Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sierra Madre Weekly Editor Terry Miller Celebrates John Buchanan's Elevation To Mayor By Writing About ... The Tattler?

It seemed like an odd editorial choice, celebrating now Mayor John Buchanan by quoting extensively from The Tattler, a blog noted for its criticism of the "Do Gooder" (as he has now become known). But then again we are talking about Terry Miller, so anything goes. When people talk about the peculiar things that spring wildly from the head of Mr. Miller, they're not just talking about bad haircuts from the 1970's.

In his article on this week's Sierra Madre City Council reorganization entitled "John Buchanan Becomes Mayor Of Sierra Madre During Reorganization" (which can be found on The Weekly's sparsely visited website by clicking here), Terry quotes the new Mayor this way:

"There's but one reason for anyone should seek and hold office ... that is to do good," Buchanan said. "Being a council member or mayor ... is a chance to do good," he said.

And that is pretty much it. Usually when you're writing a feature article about a new Mayor you'd probably want to reflect a bit on that person's previous record in office, and the probable path this new executive leader might take on such burning local questions as bonds, debt, taxes, city services, planning, development, disaster preparedness, salaries and pensions. You know, the kind of information dutiful citizens care about and might want to read up on should such information be made available.

But we don't get any of that from Mr. Miller. Perhaps Terry made the reasonably safe assumption that anyone reading The Sierra Madre Weekly in the mistaken belief that they are getting actual news probably wouldn't understand these kinds of concepts, anyway? Of course, it is also possible that Mr. Miller doesn't quite have a handle on that stuff himself, and therefore couldn't begin to write about such issues even if he tried.

However, while Terry may have few things to say about the new Mayor and his policies, he does go on for most of the article about the Sierra Madre Tattler. Unfortunately, the things he does cite from this blog are not quite properly transcribed. Which you'd think, a blog being a sitting target and all, he might have been able to do. But apparently that is not the case.

Harsh critics of Buchanan and Mosca, like local blogger John Crawford, attacked Mayor Buchanan who Crawford claims, "gave a big push for large expansive government last evening ..."

The actual quote, "John Buchanan gave a big push for large expensive government last evening," having a decidedly different meaning than the one Mr. Miller was attempting to come to grips with in his article. And unless Terry was writing with a southern accent, the only thing expansive about this misappropriation was the liberties Terry took with someone else's words.

Here is another quote that Terry badly butchers:

" ... and also said Joe Mosca fans who put him "into power a year ago didn't bother to show up tonight. Maybe they stayed home so they could watch the cable news coverage of the impending royal wedding. Or perhaps they were just getting drunk.

To put things back into their proper context, here is the actual quote:

The first thing that jumped about about this evening's "City Council Reorganization" meeting was just how sparsely attended it was. The room was perhaps one-third full. There was little in the way of that celebratory atmosphere you usually find when one popular official takes his bows while his successor ascends to that seat of ultimate municipal power. The angry and vindictive mob that ushered Joe Mosca into power a year ago didn't bother to show up tonight. Maybe they stayed home so they could watch the cable news coverage of the impending royal wedding. Or perhaps they were just out getting drunk.

If you're going to quote from such finely crafted prose, you should at least have the decency to not take portions of it out of context. I'm not certain why Terry is embarrassed by the "angry and vindictive mob" part, though. Maybe it is because he played such a prominent role in that evening's debauch? The 2010 City Council reorganization being one of the ugliest ever in this City's 100 and some odd year history. And if you don't believe that to be true, head on over to the Neuroblast site and review Hail Hamilton's speech that evening (click here).

Of course, as a former contributor to the old Sierra Madre Cumquat blog, Terry does have prior experience not just in being angry and vindictive, but also in the anonymous creation of salacious material that just isn't fit for the eyes of most decent citizens. Perhaps his problem with The Tattler stems from its ability to succeed in presenting to the public a reasonable and fastidious news site? Something Mr. Miller did not see fit to do back in 2007 when he played an active role in Jim Snider's dark dream?

Here is how Pulitizer Prize winning Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez described the Cumquat experience in a 2007 column entitled "Sierra Madre fears for its treasure."

Another blogger, known as the Sierra Madre Cumquat, reported -- in one of the lamest stabs at satire I've seen in a while -- that Councilman ***** had opened a gay 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 (Measure) V supporter ***** had been released on YouTube ... When I told ***** that didn't appear to be 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."

Of course, not everyone was as critical of The Cumquat as Steve Lopez. In a January of 2007 Pasadena Star News article entitled, "Blog makes Sierra Madre politics a laughing matter," staff writer Molly Okeon had these revelations to share:

Since its inception, The Cumquat has "spread like wildfire," Snider said, garnering about 200 hits a day. He is now seeking advertisers, and has sold 50 Cumquat t-shirts. Snider said the response he's received from the site is "overwhelmingly positive," although he's sure he's ruffled some feathers.

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

Buchanan was a fan of the site even before he was chosen as a 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."

Obviously John Buchanan and Terry Miller go back for a bit. And now that Mayor Buchanan has returned to the center seat, perhaps we can look forward to more of the same?

Should be quite a year. Do gooding and all.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Your Gratuitous Friday Information Overload

It looks like April is going to be another record setting month for traffic at The Tattler. I expect sometime tomorrow to go over the 33,200 mark established in March, making this the third month out of the last four where we have set a new record for this site. Not exactly ready to challenge Yahoo! yet, but at least we're getting closer. Look at it this way, so far for 2011 we are at about 125,000 hits. Which, given the modest size of our quaint foothill village, is a lot of blog viewing.

It also means that if you want to reach people in Sierra Madre with a news service, print is no longer essential. The only question left is if print is at all important anymore. It probably is, but certainly not nearly as much as it used to be. Which is a good thing given the low quality coverage found in the two weekly rags that litter our streets. In my opinion it is their failure to perform their responsibility to honorably report the news in this town that has made our success possible.

So anyway, here is your Gratuitous Friday Information Overload. Take a deep breath, then step on through.

The Campaign to Select John Shear as 4th of July Grand Marshal Moves Forward

This week Bill Coburn joined the growing chorus of Sierra Madreanos calling upon the 4th of July Parade Committee to do the right thing for a change. In an editorial piece on his site, here is how Bill put it:

There is a movement around town to have John Shear named Grand Marshal for this year's 4th of July Parade. Shear, 90-year old resident of Sierra Madre, jumped in front of a runaway horse at Santa Anita and (quite possibly) saved the life of a young girl that was in the horse's path. The story of his heroism was picked up by the wire services, and his story has been told worldwide, with hundreds of articles and television stories broadcast telling of his bravery. heartily endorses that movement. If you agree, send your e-mail with your nomination and a brief explanation as to why you are nominating him to

I would hope that everyone reading this site would will the same. The 4th of July Grand Marshal honor has been a partisan plum handed out to those supporting a certain political faction in town for the past couple of years. It's time for those controlling an honor that belongs to all of the people of Sierra Madre to do right by this community.

The Hildreths Fund Raising Yard Sale Is Tomorrow

Denied their request to hold a block party on East Montecito, Jeff and Taryn Hildreth will instead be hosting a yard sale and party at their home at 187 East Montecito. Get there at 2PM and stay until 7PM. And be sure to take the tour of Jeff's wine cellar project. I have and it is a breathtaking excursion. The work and care that have gone into this idiosyncratic project is something to behold. The kind of individualism and creativity that helped to make Sierra Madre what it is today apparently no longer jibes with the kind of rhythm the City is laying down lately, which has led to a legal impasse for the Hildreths. And as with anything legal money will need to be raised.

Stop by, have some fun, and reach out to your neighbor. That is what we do in this town. And yes, East Montecito, as a redevelopment targeted neighborhood, really needs to get together and talk. This is a working class redoubt in a middle class town, and I am not certain that they quite feel empowered yet. But given the energy and creativity of the Hildreths and their talented friends, they will soon. That experience, once mastered, quickly becomes what life is all about.

Open Carry

Recently the residents and touristas of Pasadena were treated to the site of people walking up and down Colorado Boulevard packing heat, and right out in the open, Old West style. Sponsored by an organization called South Bay Open Carry (click here), the purpose of this exercise was to raise awareness of Assembly Bill 144, sponsored by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino. This law would make it a crime to carry an unloaded handgun out in public. The event attracted a lot of attention, news coverage, and protests, which was probably exactly what the Open Carry people were looking for.

But it doesn't appear that Pasadena is to be the only community targeted, so to speak. The rumor reaching our desk at The Tattler claims that Sierra Madre is definitely on the list for an Open Carry visitation. No matter how you feel about guns and their control (or not), this has got to be a sobering prospect.

Sierra Madre Vote Results in the Baggett/Selinske Board of Ed Election Runoff

While Stinky won the overall runoff vote by a rather lopsided 61% to 38%, the results in Sierra Madre were decidedly closer, with the winning margin being a slim 29 votes. And Sean Baggett won the 10th Precinct by a fairly substantial margin. Here is how Sierra Madre's vote broke down:

Precinct 6400002: 279 total ballots cast - Selinske 161, Baggett 115
Precinct 6400006: 257 total ballots cast - Selinske 139, Baggett 116
Precinct 6400010: 290 total ballots cast - Baggett 165, Selinske 125

Given the dishonesty and heavily funded smear campaign employed by Selinske against Baggett, this is a pretty decent showing for Sean. Which goes to show that Sierra Madreanos just have a little bit more on the bean than those voting elsewhere in the PUSD. Voters who so foolishly gave this election to a man with as dismal a record for service as you can find anywhere.

Sierra Madre Prepares for Life Without Marilyn

Diaz, that is. Not Monroe or Manson. Yesterday Bill Coburn scooped the world with this one, and now everyone is getting in on his act. Here is how today's Pasadena Star News is getting down with the Chief Diaz retirement story:

Police Chief Marilyn Diaz Thursday announced she will step down as police chief after five years on the job. The announcement came in a press release issued by City Hall. Diaz came to Sierra Madre after 32 years on the force in Pasadena. She is a longtime resident of Sierra Madre.

According to the article Sierra Madre Capt. Larry Giannone will serve as interim chief. Which I guess means we are going to have to prepare ourselves for one of those interminable searches for a new SMPD Chief. A hire that I am sure is going to cost the taxpayers a lot of cash. Can't we just stick with Larry?

Peeping Tom

It is a big day for Sierra Madre coverage in the Pasadena Star News. Apparently some very strange fellow managed to get himself arrested for looking through other peoples' windows (click here). Which has got to be just about as pitiful an example of bad human behavior as you can find anywhere.

Happy Friday, anyway.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Is Patch As We Have Known It Going Away?

You know, if he hadn't published all of those grotesquely dishonest hit pieces in the Sierra Madre Weekly during last year's City Council race, I might actually feel sorry for Patch editor John Stephens. Obviously he is working for an awful company, and the story I am about to tell should give you some appreciation of just how sorry a predicament Georgia Boy finds himself in right now.

But John did print them, they were a pack of mean-spirited lies, they hurt people very near and dear to me, and now I have no choice but to relish each and every opportunity to pay him back. Which I try to do on a fairly regular basis. You can only wonder what moment of cerebral malfunction convinced him to take the Sierra Madre Patch job, anyway. I'm sure there were plenty of other towns available that he could have selected. Maybe like the proverbial arsonist that couldn't resist returning to the scene of the crime, he just had to choose Sierra Madre? I'm not sure I know.

So this one starts off, as things so often do in this the modern age, not with a knock on the door, but with an e-mail.

Hi John - As you may have seen on the site today, Patch is starting a new program called "Local Voices" in which we will be opening up a portion of our platform for select local residents to blog on Patch. First of all, I wanted to let you know that if you decide to write about our new initiative on your site, please feel free to use the image from the article. I've attached the image to this email for your convenience.

Second, I want to extend an invitation to you to blog on Sierra Madre Patch. We're having success in putting together a diverse group of bloggers, and I think your voice would be a great addition to that group. What's more, we've developed a very strong readership since we launched in October, so the extra exposure would likely serve to drive some additional traffic to your site. Also, since you will retain ownership of any content you post to Patch, you would be free to post those entries to your site as well.

Now there is certainly nothing I wanted to hear more than John Stephens granting me permission to print my own material on my blog. Particularly when the party wanting to use it had no intention of paying me. Often I have awoken in the middle of the night in a cold sweat for fear that I might have printed something that didn't meet with Patch's approval, and felt that instead I should give away everything I write to them.

Obviously there was something wrong with this offer. On a logical level, why would a multi-billion dollar corporation like AOL be sending out one of its beleaguered local minions to try and convince me to "blog" on their Sierra Madre site? It just didn't make much sense. And as far as gathering together a "diverse group of bloggers," I'm sorry, I just don't think that sounds like very much fun. If they're anything like the people currently being paid to write for Patch, well, it would be best if I stayed away.

But being a decorous individual, I did write back. Here is what was said:

I've actually been reading about this AOL initiative for a while, and understand how it could be an important source of traffic for the Patch brand. Blogger/Google, which I use and am quite happy about because it doesn't cost me anything, operates its blog service on the same idea. And they get some ridiculously huge amount of traffic on the combined sites they host. My little drop in the Blogger bucket included.

One of AOL's biggest problems right now, as I am certain you are painfully aware, is traffic. There are few compelling reasons for anyone to visit their properties, and therefore advertising revenues continue to suffer.

So all of that said, why would you feel that I might want to blog on your site? I am having another great month traffic wise, so I really don't need anything extra. I am also picked up by FWIX and other agglomerates through Blogger, so there really isn't any pressing need for more exposure. But I'm game. Tell me why.

All very civil and on the level, correct? So why then couldn't Stephens just have given me an equally on the level reply? Or at least attempted to answer my questions? Instead I was sent this thicket of absurd nonsense:

I really can't speak to AOL's traffic as a whole. My mention of traffic in my initial email was specific to Sierra Madre Patch, which is performing extremely well. As for your site's exposure, you mention being picked up by aggregates like FWIX and linked to from other Blogger sites, so you clearly already see the advantage to your content, your name, your voice and your ideas being found in more places than just one.

All that being said, the real "why" of it all, from my perspective, is to include your voice among other local bloggers to help create the best mix of local thoughts and opinions possible. I'm charged with finding these voices and putting them together in a kind of community forum where all sorts of views and opinions are expressed openly and and presented to readers side by side. I see this as a good thing for readers, residents, writers, etc. Perhaps you agree.

My immediate reaction was that this had to be some of the most goofy nonsense I have read in quite some time. First of all, what bloggers? Outside of myself and Bill Coburn there aren't any regularly practicing bloggers in Sierra Madre. Secondly, this whole air of cumbaya that Stephens was presenting just didn't sound like anything anyone in their right mind would want to attempt unless they were absolutely being forced to do it. This simply had to be some kind of half baked AOL shuck and jive.

Thus intrigued, I began to look around. And after a short search through Google, I discovered that my suspicions were, as is sometimes the case, based in reality. Hiring 8,000 Bloggers, Prepares for May 4th Blog Launch - AOL's hyperlocal news network,, is recruiting up to 8,000 bloggers in the next week. Recruits are being brought on to prepare for the launch of its new platform of May 4th. Patch editors are required to sign up between five and ten new bloggers in time for the launch. Editor in Chief Brian Farnham said abrupt changes are part of the working at a startup like Patch and that editors need to get used to moving fast.

Well, that is interesting. Poor John Stephens has to conjure up 5 to 10 bloggers and get them to post on Patch? Most so-called bloggers are hard pressed to write a post a month, much less turn Patch into a blog Woodstock. And this is the new direction that Patch is going in? Damn. And you thought that site is boring now. also had something to say about this. And it looks like the pressure being placed upon Patch's editors to turn up a brace of bloggers is a bit intense.

AOL's Patch Adding 8,000 Bloggers in 'Full-On Course Correction' - Arianna Huffington must not be taking that class action lawsuit against her too seriously. Not only is AOL's new content chief not cutting down on the use of unpaid bloggers, she's doubling down - literally. Patch, AOL's network of hyperlocal news sites, is trying to recruit as many as 8,000 bloggers in the next eight days, according to editor in chief Brian Farnham.

On Friday, Patch editors were told to start recruiting bloggers in preparation for the launch of its blog platform on May 4. Yesterday, Farnham issued a memo with concrete targets: Each editor is expected to sign up five to 10 new bloggers by then.

"The introduction of blogging on our sites is far more than just the release of a new feature," wrote Farnham. "It is a full-on course correction heading Patch in the direction we want to go."

A full-on course correction? Does this mean no more "Mom's Talk?" No more "PatchCast?" No more "Sports Prep Report?" Or "Art News?" Just grubby unpaid "bloggers?" And what about the freelance writers there who have until now been paid for their work? Will they now be encouraged to "blog" for free?

Here is where AOL's sweetheart Mr. Farnham gets heavy on his yard dogs:

"As for the question of why we are moving this fast after the go-slow approach presented on Friday, let me address that here: we're a start-up," Farnham wrote. "You've heard that before and its going to remain true for some time. You all signed on knowing this was a young company, and while no one likes a fire drill, at the same time you have to get used to changes and moving fast if you want to be a Patch editor."

Uh oh. In other words Patch editors had better scrap what they have been working on and get with the new blogger program. Otherwise the big mean boss just might delete you. took a decidedly more tongue-in-cheek approach to this tragic story of worker exploitation.

AOL, Huffington Post Seek Another 8,000 Free Bloggers - So you want to be a writer. Well, have I got a deal for you. Join Patch, and write for free for a multibillion-dollar company run by millionaires. The exposure is great, I can assure you, dahling.

In a continuation of one of the more, um, unusual media stories in recent memory, AOL is asking the editors of Patch to recruit 8,000 people to write for free on Patch's various hyperlocal news sites. The push for free labor comes ahead of the launch of Patch's new "platform" May 4. In recent days, Patch honcho Brian Farnham has sent a series of memos directing Patch editors to line up the new "Local Voices" bloggers - within the next eight days, Farnham reported.

This is, of course, somewhat similar to the Huffington Post business model where idealistic liberal bloggers wrote for free about issues they cared about deeply in exchange for the built-in audience that came along with writing for that site. That is until Arianna Huffington, who up until then had been something of a patron saint to this unpaid cadre of people writing for her, sold the silly geese out to AOL for almost a third of a billion dollars.

As part of that deal Arianna also becoming the content boss for AOL's on-line properties, including Patch. continues:

Arianna Huffington was hit with a $105 million class action lawsuit earlier this month, accusing her of "unjust enrichment" and "deceptive business practices." In February, Huffington sold her website to AOL for $315 million, and assumed control of the company's content properties. She then proceeded to lay off hundreds of editorial staffers and freelancers at sites like PoliticsDaily, WalletPop and Daily Finance.

In another article about the Huffington lawsuit, some truly fine language is used:

Unpaid Blogger Hits 'Slave Owner' Huffington With $105M Class Action Lawsuit - "Arianna Huffington is like a slave owner on a plantation of bloggers," according to the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit that seeks more than $100 million in damages on behalf of 9,000 unpaid bloggers who, he argues, should be paid for helping build the Huffington Post into the valuable media property AOL bought for $315 million.

The lawsuit, lead by well-known New York labor activist and Huffington Post blogger Jonathan Tasini, alleges that thousands of writers and other contributors have been wrongly denied any compensation for the value they created for the Huffington Post.

"This is about justice," Tasini told by phone. "Arianna Huffington is like a slave owner on a plantation of bloggers. The truth is, without the bloggers there was no Huffington Post and here would be no sale to AOL. She has decided to rob all these bloggers of a fair share of this profit making venture."

Well, there you go. So is the Sierra Madre Patch and its editor John Stephens attempting to recruit 5 or 10 bloggers to write for the site in hopes of creating some fine community blog discussions designed to enrich the lives of us all? Or is he, to use Tasini's delicious phrasing, dragooning some naive poor fools into working for free on Arianna Huffington's slave "plantation of bloggers."

Just so you know, I personally eschew the slave life style myself, and will not be contributing to the Patch Plantation. Now or at any time in the future.

Bonus Coverage - Bill Coburn is reporting on his site that SMPD Chief Marilyn Diaz is retiring, as is SM Library Director Toni Bruckner.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mayor John Buchanan Pushes Big Expensive City Government To A Mostly Empty Room

"We had to be reactionary." - Former Mayor Joe Mosca

John Buchanan gave a big push for large expensive government last evening, though it was obvious that wasn't all of his agenda. The money part was very real, however. Because what John was talking about is going to cost a lot of that sort of thing, and the pockets it will come out of are ours.

But that big "full service city" all encompassing shining citadel on the hill with something for everyone thing? Buchanan was just talking about what he has been talking about for the last seven years. The old dog had no new tricks for us last night. What he was going on about was remaking our little village into something it has never been. Which, of course, will take a lot of new building, new construction, new infrastructure, new development, and a new library along with a whole lot of bond money. John still wants to change Sierra Madre in a very radical and undesirable way. Just like he always has.

Apparently in John Buchanan's world it is 2004 forever, the recession never happened, and he was never wrong about any of this. Not even for a minute. Even after the residents rose up and slapped him down with Measure V.

The first thing that jumped out about this evening's "City Council Reorganization" meeting was just how sparsely attended it was. The room was perhaps one-third full. There was little in the way of that celebratory atmosphere you usually find when one popular political official takes his bows, while his successor ascends to the seat of ultimate municipal power. The angry and vindictive mob that ushered Joe Mosca into power a year ago didn't bother to show up tonight. Maybe they stayed home so they could watch the cable news coverage of the impending royal wedding. Or perhaps they were just out getting drunk.

But whatever the reason, there was very little energy in the room. Instead you might have thought you were attending one of Bruce Inman's demonstrations on how pipes get rusty. Or the most interesting ways to dry paint.

Only three Sierra Madre residents spoke at public comment, and none were there to congratulate either John or Joe. Denise Delmar encouraged anyone listening to come out for the General Plan Forum being held at our remaining Firehouse on Saturday, May 7th, from 1 to 4 in the afternoon. Alice Hultsman, the Vice Chair of the Senior Community Commission, invited everyone to show up at that Hart Park House to honor Sierra Madre's "Older American of the Year" Pat Alcorn on Friday, May 13th, at 4:30. And Marta Capoccia gave eloquent testimony as to why John Shear should be selected as Grand Marshal of the 4th of July Parade.

From there we then went on to the passing of the torch. John Buchanan spoke of Joe Mosca as being a remarkable fellow, and that he kept a positive face in difficult times. John didn't mention what those difficulties were, though perhaps Joe's badly bungled efforts to keep his various stories straight on the water rate increase might have been one of them. John was supposed to then hand Joe an honorary gavel and accompanying plaque to mark his service to the community, but apparently that item was placed on backorder by the manufacturer. More proof that one should always get their order in early when purchasing important novelty items.

Joe then spoke about what he believed to be his accomplishments while Mayor. Like during the election last April, Joe seemed to have difficulty distinguishing his accomplishments from those of others, but there is little news in that. Among the things that Joe took credit for were the Canyon Zone Ordinance, the balanced budget he inherited from past administrations, and an already in motion General Plan Update Steering Committee. Which, during the early days of his administration, he was a little bit salty about.

Joe also proclaimed that the City's new facebook page is his idea of transparency. Not sure I see that. Putting staff City Council agenda reports on-line would be transparency. But reposting publicity releases about Arbor Day? Or Earth Day trash pick up at Goldberg Park? Important, sure. But transparency? Not quite so much.

One thing that Joe discussed that I thought was unintentionally revealing was the amount of time he and John Buchanan spent together. According to Joe he met with John Buchanan every week throughout his year as Mayor. Which is nice I suppose, but wouldn't you rather have a Mayor that can think for himself? Codependent Joe also noted that John takes notes and reads the material City Staff supplies to Councilmembers. Which surprised me a little. I thought everyone did that sort of thing, especially a Mayor. I know I do.

I was also taken aback a little by Joe's statement about how he will gladly vote for John Buchanan "every single time he runs for office." And here I thought John was termed out and in his last year of office. You have to wonder what it is that Joe knows.

In his acceptance speech John Buchanan touched on some familiar themes. But then, everything John says these days is familiar. After 7 years of hearing him say pretty much the same things, how can they not be?

In a reiteration of his often repeated strongman government theme, John said that while he values and listens to the opinions of the people of Sierra Madre, he was elected to lead and he would make difficult and often unpopular decisions himself. Which means he doesn't really listen to anyone, and only does what he thinks should be done. Or at least his corporate patrons do. And please, whatever you do, don't you people go doing stuff like putting things he wants on the ballot. That is not the way it is supposed to work.

He also discussed the full service super city that he feels is important for him to provide for us. On our dime, of course. We're not a bedroom community, or the reflection of the megalopolis that surrounds us, we're apparently our very own civilization. He also discussed what he called a budget crisis, which, given this protean 8th Wonder of the World he envisions himself creating, is not surprising.

All that aside, what the self-styled "Do Gooder" Buchanan is obviously preparing us for is a lot of very expensive new initiatives, all of which he will make the call on, not us. "Budget choices are about community values," as he put it. And what that will take is a lot of money. John's ideas of community values usually involving the needs of his downtown investor friends, developers, consultants, along with large utility companies and other corporate interests.

Which, given that any new taxes would have to be put to a popular vote, means he will have to finance with bond sales instead. Something he has already indicated he aims to do. Incurring along the way vast new debt that he will push on future generations of Sierra Madre residents to pay. And, of course, without your say so. You were not elected, he was.

Sounds to me like it is time to get the clipboards back out. It looks like we are going to need a ballot initiative or two to stop this guy from spending this place into the ground.

Oh, and Josh Moran is our new Mayor Pro Tem. Just in case you believe things can't get much worse, think about the possible consequences of putting $50 million in newly raised bond money into his hands. Maybe he'll build us a Three Stooges Museum.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Reorganization: Will John Buchanan's Seven Years Of Bad Luck Finally End?

Everyone has heard all about the superstition regarding broken mirrors, right? If you break one, then you end up with 7 years of bad luck. So if you figure that John Buchanan's agenda has been to bring development to Sierra Madre during his seven years of service on the Sierra Madre City Council, then you'd have to assume that somewhere back in 2004 he must have busted somebody's looking glass into a million little pieces. Because nothing he has attempted since has ever led to one single habitable building being built here. Not one. Not even at One Carter.

But we're getting a little ahead of ourselves here. Let's first talk about tonight's City Council meeting. At least the little bit of it leading up to the cookies and milk.

After the rituals and public comment there will be something entitled Presentation to Mayor Mosca. This is where all on hand will extend their congratulations and expressions of gratitude for Joe's full year of service as Sierra Madre's Mayor. I suspect that somewhere in this portion of the meeting Joe will speak about what he regards as his very finest accomplishments. Something that he will obviously feel he needs to do because of the widely held perception here in town that he really did not accomplish all that much. For a guy who wanted to be Mayor as badly as he did, Joe really didn't seem to have a whole lot prepared.

Ironically, the one thing that Joe Mosca did do that will have the longest lasting actual effect on Sierra Madre will get no mention this evening. That being his inability to tell the public the truth about why he needed to raise our water rates. Something which has only now begun to play out. But once this has run it course in a Court of Law, there will be little doubt as to the true nature of his dishonesty. Whatever Joe does talk about this evening will quickly be forgotten, and in time what will remain in the minds of most Sierra Madreans is that Joe Mosca was the Mayor who would say anything to get people's money, no matter how untrue.

After that little bit of poignancy comes The Reorganization. There can be no doubt that John Buchanan will once again become our Mayor. That was rigged during the previous reorganization. If there is any drama at all it will be who is to become Mayor Pro Tem. If Joe Mosca is to become Mayor once again during his remaining years in office, he will have to become Mayor Pro Tem one more time. And that will need to happen either tonight, or a year from now.

This, of course, would be something outside of the "tradition of succession" that at one time served as Joe's justification for demanding to be Mayor. An argument Joe used when his colleagues twice denied him the honor. But if he doesn't go for Mayor Pro Tem one more time, Joe Mosca will then have spent eight years on the Sierra Madre City Council while serving as its Mayor only once. Not exactly a resume' highlight for a highly ambitious politician.

That said, the more likely candidate for Mayor Pro Tem this evening will be Josh Moran. Josh, who only last year became John Buchanan's hand picked candidate for City Council at the very last possible moment, and then after he had moved back to Sierra Madre from Monrovia a few days earlier, has to be regarded as something of an unfortunate consequence of political expediency. It was only after having been turned down by so many others that John Buchanan was forced to turn to Josh. No one else was willing to serve.

And it is because of Buchanan's inability to convince any of his more qualified cronies to stick their necks out (for whatever the reason) that we will likely end up with perhaps the most unqualified person ever to be in line for Mayor of this City.

Maybe this is something that needs to be added to that long list of woes some folks say will occur in 2012? I don't buy into it myself, but if so Josh could end up being our little slice of the global apocalypse.

Once the rearranged G4 City Council gets comfortable in their new seats, the one piece of business left to be accomplished is the spending of money. $9,793 to the CRA, $6,378 to the Library, $292,582 in payroll, and $219,173 in warrants will be spent. The grand total comes to around $528,000 in Sierra Madre's tax money. We've added this new sum to our list to the right.

At the beginning of this post we talked about John Buchanan's 7 years of bad luck. The failed development at One Carter, along with the disastrous calamity known as the Downtown Specific Plan which so many of his closest political allies blew much of their life savings on, being the two most notable. And there were a few other false starts scattered in between as well. For someone who has been so adamant about promoting development in this town, Buchanan has nothing to show for his efforts over all his years in office.

However, the guy who will occupy the center seat this evening is now entering his eighth year. And there are quite a few things that he can to look forward to with hope. Doctor Sami's new auto parking forward accommodations being one. The dead coffee shop known as Steamers, which is about to become 3 new food emporiums, is another. And what will happen at the Skilled Nursing Facility is anyone's guess at this point. These are the least threatening.

Up a couple levels from all that we have the low income housing assault on W. Highland, plus the homeless barracks that are about to be imposed on E. Montecito. Both funded in part by CRA money. Two things that are strongly opposed in both those neighborhoods by the people who live there, but Mayor Buchanan will hardly let that stop him. Those are not the people he answers to.

Then there are the raises and benefits package increases he is expected to give our Police Department. John Buchanan did not stand up to the Police Officers Association in 2007, and he is hardly likely to do that in 2011. Over 50% of our General Fund goes to pay for our absurdly overstaffed police department now. What will that percentage be after Buchanan caves in to what are certain to be some very costly demands? As much as he can get out of us, I'm sure.

But worst of all will be John Buchanan's wholesale assault on our long range municipal liquidity through the sale of new bonds. The rumors have it that we are looking at sewer, water infrastructure and road repaving bonds that, when combined, could run as high as $50,000,000. All to benefit the developers he hopes to attract to our downtown and other neighborhoods.

The debt load this would put on our town is unimaginable. If the City of Sierra Madre is having such a difficult time dealing with the $19 million in bond debt it has now (Mosca's badly botched water rate hike being one consequence), how will it handle an additional load nearly three times that much? The answer to that one is through drastic tax and rate hikes that will make this town unaffordable to all but its most wealthy. A gentrified Sierra Madre being the result.

John Buchanan has one year left to do all of this in. Seven years of futility have now passed him by, and he gets just one more chance. Along with the 3 poor souls that he dominates, John will attempt to push all of his agenda through. My bet is City Staff has most of this written up and ready to go.

Do you think we can stop John Buchanan? Can we save this town from him one more time?

Monday, April 25, 2011

The 4th of July Grand Marshal for 2011

It is time the City of Sierra Madre finally came together on something that has become entirely too politicized over the last several years. What was once an honorary position given to esteemed members of our community for their valued accomplishments has become little more than an opportunity for some well-connected individuals to push fashionable and often politically correct agendas on a City that has lately grown weary of them.

This, along with the prohibition on such time honored Sierra Madre 4th of July Parade traditions as water pistol fights and the throwing of candy to children, has cast something of a pall over what has been the most widely attended event for residents on the Sierra Madre yearly calendar. With the result being a widespread community perception that a valued institution is now in decline.

But there is a way out. That is, if those in charge can find it in themselves to do it.

What this City needs to get it all back is to recognize a true hero. And today we have such a person. A remarkable individual whose feat was extraordinary, and accomplished at great personal peril. And because of this he has become the most nationally celebrated person Sierra Madre has ever produced. A selfless man who was willing to put everything on the line to save the life of a small child.

Here is how Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke described 90-year-old John Shear's sacrifice:

While the family was standing with a crowd outside a wooden fence, a three-year-old horse named Sea and Sage reared up and began running toward them. "Loose horse!" track workers shouted, and all but one person parted and scattered away from the one section where the fence had been replaced by a rope held by Shear.

As the 1,000-pound animal ran toward that rope, Shear noticed a solitary child standing frozen in its way. Said her father: "I reached for her and she was gone ... then I saw her standing by herself with the horse coming at her."

Shear jumped in front of the horse and pushed the girl aside just as the animal knocked him to the ground. The girl immediately stood up and shouted to her father that she was fine. Then she saw John Shear lying there bleeding, and began screaming.

"If he had not protected her, that horse would have crushed every bone in her body," said the father. "That man saved my daughter's life."

The story of the 90-year-old paddock guard who sacrificed his own safety to save the life of a young girl spread rapidly throughout the world. Numerous television stations, wire services, news organizations and horse racing publications clamored to get an interview with and a picture of the man who did something so courageous, and so remarkable, that it almost seemed beyond belief. Yet it happened.

The Los Angeles and New York Times, NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, Pasadena Star News, Yahoo, Google, Aol, BBC, Associated Press, UPI, all of those and many many more carried this incredible story. You can go on Google today and find well over 600 entries about what happened that fateful day at Santa Anita.

The injuries John Shear suffered are still with him today, and he continues to undergo physical therapy as part of what will be a long and painful road to full recovery.

We don't have all that many international celebrities living with us here, and while there are certainly people among us worthy of the honor of being Sierra Madre's 4th of July Grand Marshal, none are as celebrated or as deserving this year as Mr. Shear.

In the past couple of weeks my e-mail box has been flooded with notes from folks asking me to help secure this honor for John. Many have expressed fear that because of the way things are in our politically divided town, the right thing will not be done. And as in the case of our World War II vets, we are looking at what will potentially be a terrible disappointment for so many in town. That narrow personal agendas and the desire to reward political supporters will come first. And because of that the parade will again suffer.

I am more than glad to do whatever I can. But here is one thing that I know has to be done. Every concerned person in town needs to ask that small faction of locally connected people who have so jealously controlled this honor over the last few years to please, at least for this one time, set all that other stuff aside and do what is right.

Give the people of Sierra Madre what they really want, and not just what you think they need to hear. This City wants to honor its greatest hero for 2011. Please, do not stand in the way.

Sierra Madre Tattler Consultants, Inc.

We're thinking of going into the consultant business. Why? Because we have lately become aware that The Tattler, above all other publications, blog sites, political groups, social societies, and all the usual oxygen depleting big shots, can get things done, and far more quickly.

It has often been said that City Hall moves very slowly when it comes to getting things done. Be it home improvement plans, licenses, or general business with the city, the common complaint is that "the process" takes a long time. And those who get caught up in it can spend vast amounts of time and money waiting to get what they need from a city administration that seems congenitally indifferent to their needs.

But when a matter catches the notice of The Tattler, and is then posted here, the turnaround is almost instantaneous.

The latest example is the now famous "Strutevant" sign that we discussed last Friday. If a complaint about this street sign had been registered with City Hall by concerned residents through normal channels, the "process" could have taken weeks. But because it was pictured and discussed here in all its misspelled glory, the matter was corrected in one single day. A remarkably brisk pace for any town, and certainly one that has never seen here before.

We have posted a picture of the now properly spelled "Sturtevant" sign today because we want everyone to see that the correction has indeed been made. Credit to the City where credit is due.

Though there is one problem. The correctly spelled sign is smaller than the N. Mountain Trail Ave sign it shares a pole with. We believe this is because corner signs on prominent thoroughfares are larger than those on the more obscure corners, and that in order to quickly change out what had been an embarrassment to City Hall, they had to make use of an available smaller sign. There was nothing else they could do.

Anyway, because of the remarkable ability of The Tattler to hustle things along in this town, we want everyone to know that they can send their problems with the City our way. Think of us as your very own personal consultant, one that is willing to help you survive your municipal difficulties. And we won't charge you a dime to do it. We'll just post your grievance here for all the world to see.

It is a community service that we are proud to perform.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

So Who Is This Peter Dreier Guy Anyway?

The more you look into the sleazily disreputable and dishonest campaign run against Sean Baggett, the more the name of Peter Dreier keeps coming up. His fingerprints seem to be everywhere in the apparently successful effort to defame the school teacher who wanted to serve on the Pasadena Unified's Board of Education. I'd call it an unprecedented assault, but then again it wasn't anything that we haven't seen before.

A nasty body of work it is, too. With everything from unfounded accusations of criminal behavior to claims that a record of felonies would cause the PUSD to ban Baggett from school campuses thrown into the mix. That most of it was untrue, and some perhaps even libelous, seems to be besides the point. When you have convinced yourself that you are the great defender of a mighty and righteous cause, such inventions should never be put aside just because they are untrue. Besides, lying is now considered to be privileged behavior for those with the connections to sustain it. It's one of the peccadilloes of our age. And apparently Dr. Dreier feels that he numbers among that elite group for whom truth is malleable and can be altered to serve certain purposes. Truth being the burden of those without prestigious connections.

The questions have to be asked: Is Peter Dreier the one individual more responsible for the nasty tone of this election than anybody else? Is he the driving force behind this unfortunate tactic? And has his special expertise been tapped for other elections as well? First, a little history.

Pasadena resident Peter Dreier teaches politics at Occidental College. That is where he gets his paycheck. But his passion seems to be politics, and in particular the Pasadena Unified School District. And he is not just another person who claims to be a friend of public education, but rather quite deeply involved in the affairs of our local schools. So much so that he became one of the key leaders in the effort to create and pass Measure CC, and served as a member of its steering committee. Measure CC being the recently defeated parcel tax initiative that would have raised the amount of taxes you would be required to pay on your home and other property.

Apparently Dr. Dreier's support for Measure CC was so passionate that after it had failed to meet the voter threshold for approval he still had difficulties dealing with the facts. This from an op-ed piece he wrote for the San Gabriel Valley Tribune dated May 12:

In a normal election, the candidate or issue that gets over half the vote is the winner. When the Measure CC ballots were counted last week, the Pasadena Unified School District parcel tax vote received 54 percent of the vote. Officially CC lost, because under state parcel taxes need a two-thirds vote to pass. But in many respects , this was a vote of confidence in our public schools. Despite the recession, a majority of voters in Altadena, Pasadena and Sierra Madre said 'yes' to a $120-a-year Tax to support the PUSD.

The vote results cited by Dreier here are not accurately presented, at least in regards to Sierra Madre. Out of the 10 districts and towns within the Pasadena Unified School District, at 43.61% Sierra Madre gave the lowest level of approval to Measure CC out of any involved. Dreier's claim that our town gave a majority of our votes for Measure CC is clearly not true.

In a 4/15/10 letter to the Arcadia Weekly, Measure CC opponent Mary Dee Romney of Pasadena pointed out a rather nasty bit of deception orchestrated by Dreier and others.

Throwing away your ballot after you receive it in the mail is as good as a "yes" vote for PUSD's Measure CC parcel tax. The odd couple who brought you PUSD's $350 million Measure TT just 18 months ago, Pasadena Educational Foundation's George Brumder and ACORN's Peter Dreier, once again are at work ... consider (their) conduct in betraying senior homeowners with their promotion of Measure CC's non-existent "senior exemption." The text of Measure CC states clearly that the so-called "senior exemption" is available only to seniors with W-2's qualifying under "very low income" calculations used for Section 8 housing "rental" assistance, by definition precluding qualification by taxpayers and senior homeowners.

The needs of senior homeowners not being at the top of Dr. Dreier's list. But their money apparently is.

Dreier was also one of the main proponents of Measure TT, the voter approved initiative that added $350 million in additional bond debt for our little slice of paradise. And as in this week's election, his veracity was called into question. In an 10/16/08 Op-Ed piece published in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune ("With Measure TT, district seeks money without a plan"), the following observation was made:

Peter Dreier, a proponent of PUSD bond Measure TT, makes a practice of mischaracterizing those with whom he disagrees, apparently hoping to drive them from the conversation.

"Mischaracterizing" being something we saw a lot of in the PUSD Board of Education election.

But perhaps some of the best people to ask about Professor Dreier are his students at Occidental College. As people who have to deal with him in a close and personal setting, their take should be considered important. And if you go to the website you can see that some of his students are quite critical of Dreier.

01/21/05: This is not a class where you learn and are graded on your performance, it is a political indoctrination chamber where you are rewarded with an A if you work for Dreier's political movement outside of class and are punished for it if you do not. If you openly disagree with him, watch out!

12/20/05: An extremely biased and unfair teacher who grades by your political beliefs - I HAVE SEEN IT. He rarely shows up on time for class and has little for you outside of class unless you work on a political campaign for someone he supports. Save yourself from this dope.

08/09/06: I got a B- in this course, even though I did better on all my assignments and tests than two classmates who got A's. I got few points for "class participation," which is this crook's way of punishing those who do not fawn over and agree with him. AVOID this enemy to free thinkers. Oxy should be embarrassed to have him teaching here.

11/20/06: To put it simply, if you are a leftist, communist, Marxist, or cannot think for yourself, take Dreier's class, parrot him, get an A. If you are an independent thinker, anywhere from moderate to conservative politically, and want to speak with your own voice, avoid at all costs. If you question him or don't massage his ego, your grade is toast.

10/31/10: Professor Dreier is definitely intelligent ... But that mastery is lessened by his extreme, EXTREME, liberal bias. He holds grudges, and is pretty much the sum of all the bad personality traits that a professor could have.

In his widely disseminated hit piece against Sean Baggett, "The Little Old Liar From Pasadena," Peter Dreier delivers some fierce accusations. Many of them based on the tried and true political smear tactic of identifying articles about a targeted individual conveniently published in a newspaper (in this case the Pasadena Weekly), and then regurgitating these attacks in a "they said it" kind of way. Think of it as an echo chamber where all noise comes from the same source, yet sounds like the work of many. That Peter Dreier has been a fairly regular contributor to the Pasadena Weekly should be noted, and it is very possible that he may have played a key role in the creation of the anti-Baggett hit pieces found in that paper.

Here is an example of that tactic as employed by Dreier in his "Little Old Liar" piece:

Another scandal regarding Baggett surfaced last month with regard to his job teaching special needs students at Soledad Enrichment Academy, a publicly funded charter school in Los Angeles. One of Baggett's students working on his campaign is being investigated for committing a hate crime for allegedly leaving a message interpreted as a death threat against a gay couple living in Pasadena before the March 8 preliminary election. According to the (Pasadena) Weekly, "Stephen Lipira received a phone call in which the caller left a message identifying himself as some one working for Sean "Faggot" and asking for his vote. The caller later said that he knew where Lipira's home was located and that he would "blow it up," before ending the call by saying, "I will kill you ..."

Sean Baggett denied responsibility for this call, and since he was the one who was referred to as being a "faggot," certainly did not benefit by it. But the purpose of this smear, to establish that Baggett was somehow anti-gay and would be willing to use violence against those who are, was carefully planted. And then given considerable further amplification by Dreier and his dutiful surrogates.

The use of smear tactics in political races has become a standard establishment practice in this area. And the role of local print has been a key element in its promulgation. We saw it in Sierra Madre in 2010, and now in the PUSD Board of Education race in 2011. These things do need to have a source, and someone with the skill and connections to orchestrate them.

And in Peter Dreier we may have found a likely suspect.

Friday, April 22, 2011

No Wonder People Get Lost In Sierra Madre

If you were out tooling around this town called Sierra Madre, and you were looking up your Uncle Bob over on Sturtevant Drive to drop off an Easter basket, the chances are you just might never find his place.

However, you might have been able to locate some place called Strutevant Drive. Not certain that I have ever been there, but this does look like one of those amazing (to use a word) Federally mandated reflective large font street signs that have brought so much excitement to our town.

My advice is to call your friends in advance and get directions that don't have anything to do with signs. "Turn left at the big rock, right at the rosebush with the purple flowers, then stop at the green house with the big tree." That's how it gets done in Sierra Madre.

Oh, and somebody please help the "personel" at City Hall find the spell check on their PCs.

Pictured to the right is an example of how the folks in the Canyon take things into their own hands and do what needs to be done.

A fan writes in with his thoughts on this matter

One of my favorite detractors wrote in this morning, as he almost always does, and if he didn't feel the need to pepper his observations with unfortunate "f-bombs" (and other words that graphically depict human body parts and their functions) I might be able to post his thoughts on this site. But amongst all the scat he did have an interesting observation to make on the "Strutevant Affair," and I thought I'd include it here.

"... it may be that city employees went back to the manufacturer asking for a reprint, a do over, a replacement, a correction ... and the manufacturer wanted more money for it and the city employee said, "No, that's OK. We'll take it as is and save the additional expense." Whoa dude, that's a mind blower right there!

Interesting theory, but I'm not certain that the logic flows properly. If the manufacturer made an error, wouldn't he be obligated to make the correction at no additional cost? Of course, perhaps the spelling error was actually included in the city's work order, which means we would have to pick up that additional cost.

But I don't see how putting up a misspelled street sign really makes all that much sense. From a public relations standpoint, I'm not certain the City will want to have its sad spelling error memorialized for all time by having this sign remain as it is. No matter what the cost. And I suspect that in the near future it will be replaced. Especially after showing up on this blog.

So why'd they change the signs in the first place?

According to a U.S. Department of Transportation site that deals with this important matter, the new Federally mandated requirements for "reflectivity and font size" were put into law "in order to address the needs of the nation's aging population." In other words, the Feds think we're all going blind and couldn't read the old signs anymore.

I couldn't find anything about spelling street names correctly on the site, however. Maybe they shouldn't have made any assumptions about this. Somebody needs to call Barbara Boxer so that this law can be amended.

More news of a Close Encounter of the Third Kind

We did a couple of pieces lately on Stonegate at Sierra Madre, in particular the map found on their website that revealed the paucity of lot sales on their property. Well, obviously this was big news, and especially so for those who are trying to sell those properties. Why do I know that this is so? Because they have now pulled the site. It has vanished.

Check it out by clicking here.

Hopefully they will have something new up soon.