Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Jet Setting Arcadia City Officials Called Into Question

Hopefully a one way ticket

Probably one of the most heavily viewed articles we've posted in quite some time was called  "Arcadia Officials Going On A Fully Paid Trip To China - Many Arcadia Residents Pray They Never Come Back" (link). We ran it on Feb 18, and in that piece was the following excerpt from that week's Arcadia City Council meeting agenda report:

"The City has been offered two donations, each in the amount of $10,000. One donation is from Companhia de Domercial Dingyuan Limitada, a, international trading firm based in Macau which is believed to have operations in the United States. The other is from Sichuan Arrow Recovery Tech Co. Ltd., an electronic waste recycling firm based in Sichuan, China, which is not believed to have operations in the United States but may receive recyclable goods from within the United States. Neither donor has previously done business directly with the City of Arcadia. However, one or more owners of each firm may have interests in real estate and development companies in the San Gabriel Valley that may operate in the City of Arcadia. More donations may be solicited as well , and the Council will be updated if and when additional donations are offered."

The notion that City Councilmembers, staff and their happy families might be accepting a very expensive trip to China from not only heavily capitalized foreign nationals with business interests in Arcadia, but also some of the very parties responsible for the out of control mansionization of that city, raised quite a few questions there.

On Feb 22 the Pasadena Star News printed a follow-up story to their previous investigations. Here is a screen shot of what the lead portion of that article looks like on their website. To read the entire piece click here.


This PSN piece also raised a lot of concern in Arcadia, especially from those who have come to believe that much of that city is practically being bought outright by nationals from a not always friendly foreign country as a place to launder dirty money and other smuggled assets. Mostly in the form of crass McMansions and other forms of predatory real estate investment.

I received the following email from one resident, someone with a lot of insight into the ethical and possibly legal ramifications of this suspiciously funded China junket for Arcadia's wayward city officials and their loved ones.


Some pretty good stuff. The Pasadena Star News article cited above also dug into the ethical and possibly legal ramifications of this potentially ugly conflict of interest.

When this news organization filed a Public Records Act request seeking the names of the business owners of each firm that donated funds, along with the real estate and development companies the individuals are affiliated with in the San Gabriel Valley, City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto said he did not have that information.

“It isn’t our normal practice or policy to investigate unencumbered donations to the city,” he said via email. “In this case, we stopped asking for greater details when we opted to limit the amount of reimbursements for City Council members.”

Open-government advocate Gil Aguirre said the city’s vagueness about the origin of these funds is cause for concern.

“It’s problematic that elected officials who are making decisions about development in the city would be accepting money from organizations that do business in the city,” he said. “What’s even more problematic is when you have a city manager who can’t even tell you where the money came from.”

Los Angeles Ethics Commissioner Jessica Levinson, an attorney and professor at Loyola Law School, said the city should disclose the identities of those funding portions of the trip and what their interests are.

“Does it raise concerns or questions? Sure. Clearly these are people trying to influence our elected officials, but in the interest of transparency, it’s good for the public to know who they are.”

In a response to the city attorney’s request for informal advice about travel and gifts relating to the Political Reform Act, the California Fair Political Practices Commission stated that the facts provided by the City indicate the delegation would take tours to understand development and land use in the cities. The city would then use the information obtained to “market and seek investment into the city from Chinese and Taiwanese developers looking for real estate investment opportunities within the city.”

This information was not mentioned during the city manager’s report about the donations at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, nor was it listed in the accompanying staff report.

You know what the real deal might be, right? Asian capital and the interests that control it now have such pervasive control over Arcadia's land use decisions that they decided to fly their de facto City Hall functionaries to China for a series of home office meetings designed to detail just how they are to perform over the next few years.

To boil it all down to its core essence, Arcadia City Hall is for all intents and purposes owned, and the bosses decided it was time to make certain their investments are performing at the most optimum and profitable of levels. And a good way to do get that done is to arrange for a little face time with the employees.

That seems to me to be a likely possibility for the officials of what has become known in China as the "California Mistress City."

Last night's Sierra Madre City Council Meeting

I tried to watch it on my cell phone, and then my computer, but due to the ineptness of the third rate company the city contracts with for broadcasting such events both proved impossible. So I have no idea how things went. If I did I'd have posted about it.

However, here is an early comment posted here that indicated things did not go well.


If you have more info please share it here. I'm all ears.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

53 comments:

  1. I would like the city of Sierra Madre to share with us how much increased revenue they have received from the increased water rates and the increased UUT revenue that goes along with that.

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    1. Kinda funny that we haven't seen any water dept. finance update since the 2 water rate increases in 2014: One started April (or was it May) and the other was July 1. 19% first then 18% on top. And there's another increase coming July 1, 2015.

      I'm figuring the numbers have swung positive so that's why its so quiet. The secret with MWD water is the SM water dept. should have decreased overhead costs since they're not running the ground water pumps hardly at all.

      UUT revenue should be increasing as well.

      Hmm.

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    2. Mr. Moderator,
      Could you use my second post? I'm new to this.
      Thanks.
      GM

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    3. Breaking News: Officials Cancel China Trip, React to Allegations of Impropriety
      http://www.arcadiaweekly.com/news/featured/officials-cancel-china-trip-react-to-allegations-of-impropriety/

      Broken China: City trip is off
      http://arcadiasbest.com/2015/02/broken-china-city-trip-is-off/?utm_source=Arcadia%27s+Best%3A+City+trip+to+China+scrubbed%3B+landmarks+leaving%3B+mayors+breakfast&utm_campaign=E-news+Feb.+25%2C+2015&utm_medium=email


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  2. Arcadia has gone over to the dark side and I think the Tattler is correct that the people who own the town want to get together to let the people doing their bidding know what they want to see happen over the next few years. In other words, they are keeping an eye on their investment. You will see and we probably are seeing now the kind of corruption that is rampant in China. That is simply the way they do business over there. Its naive to think that way of doing buisness is going to be checked at the door when entering the United States. I'm talking now about the weird money now coming into Arcadia. The Mansions for the mistresses, the vacant houses, the birthing houses. Arcadia is starting to slide down a very slippery slope and their is only one explanaton behind it: Greed. The City Manager whose explanation for the unmitigated development in Arcadia was that Arcadia believes in "private property rights". Nope, That city official wants more money to flow into the cities coffers for salary increases and fatter pensions. That's his motivation. Forget about what happens to the town.

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    1. Well said 6:43 a.m. Yes, Arcadia has sold itself out and why would it not when you have those current yahoos running it. In Asia, corruption occurs all the time and a nicer way to do it is just by padding the pockets of all parties involved with red envelopes of cash. How cute that it just so happens these donations to the City came in right around Chinese New Year! I wonder if they were delivered in red envelopes too. And we thought they were just housing their mistresses here. That’s so 2004. Arcadia City Council is the Mistress! It seems we had it wrong all this time.

      On a serious note, there is an extremely big problem occurring here in the City of Arcadia. With all this money from overseas filtering in, whether legally or illegally, there will be an impact in the future on the dynamics of this City and the “citizens” that live in it. We currently deal with numerous McMansions that sit empty most of the year because the owner isn’t even in the country. Now we are seeing businesses that pop up a store front, yet are not actually open to the public. Are they fronts for obtaining EB-5 visas? They sure seem like it to me. (Trust me… that’s how it was all done in the late 90’s) For example, you have N16 Cellar and O-Mart located at 16 and 12 N. 1st Street that look beautiful from the outside but to date (been waiting since late 2013) I still have been unable to sip or purchase wine from N16 and one day when I do need to buy sea cucumber, I doubt I’ll be able to get any from O-Mart because there’s never anyone or inventory in the fridge.

      And now the City is traveling to China for the sole purpose of obtaining information to “market and seek investment into the city from Chinese and Taiwanese developers looking for real estate investment opportunities within the city?” (Pasadena Star News 02/22/15) What for? Those yahoos don’t need to travel there! According to Lazzaretto himself Wuo has already been in contact with these donor companies yet cannot confirm if Wuo himself asked for donations. Wuo also indicated that a fourth company has expressed interest in making a similar donation to the city?!?!?!? Looks like Wuo is the mistress and his sugar daddy lives overseas. It’s obvious Wuo has been soliciting himself and the city to his “clients.”

      -smt211

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    2. Maybe Arcadia is becoming a Greecard Potemkin Village. The appearance of a community with homes, businesses and jobs, but the people are thousands of miles away. Maybe that is why they stash their mistresses and brats there.

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    3. If you look on Transparent California there are quite a few making over $200,000 a year. Even council members, a voluntary position, get about $6,000. Selling out is an understatement of what has been going on since 1985. Many of the players are still there singing the same 'ole tune.

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    4. Another scandal can be found in Arcadia's brand new, multi-million dollar district office. The LA Times did an investigation of the cities that asked for building bonds and reported Arcadia made a really bad mistake regarding how the $250 million bond was written. Transparent California shows how wildly the district personnel is paid.

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  3. A few weeks back, in front of a packed meeting and to much fanfare, the Sierra Madre City Council passed a demolition moratorium to buy time for the CIty to prepare a historic survey. Last night, at a scarcely attending meeting which apparently wasn't even being streamed online, Mayor Harabedian cited vague unintended consequences and claimed he doesn't see the need for a historic survey, even though he's "all in" for preserving the town. After public testamony was closed and after claiming that he has to represent all Sierra Madeans, not just those that speak at meetings, Gene Goss stated that no one has convinced him of the need for an historic survey. Then, in some ways the worst of all, John Capoccia, who had advocated strongly for a survey earlier in the evening, caved. So as of now the City is not moving forward with an historic survey.

    This is what it looks like to get stabbed in the back. So much for a strong City Council trying to preserve the town. This is why the citizens constantly have to apply pressure and be ever vigilant. Sad day for Sierra Madre.

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    1. Certainly appeared that Harabedian had a secret agenda last night. Normally he runs a pretty good meeting, but he took over and pushed his position down people's throats. Goss was his typical clueless self.

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    2. Its part of the process.

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    3. You knew the day would come.

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    4. Mayor Johnny wouldn't be a very good poker player. His "tell" is when he comments first instead of last, and dominates the conversation. He definitely had his agenda last night.

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  4. The council made a correct decision. What is a "historic survey"? The government not welcome to my home for the survey.The government will not decide what I do with my property. I believe in community standards for development but this survey is too intrusive.We have been through this before with the city designating certain properties as "Historical Landmarks"which proved to be disaster for the affected homeowner.No government intrusive water survey,no historic survey.
    You can't have your cake and eat it too...........

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    1. "The government will not decide what I do with my property."

      What? More of this property rights crap. The government tells you what to do with your property. It's called zoning.

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    2. Try again, 7:31. It's called a taking.

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    3. The poster said he believes in community standards for development. Try not to overreact. You might hurt yourself.

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    4. Wrong 7:36. Zoning is not a taking, so said the U.S. Supreme Court, all the way back in 1926.

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    5. Facts again. Damn.

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    6. Well if the Government says so then it must be. Yea right.............Re zone and confiscate is what that decision is all about "eminent domain" Government theft for the good of the public

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    7. Sierra Madre outlawed eminent domain in town by a vote of the people. You must be new here.

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    8. You're joking right? The City of Sierra Madre has no say in what the US Gov't does. Did you outlaw Gay marriage also as Alabama is trying?
      I've lived here over 55 years BTW.

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    9. What does the US government have to do with last night's City Council meeting? Did they up and make Johnny the President?

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    10. About as much as the Supreme Court.

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    11. Quiet. Or I'll go and walk on your lawn.

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    12. Sorry I removed it with the turf rebate program,nothing but dirt rn.

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    13. So you are taking money from the government?

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    14. Yes why not? I also take all legitimate deductions for my taxes. Don't most working people? You pay extra just for fun as some of the 1% in Hollywood?

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    15. You can't excoriate the government on the one hand and then walk around with your tongue out begging for handouts. Thanks for taking my tax money.

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    16. Actually I "give" the gov't over $8,000.00 a year in income tax. Closer to $20,000.00 if I include all taxes Federal,State,and local.

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    17. Then you are aware of just how annoying it is to see your tax money spent on things like somebody's yard maintenance.

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    18. No I'm not easily annoyed by others irrational thoughts. It's actions that matter not constant whining. I'm going to Malibu n my RV with your tax dollars......... Terry (mailman) just brought me my $1,000. check from the City for turf removal. Have a nice day sucker ;)

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    19. Hey you two, take it outside!

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  5. I love the idea of a "Historical Survey" .I have been very active in that aspect of life in Sierra Madre. I am also an avid water conservation person. But it is obvious that both these wonderful missions are being subverted for the City's obsession with getting into my home and snooping.
    Mayor Harabedian's utter domination of the meeting was inexcusable. He is becoming tyrannical ? What happened to him. Some of us were dubious of his conversion to reasonableness. This is odious.

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  6. You're talking about measure ED that states "Shall an ordinance be adopted prohibiting the City of Sierra Madre from exercising the power of eminent domain for private purposes, or facilitating or funding the exercise of the power of eminent domain for private purposes?" Please read it carefully it's an ordinance and it applies only to the City confiscating property for "private purposes" whatever that means

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  7. Anyone know what the decision was regarding the demolition moratorium?

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    1. There was no decision. They talked to 11:30 and then pushed it to another meeting. Gene Goss and Mayor Process showed entirely different personsonslities this week, and Capoccia swayed in the breeze.

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    2. The angels lost their wings.

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    3. The Council completely lost their vision of what the demolition ordinance was supposed to be. It was supposed to prevent our older, historic homes to be demolished and then a lot split or a mcmansion to replace it. It was an emergency ordinance to prevent someone from filing for a demolition before the final ordinance was passed. And as Denise said, they have to do the historic survey in order to know what they are talking about in the ordinance. Otherwise it would be willy nilly decision making. Capoccia at first made great sense but lost it when Harabedian made his case, forcefully and over and over.

      For the first time I can remember, Elaine and Teresa made perfect sense when they argued that a 6 month moratorium was necessary to let the Planning Commission do their job, and have time to do the survey to make sure all the points were covered. Harabedian wanted to keep it to 90 days and said it didn't need to go to the Planning Commission as the Council was smart enough to make the decision themselves. Clueless Goss kept going on about individual property rights, completely missing the point altogether.

      In the end, they voted for a 60 day extension of the moratorium with the proviso that they do a rush job and try to get it to Council for the final reading in April. This is completely unrealistic, and as one of the public said, you need the 6 months to get it right. There is something fishy about that discussion last night.

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    4. Was this continued, or did they actually pass something?

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    5. Legally, the moratorium was extended six months. But instead of using that time to do a survey and do the ordinance properly, they are going to skip the survey, rush through the ordinance and try to lift the moratorium by April.

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    6. Sorry. Which moratorium? Water hook ups? Tear downs?

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  8. The City wants everyone on the GIS System. Historical water usage numbers are not of value. Everyone must eventually be on the GIS grid. Little by little they will get rid of historical usage numbers that residents have as your water usage allotment will be determined by the calculator used to determine the GIS allotment. You may get more water allotment but it will be tied to the inspection clause. Historical usage numbers are going to GIS. This is a fundamental change happening right before your eyes.

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    1. GIS = Geographic Information System

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    2. Where do they run this GIS? Out of the emergency bunker in City Hall's basement?

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  9. Personally, I think most of the council is there to satisfy the city management. Harabedian was a disappointment last night. The water audit needed a lot more work and they gave it a pass. The historical survey was a bust and they backtracked on the demolition. Capoccia said the water deal could be tweaked as needed. I will hold him to that if I have to picket in front of his house. To give that power to city hall is nauseating. I can hardly wait to see how they weasel through the budget to secure those wages and perks. I'm beginning to believe that it might be best to sell while the money is good and leave the town and the state. Ya can't fight city hall!

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  10. The scandal in Arcadia can also be found in their multi-million, brand new district offices. Take a peek on Transparent California. The school bond for $250 million was flawed as documented in the LA Times investigation to how all the cities were getting the cash. It'd be interesting to see the personal departure dates and heavy decisions made.

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  11. I was the one who posted at 1:02 p.m. today. I meant to say a 6 month moratorium, not a 60 day. Should have had another cup of coffee before I posted!

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