have to offer the highest priced health benefits in the state in hopes that somebody won't pack up their pocket protector and head for a new job in, say, Asuza. Let them go. Give the job to someone who'd appreciate it. How about somebody who actually lives in Sierra Madre, and likes being here?)

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Sunday, March 30, 2014

"Yes On UUT" Campaign Is Exploiting Poorly Paid Memorial Park Day Laborers To Deliver Flyers

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The purpose of Measure UUT is, as I am sure you know by now, to keep benefits and health care plans for unionized City of Sierra Madre workers at some of the highest levels in the state. That was the deal the City made, and they are doing everything they can to make it happen. Of course, the participation of the actual taxpayers in regards to this matter was not welcomed at that particular bargaining table. The result being that, at over $30,000 per year, a number of our unionized employees receive some of the highest costing health plans in California. Here is a link to an article where we covered this story. It contains some very good information.

But that hardly means that the "Yes On UUT" campaign is above exploiting undocumented and poorly paid day laborers picked up at Memorial Park. There are labor rights, and then there is another utterly exploitative system for those who have been traditionally excluded from of the benefits of our society.

Personally, I doubt the "Yes On UUT" people are paying anything related to Social Security for this work. I suspect that they're paying hardly anything at all.

Here are a couple of pictures of one gentleman out this morning delivering "Yes On UUT" campaign material door to door. He asked that I keep his face out of the pictures, for obvious reasons. I honored that. We're not about victimizing the victims.



Apparently the "Yes On UUT" folks are not quite the friends of the working man they have claimed to be. Either that or none on that campaign deign to do any of the hard work themselves. Probably both.

Let's face it, they're far too posh for that door to door stuff.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Saturday, March 29, 2014

SCAG Wants To Send You A Bill For Driving Your Car

Your car data recorder is ready
The Southern California Association of Governments, or SCAG if you like to speak the language of state bureaucratic oppression, has come up with what they think is a brilliant idea. And like most things that governmental organizations like SCAG think are brilliant, it involves taking more money from you, the Willie Loman in this unhappy equation.

Kind of like it is with our City Hall and the utility tax increase they insist is merely an extension of the existing arrangement, even though it involves the taking of a lot more money than the people voted for in 2012. When it comes to the government getting more money out of the people, your votes don't count for as much as they once did.

And, of course, with SCAG, which is made up of that same batch of unwholesome people forcing towns like Sierra Madre to accommodate absurd amounts of new stack and pack development, you don't get a vote at all. They just tell you what it is you are going to do.

In an article this week called "As Highway Fund goes broke, Southern California planners advocate drivers pay a vehicle miles fee" (link), here is how the Pasadena Star News lays it out:

The small print posted above the gas pump tells a story of our nation’s roads in crisis.

While the driver only notices the pump price, the amount of federal tax included — 18.5 cents per gallon — has remained the same for 20 years. If you add more fuel-efficient vehicles and more people taking the train, the tax revenue drops so low that it can no longer keep pace with higher labor and material costs for road, bridge and highway improvements, according to the Southern California Association of Governments.

As a result, the Highway Trust Fund will be bankrupt by July, SCAG officials said.

This hidden crisis has prompted California lawmakers and transportation planners to consider a replacement, a vehicle miles traveled fee that assesses motorists by their cars’ odometer readings and spits out a bill every month or year.

SCAG recently passed a resolution asking Congress to replace the federal gasoline tax, known as an excise tax, with a VMT by 2025. In the meantime, the six-county planning agency wants to see Southern California become a test site for a pilot VMT program.

“I don’t think the gas tax is working,” said Carrie Bowen, director of Caltrans District 7, which includes Los Angeles and Ventura counties. “More people are driving hybrid cars, and the improved efficiencies have reduced the amount of money we get for our highways.”

What SCAG would actually like to do is put a black box in your car that would track your freeway usage. This way they could tally up how many miles you drive and then send you a yearly tax bill. Here is how the Los Angeles Times described this is an article several months back called "A black box in your car? Some see a source of tax revenue" (link).

As America's road planners struggle to find the cash to mend a crumbling highway system, many are beginning to see a solution in a little black box that fits neatly by the dashboard of your car.

The devices, which track every mile a motorist drives and transmit that information to bureaucrats, are at the center of a controversial attempt in Washington and state planning offices to overhaul the outdated system for funding America's major roads.

The usually dull arena of highway planning has suddenly spawned intense debate and colorful alliances. Libertarians have joined environmental groups in lobbying to allow government to use the little boxes to keep track of the miles you drive, and possibly where you drive them — then use the information to draw up a tax bill.

"This really is a must for our nation. It is not a matter of something we might choose to do," said Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Assn. of Governments, which is planning for the state to start tracking miles driven by every California motorist by 2025. "There is going to be a change in how we pay these taxes. The technology is there to do it."

This isn't the first time SCAG has pushed this rather Orwellian notion. As Federally funded planning bureaucrats with all the time in the world to think of ways to get more money out of private sector workers, they can work the process. And besides, the first time they floated this notion the response was not quite as good as they'd hoped.

By the way, did you know that Hasan Ikhrata, the head of SCAG, is a former Soviet planner? As in the old Soviet Union of Lenin and Stalin? You can check that out, plus how this all went over last year, by clicking here.

Some folks are not happy about Sierra Madre's new Middle School

An article currently available on the Pasadena Star News website talks about what could be perhaps the next chapter in the seemingly endless saga of getting a new Middle School built in Sierra Madre.

Too big? Sierra Madre Middle School is ‘a monolith in our backyard,’ says neighbor (link) - When steel posts were erected a couple weeks ago for what will become a new $27.8 million building for the area’s middle school students, East Laurel Street residents say they were “aghast.”

“They have built a monolith in our backyard,” Kirk Osborne said.

After seeing the approximate roofline of the new Sierra Madre Middle School building based on the steel beams, residents believe their view of the Valley from their hillside homes will be diminished.

Pasadena Unified School District spokesman Adam Wolfson said the height of the building has not changed from the original drawings presented to the community in 2009 even though the plans were amended because construction bids initially came in over budget.

After years of delays and uncertainty as to whether the school would be built, ground broke this summer on a new building that will accommodate 650 students, 150 more students then the existing school holds. The new construction includes 20 classrooms, a multipurpose room, music rooms, a computer lab, library and atrium.

There apparently will be a meeting at the Sierra Madre Elementary School on April 8 at 6 pm to discuss all of this.

That is also election night here in Sierra Madre, so maybe the PUSD might want to consider changing the night of this get-together? Unless that is the point.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Friday, March 28, 2014

Candidate Gene Goss's California 460 Form Shows That His Campaign Treasurer Really Is Yolanda Miranda

Maxi Taxer Gene Goss
Recently on the now editorless and automated Sierra Madre Patch website, a reader there asked that The Tattler provide some additional information regarding the candidacy of Gene Goss. This in response to a link we had posted there about the endorsement of Noah Green by the Mountain Views News (link).

We have been posting notices on the Patch from time to time about some of the new City Council campaign revelations being written up here, and a few responses from those remaining Patch loyalists active on that site were left for us. Here is how one Patch reader put in what is a very reasonable request.

Marcielle Brandler March 26, 2014 at 12:28 PM - With all the links you have in your blog, can you provide the link to Gene Goss's campaign records, so I can see for myself what ill wind flies through his campaign, as you so say it does?

Marcielle's request here is, in my opinion, a sound one. Because it is true, we had never posted Goss's 460 Form showing proof that the treasurer for his second run at a City Council seat here in Sierra Madre is indeed the somewhat infamous and notorious Yolanda Miranda. Treasurer to so many of the Calderon family's ethically troubled political efforts, among other things.

To clear this oversight up, here is Gene Goss's 460 Form. As personally autographed by his campaign treasurer, Yolanda Miranda of Calderon family fame.


Just in case you haven't been following this matter and don't have the foggiest notion who Yolanda Miranda is, or why anyone would actually care, here are a few newspaper accounts that should give you an idea of just how controversial a campaign treasurer Gene Goss is in cahoots with right now.

But first you need to know this about Yolanda's patron, State Senator Ron Calderon. Here is a Feb 21 Los Angeles Times article detailing his difficult legal situation (link).

State Sen. Ron Calderon took $100,000 in bribes, authorities allege - State Sen. Ron Calderon has been indicted in a sweeping corruption case, accused of taking about $100,000 in bribes.

Federal authorities allege that Calderon (D-Montebello) took the bribes from a Long Beach hospital official as well as people connected to what he believed was a Hollywood studio. In fact, the studio was an FBI front and the business associates were FBI agents. Authorities claim Calderon received cash bribes, trips and dinners in exchange for "official acts."

Calderon, 56, faces 24 counts of fraud, wire fraud, honest services fraud, bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering and aiding in the filing of false tax returns.

"Public corruption is a betrayal of the public trust that threatens the integrity of our democratic institutions," U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte said at a news conference Friday. 

Calderon's brother, Thomas, faces charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering. Thomas Calderon is a former assemblyman who most recently served as a consultant for the Central Basin Water District. Authorities allege that Ronald Calderon took bribes from Michael Drobot, the former owner of Pacific Hospital in Long Beach. 

The Calderon brothers are obviously in some deep dutch with the FBI, and both will probably soon find themselves heading off for long stretches at Club Fed. But in the meantime a defense fund has been set up. And who is the treasurer of this effort? Yolanda Miranda.

California state Sen. Ron Calderon sets up legal defense fund (link): Well-known for fundraisers at out-of-state golf courses and plush resorts, state Sen. Ron Calderon has a new reason to solicit money from friends, family and the interest groups that do business in California's Capitol.

The Democrat from Montebello has established a legal defense fund to cover expenses related to his "public corruption investigation," according to a letter Calderon filed with the secretary of state this week.

"These funds will be only to pay the attorney's fees and other legal costs related to the defense of the candidate as well as administrative costs directly related to compliance with record keeping and reporting requirements," says the letter signed by Calderon and Yolanda Miranda, treasurer of Calderon's committee.

Would this be the kind of association you would want for your campaign if you were a candidate? I doubt it. Having the treasurer of a disgraced California State Senator's criminal defense fund handling your City Council campaign finances could cause unnecessary damage to your reputation. You'd probably want to select somebody else, right?

A reader took note of Gene Goss's delicate position in the Yolanda Miranda matter just the other day, and posted this information for us:

In a Pasadena Star-News story about the Bell corruption scandal, they identify Yolanda Miranda and Associates as "a Covina-based political consulting firm." This political consulting firm is listed as Gene Goss' treasurer and has received $250 from Gene Goss' campaign.

Gene Goss is one of those people who claims he is going to keep it local, but doesn't. So basically Gene is lying and has been lying from the beginning of his campaign.

The Pasadena Star News article our commenter refers to above is called "Cooley terms Bell scandal 'corruption on steroids'" (link). Gene Goss's campaign treasurer does gets a big shout out there, and with a whole new cast of characters.

(Councilmember George) Cole, Bell's former mayor, has several long-standing ties to the San Gabriel Valley. In 2006, Cole worked with Jeff Monical, who runs Lavell Communications, a political consulting firm in Alhambra. Cole's connection to the San Gabriel Valley also includes a long affiliation with Yolanda Miranda and Associates, a Covina-based political consulting firm.

The former mayor is also linked to state Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, who represents South Pasadena. In 2004, Cole paid Cedillo's spokesman Conrado Terrazas $2,816 for "professional services" related to Cole's run for Bell City Council.

At a recent Monterey Park dinner honoring Cole for charitable work he performed in Montebello, Cedillo declined to discuss the association. In recent days Cole bragged to associates that his political ties made him an unlikely target in the criminal probe.

I think we've made our point. But if you want to read more, click here.

Bill Coburn has no problem with any of this

Bill Coburn, the master of all he types at the SierraMadreNews.net blog, is a man who has almost never failed to throw his support to the candidates of the Mayberry Mafia, or the taxes they love. And Bill doesn't seem to have any problem with Gene Goss's troubling choice for a campaign treasurer. So much so that he has now made the two time maxi-taxer candidate his sole choice for City Council in this April's election. Here is how he puts his ringing endorsement of Gene Goss (link):

As I let him know back in mid-February, SierraMadreNews.Net endorses Gene Goss for City Council, just as we did in 2012.  As I said at that time, “Gene has studied politics for much of his adult life, he has a Masters Degree in Political Science.  Heck, he teaches it at Long Beach City College.  I think that knowledge might be helpful to the City.  His experience as Technology Committee Chair at LBCC might also come in handy in assessing the City’s methods and policies regarding technology.  As an academic, he will bring analytical skills to the table as well.

However, all is not completely well at the News.net. There are three City Council seats up for grabs in Sierra Madre this year, yet Bill has decided to only endorse one candidate, Gene Goss. Here is how Bill describes his decision making process:

Because this year, for the first time, I’m only endorsing one candidate, though there are three seats open. The reason being, that for me to offer the News Net’s endorsement to a candidate, I have to support them fully, and I have to feel strongly that I’m doing the right thing by giving them the News Net’s endorsement, thereby encouraging News Net readers to vote for that candidate. And in this campaign, while I will vote for two other people, and I will offer them limited support, I don’t feel it’s appropriate to encourage other people to vote for someone when I’m not even 100% convinced that I’m making the right choice. I have questions and concerns about the other candidates, and I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to recommend that you vote for someone while those concerns exist, and so I’m withholding the News Net endorsements for the other two seats.

Bill's inability to endorse either Denise Delmar or Rachelle Arizmendi is hardly surprising. Neither of those candidates support the Measure UUT tax hike, and to Bill that would be anathema since he has never opposed a tax increase in this town, nor even contemplated doing so. If the city asks for more money, in Bill's mind you click your heels and cough up that cash without question.

But what must be troubling for the likes of Chamber of Commerce executives such as H. Susan Henderson, Carol Canterbury and Nancy Walsh is that Bill Coburn has not given an endorsement to Noah Green. Even though their hand-picked candidate, Chamber VP Green, does support the utility tax increase, along with all of that other Bart Doyle bunkum Bill always supports, he does not get a SierraMadreNews.net nod.

Now that is news.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sacramento State Senate Crime Wave

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(Mod: The good news just keeps rolling in. We are now up to three California State Senators who have been busted for corruption by the FBI over the last several months, with hopefully even more on the way. I don't know about you, but I just can't get enough of this kind of news. Maybe we should start an entirely new blog just to keep track of all the state pols now being hauled off to the pokey. Below I have compiled some newspaper stories that detail each of these three recent arrests. California has become a de facto one party run state not really all that unlike some of the corrupt third world countries we Americans used to have the nerve to revile. For many today it is becoming increasingly hard to even tell the difference.)

State Sen. Ron Calderon, brother indicted (SF Gate.com link) California state Sen. Ron Calderon and his brother, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon, were indicted on federal public corruption charges Friday stemming from a wide-ranging investigation that ensnared the senator's children and a hospital executive.

The U.S. attorney's office announced the charges at a press conference in Los Angeles and said the lengthy investigation into the brothers' activities may lead to additional arrests.

Ron Calderon, 56, has agreed to surrender Monday on 24 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering and tax fraud, officials said. The allegations, if proven, carry a combined maximum of 400 years in prison.

His brother, Tom Calderon, 59, surrendered Friday morning after he was indicted on seven counts of money laundering. The allegations against Tom Calderon carry a combined maximum sentence of 160 years.

California State Sen. Leland Yee, gang leader known as ‘Shrimp Boy’ arrested in FBI raids (Pasadena Star News link) A California state senator who was lauded for his efforts to make government more transparent was arrested Wednesday along with a onetime gang leader known as “Shrimp Boy” during a series of raids by the FBI in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area, authorities said.

FBI spokesman Peter Lee confirmed the arrests of State Sen. Leland Yee and Raymond Chow, but declined to discuss the charges, citing an ongoing investigation. Yee was scheduled to be arraigned in federal court in San Francisco later Wednesday.

The agency was executing numerous arrests and search warrants in the Bay Area, FBI Special Agent Michael Gimbel said outside the offices of Ghee Kung Tong, a fraternal organization in San Francisco’s Chinatown that Chow reportedly headed. It was among the sites searched. Firefighters were seen going inside with a circular saw and later said they had cracked a safe.

Yee is the third Democratic senator to face charges this year. Sen. Rod Wright was convicted of perjury and voter fraud for lying about his legal residence in Los Angeles County, and Sen. Ron Calderon has been indicted on federal corruption charges. Wright and Calderon are taking a voluntary leave of absence, with pay, although Republicans have called for them to be suspended or expelled from the Legislature.

Mark Hedlund, spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, confirmed that the FBI searched Yee’s office in the state capitol on Wednesday, but he said he had no information about the arrest.

“We’re hoping for more as we go through the day,” he said.

Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said he had no comment and did not know anything about the investigation.

State Sen. Roderick Wright found guilty of perjury, voter fraud (Los Angeles Times link) Los Angeles jury Tuesday found state Sen. Roderick D. Wright, a fixture in area Democratic politics, guilty on eight felony counts of perjury and voter fraud.

Prosecutors said Wright, the first member of the Legislature to be convicted of a felony since the Shrimpscam sting of the 1990s, could face more than eight years behind bars and be banned for life from holding other elective office. It is unclear whether he must forfeit his Senate seat.

The lawmaker, who sat with his head bowed as a criminal courts clerk read the verdicts, had no comment. But his attorney said they would appeal. Judge Kathleen Kennedy set sentencing for March 12.

Wright, who was indicted by a county grand jury in September 2010, remains free on $45,000 bail.

Under the state Constitution, a lawmaker can be expelled from the Legislature on a two-thirds vote of his or her house. In some cases, legislators have resigned voluntarily.

The Tattler is challenged on The Patch

(Mod: The Patch still exists, sort of, and in our idle hours we have been posting links to some of our articles on there. It is pretty much an automated page now, and no longer has a human editor. It is open to whatever you might wish to plug in. A reader questioned us about an article regarding one Sierra Madre pol, asking the following question.)

With all the links you have in your blog, can you provide the link to Gene Goss's campaign records, so I can see for myself what ill wind flies through his campaign, as you so say it does? - Marcielle Brandler

(Mod: I will be more than glad to do that. Check back here tomorrow.)

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Civility Party Leaves Quietly

Even Paulie's "civilty" couldn't save them.
A couple of eventful things happened at last night's City Council meeting. The first and most positive came about during the initial public comment opportunity of the evening. Michael Amerio and John Lewis, the two CPAs who wrote the opposing argument to Measure UUT for the city produced sample ballot you hopefully received, went to the podium and efficiently leveled the arguments presented by those in favor of raising utility taxes in Sierra Madre. Their point being that the City's math just does not add up. There are additional significant revenue sources (massive development impact fees from the ALF being an example) that are producing handsome amounts of cash for City Hall, making their cries of poverty and impending doom seem disingenuous at best.

The era of the $37,000 city employee health plan is rapidly drawing to an end. Unfortunately for City Hall, Sierra Madre is populated by people who can add, subtract, and in the process actually make rational decisions all by themselves. Whatever credibility the city may have had on this matter is now long gone. With the impending re-defeat of double digit utility taxes, change is well on the way. For many living here there really is no other choice.

Later a moment of inverted joy was presented to the citizens of Sierra Madre when their elected officials decided to re-avow a utility tax break for certain categories of business. All while at the same time demanding that the residents of Sierra Madre vote themselves a huge increase in those same utility taxes. In effect subsidizing a favored class of business, and doing so with money confiscated from the working stiffs whose taxes keep this town afloat. Increased or not.

It is almost as if Nancy Walsh, John Harabedian and Josh Moran want to lose their Measure UUT initiative on April 8. The politics of capping utility water taxes for a favored class of ratepayer while at the same time asking the people whose money would subsidize this mess to vote themselves a tax increase is really quite counterintuitive. Or, to use a much shorter word, nuts.

And how ironic is this? Tom Love, the knowledgeable gentleman who sees to our water needs for the SGVMWD, followed with his presentation about the 500 year drought and just how bad that has become for our parched corner of the world.

So here local officialdom was having a large discussion regarding certain dire aspects of water in California and, of course, Sierra Madre, and just before this doomsday discussion the council had voted 3 - 2 to encourage businesses in town to use all the water they want since they will not have to pay very much in tax on it. I don't know about you, but to me this is a major logic lapse.

As one commenter pointed out, it is the kind of disconnectedness you usually only find in children and very old people.

Josh Moran then told Tom Love to demand that all those other cities conserve water. But didn't Josh just give away the store by capping the water utility tax for business in Sierra Madre? All so that they can use more painlessly?

At which point John Harabedian made what was perhaps the funniest remark of the evening by claiming there are no special interests in Sierra Madre. Somebody needs to put that one on a plaque.

A little later in the evening Nancy Walsh sustained yet another of her signature defeats when the rest of the City Council refused to spend vast sums of money for signs to help lost travelers find their way to some of Sierra Madre's most famed and desirable locations. Debt ridden Goldberg Park became the example. As Barbara Leigh pointed out, couldn't the $4,000 for the sign proposed for this largely unused pocket park be put to better use? Like replacing a few leaky pipes?

Nancy Walsh, who realized that yet another of her projects was circling the abattoir drain, lamented that she had spent four years working on this idea. For her it was the Memorial Park unisex bathroom failure all over again.

You may recall a Tattler post recently bemoaning the lack of acknowledgement on the City website events calendar of the Wistaria festival. It turns out that because of arcane city rules dealing with such matters, that sort of noticing is not allowed. Leading to the City appearing to claim that there were no events in town on the very day we honor the World's Largest Blossoming Plant by eating hot dogs purchased off of out-of-town gourmet food trucks.

Without any mention whatsoever of the Tattler, of course, the City Council addressed and remedied this lamentable situation. Making it possible for all media put out by City Hall to acknowledge the existence of our finest events.

I still feel good that we were able to point this problem out to the City in a way that caused them to take positive action.

With the end of this meeting the Civility Party folded up its pup tent and shuffled quietly off into history. The once celebrated team of Joe Mosca, Nancy Walsh and Josh Moran had finally run out of their allotted time, and their four year rule of our City ended.

I thought I would end today's post with a short five item list of the most notable events that occurred during their stewardship of Sierra Madre. Here they are:

1) Our state leading double digit Utility User Tax rate was put on the ballot twice, failing once and quite possibly on its way to going down for the second time in two years. Threats and public safety hostage taking not being enough to save the gravy train.

2) Water rates increased twice, and also went through rancorous Prop 218 challenges twice as well. Significant portions of the community actively opposed these combined 100% in increases. Their complaints were not only ignored, but at times reviled by Civility Party members.

3) Our related bond ratings were lowered significantly by Moody's Investment Services three times, and are currently mired at a junk level. This after members of the Civility Party had informed the public that the combined 100% increase in water rates would remedy this problem. It didn't.

4) Despite it being the #1 priority of Nancy Walsh, the decline of downtown Sierra Madre continued. Empty storefronts are now more prevalent than ever, this despite the $30,000 spent by the Civility Party on something called a "market demand study." Apparently there was little demand for it, especially in this market.

5) We ran out of water. And the chloramine treated stuff brought in from the SGVMWD to replace it turned yellow once it touched our pipes. Despite repeated claims that this situation is temporary and would soon dissipate, it didn't.

And now it is over. The Civility Party, which was neither civil or all that much of a party, is history.

Are we a better place because of their having run it these last four years? Apparently not. And look at it this way. Joe Mosca left early, leaving his post two years ahead of time for reasons that remain unknown to this day. Nancy Walsh and Josh Moran served one term only, neither of them wanting to risk a run for reelection.

It wasn't the best of times, and the consequences will be felt for years to come.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Mountain Views News Endorses Noah Green

Noah Green: City Council or Bust!
Well, you probably wouldn't want your small children looking at Noah Green's Facebook pictures, but why not elect him to the highest honor this community has to offer anyway? After four years of the Civility Party, petty debauchery such as this has become just a part of our political evolution.

Yes, have come far in this community. So why wouldn't we want to elect a man who is not afraid to admit he enjoys PDA with a store mannequin? Maybe this is all a lifestyle issue, and we need to be more accepting.

Besides, he has only lived here for 18 months, has just begun talking to the people of this community in the last six weeks or so, and recently admitted he was surprised to learn that a lot of those who do live here are well-informed, quite intelligent, and care deeply about their community. Folks he had previously described as "townies." Who could have ever known?

All of this is unfortunately very bad news for his election chances. An informed electorate being not quite so likely to cast their ballots for an arriveste' carpetbagger with an unfortunate penchant for posing in flagrante delicto before a smart phone, and then posting those pictures on the Internet for all the world to see. Including Sierra Madre voters.

So let's get down to it. Here is how the editrix of the Mountain Views News expresses her undying support for the vastly underqualified (and oftentimes undressed) candidate she was dopey enough to help talk into running.

BREAKING NEWSMountain Views News endorses Noah Green for Sierra Madre City Council!

"This candidate has demonstrated a willingness to represent the entire city and work as part of a team that will always put the best interests of Sierra Madre first!!" Susan Henderson, Publisher and Editor

This in direct contrast to what the editorial board of the Pasadena Star News had to say when they recently recommended that you vote for anybody but Noah Green (link).

If the enduring political hubbub in the tiny — pop. 11,000 — middle-class-to-affluent hamlet of Sierra Madre were writ large in other Southern California cities, we’d be the most electorally engaged place on the planet. If many readers have only visited for the Wisteria Festival or mountain trails access, they may not know that many of the same issues that affect us all are hotly debated there: Preservation vs. development. High utility taxes. Public pensions. How to pay to repair an aging infrastructure. Unusually, there are three open council seats this election, and four candidates with good ideas vying to join the council. Noah Green’s good ideas are mostly confined to the excellent one of promoting gray-water solutions to the drought problem, and he needs more time in town to understand issues.

Has anyone ever been called clueless and unqualified in so civil a style?

Now some of our readers might be stunned that our adjudicated and taxpayer supported weekly newspaper of record would be making such an unfortunate endorsement. After all, Noah Green first came to the attention of most people in Sierra Madre through an Internet-wide distribution of the naked and debauched selfies he himself had posted on his Facebook page. And if you talk to just about anyone you meet in town right now, you'll find that this really is about the only impression most people have of the guy.

But you know, that sort of thing does appeal to a certain small segment of this community. And none more so than H. Susan Henderson, the publisher of The Mountain Views News. After all, she too ran afoul of an outraged public opinion at a sensitive moment in her political career.

Would you believe that part of her sudden fall from grace as the Executive Director of the California Democratic Party had to do with her using the California Democratic Party's official credit card to make unauthorized purchases at Victoria's Secret? Or that she claimed academic honors on her resume' that she had never earned? Including the false claim that she was a graduate of a University of California law school?

Here is that story straight from the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle (link).

Demo leader resigns under fire H. Susan Henderson, onetime Republican turned executive director of the California Democratic Party, has resigned her $78,000-per-year post amid controversy over alleged resume-pumping and questionable expenditures on a party credit card.

State party chair Bill Press announced Henderson's departure Wednesday, the same day The Examiner reported that she had registered to vote as a Republican barely two years before taking the $78,000-per-year Democratic Party post.

The Examiner also reported that the University of California had no record of awarding Henderson a law degree and an MBA, as she had claimed on her resume, and that a Sunnyvale business executive said Henderson had failed to repay a $2,000 loan.

Henderson states that she holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from Ohio State University, but a spokeswoman said Ohio State had never granted a degree to Harriet Susan Henderson or Harriet Poole, Henderson's maiden name.

Henderson's resume also says that she holds an "M.B.A. / J.D." from the University of California, without specifying a campus.

Spokesmen at UC-Berkeley, UCLA and UC-Davis, the three UC campuses that have both law and business schools, said no such degrees had been issued to H. Susan Henderson or Harriet Poole.

Party credit-card records show that in a three-month period in 1995 she ran up $12,000 in charges, including $74 at a Victoria's Secret lingerie shop in Washington, D.C., $220 at a golf course in Palm Springs, $137 at a Los Angeles beauty-supply outlet and $26 at a laundry.

So there you go. Sure helps to explain Susan Henderson's endorsement of Noah Green. After all, she too got caught for some rather flagrant indiscretions, and then very quickly fell from grace because of them.

Birds of a feather, as they say.

Oh, and there is a City Council meeting tonight

It starts at 6:30. There is nothing really all that earthshaking on the agenda, which you can view by clicking here. Though it will be the last gasp of the Mayor Walsh's four year term of office. A momentous era distinguished by an inability to accomplish anything of importance. We'll sure miss the poor dear. Presumably she will now go off to work full time for the Noah Green campaign.

We'll be covering it here, anyway.

 http://sierramadretattler blogspot.com

Monday, March 24, 2014

Unanswered Measure UUT Question: Why Does Sierra Madre Pay Such High Employee Health Plan Benefits?

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A few weeks back we asked why Sierra Madre's City Hall is paying some of the highest employee health plan benefit costs of any city in California. No answers were forthcoming, so I guess we'll just have to keep asking. The theory that has evolved among those who post comments here on this site is pretty cut and dried. If the City has the money they'll spend it. Sierra Madre residents pay the highest utility taxes in the State of California (link), and since that cash is readily available to City Hall, they've been spreading it around to the help. And, since they are apparently well-funded enough to do it, in ridiculously high amounts.

You need to ask yourself this. Do you have a $37,815 per year health care plan? Anybody set you up with one of those lately? Sierra Madre's water superintendent does, and as far as I can tell (believe me, I have checked), that individual has the single highest costing health care plan in the state. Maybe we should ask him for autographs. He truly is one of a kind.

But our health plan rich water superintendent is not that far ahead of some of his fellow city employees. All of which goes to show, if you give City Hall the money, they will find ways to spend it. And in the case of employee health benefit plans, the sky is apparently the limit. Despite all of their cries of poverty and the need for more tax money.

Here is a chart that was prepared for us by Transparent California.com. The health plan amounts highlighted are among the highest in California.


Transparent California also put together the following graphic to highlight just how out of line Sierra Madre is on the costs of the health plans City Hall buys. Even Los Angeles, which is in the throes of one of the worst financial crises in a history notable for such things, is far behind our little town. We are today in a class all of our own.


In Chapter 2 of his epic length narrative discussions on our Measure UUT imbroglio, Councilmember John Capoccia goes on to make this following claim:

If the current UUT is allowed to sunset, there’s no other meaningful source of revenue to replace what’s lost. We’ll have to do one of the following:  Cut 13% across the board, make selective cuts that total $1,000,000 annually, or outsource one or more departments.

With our employee health care plans as immense and out of line with what other cities are paying as they are, it would seem to me that there are still plenty of places to cut without in any way harming public safety services. Just bringing the city's health plan costs into line with what other cities are paying would save a hundred thousand dollars a year, and probably more.

What Councilmember Capoccia is saying about "across the board cuts" might not be exactly true. There apparently is a protected class of spending at City Hall that is not to be touched, or even discussed, no matter how long your articles on the topic might be.

The widely held perception is that Measure UUT is all about continuing to raise the money necessary to fund the pensions and expensive benefit packages that our municipal employee unions are demanding. Including the Police Officers Association. I agree with that.

And Capoccia, along with three other members of the City Council, want to give these people whatever they want, and with little effective consideration of the costs to the taxpayers. I assume because that is being viewed there as the easier option.

At least it has been the easier option up until now. The people who actually pay for this mess get their say on April 8th. Chances are now looking pretty good that they will "re-defeat" the 10% UUT, and for the second time in two years.

It is always easier to spend other peoples' money. At least until they decide they've had enough and take it away.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Best Letter Yet

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(Mod: Ordinarily you don't get letters like this in the Looney Views News. Our weekly adjudicated and taxpayer supported newspaper of record prefers rather to publish only those points of view that sustain it financially. Especially those of the Realty industry, development interests and benefits hungry municipal employee unions posing as city workers. However, if you look at the very end of this week's John Capoccia word rich opus on utility taxes, you can find the following letter. In the spirit of bringing it to wider attention than it might be receiving now, we thought we'd repost here on The Tattler. It certainly deserves more readers.)

Letters To The Editor: I have only seen letters in this newspaper supporting the utility tax increase lately, so I'm hoping I can offer a different viewpoint.

I am NOT in favor of another tax increase especially when no one has been able to articulate where the last increase in money was spent. How much of our water problem was fixed with the money that was "needed" in the past. We have lost the wonderful Sierra Madre water we had.

I don't see a real effort to tighter the belt in the running of the city. As I have recently downsized in order to retire, I am very aware that a good look at a budget can make a difference. Our present government seems to be of the thought that we can keep the "status quo" by just asking for more money once in a while.

The last straw for me was a vote at the City Council to cap Sierra Madre's commercial business utility taxes to $400 a year for water and sewer! So, basically, to heck with the residents, they can pay extra.

How does this encourage smart use of water in a drought year by a business? I understand that the mantra for this is to encourage business to come to Sierra Madre, but doing this on the backs of residents is not what we voted for in the past. And really, did anyone EVER more to Sierra Madre for the business?

Please vote…

K. Hood, Sierra Madre

Mayor John Harabedian?

(Mod: A recent Los Angeles Daily News article reprinted in the Pasadena Stars News called "Los Angeles County mayors gather to talk jobs, drought" - link - had an interesting moment. Whether it was a mistake or not is hard to tell since my calls to the reporter responsible have not been answered. However, judging by this article, John Harabedian may have assumed the right to an early seat in the still occupied throne of Mayor Nancy Walsh.)

All the sessions, held in small conference rooms on City Hall’s 10th floor, were closed to the press.

But after the meetings concluded, L.A. County reps chatted up reporters. Torrance City Councilman Kurt Weideman said he learned about countywide earthquake precautions, and intended to look at possibly retrofitting structures. “I have to know if all my buildings are safe,” Weideman said.

Sierra Madre Mayor John Harabedian attended a session on water, and learned new ways to capture rainwater, he said. Sierra Madre is so impacted by the drought that it is currently importing all its water, he said.

“We talked a lot about sustainability, and how to work together as a region,” Harabedian said.

(Mod: Hopefully in that closed door session the meaning of the term "sustainability" was finally revealed. Though obviously it must be kept a secret.)

John Capoccia airbrushes the inconvenient 2012 vote of the people

(Mod: One of the more disturbing aspects of City Hall's attempts to win a do-over vote on our utility taxes is its Orwellian refusal to acknowledge that the people turned down a so-called extension by over 60% of the vote in 2012. The irony here being that it was John Capoccia who not only championed voting against that year's UUT initiative, but also rode the popular anger over Sierra Madre having the highest utility taxes in California to a seat on the City Council. Here is how he tap dances around that inconvenient 2012 vote in this week's Looney Views News.)

But first, a little more background:  Measure U, when approved by the voters in 2008, specified that the UUT would be raised in three steps in three consecutive years – to 8% in 2008, 10% in 2009, and 12% in 2010. Measure U was accompanied by a companion Measure UA, which called for a non-binding recommendation that the increase in UUT be used only for public safety.   Prior to what would have been an increase to 12% increase in 2010, the City Council voted to suspend the increase, and keep the UUT at 10%.  They also further reduced the rate to 9% for water and sewer, to avoid creating a windfall as a result of imminent water rate hikes.  UUT revenue has been fairly level since. From the time Measure U passed, the increased expenditures for public safety have exceeded the revenue provided by Measure U.  This has been verified annually by the UUT Advisory Committee, and documented in our audited Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).  The difference was made up by belt-tightening in the General Fund.

(Mod: Apparently even for one of the chief architects in the campaign to finally end the excesses of 2008's Measure U in April of 2012, that vote no longer exists.)

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Pasadena Star News Comes Out Against Measure UUT - Says No to Noah, Yes to Denise and Rachelle

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Measure UUT (or the MUTT as I have started calling it), just got a big thumbs down from that triumvirate of SGV daily newspapers, the Pasadena Star News, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and the Whittier Daily News. Here is how that good news reads (link):

If the enduring political hubbub in the tiny — pop. 11,000 — middle-class-to-affluent hamlet of Sierra Madre were writ large in other Southern California cities, we’d be the most electorally engaged place on the planet. If many readers have only visited for the Wisteria Festival or mountain trails access, they may not know that many of the same issues that affect us all are hotly debated there: Preservation vs. development. High utility taxes. Public pensions. How to pay to repair an aging infrastructure. Unusually, there are three open council seats this election, and four candidates with good ideas vying to join the council. Noah Green’s good ideas are mostly confined to the excellent one of promoting gray-water solutions to the drought problem, and he needs more time in town to understand issues.

We strongly endorse the other three: Rachelle Arizmendi, who has served on the Community Services Commission and understands budgets from her management job in a large nonprofit. She’s for fiscal discipline, laments the town’s polarization and wants the utility tax hike sunsetted. Denise Delmar chaired a general plan committee and would be an excellent advocate for it, and her professional career in human resources will help the small and cash-strapped City Hall staff. Gene Goss, an American government professor, has the longest experience in town, and is a consummate volunteer.

We recommend a No vote on extending a high 10 percent utility tax that citizens were promised would decline.

One other thing - I posted a link to this story on the City of Sierra Madre's Facebook page and it was quickly taken down. Too much good news perhaps? Is this community's so-called public bulletin board only for news that City Hall approves of? Apparently so.

Los Angeles Times article on California Taxes

Interesting news from the L.A. Times (link).

California second only to New York in high taxes, study says Californians pay the second-highest taxes in the nation, beat out only by New Yorkers. That's according to personal finance firm WalletHub, which took a look at how states stack up against each other when it comes to taxes.

Taxpayers in the states with the highest taxes pay about four times more than those in states with the lowest taxes, WalletHub said. Conservative states tend to impose lower taxes than their more liberal counterparts.

Those living in the Golden State shell out about $9,509 for state and local taxes, 36% more than the national average. New York residents pay $9,718, or nearly 40% more than what people pay on average in the country.

Wow. A $9,509 average for state and local taxes in California. That is a lot of lattes.

I guess since Sierra Madre residents are currently paying the highest utility taxes in this state, that certainly must put us into an extra special class. Maybe we're one of the top tax paying cities nationwide as well?

Of course, the situation here could soon change.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Friday, March 21, 2014

Why Won't Gene Goss Fire Yolanda Miranda?

Sue Levoe making even less sense than usual
So we are now in our third day since The Tattler's revelations first emerged regarding Gene Goss's campaign treasurer Yolanda Miranda and her role in the corrupt affairs of the Calderon family. We still have no word from the candidate about this. Can it be Gene has no problem with her work on behalf of a disgraced State Senator arrested by the FBI for taking a $100,000 bribe?

The excuse might have been made that he had no idea, and perhaps he was only taking the advice of Miranda's other notable Sierra Madre client, John Harabedian. But unfortunately too much time has passed for that one to fly anymore. The assumption must now be made that Gene Goss doesn't have a problem with a Calderon financial operative handling his campaign finances, and will do nothing.

Look at it this way. Let's say you were a candidate for an elective office, one where the trust and faith of the people are vital to your being able to do the job with honor and distinction. And then something like the following Sacramento Bee article was brought to your attention. What would your reaction be?

California state Sen. Ron Calderon sets up legal defense fund (link): Well-known for fundraisers at out-of-state golf courses and plush resorts, state Sen. Ron Calderon has a new reason to solicit money from friends, family and the interest groups that do business in California's Capitol.

The Democrat from Montebello has established a legal defense fund to cover expenses related to his "public corruption investigation," according to a letter Calderon filed with the secretary of state this week.

"These funds will be only to pay the attorney's fees and other legal costs related to the defense of the candidate as well as administrative costs directly related to compliance with record keeping and reporting requirements," says the letter signed by Calderon and Yolanda Miranda, treasurer of Calderon's committee.

Is this the kind of association you would want for your campaign if you were a candidate? Having the treasurer of a disgraced California state Senator's criminal defense fund handling your City Council campaign finances could cause considerable damage to your reputation. You'd make a change, right?

A reader took note of Gene Goss's delicate position in the Yolanda Miranda matter yesterday, and posted this new information for us:

In a Pasadena Star-News story about the Bell corruption scandal, they identify Yolanda Miranda and Associates as "a Covina-based political consulting firm." This political consulting firm is listed as Gene Goss' treasurer and has received $250 from Gene Goss' campaign.

Gene Goss is one of those people who claims he is going to keep it local, but doesn't. So basically Gene is lying and has been lying from the beginning of his campaign.

Human nature, guilty people have been making florid promises about their virtue from time immemorial. "The lady protests too much, methinks." - Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 2

The Pasadena Star News article our literary commenter refers to above is called "Cooley terms Bell scandal 'corruption on steroids'" (link). And wouldn't you know it, Gene Goss's campaign treasurer gets a mention here as well.

(Councilmember George) Cole, Bell's former mayor, has several long-standing ties to the San Gabriel Valley. In 2006, Cole worked with Jeff Monical, who runs Lavell Communications, a political consulting firm in Alhambra. Cole's connection to the San Gabriel Valley also includes a long affiliation with Yolanda Miranda and Associates, a Covina-based political consulting firm.

The former mayor is also linked to state Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, who represents South Pasadena. In 2004, Cole paid Cedillo's spokesman Conrado Terrazas $2,816 for "professional services" related to Cole's run for Bell City Council.

At a recent Monterey Park dinner honoring Cole for charitable work he performed in Montebello, Cedillo declined to discuss the association. In recent days Cole bragged to associates that his political ties made him an unlikely target in the criminal probe.

Look, either Gene Goss fires Yolanda Miranda, or it will have to be assumed here in that he has no problem with her Bell and Calderon associations. And rather than the "independent" he hopes to be thought of, instead he is in the thrall of Sacramento-style corruption.

All of which would mean that Unclean Gene completely lacks the ethical compass necessary to serve on our City Council.

Gene Goss Fudges On His Pledge To Keep His Campaign Local

On his website Gene Goss makes the following "pledge" (link):

The trend in recent years of outside organizations trying to influence Sierra Madre politics is unacceptable. Therefore, in the interest of the independence of this town, my solemn commitment to fellow Sierra Madreans is that I will absolutely not solicit nor will I accept any support from political parties, outside political organizations, outside political interest groups, outside political consultants, labor unions, law firms, developers, etc. All of my campaign expenditures will be funded by individual donations or self-financed.

In today's Pasadena Star News (link), Sierra Madre beat reporter Zen Vuong published an article that covers Tuesday night's debate at City Hall. Here is what she reports Gene Goss as saying:

“I believe my longevity in town and my experience as a parent sets me apart in my understanding of our community,” he said. “In terms of independence, I have taken a pledge not to accept campaign contributions from political organizations, developers, law firms, labor unions or any other organization.”

Notice the difference? Goss has gone from saying he will not accept any outside support, to "I have taken a pledge not to accept campaign contributions" from outside organizations.

Where I come from that is known as fudging. Goss has accepted outside support from both the United Teachers of Pasadena union (which he actually went out and asked for), and Yolanda Moranda's Covina-based political consulting firm. And he is now willing to rearrange the words in his pledge in order to keep that kind of support.

Perhaps we should take this to mean he intends to keep Yolanda Miranda.

Other Goss Nonsense

In the Star News article Goss claims that we need the UUT increase to make sure we have clean water. Any qualified candidate should know the UUT monies DO NOT go to the water enterprise. Even in an Elaine Aguilar run City Hall. Didn't we just get socked with a 61% water rate increase that is supposed to take care of that?

Besides, everyone knows that Measure UUT is to help pay for Cadillac health care plans and municipal employee union pension padding. Especially Gene Goss. It's why he's here and running.

Noah Nothing

A quote from Noah Green in Zen's Star News piece regarding the UUT:

"'What that really means is that the city employees who work here but generally can’t afford to live here are going to suffer layoffs and pay cuts, and I do not think that’s fair. I am in support of the UUT because I want my streets paved, I want my police here in three minutes when there is an emergency, and I want my water to be clean.’"

Say what? Again we have a candidate absurdly conflating the UUT with the Water Department. And why does he care more about the city staff than the residents? He said it just like that. Does he hate townies that much?

What is going on with KGEM and the City Council debate reruns?

I got a call from an aggravated neighbor last night about the total lack of debate reruns on SMTV3. She had called the Monrovia-based cable content provider KGEM to find out what is going on. It turns out they had just one re-airing of the debate on their schedule, and that was last night at 11 PM.

So can it be Goss and Green did so poorly that City Hall decided to cut reruns down to one solitary time?

Maybe they see it as an important financial move.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Why Do Sierra Madre Politicos Goss and Harabedian Share a Campaign Treasurer with the Calderon Family?

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Easy Gene?
We discussed this briefly the other day, but upon further review I thought we might want to look a little more deeply into this story. As the person who posted the following information asked, why would Gene Goss want to share a campaign treasurer with the Calderon family? It is a mystery, one with no logical answer.

An additional point. This is from a City Council candidate who actually pledged to the voters that he would be keeping his campaign strictly local, and promised that he would never accept any outside support. You do not get any more outside than hiring Yolanda Miranda, treasurer to the indicted and thoroughly disgraced State Senator Ron Calderon. A politician straight out of Montebello, of all places.

Here's another question. Why would Sierra Madre Mayor Pro Tem* John Harabedian have used this very same campaign treasurer for his campaign in 2012? Did he then pass this magic connection on to Goss? And why would he have done this, fully knowing that the Calderon family political empire was collapsing beneath the weight of a blizzard of FBI and other law enforcement agency investigations?

Here is the reader post that opened this story up for today's Tattler post.

According to Goss' FPPC forms, Goss' treasurer is the notorious Yolanda Miranda and Associates located at 728 W Edna Place, Covina CA. Yolanda Miranda was also the treasurer for indicted State Senator Ron Calderon and other Calderon family members.

http://www.fppc.ca.gov/enf_letter/JulyNoViolation/ENF000.pdf - Cut and paste that link to see a nasty letter from the FPPC sent to State Senator Ron Calderon and Yolanda Miranda. Click here to see an LA Times story detailing Yolanda filing false FPPC forms for Tom Calderon

I don't understand why Gene Goss decided he had to go all the way to Covina and hire the Calderon's treasurer for Goss' tiny little city council campaign.

Just to give you the flavor of disgraced State Senator Ron Calderon's woes, here is a Los Angeles Times article from Feb 21 detailing his difficult legal situation (link).

State Sen. Ron Calderon took $100,000 in bribes, authorities allege - State Sen. Ron Calderon has been indicted in a sweeping corruption case, accused of taking about $100,000 in bribes.

Federal authorities allege that Calderon (D-Montebello) took the bribes from a Long Beach hospital official as well as people connected to what he believed was a Hollywood studio. In fact, the studio was an FBI front and the business associates were FBI agents. Authorities claim Calderon received cash bribes, trips and dinners in exchange for "official acts."

Calderon, 56, faces 24 counts of fraud, wire fraud, honest services fraud, bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering and aiding in the filing of false tax returns.

"Public corruption is a betrayal of the public trust that threatens the integrity of our democratic institutions," U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte said at a news conference Friday. 

Calderon's brother, Thomas, faces charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering. Thomas Calderon is a former assemblyman who most recently served as a consultant for the Central Basin Water District. Authorities allege that Ronald Calderon took bribes from Michael Drobot, the former owner of Pacific Hospital in Long Beach. 

In an article published by The Sacramento Bee on June 21st of this year, the name of Calderon family treasurer Yolanda Miranda is mentioned in conjunction with the State Senator's legal difficulties (link).

California state Sen. Ron Calderon sets up legal defense fund Well-known for fundraisers at out-of-state golf courses and plush resorts, state Sen. Ron Calderon has a new reason to solicit money from friends, family and the interest groups that do business in California's Capitol.

The Democrat from Montebello has established a legal defense fund to cover expenses related to his "public corruption investigation," according to a letter Calderon filed with the secretary of state this week.

"These funds will be only to pay the attorney's fees and other legal costs related to the defense of the candidate as well as administrative costs directly related to compliance with recordkeeping and reporting requirements," says the letter signed by Calderon and Yolanda Miranda, treasurer of Calderon's committee.

The FBI raided Calderon's Capitol offices on June 4, the same day the agency attempted to contact his brother, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon. Federal authorities removed several boxes from Ron Calderon's offices but have not said what they are investigating.

Yolanda Miranda is identified here as being Ron Calderon's treasurer in his less than successful run for a seat in the U.S. Congress. Here is how this is revealed.

FEC Committee ID:C00500488
Name: RON CALDERON FOR CONGRESS 
Treasurer: YOLANDA MIRANDA 
Address: 728 W. EDNA PLACE  COVINA , CA 91722  

If you click here you will be taken to a 2004 Fair Political Practices Commission report that excoriates Ron Calderon and campaign treasurer Yolanda Miranda for the misuse of campaign funds.

CorporationWiki lists an organization known as Californians for Diversity. Ron Calderon's brother, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon (the indicted money launderer), is listed as President, and Yolanda Miranda as Treasurer (link).

In a March 4th Los Angeles Times article, Californians for Diversity receives the following less than reverent mention (link).

California Sen. Ron Calderon flooded with gifts while facing FBI probe While under investigation for allegedly taking bribes last year, state Sen. Ronald S. Calderon (D-Montebello) openly accepted $6,827 in legal gifts, including concert and fight tickets, expensive meals and travel from special interests, and a golf game from a group that investigators say was part of a criminal conspiracy, records show.

The nonprofit group Californians for Diversity, which is controlled by the senator’s brother, former Assemblyman Thomas Calderon, spent $265 to provide Sen. Calderon with a game of golf in September 2013, the lawmaker reported in his annual statement of economic interests.

Here is a CalWatchdog report on Californians for Diversity called "Diversity PAC: Ron Calderon’s slush fund for luxury" (link).

A shadowy political action committee cited in the FBI’s case against state Senator Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on private jets, five-star hotels, elite golf courses and extravagant meals at the country’s finest restaurants, a CalWatchdog.com analysis of campaign finance reports has found.

But the biggest questions might be over nearly half-a-million dollars in mysterious payments funneled to a professional political fundraiser, who promises on his website to “put the FUN in fundraising!”

According to the FBI affidavit that was obtained by Al Jazeera America, “Californians for Diversity is a charitable arm of the Diversity Political Action Committee.” In its five year history, Diversity PAC, according to campaign finance reports, has raised more than $1.2 million. More than two-thirds of those funds, $813,766, has been spent on payments to hotels, golf courses, resorts and professional fundraisers.

So knowing all of the above, why would Gene Goss and John Harabedian both hire Yolanda Miranda to be their campaign treasurer? While there is nothing illegal in this, at least as far as I know, why would they want to run the risk of being in any way associated with the now thoroughly disgraced Calderons?

What possible advantage could there be in this for them? Did they both not believe that this would eventually get out? And couldn't they have simply gotten some local accountant to do their campaign financial paperwork for them?

If anyone has answers, I'd sure love to hear them.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

It's All Quite Debatable

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"I cry for the parents who will have to explain to their children how that man in those awful pictures was elected to a position of high honor in our community." - Comment 

I hope I am not being too insensitive here, but Noah Green breaking down in tears at yesterday's Kiwanis Club debate over his much too candid Facebook photography being sent around the community is one of the more bizarre moments in the political history of this town. A place that has has seen far more than its share of highly eccentric episodes.

Let us be blunt. If you are running for political office and you post sexually suggestive and unclothed pictures of yourself on a very public Facebook page, somebody is going to eventually notice. And when those pictures get passed around town as they almost certainly will during a political campaign, the blame belongs to nobody but yourself. It is your own damn fault.

Rather than trying to play the victim card, or attempting to win the votes of the incredibly credulous by bawling about the pain of his extreme embarrassment, Noah Green really does need to man up and take some responsibility for his actions. Admit that it was a stupid thing to do, apologize for what really was a very unfortunate indiscretion, and for God's sake have the plain and simple decency to say you're sorry.

Pointing fingers at others and indulging yourself with some frankly over the top hysterics in public about how unfair it all was just isn't going to cut it with very many people. It certainly isn't what people look for, either in a strong community leader or a credible adult.

Fortunately there were no tears at the City Hall debate, though there were a couple of moments that were enough to bring on a bout of melancholia. One was the continuing struggle Gene Goss seems to be having over what has become know as the "Goss Pledge." Here is how it was put in a blog comment last night:

Goss is saying he won't accept contributions from outside organizations. On his website he says he will not accept support of any kind from labor unions, etc. That is clearly a change of message.

The observation is very true. It appeared last night that Goss was trying to deal with the increased perception that he has gone back on his pledge to not accept any kind of campaign support from outside organizations. Here is how it is stated on his campaign website (link):

The trend in recent years of outside organizations trying to influence Sierra Madre politics is unacceptable. Therefore, in the interest of the independence of this town, my solemn commitment to fellow Sierra Madreans is that I will absolutely not solicit nor will I accept any support from political parties, outside political organizations, outside political interest groups, outside political consultants, labor unions, law firms, developers, etc.

At the Kiwanis debate Goss admitted to receiving $500 and the endorsement of the United Teachers of Pasadena. Goss claims he returned that money, but did not renounce the endorsement. Last night he tried to make it seem as if all he had "pledged" to do was not accept money from outside groups. That just is not true.

All of which adds to the growing perception that Gene Goss is a fudging humbug who will do or say anything to get elected.

Noah Green had moments where it was obvious he has little feel for this town or knowledge of its recent history. Noah says the most mundane things about Sierra Madre like they are amazing new revelations, and for him they are because he has never heard them before. He's the newbie who wants to be king.

One of those moments came when he spoke passionately about Police Department response times. He claimed that there is no other PD in the area with quicker response times than the Sierra Madre Police Department. However, there is also no town in the area that is smaller than the City of Sierra Madre. Those quick response times having more to do with the town being a mere 3 square miles than anything else. There is just so much less geography to cover.

The weirdest Noah Green moment came during his very strange rant about the nature of the opposition to development at the Monastery. Here is how one commenter put it:

Green just told the Passionist Fathers organization that he was totally into developing the monastery! That was a one hundred percent message of surrender and capitulation. Keep him as far away as possible from any negotiations.

Noah then proceeded to claim that opposition to development at the monastery was soon to become a source of great turmoil in the community, and that if we don't give the developer everything he wants we could be sued. The term he used, "knee-jerk hard line stance," being just flat-out offensive to anyone who cares about preserving our last remaining open green spaces.

It is also, as anyone familiar with the disastrous One Carter disaster can tell you, an argument straight out of 2004. Noah, who then went on to sing the praises of such discredited development dinosaurs as Bart Doyle, Rob Stockley and Glenn Lambdin, has clearly been absorbing ancient wisdom at the feet of the old boys network. If elected, he'd obviously sell us out to the development special interests in a heartbeat.

That Green would express acceptance of the long discredited idea that the people of Sierra Madre should not be allowed to defend their interests because some damn fool developer might decide to sue the city is antithetical to everything this very independent community stands for. The last thing we need is yet another surrender monkey on the City Council. We have had enough of those, thank you.

Another odd moment for Noah Green was his riff on how, having now gone door to door in the community, he discovered just how knowledgeable and smart Sierra Madreans are. Good to see that after 18 months he has finally gotten around to meeting his neighbors. Turns out we're not the dumb "townies" he thought we were when he first got here. This is how one unhappy commenter put it:

Noah says he found out that we are smarter than he thought when he first decided to run. You betcha we are Noah. That's why you have been chopped up like the East Coast obnoxious jerk you are.

Two questions I had submitted to the League of Women voters that were passed over:

1) Why does Sierra Madre pay the highest utility taxes in the State of California?

2) Why does City Hall offer the highest costing health care plans in the state to a very select group of City Hall employees?

I guess they just didn't think those would be appropriate for the sensitive souls of Sierra Madre. Good to see the League works to protect us from such vexatious thoughts.

Both Rachelle Arizmendi and Denise Delmar did very well in keeping to the issues, were well informed, and covered all of the subjects well. Both left the audience with the impression that they are strong, ethical and capable managers, qualities that are desperately needed at City Hall right now.

Their principled and courageous stands against gross overtaxation and resulting fiscal irresponsibility deserve this community's gratitude and support.

Gene Goss didn't disgrace himself, but was not as accurate in some of his statements as he could have been. Perception problems over the "Goss Pledge" were clearly on his mind, and his attempt to fudge on this matter by claiming he was only talking about cash donations was both self-serving and smacked of dishonesty.

It was obvious that Noah Green doesn't know very much about this town. Many of his self-styled important stands came across as being either naive, factually incorrect or inauthentic. He is clearly malleable and naive, something clearly shown by his worshipful praise of the old boys network.

Here is how one commenter described Noah's performance:

O.K. folks, here is why none of us should even hover over the Green name on your ballot.

Q. His main platform is to support an ordinance to require gray water installation on all new development?
A. The City Council discussed, then passed an ordinance re: gray water requirements at their last council meeting. He was there. 

Q. The way to bring more business to town is to have some activity on Halloween? 
A. The merchants already sponsor a trick or treat in all the businesses. Afterwards there is a parade from Kersting Court to the Park where they have a costume contest. What else should they do?

My alphabetically arranged verdicts?

Rachelle Arizmendi was very impressive.

Denise Delmar is strong, ethical and exudes competence.

Gene Goss will say or do anything to get elected.

Noah Green is Fredo Corleone.

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