Saturday, October 31, 2015

Tony Brandenburg - Halloween: The Night He Came Home (to Sierra Madre)

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Sierra Madre has been a locale used for some very ... interesting films. From Invasion of the Body Snatchers, to Halloween, to The Worm Eaters. Sierra Madre, bask in your cinematic glory!

Kersting Court is widely recognized by many horror and sci-fi film fans as the center of pod exporting in The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). This is one of the truly great science fiction/horror thrillers of all time. However, there are other significant horror/suspense genre films that were also filmed - at least in part, right here in Sierra Madre. So can it be that Sierra Madre is actually ... terror town?

In October, 2010,  Mat Harmon spotlighted Pioneer Cemetery on a now defunct Sierra Madre blog with a wonderful piece which focused on Alfred Hitchcock’s swan-song, the comedy thriller Family Plot (1976). Hitchcock, known as The Master of the Suspense film, was most famous for his weekly television series, as well as a number of films. Rope (1948), Vertigo (1958), Rear Window (1954), and North By Northwest (1959) are universally recognized as celluloid masterpieces. For most horror fans though, his most important work was Psycho (1960).

Hitchcock’s cinematic admirers would come to their own prominence in the 1970s, and his taut suspense would reemerge in the form of a new generation of film makers - among them Brian De Palma, Tobe Hooper, and John Carpenter. De Palma’s admiration of Hitchcock’s form is somewhat easier to notice in his later work than in his seventies output (Phantom of the Paradise, Carrie) and Hooper’s debut, Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1975) would be a hard stretch to align to Hitchcock. Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 looks nothing like a Hitchcock inspired film maker at all. All of that changed with his second film, Halloween (1978) .

Carpenter would utilize many of Hitchcock’s most notable techniques in the hugely influential Halloween. The tense frightening music is undeniably engaged as an instrument of tension. (For soundtracks alone, Halloween stands shoulder to shoulder with the soundtracks of Psycho, The Exorcist, and Suspiria). But Carpenter utilized other Hitchcockian techniques, most obviously the protagonist’s viewpoint - compare Norman Bates spying through the wall peephole to the first person point of view of the mask worn by “The Shape” (as the Michael Myers creation would be known).

There were other interesting nods as well; Psycho’s Janet Leigh was the mother of Halloween’s Jamie Lee Curtis, and psychiatrist Sam Loomis (played by actor Donald Pleasance) was the name of a character in Psycho. The use of already familiar locales, such as Sierra Madre's Pioneer Cemetery, was probably more than just coincidental.

Ultimately, Carpenter would reinvent Psycho for a younger generation of horror movie fans, and thus helped popularize a sub-genre of horror/suspense known as the modern slasher film.

Modern slashers are rooted in earlier suspense sub-genres. Slasher films owe a debt to both Splatter/Gore - most notably Herschell Gordon Lewis's Blood Feast (1963), Two Thousand Maniacs (1964) and The Gore Gore Girls (1972) - and to Italian Giallo (most notably the Bavas, Argento, and Fulci). Both of these styles utilized motifs that would become staple in the slasher films that followed.

The first modern slasher was Black Christmas (1974). However, it would be Carpenter’s Halloween and Friday the 13th (1980) that would popularize and define the sub-genre, and which would lay the foundation for the formula which followed.

Carpenter would utilize Sierra Madre a great deal for locations in the 1980’s, but his initial foray to The Foothill Village was with Halloween, an independent film that has gone on to become one of the most successful of all the slasher franchises. Filmed on a budget of $325,000, Halloween would eventually gross more than $60,000,000 in box office receipts worldwide, making it one of the most profitable independent movies of all time. The film would be remade in 2007 by former White Zombie singer Rob Zombie.

In December, 2006, Carpenter’s Halloween was chosen for inclusion in the United States National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, which stated:

John Carpenter’s first commercially successful film not only became his most famous work, but it also ushered in the dawn of the slasher film. However, “Halloween,” unlike many later films of that genre, creates a chilling tension with minimal blood and gore. The setting is Halloween night, and homicidal maniac Michael Myers has escaped from his mental institution and is hunting teenagers in his hometown of Haddonfield, Ill. Although the numerous imitations and elements of the genre are now considered a cliché, Carpenter’s style of point-of-view shots, tense editing and haunting piano score make “Halloween” uniquely artistic, frightening and a horror film keystone. (Library of Congress, 12/2006)

That is correct, Sierra Madre. A slasher film on the registry of the Library of Congress was partially filmed right here. I dunno ... maybe one day we can look forward to seeing one of those cute docent-led walking tours, led by a real pod person, parading a group of tourists in hockey masks up Baldwin Avenue. Why the Chamber of Commerce doesn't see this film as an important local business asset is beyond me.

Sierra Madre’s Pioneer Cemetery (553 E Sierra Madre Blvd.) was the local film shoot locale for Halloween. It was the pivitol scene where Loomis honors the history of Michael Myers. While rewatching the film recently, I was impressed that most of the scene from Halloween was easy to locate, shot for shot.

This same location would later be used by both auteur David Lynch for the funeral of Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks, and for a comedy slasher, Uncle Sam: Wants You Dead (1997). I wonder if we can look forward to seeing our beloved Sam waltzing down Sierra Madre Boulevard as the Grand Marshall in an upcoming 4th of July Parade.

Carpenter returned to Sierra Madre for locales used in The Fog (1979). The film utilized shots from both the inside and outside of the Episcopal Church of the Ascension (25 East Laurel).

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Because of Carpenter’s commitment to The Fog, he did not choose to direct Halloween II. However, Carpenter co-wrote the script, and co-produced the film. Sierra Madre was again used for location. The opening sequence of Halloween II was shot in Kersting Court, no doubt as a nod to the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It boggles the mind, though. Michael Myers walking by the pub. Imagine, the night “he” returned to Sierra Madre.

Halloween II earned a domestic gross of over $25,500,000, but received mixed reviews as the sequel had employed much of the predecessor’s formula, using techniques which had already begun to appear cliche. Ultimately, it showed signs of being as derivative as the many imitators in the slasher film sub-genre which had already begun to manifest. Halloween II, though relying more on gore and on screen violence, and less on the style and subtlety that Carpenter’s direction had utilized - was still an immensely popular film. It, too, would be remade by Rob Zombie.

The success of the sequel resulted in the third film of the series, though this film would look and sound nothing like its predecessors. Halloween III: Season of the Witch was a markedly different film, utilizing what Carpenter had envisioned as a Halloween - themed story, and one that had no connection whatsoever to the Michael Myers story line. It would be the only Halloween movie to do so. This film would bear little of Carpenter’s influence - it was directed by Tommy Lee Wallace - except for the music, and one of the locales: Sierra Madre.

That’s right, the “Three more days ‘til Halloween” jingle with the dancing pumpkin heads blasted from a TV set is in the window of a shop at 17 Kersting,  currently the home of Mother Moo Creamery. As well as some footage shot inside another shop located somewhere on Baldwin. There was also a scene from inside the very famous Buccaneer Lounge, located at 70 West Sierra Madre Blvd.

Sierra Madre is listed as a location for many horror and suspense themed movies, including Tim Burton’s biopic of Plan 9 from Outer Space director Ed Wood (1994), and Poison Ivy (1992). It also was used for a couple of episodes of V, the TV Series.

The Foothill Village is also listed as a film location for Nightmare on Elm Street VI: Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991). My favorite discovery, hands down, was learning that Sierra Madre was listed by IBDM as the single locale for the z-grade comedy horror picture The Worm Eaters (1977). A film directed by the late Herb Robins, alumni of such Dennis Steckler films as The Thrill Killers. This was Steckler’s send-up of - what else? - Hitchcock’s Psycho.

Happy Halloween, Sierra Madre! You're a living part of it.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Friday, October 30, 2015

Robert Fellner: What’s really driving CalPERS contribution rates higher and higher

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Mod: Great article from our guy Robert Fellner that originally ran in the Los Angeles Daily News (link). There are those who think we want to jettison the Sierra Madre PD because we just don't like them. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Rather it is the high cost of keeping the SMPD that is driving events. At current rates they have become more than a small city of around 11,000 people can afford. It's just business and nothing at all personal. And perhaps the biggest reason for that is outrageously expensive CalPERS retirement benefits. Here Robert explains exactly how CalPERS is financially devastating for many cities, and in some cases driving communities to look at the same solutions being considered in Sierra Madre.

What’s really driving CalPERS contribution rates higher and higher

If public pensions are so modest, as the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) likes to suggest, why are taxpayer contribution rates continually being raised?

CalPERS insists raw averages — like the $46,100 pension the average Los Angeles-area retiree receives — is the clearest way to convey their value.

The implication — that pensions are comfortable, but not exorbitant — is hard to square with the dramatic rise in pension contributions currently impacting cities statewide.

Last year was the first of a six-year plan to hike cities’ rates by 50 percent, and now cities like Long Beach are considering slashing millions from police and fire services (link).

Full context provides clarity: Raw averages represent partial-career retirees, like the average 22-year career of Los Angeles-area retirees.

To compare, if a private-sector worker went to Fidelity Investments to purchase an annuity for that level of income at the CalPERS’ average retirement age of 60, it would cost $1 million. How many taxpayers have saved a million dollars after just a 22-year career, if ever?

Raw averages reveal more about CalPERS’ membership than its generosity — half retire with less than 20 years of service and more than a third had less than 15.

Just as one assumes a 40-hour work week when comparing salaries, any discussion of pensions implicitly assumes a full career.

When normalizing the data in that way — at least 35 years for regular and 30 years for safety retirees — the average full-career pension for all cities in Los Angeles County was over $75,000 for non-safety and over $100,000 for safety retirees, according to just-released 2014 CalPERS data from TransparentCalifornia.com (link).

Properly evaluating CalPERS’ benefits explains its soaring costs. While the median private employers contribute 3 percent of pay towards their employees’ retirement accounts, many cities in Los Angeles County pay over 10 times as much to CalPERS (link).

Glendale, for example, will send 30 cents per dollar of pay to CalPERS this year. El Monte’s 57 percent rate for safety employees means the City will spend an average $63,000 per employee just on retirement costs — nearly triple the $24,419 median earnings that full-time, working residents received last year, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

CalPERS projects that rate to hit 72 percent in 2019.

Sky-high public pension costs go beyond CalPERS. Los Angeles County pays a 19 percent contribution rate to the Los Angeles County Employees’ Retirement Association and Los Angeles City pays its two independent plans 23 and 35 percent of salary for non-safety and safety employees, respectively. Accounting for health benefits provided to city safety retirees increases the rate to 46 percent.

Clearly, the problem is the nature of public pension plans, not any particular administrator. In fact, even scholars at the left-leaning Brookings Institution asserted that, “It is obvious that the current situation is unsustainable financially … (link).”

Defenders of the status quo oppose reform because of the allegedly insufficient retirement income that a personal retirement-account plan would provide. Yet, there is nothing restricting governments from paying higher contribution rates than what private employers pay.

By offering personal retirement-account plans with an employer contribution rate starting at 10 percent, the Contra Costa cities of Danville, Lafayette and Orinda enjoy greater stability and control over costs than their neighbors, while successfully attracting and retaining quality employees, according to city officials (link).

Taxpayers work full careers before retiring and deserve to know the true value of a full-career public pension — particularly when it means they must now pay higher taxes, receive fewer city services or both.

Mod: One more thing. Sierra Madre's 2014 financial data is in. A quick glance didn't reveal too much out of the ordinary, overall employee compensation went up 3%, health costs came down a bit, but salaries and CalPERS offset it. 

The only 2 people with any real noticeable gain was City Manager Aguilar and Chief of Police Giannone, who saw their base pay increase by about 9 and 13 percent respectively. 

We'll have more on this in the next week or so.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Halloween On E. Alegria: Does The City Have This Or Not?

Scary!
As you may recall, earlier this month we busted City Hall over what appeared to be its abandonment of the East Alegria Halloween festivities, an event that attracts an estimated 10,000 people to Sierra Madre every year. We posted two articles. The first, titled "Will Halloween On Alegria Be Especially Scary This Year?," ran on Oct. 16 and can be linked to here. The second, "Tax Politics: The City Manager Changes Her Tune About Halloween On Alegria," ran the next day and can be found here.

There were two statements issued by the City Manager about East Alegria's Halloween festivities. The first, which ran in Elaine's "City Manager's Report" on the unhappy date of September 11, claimed that the city had for all intents and purposes abandoned the folks on East Alegria, and they would have to fend for themselves this year without the kind assistance of the Sierra Madre Police Department. Who, just so you know, care deeply about this city despite all of their lawsuits. Here is how that piece of bad news originally read (link):


After that revelation was posted on The Tattler there was quite an outcry around town. The result being the City Manager was apparently forced, and by all five members of the City Council no less, to issue a clarification of her earlier statement. This time Elaine claimed that everything was hunky dory and that the City of Sierra Madre's local government agency had this after all (link):


After this news was shared with the public most believed things were under control and that Sierra Madre's most popular and famous holiday event would proceed as it always has, in a peaceable and safe way. Five figure attendance figures and all.

However, and according to this widely circulated and rather urgent e-mail from the Sierra Madre Woman's Club (dated just three days before Halloween no less), that might not be the case. At least not yet. And while a few generous private organizations have stepped in to fill some of the gaps, things apparently are not quite all of the way there yet.


Again, while it is laudable to see that private organizations have stepped in to take care of what are some of the essential needs of an event of this size and magnitude, it also appears that things are not quite as under control as the City Manager claimed back on October 15.

Which, and at this late date, is both unfortunate and kind of scary. It is hard to understand how City Hall can be so cavalier about an event that yearly attracts 10,000 people to this town, and at night no less.

Can it be police pensions really have stolen Halloween?

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Most Important Reason For Going With The L.A. Sheriff's Department Still Stands

P.D. Wuv
It was great fun watching Mayor Capoccia sink the specious arguments of Sheriff Contract Committee Poobah Glen Lambdin last night. Especially his nonsensical and frankly dishonest claim that hiring the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department could only bring the City of Sierra Madre significant savings seven or so years down the road. Rather, and as Capoccia clearly demonstrated, the savings would be both immediate and significant.

Another special moment last night from a daffy committee member was listening to the kinda offbeat Rosemary Burnett claim that Sheriff Dept. response times would be far longer than those of the SMPD because they would be coming "all the way from Temple City." Capoccia gently explained to the poor dear that since the LASD would be on patrol here 24/7, response times would be pretty much the same.

There were other moments as well, including the great fingerprinting canard. Something Gene Goss cited last night as if it actually amounted to something.

Apparently the claim of "immediate fingerprinting" one resident made at public comment Monday has not been the experience of everyone in Sierra Madre. Here is how a commenter on this blog described his harrowing misadventure with a rather slack and indifferent Sierra Madre PD:

My house was robbed. $7,000 worth of specialized computer equipment. No fingerprinting was ever done, or anything else. We called a Detective named Gray about 5 times and the jerk never called us back. We needed to have a report filled out so we could get some money from the insurance company. The lazy SMPD staff refused to do it, so we did it ourselves. But we still needed to get it signed, and we had to go down to that PD station 3 times before one of those people would finally agree to sign it. This process took a full month. So when this woman stood up there ranting about fingerprints I could only laugh.

Lambdin also claimed that those speaking at public comment last night would clearly demonstrate strong community support for the SMPD, yet it was pretty much the exact same group of individuals that spoke the night before. Slightly better behaved, of course.

Plus there were several thoughtful speakers who defended bringing the LASD here. Or at least saw some virtue in it. Proving that not everyone in this town fears retaliation from the SMPOA.

It is also rather telling that while on the one hand the likes of Committeemember Bill Coburn claimed it is the longstanding familiarity and comfort with Sierra Madre Police Officers that makes them such an integral part of this community's culture, he later claimed that the lack of those outrageous quarter of a million dollar compensation packages other cities pay their beat cops is causing our PD members to quit and leave in significant numbers.

So which is it? Are they coming or going, Bill? Selling in or selling out? Exactly who is firing whom here?

Oh, and exactly how many times has the SMPOA sued the taxpayers of Sierra Madre again? Over 20 times in the last decade perhaps? Maybe even more?

That is not the definition of "Us" I was taught as a child. Nor is this (link):


Years later this case is still winding its way through the Courts. God only knows how much in legal expenses it is costing us to continue to defend former SMPD Chief Diaz against one of those cops who supposedly made Sierra Madre feel like a community.

It is one thing that the solons of the "SHERIFF CONTRACT PROPOSAL COMMITTEE" were clearly in the tank and cheerleading for the SMPOA. That was obvious all along, and most accepted it. Not all that much was expected from them, anyway.

But that they couldn't even make up believable and consistent stories is quite another. These obviously are not especially thoughtful people.

Sierra Madre resident Rick De La Mora sent the following off to the Mayor and City Council yesterday. It clearly spells out what the real issues involved here are. It is the kind of nonemotional and rational look into the acute financial problems this city is facing that clearly is beyond the understanding of most of the SMPD fansters that spoke this week from the public comment podium at City Hall.

Dear Mayor Capoccia and Members of the Council:

I am writing regarding the Sheriff’s police services proposal which was rejected by the Committee to which you delegated your review responsibility.  Before turning to that, I would like to address some community needs that require attention.

First, the facilities at Heasley and Dapper fields are in need of updating and repair.  These fields are perhaps the most important community gathering points in our city.  Each year literally thousands of children, parents, and grandparents visit these facilities to share Little League and Softball games.  Yet each has fallen into disrepair, with substandard restrooms, grandstands and fields. 

Second, our growing senior population could use improved facilities and programs designed to meet their needs.  These senior citizens have contributed mightily over the years.  The City needs to step up to meet their needs.

Third, our library needs further funding to provide improved services for young and old alike.

Finally, as this morning’s Star News indicated, our water infrastructure is in need of repair.  The problem has become so bad that the City is now exploring further borrowing and funding from our general fund.

None of these needs can be met under current budget restraints, even if one assumes that the UUT is increased to 10% as advocated by the Council or 12% as advocated by the Sheriff’s proposal committee.  The reason for this is simple: The City Council has chosen not to reduce the $4 million that it has chosen to spend on police services. 

That $4 million police expenditure represents 47% of our general fund – a significantly greater percentage than any other city in the San Gabriel Valley.  The City Council’s decision to allocate this disproportionate percentage of the general fund to police services has made it impossible to address the community needs outlined above.  That is unfortunate.  It is also unnecessary.

The Sheriff’s Department has presented a proposal that will

(i)                 Increase patrol hours by 22% (Proposal, p. 58), and

(ii)               Save the City $800,000 per year 

That $800,000 annual savings will enable the City to begin immediate funding of improvements to the Little League and Softball facilities, senior facilities, and library as outlined above.  It will also leave money available to apply toward improving our water infrastructure over the next several years.   

The Committee correctly noted that we have an outstanding police force, with call response times of 3 minutes.  In fact, the Sheriff is prepared to employ all qualified SMPD officers.  The Sheriff will also keep our station house open from 6 am to 10 pm every day. Under an identical arrangement La Canada has experienced Sheriff’s Department response times of 3.7 minutes, despite being over twice as large as Sierra Madre (LA Times, 7/2/14).  In other words, the Sheriff is more than capable of policing our town in a professional, timely, and efficient manner. 

While the Committee is to be thanked for its efforts, it was not tasked with considering our police service costs in the context of our civic needs and the budget as a whole.  That is the Council’s job.  In performing it you will have to make choices.  I urge you to choose the civic improvements identified above over the continued devotion of an excessive proportion of our public funds to the purchase of police services.

Thank you each for your service to our City, Rick De La Mora        

Richard G. De La Mora

We will have more on this story as it develops.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Sheriff's Contract Proposal Review Committee Did Exactly As It Was Told

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Probably about as ugly a City Hall confab as you would ever want to see in this town. Much was made about this meeting not being broadcast on TV, but to be perfectly honest, perhaps it is better that it wasn't shown. Obviously the cop union turned out its hardcore supporters, and more than just a few of them were truly some of the most poorly informed, entitled, and frankly rude people you'd ever care to meet.

A couple even appeared to be drunk. Like I said, it was not a pretty sight last night.

Representatives of the Los Angeles Sheriff Department, who were invited here to provide proposals for law enforcement services by the City of Sierra Madre, gave what I thought was a thoughtful and professional presentation. I also suspect that they thought this was a going to be more of a business meeting with actual functioning city officials rather than an organized community lynching.

Unfortunately for them they had walked into a room partially occupied by some rather wild-eyed and paranoiac individuals, folks who had somehow been convinced that they were facing the enemy of everything wonderful about themselves and their little world. And, thus assured, began repeatedly berating the Sheriffs during public comment, and in at times the most unpleasant of manners.

It was pretty embarrassing.

Equally painful was watching as nobody from Mr. Lambdin's Committee of the Unwilling did anything to stop this verbal assault on these law enforcement professionals, people who supposedly were their guests. Rather they sat and said little as some of the more rude and clueless attendees accused these senior Los Angeles Sheriffs Department representatives of everything from financial exploitation to, in one lengthy and uninterrupted tirade, actual murder.

This while also informing the Sheriffs of how unique and wonderful Sierra Madreans and their community are, and that the Sheriff Department was just not worthy of so fabulous a people and place.

I am not certain these Sheriff Department representatives left the meeting with quite that same impression.

The truth is the Sheriffs would deliver 22% more patrol hours and save the City of Sierra Madre over $800,000 per year. A figure that would help take care of up to 80% of the city's financial shortfall. Such savings could be used to improve the Library, enhance the senior center, and build improved little league and softball facilities.

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But don't try and tell the late, great Neil the Pig's mom that.

The Sheriff's Contract Review Committee did exactly as it was told to do, and just as we predicted they would. They rejected all 3 of the Sheriff Department proposals, while at the same time not only calling for no cuts whatsoever to the SMPD's budgets, but that the cops should actually be receiving even more in more funding than they do now.

Rather Level 3 cuts should be instituted everywhere else. Except for the Library, of course. As City Council liaison Gene Goss was quick to note.

The committee even pondered telling the City Council that 10% utility taxes are not enough, and that they would need to institute a 12% UUT instead. Proving that the Sheriffs Contract Review Committee believed it was also empowered to advise on tax policy as well.

You have to wonder why this committee even bothered to hold the meeting. It isn't like what they heard made any difference to them. The committee came out of this so-called process thinking exactly as they did going in. They might as well have just submitted City Hall's applicable press releases to the City Council and spared everyone the aggravation of having been put through this.

Chief Giannone got his signature Eeyore act on, making much about how little he felt his people are being paid, and how difficult it is to attract new cops to the SMPD. This while also keeping the ones he already has. Since he did not give any figures to back up his claims (no surprise), here are some examples of just how little the Chief feels these people are being paid (link).


At nearly twice the median income of working Sierra Madreans (link) whose taxes sustain them, you can easily deduce that the quite highly compensated SMPD are not missing out on any meals or forced to sleep in their patrol cruisers. At least not when the choose to do so.

Personally, and at these very high levels of compensation, I think the city should throw these jobs open to the public and let everyone apply. The line of eager applicants would likely extend down Sierra Madre Boulevard all the way to Michillinda.

The Assistant City Manager prays.
The Sheriffs Contract Review Committee will submit their report to the City Council tonight. Councilmembers Gene Goss and John Harabedian will pretend to be very impressed, and call for everyone to support the UUT increase next April.

Which is, of course, what this really has been about all about. Money, union payoffs in exchange for campaign support, and things such as incredibly expensive CalPERS pensions. All in a town of less than 11,000 already heavily taxed people.

Agenda item to watch for tonight


Link here. Apparently this report was submitted very late, with Dr. Baribeau not living up to the billing given by Director Inman when he was asking for her $50,000 fee.

And is there a conclusion from the good Doctor? Watchwords to go by? Nope. Not even close.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Promised Water Infrastructure Repairs That Never Happened - Plus Tonight's Public Safety Nonevent

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As you are already aware I am sure, in the past the City of Sierra Madre was not quite on the level about the reasons why it was raising water rates as it should have been. What residents were told was that repairing things such as aging water mains and the pipes attached to them was the reason for the additional water rate squeezing.

An example of this rather blatant and unabashed dishonesty can be found below. If you read paragraph two of the 2010 document we're reproducing below you will see that it says the following:

"The City imposes it's water rates in order to fund the City's costs of operating and maintaining the water system, as well as to pay off the costs of improvements to that system."

I think the following sentence is also key:

"Water rate proceeds may not be used by the City for any other purpose."

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You almost have to laugh. In a rueful sort of way, of course. This water rate increase was approved by the City Council back then, but only after a vigorous Prop 218 challenge was conducted by certain folks in town. Who, based on the disastrous shape we find Sierra Madre's water infrastructure in today, were completely right.

So if the City could only use this revenue for water system maintenance and improvements, why do we have these myriad leaks today? And if the City did not use the revenue for the water system and infrastructure, what DID they use it for? Water bond payments? CalPERS? Hawaiian shirts and leis?

The answer is this had nothing to do with water infrastructure and everything to do with toxic bond debt. And City Hall didn't want to admit it.

It is hard to believe that the city employees responsible for the above document are still employed here.

Of course, we are talking about a Sierra Madre tradition here. The following is from way back in 2003:


As you may recall 2003 was a rather momentous year for Sierra Madre because it was then that One Carter was laid waste for a development that was never built and resulted in numerous rancorous lawsuits. Lawsuits that continue to this very day. That plus the schemes for the Downtown Specific Plan were first hatched.

But again, the water mains and the unhappy pipes attached to them were not replaced. That responsibility now falls upon the residents today. Residents who have already paid at least twice to have these repairs made, only to have been rather shamelessly fibbed to by the city.

It would be nice to get some sort of accurate accounting of just what exactly these two water rate increase were spent on. Along with all those others, of course.

It would probably take an army of lawyers to get it, though.

Tonight's "Public Safety" Nonevent

A nonevent because the outcome of tonight's "process" was determined way before this handpicked group of not exactly disinterested individuals was apparently rigged by SMPOA (or whatever they call themselves these days) errand boy Councilmember Harabedian. A fellow who is convinced that he is a lot smarter than you, even though he continually gets caught doing stupid stuff like this.

What follows is a report by Public Safety Committeeman Bill Coburn on his somewhat overlooked news site called Sierra Madre News.net (link).

Of course, Bill does not mention in this report that as a member of this committee he is a part of the news he is reporting. Nor does he mention that his sister is a committee member as well, oh my country cousins. Meaning that just maybe he should rename his site Sierra Madre News.not.


I have reread this troublesome missive a couple of times now, and I do not recall seeing any mention of the savings that hiring the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department would bring Sierra Madre's sorely abused taxpayers. This despite the fact that hiring this vastly larger, much better equipped and certainly more physically fit law enforcement agency would save a large portion of the budgetary shortfall being shamelessly whined about above.

It is also noteworthy that the LASD presentation to the people of Sierra Madre is not being televised. Anybody know who made that call? Maybe they don't want very many people to see it?

Gosh, I wonder how Bill will be voting tonight? Well OK, maybe I don't.

Prepare to be embarrassed by these people.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Politics Behind Moving Sierra Madre's Elections From April To November

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Traditionally Sierra Madre has always held its municipal elections in April. This has served the community well over the years because it has helped to focus the minds of the voters on the often highly complex and comparatively obscure issues involved in running a small and at times idiosyncratic local city government. Freed from having to compete with the roar of the often bizarre circus that is national and state politics, those running for offices like City Council have been able to receive the attention they need to properly explain issues that many of those living here might otherwise never get to opportunity to hear properly discussed.

However, and in the name of saving a few bucks, Councilmember John Harabedian has taken it upon himself to upend 100 or so years of Sierra Madre tradition and attempt to move municipal elections here to November. Thereby giving our very local leaders the unenviable task of trying to get heard over the national billion dollar political campaigns of the likes of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

A competition for the attention of the voters I am not certain the local guys will ever win. Making our city's politics little more than an obscure and irrelevant afterthought for most.

But who knows, maybe that is the point. The less informed people are the more likely they are to vote for the high tax and employee benefits agenda of Councilmember Haradedian.

Here is how this item reads in the staff report prepared for Tuesday evening's City Council meeting.


So why would Councilmember Harabedian want to take the trouble to move Sierra Madre's elections from their ages old traditional April date to November, thereby causing our important local governmental issues the unenviable task of having to compete with national elections and politics?

If Councilmember Harabedian loves this community so much, why does he want to take away the individuality inherent in Sierra Madre's hometown elections? Certainly that had to have played a role when this community's founders decided it was best to hold our local elections here in April.

Are we going from Lucky Baldwin to Unlucky Harabedian here?

There is also this. If they were move the election from April to November it extends the term of Harabedian and Capoccia a full half of a year. What did they do to deserve that? And would they have to recuse themselves from a vote that would grant them extra time in office, time they were not elected by the people to serve?

This November election tactic is exactly what Governor Jerry Brown is doing for tax increases and bond issues. Getting them in front of the casual voters who are more likely to cast ballots for them. This isn't exactly an original idea.

So can it be that City Hall's unprecedented third attempt at getting a big utility tax increase passed has something to do with this? The answer to that one is yes, of course it does. As always, it is about the money. Here is the most relevant passage from this week's City Council Agenda Report.


Like it or not, there are a considerable number of people who only vote in national elections. Here that number is apparently around 1,100 persons. These folks think little about local government, and therefore know nothing about the issues that concern those who do care about Sierra Madre government and politics.

These low information voters are more likely to vote for things like utility tax increases because they do not understand what the real issues are. Making them more susceptible to misleading and baseless appeals to the emotions like "they want to close the library," or "we won't have ambulances anymore and granny will die."

And that is what Harabedian is banking on. He believes, and not without justification, that it would be far easier to get things like tax increases and bond measures passed when more people are paying attention to national politics than local issues. And, perhaps more to the point, when people who know nothing about Sierra Madre governance and its often difficult to grasp politics are more likely be going to the polls and voting.

It is a kind of underhanded and cynical thing for the Councilmember to be doing. 

But hardly surprising.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Saving Arcadia: The Arcadia City Council Meeting Report

Mickey Segal: Not backed by an amber mine.
Tuesday’s City Council meeting saw a surprising and much needed shift in the alignment of power in Arcadia with the appointment of Mickey Segal to fill the spot of resigned John Wuo.

Saving Arcadia commends Mayor Kovacic, Councilmembers Beck and Segal for voting to conduct a study session on moratoriums for demolition permits. We applaud these 3 members of City Council for their careful consideration of what is the best option for Arcadia moving forward. More than just a developer based constituency is now being heard.

The City has set out a plan to move forward with the zoning code update and adoption of new codes.  Community meetings are set for November 4th at Foothills Middle School at 7pm and November 12th at Holly Avenue Elementary at 7pm.

A new “citizens committee” (not officially titled yet) will be formed made up of key “stakeholders” approximately 20 people to meet, maybe by December, but no later than January 2016 to discuss and propose recommendations for new zoning codes. The goal is to adopt new codes by March 2016.

The most disappointing news was the cost of the City Council’s suspension of the zoning code study.  There was a $16,000 “penalty” to restart the study with the consulting group and there is an additional $10,000 to $35,000 on top of the original $160,000 that is now needed to complete the zoning code study.

Saving Arcadia is still collecting signatures for the ballot initiative and we are on target for reaching our goal by November.  The ballot initiative will provide an option to the City’s update in March, just in case the City’s update does not exceed the development standards proposed in the initiative or the City is unable to reach a consensus and adopt a code update.

The 2 people who spoke against the Saving Arcadia group and the ballot initiative are a realtor (Joe Sira of Dilbeck Realtors) and a contractor whose house is on the market.

Mickey Segal said that he encourages Ms. Verlato to get 3,000 signatures in a 56,000 person community.  That some might debate whether that is the consensus of the community. Roger Chandler got just 3,575 votes of that 56,000 person community in 2014 and Sho Tay got 3,594 votes. So if the ballot initiative gets 3600 signatures, there is no debate.

The Special Edition newsletter for the public education on zoning codes has N/A for Arcadia on the FAR chart while all other cities have one.  No one pointed that out at City Council. Sho Tay pointed out that Temple City has a rear-yard set back of 15 feet while Arcadia has 25 feet. But Tay neglected to mention Temple City has a maximum house size of 4,000 sf. You know how he can be.

Thank you Chuck Greene, Richard Midgley, Carolynn Papp, Roy McMeen, Brett Mitulski and April Verlato for speaking in support of the ballot initiative. Thank you Brett Mitulski and April Verlato for suggesting the City Council adopt a moratorium on demolition permits. We are finally a part of the City Council conversation.

Two articles from the press that you might care to read. First the Pasadena Star News:


For the rest of the Pasadena Star News report click here. Next is the Arcadia Weekly:


For the rest of the Arcadia Weekly's report click here.

- SAVING ARCADIA TEAM

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Why Would You Even Want To Go To This Meeting?

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"Here is what you need to know about the Sheriff's proposal. And what this committee will not tell you. First, it will save the city $800k a year. That is 10% of our general fund. That money can be used to improve the library, improve the little league field, purchase open space, or apply to infrastructure. Second, it will get the city off the hook for future pension obligations. Third, it will increase actual patrol hours by 22%. You read that right. We will get more patrol services for less money. These facts are all plainly stated in the actual proposal. They will not be discussed by this stacked committee. Nor by our City Council, which apparently believes it is wise to spend 47% of the city's discretionary fund on police services, to the exclusion of investments in our civic life." - Reader comment

I am sure there are some well-meaning people who will go to this event. And a few of them probably believe that there actually is a possibility that the vastly overhyped Sierra Madre Police Department might go away, and that the Sheriffs will then take their place. Something that could make sense from both a financial and quality of service perspective. Though such rationality can get lost when you're discussing the emotional attachment some have with the boys in blue.

Obviously there isn't a chance in heck of that happening, though. The deck has been stacked and quite honestly the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department are just wasting their time by coming here. They'd be better off staying in their offices and catching up on some paperwork. Because there is absolutely no way in that the so-called "Sheriff's Contract Review Committee" is going to recommend that the city dump the Sierra Madre's Police Department in favor of the Sheriffs. It is not going to happen. And they were all chosen to make certain it does not.

And why is that? Because this is a prime example of a bad faith negotiation. The actual purpose of this meeting has precious little to do with making any changes in law enforcement agencies. That decision has already been made. Rather it is to make the more gullible residents of this town believe that if they don't vote to raise their utility taxes to 10%, the City of Sierra Madre will have no choice but to get rid of the Police Department.

And how awful would that be? Well, not awful at all. But you know how that goes.

I mean, who wouldn't want more effective and higher caliber officers on the streets of Burglary Burgh, and at a better price? But unfortunately many here can't quite get their head around what would be the more logical and cost effective hire, and instead will vote themselves one of the highest utility tax rates in the state for inferior service.

You know, so the Sheriffs don't come here. Proving that there really is one born every minute, and some of them have chosen to live in Sierra Madre.

This from the Pasadena Star News (link):


But that is hardly all of it. Here is a comment posted on The Tattler a couple of weeks back:


Throw in the offbeat Glenn Lamdin and it is obvious that each of the members of this committee is a specially selected status quo choice. Some coming with a deep personal stake in CalPERS as well. And all of them deep in the pockets of the Sierra Madre PD cop union and the politicians who take their political campaign money.

You can only wonder who picked them. Well, maybe not.

Here is how Marilyn Diaz is compensated these days:


And that doesn't include the money Marilyn is getting from Sierra Madre.

Trust me, the fix is in. Just like the fix was always in on putting a utility tax measure on the ballot in April of 2016. And for the third time since 2012.

From the perspective of the so-called Sheriff's Contract Review Committee this is all about business as usual. The City of Sierra Madre and its hand-picked cop committee is about as committed to financial reform as foxes are to giving up chicken.

The only way things will change is to deny City Hall its utility tax increase. Only by taking your tax money from them will they even start to make more financially responsible decisions.

And that is what this is really all about.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Arcadia Weekly: Will Arcadia Taxpayers Dump Their UUT?

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(Mod: There was a very good Joe Taglieri article on the move to dump the UUT in Arcadia published in the Arcadia Weekly last week. I am reposting it here today. Since the move to do away with utility taxes in Sierra Madre has been the target of some rather questionable tactics by at least two local governmental bodies in Los Angeles County, it is important to see how things are getting done elsewhere. Having a Sierra Madre City Council sponsored ballot initiative to raise the UUT to 10% here, while at the same time the voters would also have the option of doing away with utility taxes altogether, could make for some very interesting political theater. Hopefully the usual cast of democracy averse suspects downtown will allow this to happen. Link to Arcadia Weekly here.) 

Officials Warn of Utility Tax Repeal’s Negative Impact on City Services, Infrastructure

By Joe Taglieri

A ballot initiative that recently qualified for Arcadia’s upcoming election seeks to repeal the city’s utility tax, which officials say if approved will significantly downgrade services and infrastructure improvements. Proponents contend the city is overtaxing residents to cover needlessly high employee salaries and inflated program costs.

Currently the tax, which both residential and commercial utility customers pay each month, adds 7 percent to bills for water, electricity and natural gas and 5 percent for telecommunications.

In a presentation at the city council meeting on Oct. 6, City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto cautioned that repealing the tax would eliminate 12.5 percent of Arcadia’s budget. This would lead to staff reductions and cancel infrastructure improvement projects.

“Collectively, [utility taxes] are the third largest revenue source for the City, generating $7 million dollars … each year, paying for many important services that the City provides to its businesses and residents on a daily basis,” Lazzaretto wrote in a report to the council.

Lawrence Papp, an Arcadia resident for more than 50 years, leads the tax repeal effort.

“There’s too much fat in the city budget,” Papp said in an interview. “There’s too much imprudent spending.”

In addition to what he observed were bloated city employee salaries compared with neighboring San Gabriel Valley communities, Papp, 86, also noted his and other ballot measure supporters’ opposition to what he described as Arcadia’s overly abundant taxpayer-funded civic and social programs.

“We believe that those who benefit should pay for what they receive,” Papp said.

“Taxes are too high … [and] too numerous,” Arcadia resident Domenico Tallerico told council members.

“There’s a tremendous burden on all taxpayers, and even those that don’t pay taxes ultimately will suffer from that burden,” he added.

Noting the Arcadia Police Department’s status as the city’s largest budget expenditure – nearly $20 million for the current fiscal year – resident Yamay Christle suggested the council consider outsourcing law enforcement services to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

An average Arcadian pays a combined total of less than $10 a month in utility taxes, according to Lazzaretto’s report.

Citing feedback from residents, Papp said the average Arcadian family pays between $200 and $1,500 in utility taxes annually.

“This is serious, it couldn’t be more serious,” Mayor Pro Tem Roger Chandler said. “The effect of this measure taking away $7 million is significant.”

In his presentation to the council, Lazzaretto presented two scenarios to account for the 12.5 percent revenue loss if the tax repeal wins voter approval this spring.

Lazzaretto’s first suggestion for dealing with the budget shortfall was to reduce each city department by 12.5 percent. This would result in the loss of 129 employees, including 29 police jobs and 24 positions from the Arcadia Fire Department, in addition to reducing emergency response times and hindering a wide range of public services the city provides through other departments.

As an alternative to slashing the budgets of all departments, the city manager proposed prioritized reductions.

“Based on what is generally accepted as the community’s highest priority – public safety – and the fact that several functions are legally mandated (City Clerk, Treasurer, and Building Official, for instance), it is possible to illustrate how significant the impacts would be on those departments that fall outside of this group,” Lazzaretto’s report explains.

As an “extreme example,” Lazzaretto posited the idea of completely eliminating the library and recreation departments. This would still leave an additional $520,000 in cuts for remaining departments to absorb.

The city manager also warned against eliminating or reducing revenue-generating activities that may result if voters repeal the utility tax.

“Any program or service cuts would need to be cognizant of the potential additional revenue losses that could occur,” his report states. “The same would be true for grants and other non-General Fund revenues that could be impacted if staffing and service levels did not meet minimum requirements.”

Papp contended that repealing the utility tax would attract businesses to the city, thereby increasing sales tax and other revenue streams.

Council members authorized $10,000 for a citywide mail campaign aimed at educating voters on the consequences of repealing the utility tax.

Mayor Gary Kovacic described the forthcoming mailer as “informative, nonpartisan … and factual.”

Levies on utility usage in Arcadia date back to 1970, when the council established a 5 percent surcharge on all four services.

The council adjusted the rate at several points throughout the two ensuing decades.

In 1996, “California voters passed Proposition 218, requiring voter approval for the introduction or increase of taxes, assessments, and certain property-related fees,” Lazzaretto’s report states.

Arcadia voters overwhelmingly approved a measure in 2009 establishing the current utility tax rates amid an intensifying nationwide recession. The ballot initiative “authorized the City Council to adjust the rate as part of the annual budgeting process without voter approval, provided the rate does not exceed the voter-approved maximums,” according to the report.

In 2013 the council reinstated the 7 percent rate for water, gas and electricity as well as the 5 percent tax on telecommunications.

Based on Proposition 218 rules, Papp needed at least 460 signatures of local registered voters to qualify his initiative for the upcoming election. According to the city manager’s report, Papp submitted a petition in August that totaled 558 signatures.

The initiative calling for repeal of the utility tax will appear on Arcadia’s April 12 election ballot.

More on the PUSD Cleveland Elementary Child Molestation Lawsuit

(Mod: The report comes to us from the Pasadena Weekly. Parents at Cleveland Elementary, blown off by the PUSD and its all-white Board of Education for over 8 months, filed a lawsuit to get their complaints heard. Click here for the PW site.)

The families of seven children who say they were sexually molested by a Cleveland Elementary School teacher are suing the Pasadena Unified School District.

The complaint, filed on Oct. 2 in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

According to City News Service (CNS), the lawsuit claims that the male teacher was presented to the public as a “highly qualified teacher and counselor who would assist the minors with working through academic and personal issues faced.”

Instead, he used his “position of authority and trust over the minors to sexually harass, molest and abuse them,” CNS reported on the allegations.

The teacher has not been charged with a crime and his name has not been revealed. As of Friday, school district officials said they had not seen the lawsuit.

According to CNS, the victims were girls between 9 and 11 years old.

The teacher was placed on paid administrative leave on March 11, after allegations surfaced that he had inappropriately touched a student. The paid suspension came one day before a parent called Pasadena police.

After receiving that and other complaints, Lt. Terysa Rojas said detectives talked to four children. There was no indication that a crime occurred and the teacher was not arrested, Rojas said.

Rojas said they determined it was more like a hug for good work and that the teacher was not alone with the students.

During the investigation, at least 13 children were interviewed four times by patrol officers, detectives, specialists at the Center for Assault Treatment Services (CATS) and the LA County District Attorney’s Office.

“At that time we took the case over to the District Attorney’s Office they did not press charges,” Rojas told the Pasadena Weekly on Monday. “Not only did our detectives interview them, but we also had forensic interviews done by an outside agency. Those interviews were also included in the case file given to the DA.”

According to the lawsuit, the district failed to notice the abuse despite multiple “red flags,” including inappropriate touching of children and the fondling of them “in a sexual manner,” according to the plaintiffs.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

If METRO Doesn't Kill the SR 710 Tunnel Should We Kill LA County Sales Tax Measure R2?

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(Mod: Great rundown by Sylvia Plummer of a very interesting situation developing with METRO, the 710 Tunnel and a sales tax increase ballot initiative called Measure R2. Something I personally will vote against no matter what happens. But that is just me. I have trust issues. Especially when it comes to the likes of Metro and "The COG." At the bottom of this post you will be asked to participate in something very important. Please give it a good look and go for it. Let's get ourselves heard.)

On Thursday, October 22, the METRO Board will be meeting at 9:00 am. Included on the METRO Agenda for Receive and File action is a preliminary staff report on the November, 2016 Potential Ballot Measure ­ R2 - which would raise significant and needed funds for transportation projects for many years. As you may recall, the last effort (Measure J) failed by a small percentage.

We are hearing that there is growing concern in METRO circles that the “activists" in the San Gabriel Valley who oppose the SR 710 tunnel could be a serious threat to the passage of Measure R2.  According to some, Metro has even considered withholding the Final EIR until after the November, 2016 election – but we have not been able to substantiate that yet.  Several of the “activists" have been meeting to discuss delivering a letter to the METRO Board at its next meeting on this Thursday, the 22nd, with our strongest message yet:  KILL THE TUNNEL before the November, 2016 election -- and then, and only then, we can work together to pass Measure R2. The letter states that if the tunnel is not killed before the election, we will campaign to defeat the Measure in spite of the many worthwhile transit projects it will contain.  The tunnel can be killed by selecting “No Build” as the preferred alternative. They cannot be not required to build anything.

You may have read a month or so ago that the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments elected to exclude the SR 710 project from its list of priority projects. This alone does not mean that it would not appear in Measure R2, but it is unlikely that it will be explicitly listed as a project in Measure R2.  This does not mean that the project is dead – Metro/Caltrans could continue to find other funding for it.  That is why it is not enough for us to say that we will support Measure R2 if it does not contain the tunnel.  

How you can help:

 1.  By attending the METRO Board Meeting on Thursday morning at 9 a.m. at Metro Headquarters (behind Union Station). Comments from the public are limited to one minute. As an attachment, I am sending an early draft of a letter we have been working on. Please feel free to use some of the points included in the draft for your 1-minute comment at the METRO Board meeting.  We are continuing a message that has been voiced before to METRO by some of our members ­ but it is important that we continue to repeat our message loud and clear over the coming months as Metro continues to make decisions regarding this potential ballot measure.

2.  By sending your permission to use your name in the letter that the NO 710 Action Committee will be delivering to the METRO Board. It will be similar to the draft that I am attaching but we are still working to shorten the written text. We would like to list many, many signatures as possible on our letter and are asking you to sign your name and your city ­ if that is possible, on such short notice.

E-mail Jan SooHoo with your permission to use your name at:  jan@soohoos.org

Please respond to Jan SooHoo via email if you are able to help in any way. ­This could be our chance to KILL the tunnel. Jan's email address:  jan@soohoos.org

(Mod: Below is a screen shot of the draft letter Sylvia mentioned above.)


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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Desperation & Deception: Sierra Madre Makes Plans To Spend $2.3 Million Dollars From Various Reserve Funds On Badly Needed Water Infrastructure

Raging waters.
It was a pretty sobering meeting, though I can think of one premise cited throughout the evening that probably wasn't quite as correct as it should have been. That being water loss through infrastructure failure is a fairly recent event here. As most people are aware leaky pipes have been the norm around here for years.

It is only now that Sierra Madre is being forced by the State of California to drastically reduce its water usage that this has become so urgent an issue. Specifically it is the prospect of having to pay $10,000 a day in fines to Sacramento that has finally made City Hall sit up and take notice. Which is probably why the state has been making such threats. It is the one proven way to get cities such as Sierra Madre to pay attention to their water wasting ways.

Of course, should El Nino somehow bring the rain necessary to alleviate the effects of the drought this winter the urgent need to repair water mains and all those pipes attached to them could be alleviated. If the prospect of all of those state fines went away things here would likely return to the way they have been for a while.

Old habits do die hard.

Councilmember John Harabedian brought up the prospect of raising money through the selling of more water bonds. Here is a brief refresher on why that would not be possible for Sierra Madre.


The entire Moody's run down on Sierra Madre's dismal water bond situation can be linked to here. There is a clarity to their expose' that only truly dispassionate New York money men can bring. 

And remember, Moody's is only talking about the bad bond stuff from the 1990s here, which was actually a consolidation of some previous toxic water bond debt. There is many millions more in bad bond debt that the complete idiots responsible for the failed Downtown Specific Plan saddled us with in 2003. And for whatever reason (I've yet to hear one that makes any sense) we are only paying the interest on that financial disaster up until 2020

Sierra Madre's water bands, all of them, are rated junk. Any attempt to issue more of them would be sheer folly. At best the city would be forced into an extremely high interest situation. One that would only serve too put this city into even further into debt than it already is.

Here is what the service on Sierra Madre's debt from the 2003 DSP water bonds looks like. Note that the City of Sierra Madre is only paying interest on that debt right now, and just how many additional millions of dollars that is costing you. Then think about all of the new pipes Bruce Inman could have bought with that kind of dough. 


That this did not come up last night is hardly surprising. It never does. This is one of the greatest scandals in Sierra Madre history, and the consequences stare us in the face every day. The crisis this city is facing now is directly linked to this massive, destructive and entirely unnecessary interest only bond debt.  

Have you ever wondered what kind of institutional dementia it took to lock this city into $6,750,000 in water bond debt in 2003, and then somehow decide to make interest only payments on the principal until 2020? Without even paying off even $1 of the original amount until 17 years later?

What exactly is the cost plus interest to the people of Sierra Madre for that $6,750,000 2003 DSP water bond? That I can answer that for you. The combined figure is $14,925,486.00. In other words, due to that unique repayment schedule Sierra Madre's tax and water ratepayers will have ended up paying way more than double the cost of this 2003 DSP water bond once it is finally retired in 2034.

To be exact, that would be 31 years later, with the total cost in interest debt service alone being over $8 million dollars. Talk about your mad stacks from sad sacks. With that kind of money you could have repiped the entire city and still have had enough left over for two new libraries.

And again, we're not even adding in the 1990s bond debt that Moody's is so upset about. If you did the figure would balloon to over $24 million. Get the picture?"

One interesting moment last night was the revelation that the recent series of water rate hikes didn't really have very much to do with infrastructure renovation. Which is odd because in the Raftelis draft report justifying the jacking up of Sierra Madre's water rates for the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th times in the last decade or so water infrastructure repairs were discussed. As they were in the Moody's report.

Here is an example:


Now if you were to ask the man in the street why water rates have been cranked up these last few years that good fellow would likely tell you it is because the pipes need fixing. And sure 'nuff the man in the street would be wrong. The water rate increases were put into place mostly because of Sierra Madre's massive water bond debt. It was to cover covenants and other fine financial details related to the maintenance of so heavy a bond debt load, and keep the bankers in New York happy. 

In other words, it was done in order to repair our junk bond rating. But the city even failed at that. Once the water rate hikes were voted into place and the bills sent out to this community's long suffering and captive customers, Moody's issued its new report.

The result? They still rated our water bonds junk. As they are even today.

Councilmember Delmar discussed the importance of leveling with the public about Sierra Madre's water mess. She cited the lack of trust, which is a very accurate assessment. What this post is covering today is no secret to those who understand the real issues. A lot of people know this material.

A good place to start the leveling would be Sierra Madre's water bond debt. It is why the city has no money to stop both the daily water loss through leaks and solve its discolored foul water problem. It is also why the city is not likely to meet that 32% water use reduction number, and could be at risk of having to pay huge fines to Sacramento.

It is time Sierra Madre leveled with the public about the greatest financial scandal in its history. That being its toxic water bonds. Tell the people what the real cause of the problem is here.

Name names. There is a first time for everything, you know.

Somebody made a great post last night. Here it is:


Throw in some news about all of that water bond debt and the idiots responsible for it and who knows? Maybe Jerry Brown will realize that the residents of Sierra Madre are not culprits but rather victims and cut the folks a break.

Maybe there might even be state investigation. Wouldn't that be something?

Bonus Coverage

Massive Doyle - Stockly Era Water Bond Debt: Could It Cost Sierra Madre Its Library? (May 2015 click here)

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