Thursday, January 31, 2013

Shirley Moore: South Bay Wildlife Rehab and the Rescue of a Sierra Madre Great Horned Owl

Watch out, mice.
(Mod: I thought I'd take a break from political scandals and end the month on a happier note. Shirley Moore and Paul Fisher from up in the Canyon, with the assistance of South Bay Wildlife Rehab of Palos Verdes (click here), rescued an injured Great Horned Owl. The mishap apparently occuring right behind Nature Friends in the Canyon, which I guess if you are an owl and need a place to have disaster strike, you couldn't pick a better place. After months of rehab in stylish Palos Verdes our owl was brought back here and returned to the wild on Monday. To the left is a picture of the owl shortly after its release back into the wild. This account is in two parts. The first passage was written by Paul to a fellow Nature Friends member before the owl's rehabilitation, the second by Shirley and it describes the happy ending. It is a great Sierra Madre story.)

I swore that I wouldn't write any bulletin articles this year.  Having been our local editor for 2011, it's now Henny's turn to have fun reporting on the LA Branch's activites.  That said, this week she asked me to photograph for her some recent clubhouse maintenance work so she could write a blurb on it.  Knowing the wisdom of never disagreeing with Henny, I ran up Yucca Trail the very next morning and, upon arriving at the clubhouse, met with Bruce Anderson who directed me up the dormitory stairs where some plumbing was recently repaired.  Not exactly the most exciting news story.

After snapping a few shots I decided to walk a little further up the old trail behind the dorms to get a view of LA from the canyonside.  It was here, out of the corner of my eye, where I encountered a Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus). It was on the ground staring up at me from about five feet away.  Realizing it unusual to encounter an owl at daytime (let alone at night), we shared glances for a few moments when I finally noticed it was injured.  There was a tree branch, about five inches long, impaled in its left shoulder, rendering the poor fellow earthbound- becoming a predator vulnerable to predation (i.e. from coyote, mountain lion, bobcat, even domestic pets).  Perhaps even worse, since a downed owl cannot hunt its eventual fate would be starvation.  Immediately I called upon our caretaker, Ken Symington, who recalled that just two nights before he heard an owl very close by and sounding in distress.  I wasn't sure what to do so I headed down the street to ask Shirley Moore, a fellow member who has has experience with wild animal rescue.  Shirley called the Pasadena Humane Society and, after realizing they would not send anyone to help, took it upon herself (and me) to rescue the owl.  I ran down and got a quilted packing blanket while Shirley got some heavy leather gloves, towels and a portable pet crate.

Returning to the trail we found the owl retreated down a slope but still flightless.  Clearly it was in trouble.  We slowly and calmly were able to surround it with the goal of throwing the blanket over it then transferring it into Shirley's crate.  It was strong enough to evade our first attempt at capture and to coast further down the slope. Shirley successfully blanketed him the second time.  Clearly the owl was already exhausted because there was no struggle as we softly coaxed him into the crate.  He sat still in cautious calm as we headed downhill through a neighbor's yard and then on to to the Humane Society in Pasadena after safely placing our 'birdcage' in Shirley's car.

Amidst all the dogs and cats they receive on a weekly basis, the Humane Society staff seemed mildly surprised when we walked in with our little owl. They immediately took him to their medical personnel to examine the extend of its injury.  We don't know yet what his fate will be but we think he has a good chance of survival.  Whether he'll be able to fly again or not is another story to be told. Such unexpected excitement on a random Saturday.  It all goes to show that it always pays to visit the clubhouse ... and to do Henny a favor.

(Mod: And now Shirley's description of the happy ending.)

In a burst of feathers accompanied by the cheers of a small group of onlookers, a diminutive male great horned owl made a triumphant return to the wilderness behind Nature Friends in Sierra Madre Canyon on Monday night.  Rescued by canyon residents Paul Fisher and Shirley Moore late last May after Paul discovered the bird grounded and defenseless with a broken tree branch protruding from one of his shoulders, the owl resided in a 100-ft. flight cage at South Bay Wildlife Rehab in Palos Verdes ( for several months, recovering from surgery and regaining the strength needed to fly the friendly skies of Sierra Madre again.

Once released, the owl gazed wide-eyed at his audience from atop an initial perch on a nearby post, getting his bearings and perhaps showing his gratitude before soaring away to freedom in the tall trees.  We all wish our prodigal wild neighbor a hearty welcome home and offer thanks to Christina, Melissa, Kai and the SBWR staff for their successful efforts to restore this regal raptor to his native habitat.

Thanks for bringing this to me, Shirley.

More on the Nick Conway preliminary hearing

This from the Whittier Daily News (click here): 

L.A. Judge postpones decision on whether ex-COG executive director Conway will stand trial - Saying she needed more time, Judge M.L. Villar de Longoria on Wednesday postponed a decision on whether to order the former executive director of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments to stand trial or throw out criminal charges brought by the District Attorney's Office. The unexpected delay reflects on the complexity of the case presented by the Los Angeles County District Attorney against Nick Conway, 60, of Pasadena.

Conway ran the regional planning agency for 17 years as part of his consulting company, Arroyo Associates, until he was charged with four felony counts of conflict of interest after DA investigators raided his residence last June.

De Longoria concluded the two-day preliminary hearing held in the Clara Foltz Criminal Courts Building after listening to impassioned final arguments from both sides. But while many expected a determination, the judge said she hadn't read the hundreds of pages of documents submitted as evidence. "It would be unfair to rule without having the opportunity to read each and every document," she announced. "I want to give it my full attention."

She ordered both sides back in court on Feb. 14, when she is expected to make her ruling.

Should be quite an interesting Valentine's Day. I received an e-mail yesterday from a friend who is watching this case very closely, and here is what she had to say:

The judge hearing Nick Conway's case is Antonio Villaraigosa's sister. She also has had the pleasure of dealing with  other famous criminals  - Bell's Robert Rizzo and former Irwindale City Manager Steve Blancarte and the cast of Irwindale criminals.  Appears she's not real happy with public corruption. Not good news for Nick Conway but it couldn't happen to a more deserving person.

I hope that is the good news it was intended to be.

Two Sierra Madre Tattler Milestones

We went over the 1.3 million hits mark sometime last night. Which is not too bad from a little blog covering the politics and affairs of a small city of less than 11,000 folks. Equally exciting (to me at least) is that we set a new record for actual hits this month. Our previous best, 60,624, was set last November. For January we are now well over 63,000, and I figure by the end of business today we will be somewhere beyond 64,000. A number I could never have imagined us reaching a few years back.

A whole lot of folks reading this blog these days. Thank you.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Did PUSD District 3 Board of Ed Candidate Ruben Hueso Break His Boy Scout Oath?

Scout's honor?
As any Sierra Madre resident can tell you, we here in the Foothill Village somehow had our right to vote in this year's Pasadena Unified School District's Board of Education election stolen from us. We are taxed real American dollars to pay for the schools under the PUSD aegis, yet we have no right to elect representation. Something that I think our forebears fought a revolution over if I recall correctly. At least that is what I was taught at the public schools I attended as a child.

But nothing here prevents us caring citizens at the Sierra Madre Tattler from discussing this election. After all, we are still a part of the Pasadena Unified School District, even if that school district took away our right to a vote in their election through the illegal Measure A. I'm sure that many women talked about voting when the law denied them the right to do so over 100 years ago. As did African Americans in the Deep South during the terrible days of racial segregation. Sierra Madre is now somewhere in that category.

Scouts breaking their oath?
So today we are discussing a Pasadena Unified School District candidate by the name of Ruben Hueso (click here). Ruben is backed in all of the usual places such as ACT (click here), the organization that had previously showered its many blessings upon such dicey Board of Ed members as Ed Honowitz and Tom Selinske. All of which supported vote theft Measure A.

ACT also had our own former Mayor John Buchanan to their debate shindig the other week as moderator. I wasn't there, but I understand that our boy did almost as much talking as the actual candidates. John truly is a man of deep convictions, fortified by his powerful psychological need to make himself heard. That he did not want to discuss our stolen vote is troublesome, though.

This is, of course, all the regular stuff. And coming from District 3 Mr. Hueso is in an area that still has the right to vote in this election. But there is also something kind of uniquely odd that we'd like to bring to your attention. One point that Ruben Hueso likes to make a big deal about is his support for the Boy Scouts. If you click on the colorful Hueso campaign material we posted today it will enlarge and you can easily see that there is a definite Boy Scout theme going on here. Up top we can see Ruben proudly attired in his own scout regalia, and to the right he and some actual scouts are saluting the American flag in a classroom setting. All fine I guess. Certainly a man can take some pride in his support and volunteer work for so fine an organization.

But wait, is this all actually a good thing? Perhaps not. Apparently the use of both actual Boy Scouts and Scout uniforms and regalia in political material of the kind the Ruben Hueso campaign has produced and mailed out to select PUSD District 3 voters is a very serious violation of Boy Scouts of America regulations.

This from the Boy Scouts of (click here):

Can a BSA Scout participate in a Political Event? The question of Scouts at a political event comes up every time there are campaigns. My understanding is that the policy is that it is OK for Scouts to perform patriotic duties (like a flag ceremony) at a political campaign, but they cannot be seen endorsing a candidate or handing out political fliers.

Scouts are often seen with candidates of all political parties performing flag ceremonies. They should not be seen cheering on the candidate. The policy is: Rules and Regulations of the Boy Scouts of America, Art. IX, cl. 2 and 6:

clause 2. "The officers and leaders of the Boy Scouts of America shall, when practicable, cooperate in connection with civic or other public gatherings of a nonpartisan and nonpolitical character which gives Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Explorers [Ventures] an opportunity to render service in harmony with their training instead of merely taking part in parades or making a show of themselves in their uniforms."

clause 6. " The Boy Scouts of America shall not, through its governing body or through any of its officers, its chartered Councils, or members, involve the Scouting movement in any question of a political character. However, this shall not be interpreted to prevent the teaching of patriotism and good citizenship as required to fulfill the Corporation's purpose. This policy shall also not limit the freedom of thought or action of any official or member as an individual."

Cub Scout Leader's Manual: Chapter 7: Uniform Rules and Regulations "The uniform may not be worn by either Cub Scouts or adult leaders when: Involved in any distinctly political endeavor."

Here it is again from another site on Boy Scout policies (click here):

Boy Scouts of America policy prohibits Scouts from participating in political activities. BSA membership applications, under Program Policies, state: Citizenship activities are encouraged, but  partisan political activities are prohibited.

Uniformed unit members and leaders may participate in flag ceremonies at political events and may lead the Pledge of Allegiance; however, they should retire after the ceremony and not remain on the speakers’ platform or in a conspicuous location where television viewers could construe their presence as an endorsement or symbol of support. In addition, photos of candidates or Scouts in uniform or BSA marks and logos are not allowed in political campaign materials of any kind. Leaders must be alert to situations that would imply that the BSA favors one candidate over another. Strict observance of our long-standing policy against the active participation of uniformed Scouts and leaders in political events is mandatory.

One more time for thoroughness (click here):

Uniformed unit members and leaders may participate in flag ceremonies at political events and may lead the Pledge of Allegiance; however, they should retire after the ceremony and not remain on the speakers’ platform or in a conspicuous location where television viewers could construe their presence as an endorsement or symbol of support. In addition, photos of candidates or Scouts in uniform or BSA marks and logos are not allowed in political campaign materials of any kind.

Volunteers and professionals must be alert to situations that would imply that the BSA favors one candidate over another. Strict observance of our long-standing policy against the active participation of uniformed Scouts and leaders in political events is mandatory.

As you can plainly see, Ruben Hueso has himself broken some very specific rules of the Boy Scouts of America. But in his mad rush to use the Boy Scouts as a personal political campaign prop, Ruben has also dragged some actual scouts into this mess, and at his request they too are breaking Boy Scout regulations on political participation as well. Which is kind of an unfortunate thing for Ruben to have done. These kids, should they be identified, could very well be kicked out of Scouting.

If you click here you will be taken to the Ruben Hueso campaign website events page. Here you will read that Ruben is to be given an award by the Boy Scouts tonight. Here is what it says:

Ruben will be receiving the Silver Beaver Award at the Los Angeles Area Boy Scout Council's annual dinner at the Quiet Canon in Montebello. The Silver Beaver is the highest award bestowed upon a volunteer.

Given what we have seen here about how Ruben Hueso has violated Boy Scout usage policies regarding his own political campaign, perhaps they might want to reconsider.

Bonus Conway Coverage

Pasadena Star News: "Prosecutor spells out case against Nick Conway, former SGVCOG director" (click here). Photos of Courtroom action on the SGV Tribune site can be accessed by clicking here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Proxy War: Obama Vs. The Holden Machine

Ask not what Pasadena can do for you ...
During my now distant memory of a Christmas vacation a dear friend stopped by with what she believed was a pretty hot story for the blog. A lot of people come to me with what they think are good stories, and sometimes they are. But this story, like quite a few others, well, I doubted I would ever want to use it. My friend (if I used her name here she would likely kill me) falls in on the liberal side of the varied ideological rainbow of folks that participate on this blog, and she had been toiling for the Obama campaign last fall in Pasadena. And while doing so she had met and worked with what she proclaimed was a very fascinating and accomplished African American family with the very Democratic Party name of Kennedy. "How accomplished?" I asked. "John," she breathed in her usual emphatic way, "These are lovely lovely people. They even talk on the phone with the Obamas."

As impressive as that surely is, like I said I wasn't quite sure what to do with this information. She then informed me that John J. Kennedy was going to be a name I'd be hearing a lot of, and soon. "And why?" I dared to ask. "Because he is going to run for Pasadena City Council, and he is going to win."

All I could think of at that time was why should I care? I now know that I was wrong to view it that way. My very smart friend was absolutely right. It is a big story.

Recently on the always perky Pasadena Now website a rather fawning article appeared about another candidate aiming to take the vacated Pasadena City Council seat of now California State Assemblyman Chris Holden. Titled, "Ishmael Trone Launches District 3 Campaign, Chris Holden at His Side" (click ye here), it would appear that yet another powerful political apparatus was taking a keen interest in this opportunity.

Assemblymember Chris Holden said Saturday much of his success during his time on the Pasadena City Council was achieved with District 3 Council Candidate Ishmael Trone at his side. “He and I worked very closely during much of my time in office (City Council),” said the assemblyman while standing next to Trone during an event that launched Trone’s campaign for the now-vacant seat. “He’s been able to see how we’ve accomplished things along the way.”

“As the campaign continues and as more people don’t know him connect with him, and understand what he’s already been able to contribute,” Holden said. “I think they’re going to find it be a rather easy decision (to elect Trone).”

That sentiment was shared by many of the 150 in attendance at the Eden Garden Restaurant where Trone’s 81-year-old mother and two daughters basked in the light of appreciation from supporters.

“He’s always involved in all aspects of the community and what beautifies the community,” said Pasadena business owner, architect Charles Bryant. “Despite all the work he’s done, he wants to do more work. Let’s give  it to him. He’s the right one for the job.”

If you are looking for incisive and hard hitting political news, you really can't do much worse than look for it on Pasadena Now.

The Holden Political Machine, spawned nearly fully formed from the loins of the Hahn Political Machine many years ago, gave to this imperfect world the L.A. City Hall LotharioNate Holden. Nate begat Chris, a gentleman of modest ambitions who sat on the Pasadena City Council for over twenty years. Something that would seem to indicate a stunning lack of imagination. But patience is its own reward, and Chris Holden now finds himself in Sacramento representing us all in the Assembly, despite everything we did to try and prevent that. But, and as you can imagine, after sitting in that same City Council seat for two or so decades, Chris had come to see it is as family property. And now he wants to anoint an heir.

In a powerful broadside titled "Ishmael Trone & the Holden Machine" (click here), posted on his blog The Detective Story, civil rights advocate Jan B. Tucker confirms this political passing of the torch:

Another scandal that engulfed Chris Holden involved “god-squad” former LAPD Assistant Chief Robert Vernon, a right wing religious fanatic, in unlawfully releasing confidential police intelligence files about one of Holden’s opponents, Michael Zinzun, for Pasadena City Council, “outing” his activities with the Black Panthers and the Peace & Freedom Party.

Now, the Holden machine is putting forth Ishmael Trone as candidate to replace Chris on the Pasadena City Council. In the last election, Chris was elected to the California State Assembly. What inquiring minds want to know is, “where exactly is he living” and is it because he’s separated from his wife or is it all just a scam to run in a district that he doesn’t live in.

So what do I see? Two notable political organizations are now squiring their respective candidates out onto the field of battle. The candidate of the Obamas, John J. Kennedy, versus the Holden Machine's very own Pasadena District 3 chosen one, Ishmael "Altadena" Trone. To me this is shaping up to be no mere City Council dust up, but rather a true proxy war between a regional political powerhouse and the ultimate national interest, an interest that apparently recognizes no boundaries.

This certainly is going to be good. And it appears it may have already begun.

Jan B. Tucker drops a very big bomb on Pasadena - and the Coleman Stove explodes

When you take all of the above into account, the bomb that Jan Tucker dropped on the Pasadena political scene takes on an exciting new significance. And while he has in no way recognized the scope of what is going down here as we have here on The Tattler, the Pasadena Weekly's Andre' Coleman did take a hearty swing at the story (click here). This is part of what he had to say:

Hitting Home: Private Eye posts "incriminating" mailing address as DA investigates District 3 candidate's residency - Recently, people began talking about a private investigator who’d come to town and was secretly snooping into the backgrounds of certain people. Not long after that, a Pasadena City Council candidate’s estranged wife complained about her mail being tampered with.

But as all that was happening, operatives for one candidate started claiming their political nemesis lied about his residency. That’s when the District Attorney’s Office began taking a keen interest in what has been going on.

What sounds a little bit like a storyline from a Lifetime or USA Network melodrama, or an example of Nixon-era campaign dirty tricks, is actually a condensed update of what’s been happening in the red-hot race for the City Council District 3 seat between John J. Kennedy, Ishmael Trone and the Rev. Dr. Nicholas Benson. The three men are competing to replace former Councilman and now state Assemblyman Chris Holden in the March 5 municipal election.

On Thursday, LA County Deputy District Attorney Anne Ingalls confirmed her office is looking into a complaint filed against Trone, alleging he lied about his residency when he filed papers at City Hall to run for the seat left vacant by Holden, and that Trone is actually living in Altadena with his wife, from whom he is legally separated.

“There is an inquiry regarding Mr. Trone’s residency,” Ingalls told the Weekly Thursday. “We will look into it and review whatever we need to review.”

Now you'd think that Andre' would be as excited about this story as we are. It isn't everyday that the product of a rather dicey local political machine gets nailed in such a classic crime noir fashion. I personally found Tucker's story to be so cool that I wrote an article about it (click here), one that sat in the #1 position on the Tattler Top 10 for almost an entire week.

However Mr. Coleman, long rumored to be deep in a crowded sack with the Holden Machine, worked very hard to find a conspiracy lurking somewhere beneath what appeared to be a rather inspired act of revenge for past trespasses against Jan Tucker's longtime political home, the legendary Peace and Freedom Party.

Here is Coleman's rather tepid conspiracy theory:

“Legally I can’t say if I have been hired or working a case on this,” Tucker told the Weekly. The private investigator also would not reveal if he had gone through Juanita Trone’s mail to scan or copy the pieces posted on his blog.

Tucker is loosely connected to Pasadena Unified School District school board member — and Kennedy supporter — Ramon Miramontes, through membership in the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Miramontes said he knows Tucker, but did not hire him.

Although Ingalls declined to say who wrote the complaint about Trone, and no other newspapers have reported on the DA’s inquiry, Miramontes seemed to know all about the investigation, according to a series of text messages he sent to his friend, local restaurateur Robin Salzer, a former District 1 candidate rumored to be considering a mayoral run in two years.

According to Salzer, who also supports Trone, Miramontes wrote “Ish is going to lose dude.” Another message from Miramontes reads “The DA is going after Trone. There is an investigation on him for not living in the district. I’m no longer backing U for mayor and NW [Northwest] Latinos will not back you.” 

Miramontes said he knew nothing about the DA investigation and said he was not working with Tucker, whom he described as a “well-known private investigator.” Miramontes also refused to say whether he sent any text messages to Salzer, who shared them with the Weekly.

None of this should come as any surprise. Andre' Coleman's animosity towards any school board member that does not bear the imprimatur of PUSD wrecker Peter Dreier branded somewhere on their backside is a commonly recognized certitude in these parts. And honestly, if Coleman is so desperately casting about for someone to blame for Ishmael Trone's present embarrassment, why is he aiming so low as to blame it all on Ramon Miramontes? Shouldn't he also be considering the President of the United States?

After all, if you want to play the conspiracy game, why not go for all of the gusto?

One more thing before I go

Much of what Andre' Coleman asserts about Jan Tucker and Ramon Miramontes is factually in error. Here is a list of those errors per Jan Tucker:

"Tucker is loosely connected to Pasadena Unified School District school board member — and Kennedy supporter — Ramon Miramontes, through membership in the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Miramontes said he knows Tucker, but did not hire him."  [Emphasis added]

1.  I am not a member of LULAC.
2.  I was formerly a LULAC member but have not been one in years.
3.  I was formerly National Commissioner for Civil Rights of LULAC and held various posts at Council and State levels as well.
4.  LULAC had a split some years ago at the national and state levels.  Jaime Martinez was defeated for national President (he was outgoing Secretary Treasurer) due to unlawful manipulation by the then-governing political party of Puerto Rico involving expenditure of about $1,000,000.  Jaime split and formed the National League of Latin American Citizens.
5.  The first State Director appointed by Jaime was me as California State Director for NLLAC, so I am state director of CALLAC, California League of Latin American Citizens.
6.  Mr. Miramontes is a member of LULAC, not NLLAC or CALLAC.
7.  There is no love lost organizationally between LULAC and NLLAC as litigation has been raging between the two organizations since the split.  That does not mean that everybody in LULAC hates everybody in NLLAC or vice versa, but we have no organizational ties whatsoever in California between the two organizations.

It would seem to me that perhaps Andre' Coleman might want to put in for a college intern to do some of that always bothersome fact checking for him.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Tony Brandenburg: Master of Puppets

Marching into the future
Cherry Pickin’ and Grinnin’
There’s not a great deal of point sometimes in responding to posts. I figure no matter what I say is moot. My opinions aren’t really that important (click here). So, go ahead and file these under Dear Crabby.

Tony, why do you think Arce is a better candidate than Hueso? Are you shying away from him because of his political connections? He is an educator, more so than any of the other candidates. 

And Tony, why the assumption that Ayala is a tool, rather than a parent who wants his kids to be able to attend PUSD schools? What has Phelps done since he's been on the board? Maybe it's time for some new ideas.

Hueso Impreso
Which new ideas has Hueso brought forward? Ruben Hueso lost me not because he was rated a crappy teacher (click here), but because he didn’t bother to mention it when he’s discussed for being a teacher, nor did he discuss why the teacher rating system is flawed, nor how he plans to block this kind of pollution from being spread into the PUSD. He’s laid claim that he is the only candidate who is a full time teacher, but that means what, exactly? It means like most of America he needs a second income.

For what it is worth, Elizabeth Pomeroy was a college teacher, as was Scott Phelps. Phelps also taught high school. If you don’t clean your ears out you might have thought that Dean Cooper was a former preacher, but actually he was a former teacher. Luis Carlos Ayala teaches adults ESL. The sweet lady at the Yamaha store teaches keyboarding. I’d like to think we all do our part (click here).

In fact, I am a teacher. That is hardly a qualification that would make me a good board member. Having said that, if I ever decide to run for school board, I will need to use Reputation Cleaner to scrub that out, and get myself a hotshot like Fred Register to wipe my political career clean and then manage my campaign like he does for the elite.

Hueso still hasn’t mentioned the money he has received for his campaign comes from Fabio Nunez (click here). That may not be important to the poster above, but it makes me laugh out loud. Mr. Hueso received his money about the same time Cabo Party Fuhrer Antonio Villaraigosa (say it out loud for full effect) got some get out of trouble free cash (click here). And let’s not even dance down the DWP highway. Those free basketball tickets ended up costing much more than he thought, eh?

That slick 8X10 of Hueso was brilliant marketing, by the way. Maybe he can sign one and hang it on the wall at Robin’s BBQ.

With Friends Like These
Speaking of great friends, this week’s Friendship Awards go to Robin Salzer and Michael Babcock. The Grand Prize, of course, goes to Robin. You will recall the Ishmael “Alarcon” Trone housing  debacle discussed last week by Jan B. Tucker here on the Tattler (click here). It just got a little deeper thanks to Andre Coleman’s Pasadena, Weakly (exclusive?) spill a couple of days ago (click here). Seems ol' Andre has been sharpening his knives to dine on Ramon Miramontes for a couple of years (click here), and now with Miramontes getting ready to step down, he dropped more than a quarter into the Old Town parking meter:

According to the Coleman article:

Although (LA County Deputy District Attorney) Anne Ingalls declined to say who wrote the complaint about Trone, and no other newspapers have reported on the DA’s inquiry, Miramontes seemed to know all about the investigation, according to a series of text messages he sent to his friend, local restaurateur Robin Salzer, a former District 1 candidate rumored to be considering a Mayoral run in two years.

Can this really be something that Salzer would have outed to the Pasadena, Weakly? If so, Rockin' Robin and his wood smoked ambitions could be revealing a need for the Holden/Trone political love touch.

So can I get an ouch? I suppose Salzer doesn’t need to count on Ramon’s vote for catering by Robin’s BBQ at the next PUSD potluck, but I will tell you this, I will be checking that place for wires the next time I go over there for a garbage pail lid fulla pulled and packed meat products. Or maybe I will ditch Robin’s for a more reliable friend like my new buddy, Big Carl (click here).

The Booby Prize goes to Michael “Football Field” Babcock who pulled an about face worthy of Benedict Arnold on his long time friend Scott Phelps.

Hi Scott,
I had a long conversation with Luis Ayala this morning and I want to let you know that I will be supporting him in the upcoming election. On a personal level this causes me pain because I have long considered you a friend …........This decision is based on my belief that the school board needs to be reconstituted. These past years have been marked with personal animosities to the extent that much of the discussion has devolved into individual pettiness. A new cast of characters would, in my opinion, break that pattern and provide the much needed collaboration and cohesiveness. You’ll remember that I have always been big on that! At any rate I wanted to you to know this before anything goes public. If you end up winning the election, you can count on my support.

Amazing. Babcock avoids conflict to the point that even discussions are considered confrontational. Maybe that football field should be used for peace rallies instead of sports. His passivity and fear of any meaningful dialogue has not missed a beat, and he stands to be as much of a "yes man" as he was before. Viva Larry Tate! Long live the rainbows and unicorns! Don't worry, be happy!

Word of advice to Ramon and Scott: time to clean house. You’re both too good for this circus, and clearly the clowns have gone utterly beserk.

Howler of the Week
This week’s howler goes to Luis Carlos Ayala who is quoted by James Figueroa in the Pasadena Star News (click here) as challenging the role of technology with this gem.

“There's a misconception if you have a laptop then you are learning more or better than someone who has a book.”

Of course, this misses the mark so significantly, and so fundamentally, that Ayala spent much of his speaking time Sunday repairing that gaff. I would loved to have been a fly on the wall at that public image meeting with his PR people. “What were you thinking? We told you, just sit there and smile! Don’t try to show off how smart you are! We don’t want you to talk, we want you to win.” LOL.

Apparently, beside having absolutely no idea what the mission statement of the District is, his computer gaff will no doubt be the funniest blunder of the campaign, topped only by his suggestion that special education achievement will be elevated with more art and music. Way to keep the sights set high. Guess no one prepped him on reaching out to all of the politically relevant constituencies.

I suggest you listen to Kim Kenne and Guillermo Arce before you jump into that Special Ed talk again.

Speaking of which Luis, nice little blurb on Facebook about supporting Sierra Madre. Maybe you were busy campaigning, but we had two important meetings here about the building of our Middle School. I don’t recall seeing him there, but then, he’d have to come down from his million dollar house to notice that not all of us have a public school in our community that we can shun and send our kids to private school. Must be nice to have that option. We plebes unfortunately do not.

The Iceman Cometh
No doubt about it, Ayala is on the political fast track, and this is just a stepping stone. It is clear as day that he is a mark set up to take out Phelps. Good luck with that, Luis (click here).

Ayala hasn’t missed a single opportunity to promote his legal skills. In fact, he announces he is a lawyer more times than James Brown says “James Brown.”

Of course, in the middle of all of that self congratulatory posturing (click here) about speaking three languages and studying abroad and “Hey, did I mention I’m a lawyer?” he has the endorsements of ACT and Ken “Measure A” Chawkins, which are generally are pretty good indicators that things are starting to smell funny (click here).

I have been practicing law for more than 12 years and have been a solo-practitioner for more than 10 years. Running my own small business has given me a keen awareness of how to make prudent financial decisions and focus on results....... Prior to practicing law, I externed for the Hon. Harry Pregerson, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Steven J. Hillman, U.S. Magistrate Judge, Central District of California. I also worked as a legislative policy aide for former Los Angeles City Councilmembers Gloria Molina and Mike Hernandez.

Ah, here comes the pedigree and the cred. Oh, hey! I remember Mike Hernandez (click here). So, uh, the tubthumper in me wants the scoop.... was that before, or after the, uh, you know, nudge nudge, wink wink. All that Ninth Circuit stuff, oh yeah! Color me impressed, but uh, my math isn’t so good, and I don’t know how Ayala could be in private practice and work as a for um, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the Department of Homeland Security) in 2006 (click here). I’m pretty sure that was like, seven or so years ago, and, um, when he said he was a trial lawyer..... well.

At least I didn’t mix him up with, um, with the Luis Carlos Ayala who liked to dig the tunnels (click here).

Master of Puppets
I wonder what old Ed Honowitz will be doing in May. Photography isn’t really a job. I mean, no more than being a hand model. Will he become a house husband, leaving the real work to Mrs. Honowitz Pais?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Rainy Full Wolf Moon Sunday Weekly News

Breaking News: Chantry Flats Closed A suspect in a crime that occurred in Arcadia late last night has barricaded himself in a property in the Chantry Flats area of the Angeles National Forest ... Arcadia police Lt. Mike Castro said Chantry Flats will remain closed to hikers Sunday until Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputies remove the suspect from the property. 

Part II: It is over. Here is what the Pasadena Star News has. Sounds like it was a very bad date (click here).

Police arrested a man on suspicion of attempted murder and other crimes early Sunday after he tried to drive himself and a woman over a cliff, then barricaded himself inside the home of the Santa Anita Dam keeper for seven hours, authorities said.

Patrick Anthony Gonzalez, 21, of Los Angeles was taken to a hospital for treatment of unknown injuries prior to being booked into jail, Arcadia police Lt. Mike Castro said.

The incident began about 6:30 p.m. Saturday when officers responded to reports of a car that had crashed into a guardrail along Chantry Flats Road, just within the northern city limit, the lieutenant said.

"Further investigation revealed the driver of the vehicle intentionally hit the guardrail in an attempt to kill both himself and his passenger - changing the focus of the investigation from a traffic accident to attempted murder," Arcadia police officials said in a written statement.

Maybe she met him in the Internet. Back to our regularly scheduled blog content.

(The Mod: It is raining now, which for me is 3:51 AM. By the time you read this the sun could be out and the topic line for this post will not be accurate. That is the risk you take when you bring the weather into your reporting. But do you know what? We're not afraid to take chances here at The Tattler. We'll go out on a limb and dare whoever wants to try and saw it off. And you know they rarely do. Also last evening was a Full Wolf Moon, a rare event that is often represented by pictures like the one we have posted here on the left with this article. All of which happened somewhere behind the clouds I am afraid. But the picture is cool and who here hasn't wanted to occasionally howl at the moon? Even when it is lost in the clouds? Anyway, this week's rainy Sunday News includes stories that we thought you might be interested in. Here they are.)

Years after bond's passage, no start on new Sierra Madre school (click here): The Middle School, slated to benefit from a $350 million bond approved in 2008, has been operating out of trailers since the old campus' demolition in 2010.

Troubles at Sierra Madre Middle School began in July 2010 with demolition of the old campus before California's Division of the State Architect had issued approvals for new buildings. Renatta Cooper said former Pasadena Unified supervisors had sold school board members on an early demolition under the pretense that they could save money by using workers already engaged in other district construction projects.

A year later, Pasadena officials were accusing the Division of the State Architect, which must sign off on all public school construction plans, of dragging out the approval process. The agency countered that state workers were waiting on Pasadena to submit design changes needed to meet regulations. Local officials denied that any design changes were needed at that time.

Plans for the campus weren't approved until fall 2012, school district Chief Finance Officer John Pappalardo said. Pappalardo took charge of Measure TT projects last month after board members placed the district's chief facilities officer on leave and suspended a pact with a contractor overseeing some work pending an investigation into the use of bond funds. Officials have declined to specify the nature of the investigation, which is ongoing.

Staff upheaval and budget reductions for most bond-funded projects, meanwhile, have some Sierra Madre parents accusing officials of delaying construction until they can cancel the project by claiming lack of funds. That's what happened to Blair Middle School, which the school district demolished in 2005 and failed to rebuild before exhausting a $240-million bond approved in 1997. The new Blair campus was built later using Measure TT proceeds.

Pappalardo said about $111 million has been spent on or committed to school renovations under the current bond program, with some $274 million in Measure TT proceeds and other construction funding still left in the pipeline.

(Mod: If your kids came home and told you a story like the one above, would you believe them? There are a couple of things driving all of this, and it doesn't have much to do with building our school, or any PUSD outlet for that matter. One is increasingly scarce buildable land, which the PUSD controls a lot of, and with continued steep declines in enrollment just doesn't need so much of it anymore. The other is $274 million in remaining Measure TT bond money. Combine these two ingredients and it is a developer-friendly crooked pol's dream. People need to snap out of their dreamworld and wake up to what is really going on here. It is always about the money.)

Do penalties for smokers and the obese make sense? (click here): Faced with the high cost of caring for smokers and overeaters, experts say society must grapple with a blunt question: Instead of trying to penalize them and change their ways, why not just let these health sinners die prematurely from their unhealthy habits?

Annual health care costs are roughly $96 billion for smokers and $147 billion for the obese, the government says. These costs accompany sometimes heroic attempts to prolong lives, including surgery, chemotherapy and other measures.

But despite these rescue attempts, smokers tend to die 10 years earlier on average, and the obese die five to 12 years prematurely, according to various researchers' estimates.

And attempts to curb smoking and unhealthy eating frequently lead to backlash: Witness the current legal tussle over New York City's first-of-its-kind limits on the size of sugary beverages and the vicious fight last year in California over a ballot proposal to add a $1-per-pack cigarette tax, which was ultimately defeated.

"This is my life. I should be able to do what I want," said Sebastian Lopez, a college student from Queens, speaking last September when the New York City Board of Health approved the soda size rules.

(Mod: What a novel, yet chilling, approach. Government should just butt out and let nature run its course? The war on the fat has begun.)

The Battle for CEQA (click here): California’s core environmental protection law, a 43-year-old statute frequently denounced by developers and business interests as a tangle of red tape, is on a Capitol hit list once again. But the political dynamic this year is unusual: Those pushing hard for change are Democrats, including Gov. Brown, the Senate and Assembly leaders and a farm-belt lawmaker.

At issue is the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, which requires builders and others to detail their projects’ potential impacts over time on the environment and offer ways to fix them – which helps local zoning commissions and city councils weigh the benefits and negatives of the proposals in their decision-making.

The Act, which Ronald Reagan signed into law in 1970, has long been cited as the underpinning of California’s aggressive environmental protections and a shield against well-heeled special interests.

It also is seen as a sort of grass-roots environmental protection law because it is driven by the locals through the courts, not by Sacramento-based regulators. The law has been used to protect everything from ocean waters to tribal burial grounds. It has been altered over the years – 334 times since 1990 alone, by one count -- but its over-arching goal largely remains in place.

“They haven’t fundamentally changed CEQA, ever,” said Ron Stork of the Friends of the River. “There have been court decisions from time to time. But to some degree, it’s a living process and now it’s been around for a long time.”

The law has protected Californians from “from many tons of toxic air pollution and related health effects, such as childhood asthma. CEQA played a principal role in the electrification of the Port of Los Angeles, making it the cleanest port in the country, improving the working conditions for truckers and health of nearby communities,” noted David Pettit of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

But CEQA, long under fire from its traditional foes, is now taking hits from lawmakers, the Democratic allies of environmentalists and others who say – with some evidence – that the law can add years to the approvals needed for major projects to get under way. They argue that the law needs to be modernized.

(Mod: The one-party rulers of this state are obviously in the tank for developers, Realty lobbies, the BIA and whoever else from that disreputable world pumps money into their pockets. CEQA is the one recourse residents and small cities have to halt the depredations of large corporate development interests that want to build nasty things in places that those living there do not ever want to see. The days when we can call the Democrats friends of the environment are pretty much over. They have quite obviously sold us out.)

Recent Legal Actions Further Illustrate EPA’s Challenge In Regulating Stormwater Runoff (click here): Within the last few weeks, three separate legal developments have demonstrated the difficulty faced by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in regulating stormwater runoff under the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C.§ 1251 et seq. In the first matter, EPA settled a lawsuit with builders and utilities that challenged the Agency’s regulations on stormwater runoff at construction sites. The settlement requires EPA to propose new effluent limits for runoff that do not contain numerical turbidity limits (i.e., limits on the suspended material in water that affects its clarity), and to discontinue the monitoring requirement for turbidity in the runoff. Wisconsin Builders Association v. EPA, No. 09-4113 (7th Cir 2012).

Next, the United States Supreme Court reversed a ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that Los Angeles County’s Flood Control District had violated its system-wide water-discharge permit because monitoring stations downstream from discharge points reported pollutants in excess of permit limits. The monitoring stations were located in sections of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers that had been lined with concrete to channel and direct water flow during storm and flooding events. These concrete-lined sections were controlled by the Flood Control District.

The Supreme Court held that water flowing from a concrete section of the river to another section was not a “discharge” of pollutants under the CWA, thus overturning the Ninth Circuit’s decision. Los Angeles County Flood Control District v. Natural Resources Defense Council, et al., No. 11-460 (U.S. 2013).

Finally, in Virginia Department of Transportation, et al, v. EPA, et al., No. 12-775 (E.D. Va. 2013), the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia sent a clear message to EPA – non-polluted water is not within the Agency’s jurisdiction under the CWA, ruling that the Agency may not regulate stormwater runoff flow as a “surrogate” for limiting sediment load into a waterbody.

(Mod: The bandits on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, along with their so-called "Rain Tax," have pretty much been legally kicked to the curb by the Courts. However, you can be sure they haven't given up. When it comes to new and novel ways of emptying the taxpayers' pockets, they can be ruthless.)

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

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

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

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

Matheson, who hosted the 2010 campaign kickoff for former Sierra Madre Mayor Joe Mosca and is a member of the foothill city's Chamber of Commerce, was sentenced to 120 days in prison on Dec. 13. DHS officials said the agency has worked closely with Canadian officials since Matheson's arrest in October.

(Mod: This article was published by the Pasadena Star News on Dec 21, 2011, or a little more than one year ago. We have yet to hear the results of any investigation, nor have we ever been given any kind of accounting as to why Matheson was not registered as a sex offender here in Sierra Madre. Despite Federal laws that clearly dictate this must be done. Yet one more proof that when it comes to law enforcement in our little portion of the world, we're pretty much on our own.)

Have a pleasant valley Sunday. Is it still raining?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Is There a Conflict of Interest in the RFP Process for Sierra Madre's City Attorney?

"If two or more Councilmembers call Josh to get a reference for Teresa Highsmith, is that a Brown Act violation?" - Reader comment posted earlier this morning.

Yesterday I had posted about the current City Council efforts to appraise the value of Colantuono & Levin as the purveyor of City Attorney services for this small but bustling burgh. In particular the RFP process currently under way to see if perhaps we can't find a law firm that isn't quite so darn pricey. Nearly 40 firms and individual attorneys answered the call for our pricing request, a list that has now been somehow whittled down to a mere two. Colantuono & Levin being one of the lucky pair. A development that I personally find to be somewhat fishy, but maybe that is just me. I have a suspicious nature.

After having noted yesterday that the fix did appear to be in on this one, and that Colantuono & Levin's proponents on the City Council had pretty much carried the day for the law firm that oftentimes represents the same troublesome outside interests as they do, a disturbing conflict of interest situation was brought to my attention in reader comments. The comments section of the Sierra Madre Tattler being the place where, as many are keenly aware, the more knowledgeable people of all perspectives in town let their opinions be known. Here is how it read:

Please, come to our City Council meeting and cite all the reasons we should pick RWG for our legal firm. They are the most highly qualified firm in the bidding that can help us with our water problems, Carol Lynch is the most highly qualified (rates 5 out of 5) and I'm sure to get our city they will be most willing to negotiate with us on pricing. They are super close to C&L and when figuring out all the bonus hours, might even be less expensive. 

If Josh Moran votes for C&L, I would challenge that vote since he was listed on C&L's bid as a reference for Terri (Highsmith). Who would list someone as a reference who will interview you for a job? Pretty stupid if you ask me. Yes, the fix is in.

When I read that comment I was immediately intrigued. As I've said, I suspected that the fix was in, and had been all along, but this one could have tripped over a rather bright line. I knew that the relationship between City Staff, the Mayor and our Colantuono & Levin City Attorney Teresa L. Highsmith was annoyingly chummy, but had they now breached a much more serious ethical frontier?

I asked the commenter to e-mail me with more information, and here is what showed up in this blog's mailbox:

I was the one who posted re: references for C&L. On the packet that C&L sent to the City Council for consideration, Terri (Highsmith) listed both Josh Moran and Elaine Aguilar as references. When asked about it by Chris Koerber, she said it never occurred to her that this would be a conflict of interest, that she merely listed them as references who could answer questions about her qualifications. Then Chris asked her if she didn't have any other references she could use, she became flustered and said, yes, I have other references, but . . .  Carol  Lynch knows Elaine professionally as they worked together at La Puente from 1995 to 2001.  That only came out when Chris asked Elaine to explain their connection.  Carol did not make that connection at any time which, I think, was the ethical thing to do.

That was not the only e-mail I received on this matter. Another reader also wrote in, and here is what she had to say:

Am I the only person in Sierra Madre who finds it odd that Ms. Highsmith from Colantuono & Levin listed both our City Manager and our Mayor as references in her firm's proposal to continue to represent the City? The proposal is a huge document - the relevant page is attached. What issues does it raise for our Mayor's objectivity in this case? 

Here is how the two references in question appear in that document:

E. References and Potential Conflicts of Interest

1. Provide references and contact information for five municipal clients for which services have been provided in the last three years

References for Teresa l. Highmsith:

Elaine Aguilar, City Manager
City of Sierra Madre
Telephone: (626) 355-2917

Josh Moran, Mayor
City of Sierra Madre
Telephone: (626) 808-8083 (cell)

References are provided from various other municipal dignitaries in Los Alamitos, Barstow, La Habra Heights and Grass Valley as well. However, none of them are currently making decisions about whether to hire a new City Attorney or not. I should also note that Los Alamitos and La Habra Heights had both recently seen the resignation of firm partner Sandra Levin as their designated Colantuono & Levin City Attorney, so I don't know if those two references are a completely conflict free resume' builder, either.

All of which raises this large and obvious question. Should Josh Moran, a listed reference for City Attorney Highsmith, also be one of the 5 individuals on the City Council deciding whether or not to rehire her and her firm? Is this within the conflict of interest parameters of an RFP process, something that is conducted in order to ensure that we receive the best possible value for our tax dollars? Both financial and ethical? Does the possible ethical conflict here seem as troubling to you as it does to me?

It also raises the matter of Ms. Highsmith's judgement. Do we really want a City Attorney lacking in the kind of legal and ethical sensitivity likely shown in this application? Shouldn't a City Attorney representing us be aware of how this sort of thing could appear in the more exacting legal and governmental circles? Don't we want a City Attorney who can effectively play at even the highest professional levels?

And there is also this. Should this matter be considered by the City Council, and obviously it needs to at least be discussed, who will make the legal call? The Colantuono & Levin City Attorney seated at the dais alongside the ultimate decision makers on whether or not to rehire Colantuono & Levin?

If you're asking me, I think there are some problems here.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Dude, Where's My Vote?

I attended the Sierra Madre Summit at the Sierra Madre Elementary School last night, which to my way of thinking wasn't quite a summit. The parents there were summit material, of course. After all they not only send their kids to PUSD's easternmost holdings, but also pay the taxes that enable all of that. However, the other side, the folks up there on stage with the chilled water bottles, were actually high ranking employees. Had this been a true summit the Board of Education would have been up there answering the questions. Rather we were treated to a lot of highly cautious "to the best of my knowledge," and "while I cannot see into the future it is my fervent belief" kinds of answers. Obviously nobody there wanted anything bad to get back to the boss. They were careful to a fault.

The audience questions had to be written out on 3" x 5" cards, of course, which were then cherry picked during this purported dialog. Usually that sort of thing is done when there are large crowds of people at a meeting, and then to account for the limited time. But there weren't really all that many people there last night. True discussion, had it been desired by the high ranking employees who didn't want to upset their bosses, could have been possible. This "Staking of the Stakeholders" process (SOTS) included lectures to those parents from the discussion moderator about speaking out of turn during some of the evening's more evasive moments. Something that had an "adult versus kids" kind of feel to it. As if the parents of school children were in some ways children themselves, and the teachers were there to teach them, too. Please, control yourselves. We'll get to your concerns in a moment.

Considering the job these people have done, perhaps they are the ones who should have been filing out the cards. I swear, if I had heard the phrase, "mistakes were made" one more time, I too would have started speaking out of turn. Well, OK. I did. I guess it is a personal weakness of mine. I don't react very well to be talked down to.

There was also some rather inappropriate jolliness on the part of those who had assumed the adult role. Not to be too humorless about it, but oftentimes I did not quite get the joke. An example is when the discussion turned to campus safety, an obvious concern due to some of the recent horrific events in this country. The matter of Bob Matheson and the inappropriately rapid discarding of school visitor registration records came up. The responses from behind the chilled water bottles were a few reassuring bromides about new concerns for security and safety, followed by a dais pleasing joke from the event moderator. I am sure this was done in hopes of easing some of the uncomfortable tension created by this topic, but it wasn't right. Sometimes things really are horrible, and need to be treated that way.

I filled out a card, which never got read. The question was this. "Why was Sierra Madre denied a seat on the Board of Education until 2015, two years after a majority of the new subdistricts?" To be fair, this was obliquely dealt with, but in a legalistic and obviously pre-arranged fashion. That duty fell upon the one Board of Education member in attendance, the somewhat tragic Scott Phelps. Obviously the lawyers felt that this one was too important to let the employees screw up.

The solution, which is really no solution at all, is to have temporary Board of Education members selected for those subdistricts who had their BOE seat stolen during the so-called "sub-districting process." Of course, those temporarily appointed persons would be selected by some of the very same people who stole your vote in the first place, which actually makes things worse. Think about it, the people who took away your vote are going to pick your representative for you. That person will then warm a seat at Board of Education meetings for two years, in the process becoming an incumbent. That person will then run for office in 2015 and, backed by the kind of money and political smear machine the school wreckers possess, will likely win. Which means you will then be denied your right to vote for a school board rep twice. Once by flat out having your vote stolen, and the other through the usual Pasadena machine politics and nastiness that so clearly typifies a PUSD election.

The one thing that I took away from all this is that the PUSD is actually very concerned about the "no vote" issue. There is colossal potential for a lawsuit here. If I had a sixty thousand or so dollars to play around with I would do it myself. Denying a portion of the taxpaying community the right to properly elected representation on things that involve the spending of their money is the kind of legal grist that gets faithless public officials long jail terms. Plus it could potentially cost the PUSD millions in legal costs, further crippling an already badly damaged school system. They were not looking to air this one out last night. The vote issue is at the radioactive core of the PUSD Chernobyl.

The auditorium at the Sierra Madre Elementary School is a beautiful room. And the staff and kids there have made it even nicer with the creative and even moving murals they have placed on the walls. My favorite is the one done for Mesopotamia. If only we had a lion's head to guide us now. But it is all a kind of tragic metaphor as well. When that room was built California cared about kids and education. The people who built that room all those years ago really believed education was important, and that they had to build something bright and beautiful so that their children could learn and contribute to their far better world.

The high ranking employees who sat at the dais last night for the Sierra Madre Summit were not those people, however. Those people are no longer here.

The fix is in on the Sierra Madre City Attorney question

As they say where I come from, "fuggeddabout it." Did I ever tell you that in my first marriage my then very New York wife actually had an uncle named "Sharky?" It is a story I need to tell you someday.

I have spoken with several folks whose opinions I trust, and we are pretty much in agreement. There are now just two law firms still in the running, and one of them is Colantuono and Levin. Given the make up of the current City Council, it is now pretty much inconceivable that C&L is going to be let go. Which means the law firm that helped enable One Carter, the Downtown Specific Plan, the 2010 "Water Rate Process," and the great "suites versus units" debate, will still be with us for a while. We will continue to not receive legal services as much as we will the legalistic enabling of out of town agendas that are not in the interest of Sierra Madre's taxpayers.

This was a noble effort on Chris Koerber's part, but it is going to take one more election to throw C&L out. The pawned element of our current City Council is not likely to disobey orders on this one. After all, they're employees, too. They just don't get paid very much.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tony Brandenburg: What is UP with PUSD Subdistrict 3?

Guillermo Arce
Slugfest at PUSD District 3: With four candidates vying for Seat 3, the logic behind disassembling and destroying the “at-large” districts becomes clear. The current model is easier to control for the political machines who want to assert their influence. This eliminates loose cannons, voices of true independent thinkers, and any possibility for outsiders to be heard. It is designed to destroy the people’s voice, not to enhance it. These particular four candidates are Guillermo Arce, Ruben Hueso, Deirdre Duncan, and Tyrone Hampton, and they are running for Board of Education Seat 3.

Ironically, this is the only sub-district with so many voices trying to be heard. You will recall that this 2013 election is the one where us Sierra Madreanos are not allowed to vote in thanks to Billy Barty Doyle and the finaglers at the PUSD Redistricting Clearing House. The subcommittee that was designed to clear out the people’s voice on the Pasadena Board of Education and replace it with the politician’s choice (click here) by telling us that this would increase the people’s voice. There is nothing quite like circular reasoning and promises.

I have already given some consideration to Tyrone Hampton (click here) and my curiosity regarding his interests, being a local construction contractor, etc. After running into him twice and hearing him speak, I have come to the conclusion that he is a polite man and one who is readily available to talk with people, even those he doesn’t represent (such as Sierra Madre voters). He went as far as to offer me his card, and with his cell phone number no less. I like that. Do I think he would make a good Board member? Well, I don’t believe his idealism has been polluted yet.

The intriguing candidacy of Deirdre Duncan is one that certainly interests me. Ms. Duncan gives her profession as Foster Parent and has received notable support from Occupy Fights Foreclosures in rallying against the repo'ing of her home last November (click here). There are those among us who choose foster care as a form of employment. I am not a fan of residential facilities, but I have a soft spot in my heart for people who enter the field to support kids in a neighborhood and try to carve out a life for them amidst all of life's insanity. Deirdre Duncan’s venture into the arena of Board Member is not likely to be taken seriously - I have seen little information on her campaign, but I love her moxie. No financial backers, no party affiliations, and embroiled in a lawsuit against Lee Baca. What’s not to love?

Another of the lower visibility candidates is Guiellermo Arce, whose candidacy raises more questions than answers. Arce went after Kaiser Permanente and because of him, many families with autistic children will benefit. He would have my vote if I had one in this subdistrict because he is, like Deirdre Duncan, a person with special education in his background, albeit one that is through social services and not through schools. Not a politician, he refers to himself as a bureaucrat, but he is another outsider without any affiliations who applied for the position on a recommendation. I know he has dealt with the PUSD and their befuddled leadership in special education, getting the benefit of both buffoons - Liz “Bucking” Blanco, and Michael “The Invisible Man” Jason - that have run the circus in recent years. Lucky guy.

Arce has missed opportunities to express his viewpoints, both through the process with the city, and through speaking engagements, one of which he wasn’t notified of. Like so many things that happen in the PUSD, they just didn’t bother to make sure he knew about it. Oh, oops.

Without financial support to run an election, and without the knowledge of protocols and the dirty rat bastard tricks PUSD throw up all the time, he is finding out the hard way that this is a game designed for well groomed political tools, and well greased self-serving political machines.

Speaking of which, that brings us to the ACT endorsed candidate (click here) Ruben Hueso. I’ll discuss that other guy they endorsed for Subdistrict 5 - the millionaire immigration rights attorney (how does that work?) Luis Ayala - the hand picked, machine funded shiny new tool plucked from the shed to throw out Scott Phelps - at some other time.

A Letter from Guillermo Arce to ACT President Jon Fuhrman:


Your organization missed a great opportunity to take a stand for the kids of the PUSD.  Instead, your organization voted to keep the machine running just the way it is.  I am concerned, as a parent in this district, that our best interests are being sold to the highest bidder and your organization, will go down on record supporting, in my district's case, a "least effective teacher" who happened to be an union organizer at LAUSD who is taking money from Nunez better known for lobbying the Governator to get his son off the hook after being charged and convicted as an accessory to murder.  Public opinion about the latter ran in favor of keeping the kid in jail for the full length of his sentence.  This is what your organization supported.

I was asked to run for the Board by parents who are familiar with my dealings with the PUSD and felt that I could be their voice on the Board.  I have been able to advocate, in behalf of children up and down the state and they wanted me to do the same for them.  My efforts have afforded health coverage for therapy for autistic kids up and down the state by mandating HMOs to pay for it.  In turn, that translated in savings in the hundred of millions to the State. (click here).  I was also a member of the North Los Angeles County Task Force on Autism (click here) who was responsible for the passing SB946, the law mandating HMOs to pay for behavioral therapy for kids with autism.

I went naively thinking that I could be a force for change and a voice for parents who are constantly being disenfranchised by those who are currently running the district and the Board majority.  Instead, the establishment, wanting to keep the status quo, decided not to provide any support to my campaign but, as I said, if elected, it will be by using my own money and the nickle and dimes from those parents who do give a rat's ass about what's going in our schools.  Win or lose, I am in this until the end.

And, you are welcome to share this e-mail with your membership.  Thank you for responding and sharing my e-mail with your membership.

Best regards,
Guillermo A. Arce

Ruben Hueso, Who’s Yer Buddy?Ruben Hueso is an interesting candidate. I have heard him speak, and he left out a couple of things when he did. He mentioned he was a teacher, and that he supports the unions, and he’s a big fan of community groups such as the Boy Scouts of America, whom he celebrated at least 5 times the day I heard him.

According to Ruben Hueso’s Facebook page (click here) he speaks Spanish. Apparently he forgot to mention that he also speaks English. You may not know this about me, but I also failed to mention I speak English on my FB page. I did point out that I speak Simlish, Klingon, Food in My Mouth and Cursing In American Sign Language, however.

FYI, Ruben Hueso does speak English, but like me, he apparently failed to mention it. I suppose it is a given, or maybe Ruben took that LA Times analysis stating that Hueso falls within the “least effective” category of district teachers in math, and within the “least effective” category in English (click here) to heart. I suppose it is OK that he failed to mention he doesn’t speak math. I’ve never mentioned it either. I need to be fair.

Hueso also has failed to mention that he has a brother who is an Assemblyman, and has a rich buddy down San Diego way (click here); the kind with rich deep political pockets that run in the millions of dollars in available funds for aspiring politicians. It sits in an account and waits for the right interests to come bounding along. I always become suspicious of people who downplay little details and things like that. That rich buddy has already floated something like $5,000 for the Hueso campaign.

Fabian Nunez, who you may or may not recall made headlines a while back for pulling a clemency favor from Arnold Schwarzenegger (click here) to get his son a little time off after killing someone and disposing of the evidence. A clemency so suspect, and so smacking of political favoritism that it still raises eyebrows. Yes, yes, yes -  that Fabian Nunez. Nunez likes funding the Huesos, including Ruben’s brother the Assemblyman. Keeping it all in the family, I suppose (click here). Just like those wandering Alarcons and their party child Andrea “Dude Where’s my Job?” Alarcon (click here) - you don’t have to look too far off the Cronyism Trail to find the connector to Charlie Sheen’s pal, our very own chick magnet, The Party Fuhrer of Cabo - Antonio “Don Juan” Villaraigosa (click here). I bet his ex wife is so proud that he adopted her surname.

So. Back to Ruben Hueso. Ruben has come on strong to support the United Teachers Pasadena (UTP), and why not? He won’t get anywhere without them after the election, and probably not too far before it, either. Still, one has to wonder why a former teacher such as Hueso - one who like most of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) was sold out by their union to the Los Angeles Times (click here), is so eager to hop into bed with the enemy. It’s really easy to scream foul when things don’t go the way one wants them to, it’s quite another to know when to just say “no” when management is stepping over the line. In any event, as they say, politics make for strange bedfellows, and in the case of this crappy teacher (click here) we can rest assured he’ll be a crappy board member, too. But, hey, at least ACT and the UTP will be satisfied. Every good carpenter needs a reliable tool.

Maybe the UTP can look forward to the same kind of review that UTLA handed Hueso. I suppose Ruben can keep going to bat for the union leadership. After all, they sure went to bat for him.

Hueso comes with the backing of Chris “710” Holden, Mr. Ed “The Talking Jackass” Honowitz, and, of course, Anthony Portantino. Are you paying attention, District 3?  Draw your own conclusions. Mine go with Arce, but I don’t get to vote until 2015. I can’t wait to see my choices. I will just revisit the redistricting subcommittee.

I’m sure our future candidates and their talking jackass puppets are all over it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Josh Moran Throws Bart Doyle Under the Bus - Plus: The PUSD Sends Fredo Instead

You want a school? Sure, I'll ask Pop
"Send Fredo off to do this, send Fredo off to do that! Let Fredo take care of some Mickey Mouse nightclub somewhere! Send Fredo to pick somebody up at the airport! I'm your older brother, Mike, and I was stepped over!" - Fredo Corleone in The Godfather Part II.

Finally the issue that Josh Moran never once deigned to speak about before has now been brought out into the open. And when that issue did come to the full attention of the City Council last night, The Mayor couldn't throw his friend Bart Doyle under the bus fast enough. It was Josh's infamous Bob Matheson panic moment all over again. "I never met him. He was only a face in the crowd." Except this time Josh wanted you to somehow believe he bears no responsibility for one of the biggest PUSD fiascos this town has seen in years. When, as many of us already believe, he most certainly does.

What is that issue? The theft of Sierra Madre's Board of Education vote. When Mayor John Buchanan and Mayor Pro Tem Josh Moran sent Bart Doyle to the so-called "PUSD Task Force on Geographic Subdistricting" to represent our City, it was clearly understood that he represented the City Council. That is who chose him, and that is the authority that gave Bart the right to speak in our name. And yet, according to eyewitnesses who attended those Sub-Districting Task Force meetings, when Bart Doyle did actually make an appearance, he did very little. For the most part he sat quietly by while the decisions were being made.

The biggest decision, of course, was to allow a majority of the new PUSD "Geographic Subdistricts" the right to elect their own exclusive Board of Education representatives this year, in 2013. And when will we be allowed to elect ours? Not until two years later, in 2015. That is two full years when the lion's share of the $350,000,000 in Measure TT bond money is going to get cut up and delivered to those sub-districts with clout enough to get their hands on some. Those sub-districts with representatives who will speak for them.

How is Sierra Madre Middle School going to get funded and built when there is nobody there to represent us? I'm sorry, but Renetta Cooper can make all the promises she wants about building the Middle School, but she will not be in charge when the 2013 rubber hits the road. Those decisions will be in the hands of other people, a very different Board of Education, and we were somehow prevented from being amongst them.

Tony Brandenburg came up to the podium to speak and challenged the City Council on just this issue. He raised it by accusing the City Council of not only allowing this to happen, but of taking no action whatsoever after it did. He also said this:

"The failure to have a voice on the Board Of Education falls squarely on this Council to resolve. We will have no one there until 2015 and that does affect my kids. Without a Board voice there is no one looking out for my kids, or yours."

Josh Moran couldn't restrain himself. "It wasn't the City Council's fault. It was those guys!" he actually said, looking in the direction of Pasadena. Unfortunately for him "those guys" included the one he helped to send there, Bart Doyle. And by inference Josh couldn't seem to throw Bart under the bus fast enough. Even though everything Bart did was done with the full knowledge and approval of Josh MoranJohn Buchanan and (perhaps) Nancy Walsh.

But Josh didn't stop there. Even after Tony Brandenburg had left the podium and was heading for his seat Josh kept debating him on whose fault it was, and how he had nothing to do with it. Tony, assuming that Josh wanted to continue the conversation, began to answer some of Josh's claims. At which point Josh tried to cut him off, proclaiming that this wasn't a debate, and only he could speak. Apparently Tony was supposed to just stand there and allow Josh to berate him over what he felt the correct thinking might be.

One commenter last night put it this way: "Mayor Moran made a big mistake by responding to your public comment Tony, and initiating a discussion that he then tried to shut down. Wonder if it taught him anything."

This is what I learned. Josh Moran is scared to death of this issue. And last night he went from not even mentioning our stolen Board of Education seat for almost a year, to loudly berating someone at public comment for daring to bring it up in his presence. While Josh does understand what this means to our community, his real concern here apparently being how it could play out in next year's election.

The good news is John Capoccia (who, along with Chris Koerber, most definitely was not on the City Council when Bart Doyle was anointed to do nothing for us), will now be directly overseeing the City Council's efforts to make our voices heard at the Pasadena Unified School District. Particularly on the issues of the Middle School debacle and our stolen BOE vote. It will be interesting to hear John's reports of his experiences there.

The PUSD sends Fredo

The last time the PUSD came around was May 17, 2011. On that special evening an entire entourage of esteemed and glittering educators came to grace our humble City Hall. They included Ed Honowitz, Kim Kenne, Tom Selinske, David Azcarraga and Dr. John Pappalardo. Who is not to be in any way confused with Dr. John the Nightripper.

Last night the PUSD was back, though in far reduced numbers. This time to discuss the sad case of the Sierra Madre Middle School, and the absence of any progress there whatsoever. As a matter of fact, only one of their number actually showed up. It was supposed to be the PUSD's money guru, Dr. John Pappalardo, but it wasn't. Instead they sent Fredo.

Fredo, whose real name is Frazier Thompson, isn't one of their top guys. He seems to have some professional credentials, but certainly is not among the key decision makers. Which was a bit insulting if you think about it. Here Sierra Madre has been on the receiving end of all sorts of atrocious treatment from the PUSD, yet when the time came to explain themselves they sent a junior figure. Apparently Dr. John was otherwise engaged.

So what did Fredo have to say? Nothing much. He did let everyone know that he personally really does want to build the Middle School, and if they ever get the construction bids finished it very well could happen. He also informed us that Renetta Cooper says rebuilding the Middle School is "the Number 1 priority." Which, when you look at the sorry results, it obviously has not been their number one priority before.

Hopefully when the PUSD rat pack comes to visit in February they will send more influential figures and something of actual value will get said. They should leave Fredo home to watch the dogs.

The Water Rate Hike

The usual suspects started to roll out their new marketing product for yet another water rate hike, but they ran out of time and had to put off the hard sell until another time. One question, though. If the Water Department is going broke, why do they want to buy all of those water meters?