Monday, June 1, 2015

So Much of the Financial Information City Hall is Putting Out is Not Very Accurate

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Residents are being asked to help the City Council deal with Sierra Madre's budget problems, and at the June 6 "Budget Town Public Meeting" this will finally all come down. In a controlled way, of course.

But apparently a lot of the financial information being put out by City Hall just isn't that reality-based. Whether this is through ineptitude, an inability to deal with numbers, or they just don't think it is all that important, is anyone's guess. I favor the latter explanation. It goes along with my belief that this has always been about putting a third UUT measure on the ballot next April. The City apparently having decided that the last thing they should be doing is wising up the marks with any substantive data. Better to just play upon resident emotions while at the same time reaching around back for their wallets.

In this weekend's edition of the often vaguely written Mountain Views News, the paper's publisher, H. Susan Henderson, points out just such an inaccuracy. One that she originally took at face value, and then published it in her paper. Much to her obvious chagrin.

Here is how Susan describes it:


Here is the graphic that Susan Henderson's concerned readers alertly called into question:


Now I have been known to question Ms. Henderson's methodology and commitment to accuracy from time to time, something that would normally be expected of a newspaper that receives money on a noncompetitive basis from the public purse. However, and at least in this case, that would not be the right thing for me to do. You see, I also took budget numbers provided by City Hall and posted them on my site, believing them to be accurate. This happened last Thursday.

Here is how that one went (link):


I was informed by someone in the know that the medical insurance numbers currently available on the city's website are not accurate, even though they have been live there since last November. I was also told that the correct numbers would be posted as soon as possible. Friday City Hall was closed, so today could be the big day.

The spot on the city's website where I found the above numbers also has health insurance plan cost figures for classified employees, along with whatever it is the rest of the help is called. Those numbers are inaccurate as well.

So here is the point to all of this. The City has asked residents to help them figure out how to deal with the city's budget problems. And quite a few people have answered that call. Myself and Susan Henderson included. But where else can they get the numbers they need to work with than the city?

There are not many other places for people to go. And now that it turns out that at least a portion of those City supplied numbers are not accurate, what is the point of doing anything at all?

And where does that leave that "resident input" part of next Saturday's meeting on the budget?

Bonus Coverage

It just doesn't get much more Sacramento than this. The head of the state agency in charge of creating affordable housing for the less fortunate among us is himself tearing down affordable housing to build luxury condos. No, really. This from the Daily Beast:

California Housing Boss To Build Luxury Condos Over Poor Tenants’ Homes California affordable housing head evicts 17 tenants from his own building to clear way for the construction of luxury condos

Today, in bitter irony, the head of the California Housing Finance Agency, a state agency tasked with helping low- to moderate-income Californians find affordable housing, is being picketed by dozens of his own soon-to-be-evicted tenants, who are being forced out of rent-controlled apartments so he can rebuild them as luxury apartments.

CalHFA Chairman Matthew Jacobs, a Democrat, is also a real estate developer, and is invoking the state’s controversial Ellis Act, which allows landlords to evict rent-controlled tenants if they plan to tear down buildings or get out of the landlord business entirely. Jacobs’ plan is to demolish nine such residences in order to construct more modern, four-story, condominiums with parking garages that will be sold at market value. Seventeen tenants will be displaced in the process.

“Here is a person who is supposed to be producing or helping get affordable housing get produced in the state actually knocking down existing affordable housing so he can profit off building luxury units,” Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival told radio station KPCC.

The Ellis Act, which was enacted in 1986, has been increasingly used in housing-crushed California cities to get around rent-controlled protections. In 2014, landlords reportedly cleared out 725 apartments, up from 308 in 2013. Los Angeles currently has a staggeringly low 3.3% vacancy rate, which is lower even than New York City’s, and experts state the city is about to hit a wall, with zoning for 4.2 million people and a current population of 3.9 million. With growing scarcity of housing causing values to constantly rise, financial pressure is on affordable housing landlords to find a way out and cash in.

Jacobs’ tenants protested by handing out fliers outside another development of his on Saturday afternoon, a five-unit luxury building with prices around $1.5 million, and in front of his home. They mourned not just the loss of their homes but of a neighborhood’s community-centric way of life.

For the rest of this tale of bizarre state government hypocrisy, click here.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

31 comments:

  1. Be on the lookout at any budget meetings for Jerry Pearson and Cam Thorton who are putting forth the canard that we can solve the city's budget problems if we only allow a big housing project over at Mater Dolorosa. First of all, the one-time development impact fees are not allowed to go into the General Fund. Secondly, the ongoing property taxes will only offset the increased demand on public services. So in the end, we gain very little but we've ruined the Monastery grounds, displaced the wildlife, turned Sunnyside and one other street into a highway, caused more traffic and polllution, used up more of our precious water and on and on it goes. And don't forget that as the owners of the property from Chicago, Jerry Pearson from Arcadia and Cam Thornton from Burbank tell Sierra Madre what's good for them, let them also tell us how they happen to have a financial interest in this sacred land turning into a housing project. In other words, they will personally benefit from its sale. Maybe then people will take what they say with a grain of salt.

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    1. Have they found a new developer yet?

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    2. Don't think they have found a new developer yet, but they must be thinking twice after New Urban West pullled out. And by the way, I think they realize that Jerry Pearson and Cam Thornton are questionable pitchmen for the project since they will personally profit from the sale of the land. Now they are using Father Mike Higgens himself to make the pitch. There is something unsavory about Priests spending their time in land development deals rather than spending their time on more spiritual pursuits but then again, the Catholic Church has gone off the rails in so many ways that maybe it shouldn't surprise anyone.

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    3. Yes, I am not sure it is right to use a Catholic Priest as a pitchman for a housing development on land many believe has strong religious conotations. I am not sure selling out has ever been taken to such cosmic levels in Sierra Madre.

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    4. The 2014-15 Board of Directors Chair is Joe Sanders, who has been a Director since 2011 and was the Senior Vice President, Operations, 2006-2013, Charles Pankow Builders, Pasadena http://www.pankow.com/ ; bio http://collections.lib.purdue.edu/pankow/?page=bio&bioid=JS (confirmed per LInkedin https://www.linkedin.com/pub/dir/Joseph/Sanders/us-49-Greater-Los-Angeles-Area ). This does not mean to imply that Pankow Builders are the company chosen, but his input will obviously have impact. Also, apparently Jerry Pearson, an architectural landscaper and past president of the Board, was chosen as the landscape designer.

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    5. Go to the Preserve Sierra Madre website www.preservesierramadre.com to find out details about Cameron Thornton, Jerry Pearson, and the new 2014-15 Chair of the Mater Dolorosa Board, Joe Sanders, who was the Chief Operations Officer for Pankow Builders, 2006-2013.

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    6. I hope all 3 of those guys know they are becoming famous.

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    7. I hope all 3 of those guys deeply regret what they are doing and change their ways.

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    8. Don't forget Robert Law who is also on the Mater Dolorosa Board of Directors. He works for a builder also. It seems that the Board got stacked with pro-development people who don't care at all about the sacredness of a property that has managed to remain intact since 1926. Does anybody wonder why religion is imploding in America and the Catholic Church is losing followers all over the world. You have a Priesthood that has done some pretty bad things - not all of them but many of them. And now they are focused more on funding their retirements than on following the gospel. Father Mike Higgens has been reduced to trying to sell us on a housing project to fund his and other priests' retirements. God help us all.

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  2. The City Accounting numbers are bogus! we need an forensic audit as called for by Kurt Christensen 8 or more years ago. The City Manager is not qualified for the job she holds. Of course the City provided inaccurate numbers. Elaine doesn't know how to manipulate the numbers to hide the discrepancies.

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    1. 7:58, it was Kurt Zimmerman who called for the audit. The council wouldn't go for it. Ex head of development Kurt Christensen never called for anything except more development.

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    2. No it was Chris Christensen who called for a "forensic audit" as he's a police officer and well acquainted with forensics.

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    3. Laughable. Forensic audits are done by accountants, not PD.

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    4. Trolls. Can't live with 'em but you can sure live without them.

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  3. Our Village has enough money, the City Manager just wants more of it. Elaine wants a raise! Elaine needs to hire more employees so she can delegate her job. It provides an escape goat. When she is ask why she has not done her job she has someone to blame. If the City Manager did her job there would be no need for budget discussions, it is her job to balance the budget. The sad part for the Village is that the City Council Never questions Elaine about her job performance. The cold hard fact: The Village needs a new City Manager. The City Council Needs to do what they were voted into office for, to make those hard decisions. It should start with the replacement of our City Manager

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  4. If the City Manager and City Attorney stopped all the ligation instead of lining their pockets and fleecing the citizens of Sierra Madre, there would be no discussions about how to balance the budget. Not only that, there would be enough money left over to buy the Monastery property.

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  5. It was a resident that blew the wistle on city hall for commingling of city's monies, misappropriation of residents monies, failure to pay for 39 city water meters which the city uses, proof that city hall failed to improve the water infracture. It was the resident who shared with Kurt Zimmerman what was going on. It was the resident who requested a forensic audit which Kurt also requested at a latter date. Until city hall cleans up its own mess, there will never be a benefit to the city residentz wbo's monies are being misappropriated!

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    1. A forensic audit would have answered all of the questions about insane water bond debt, how we got into this mess and who exactly was responsible. It would have also taken a hard look at how the City Councils of the 200 to 2006 era misappropriated redevelopment funds. A lot of the problems we face today are because the forensic audit was never done. It is also helps to explain why certain parties in town are scared to death that the UUT is going to stay at 6%. Especially the 4F elements of the SMPD. If the Enid Joffe giveaway goes away, very few of them will have jobs.

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    2. Apparently there were some serious shenanigans that involved staff malfeasance for which we would be sued, as screwy as that sounds.
      Destroyed records, disgruntled employee.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eh2xCZn3hTw&list=PLE8C4B62FADCBCCF3&index=4

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  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  7. I asked last week how we get an audit requested. No one answered. So, how do we get an audit?

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    1. You go to a City Council meeting, step up to the podium, and then ask. You might want to give a few reasons why you think this is necessary. You will then be told that an audit is done every year and everything checks out just fine.

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    2. 3:15 is quite accurate, but 3:10, ask anyway.

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    3. If it only annoys them, you've still accomplished something worthwhile.

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  9. It is 4:30 and the wrong information is still up on the City website. 5 days after it was discovered.
    http://www.cityofsierramadre.com/employee-compensation/employee-benefits

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  10. BY the time this is posted(if it is) the 5pm cocktail horn will blast. Can't wait!!

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    1. I think the horn also means get the kids off the street.

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    2. why was Kraft estate allowed to be torn down??? isn't it on a historical list? the creek was supposed to be saved, i hear they are trying to fill in, and the oak trees are in the people's way....

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  11. There are audits and then there are forensic audits. The latter is looking for the problem, the other can be as vague as they want. I understand the state can do an audit also.

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