Thursday, January 26, 2012

Did the City of Sierra Madre Spend CRA Money On Things It Shouldn't Have?

You have to wonder what the consequences are going to be. The City is in the hole for $800,000 this year alone. There is also the matter of how much other CRA debt was also accrued in recent years. Have we been told about that yet? And should the City of Sierra Madre be audited by Sacramento as part of their $1.7 billion CRA rake back, will they conclude that much of our portion of the pie was not legally spent and demand that we give a lot of it back?

We could be in for a lot of trouble here. The catch being that nobody is really going to know for sure how much trouble at this point. And that includes the people running this town. I'm sure the City understands its potential exposure, but whether or not Sacramento will actually go to the long knives, or if they do, point them in our direction, is still up in the air.

According to City documents our Community Redevelopment Agency (RIP) has three appropriation funds. These are operational/agency appropriations, debt appropriation, and low-mod housing appropriation. Additionally, the Agency shared approximately 20% of the allocated cost in the Administration, Public Works and Development Services. But were they involved in the kinds of legally valid CRA projects that would justify the use of so much of the Agency's funds?

And that is where much of the trouble lies. As an example, the City's CRA (Redevelopment Agency) numbers from the current budget:

Personnel Costs:
Administration ---- $67,220
Elected Officials --- $9,764
Development Services --- $278,418
Public Works --- $21,958
Community Services --- $0
Non-Personnel Costs:
Administration ---- $685,464
Elected ---- $0
Development Services ---- $2,813,359
Public Works --- $151,481
Community Services ---- $0
Total for all above ---- $4,049,826
Total for personnel only ---- $377,360

The catch is Sierra Madre does not have any real redevelopment or CRA-style projects underway right now. Despite what you might have heard from one elected fool (click here), Sierra Madre doesn't have any of the kinds of blight fighting projects CRAs were created to fight. Plus the Senior Care Facility is pretty much rolling along now, with only upkeep and rent collections to worry about. And the low-mod housing project on Highland isn't really even a project yet. The residents there stopped it dead in its tracks last year, and ever since nothing much has happened. Nor is the ALF really underway, and isn't the developer picking up most of the existing planning costs anyway?

All of which will make justifying a $267,418 spend on Development Services personnel (salaries, retirement, benefits) hard to explain to auditors from Sacramento should they be sent our way.

Cities all over the State of California have been using their CRAs as a piggy bank. The question is how much money was taken out of that piggy bank, and what exactly was it used for. With no truly valid new CRA projects in existence, the Development Services spend alone looks extremely suspect.

What's possibly illegal here is the use of a big portion of the CRA's allocation on things that are either marginally, or not at all, related to legitimate CRA projects. The numbers we are seeing here, put under the magnifying glass of a state auditor whose mission is to reclaim as much money as possible, could end up looking rather suspect.

Here is another thing. Our state mandated City audits are once again late. According to people that I spoke with this afternoon, the City of Sierra Madre has only now hired an auditor to do the numbers. Which means we are not just way behind schedule once again, but could end up turning our audit in over a year late. The State requires that every City must generate its annual reports in timely manner, and they must come with an audit. Without fail. With no report or audit from us to refer to in Sacramento, we will attract the interest of people we'd rather avoid at this point.

Being a year behind could make us a target. And this is definitely the wrong year to be late with our paperwork.

More Funny Josh Tricks

At Tuesday's City Council meeting Josh Moran aired out the prospect of cuts being made in areas that will directly affect residents. These being due to the loss of CRA funds. Those targeted included such traditional hostages such as the Library and Community Services.
However, neither of these hostages have received CRA funds, and therefore would make them odd targets for cuts.

Of course, the real reason for this move by the Councilman is politics. Threats to things such as our Library almost always generate an emotional response in our City, and this would help Josh and his allies to free up some city General Fund reserves to prop up CRA concerns that are their real source of interest.

It is good to see that as our City slips into serious financial crisis at least some of our elected leadership is willing to stoop to scare tactics and demagoguery to achieve narrow ends that are irrelevant to solving any real problems.

Moody's Downgrades California Redevelopment Bonds

From the California Planning & Development Report (click here) comes this little ray of sunshine:

Credit rating agency Moody's Investors Service downgraded by one notch all California tax allocation bonds rated Baa2 and above. Moody's is monitoring all other redevelopment bonds and may issue a downgrade in the future.

It is nice to know that those CRA bonds we will be struggling to keep up payments on are settling down into a rating somewhere close to junk. It appears that Moody's is aware of the huge financial pressures cities such as ours are now going through, and they fear the potential effects on CRA bonds.

Apparently things are bad all over.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com/

84 comments:

  1. Misappropriation of funds is a felony in the private sector. Will any heads roll?

    ReplyDelete
  2. No hole in my pocket yetJanuary 26, 2012 at 6:03 AM

    Do you ever get the feeling that were paddling one way and the local government is paddling the other way saying no, this way, this way. Sure seems like they've been doing that to us for a long time here, now we know why. How are we going to pay for this boondoggle

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  3. When one considers the spread of CRA money through out California over the years.The question is,are there enough jails to house these swindlers!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's an excellent question!
      I fear the answer is no, there is not enough jail space, and that's why these swindlers will probably get off the hook.

      Kurt Zimmerman warned of the consequences of not doing a forensic audit of Sierra Madre. We are now about to see those dire warnings come to pass.

      Delete
  4. I remember a lot of highfalutin speeches from Mayor Buchanan about how the state is trying to steal our CRA money and how cities are fighting back. Turns out that the City might have been stealing CRA tax money from us. And now, of course, they're going to want us to make up for it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Can we sue the mayor/council members who violated the Brown Act to agendize, and vote for blatant misuse of CRA funds?

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  6. Why do you think all of those CRA meetings were held in secret?

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  7. Anon 6:25
    Are you saying Johnny "Double Speak" Buchananananananan runnnith at the mouth, he lies? You may have something there.
    Lets go to the Video Clips!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eh2xCZn3hTw

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  8. You think things are bad now? Wait'll Mayor Moran and Mayor Pro Tem Walsh are calling the shots. Chances are we'll be taken over by the County within 6 months. Good luck stopping overdevelopment then!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We can stop them. The people, the voters, the residents of Sierra Madre can stop them. We elect a council majority who will not be part of the problem.
      You all know who that needs to be, if we are to survive as we know it.

      Remember, only one councilmember, has consistently been against Sierra Madre being involved with CRA money and paying "dues" to be involved in bogus agencies like SCAG.

      Voters had better re-elect MacGillivray and make sure other elected officials support the preservation of Sierra Madre, such as the people wish it to be. No more supporting over development and major political parties that support it.

      Delete
  9. Why did the City oppose a forensic audit like it was life and death? Because of the things we are seeing now. Now that the CRA is dead all the bodies are rising to the surface.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yikes! You're right!
      The criminals will try to hide the bodies and give us a new spin.
      Stay tuned.

      Delete
    2. One of the bodies resigned his council seat and left the country.
      Whose next?

      Delete
    3. Shenanigan Years vs. a forensic audit
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwmhuk_Vut4

      Listen to Buchanan put words in Zimmermans mouth.

      Delete
    4. Better check the CRA ledger for shovels.

      Delete
  10. Nice to see where all that "civility" got us. Straight into bankruptcy.

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  11. Hey! C'mon people! Everything is OK! Josh knows where we can get some very attractive low interest loans!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Josh will protect us, he'll hire all his friends to be "volunteers". All we'll have to do is raise our UUT to 20%.
      Piece of cake. Thanks, Josh. Always looking out for us.

      Delete
    2. Only 20%. Doubt that.
      Hold onto your wallets, Sierra Madre, Josh and pals are about to pick your pocket.

      Delete
  12. "Absolutely! It's only a few extra dollars a month!"

    ReplyDelete
  13. Easy money and slick talk. The Buchanan/Moran style of government.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Why do we have a Development Service Department if we have no development? The Answer was to do COG dirty works. The whole department needs to be shut down period.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 2 quick cuts. Development Services and Colontuono & Levin. $500,000 saved.

      Delete
    2. Or we could just demand a total city wide moratorium on all building until water rate lies/ bond lies are corrected.
      Earl Richey? You are sure welcome to post on this board.

      Delete
  15. Sell all the CRA properties. Pay down all debt, including bonds. Cut costs. Start over at City Hall. Build it over from scratch.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, that would probably work

      Delete
  16. Stop all the abusive lawsuits where only the attorneys are making money. Maybe now the City Government will be for the people instead of against the people as it has been for the Selective Few and a Troll.

    The City Manager is like the Captain of the ship and the ship is going down. The only way to right our ship is to replace the Captain before she is allow to sink our ship. The City Manager needs to be thrown overboard...FIRED immediately! Because of her direction and suggestions to the city council this City is in a financial melt down.

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  17. Beware, all property acquired using CRA funding belongs to the State, we really don't own it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How much do you think City Hall is worth?

      Delete
  18. I think we should put to a city wide vote in April whether Elaine stays or is fired. Also put to a vote should be whether we get rid of our planning department/development service department and our current policing structure. Does a town of 10,000 people really need a code enforcement officer? Does Elaine justify a salary in the 6 figures? So much money is being squandered by the current administration. It is apparent that drastic cuts need to be implemented and they are cuts that would not affect the services that the citizens actually do need and want. The citizens of Sierra Madre should be making the important decisions! It has been exemplified by past decisions of the current city council, that they do not have the ability to make a qualified or thoughtful decision. This town needs to be run by the people not as the poster 7:35 put, the selective few or a troll.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Don't think you can get along without a Planning Department (the name all cities call that kind of work, except us - thanks to Bart Doyle for the name change.) There has to be someone to help residents do plan checks, compliance with codes, etc., if they want to add something, build something. And there are, every once in a while, good ideas for developments from honest developers. Every great once in a while.

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  20. Another late audit. In the 8 years Buchanan has been on the city council, how many late audits have there been? No wonder our credit rating is shot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The audit is not technically late, however it should have been completed in October at the latest. They are just now getting around to looking for auditors. What was all that fancy software that Karen bought supposed to do? Considering the mess the city is in, we need those numbers yesterday...not in three or four months.

      Delete
  21. This is good timing for the campaign.
    Each person running for office can be forced to answer the question, exactly what services will you cut?
    Not would you cut if you had to, but exactly, precisely, what are you going to cut?

    ReplyDelete
  22. 8:39
    We already sub out all of the a fore mentioned services to an independent outside service agency. Our Development Service Department is just a paper pusher that is known for losing and purging documents every couple of years. We do not have even enough building to justify even a building inspector, that can also be outsourced just like the police department should be.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Josh is wanting the Library Trustees and The Community Services Commission to be the bad guys. When he is mayor, he will then say, "They is what they proposed." It is interesting that he wants cuts made in the areas that received no CRA funds for Staff. Also those cuts will be most apparent to the residents. Perhaps a tactic for the higher UUT.

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  24. Crawford writes today:
    "Apparently things are bad all over".

    Understatement of the day.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Bad but worse for smaller poor run cities like Sierra Madre. We can not afford to hire the best so we are forced to hire the unexperienced or least qualified.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sierra Made's problem is not so much who is hired but rather who is elected. We have a chance to change that this election.

      Delete
    2. Yes, and the choice is clear. What the pro-development/political wonks of Sacramento have done has worked out badly for us. It's going to get much worse unless we make 3 smart choices this April.

      Delete
  26. Some folks thought the city hired the best when it gave Coluantuno & Levin carte blance to run the City Attorney function and we're paying the "best" rate. So that's not the answer. I say give the money to Zimmermann and let him be City Attorney. At least we'd have someone who cares about our issues. At best we'd have the best.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. Key positions in our city government should be held by people who not only live here, but have a history of caring about our town as well. Now all we have are mercenaries, people who who pay but are not really on our side.

      Delete
    2. John Shear and Diane Shear would support Kurt Zimmerman in a second for City Attorney.
      In fact, we wish he was running for President of the U.S.

      Delete
  27. For the newly elected City Council:
    Priority #1: Replace SMPD with contract law enforecement;
    Priority #2: Put out an RFP to replace the City Attorney;
    Priority #3; Close down all non-essential city services;
    Priority #4: Furlough all city employees starting with two days a month (16 hours);
    Priority #5: Freeze all cost of living, all increases, temporarily suspend tuition reimbursements;
    Priority #6: Freeze all travel, conferences, and out of town meetings;

    And then re-evaluate in three months.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Is there anyway we can tell what exactly all of that CRA money was spent on? You'd think that large an amount of cash would have made a big difference in town. I've see nothing except an outhouse and a wine tasting shop.

    ReplyDelete
  29. For my money I'm okay with any of the candidates but Goss (only because he's only known to a half dozen of Buchanan's acolytes). They all appear conservative and genuinely interested in Sierra Madre with a considerable amount of time in the community. I have my favorites, of course, and MaryAnn MacGillivray sits at the top of the list. But I say the day after the election we get rid of the two deadweights on the Council - and you know who you are. Recall is a viable political tool. Depending on what comes out in the run up to the election we can draft the candidates who weren't elected.

    Without the CRA and the pots of money development depends on, we're in a much better position to maintain a pattern of measured grown. The next City Council will downsize city government and practice financial restraint.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Appearance is all smoke and mirrors for two of the candidates. Do you really want a liberal political organizer as a council member?

      Delete
    2. Is liberal supposed to be a bad word? Am I supposed to have my heart skip a beat when you use it along with the quick intake of breath? It's a pejorative, right? Tool.

      Delete
  30. Yes, 10:20 am, there is. But it involves printing all of the budgets and staff reports for at least the current fiscal year. Sharpen your pencil and and look for the CRA fund expenditures. The data is there. Once you identify the $$$, demand the back up even if it takes a PRA.

    Power washing the downtown sidewalks shouldn't be a CRA expense

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our CRA was used as a convenient piggy bank to fill in some of the financial gaps. But was it really our money? Will we be asked to pay it all back? Those are the big questions.

      Delete
  31. Mr. Koerber, Mr. Brauderick, Mjr. Harabedian, Mr. Capoccia, Mrs. MacGillivray, Mr. Tice, and Mr. Goss: hear this!!! Throw the weasel Doyle off the PUSD Redistricting Task Force!! All his kids went to private school. He's attempting to polish his badly tarnished halo before sentencing.

    ReplyDelete
  32. The city was fined the last time we turned in a late audit. Perhaps Buchanan, Walsh, Moran and their mentor Doyle would be willing to pay that penalty out of their own pockets since they've picked ours dry.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Walsh would want to double the payment for the penalty; she's just that kind of gal.

      Delete
  33. How can the Developer's Servicing Department justify the Staff salaries coming from the CRA? What projects? Wine tasting room and fee waivers for Dr Sami for over a 1/4 million dollars?

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  34. How many times did the Council demand Danny Castro and his staff write reports for the 186 W Higland site, the Montecito homeless shelter, the wine tasting room, Dr. Sami's project, and any of the myriad staff reports demanded of all the other departments? Staff time, consultants, supplies, OT for appearances, it all adds up. City staff does not work for free, nor does it appear at committee, commission, and council meetings gratis. Even projects that don't go forward accumulate costs...

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  35. It seems very possible to me that this money was used for a lot of purposes, and not just those outlined in the budget.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Second on Zimmerman for City Attorney, but what we really need is a great City Manager to run Sierra Madre on a day-by-day basis. That would be the perfect job for Kurt.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely. Or, as Josh would say, absolutely! But whoever it is, no more mercenaries. Sierra Madre residents only, please!

      Delete
  37. For the troll who was bashing Kurt yesterday. Wasn't he the Mayor when the City finally balanced its budget and completed the municipal audits?

    Didn't he raise around $3 million to pay off our Santa Anita fire debt by calling and writing other elected officials in Sacramento and D.C.?

    ReplyDelete
  38. I agree with both comments! However, First we need to fire Elaine and pay the price for a Qualified City Manager that is not here for her next job but for the job at hand. Sierra Madre with the village attitude.

    ReplyDelete
  39. My heart goes out to Kurt. Everytime he intervenes to help the City, he gets slimed. Remember the cumquat and all the horrible and untrue things said about him in the other papers.

    ReplyDelete
  40. 1:41. Love the irony. Joe made trips on the taxpayers' dime to Sacramento and Washington, D.C., but didn't raise a penny. Kurt calls and writes and raises millions.

    ReplyDelete
  41. The City now has its REVISED Mitigated Negative Declaration for the ALF project up on their webby. The deadline for written comments is February 14, 2012 at 5pm.

    The city's revised notice claims that the revised documents can be found at City Hall, the Library, and on the City's website at:
    http://www.cityofsierramadre.com/departments/development-services

    ReplyDelete
  42. Does the revised negative declaration reflect the decision of the Planning Commission, or is the City still pretending that Measure V does not apply to that project.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gonna need people to check that. I'll be a-working late tonight and I won't get a chance to go through it. That said, I'd love to write about it for tomorrow. Please jot down your observations here and I will include them in tomorrow's post.

      Thanks!

      Delete
  43. Quick skim of the document reveals nomention of density, Measure V, or the need to submit this project to the voters. Check me on this, please. Otherwise it's a workmanly mitigated negative declaration. One error: in one place it refers to 75 staff (no more than 25 at one time); another section refers to 25 total new employees.

    I'll give it a later read, but my first reaction it that Mr. Yamachika produced a document suitable for the City Council to approve and in effect ignored Measure V.

    ReplyDelete
  44. It was always a done deal that the council would ignore the planning commission.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The occupation government doesn't believe it needs to accede to a vote of the people on the ALF. Even if it is gauranteed to win. Democracy and a law that was voted into existence by the people means nothing to them.

      Delete
  45. The Planning Commission determined that Measure V applies by rejecting the City's narrow interpretation of the initiative. Development Services in the Revised Study determined to reject the Planning Commission's determination.

    Both Danny Castro and Greg Yamachika, the City Planner, were at the Commission meeting. So, there's no excuse for the two of them blowing off the Planning Commissioners.

    ReplyDelete
  46. All of the people who spoke at the Planning Commission and the Commission's decision were window dressing. It's just the hoop the developers had to tolerate jumping through before they could appear at the council to get permission. With Sierra Madre doing so well, so much money, so much water, why wouldn't you want the alfington?

    ReplyDelete
  47. What is the next move?
    Another law suit?

    ReplyDelete
  48. 3:44, and the city attorney was at the meeting. Don't forget that. Working as hard as he could to make this clarification move not look like what it was.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Just heard, major domo will propose a new NFL Stadium on the settling pond site. It will be tall rather than wide and will be expedited through the CEQA process by Sacramento. Buchanan wants it named "going to the John Stadium" and Josh will handle the concessions, while Nancy has cornered singing the National Anthem on opening day. Suprisingly CRA funds have been found to "seed the project". As Louiie says, "Its a Wonderful Life"

    ReplyDelete
  50. They want to get rid of Measure VJanuary 26, 2012 at 3:54 PM

    I'll bet there's a fair amount of energy and effort put into this from the Buchanan/Moran camp. For Josh of course it is what he was elected to do; for Buchanan, it would be settling old scores and exacting revenge before he leaves. Must have involved lots of strategy meetings, hopes and dreams.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Speaking of those shadows what ever happened to the "Wizzard, Lutz" profiteering on real estate along the Gold Line Route. Did she make out like a bandit?

    ReplyDelete
  52. Preposterous...obtuse....scandalous!!! Amendments,lying & totally ignoring Measure V & ignoring reidents is like all the more reason for g3 to pass this ludicrous alf BS. We should expect nothing less from g3. This is worse than goldberg park. At least goldberg park has left behind just dirt and rats at a high cost to the residents....wait..OMG!!! It's the same development dolly...just a different dress, I mean...a different address!!! If g3 thinks they can avoid Measure V & pass this alf, I can't wait to see the repercussions.Lawless opportunists are not above the law.Mother Nature(aka Sierra Madre)doesn't like developers & this alf is a pariah to vulnerable seniors. Besides the fact that there's everything wrong about it!!!We'll just take it to the news..."Residents rights violated!!! Recall!! CRA misuse of funds??? Where's the budget report???" Sooooooooooooo meaty!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  53. the more Josh speaks the more he sounds like a buffoon

    he makes wild accusations and unfounded claims without every worrying about pesky details like actual facts

    when his council gig is over he is a prime candidate to write for Susan Henderson

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  54. 3:53, Bob Huff will change any law that gets in the way!

    ReplyDelete
  55. World Trickle DownJanuary 26, 2012 at 6:39 PM

    Do you think they're talking about any of this at Davos?

    ReplyDelete
  56. The failure of world capitalism as typified by small foothill cities in the San Gabriel Valley. Bring a lunch.

    ReplyDelete
  57. World economic conference in Switzerland. This year they're discussing the collapse of just about everything. It's a trendy topic.

    ReplyDelete

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