Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Susan Henderson: Part II (plus a bit of 'Bonus Coverage' at the end)

Yesterday we tossed and gored the loopy publisher of the Looney Views News for her transgressions against reality as it is popularly understood here on the Planet Earth. But also contained within that same offending LVN article is a whopper of notable vintage in this town. It involves something known as the "Sierra Madre Family Values" ordinance.

What is fortunate for us here at The Tattler is that we have dealt with this malarkey before. As a matter of fact, we have the actual ordinance at hand, and have reproduced it here. You can examine this little slice of Sierra Madre history by clicking on the inset to the left. It should enlarge to a size that can be easily perused.

The truly hilarious thing about it all is you will see that this supposedly homophobic and now quite defunct ordinance, which Ms. Henderson blames on Councilmember MaryAnn MacGillivray, is actually signed by some of the LVN's most favored persons here in town. Including then Mayor Glenn Lambdin, Rob Stockley, Doug Hayes and Redevelopment Doyle. You just can't make this stuff up!

Here is what Susan had to say in this week's edition of The Looney Views News:

"In 1997, (MaryAnn) persuaded the City Council to define 'families' in a manner that excluded all 'non-traditional' households including gay couples. Although the ordinance was passed, it was later rescinded."

What Susan claims here is, as you will plainly see, a truly grotesque and despicable falsehood.

Fortunately I have an article already written and ready to go. It was originally published on the now defunct Foothill Cities blog back in May of 2008. But I also reposted this article here on The Tattler in April of 2009 due to a previous re-emergence of this resilient fib. And since Susan Henderson has once again unearthed this canard for the current issue of The Looney, I figured I'll just post it once again. And why not? It is a good story that is obviously in need of retelling.


Around The Town With Sir Eric Maundry (Foothill Cities - May 16, 2008)

"A lie would have no meaning if the truth was not perceived to be dangerous." - Alfred Adler

In his recent column in the Mountain Views Observer and on Bill Coburn's Sierra Madre News.net website, irregular columnist Glenn Lambdin had his usual awful things to say about MaryAnn MacGillivray. He seems absolutely obsessed with our new Mayor Pro Tem, coming off at times almost like a frantic and jealous ex-husband. Here is part of what he had to say:

"Flashback ten years when MaryAnn left her term infecting our community with her bigoted flawed doctrine of fundamentalist intolerance."

Wow. Now I'm not really all that subject to flashbacks myself, but I can grasp that this is strong talk from the big nut. Glenn then goes on to take his maximum umbrage a step farther:

"Tuesday night I possibly witnessed a shameful seamless transition from ten years ago to the present where MaryAnn went from proudly spewing her faith-based fundamentalist hatred to actually implementing it today."

So what in the name of God is Glenn Lambdin going on about here? Apparently the thing that has him so terribly agitated is a City document called Ordinance No. 1136, also mislabeled by a few fools as the "Sierra Madre Family Values Ordinance." Originally approved in 1997, this misunderstood little item supposedly defined for this City what a family might be. And that somehow this ordinance limited the legal classification of "family" to heterosexual couples exclusively. All nonsense, of course. But what Glenn is claiming here is that because of Ordinance No. 1136, and because of MaryAnn's vote in 1997 for this so-called "fundamentalist" document, Joe Mosca was denied the office of Mayor of Sierra Madre. You see, and as this bizarre argument goes, MaryAnn was on the City Council when this "Family Values" ordinance was brought into existence, so now, as a further expression of her supposed intolerance, she voted to deny Joe Mosca the Mayor gig because he is, to use Susan Henderson's term, different.

OK, obviously I don't buy into this, and I suspect that when you get done reading this column you will find Glenn's claim to be hysterical nonsense as well. If you don't already.

So I have a rhetorical question for Mr. Lambdin. Ordinance No. 1136 was originally passed in 1997, but it was also once again voted upon, and in the exact same form, by the Sierra Madre City Council on October 8, 2001. At that time Glenn Lambdin was the Mayor here. And in that City Council meeting Ordinance No. 1136 passed unanimously. It even got the vote of, you guessed it, that notorious family values militant and fundamentalist zealot, Glenn Lambdin! Wild, eh? Along with Doug Hayes, Bart Doyle and Robert "Rob" Stockley.

So here's the question I promised you:

Glenn? If you are as adamantly opposed to this so-called "Family Values Ordinance" as you say you are, then why did you vote for this very thing when you were a member of Sierra Madre's City Council? And why, as Mayor, did you, and apparently without any reservation whatsoever, sign this document?

I have obtained a copy of the Ordinance in question, and it is reproduced here for your careful inspection. Please note Glenn Lambdin's signature, plus the names of the rest of the City Council, Class of 2001. (Click on the inset at the top of this article to see the Ordinance in full, including Glenn's signature.)

In case you are wondering how Ordinance No. 1136 happened to get voted on twice, that is in both 1997 and 2001, and therefore graced by Glenn's signature, here's the story. Sometime in the late 1990s, and due to some City Hall oversight, approximately 20 approved city ordinances were not legally presented to the public by being advertised in a newspaper. And ordinances that are not presented to the public through legal advertising cannot be considered binding. That is the law. This lamentable state of affairs was brought to the attention of then Sierra Madre City Attorney Charlie Martin, who then concluded that each of these unadvertised ordinances would have to go through the entire approval process once again. Including a City Council vote.

Let's be real here, Glenn has always known that this was never a "flawed doctrine of fundamentalist intolerance." If it was, why would so sensitive and caring man as himself have signed it? And as anyone with a literacy level above the 5th grade can tell you, this is actually a very inclusive document, one written with lifestyle diversity in mind. While it does state a definition of what a family might be, it also defines, and with equal stature, what a "housekeeping unit" is as well. That being people living together as a single unit. People who are not necessarily heterosexual, not necessarily a family as defined by California state law, and not necessarily married, either.

Would an ordinance created as part of an attempt to force some medieval interpretation of what a family is down the collective throat of this community also have something like "housekeeping units" written into it as well? Of course not.

The real purpose of Ordinance No. 1136 had nothing to do with sexual orientation or enforcing a so-called "fundamentalist" view of what it means to be a family. Rather it was designed to limit the number of unattached people living together in a dwelling. At that time there was pressure being placed on communities like Sierra Madre to allow homes to be rented with the purpose of sheltering such groups as recently released sexual predators, mental outpatients, and drug rehab halfway house inmates. Other communities in the area had succumbed to such pressure, and much was being said in the press about the threat that such clutches of troubled souls presented to children, the elderly, and others. So Sierra Madre got its NIMBY on, took action, and this ordinance was created.

Which is why Glenn Lambdin voted for it on October 8, 2001, and as Sierra Madre's Mayor signed it as well.

Of course, maybe Glenn recently took a fall, landed on his noggin, and woke up believing that this really is some sort of homophobic hate speech, and anyone who voted for it must be consumed by a hatred of gays. In which case Doug Hayes, Bart Doyle, Kris Miller Fisher, and Rob Stockley must all have problems with gays, right? Nah. Glenn's recent ranting is nothing more than junk politics being practiced by some washed up old pol hoping to re-ignite his political career by telling absurd lies about someone whose recent elevation to City office has him pea green with envy.

But really, would you have ever thought that Glenn would have actually signed the very document that he has been ranting and raving about? Funny how things turn out sometimes.

Bonus Coverage (November 30, 2010)

In today's Pasadena Star News there is an article (click here) entitled "Sierra Madre water rate hike clears hurdle." And within this otherwise misleading item the following is said:

Resident John Crawford alleges the city failed to follow state law and properly notify residents of potential rate hikes.

"It appears that litigation against the city is imminent," Crawford said.

Stay tuned to The Tattler for further developments.

And get ready.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Susan Henderson's Latest Published Attack On MaryAnn MacGillivray

It almost seems as if some sort of code has evolved amongst the bitter claque of MaryAnn MacGillivray haters in town. You can see it during City Council meetings. No matter what it is that she recommends they will just invariably go against it. It's like they can't help themselves. Their vexation with her has become all consuming.

As an example of just how absurd this reaction has become, last Tuesday evening she offered the G4 an opportunity to raise water rates even beyond what they had dared dream. The reason for this being that their comparatively modest rate hike would only barely cover the debt payments on the Shenanigan Era water bonds, whereas MaryAnn's more robust billing increase would actually accrue enough to both pay our debts and start fixing those old pipes we've heard so much about.

All they would have to do in exchange for MaryAnn's offer would be to restore the Proposition 218 review rights so inelegantly stolen by City Hall after the citizens of this town had the gall to protest having their rates raised in the first place. Naturally the G4 refused. Because if MaryAnn had said it, there must be some kind of catch. Their knees did the usual jerk and now the pipes won't get fixed for years. Not that they ever really cared about that. For them it has always been about bond moneys, past and future.

Now where this tendency has become particularly disturbing is with the favored mouthpiece of this City Council, the Mountain Views News. At the insistence of its publisher, Susan Henderson, this taxpayer augmented weekly has apparently allowed blind antipathy to cloud its editorial judgement. To the point where Susan has now actually advocated on behalf of something that our active duty military service members in Afghanistan and Iraq currently fight on a daily basis. That being fundamentalist Islamic extremism and its medieval interpretations of Sharia Law. And why? I guess because MaryAnn MacGillivray has dared to speak out against it.

Here is a passage from Henderson's strangest hit piece yet, "MacGillivray 'Gift' Raises Eyebrows - Concerns," published 11/27 in the MVN:

During the break at Tuesday's meeting, MacGillivray gave them a copy of the controversial book, "Sharia Law For Non-Muslims" along with a printed copy of an excerpt from the "stopsharialawnow" website. According to one of the recipients, it is believed that MacGillivray was attempting to 'enlighten' the other members of the threat of Sharia Law to the City of Sierra Madre ... Sharia Law is part of the Islamic faith and many who prescribe to demonizing Muslims have labeled it a threat to the United States ... MacGillivray, who could not be reached for comment prior to going to press is no stranger to getting involved with very emotionally charged personal issues that are used by politicians.

You almost have to wonder if Ms. Henderson is trying to organize a book burning here.

(That said, I can't help but add that you have to question the wisdom of giving books to the G4, anyway. For some of them wood blocks would be far more effective.)

The matter of Sharia Law came up as an outside threat during the strategic planning session held in October. Joe Mosca said that he knew little about the topic, and that a concerned uncle of his had brought the subject up. Joe asked for some information and MaryAnn supplied it to him. The book that she provided was put together with public officials in mind. Sharia Courts now exist in many cities in the United States, and often public officials are among the last to grasp their significance.

It is no secret that MaryAnn is conservative in many of her views. And that the radical fundamentalist Islamic interpretations of Sharia Law have become a bete noir for those on the political right. But are they the only people who have spoken out against these distortions of Islam? My survey of women's and gay rights sites that deal with the topic would indicate otherwise. The stoning of women for "adultery" in countries like Afghanistan, or the hanging of gay men in Iran because of their sexuality, has not gone unnoticed on the other side of the political spectrum as well. The revulsion over such barbarity apparently now runs the entire gamut of opinion. With the exception of the Mountain Views News, of course.

For perspective, the first place I went to was Wikipedia. Hardly a bastion of conservatism, by the way. They have a long treatise on Sharia Law available there. Here are a couple of passages that will set up what I am sharing further down the page.

(Adultery) In accordance with hadith, stoning to death is the penalty for married men and women who commit adultery. In addition, there are several conditions related to the person who commits it that must be met. One of the difficult ones is that the punishment cannot be enforced unless there is a confession of the person, or four male eyewitnesses who each saw the act being committed. All of these must be met under the scrutiny of judicial authority. For unmarried men and women, the punishment prescribed in the Qur'an and hadith is 100 lashes.

(Homosexuality) Homosexual activity is illegal under Sharia; however, the proscribed penalties differ from one school of jurisprudence to another. For example, these Muslim-majority countries may impose the death penalty for sodomy and homosexual activities: Iran, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Somalia.

Which leads to something the website ukgaynews.org.uk covered in July of 2005:

Iran Executes Two Gay Teens In Public Hanging - Two gay teenagers were publicly executed in Iran on 19 July 2005 for the 'crime' of homosexuality. The youths were hanged in Edalat (Justice) Square in the city of Mashhad, in northeast Iran. They were sentenced to death by Court No. 19. Iran enforces Islamic Sharia Law, which dictates the death penalty for gay sex. One youth was aged 18 and the other was a minor under the age of 18. They were only identified by their initials, M.A. and A.M.

The Times of London published an article on the brutal uses of Sharia Law in Iran in November of 2007. In this article it is shown that such actions have been taken against both gays and women.

Gays should be hanged, says Iranian minister - Homosexuals deserve to be executed or tortured and possibly both, an Iranian leader told British MPs during a private meeting at a peace conference, The Times has learnt. Mohsen Yahyavi is the highest-ranking politician to admit that Iran believes in the death penalty for homosexuality after a spate of reports that gay youths were being hanged.

(later in the article) The latest row involves a woman hanged this June in the town of Gorgan after becoming pregnant by her brother. He was absolved after expressing his remorse. Britain said that this demonstrated the unequal treatment of men and women in law and breached Iran's pledge to restrict the death penalty to the most serious crimes.

At the end of this article the Times of London listed what they called Sharia's Victims. The "crimes" of those executed include homosexuality (4 murdered by hanging) and adultery (6 murdered by stoning).

On August 10th of this year, The Post Chronicle published the following article:

Taliban Executes Pregnant Widow: Whipped 200 Times, Shot - A pregnant widow has been executed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, but the woman was whipped 200 times before she was shot to death, reports CNN. Sanam Gul, also known as Sanam Bibi Sanubar, 35, was accused by the Taliban of becoming pregnant as a result of adultery by having "illicit affairs," and they summarily executed her with 3 shots to the head and chest after whipping her with 200 lashes.

The website TheReligionof Peace.com gives this explanation for the stoning of adulterers:

Islamic law (Sharia) requires that adulterers be out to death, since it was the example set by Muhammad. In practice, the women are executed far more often, since they bear the burden of sexual responsibility (in a male dominated society) and are, perhaps, more likely to confess their indiscretion. Rape victims are sometimes convicted if they speak out. Reporting a rape means a confession of adultery under Sharia law if four male witnesses cannot be found to confirm the victim's claim.

While many Muslims today do find the practice distasteful, there is simply no arguing that killing grown adults over consensual sex is firmly rooted in Islamic theology. In fact, according to this recent fatwa, merely denying that it is appropriate to stone married adulterers in the modern age is a sign of apostasy.

Numerous examples of stoning adulterers under Islamic law persist, from the Islamist frontier of Somalia to the modern state of Iran. In 2010, the Taliban planted a couple having unauthorized sex in the ground and brutally pelted them with stones (the man had to be finished off with three gunshots) only a few days after flogging a pregnant woman 200 times and then shooting her in the head. In "condemning" the killings, the "moderate" president of Afghanistan would only say that they were wrong because they were not preceded by a trial.

The website Women Against Shariah describe their mission this way:

It is our position that shariah law imposes second class status on women and is incompatible with the standards of liberal Western societies and the basic principles of human rights and the protection of individual freedoms. The shariah code mandates the complete authority of men over women, including the control of their movement, education, marital options, clothing, bodies, place of residence and all other aspects of their existence.

If you go to the Women Against Shariah site you will see the story of Yousef Nadarkhani, recently condemned to hang in Iran. His crime? He is a Christian Pastor.

There is much more in this vein to be found on the internet, but I think you get the point.

To answer the obvious question, no, I do not believe that Susan Henderson advocates these kinds of acts of blatant terrorism by certain radical fundamentalist Islamic states against their own citizens. Rather Susan was so blinded by a chronic anger that she sided with something truly abhorrent on the strange assumption that if MaryAnn was opposed to it, then it must be good. I guess we should be grateful that this isn't the late 1930s and Councilmember MacGillivray had been speaking out in defense of those being brutalized by Nazi Germany.

To be perfectly clear, I do not mean to condemn anybody else's religion. One of the great virtues of American democracy is that its people are free to worship as they choose, and no government should ever be permitted to persecute those it feels have strayed from what they might arbitrarily call God's will. And after all, Islam is hardly the only religion to fall prey to that sort of thing throughout history. Any reading on the Spanish Inquisition or the pogroms of Tsarist Russia will speed you past any such misconceptions rather quickly.

If certain extremist elements within an otherwise benign religious society proclaim that their chosen deity has somehow empowered them to gruesomely murder people whose lifestyle choices don't gibe with theirs, and they happen to be in a position of power to hold barbaric public executions for little more than the delight of the mob, then I'd say they are more than fair game for criticism.

Despite what the woefully misinformed publisher of the Mountain Views News might have to say on the matter.

Bonus Coverage: Susan Henderson's use of McCarthyism

On this site we like to take special care in identifying our sources. When available links are used to allow the reader to inspect any articles being cited. In Susan's hit piece she claims to have sources for her claims, yet identifies them in ways that make fact checking impossible. As an example, Susan claims that, "The book, written by Bill Warner, has been described as a 'must have' for right wing legislators." Who is it that supplied that description? According to Susan, an unnamed "outside source." Later she attributes another one of her claims to "A noted scholar noted (sic) in the Harvard University Crimson." Which noted-noted scholar, Susan? There are quite a few of them at Harvard for us to choose from.

And even when discussing members of the City Council all she can work up the gumption to say is "one of the recipients." It's as if she fears people might be checking up on her.

The practice of citing unidentified authorities to justify attacks against someone was a tactic regularly employed by Senator Joseph McCarthy back in the 1950s. Known today as "McCarthyism," it is a widely reviled practice that only the most disreputable of journalists (so called) would wish to use.


Friday, November 26, 2010

MaryAnn MacGillivray's Remarks: A Key Moment At Tuesday Evening's City Council Meeting

At Tuesday evening's City Council meeting (proper) there was really only one topic, and that was the raising of the rates we will have to pay for water. That this decision - so called - would have been made during a week when the attention of many residents was directed at preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday was merely coincidental, I'm sure.

There was quite a bit of conversation on the topic from at least some of the elected officials, but most of it seemed pro forma and pat, as if everything had already been said and it was time that the long awaited decision be made. I mean, how much more of their nonsense on this topic could they possibly shovel our way?

Again, the "outreach process," which apparently only involved the participation of about .018% of the people living in this town (many of them not rate payers, or even adults for that matter), was cited as proof that their version of the truth had ignited a strong popular will to pay more for water. Even though much of that "process" was based on things that were later shown to be laughably untrue.

Needless to say, low farce hung heavily in the air. It was a thoroughly embarrassing spectacle.

MaryAnn MacGillivray gave her proposal to allow the people of Sierra Madre the right to meaningfully participate in the decision to take more of their money one more shot, but it was rapidly squashed by Mayor Mosca. Josh Moran, who briefly pronounced himself intrigued by her ideas, obediently snapped back into the bobblehead fold like a rubberband once the voting began. This City Council, basing the legitimacy of its decision on that minute portion of the city's overall population that participated in its (mis)informational water walks, pushed through what it had always intended to do. No matter what anyone had said along the way.

Something that I think many may have missed is MaryAnn's proposals on what exactly the people of Sierra Madre would be owed by this City Council should they be allowed to voluntarily acquiesce in the water rate increase. Here she laid out some cold hard truths for all to hear, and not just on the rate hike, either. She also gave some key insight into where her always opaque colleagues might actually be taking this town.

Here is what MaryAnn had to say:

The Council should acknowledge that the people of Sierra Madre, the ratepayers, were not entrusted with a full disclosure and information related to the need for water rate increases, leaving many, therefore, with the feeling that their intelligence and commitment had been challenged.

Needless to say, the look that passed over Joe Mosca's face upon hearing that was less than joyful. To have it stated from the Council dais that his 8 months of loopy machinations and manipulation on these matters were insulting to the intelligence of many Sierra Madreans can't be what he was hoping to hear that evening.

MaryAnn continued:

A citizen oversight committee should be appointed and meet at the end of the initial 6 month introductory period and every 6 months thereafter. Their purpose, much like the UUT Oversight Committee, would be to assess and assure appropriate tracking and use of funds. If there is an opportunity to lower the rate in a given year, the committee can make that recommendation.

Again, not what the Mayor, or his brain the Mayor Pro Tem, wanted to hear. I doubt that there will ever be an occasion where either one of them would ever wish to hear the words "lower the rate" spoken in their presence. But if they didn't enjoy hearing that, what came next would even further harsh their mellows.

As the Council enters the preliminary budget considerations after the first of the year, it should commit to this community that in return for "stepping up" during these difficult and uncertain times we will cut in any and all possible areas except those that compromise delivery of vital services. No new debt will be incurred during this period since that would destabilize the Water Enterprise Fund which defeats the intention of the increase in the first place.

John Buchanan's reaction to this part of MaryAnn's statement seemed nearly visceral to many in the room. His head dipped and he squinted sideways at her with a look of queasy antipathy. Because here she had clearly disparaged what will be the key thrust of his agenda when he becomes Mayor in a few months.

That John Buchanan will attempt to issue whatever bonds he deems necessary to raise the money it will take to make this town attractive to developers seems obvious to many observers. Street paving, sewer reworking and, of course, water infrastructure expansion being the items considered to be at the top of his list. The debt load for such things would be immense should all of that be allowed to happen, dwarfing by far what we now face as a consequence of the 2003 bond debt.

And then there is the $7 million for a library he is rumored to want to leave behind as his legacy. That such a personal vanity would come at the expense of 30 years of debt service to the rest of us being besides the point for our "live for today" Mayor Pro Tem, I suppose.

What must be made clear is that this water rate hike was always about the need to clean up the City's bond rating, something that was severely harmed in 2004. It is only by regaining the "AAA" rating that was squandered through bad business practices during the Shenanigan Era that this City Council will be able to sell even more bonds. Which apparently is what John Buchanan sees as the panacea for all of Sierra Madre's ills.

The fight to get back our rights to a Proposition 218 review of the water rate hike is hardly over. But even that is only a first step. Buchanan's agenda, backed up by three Council members willing to follow him no matter what the consequences to the City they claim to care about, comes at the cost of immense amounts of new debt.

For the good of Sierra Madre that has to be stopped.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The City's Vulnerability On The Prop 218 Question

"People will hear what they want to hear." - John Buchanan

Last night MaryAnn MacGillivray took one more shot at trying to get the G4 to recognize the wisdom of once again putting the water rate hike out for the review of the rate payers through the Prop 218 mechanism. She went so far as to offer the enticement of raising water rates even higher than originally proposed last spring, but it was to no avail. So deep is the G4's fear that the people of Sierra Madre will once again rise up against them that they opted to take less money. All because to ask for more could once again trigger Prop 218.

Which makes John Buchanan's tiresome little rap about having been elected to lead all the more farcical. Because for all intents and purposes this was a full scale retreat in the face of what those who they were elected to serve really want from them. Which is fiscal restraint and a city government that isn't so absurdly expensive.

Though it was somewhat interesting to hear John, Joe and City Staff discuss our water bond debt last night, and how 90% of any rate hike would be absorbed by the servicing of that debt. Interesting because when the rate hike was first proposed 7 months earlier they didn't dare to discuss that issue at all. Rather they all opted to tell people it was all about repairing water infrastructure. Which was not the truth.

On September 13th I delivered a letter to City Hall detailing their vulnerability on the Prop 218 issue. Many mistakes were made during that legal procedure, all of which are clearly spelled out in this letter. I thought I'd reprint it here today because many of the issues descibed there will become very important in the months ahead.

Elaine Aguilar
City Manager
City of Sierra Madre
City Hall
232 W. Sierra Madre Boulevard
Sierra Madre, CA 9024

Dear Ms. Aguilar:

As you know, on July 27, 2010, the Sierra Madre City Council ("Council") at its regularly scheduled meeting determined that there were an insufficient number of valid protests to defeat the Council's proposed water rate increase. Thereafter, the Council resolved to conduct a "public outreach program" to convince residents that a rate increase was actually necessary.

For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned demand that the Council conduct another public hearing upon the proposed rate increase, not less than 45 days after mailing a legally adequate, written notice of the proposed rate increase to the record owner ("Owner") of each identified parcel.

California's Proposition 218, which amended the California Constitution, requires, among other things, that 45 days before the hearing on any proposed rate increase that the City provide written notice to the Owner of:

(1) "The amount of the fee proposed;"

(2) "The basis upon which the amount of the proposed fee or charge was calculated;"

(3) "The reason for the proposed fee or charge."

The provisions of Proposition 218 including the above requirements "shall be liberally construed to effectuate its purposes of limiting local government revenue and enhancing taxpayer consent." The written notice ("Notice"), which was sent to the voters on or about May 17, 2010, does not satisfy these constitutionally mandated requirements and effectuate the purposes of Proposition 218.

First, the written notice does not provide each Owner with the proposed fee increase as required by Proposition 218. Instead, the Notice requires each Owner to estimate his/her/its increase based on such factors as the meter size and the applicability of a discount for "low income." Because the Notice lacks definitions of an explanations for such factors, however, it is impossible for each Owner to make any estimation.

Second, without such definitions and explanations, each Owner cannot comprehend "the basis upon which the amount of the proposed fee or charge was calculated" as required by Proposition 218.

Third, the Notice does not provide "the reason for the proposed fee or charge" as required by Proposition 218. Instead, the Notice states vaguely and in the present tense that "the City imposes its 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." Absent in the Notice, however, is the actual "reason" or "reasons" that the current level of funding is insufficient to accomplish these purposes and suddenly must be increased.

Realizing that the Notice failed to adequately inform each Owner about the proposed rate increase, the City belatedly sent each Owner a flyer ("Flyer") entitled "Water Rate Increase Fact Sheet FAQ" on or about June 23, 2010. For the first time, the Flyer reveals that an Owner can determine the meter size diameter by finding the meter box and then looking for a stamp on the meter inside the box. If that fails, the Flyer provides the names and numbers of City employees who can "look up" the size of each Owner's meter. Also, for the first time, the Flyer explains that the term "low income" refers to both "low income" and "extremely low income" as those terms are defined by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The explanations and definitions in the Flyer provide information that some Owners could use to estimate the amount they would be charged under the proposed rate increase and the basis of such an increase. This critical information was not provided to the Owners, however, until on or about June 23, 2020, which is less than 45 days before the hearing required by Proposition 218 that was held on July 27, 2010.

For the first time, the Flyer also discloses the "reasons" for the City's decision to increase dramatically the water rates in Sierra Madre. The Flyer states that absent an increase:

1. Deterioration of the water system will result;
2. Sierra Madre will lack sufficient funding to avail itself of local, state and federal matching water system funds;
3. The City's Water Department might be sold;
4. The City's water fund credit and bond rating will deteriorate; and
5. Groundwater levels will continue to decline.

Many Owners no doubt appreciated the City's belated dissemination of the reasons for the proposed water rate increase. Once again, however, this critical information was not provided to the Owners until on or about June 23, 2010, which is less than 45 days before the hearing required by Proposition 218 that was held on July 27, 2010.

For the reasons set forth above, the undersigned reiterate their demand that the Council conduct another public hearing upon the proposed rate increase to the Owner of each identified parcel.

Kurt Zimmerman,
Anita Delmer
John Herrmann
John Crawford

While certain individuals would like to limit this discussion to just water rates, this is now about something far more important. It is about the defense of our rights as citizens.

We should not sit quietly by as four rather low calibre city councilmembers take away our Constitutionally guaranteed rights to review what is for all intents and purposes a tax hike. People have fought and died to defend just those kinds of freedoms. It behooves us to not allow such individuals the power to strip us of something that important.

It is time for us to begin discussing what actions we must take. This has now become a matter of basic principle. We need to stand up, be heard and take back our stolen rights.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Agenda Man Wonders: Does This City Council Ever Actually Finish Anything?

"They don't bite, they chew." - Carla Bley (from Escalator Over the Hill)

It seems like this water rate increase debacle has been going on for about half of my adult life. It just never seems to end. On and on and on it goes, wherever it stops, who could possibly live long enough to know?

Is this what "the process" is? An endless series of non-events and time wasting fiddle-faddle that only leads to further inertia fueled futility, all the while going absolutely nowhere? All designed to wear down the opposition to the point where they scream out in agony and despair, "No Mas! No Mas!?"

Has it all become the ultimate match of The Last Man Living Wins?

For a guy who wanted to become Mayor as badly as he did, you'd think Joe might have actually spent at least a little time figuring out what exactly it is he wanted to do once he actually got the gig.

I mean, it can't possibly be that the reason he needed the job is so he gets to sit in front of the SMTV3 cameras and talk about whatever comes into his head all night, can it? And that it somehow never once occurred to him that he might actually have to get something finished?

So here is what the Agenda for tonight's City Council meeting says. Or at least that small portion of the Agenda that you can find on-line:

Recommendation that the City Council hold a Public Hearing regarding the proposed water rate increase, approve the rates listed therein, read Ordinance No. 1312 by title only, and direct staff to place Ordinance No. 1312 on the agenda for a second reading December 14, 2010.

Honestly, I doubt the first reading will be all that interesting. So why should they want to drag us through all that again on December 14? Are they saving this water rate hike until they can give it to us as a Christmas present? Will they drop it down our chimneys along with some helpful pamphlets on drought resistant plants and how best to care for your new remote read City supplied water meter?

I don't know how much more of this I can take. Raise the damn rates already. Run roughshod over our rights. Declare that you have done all this to pay down the bond debt even though at first you said it was to fix the pipes. I mean, for God's sake, do something, man! Almost an entire year and all the Gang of 4 can manage to do is raise water rates ten bucks a month? That is, if they ever actually get around to doing it?

I'm telling you, I am pretty underwhelmed. If this is all they are capable of doing, then maybe the City is safe from whack-o predatory development after all. If talk were buildings, we'd be living in a Brave New Manhattan by now. Or at least Pasadena.

Someone somewhere defined Hell as the absence of all interest, the death of all possibility and an addiction to nothingness. If when I die I find myself in a place that looks a lot like City Hall, and seated before me are creatures that appear strikingly similar to the Gang of 4, it is then that I will know that I truly am a sinner, and that I am in for an eternity of sorrow, regret and soul crushing futility.

There is one other event scheduled for this evening. And that is:

Proposed Canyon Zone: Joint Special Study Session of the City Council and Planning Commission, November 23, 2010 - - - A Brief History of a Long "Process"

The City Council and Planning Commission will hold a special joint study session on the proposed new Canyon Zone. The study session will be held this evening, November 23, 2010, at 6:00 PM in the City Hall Council Chambers. The meeting is open to the public and there will be an opportunity for any and all to comment.

Regulations pertaining to the development of a Canyon Zone have been discussed and studied in the past, but never seem to get finalized. The difficulties inherent in applying the current R-1 residential zoning standards to the Canyon area prompts the need to adopt new, separate zoning standards that allow reasonable development of properties there while preserving the unique character and natural environment that typifies the place. The proposed zoning would establish standards for dwelling size, building height, massing and setbacks, parking, lot coverage, permitted uses, construction sites, and other equally important standards. The proposed zoning would apply to new construction and building additions.

You might wonder why this item is before the City Council as a Joint Special Study Session of the City Council and Planning Commission. The Canyon Zone Committee -- made up of Canyon residents John Herrmann, Caroline Brown, Michael Howard, Jim Monacchino and Sherry Robison met regularly for a full year; held Community Outreach meetings; and conducted a well-attended Canyon walkabout. This committee gave serious and informed deliberation to prior Canyon Residential Zone findings, and submitted their revised plan to the City Planning Department. Danny Castro, Director of the Planning Department, guided the committee at every step of their deliberations. MaryAnn MacGillivray acted as City Council Liaison to this very important Committee.

A previous Canyon Residential Zone Committee led by Kurt Christiansen, then Planning and Development Director, made up of Tom Pendleberry (architect), Michael Howard (educator), and Kathy Orth (Realtor) had embarked upon the identical task, taking their work up to the point of submitting a version to the Planning Commission.

Mr. Christiansen resigned from the City and the Canyon Residential Zone Plan languished as just another chapter in the 27-year old saga of creating a zone consistent with the unique challenges inherent in building in Sierra Madre Canyon.

Canyon residents had for years asked for a zone that spoke specifically to the small lots, lack of parking, unusual easements, narrow streets, and fire safety issues endangering residents but frequently overlooked by developers.

As the Canyon Residential Zone Committee neared the end of its task, a group of local contractors, realtors, and residents, claiming to speak for an unidentified majority, challenged the Committee as having been illegally constituted because there hadn't been any professionals knowledgeable about building and zoning codes chosen by the City Council to sit on the committee.

It is quite clear from the earlier Committee made up of Pendleberry, Henderson, Clemmons, Shifs, Howard, and Orth that the group challenging the most recent committee was just plain wrong. Nonetheless, the City Council has chosen to allow their questions to be brought to the Joint Meeting tonight.

Quite simply, if the Residential Zone is enacted it will protect the homes of current residents from the overbuilding and inappropriate building styles of opportunistic developers. In its simplicity it established the minimum size of a home at 500 square feet - not the maximum as its detractors incorrectly state. Square footage will be proportional to the lot size with adequate set backs to maintain fire safety access. Parking will be established at two parking pads per lot. Garages and covered parking will not be required. The current trend of building large multistory houses encroaching into setbacks and obscuring neighbor privacy and views contribute to the erosion pr the property values of existing homes.

The Canyon Residential Zone agreement is exactly what the Canyon needs to protect it from predatory development.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Is There Even Enough Water To Sustain Development? Is There Enough To Sustain What We Have Now?

Those of you who have been reading The Tattler from the beginning might recall a guy we talked about during the summer of 2009 named David Coffin. David ran for the California Assembly in the 51st Assembly District during a special election last year, and because he said things that were probably seen as being indecorous by the rather predatory development communities here in Los Angeles County, he was completely buried in his attempt to win a seat up in Sacramento.

But then, as you already know I am sure, Politicians who discuss actual reality in California are just not the kind of people the powers that be want to see up in the state capitol. They just might get in the way of the business of sucking every dime out of those unfortunate to be living in a state under the control of so corrupt a bunch of scoundrels.

Plus, and as I am sure you also know by now, we here at The Tattler pride ourselves in announcing support for candidates who just don't stand a chance of winning. Which keeps us safe from having to take responsibility should any of those candidates turn out to have been speaking with forked tongue to win office. You know, like 4/5s of our current City Council.

So as a run up to the Great Sierra Madre Water Rate Swindle tomorrow night, we thought we might talk a bit about a new article David has recently put out. One where he has the actual temerity to suggest that there just isn't enough water to sustain the kinds of development being called for in Southern California. No matter how many $19 million dollar pipelines get built, or which arm of the government actually pays for them, you're still going to have to put water in them.

Multi-Year Projections Routinely Overstate Actual Supplies - How is it that every small, medium and large development or project that comes before neighborhood councils, city planners and the city council is always cited by both developers and the water department as having "sufficient water" yet we find ourselves in the grips of a permanent drought and under an emergency water conservation order?

I find that to be an interesting take. The manipulation of language is, of course, the way power projects its priorities onto the gullible and naive. And saying that water supplies are adequate to sustain development might be seen as an example of just such spoken abuse.

Which raises an interesting question. What if there really hasn't been as much of a drought as stated by some, and that the real reason water is in such short supply is because there are just too many people living here? And that our part of the world is just flat-out overbuilt already?

I know that is not what you usually hear very much of these days, but it is conceivable that be it dry times or wet, there is no longer enough water to go around. And that by talking about drought as the reasons for the shortage of water, the authorities that be are just not being completely on the level with us.

David Coffin then backs his claims up with some pretty damning numbers:

An analysis of Department of Water and Power's Urban Water Management Plans dating back to 1985 shows that long term water projections have been grossly overstated on a routine basis by as much as 41 percent leading planners and decision makers to believe that sufficient water would be available when projects before them were being evaluated.

This study compared the amount of water projected in each regularly published UWMP with the actual amount of water later received and found that not since the 1985 report have projections come acceptably close.

Every report from 1990 to 2005 has routinely projected water deliveries will above 700,000 acre feet with some projections as high as 799,000 AF. Yet a review of historical data shows that LADWP has received more than 700,000 AF only once in the last 30 years; and rarely have actual deliveries exceeded 680,000 AF.

Tomorrow night if Joe and John get on their high horses and rattle on for a bit about how things are either drying up or that there is plenty enough water around for further development (because they have said both before), just assume that they're talking their usual nonsense. Neither of them, compromised as they are, have the ability to plainly speak about their real agendas on this matter.

The Federal Trade Commission Steps In To Save The "Green" Brand

Not that this will come as much of a surprise to most, but the term "Green" has been a bit misused over the past few years. Particularly when it comes to using this poor abused word to describe whatever it is people are selling. Cars are supposedly green, and the gasoline they burn is green, too. And even nuclear power is green. Basically because it doesn't burn gasoline. But, and just as unbelievable, high density mixed-use development is now also green as well. Just ask Arnold Schwarzenneger. Or the G4.

This has led to the rise of some cynicism amongst the citizenry in this great land of ours, and the horribly overused "Green" meme has suffered a loss of credibility. So the FTC, in attempt to rescue this word before it becomes a complete laughing stock, has now issued some guidelines on how the Green Brand is to be applied in this a world of so many salvational commercial and governmental products.

In an article entitled FTC unveils stricter guidelines for green marketing, a website called Lexology describes matters this way:

The Federal Trade Commission yesterday released its much anticipated revisions to its "Green Guides," tightening the rules governing how advertisers should craft and substantiate environmental benefit or 'green' claims. Of particular note, according to the revised Green Guides, advertisers going forward should:

- Avoid unqualified claims that your product or service is "green," "eco-friendly," or otherwise provides a general environmental benefit.
- Avoid unqualified "green" seals or environmental certifications that convey your product or service provides a general environmental benefit.
- Avoid unqualified "biodegradable" claims for almost all types of solid waste.
- Avoid unqualified "renewable" energy claims if fossil fuels are used to power any aspect of your manufacturing process.
- Avoid unqualified "carbon offset" claims unless your purchased offsets reduce emissions within two years.

If you followed all of those rules, relatively few of the things many consider "Green" today would now be able to be described that way. Which perhaps is the point.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ordinance 1312: The Gang of 4 Hides From the Water Rate Payers

I always thought "the process" (that mystical series of procedural mishegoss and manipulation that our current Mayor venerates like a druid worships goats) was a very slow moving thing, and that the almost eight months it has taken this City Council to initiate a relatively small water rate increase a sign of the intrinsic impotence of the concept. But you would also have to include in your judgement of this performance the ineffectual leadership of Mayor Mosca. Never has accomplishing nothing required so very many words.

And an indication of the imbalance between hoped for results and actual performance can be seen by comparing the nearly 2,000 water rate protests turned in by those opposed to raising the cost of water here, versus the 200 people who showed up at the City Council sanctioned "water walks" and other so-called "outreach programs." Designed, of course, by our patronizing city government to cure the people of the errors of their ways.

So let's see. One had the full sanction of the G4 City Council plus baskets full of tax payer cash to squander, the other some xeroxed sheets and a handful of people willing to donate some serious shoe leather. Given the advantages of the former over the latter, which of the two do you think had the greater success? The handful of people and their shoes, of course.

It just goes to show that when it comes to getting the support of the people on an important issue, there is no better asset than telling the truth. Which, given the misinformation handed out by City Hall on this matter (the water infrastructure repair canard versus the real cause for the rate hike - bond debt) it is a wonder those elementary school kids they used to boost attendance figures even showed up.

So does the G4 City Council know that they are outgunned in their seemingly endless quest to bump up water prices a smidgen? Apparently they do. Because why else would they be basing the rate hike percentages in Ordinance 1312 on whether or not it would trigger another round of the dreaded Proposition 218?

This was first pointed out by MaryAnn MacGillivray at our most recent City Council meeting, and is now confirmed by the newly released "City of Sierra Madre Agenda Report" on this water rate hike. According to City Attorney Sandi "Gray Areas" Levin, if the City Council were to come back with a higher water rate increase now than the one they had originally proposed last May (which was the catalyst of the popular uprising in town), the ability of the rate payers to challenge this would be legally available all over again. Something that apparently the Gang of 4 dreads even more than a 5 minute Public Comment.

City Staff has now returned with Ordinance 1312 which, if approved Tuesday evening, will raise water rates here despite widespread opposition to such a thing in town. And the numbers are carefully designed to come in just below what was originally proposed last May 11th. Something City Attorney Gray Areas has helpfully referred to as "the cap."

Here are those numbers:

May 11 Proposed Water Rate Increase Percentages: 32.95% to 37.42%

November 23 Proposed Water Rate Increase Percentages: 32.40% to 36.87%

So let me ask you this. Has there ever been a City of Sierra Madre rate increase specifically designed to cheat those paying the bills out of having the right to legally question it? This to me seems unprecedented for our little town. A rate hike expressly calculated with shutting the rate payers up in mind. Only the Do-Nothing Mosca Regime could come up with a solution as bad as this one appears to be.

One more thing. Contained within the Agenda Report on this matter is the following little word stack:

It should be noted that while technically there is no change in providing a Low-Income discount, in practice, it is possible that some seniors currently receiving a discount may not qualify as "Low Income" and may cease receiving a discount.

It's like they heard absolutely nothing anyone had to say.

The Planning Commission Fends Off The Aracadiazation of Sierra Madre

"Cut out 1,000 feet and then come back." - Kevin Paschall

In the absence of any City Council direction whatsoever on the matter of protecting Sierra Madre from predatory development, the Planning Commission has stepped up to fill the void. And nowhere was that more evident than the body slam they put on the Dexter Development Corporation this week. A purveyor of the kind of McMansions that are so out of character with our community, Dexter has now been forced to endure yet another rejection of its 723 Camillo proposal.

The application that the planning folks have so eloquently bounced a few times has asked for a Hillside Development Permit and Variance to build a two-story 3,648 square foot single family home. The Variance being required because they would need to locate their spacious wickiup right next to a rather prominent ridgeline. Something there are a lot of up there in the HMZ.

This looming structure, if it ever gets built (and we can only hope that it doesn't), would be in the vicinity of neighborhood homes of approximately 1,000 square feet less than the proposed structure. None of the surrounding homes, all in the R1 zone, are anything like the size this mausoleum for the living would be.

Which explains why, when Commissioner Paschall delivered his now famous "Cut out 1,000 feet" comment, the neighbors of this project all burst into applause.

Sierra Madre needs some heroes right now, and the Planning Commission is stepping up and filling the leadership gap.

Quantitative Easing Explained

You have got to love government jargon. It sounds like it means a lot, but once boiled down to its sparse essence there really is very little there. "Quantitative Easing" is basically the politically correct term for printing money to pay the bills. Something the Federal Government does a lot of these days so they can keep up with all that borrowing and spending. Or, in the case we're referencing here, issuing and selling bonds to itself through Goldman Sachs.

To see a helpful video explaining this in clear and concise terms, click here.


Friday, November 19, 2010

The City Council Should Not Be Allowed To Steal Our Prop 218 Rights

I never have any idea who is tuning in to The Tattler at any given moment. There is just no way that I can track that sort of thing. The system I use (Blogger - owned by Google) is fairly basic, and while the "stats" function will tell me all about the quantity of folks tuning in, they say absolutely nothing about who it is that is doing all that tuning.

I can tell you this, however. When I posted yesterday the original title of the article was "Questions for Our Readers," or something like that. And far fewer people than usual checked in. But when I changed the name of the article around 8 AM to something about closing Sierra Madre's Post Office, the hit count went through the roof. We ended up with around 1,200 "page views" for the day, which is a bit better than average.

Anyway, enough on my statistics fixation. It's Friday, and there are a couple of things I really should follow up on. Here is one of them:

Bill Coburn's Other Incorrect Assumption

Earlier this week we discussed Bill's rather unfortunate conclusion in his recent editorial regarding the Water Rate Hike. Particularly on City Hall's refusal to discuss (or even acknowledge) the Water Bond Debt when they sent out their legally required notification on why they were doing so. This drew a few pointed reader comments, and none better than this one:

I commend to you the recent editorial written by Bill Coburn for no other reason than he finally concedes that MaryAnn MacGillivray was right.

That having been said, Coburn makes a statement in his editorial that needs to be more closely analyzed and then dismissed. Coburn writes:

"Further, the Council had an opportunity to quiet some of the critics (and there are many) that claim the Council/City Staff had misled the ratepayers by 'hiding' the water bond debt that most of the rate increase is intended to cover. Now I have to kind of disagree with that, because these bonds have been around since 1998 and 2003, and they are addressed in the annual budget."

First, I disagree with Coburn's suggestion that the ratepayers were aware of the bonds because they are addressed in the City's budget. Really Bill, how many ratepayers actually read the City's budget each year? Do you, Bill?

But let's humor Bill and assume that most of the ratepayers obtain and read the budget and were/are aware of the bonds. As so eloquently explained by our former Mayor Kurt Zimmerman in his speech before the Council, Proposition 218 requires the City to give every ratepayer including Bill's minority (purportedly unfamiliar with the bonds) written notice of the reasons for the rate increase.

This poster is definitely on to something. And here is the passage from Coburn's editorial that I believe seals the deal.

Now I recognize that there is a possibility that the protesters might have been able to generate enough letters of protest that the increase as proposed by MacGillivray might have failed. However, since a large number of the protesters have tremendous faith in MacGillivray and consider her to be a Council member they can trust when they lack that trust with other members, the fact that it was her proposing it and trying to get it passed would have eliminated many of those protests.

I'm not sure that Mr. Coburn completely understood what was going on that night. In my opinion a water rate hike would be an unfortunate thing, especially now that we know it is being done to make up for a shortfall in repaying old bond debt. Is it inevitable that we will have to endure some sort of rate increase? Perhaps. But by trying to whistle past this metaphorical graveyard on the Water Bond Rate and its real role in the financial problems at our Water Department, the perception has become far worse.

But also, in my mind at least, the Proposition 218 issue looms just as large. Because by claiming that they have the right to decide whether or not we should have use of it as laid down in the California State Constitution, Sierra Madre's City Council is attempting to deny us a basic guaranteed freedom. And in my opinion basing this on some very vulnerable rationales. This is hardly the side issue Bill makes it out to be.

Look at it this way, who do Joe Mosca or John Buchanan think they are in believing that they can take away our right to protest the levying of what is basically a tax increase? Who up and gave them that kind of power? If they want to raise our water rates, then as elected officials in this City they have the right to at least try. But to then turn around and say that we, as the people who will have to pay the cost of that rate hike, do not have any right to question their decision to go forward with this levy, and only on their assurance that this is so, is an outrage.

I think our Prop 218 right to protest the levying of taxes by government is something worth fighting for. Freedom always is. Even if it means hiring lawyers and dragging these people into Court. Which, should they decide to play God on the issue of basic rights here in Sierra Madre, I will do all that I can to make sure happens.

Another complaint about Patch reporting:

I received the following late Wednesday:

I was at the Tree Commission meeting tonight and one of the commissioners had seen the article on the Patch that gave the impression that there had been an interview with me about the Golden Spotted Oak Borer. I told her that I did not give an interview. Mr. Inman asked (after he had helped initiate the connection), "You didn't contact her?" I said I did call her but I told her that it would be best for her to go on line and look up the particulars and possibly reach out to the UC Riverside researchers. I did not give her any information at all.

In her on-line article I am mentioned 3 times as a member of the Tree Advisory Commission and that I gave a report to the Tree Commission "last Wednesday." There is no mention of this in the minutes of the Tree Commission October meeting. I did, however, make a comment at Community Communications at the City Council meeting at which Mayor Mosca asked me to get information to the city regarding a suggestion I made that we need to be proactive in helping curtail the movement of firewood as was recommended by the UC Riverside researcher that I heard speak at an Oak Tree Conference at Cal Tech. I was contacted by the Department of Public Works so that information could be on the Tree Commission agenda in November.

All in all this was very dishonest reporting. Ms. Gillis should have presented the information that she gleaned off the internet as such, without all the cozy and false journalistic style as to having had "a conversation" with me. The information about the Golden Spotted Oak Borer is factual. No reference to a local Tree Advisory Commissioner was needed at all. - Caroline Brown

Last Night's Planning Commission Meeting

It appears that a large developer known as the Dexter Corporation (click here) took it on the chin at the big meeting last night. More on that tomorrow.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Is Sierra Madre's Post Office Closing?

I don't have all the answers. A lot of what is posted here are questions because, let's face it, much of what goes on in the world of local government, or government in general, isn't exactly transparent. And often the real answers come out in the comments, which makes what I do a whole lot easier. A great example of this was what people dug on the Sierra Madre Police Association fund raising letter. I have to tell you, that was very impressive and I will never look at such things the same way again.

One of the real joys of doing this blog - which is why I enjoy it as much as I do - is that I get to post about things that concern me about our town, and then some of the smartest people around talk about them. I find that to be a pretty good deal.

So here are two matters that need your kind consideration today. I do not have the answers, but questions raised by these concerns are troubling. These are topics that are in the development stage, but require a lot more research. So I am throwing them open to the best research team around, you guys.

1) The Sierra Madre Post Office is going to close. I have been hearing about this from a number of people. Recently I received an e-mail on the topic from someone I hold in very high regard, and the questions raised need to finally be aired out.

According to employees at the Sierra Madre Post Office, their place of work is on a future list of closings. Our research shows that it isn't on any 2010 list, so it isn't happening tomorrow. But this would, if true, be a real loss for our community. Obviously the concerns raised by such a possibility should be heard. We do need, and deserve, to have a post office here.

But there are also ramifications on the over development front as well. As anyone who has followed the situation at the Howie's property will tell you, one of the reasons the fine LLC that owns the place has yet to be able to build a towering monument to their greatness there is the parking issue. Under the current legal rhythm there just isn't enough of that attached to the property as it now exists.

But! If they could get their mitts on the properties that now are attached to and affected by the existence of our Post Office (a renter, it seems), that dynamic could change considerably. Here are some things to ponder:

a) The Postal Service leases the space on the CRA property behind Mr. Taylor's place for its drive up mail boxes. The owner of the post Office property owns the empty lot south of the Post Office. Once the Post Office moves what will the owner of the two properties do with that most strategically located land?

b) Are those properties protected by Measure V?

c) Also: will the City sell the CRA property behind Howie's to the current owner and enable them to build big. remember, this would take a 4 to 1 vote, and Gang of 4 would sell us out on that one in a heartbeat. It's pretty much why they're here.

d) Will the CRA try and buy the postal property for parking with the funds from the sale of the current lot as a way to offset the loss of parking across the street?

e) Would a bigger lot allow new buildings on the Boulevard to have additional floor space because there would now be more parking available? remember, the City Council rescinded in lieu parking fees, but for the right project they would have the desired flexibility to require the developer pay considerable fee.

2) Our Water Department Spreading Basin is an EPA Protected Wetland. This revelation owes its life to some recent off the cuff remarks from Bruce Inman. Don't get me wrong here, I respect Bruce. I think he has some impressive command of the issues that concern him professionally. But we also appreciate him because he has the artless manner of the true wonk. And sometimes he lets loose with things that he probably shouldn't have. Which makes for rewarding blogging.

So here's the skinny on this one. Bruce recently let loose that the spreading basin (where our water gathers) was declared a protected wetland by some Federal agency back in the 90s. I wasn't there when this was said, but others have born witness. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be the culprit is my guess. What it all means is that this area cannot be touched. No Huck Finn Fishing Derby, no dredging and re-dredging, no nothing. That water belongs to the ducks, marshland greenery, and other wild things. And not your front lawn.

Bruce Inman is reported as saying that he only became aware of this unfortunate situation recently, and is working to make sure it doesn't effect our current water operations there. Obviously we haven't been following the requirements of any such edict, and if it were to be enforced it would be disastrous for everyone in Sierra Madre who enjoys receiving water at their homes. No matter how rusty the pipes.

Now if you are into conspiracies (I love them myself and consider such speculation to be a perfectly respectable and enjoyable pastime), I got one for you. Did a Shenanigan Council back in the final decade of the previous millennium request an EPA intervention so that access to our water would become tenuous, requiring us to connect to an outside water system? The Metropolitan Water District would be the likely suspect to step in and supply us with enough water not just for what we need today, but also in the future when the crooks would have radically developed this place beyond all recognition.

After all, that vastly expensive water pipeline to other places that has been speculated upon so much recently would be just the ticket to make this happen. And didn't Bruce say we needn't worry ourselves about it because it the costs would be handled by Federal grants? The kind that become available when the needs of things like an EPA designated wetland area is being considered?

So many questions today.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Crime Stats & Other Concerns of Local Importance

After being ripped off a few weeks back we went downtown and filled a Public Records Request Form with the Police Department to find out just how unique our misfortune had been. Was ours a one of a kind woe, or had we joined with many others in being robbed? In our case in the middle of the day.

It turns out that we now belong to a rather well populated little society here in Sierra Madre.

The information we received from having made that request was reasonably stunning. During the first 10 months of this year alone there were 46 break-in robberies in the City of Sierra Madre. 27 of them were residential burglaries, with the other 19 involving autos.

If you figure there are around 4,000 residences here in our little city, that puts your chances of finding either your home or car ransacked at a little over 1% within a 10 month period. Which are actually fairly strong odds, and indicate that someday you too could be the victim of such a crime.

Why we are such a destination point for thieves is something that needs to be looked into.

Unethical Journalism ... In Sierra Madre?

Yesterday I received a complaint about a story that appeared on the Sierra Madre Patch website. It wasn't so much about what was said, or the way the event in question was portrayed. Rather it was about how the information for that particular piece had been obtained.

Apparently the Patch reporter in question had attended the General Plan Town Hall Forum with the intent of covering the shindig for his site. This reporter wandered from person to person asking questions of many of the attendees, gathering the information necessary to file a report on this event.

The only problem being that this individual did not identify himself as a news reporter to at least some of the folks he spoke with. Rather he acted as if he was just another attendee interested in finding out what was going on in the community. It was only later when his report appeared on the Sierra Madre Patch site did the concerned parties realize they had been interviewed for an article. Something that happened both without their knowledge or permission.

The San Jose Mercury News supplies its reporters with an Ethics Policy sheet that is designed to make certain those who represent their paper are both above board and honest in their dealings. And under the rubric of "Misrepresentation" the paper's ethics policy has this to say:

"Under ordinary circumstances, reporters or photographers ought to identify themselves to news sources. There might be times, however, when circumstances will dictate not identifying ourselves. Only the Executive Editor or Managing Editor may approve such exceptions."

It would be understandable for a reporter to not let their identity be known if they were talking to an organized crime overlord, or someone from a dangerous drug cartel. Certainly those would be circumstances where you'd want your true purpose to remain a closely guarded secret. But doing so when interviewing people from town who have gathered to discuss community planning concerns?

Doesn't seem at all ethical to me.

People Just Don't Want To Pay Their Way

Everyone is quick to blame government when it spends itself into absurd amounts of debt. Politicians are routinely excoriated for their free spending ways in America these days. The successful Republican strategy to take over control of the United States House of Representatives was based on just that, throwing out the big spenders.

But is it completely the fault of politicians that they spend as much as they do? Could it be that at least some of the blame should fall upon their constituents as well?

On the Orange County Register's "Total Buzz" website (dated 11/12) there is the following report:

A new Associated Press-GFK Poll shows 53 percent of Americans want to preserve Republicans' tax cuts for all taxpayers - and 58 percent want to keep Democrats' health care reform.

So I need to ask you, how can a country afford to provide health care for all while at the same time cutting everyone's taxes? Especially at a time when we're running a trillion dollar a year deficit? According to this poll we have apparently become a free lunch society.

People need to begin realizing that their addiction to government services doesn't come without a cost. And if they are not willing to pay their fair share of the burden that cost will quickly become a destructive one.

Better to do without unfunded services altogether than force our various governments to provide things people don't feel they should have to pay for.

A Brief Follow-Up To A Story From Yesterday

In yesterday's mishegoss we talked a bit about an appeal letter recently sent out by the Sierra Madre Police Association for charitable donations. Or at least donations, the charitable part being a bit unclear.

We'd suggested that this missive had a certain generic feel to it, and that perhaps it was some sort of form letter provided by folks far beyond the ken of the local luminary whose name graced it. And it turns out that is exactly the case.

A particularly sharp-eyed reader found two other strikingly similar "Police Association" letters on the internet. One such cash appeal, which comes from Arcadia, can be accessed by clicking here. Another letter, coming all the way from fabulous Escondido, can be found here. Feel free to compare those two with the Sierra Madre version by clicking here.

The same reader also supplied an insightful Orange County Register article on the phenomena. Click here to access a very interesting story on the nature of Police Association soliciting.