Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Is It Just Me, Or Have City Council Meetings Become Unusually Dull Lately?

John Buchanan is a bit like the father who believes that because his family sits quietly while he goes on and on about whatever is on his mind, they are somehow interested in what he has to say. When what they are really thinking about is how much time is left until they can get up from the dinner table and go someplace where that seemingly endless droning sound can no longer be heard.

Not to say that City Council meetings aren't an acquired taste, because they are. But our new Mayor just seems to have whatever interest these things used to generate by the throat, and is strangling the sweet life out of it.

And so aggressive has Mayor Buchanan become with his flatline approach that he forgot to observe the traditionally required moment of silent reflection at the beginning of the meeting. Perhaps it was the loss of this small moment of grace that set the entire meeting reeling into futility? It is hard to say.

Of course, there were those moments of light that brought some badly needed hope to the proceedings. Mostly provided by the brave souls who wandered into this place in hopes of being heard during Public Comment. But very little light was provided by the Gang of 4. People who, led by a leader they apparently dare not contradict, seem content to repeat whatever it is that he says, and all to very little effect. An echo chamber where everything sounds exactly the same.

But all that said, here are the high (and low) lights.

The Mayor, a League of California Cities devotee if here ever was one, waxed rhapsodic over SB 286. This piece of the Sacramento lobbyist art is an attempt to save Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) from Governor Jerry Brown's wrecking ball. The gimmick is the claim that if RDAs (or CRAs depending on who you are talking to) are spared they will cough up $1 billion dollars for public schools. This to counter Jerry's reasons for ending RDAs, which is to give their yearly $4 billion allotment of property tax money to schools, among other worthy recipients. SB 286, which is also known as the Redevelopment Reform Bill, is now languishing in Committee. Hopefully it will stay there. The rule of thumb here being if the League of California Cities wants something, there has got to be a catch.

A troupe of actors and actresses from the Sierra Madre Playhouse gave a 10 minute preview of their new mystery play. Complete with British accents, which are traditional for the genre.

At public comment Marta Capoccia did something that the Mayor and City Staff should have done, which is to warn people about the push polls currently burning down the phone lines here in Sierra Madre. As seems obvious to many, these push polls are designed to counter the very worthwhile survey being conducted by the General Plan Update Steering Committee. Marti's message is to not be fooled into thinking that the person on the phone is from Sierra Madre, or has your interests in mind. The GPUSC survey is not being done by phone. So if somebody calls with a lot of questions about development or other similar issues, just tell them to take a hike.

Glen Springer spoke at Public Comment as well, and had what sounded to many like a great idea. With the construction of Sierra Madre's Middle School starting to get underway, wouldn't it be good for this City's economy if the people hired to do this work were from Sierra Madre? Construction being one of the fields of endeavor hurt most by the recession that never ends. For his pains Glen was invited by Joe Mosca to speak before some committee of the Pasadena Unified School District. An organization encumbered by all sorts of obligations to various L.A. County construction unions and political pressure groups.

Fay Angus spoke about the 4th of July Committee's highly confusing parade participant application form. The principle at stake here is whether the Parade is an occasion for the people of this town to express their patriotism while having a lot of fun, or just another instance where the City collects its fees. According to the City Manager, the fees involved do not include individual participants, only businesses. Which apparently is the way it has been done for a while. However, this new application does not make that at all clear, which has annoyed quite a few people in town. City Staff will look into this, said the City Manager.

MaryAnn MacGillivray noted that if residents are going to have to pay to participate in the parade, then City Council members should as well. Elected officials, from both here and beyond, are now exempt from such fees.

The Rotary Club gave $20,000 to the Children's Library. Which is good news for Dr. Seuss and the Wimpy Kid.

Much ado was made over Joe Mosca's acceptance of the late arriving honorary gavel given to former Mayor's after their year of duty is up. But once again, Joe's boisterous supporters were not there to help celebrate Joe's year in office. Something that resulted in this ceremony being conducted to an eerie near silence.

Doctor Sami came armed with a fully loaded PowerPoint presentation about his woes regarding the fees he is required to pay to build up his facility into a full-fledged medical center. His presentation was larded over with the usual pictures designed to invoke the love we all have for our community. Which is good unless you don't like purple very much.

But what most impressed me about Dr. Sami's informational slide show was the music he chose as background. It had a distinctly Middle Eastern flair, complete with accordions and a very long sax solo. I found myself wondering where my Borat DVD might be. Or if the good Doctor might be planning on stripping down to one of those stylish over the shoulder mens' swimming thongs first made popular by the main protagonist from that movie.

The fees Dr. Sami was being asked to endure, should the City have decided to enforce them, would have set this honored medical practitioner back around $109,000. The City Council, deciding in this instance that its fees are unfair, as a penance offered to pay around $76,000 of those charges out of CRA funds. A magical exercise in finance that will in effect transfer that considerable sum of money from the CRA to our Public Facilities Fund, with Dr. Sami never actually touching a red cent of it.

The subject of the State Redistricting Committee came up, and as predicted by The Tattler yesterday Joe Mosca became quite animated by the topic. The prospect of new districts to run for state legislative office in is apparently something the former mayor thinks about often. John Buchanan then limited the conversation to himself as only he can do, giving a long soliloquy on what it's all about. There was a form from the Committee that the City Council needed to fill out, and that is what they did.

MaryAnn MacGillivray spoke about the seizure of control over local planning by Sacramento, and how cities such as ours no longer have any real sway over how our town is to be developed. Apparently Soviet-style central planning is all the rage in the capitol city these days. Should we be ordered to do so, the state planners now calling the shots can tell us what to build and where, no matter what Measure V or our Hillside and Canyon ordinances happen to say. Both SCAG and SB 375 play important roles in this travesty, done in the belief that if you build miles and miles of identical cookie cutter condos the world will somehow be saved from global warming. Which, if true, must mean that Rancho Cucamonga is the greenest city on the planet.

The Gang of Four did not seem troubled by what MaryAnn was warning them about, however. Perhaps realizing that what Sacramento is really doing here is rewarding its development and realty lobbies for their years of great generosity. Something they have long hoped to do themselves I suspect. At least on the local level.

Liaison appointments to various organizations were made. The most prized, the SGVCOG slot, was given to the noted regional planning expert Nancy Walsh. This is a voting position at the COG, and I suspect that Nancy was deemed worthy by the Mayor for this honor due to the unlikelihood of her ever having any real opinions. She'll just cast whatever vote John tells her to cast.

That is how it rolled last night. I guess you had to be there.

The Water Rate Lawsuit

We made the Pasadena Star News this fine morning. In the article "Attorney: Sierra Madre blogger files lawsuit against city over water rate hike," (click here for further enlightenment), the following was said:

The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Friday "based on the city's ongoing refusal to comply with the written notice requirements of Proposition 218, which amended California's Constitution," said Attorney Kurt Zimmerman, the city's former mayor, who is representing Crawford.

Seeking another opinion on the matter, the PSN's reporter got current Sierra Madre Mayor John Buchanan on the horn for his take on the action.

"We had more outreach to the community for this Prop 218 process probably than any other city has ever done, he said. "We had public forums, community discussions and information put out for this water rate increase and the reasons for it."

In the article Mayor Buchanan does not indicate which of the several contradictory reasons given for the water rate hike he was referring to, or how conducting water walks and giving school kids educational tours of the pump house are connected to the constitutional requirements of Prop 218. But maybe he'll be getting to all of that soon.


  1. In his response to the Pasadena Star News and a clear case of Mayor Buchanan knowing what's best for his idiot children he touts the public outreach dog and pony show produced by the Council and City Staff. He fails to note that there was little to zip attendance at the events. Papa may think he knows best but the time worn metaphor that leading the horse to water won't make it drink is worth trotting out. Hard choices Buchanan? I'll make my own, thank you.

    Job well done Kurt and John.

  2. John "Fog Bank" Buchanan was in rare form last night. He might want to consider using Dr. Sami's soundtrack for his presentations, too.

  3. Are dogs and ponies allowed in a courtroom?

  4. The dog and pony shows Mayor Ginger Heard refers to are irrelevant, as they took place after the defective notice went out and the period to file objections expired.

  5. The dogs and ponies were because they knew they'd screwed up the Prop 218 deal. Especially after it came out that all the old pipe talk was a fraud.
    Somehow they thought this would put the genii back in the bottle.

  6. It was almost a full hour of congratulations and award presentations and thanks that began the meeting last night. An hour.
    Once years ago Fay Angus suggested having one time a month devoted to the honorary this and thats, and that would be the perfect way to help the council meetings focus on their duties, and minimize the politiking.
    Save the fun celebratory stuff for that once a month celebratory gathering, and have play performances and orchestrated DVDs there too.
    That meeting could have been done in less than 2 hours....

  7. Buchanan's quote to the PSN is just the first in what will no doubt be a flood from the CC-1 and city staff of misdirection and obfuscation.

  8. The highlight for me was when MacGillivray said that the state is only forcing us to "provide the opportunity" for building what we're told, but that we all know that someone will build given that opportunity no matter how inconceivable it seems. Refreshing honesty from her, as usual.

  9. council observerMay 11, 2011 at 8:16 AM

    So since we are providing the opportunity for a homeless shelter on Montecito?

  10. Twice now the Playhouse has used the City Council as a stage to promote their shows. A three minute time at public comment is all they should get. This is nothing but advertising that no other business would be allowed to do. Can you imagine if KFC had been allowed to parade around as southern chickens or the defunct motor bike shop had a mini demo about their product. City Council meetings are for City business not side shows. This nonsense needs to stop and now.

  11. The presentation by the Sierra Madre Playhouse cast reminded me of why I hope never to set foot in the place. Really inappropriate at the City Council and exceeding the three minute rule... in fact did any of the commentors confine their comments to three minutes? Papa must have been feeling a little out of control.

  12. Time dilation occurs when Buchanan is running the show. Need realtime benchmark

  13. Did anyone catch the picture the Tattler uses of the Evasion of the Body Snatchers as part of Dr Sami's presentation? By the way what was the point of that presentation anyway? It had nothing to do with the money that he wanted. Might as well go to him as any other nonsense thing on their list. At least he is not getting back the $20 K for parking.

  14. I thought the actors were brave and love their art, to perform well in such circumstances, restless kids, crying babies, impatient political types, isn't easy and they did a good job. But I'm in 100% agreement that it is not appropriate at a council meeting. The council meeting should be about governmental business and that's it.

  15. Look at it this way: the longer the meetings are, the less resident participation there will be.
    Now who is that good for?

  16. Did anyone catch the Highland/Heritage development bit?

    Was it just an OK let's agree to be exclusive with them, or what?

  17. 8:56, all I can figure was that the Dr. Sami DVD Extravaganza was to woo the crowd and the council so that lost in the wonder of the new building and the beauty of music nobody would keep their eyes on the money.

  18. Dr. Sami had 'em at "provide emergency services in the event of a catastrophe". And wasn't Ms. Walsh animated? Phlebotomy services? Lab services? Full service City on the Hill style.

  19. Dr. Sami is there for one reason. This is his business. When he expands he makes more money. It has nothing to do with providing extras to the city. He found a niche that wants his services and he is making the most of it. I don't hold this against him. If he wasn't going to make more money...he would not be expanding. He said there would be more jobs. Will he hire from Sierra Madre? He stated that in an emergency, most of his staff could not get here because they do not live in the area. So there you have it. He does not employ residents, just people who will need parking which he can not provide.

  20. Heritage deal means we are going steady with them for a while. However, The 3 units only thing might lead to us breaking up. Heritage will turn out to be an expensive squeeze I think. Just like all the others.

  21. How many actors @ 3 minutes each? Did they exceed their time or yield their left-over time to the next speaker? (something which we are chided to not do at most big hearings).

    I agree--no more of this foolery--all the world's a stage. Etc. etc. etc. (please say that in your best Yule Brenner fake King of Siam voice).

    And get the hook for that actor the fake mayor. The stagehand will have to wait 11 months, then get the mop and bucket for after each CC meeting that mayor minor actor Moran will play.

  22. 9:32 right you are about having them at providing medical assistance in emergencies, for good reason - we absolutely need that for the next big earthquake. Also there was talk that the doctors and nurses who do live in town will have some sort of organizing to do so that there will be people who can get to his facility in a catastrophe. We're talking freeway collapse type catastrophe, roads impassable, etc. Let's just make sure this offer holds true. I had the impression that somebody told him it would do the trick, just like somebody told him the parking in lieu of would do the trick for not having enough parking.

  23. In our city, a goodly portion of the council meetings are dedicated to Public Relations.
    And those council member reports? More public relations.
    They are not supposed to be about how great the functions the members attended were or what they ate there, but about relevant city business.
    The only person who seems to get what the reports are for is Mrs. Macgillvrey. The others have 10% relevance, 90% fluff.

  24. Buchanan's quote should have been

    We had more misleding and false outreach to the community for this BS Prop 218 process which we tossed under the bus and we probably than any other city has ever done, he said. "We had incomplete public forums, false emergency community discussions and bogus information put out for this water rate increase and the reasons for it."

    Buchanan added, "Some of the reasons we were hiding from the public were a new 7 million dollar libarary that I wanted in the city because I want my name on something. Granted we lied to the citizens of Sierra Madre about a emergency state of collapse, but then Mayor Mosca and I decided that if we can hide the truth, nobody would find out"

    In retrospect, Buchanan said, "I wish we had hidden our agenda a little more. Mayor Mosca had promised in return for City Staff ignoring Prop 218 that we'd spend 50,000 on a new city counter. It is really a shame that we had a group of citizens who expect us to follow the law and not allow us to do what we want. My employer, SoCal Edison allowed me to be on the Council to help developers and I am a firm believer that SCAG is correct and our city should double it's population which benefits my employer."

    When asked, Buchanan denied that he and Mosca were circumventing the state constitution to cover the actions of previous councils that had secured millions of taxpayer dollars and squandered the monies on special pork developer projects.

    "Not true", said Buchanan. "Well, maybe it's sort of true, okay all of it's true. Just because some of my key supporters that were on the councils that borrowed heavily against the city future security, Ifelt obligated to hide the actions from the people of Sierra Madre. What they don't know helps my buddies. It's no big deal that I lied and I was at the forefront of leading the city in the deception"

  25. I'll bet Dr. Sami's elaborate presentation was not made for the City Council, but for future investors in his project. As for emergency services, the fire and police depts. should get together with Dr. Sami and have an emergency program ready to go by the time Dr. Sami completes his building - in fact the organizing of medical personnel who live in or near Sierra Madre chould be done now.

    Our City Manager makes up the agenda. She should have had the presentatons done prior to anything else on the agenda except the pledge, approval of minutes and agenda. To make school age children stand outside the council chambers for a half-hour or so was not good plannning.

  26. Is City Hall trying to make the meetings more appealing by bringing in a show business aspect to the proceedings?

  27. Maybe the meeting was dull because Moran wasn't there to make his inane quips.

  28. Nah. How many bobbles can a bobble head bob?

  29. channel 3 watcherMay 11, 2011 at 11:56 AM

    Council member Moran was there in an eerie disembodied way. His voice was louder than anyone else's which is why it was easy to hear him say "Pretty cool" when Dr. Sami's show was over.

    The camera focused on his name plate when he spoke too.

  30. When Buchanan was making sure that the hook up was good and Josh could hear and be heard, and they were shooting the breeze, I think Buchanan said "We have a lot of students here tonight Josh so beware."

  31. The RDAs or CRAs (why 2 acronyms?) have a billion dollars to spare? They want to buy more time for their disreputable selves to continue by giving up a billion dollars.The offer stinks, and their desire to give up that much to save themselves stinks too.

  32. How much bobble could a bobble head bobble if a bobble head could bob bobble...ta da!

  33. The City Manager does set the agenda but meets with the Mayor and the Mayor Pro-usually before hand to get their imput at least this was the argument put forth when by-passing Kris Miller-Fisher when she said she was not running for re-election. The gang of four then --Lambden, Hayes, Doyle and Stockley--declared that though she was 'in line' for the Pro-tem position since she was not going to run for re-election there was no need for her to be in that position where throughout the year she would have been preparing for the position of Mayor. That was the way it was framed then, who knows now?

  34. Pa thinks the time has come for Buchanan to divorce Sierra Madre: "It's the smart political move. Hasta la vista, Verbosinator."

  35. I heard Buchanan refer to the Senate Bill to Save the CRAs, SeBiSCRAS, as the 'right' bill.
    Yep. He's 'mildly hopeful the right bill will hold sway over the Governor's plan.'
    Right for whom?
    Certainly not this town.

  36. Thanks for the link to SB286. It's a We're sorry and we'll do better next time bill.

    "Specifically, SB 286 would:
    * tighten the definition of blight;
    * prohibit agencies from collecting the school share of local property tax or tax increment in new project areas starting in 2012;
    * limit the percentage of total land area of a jurisdiction which may be included in redevelopment project areas;
    * prohibit use of tax increment for specific purposes such as golf courses and race tracks;
    * strengthen agency reporting and accountability requirements; and
    * focus redevelopment activities on priorities such as job creation, cleaning up contaminated property, basic infrastructure needs, and affordable housing."

    I don't see bars building big tanks for girls to swim in on the prohibited list. But they did throw out the magic incantaion "affordable housing."

  37. Anonymous @7:11 a.m., it depends on the judge. Some judges allow dogs and ponies in their courts and some do not.

  38. Buchanan sings "ungovernable, that's what you are"May 11, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    11:54 I wanted to post all that on the comment section of Pasadena Star News, but you know how deletie they get. Got a jab in about the rusty pipe though!!

  39. oh shoot 10: 54 not 11:54,

  40. a regular readerMay 11, 2011 at 2:11 PM

    1:54/1:57, I figured that out, and your song title creation is superb.

  41. omg, Neuroblast has a vid up of Mosca on Redevelopment. It came from that local broadcast, SoCal. Mosca says that today, we're using redevelopment funds to clean up blight in the city. It's on TV! That big lie on TV! Look at the 40 second point. Unbelievable.

  42. Perhaps Mr. Mosca didn't realize that there was to be a tightening up of the definition of blight.

  43. Just tabulated my water bond file from the cities recent past. Hot and ready to pass on to the appropriate blogmaster and lawyer(s).

  44. Other than the former SNF (which is about to be unblighted) I can't really think of a single property within Sierra Madre's redevelopment boundries that I'd consider blighted.

  45. No CRA funds went to any development of the SNF, so that's out.
    Blight in Sierra Madre is just a polite fiction for misuse of State dollars. Our dollars.

  46. Pasadena's Fire Stations and Libraries are being cited as seimically out of date. One FS was taken out of service in the last two weeks and a second is slated for major retrofit. The libraries including Central Library are being scrutinized. So when do you think Sierra Madre will discover that the Fire Station and City Hall will need to be seismically retrofitted? Keep in mind the DSP (thank you RBF Consulting) recommended a new library be built closer to the center of town.

    We could see attempts to rehab and rebuilt during the tenure of the re-Mayor and his buddy the baby-Mayor.

  47. Mr. Buchanan is one of the most self absorbed naccarsistic out of touch egomanical corporate drones I've ever met.

    Wait, I've met Joe Mosca.

    It's a tie.

  48. They couldn't have been better described Anon @ 5:48.


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