Saturday, December 31, 2011

Windstorm Disaster Fund Relief Is Not Coming?

You may recall that here in Sierra Madre the clean up after the windstorm of a month ago (where has December gone, anyway?) was dependent upon us receiving Federal and State aid to help remove all of that debris we had just pushed out into our streets. Without such aid the funds required to do the job would be a budget buster that would pretty much clean out the City's General Fund, and then some. And it was only after our receiving this cash was assured that the clean up could commence in earnest.

Earlier this month we were honored with a visit from Anthony Portantino and a FEMA guy, who then drove around town with Councilmember Nancy Walsh to assess the windstorm damage related to our just declared State of Emergency. With a report on all of that gathered information to be later generated and then sent up to Sacramento for careful review. Nancy reported upon her interesting experiences that morning at an ensuing City Council meeting, and did so in a way that seemed to indicate that disaster relief funding was on the way and the City would soon be saved from tree debris and other storm related effects.

Today the streets are pretty much tidied up and all that tree debris has vanished to wherever it is such stuff goes after it is collected. But can it be that the money to pay for all of that work is also gone as well? As in we're not going to get any of it? An article in today's Pasadena Star News (click here) would seem to indicate that this early cheer might have been a case of Unsubstantiated Overly Optimistic Reality Creation (UOORC).

Beck: Federal disaster aid gone with the wind: (PASADENA) - City officials said Friday that cumulative costs from the recent windstorm will not reach the necessary threshold for federal disaster assistance, forcing them to now pursue state assistance instead.

"Unfortunately, it is now clear that the cumulative costs of the disaster will not reach the statewide public sector threshold of $50.3 million to make us eligible for federal reimbursements," City Manager Michael Beck wrote in a city manager update, noting that current estimates of eligible public sector costs are about $33 million.

The city will instead focus on seeking state disaster funds from Gov. Jerry Brown.

However, Beck said that California Disaster Assistance Act funding is currently $140 in the red based on previous obligations "so this effort may be fruitless."

Not a cheery prognosis. Hopefully the City of Sierra Madre had made other arrangements and none of this will apply to us.

With the New Year comes New Laws!

A newspaper from way out there in the Inland Empire called the Daily Bulletin (click here) has put together a list of all the fine new laws that will take effect once the clock strikes midnight this evening. You as a law abiding Californian will need to be made aware of what it is that is expected of you in 2012.

Citizen, here are your new laws:

1) The Dream Act - Legislation allowing students in this country under less than legal conditions to receive financial aid for things like a college education kicks in at midnight.

2) SB 746 - If you are under 18 you will no longer be allowed to legally use a tanning bed. The effect this could have on today's already stressful teen lifestyles could be immense.

3) If you own a farm and are found to have violated farmworker union election rules you could find yourself in a world of hurt. In case you are concerned, there is no indication that this new law applies to lawn guys.

4) SB48 - The requirement here is that public schools include upbeat history lessons on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. Though this law takes effect tonight, new textbooks reflecting this state mandated curriculum change will not enter the system until 2015.

5) Shark Fins - They are within hours of becoming a controlled substance in California. If you are traveling today you will need to know that similar laws already apply in Guam, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii.

6) Caffeinated Beer Ban - Here is a lifestyle killer. Apparently some college students drank too much of this stuff and had to be hospitalized. Of course, if everything college students drink too much is outlawed, we'll probably be back to prohibition by July.

7) HPV - Kids as young as 12 can now be vaccinated for human papillomavirus without letting their folks know. I am not sure what the origin of this legislation might be, but I imagine that pro-human papillomavirus parental groups are probably going to be pretty upset about this.

Here's hoping that we all get through 2012 in one piece.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Can't We Just Fire Edison?

There is an interesting article up on the Pasadena Weekly's website entitled "Power Vacuum" (click here). It compares the performances of Southern California Edison and Pasadena's city-owned Pasadena Water and Power during the recent windstorm. It is the kind of stark match-up that you would expect the privately owned Edison to win easily. After all, aren't most privately owned business entities vastly superior on the service tip to their old and dowdy city government owned rivals?

Of course, in this case we are talking about a utility monopoly whose authority is so complete and utterly unchallenged in the cities where it operates that it actually does function in a kind of quasi-governmental sort of way. Edison, as a monopoly so deeply entwined with the City Halls in those municipalities it serves, can hardly be considered a purely capitalist operation. That would involve things like competition and an available array of alternative options for consumers to choose from. Obviously we have none of that sort of thing here.

And as we have seen in some of the recent City Council discussions on solar panels, even if you choose what should be the "off the grid" option of solar energy, Edison will still be there to collect money, especially the City's UUT hit. Which to me takes away the one real appeal of going solar. As the producer of your own electricity through the purchase of expensive solar power panels and associated equipment, shouldn't you be permitted some level of independence from all that?

So how did Edison stack up against Pasadena Water and Power? According to the Pasadena Weekly, not so very well. This from John Grula of the Southern California Federation of Scientists:

Even taking into account its larger size, Pasadena was perhaps the hardest hit of all the communities, with at least 1,200 downed trees and $20 million in damages. The wind gusts in Pasadena were as high, and perhaps even higher than, winds in surrounding areas. Nevertheless, according to Erica Rolufs, a spokesperson for PWP, only 10 percent of PWP customers (businesses and homes) lost power. Among those that did, within 48 hours the number of customers without power had been reduced to less than 1 percent.

How did it go for SCE customers? According to the Pasadena Weekly and the Valley Sun, the entire town of Altadena experienced a complete blackout. Everyone I know in Altadena lost power, including me. In La Canada Flintridge, 100 percent of homes and businesses lost power, according to Rabo Parseghian, a management analyst in Public Works. Sierra Madre? More than 90 percent of residents and businesses lost power, according to Public Information Officer James Carlson.

The other SCE cities John Grula cites here are Monrovia (75-80% outages), San Marino (100% blacked out), and Temple City (75% of SCE customers lost power). Grula then goes on to make this rather telling observation:

So in terms of maintaining the delivery of electricity during a bad windstorm, it is obvious that PWP was far superior to SCE. In addition, there have been numerous reports about how slow SCE was in restoring electricity to its powerless and shivering customers.

SCE's performance was so bad, that it has been roundly criticized by politicians across the political spectrum, from Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff to Republican LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich. Furthermore, on Dec. 7 the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) announced it will investigate the reasons for the "prolonged power outages" in SCE's service area. Until now, the PUC has not launched an investigation of any other Southern California utility.

All pretty much damning evidence showing that power goliath Southern California Edison just could not get the job done right for its customers. And just to throw in my own anecdotal evidence of Edison ineptitude, when our uber utility was whining (there is no other word for it) about how debris blocked streets and downed trees were making it impossible to get equipment into many Sierra Madre neighborhoods, I had a ridiculously large crane at my house at the top of Grove Street pulling a 16 ton eucalyptus tree off my roof. The red tag I had received from the City for having that bad boy draped across mi casa was gone after one single day.

In a purely market driven economy we as consumers, faced with such disastrously bad service, would normally have the option of taking our business elsewhere. So do we have the option of turning our back on SCE and choosing another utility company? Maybe even Pasadena Water and Power?

Look at it this way. We do share some things with Pasadena, including a public school district. It is possible for us to share services with our rather large neighbor to the west. So why can't we ditch the failed utility we are stuck with now and opt for a company with a record for superior service?

Of course, Edison's decrepit infrastructure here might be so bad that PWP couldn't afford to take us on. I don't want to get anybody's hopes up too high.

But that said, I think that the City of Sierra Madre should start exploring our options here. The abused and poorly served electricity consumers of Sierra Madre deserve just that kind of hearing.

Extra! Vote in these Pasadena Star News polls

2011 Top Stories Vote: "A 90-year-old Santa Anita employee saves 6-year-old girl from runaway horse." Click here and scroll down a little. Look left.

Also: "Do you agree with the State Supreme Court decision on redevelopment agencies?" Click here and scroll down to around mid-page.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

State Supreme Court To Rule On Redevelopment Agencies This Morning

10:20 a.m. update: Redevelopment Finished!

Here is the story - just up on the Pasadena Star News website:

California Supreme Court allows redevelopment money grab - The California Supreme Court on Thursday found that state lawmakers had a legal right to seize $1.7 billion in redevelopment money to help solve the state's budget woes, at the same time reaching a result that may put the state's nearly 400 local redevelopment agencies out of business forever.

California's high court concluded the Legislature had the authority to raid redevelopment funding earlier this year, rejecting arguments from redevelopment advocates that the budget gambit violated voter-approved Proposition 22, a 2010 measure designed to bar the state from seizing local funding to pay its bills.

The justices, however, struck down a separate state law approved as part of the legislative package that would have allowed redevelopment agencies to stay afloat if they agreed to relinquish a large share of their funding to the state. Most redevelopment agencies had planned to take advantage of that safety net to remain in operation, but the ruling is likely to slam the door shut on their ability to fund local projects.

In short, redevelopment agencies have now gone the way of the Edsel. My only question now is what happens to all that money Sierra Madre's CRA spent on things like consultant surveys on consumer preferences and parking planning? Do we now have to give it all to Sacramento? And if so, how much exactly do you get for a used Kodiak?

Click here for the full PSN report. Back to our earlier article ...

Today could be the day that Jerry Brown's quest to end Community Redevelopment Agencies finally comes to an end. Whether it will be a happy one or not depends on how you see this issue, and whether the State Supreme Court in San Francisco rules to abolish them or not. Quite a few people have been awaiting this decision, and an awful lot is at stake today for both the state and cities such as ours.

Here is how the Sacramento Bee (click here) puts it:

The California Supreme Court will rule Thursday on the legality of the state's move to grab $1.7 billion in redevelopment money to help close California's budget shortfall.

The state's high court indicated on its website Wednesday that it would rule by 10 a.m. PST Thursday on the legal conflict. The Supreme Court previously had agreed to rule on the crucial issue by Jan. 15, when half of the redevelopment money is slated to be turned over to the state for the 1011-12 fiscal year.

We posted a couple of fine explanatory articles about all this last fall. The one with all the key information about what could be going down today ("California's Redevelopment Agencies Could Be Down For The Count") can be be accessed by clicking here. Everything you'll need to know to be fully informed about something that has huge ramifications for cities like Sierra Madre. Should CRAs go away the development agenda that has driven so much policy in Sierra Madre in the last decade or so could be severely crippled.

The effect of the abolishment of CRAs could be felt here in other ways as well. CRA money is used to pay certain aspects of staff salaries and related expenses, something that would otherwise come out of our already fully maxed out General Fund. Also the power of the City Council to manage (or mismanage, depending on your point of view) millions of dollars in downtown development money would simply go away.

The decision has been promised at around 10 a.m., and once it is delivered we will post all the results here.

Chris Sutton Defeats Monrovia/Gold Line Private Property Grab

Speaking of all things CRA, an eminent domain land grab in Monrovia was pretty much laid to waste yesterday in L.A. County Superior Court yesterday. In an email I received last evening, Gil Aguirre describes what went down:

Just received the court decision regarding the lawsuit filed against the Gold Line. Basically, the court found that the Gold Line must comply with competitive bidding laws, which it hasn't been doing and that the selection of Monrovia for a maintenance yard failed to meet the requirements of CEQA in that no real alternative locations were considered. This one is huge since it has been claimed that the Gold Line simply selected Monrovia and offered to pay the city far more than the property was worth. This decision seems to support the claim that such a decision was not in line with the law.

Chris Sutton is the attorney who won this decision. His client, George Brokate, owns the property the City of Monrovia and the Gold Line had designated for this maintenance yard. Threatening an eminent domain seizure of this land, Monrovia offered Brokate far less money for his property than what it is actually worth. Monrovia then intended to sell this property to the Gold Line at a much higher price, which gave this transaction the appearance of being a for-profit scheme designed to enrich the city's coffers.

For a related Tattler article on this situation ("Chris Sutton Forces Official To Resign In Gold Line Eminent Domain Case") click here. Also of interest is an SGV Tribune article dated 12/20 ("Gold Line construction authority to weigh eminent domain for Monrovia land") that can be viewed by clicking here.

The Gold Line and the City of Monrovia will have a lot to answer for today once this decision gets to the press.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

And Now, Some Other News

With so much going on in our sometimes chaotic little city nestled besides the foothills of the mighty San Gabriel Mountains, it becomes easy to forget that there is a big world out there and things happen in it as well. Planet Sierra Madre might have its endless fascinations to delight and amuse us, but we do need to take a peek through the Michillinda Curtain from time to time. If only to see how it affects ourselves, of course. When you live here, the world is just the mirror that we use to witness our enduring importance in the grand scheme of things. Or so it might seem to those not fortunate enough to be us.

A new political party in California?

It is a fairly widely accepted fact these days that most people have pretty much had it up to here with both major political parties. The country, along with the State of California, continues to edge towards the kind of financial oblivion that threatens to consume Europe, yet neither of our political parties seems to have the will or the wisdom to do anything about it. So utterly devoted are they to shoveling our tax money to their respective constituencies that they seem oblivious to the very real dangers facing all of us. Obviously both of them need to be fired.

So how do you go up against two massively financed major political parties, organizations that not only benefit from the hundreds of millions of dollars given to them by powerful financial interests, but also exclusive 24/7 news coverage on television and in all other media as well? You turn to the same thing that has brought low the newspapers, entertainment industries, and much of traditional retail. The Internet.

Here is how the NBC-LA owned blog Prop Zero (click here) lays it out:

A "record breaking" 1.62 million signatures qualified Americans Elect for next November's ballot. A state as large and media-centric as California will put the group in the national spotlight. According to its website (click here), Americans Elect "is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that is not affiliated with any political party, ideology or candidate. It is funded exclusively by individual contributions - and not from corporate, labor, special interest, foreign or lobbyist sources." Its goal is "to nominate a presidential ticket that answers directly to voters - not the political system," by "using the Internet to break the gridlock in Washington, open up the political process and give every single voter - Democrat, Republican or independent - the power to nominate a presidential ticket in 2012." The "virtual" selection process will feature the country's first, on-line Presidential nominating convention.

The idea of using the Internet to go directly to the people and nominate untainted state and national candidates, and thereby cutting out the corrupt middlemen in Sacramento and Washington, certainly does appeal to me. Of course, if Americans Elect should then turn around and offer its nomination to someone like Donald Trump, well, then I'll have to go and look for a 4th party.

The obligatory Patch financial report

The glee I used to feel when dropping the dime on Patch's parlous finances isn't quite as automatic as it used to be. There is no denying that the Sierra Madre franchise has definitely improved as of late. The articles are better written and actually go beyond three paragraphs from time to time. Plus those currently running it don't seem to be looking over their shoulder quite as much out of fear that they might be displeasing City Hall. A debilitating condition the site's previous editor seemed to suffer from greatly. You can actually learn interesting things by reading Patch these days, something that wasn't always the case.

However, there are problems. A paper out of Connecticut (home of Tim Armstrong) called The Day has an article up now called "Planted Patches not producing AOL fruit" (click here), and the news is not so good for those living inside the hyperlocal habitat. Apparently some new investment partners don't like some of the numbers they've been seeing.

Starboard Value LP, an investment management firm that seeks to invest in undervalued and underperforming public companies and turn them around, has purchased about 4.5 percent of AOL shares, making it one of the largest shareholders. In a letter to Mr. Armstrong and the board, Starboard Managing Member Jeffrey C. Smith outlines what he sees as the problems at AOL and seeks a meeting to consider a change in course.

AOL, with shares off 36 percent this year, would be successful if not for "the company's massive operating losses in its Display business, which they state could be in excess of $500 million, as well as continued concern over further acquisitions and investments into money-losing growth initiatives like Patch," writes Mr. Smith.

"AOL acquired Patch, a news and information platform for small towns, from an investment firm that you (Mr.Armstrong) founded," states Mr. Smith, digging in the knife. "We believe that Patch may alone lose as much as $150 million in 2011 based on heavy fixed expenses of $160 million ..."

In more chipper news, it appears that the multi-headed Lady Elizabeth Wistar (LEW) has been unceremoniously booted from the Sierra Madre Patch website for planting news of non-existent events almost daily on their Events Calendar. The tip off apparently being specious announcements that consciousness raising meetings were being conducted by Our Lady at The Bottle Shop. In the screw-top wine aisle, I'm sure.

This seems to put LEW firmly into the 4F category. Fake identity, Fake events, Fake website and, of course, Fake news. Which probably explains the credibility she enjoys with Sierra Madre's small but raucous alternative reality set.

Trouble at the Rose Bowl Parade?

It looks like the Occupy folks are planning to take their occasionally disruptive campaign to this year's Rose Bowl Parade. This from the Los Angeles Times (click here):

Rose Parade security beefed up as Occupy plans protest - Facing a protest by Occupy demonstrators, Pasadena police will bolster their already robust presence at the 2012 Rose Parade.

Pasadena police and Tournament of Roses officials have been negotiating with Occupy forces for several weeks on a plan that they hope will prevent any disruptions to Monday's parade. Pasadena officials are allowing the Occupy group to march on the parade route after all the official floats have passed.

Protesters intend to march with large banners that decry wealth inequality in the United States and to unveil a few colorful "floats" of their own, including a giant people-powered octopus, said Pete Thottam, an Occupy spokesman.

The octopus - to be made out of recycled bags and stretching 40 feet from tentacle to tentacle - is designed to represent the stranglehold that Wall Street has on the political process, he said.

Just so you know, the official Tattler position on the wealth inequality question is that we are against it, and will continue to be so until we ourselves acquire some wealth. At which time we will then advocate the arrest of all Occupy persons and demand that they be charged and deported under the terrorist statues of the Homeland Security Act.

The Eagle flies again

Bill Tice has once again thrown his hat into the City Council campaign ring. In other news, the sun came up in the east this morning and, if it gets cloudy, we could see some rain.

The Tattler sets a new record

Sometime late last night this site waltzed past its old monthly record of 43,653 hits. As of this early morning typing we are just beyond the 44K mark and, with a little less than 4 days left in the month, could break the 50,000 threshold by New Year's Eve. Which is quite a lot of traffic for an independent news site that focuses mostly on the affairs and foibles of a city of less than 11,000 souls.

Which just goes to show, if you want to have a successful website, nothing succeeds like controversy. The Tattler would like to thank all of our critics for their continued and energetic support. We probably couldn't have done it without you.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Lately certain unidentified folks have mounted a campaign on various Internet entities declaring that The Tattler is guilty of something called cyberbullying. And that the tragic victims of our supposed unpleasantness have been certain notable Sierra Madre political figures. The cause for this charge being our pronounced tendency to call certain elected officials out on what we see as being their rather long list of shortcomings. A practice of ours that these nameless critics are quite obviously upset about.

To me this charge is absurd. If calling out politicians on blogs and news sites is cyberbullying, then there is not a political or news website on the Internet that doesn't engage in that practice. From all the way over to Democratic Underground. Let's face it, discussing the shenanigans of errant pols is a multi-billion dollar industry in these democratic United States of America, and time and again the U.S. Supreme Court has pronounced such reporting to be Constitutionally protected speech. No matter how critical or even unfair it might be to the intended targets.

Of course, the charge of cyberbullying was first directed at The Tattler only after we began posting about some of the revelations regarding convicted child pornography trafficker Robert "Bob" Matheson's surprisingly strong political connections in Sierra Madre. Particularly in regards to former Mayor Joe Mosca. Matheson having both signed Mosca's nomination papers and hosted the kickoff party for his 2010 re-election campaign.

This is something that has also been pointed out by the Pasadena Star News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Whittier News, Sierra Madre Patch and Sierra Madre Weekly. All of whom have somehow escaped being labeled cyberbullies. As a matter of fact, the only news entity in our town that has not discussed this in any way whatsoever is The Mountain Views News. A paper whose publisher is suspected by some of being a prime source for many of the pseudonymous and unattributed attacks against this blog.

The only thing I can assume is that this represents a rather sad and futile campaign to shut The Tattler up. Something that will take a lot more than mysterious attacks on obscure Internet sites to accomplish. This blog, like most venues that cover politics and politicians, operates with the understanding that if someone steps into the political arena, then they are fair game. I did just that myself in 2010, and frankly got creamed in the press. It all goes with the territory. And whining about it only makes matters worse.

But here is something to think about. What if instead it was an elected official that was somehow closely involved with a blog, one that was attacking private citizens? Would that be considered cyberbullying? What if that elected official was the Mayor of Sierra Madre, and the site that his support enabled in a significant way was attacking residents whose opinions he opposed? Would that change the dynamic we are discussing here?

Not all that long ago there was a blog in town called The Sierra Madre Cumquat. Though it never achieved anywhere near the readership The Tattler has, it did have a sizable and devoted following. And oftentimes it used pornographic and homophobic imagery to lambaste and humiliate people in many walks of life here, including those who were not politicians and never dreamed of becoming one. The targets instead were supporters of Measure V, and The Cumquat fiercely engaged in attacking those who advocated for it.

Yet despite all that, then Mayor John Buchanan saw fit to personally endorse this awful site, and he did so in an article that was published in the January 14, 2007 edition of the Pasadena Star News.

In the article, entitled "Blog makes Sierra Madre politics a laughing matter," Buchanan was cited this way:

Even Sierra Madre Mayor John Buchanan answered (Cumquat Publisher Jim) Snider's online request for an interview, producing a piece Buchanan called "light-hearted and fun."

Buchanan was a fan of the site even before he was chosen as the subject of one of its posts. He said a political environment like Sierra Madre's, where "substantial tension" exists, is exactly where Web sites like the Cumquat can flourish.

"They provide a kind of comic relief that all human beings need to cope with life on a day-to-day basis," Buchanan said. "A little humor and a little poking fun is good for politicians so we can maintain a perspective."

Not everyone saw the Cumquat in quite the same way as Mayor Buchanan. One of those people, a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Los Angeles Times named Steve Lopez, had a decidedly different take. In an April 1, 2007 column entitled "Sierra Madre fears for its treasure," Lopez described what he found on the Cumquat site this way:

Measure V -- which would give citizens approval power on large developments -- is supported by, among others, *********, a columnist for the Observer. In an apparent attempt at humor, an anonymous blogger who's adopted a pen name that can't run in a family newspaper, likened ******, who is black, to Aunt Jemima.

Another blogger, known as the Sierra Madre Cumquat, reported -- in one of the lamest stabs at satire I've seen in a while, that ******* had opened a bathhouse for young men, superimposing his photo over what looked like a gay orgy. The same website made up a story that pornographic images of V supporter ******** had been released on YouTube.

"It's so vile," said *****, an author who has lived in Sierra Madre for nearly 50 years and speaks in a very proper Aussie accent. "I don't look at the blogging, but there are people around town who monitor it and let me know."

When I told ****** that didn't appear as satirical as other sites and instead seemed devoted to jabbing the Observer, she scoffed. DowntownDirt has a space devoted to "lively, spirited and civilized debate," on which a February entry by "Cumquat" asked "how long it's been" since ****** "had an orgasm."

Certainly not the sort of "light-hearted and fun" material you will ever find on The Tattler. And it really does make you wonder who the real cyberbullies in town might be.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Too Many Candidates

So here's a problem you probably wouldn't have anticipated. What if too many good candidates were to step up and run for the City Council this April? Thanks to Joe Mosca's still somewhat mysterious vanishing act there will now be three seats open this time around. Two of them for the regularly scheduled four year terms that would have been up for grabs no matter what, and then a special election to fill the remaining two years of Gotta Go Joe's time in office.

And should certain candidates be elected it could change the balance in the way power is allocated on Sierra Madre's City Council, effectively changing the way this city is run.

In the recent past finding candidates that have met the criteria for rational government in this town wasn't an automatic thing. Slow growth, low tax, and fiscally responsible City Council candidates haven't always been that easy to come by. Certainly those who claim to be nicer, or love the city more, or excessively attentive to the special interest needs of their family and friends, have always been readily available.

But what about those willing to take actual and credible stands in favor of preserving Sierra Madre as it is for future generations? Or taking a good hard look at the runaway finances of our city government? Not quite so easy. And this has become something of a problem for this town. As anyone who has witnessed the convoluted monkeyshines of the Buchanan team on the current City Council can attest.

However, so great is the perceived need to elect people that will not run this town into the ground for the benefit of a few local special interests (realty, development and utilities being the three most prominent), it appears that five good candidates are answering the call and could very well be on the ballot next April. This is an unprecedented turnout from some very well-meaning people. And something which, ironically, could present some real problems.

The candidates who have drawn papers are, in alphabetical order, Colin Braudrick, John Capoccia, John Harabedian and Chris Koerber. Assuming MaryAnn MacGillivray decides to run for re-election, that would make five highly qualified and articulate candidates who openly support slow growth, holding the UUT to 10%, the right to vote on downtown development issues per voter approved Measure V and, in stark contrast to what remains of the old Gang of Four, strict adherence to the principles of honesty and fairness in government.

Which, besides being an embarrassment of riches, also presents something of a dilemma. That being with five very qualified candidates running on basically the same ideals, we could very well see a split vote from this community's more aware residents. Which would lead to them canceling one another out and allowing whatever characters the Buchanan-Doyle special interest machine happens to push out onto the stage to become elected.

So far the only potential candidate from that quarter making any noise whatsoever is Carol Canterbury, a somewhat zany figure from the realty community with few substantive accomplishments and is mostly known for zipping around the downtown area in a colorful golf cart. Which, of course, doesn't make her a bad person, just someone you might not want to entrust with the future of Sierra Madre.

Obviously this town is undergoing some significant Josh Moran - Nancy Walsh fatigue. The dishonestly run and seemingly endless campaign to raise our water rates, followed by the call to increase our Utility User Tax hit to 12% (which would make our UUT rate by far the highest in the State of California), has led many to wonder if there isn't an alternative to the kind of soak the citizens government we are now enduring. Add to that the abusive behavior these radical councilmembers have directed at both the volunteers of the General Plan Update Steering Committee and concerned residents in general, and you have a condition leading many to believe that a change of direction is badly needed for our city's government.

You have to ask yourself, is there anything that Josh Moran and Nancy Walsh have done with their two years on the City Council that would justify giving them control of the city? In all seriousness, can you name even one thing?

But with five good candidates potentially splitting the vote, we could very well be faced with a future that cannot be described as being particularly rosy. After all, it only takes one seat to empower a City Council run by Mayor Josh Moran and Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Walsh. Neither of whom have yet to display either the ability or temperament to run this city in a reasonable manner.

Enhance their control with one other highly unsuitable special interest Councilmember and you'd really have to start calling into question the ability of Sierra Madre to maintain itself as a functioning and financially viable city.

Things to think about as we enter the 2012 election season. April 10 is no longer that far away.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Day Before The Night Before Christmas

I don't always know a lot, but I do know this for sure. You would have to be beyond the acceptable limits of all sanity to go anywhere near any large metropolitan shopping area or mall today. I don't know what comes over people when the need to purchase gifts reaches such an unhinged frenzy, but it does.

This might sound kind of common, or even trite, but maybe it is so because the truth in it is so obvious. I really do think that whatever religiosity might be left in the Christmas brand after having been crushed beneath more than a few billion dollars worth of advertising is entirely and utterly lost in all the major shopping centers on this day.

Personally I believe that you really ought to go in an entirely different direction. A walk in the mountains is where you will more likely find God. Or in your home with your family. Give the simplest of gifts, that is where you are the most likely to find the joyous complexity in the hearts of those you love. You should never be afraid to share with them your own joyous complexity as well.

I have this theory that God, being almighty, does find that there are places He would not care to go. And that if you are so unwise (or unlucky since we are infinitely fallible and can't possibly know everything about God's preferences) to be in such a place when the cold hand of death decides to take you, then you cannot go to Heaven. Instead you get stuck forever in whatever Godless place you may happen to be at that awful moment. A shopping mall on the 24th of December might very well be one of those. I thought that I ought to warn you.

You'd be much better off doing your last minute shopping here in Sierra Madre. Flawed though we all may be, I don't think the place has been forsaken quite yet. The doors of Heaven are still open above us. Though we will have to see if that holds.

I have been mulling over the dark heart of the message the so-called "civility crowd" has been attempting to beat into us into silence with these last few days, and while I have not been able to put my feelings about this oppressive and dishonest concept into words just yet, somebody I know and respect (a lot) has sent me the words of someone who has. The author's name is Kristin Rawls, and here is what she has to say:

Notwithstanding the fact that "love" is perhaps the vaguest, most unhelpful political prescription of all time, this kind of thinking removes any analysis of power from the conversation. It falsely presumes that we all enter the conversation on equal footing. Indeed, everyone is so busy preaching "unity" and "loving one another" that there is never any interrogation of privilege or power. It's a bit different out in mainstream society, but the message is clear. Love your oppressors ... (We) are accustomed to being silenced because we have a "mean tone." We're asked to speak more respectfully so that we can earn a hearing. We're taught to submit to our oppressors. We're being angry and irrational, and it's our job to make everyone comfortable."

Or, as Alice Roosevelt Longworth so famously put it, "If you haven't got anything nice to say about anyone, come sit next to me."

There was a rather unfortunate incident at the Frosty the Snowman unveiling last night in Kersting Court. Apparently Lady Elizabeth Wistar and some of her friends decided to stage something of an impromptu parade through the downtown area, complete with strange music and God knows what else. A film crew from Austria (of all places) was on hand to film our beloved Frosty event, and they captured the following footage. Which, wouldn't you know, has now gone viral on the web. Let me warn you, much of it is shocking, and you may wish to shield the eyes of the more sensitive. Click here.

I was scouring the Internet to find something inspirational to end this post with, and I couldn't find anything that quite rose to my expectations. But I did stumble across an interesting piece on Wikipedia about Christmas Eve. Which is a very matter of fact and almost anthropological essay on the Night Before Christmas. I think that the person who wrote it did so from the perspective of a social scientist rather than a believer. Something that is, of course, a belief system in itself. Here is the Wikipedia Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve refers to the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day, a widely celebrated festival commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth that takes place on December 25. It is a culturally significant celebration for most of the Western world and is widely observed as a full or partial holiday in anticipation of Christmas Day.

One reason celebrations occur on Christmas Eve is because the traditional Christian liturgical day starts at sunset, an inheritance from Jewish tradition, which in turn is based in the story of creation in Genesis: "And there was evening, and there was morning - the first day." This liturgical day is followed for all days in the Eastern rite and the custom of beginning Christmas celebration (as well as Sunday and the other major festivals) in the preceding evening is preserved in western Churches that have altered the liturgical day to start at midnight, for example the Roman Catholic Church. Many churches still ring their church bells and hold prayers in the evening before holidays; for example the Nordic Lutheran churches. In some languages, such as the Scandinavian, Christmas Eve is simply referred to as "Christmas Evening."

Since Christian tradition holds that Jesus was born at night (based in Luke 2:6-8), Midnight Mass is celebrated on Christmas Eve, traditionally at midnight, in commemoration of his birth. The idea of Jesus being born at night is reflected in the fact that Christmas Eve is referred to as "Heilige Nacht" ("Holy Night") in German. "Nochebuena" ("the Good Night") in Spanish and similarly in other expressions of Christmas spirituality, such as the song, "Silent Night, Holy Night."

Nominally religious people, or people who are not formal with definitions, may see the whole day as a day of celebration or as just the day before Christmas. Millions of people around the world with no Christian or religious affiliation or background also celebrate Christmas and Christmas Eve. The emphasis of celebration on Christmas Eve varies from country to country and region to region.

The Blogger's Union (Local 14) doesn't allow me to work on Christmas, so I will be taking tomorrow off. The Tattler will resume its normal publishing schedule on Monday, December 26. With something controversial, I'm sure. Isn't that why so many people come here?

Have a great Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

John Shear Back At Santa Anita

I figured that after all that has been going on this last week or so we are due for a little good news for Christmas. Certainly we have all behaved ourselves and are fully deserving of something along those lines. And we have got a really nice story to share with you today. This from a press release (click here) sent out by Santa Anita:

Heroic Paddock Guard John Shear Back In Action - Longtime Paddock Guard John Shear, who was seriously injured while protecting a young girl from a loose horse on March 12, was a Santa Anita press box visitor Thursday and informed that he would be back in action on opening day. As a result of his heroic act, Shear has been honored by the cities of Arcadia and Sierra Madre.

"My doctor said I'm okay to come back to work," said Shear, who will turn 91 on Jan. 17. "I'll be back at my same job, which is Paddock Supervisor. I've been doing a lot of physical therapy and I can't wait to get back to work, to see all the people."

"John is a fabulous person and a great employee," said Santa Anita President George Haines. "Having him back with us on opening day, after all that he's been through, is a dream come true and we know there are many, many people who are looking forward to seeing him back at work."

So not only is John Shear someone who performs heroic deeds, or is about to celebrate his 50th Anniversary of working at Santa Anita, but he also is a guy that gets incredible job performance reviews from his boss. Some people just have it all.

The horse racing season at Santa Anita kicks off on Monday, December 26.

There is a great article entitled "Three San Diego authors, three inspirational stories" that can be found in the Dec 21 edition of the The San Diego Examiner (click here), and it mentions John Shear in a unique way. For this piece they interviewed three noted San Diego authors about who it is that inspired them this year in their work and life. One of those authors, T. Jefferson Parker, gets his choice written up this way:

Bestselling author, T. Jefferson Parker, whose newest book, "The Jaguar," will be released on January 10, 2012, provided the story about 90-year-old Santa Anita paddock guard John Shear. Parker said, "It was Shear's job to keep the horses away from fans in the paddock area, and he'd been doing that job for fifty years. But last March a horse broke away and was running for an opening in the fence. The crowd scattered but a small girl was standing there alone and Shear ran in and threw her out of the way."

Shear suffered multiple injuries including a pelvic fracture. Bill Plaschke of the LA Times interviewed Shear and recalled this quote. "I'm 90-years old and she's six. She's a little girl, she has the rest of her life ahead. I've pretty much lived my life. This is just something a man does."

Kind of puts things like life and what is really important into perspective. It is a good time of year for that sort of thing.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Candlelight Vigil, and a Canadian Prosecutor Cites U.S. Homeland Security Negligence In the Matheson Case

Thank you to everyone who showed up to the candlelight vigil at the Matheson residence last night. It was a quiet and dignified expression of respect for the victims of the crime of child pornography. Notably present was Sierra Madre's Hometown Hero, John Shear. Additionally, rumored City Council candidate Carol Canterbury was there as well, though she chose to remain in her car. Most assumed it was because of the biting December chill in the air.

Both the Sierra Madre Patch and the Pasadena Star News have already published reports on the gathering, with many of those attending being interviewed by their on-site reporters. Click here and here to access. The Sierra Madre Weekly's Terry Miller also covered the event, and has supplied The Tattler with a series of excellent photographs, including the one we have posted here.

As of 7:30 this morning, the Candlelight Vigil story is the #1 "Most Viewed" article on the Pasadena Star News website.

Additionally today the Pasadena Star News has filed a report that I believe could lead many concerned people to question the commitment of U.S. Homeland Security officials regarding the protection of American citizens from criminals involved in the production and dissemination of child pornography. It is a shocking report. Click here to access the entire article.

Canadians: US Homeland Security knew of Sierra Madre man's porn case in October - The Department of Homeland Security's failure to search Robert Matheson's home in Sierra Madre immediately after his arrest for smuggling and possession of child pornography may have cost Canadian authorities the chance to secure a harsher sentence, officials in Nova Scotia said Wednesday.

Matheson, 67, was arrested Oct. 17 at the Halifax Stanfield Airport in Canada after border agents discovered 2,820 pornographic images and 285 videos of teenage boys. Most of the pictures showed teenage boys engaged in sex acts, said Craig Botterill, Nova Scotia Crown Attorney and the lead prosecutor on the Matheson case.

Canadian law enforcement officials contacted the Department of Homeland Security's Los Angeles office about Matheson's arrest on Oct. 20, they said. But federal agents didn't search his home until Monday.

The delay compromised the Canadian case against Matheson, Botterill said.

"(The delay) prevented me from painting a full picture of the accused at the sentencing hearing," Botterill said. "We wanted to know whether he was a person with a small amount of child porn on his computer or whether he was a big-time player."

Matheson, who hosted the 2010 campaign kickoff for former Sierra Madre Mayor Joe Mosca and is a member of the foothill city's Chamber of Commerce, was sentenced to 120 days in prison on Dec. 13.

Canadian officials still don't know what evidence was found in Monday's search. But had American investigators found a cache of porn stashed in Matheson's home or on his desktop computer, Botterill said he would have been able to argue that the Sierra Madre man deserved more time and may have been able to ascertain whether he was "involved in the filming of the videos."

Matheson's lawyers seized on the delays by American federal agents and pressed for the expediting of the trial, a right protected by Canadian law in the same way it is protected by the U.S. Constitution, Botterill said.

"His lawyer was very clever (in) getting him to plead guilty as soon as he could. Typically in Canada it will take six to nine months between the time you get arrested and a sentencing date," Botterill said. "I think his attorneys wanted him to plead guilty before the American authorities could finish their investigation, so we would know the least about him and he would get a lesser sentence."

As we have said on this blog before, a possible ramification of the 8 week delay by U.S. Homeland Security in searching Matheson's house in Sierra Madre could mean that accomplices of the convicted child pornography trafficker could have scrubbed the place clean of all incriminating evidence.

After all, Matheson's youthful male companion on his fateful journey north was allowed to return to the U.S. by Canadian officials, and could easily have visited his home here. Additionally, Matheson's roommate, presumably still living at this house, might also have taken advantage of the two month delay and sanitized the residence.

Could this possibly result in Matheson being set free after his relatively short sentence in Canada is fully served and he is deported back to the U.S.?

If that is the case, convicted child pornography smuggler Robert Matheson could soon be back and, within a few short months, once again walking the streets of Sierra Madre.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Updated: Matheson's House Had Been Under Federal Surveillance Recently

8 A.M. Update - I just spoke with Craig Botterill, the Crown Attorney who prosecuted Matheson in Nova Scotia, Canada. He has provided some harrowing details of what was involved. But of most importance here is that the Department of Homeland Security in Los Angeles and the Los Angeles PD (for some reason) were informed of Matheson's arrest by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on October 20.

Repeated inquiries from Canadian authorities about a delay in the search of Matheson's residence here in Sierra Madre were made. The fear being that the place would be sanitized. It is only on December 5th that a move on that residence was planned. And it did not take place until last night. Why did they wait as long as they did? Certainly the officials notified by our friends from the north would be very aware of the possible consequences of their case against Matheson should they delay. This called for immediate action.

This smacks of official negligence to me. Back to today's article:

More information has been uncovered by the Pasadena Star News in their excellent ongoing coverage of the Matheson Scandal here in Sierra Madre. I was over at their offices yesterday and I can assure you that their desire to get to the bottom of this matter is as strong as ours.

Credit for today's photo of Bob Matheson with an unidentified child goes to Terry Miller.

There are a couple of revelations found in today's PSN story, which is entitled "Feds search Sierra Madre home for child pornography." The most intriguing of these revelations being, for me, the one I am going to discuss first. You can access the entire article by clicking here. This story is currently the #4 Top Rated story on the Pasadena Star News website, which is significant for a piece about a town of relatively few people. An indication that regional awareness of what has been going on here continues to grow.

Immigration and Customs Agents obtained a warrant and executed the search of Matheson's 2030 Liliano Drive home after noticing a "flurry" of activity at the residence following his guilty plea, according to the affidavit.

The most recent of this activity occurring on Thursday, the day the story of Matheson's arrest was published on this newspaper's website, according to the affidavit.

The ramifications of what is said here are interesting, to say the least. What this means is that at least one government entity in this nation was aware of Mathenson's child pornography bust in Canada last October, and had acted upon that information. This could also mean that the premises at Matheson's address have remained secure, and that nothing of importance has left the building. Of course, we have no idea what went on inside the house, or whether or not the inmates were roasting hard drives in the fireplace.

And were other people involved? Claims such as those made by Susan Henderson in the most recent issue of the Mountain Views Panhandler are that Matheson acted alone and that nobody knew anything about his activities. So who exactly was it that ICE saw flurrying at 2030 Liliano Drive? Apparently someone was aware that the kilted one had been arrested, and that they had better start destroying evidence.

It has been the City of Sierra Madre's stance that they too knew nothing of Matheson's arrest until the Pasadena Star News article broke last week. Which I am assuming means that either ICE did not fill them in on their activities here, or the City hasn't been leveling with us for some reason. I suppose it is conceivable that the Feds did not share anything with the City because, given Matheson's considerable connections here in town, they did not trust anyone there to not leak sensitive information. My understanding is that they are currently holding the SMPD and the City of Sierra Madre's officials at an arm's length.

This is dismaying:

Canadian investigators also found several instant messages in which Matheson said he wished "to find a young man who could pass as his son or grandson and his belief that it would be an honor and privilege to guide and teach young boys through puberty," the affidavit said.

This is disturbing on so many levels. The first question that needs to be asked is who exactly received these IMs? Obviously Matheson was actively engaged in attempting to find people who would turn a child over to his "care." Who exactly would enable such a thing? And were any of those IMs sent to someone in our area? And if so, who exactly is it that was approached by Matheson in this sick quest? Did any of these IMs go to a Sierra Madre resident?

The affidavit includes details of a male companion, who was traveling with Matheson at the time of his arrest.

The man, later identified as Matt Greek of California, was questioned by Canadian authorities and told about the charges leveled against Matheson. Greek told Canadian officials that he had been friends with Matheson for about 10 years and they met when greek was "approximately 18 years old," according to the affidavit.

Greek returned to California in late October a trip paid by Matheson, the affidavit said.

The article goes on to speculate on whether or not Matt Greek has since been residing at Matheson's home. I suppose that it is possible that Greek's paid return to California came with orders from Matheson to watch over his property and, of course, his video and photograph collection.

Meanwhile, Sierra Madre residents are holding a candlelight vigil outside Matheson's home at 7 p.m. tonight in recognition of the victims of his crimes.

Matheson was active in Sierra Madre civic life, hosting a campaign kickoff at his home for former Mayor Joe Mosca in 2010, and is listed as a member of the Sierra Madre Chamber of Commerce on its website.

The address for the Candlelight Vigil this evening 2030 Liliano Drive. Dress warmly, bring a candle, and be prepared to be there for around an hour or so. Despite the continuing silence of our city officials on this matter, we need to show the world that the people of Sierra Madre are not indifferent to the horrible crimes committed within the borders of this town.

Tonight's Special City Council Meeting

This will kick off around 6 p.m., and shouldn't last more than a half an hour. The purpose being to announce the following information that I am quoting from the summary of the City of Sierra Madre Agenda Report:

The City Negotiating Team has been actively negotiating with the Sierra Madre Police Officers Association since October of 2010. On December 15, 2011 the City declared impasse in these labor negotiations.

The summary then goes on to say that the City will now arbitrarily dictate terms to the SMPOA, which they are then welcome to take or bake. It appears that there will be no raise this go-around for the men and women in very dark blue, and that they will also be picking up more of the costs for their retirement benefits as well.

I cannot imagine that the Police Officers Association, a regional outfit that represents the needs of police officers in many area jurisdictions, are going to be very happy about this turn of events. They are noted for their aggressive tactics when attempting to win cash money for their local outfits, of which the SMPOA is one. Whether there will be any labor action along the lines of what we saw in 2008 remains to be seen.

The squabble is most likely over where the money raised by the Utility User Tax increase to 12% is going to go once it starts rolling in around 2013. That is, should the residents of Sierra Madre approve of such a thing at the voting booth. 12% would be by far the highest UUT rate paid in the State of California.

As of now it appears that none of this money will be used to fund a Police raise. Instead it will become part of the overall General Fund, where it could very well end up being used to augment the needs of the very City employees who were on the negotiating team mentioned in the agenda report.

Which is why this negotiation should have been conducted by elected officials. Something that has not been the style of the City Council during the unfortunate Mosca-Buchanan years.

See you this evening at 7.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Is The Tattler Being Taken To Task For Reporting On The Matheson Child Pornography Story?

"I didn't know (Matheson) at all," Moran said. "He was just another face in the crowd." City Councilman Josh Moran to the Pasadena Star News. Photo credit for the shot of Josh with Bob Matheson: Bill Coburn.

Last night, and a few days over two full months after Bob Matheson was arrested in Nova Scotia for trying to smuggle a laptop computer filled with child pornography into Canada, Federal ICE agents, along with officers from the Sierra Madre Police Department, were seen executing a search warrant at 2030 Liliano Drive. Long after any number of people were made aware that Matheson had been arrested, including his live-in partner.

(For an article on last night's law enforcement event, please click here for a Pasadena Star News report.)

What this means, of course, is there was a lot of time to tidy the place up and get rid of any damning evidence. Computers that might have been seized are likely long gone, along with any other topical material. The Feds and the City of Sierra Madre are apparently now going through the motions, keeping up appearances. But as they must certainly know, the chances that they will find anything of interest is pretty much nil. A lot can disappear 8 weeks after the fact. Especially when an interested party living at that house had the necessary time to do some housecleaning.

It seems inconceivable to me that U.S. and local law enforcement officials were not informed of Matheson's arrest on October 17 at Halifax Stanfield International Airport. The place where he was discovered having thousands of sexually explicit photos and videos of children on his computer laptop.

The real problem for some in Sierra Madre doesn't seem to be what was on Matheson's computers, or whether he had accomplices in town, people that could very well still be here. For them the real problem is putting a lid on what has become an extremely embarrassing story. Matheson was politically and socially a very well connected individual in town. He even signed Joe Mosca's election papers when he ran for his now truncated second term in 2010, then hosting that candidate's campaign's kickoff party at his million dollar home on Liliano Drive.

Bob was also a member of the Chamber of Commerce, and can be seen in photos on their site performing volunteer duties on occasions such as the Beer Garden at the 4th of July parade. Photos of Bob Matheson with our current Mayor have also made the rounds on the internet, along with many other people of note in town. He attended their parties dressed in full Scottish regalia, including kilt, and was more than willing to have his picture taken with any interested dignitaries. Judging by the amount of photos that can be found on the internet, he had many requests.

Obviously our city's special class of people finds this to be a major public relations problem. One that puts certain members of Sierra Madre's self-styled social and political elite into some serious jeopardy. After all, almost all of them were friends of Bob. And this town has become very aware of that fact.

So what is their solution? Try and shut up the blog.

Here is an example. Yesterday on the Sierra Madre Patch there was a fairly even-handed article on the 2030 Liliano Candlelight Vigil planned for tomorrow night a 7 p.m. This was the brainchild of several people who post on this blog, and something I was more than glad to publicize. Yet for some this was not to be viewed as an effort to raise awareness about child pornography in the community, it was instead seen as being a threat that needs to be put down. With the messenger being target #1, of course. Examples:

sm resident: Ms. Morris (current Patch editor), I realize you are new to Sierra Madre Patch. I just want to advise you to be careful with what you receive from John Crawford and the Tattler. Take it with a grain of salt and some reservation. I would check to verify things before I rely on the words of this man.

Stranger: Is it just me, or does a candlelight vigil in front of a child porn trafficker's house seem strange to anyone else? I get that it's supposed to be in support of victimized children, but having it in front of the criminal's house makes it seem like they're supporting him...
helping him get through a difficult time or something... No?

JC = John Crawford = Jesus Christ: Not to nitpick, but it seems odd that you're almost a bit defensive here when you say "All I did was write about it on my blog." ... I don't know who the "anonymous Patch posters such as Vanessa" are, but it should be noted that every commenter on your site is either anonymous, or, at the very least, shares the same unfortunate and less than descriptive moniker. Lastly, who ever mentioned partisan politics or politics at all? You did. I suspect it's because, as usual, you are expert at turning tragedies into opportunities for self-promotion.

All of this over a candlelight vigil to help create local awareness for the victims of the child pornography trade. Something that has become necessary due to the complete and utter silence on this matter from the Mayor of Sierra Madre. Perhaps the vigil could be described as an attempt by residents to fill the leadership void created by John Buchanan's continued silence? Certainly that has made it a necessary event. If our leadership won't do it, then we must fill that gap.

You certainly can't help but wonder where all of that venom is coming from. Of course, it could have all be from the same person. You just never really know.

(As an aside, we here at The Tattler strongly support anonymous posting. People are much more likely to speak their minds if they know that somebody won't come by and knock over their mailbox late at night. Which does happen in this town from time to time. However, and as their regional editor Patrick Lee has repeatedly said, anonymous posting is not permitted on the Patch. Apparently, and for whatever the reason, in this case some exceptions were made.)

Another odd occurrence. Yesterday this site was literally bombarded with hundreds of troll posts. Many obscene, most quite uncomplimentary of yours truly, the assault began early in the morning and went on well past midnight. I don't know if this was meant to intimidate me, or merely just annoy. For me personally it was a lot of work to have to clean them all out of the blog's system. But the question must be asked - why now?

When we were exposing Moody's slashing of Sierra Madre's water bond rating no such things happened. Or when we uncovered the startling fact that despite City Hall's claims the water rate hike was not about repairing old water pipes, but instead at risk debt, none of this happened. Neither the UUT story nor the uncovering of misinformation put out by the consultant on the ALF has caused such mayhem, either. But since we have worked on the Matheson story the assault has been fierce, and relentless.

So again, the question must be asked: is all of this actually being done in defense of this guy? Are these folks trying to suppress any speculation on this story to help prepare for his return to our community? Do they want people to believe it all happened in a vacuum and, like poor Josh, they never knew the guy? I can't quite get my head around it.

Then, and in what is turning out to be the most bizarre of all the efforts to squelch our reporting on this story, an entire blog has been created for the sole purpose of attacking myself and The Tattler. And it only came into existence after we began our investigation into the Matheson situation. Called Tattler Tattler, I believe my name and the name of this blog has been cumulatively mentioned over 100 times in just three articles.

This site, which is designed to look just like mine, also has a reasonable amount of posts, most of them written by the site's anonymous editor. A person who calls himself "Lady Elizabeth Wistar." An individual out of Pasadena who is apparently also allowed to post on Patch anonymously despite their famous policies against such things.

So I have to ask the question once again. Why now? What is it about this story that has caused so much rage in some of these folks? The way they're carrying on you'd think there was a City Council election going down or something.

In some ways it could be one of the most telling aspects of this entire story.

One other thing, and I have to be straight with you, all this does make for good blog content. According to Google (who owns Blogger, the free platform that I use), The Tattler has received 13,395 hits (as of 6:00 a.m. this morning) since this story broke last week. A hit being defined as each time a person clicks on this site. These are not unique views, which in a town of less than 11,000 people would be far less. But it does mean we are certainly getting a lot of repeat traffic.

See you Wednesday evening.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Challenging the Deceptive "Mitigated Negative Declaration"

Unless the findings regarding the institutional use in the Mitigated Negative Declaration are challenged by Sierra Madre residents by Wednesday, December 21st (deadline 5 p.m.), there will be no Measure V election on the Assisted Living Facility.

It will be assumed in certain quarters that people don't care much about their right to review out-sized development through their vote, and the unethical and frankly dishonest stratagem concocted by a developer-funded consultant to get around the legal requirements of Measure V (now known to the legally proficient as a City ordinance named "The Voters Empowerment Act") will stand. Which means that another precious democratic right will have been taken away from the people of Sierra Madre.

What follows is the dishonest passage that makes this Mitigated Negative Declaration the terrible waste of time, money and paper that it is.

"The proposed project is within the Central Core area, as defined by Section 17.35 of the Zoning Code. The project is consistent with requirements of this section with regard to applicable height limits (30 feet and two stories). The proposed assisted living facility is an institutional use, and therefore the project's intensity is not defined in terms of dwelling units per acre. As such (the) limits of Section 17 17.35.040 does not apply."

Section 17.35 is Measure V. And there is nothing in this voter approved ordinance saying anything about an exemption for "institutional use." This is just something the consultant made up out of whole clothe to please the people cutting his checks. It has no relevance whatsoever to Sierra Madre's existing laws on the matter.

Here is the ironic thing. There is little chance that this project would fail a Measure V vote. Most people want something to replace the ramshackle Skilled Nursing Facility that its current owner has allowed to fall into a state of appalling decrepitude. An Assisted Living Facility of the kind proposed here, properly sized by people cognizant of what exactly fits in with our community and its values, would be welcomed by most. So why all the deception?

The only answer I can come up with is that 3 members of the City Council see this as an opportunity to undo Measure V. This could very well be a test of the resolve of the people to defend their rights to approve projects of this type in our downtown area. That is a power these three individuals strongly resent, and they want to take that power back for only themselves to use. If they can sneak this one past the residents of our town without a vote, they are well on their way to achieving that goal.

It is sad to think that these three persons would put at risk what is actually a worthy project just to pay back an old political grudge.

Which is why you must write a letter and get it into City Hall by 5 p.m. on Wednesday. It doesn't have to be elegant, or written in special planner or governmental jargon to be meaningful. It just has to have your thoughts, your sincerity, your address and your signature. Mine, wordy guy that I am, is 3 rather blunt sentences.

A lot of people have already written in, and I have had the honor to see a few of those letters. Don Watts has allowed me to share his with you as an example of how a letter of this kind can be written. Also, and like a lot of what Don writes, it kicks butt. The truth properly wielded often does.

City Council members,
John Buchanan, Josh Moran, Nancy Walsh
City Manager, Planning Director, City Attorney
City of Sierra Madre
City Attorney, et al.

I am becoming increasingly dismayed at the current state of affairs at City Hall, in particular in regards to the blatant disregard you are showing in pushing forward the ALF project without a people's vote. I believe by manipulation of zoning code definitions, a multi-residential project is knowingly being forced through the process in disregard to Measure V that, as you know, requires a vote of the people.

Second, I believe changing the zoning to Institutional Use requires full public hearings, and must also accommodate reviews, conditions, and approvals by the Planning Commission. While I am not necessarily against the project, and would probably show support for it, I am against using the renaming of "units" as a convenient way to skirt the law in order to avoid a Measure V vote.

If you intend on proceeding with this attempt, and a new majority is elected to the Council, this project will be stopped until such a time that the people of Sierra Madre have had a chance to weigh in at a special election. I am assuming you have forewarned the developers that they are about to step into a very deep hole in order to avoid Measure V, in addition to the City as well as the administrators who are enabling this.

Please reconsider your actions, and consider the rights of the people to decide what is right or wrong for Sierra Madre.

Respectfully, Don Watts 12/19/11

Don raises what for me is a very interesting question. Does the developer of the ALF even know that he is being used as a political football in a surreptitious and politically motivated campaign to eviscerate Measure V? If not, and considering the large amounts of money they are putting on the line here, that developer is being very poorly used.

Please send your letters (and quickly!) to:

Greg Yamachika
Contract Planner
City of Sierra Madre
232 West Sierra Madre Boulevard
Sierra Madre, CA 91024


Bonus Coverage

The Sierra Madre Patch has an article up regarding the Candlelight Vigil planned for Wednesday evening at 2030 Liliano Drive. The time is 7 p.m.

It looks like this wonderful idea, one that originated in posts made here by some of our readers, is gaining momentum. A link to Patch can be found in the list over there on the right side of this page.