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.