Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sierra Madre: Halloween Movie Capitol of the World?

Freddy K: Local boy makes good
I'm not sure there is any town in America that takes Halloween more seriously than Sierra Madre. As far as I can see the only holiday that surpasses it in overall citywide participation might be Christmas. But again, I am not completely sure about that. It's close.

Certainly more homes get decorated at Christmas, and there is a little bit extra of that "for the kids" feel to much of it. Especially the part having to do with the buying and consuming of mass amounts of stuff. But as far as people just throwing themselves into the spirit of it all? Getting dressed up and playing the part? Halloween just might take first prize in our little world. Just head downtown tonight and you will see what I mean. There you'll find people decked out in the holiday way for about as far as the eye can see. There really is no other place quite like it.

The only place I know about in town where Halloween is not traditionally observed is Bethany Christian School. When my kids attended preschool there October 31st was known as "Storybook Character Day." All the kids used to dress up as their favorite figures from children's literature to celebrate. God bless them.

Movie makers have apparently long viewed Sierra Madre's innate quotient for the frightening to be the perfect fodder for its horror films. I was surfing around the Internet and there really have been quite a few horror movies filmed here. Perhaps it is because we are not too far from Hollywood and cinema folk find it a convenient place to film. Though I am also of the opinion that not appearing too much like so many of our more au courant California neighbors could be a contributing factor as well. Certainly there are a lot of spooky older looking homes and neighborhoods appropriate for the genre in this town.

But there is likely more to it. Sierra Madre could very well just be a scary place. Obviously, and in so many different ways. While the exact reason for this might be difficult to pin down, the movie industry apparently seems to recognize it. And when it comes time to film movies in a horror genre kind of way, this is the town they often come to in order to get the job done right.

One interesting site that I came across is called "Best Movies Filmed in Sierra Madre, California." You can access this beauty by clicking here. Out of the 8 films this site claims were made here, 6 of them are horror films. Here is that list along with the supplied short description:

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956): Dr. Miles Bennel returns to his small town practice to find several of his patients suffering the paranoid delusion that their friends or relatives are impostors.

Scream (1996): A masked killer is on the loose in a small town. He terrorizes local teenagers using his knowledge of horror movies and condemns them for not knowing the unspoken rules. A sleazy tabloid journalist is determined to investigate and link this killer to a crime that happened one year ago.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982): This sequel has a plot that is unrelated to the earlier movies of the same name. In this horror story, a large Halloween mask making company has plans to kill millions of American children with deadly masks.

Family Plot (1976): Filmed by Alfred Hitchcock, fake medium Madam Blanche (Barbara Harris) and her taxi driver boyfriend George (Bruce Dern) make a living by scamming people with her phony powers. They are hired by an aging widow Julia Rainbird, to find her nephew who was given away for adoption many years before.

Halloween II (1981): It's the same night as the original Halloween. Michael Myers is around the neighborhood, after being gunned down by Dr. Loomis six times. Now he's in a hospital where the girl Laurie Strode was taken. And there's a reason why Michael is after her ...

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991): In part six of the Nightmare on Elm Street series, dream monster Freddy Krueger has finally killed all of the children of his hometown, and seeks to escape its confines to hunt fresh prey.

That is an impressive list. Oddly, since it most definitely was filmed in Sierra Madre, the first Halloween movie is not listed here.

Another interesting site that discusses Sierra Madre's attraction to horror film makers is called Dark Destinations (link). The dark destination in this case being our very own Pioneer Cemetery. Two films of note are discussed, the first being Alfred Hitchcock's 1976 classic, Family Plot. This was apparently Alfred's final film before he himself passed on to that other realm. Here is how the role of our town's celebrated place of eternal rest is described:

In the film, Sierra Madre's Pioneer Cemetery doubles as Barlow Creek Cemetery. It appears in a sequence where Dern's character pursues a widow at her husband's funeral, hoping that she will lead him to the mysterious nephew. That pursuit comes to a stop at the fake grave of the nephew who faked his death years earlier.

The other film that starring Pioneer Cemetery is the original Halloween, filmed in 1976. Here is how Sierra Madre's appearance is described:

Sierra Madre Pioneer Cemetery appears in a sequence early on in Halloween, where Myer's doctor, Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasence), comes to the cemetery to seek out Judith's grave. The caretaker (Arthur Malet) leads him to the grave (Row 18, Plot 20) where they discover that the headstone has been stolen. While the caretaker attributes it to a Halloween stunt performed by the local kids, it is a confirmation to Loomis that Myers has returned to Haddonfield - or as he puts it, "He came home."

However, this is not where Pioneer Cemetery's claim to cinematic notoriety ends. Another website called "I Am Not A Stalker " (link) notes that our local graveyard plays a cameo role in the idiosyncratic television series Twin Peaks. (Not to be confused with the town out in San Bernardino County by the same name.) In particular as the site of the show's climatic first season finale. Here is how Not A Stalker discusses this important matter:

As I mentioned in my post last month about The Old Place restaurant, thanks to fellow stalker/David-Lynch-aficionado Brad, from the Brad D Studios website, I recently discovered that fave television series Twin Peaks was shot almost in its entirety in Southern California.  Because I have long been a Twin Peaks fanatic, I was beyond eager to start stalking the many locations mentioned on Brad’s blog – the most exciting of which was Sierra Madre Pioneer Cemetery, the site of the funeral of Laura Palmer (aka Sheryl Lee) in the Season 1 episode titled “Rest in Pain.” Surprisingly, even though Sierra Madre is located just a few miles east of Pasadena and even though the cemetery has been featured in several spooky productions over the years, until perusing through Brad’s site in early September, I had never before even heard of it!  So, because the place fit in perfectly with my Haunted Hollywood theme, I waited to drag the Grim Cheaper out there until this past weekend.

Back when the Sierra Madre Patch was posting a lot more original material about this town than it is now, our own Tony Brandenburg contributed an article about Sierra Madre's penchant for horror films called, "Halloween: The Night He Came Home (to Sierra Madre)" (link).

Tony notes here that the Episcopal Church of the Ascension was used for filming a few sequences of the horror classic The Fog (1979). However, when it comes to serving as the backdrop to Sierra Madre cinematic horror film glory, our favorite church on East Laurel cannot hold a stick to Alverno High School:

Alverno High School is listed as a location for and horror and suspense themed movies, including  Tim Burton’s biopic of Plan 9 from Outer Space director Ed Wood (1994), and Poison Ivy (1992). It also was used for a couple of episodes of V, the Series. Bailey Canyon was listed as a film location for Nightmare on Elm Street VI: Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991). My favorite discovery, hands down, was learning that Sierra Madre was listed by IBDM as the single locale for the z-grade comedy horror picture The Worm Eaters (1977) which was directed by the late Herb Robins, alumni of Dennis Steckler films The Thrill Killers, Steckler’s send-up of- what else?- Hitchcock’s Psycho.

Tony also tells us that a scene from Halloween III was shot inside The Buccaneer. Something that makes sense to me, and on several levels. This is a great article, and devotees of the Sierra Madre - Halloween nexus really do need to check it out. As Tony puts it:

Sierra Madre has been a locale used for some very... interesting films. From Invasion of the Body Snatchers, to Halloween, to The Worm Eaters. Sierra Madre, bask in your cinematic glory.

One Sierra Madre movie that does not get mentioned on any of the horror film genre sites I've seen is the nuclear terror film Testament (click here). Nuclear war may not have too many Freddy Krueger overtones, but it is nonetheless suitably frightening. If you haven't seen this film you really do need to check it out. Scene after scene includes footage straight off the streets of Sierra Madre. You could very well come away from the experience believing the world really has ended, and that it all happened right here. Water crisis and all.

Have a great Halloween! You are in one of the very best places to do it.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

SCAG Head Hasan Ikhrata Wants to Put a Black Box In Your Car and Track Your Every Move

I'm watching.
You may have noticed yesterday that a rather old Tattler article had crept back into our "Top 10 Most Read Posts" list. Originally posted here in October of 2009 (link), it asks this loaded question: "The Head of SCAG is a Former Soviet Planner?" The article was based on a cite from the Orange County Register, and yes. Hasan Ikhrata, a man noted for his striking lack of a forehead, once was an actual Soviet planning official. From The Register (link):

No joke! SCAG's new leader was a Soviet planner This is too good to be true. I have a habit of comparing myriad local and state planners to Soviet planners, given that their ideas seem so similar at times. Recently, I wrote a column about the planners at SCAG, the appropriately named Southern California Association of Governments. I say appropriately, because a dictionary definition of scag is heroin, and these folks are addicted to central planning and tax dollars.

Well, the new head of SCAG, replacing Mark Pisano, is Hasan Ikhrata. Check out this from his bio: "Hasan also worked abroad for the Government of USSR, Moscow Metro Corporation, where he conducted subway ridership forecasting, engineering design and analysis of TDM programs for the Moscow Subway system. Hasan holds a bachelor's degree from Moscow University in the former Soviet Union and master's degree in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and is a Ph.D. candidate in Urban Planning from the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles."

At least now it will be easier to refer to the "Soviet Planner" in charge of Southern California's premiere planning agency!

An interesting blast from the past for sure. And certainly SCAG does have its Soviet aspects. The most obvious to anyone living in Sierra Madre being the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) numbers we are forced to endure from them every few years.

The "RHNA Process," as it is known, being how SCAG's faceless planners help jam hideously inappropriate locally unwanted land uses (LULUs) into quaint little villages such as our own. Unelected and widely reviled bureaucrats, SCAG planning apparatchiks operate at the sole pleasure of an increasingly hostile central state government, and function completely free from any interference by we the voters.

City planning has now apparently become a post-democratic activity.

Obviously this former Soviet planner has found his happy home in today's California. A one party state well into the process of confiscating all local planning authority and consolidating it within our venal central government in Sacramento, where it is then peddled piecemeal to the highest bidders.

Slow growthers and other people who believe that cities such as ours should be allowed to independently plot their own planning destinies apparently being the Kulaks of this troubled era.

So why is an old Tattler article about Hasan Ikhrata attracting so much attention on the Internet now? Apparently our favorite once upon a time Soviet planner is up to no good again. This from the Los Angeles Times (link):

A black box in your car? Some see a source of tax revenue As America's road planners struggle to find the cash to mend a crumbling highway system, many are beginning to see a solution in a little black box that fits neatly by the dashboard of your car.

The devices, which track every mile a motorist drives and transmit that information to bureaucrats, are at the center of a controversial attempt in Washington and state planning offices to overhaul the outdated system for funding America's major roads.

The tea party is aghast. The American Civil Liberties Union is deeply concerned, too, raising a variety of privacy issues.

And while Congress can't agree on whether to proceed, several states are not waiting. They are exploring how, over the next decade, they can move to a system in which drivers pay per mile of road they roll over. Thousands of motorists have already taken the black boxes, some of which have GPS monitoring, for a test drive.

"This really is a must for our nation. It is not a matter of something we might choose to do," said Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Assn. of Governments, which is planning for the state to start tracking miles driven by every California motorist by 2025. "There is going to be a change in how we pay these taxes. The technology is there to do it."

This really is a must for whose nation, Mr. Ikhrata?

That story has now gone viral on the Internet. A website called Zero Hedge (link), also citing Ikhrata's troubling assertions, had this to say:

Big Brother Is Coming To Your Car This is a topic that has been on my radar screen for a while, but one that very few Americans seem to be paying attention to despite the egregious revelations concerning NSA spying that have emerged recently. I first flagged this issue in late 2012 in an article titled: Coming to Your Car: Mandatory Black Boxes That Record Everything.

The latest push for tracking devices in cars is being sold as necessary in order to raise funds to pay for the nation’s decayed highway infrastructure ... This is simply idiotic. There is already a tax per gallon on gasoline, so people are already being taxed based on how much they drive. Only a control-freak, moronic government bureaucrat would come to the conclusion that the solution to this problem is to install Orwellian tracking devices in people’s cars.

And then there is this observation from a Libertarian news blog called American Thinker (link):

Big Brother Never Sleeps - The statists never stop their quest to figure out how to control our lives. I haven't adjusted to the new reality in America that we will face penalties for not having health insurance (and hope I never do adjust to it), when along comes another absolutely crazy leftie plan, "Track and Tax."

Can you guess what this might be about? Think outside the box and don't be afraid to be completely outrageous as you brainstorm ideas. Headline Hint: "A black box in your car? Some see a source of tax revenue: The devices would track every mile you drive -- possibly including your location -- and the government would use the data to draw up a tax bill."

American Thinker also cites Hasan Ikhrata's quote, and then shares these thoughts:

Next, anyone affiliated with something called the Southern California Association of Governments would be a person I would steer clear of when seeking guidance on, well, just about anything. Who knew that in addition to The Government, there would be an Association of Governments?

Then, I have to say, that while I appreciate the ACLU being concerned about privacy, I have no interest in anyone figuring out a way to make this plan to track and tax be one that are eventually feel "more comfortable" with. I don't want the government (or anyone!) keeping track of where I go, what day I go, what time I go, how many miles I drove, or anything of the sort.

It appears that we are cursed to be living in interesting times. Times where everything you do is carefully watched, tracked, analyzed, and then taxed.

Look at it this way, perhaps Hasan Ikhrata never really did leave the Soviet Union.

He just brought it here with him.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why Are Civil Penalties (Fines) for Water Usage Still In Place?

I have been getting calls and e-mails lately from people asking why civil penalties (read: fines) for water usage are still being called for by City Hall. Among the issues surrounding both this city's many water problems and the upcoming substantial (there is no other word for it) rate increases, a concern about the continued necessity for fines has now clearly taken hold as well.

The question is a very good one.

When these penalties were originally proposed by the City Council, the stated purpose was to cut resident water consumption because the Sierra Madre Water Division's wells were quickly running dry. This was an emergency measure designed to help prevent what would have been a disaster for the community. While water conservation is always a good idea in our arid portion of the western dream, obviously this was a step way beyond any of that.

Here is how the need is described on the City of Sierra Madre website (link):

Water Conservation Increased Mandatory Water Conservation Measures: At the May 28, 2013 City Council meeting, the City Council implemented mandatory water conservation measures for all water customers in Sierra Madre, effective immediately. The dry winter Sierra Madre just experienced seriously affected the groundwater levels as did increased water consumption by the City’s water customers. Due to the lack of rain and increased consumption, the groundwater levels have not recovered, leading the Raymond Basin Watermaster to reduce the City’s groundwater pumping rights by almost 47%.

The City now requires that each water customer conserve a percentage of his or her July 2011 through June 2012 water use. The required percentage of conservation will vary, depending on the customer’s water use. Customers consuming 0-12 billing units of water (0-1,200 cubic feet) will be exempt from the conservation requirements. Customers using 13-17 billing units (1,300 – 1,700 cubic feet) are required to reduce their consumption by 10%. Customers using 18 units or more are required to reduce by 20%.

It is imperative that everyone in the community does everything they can to conserve water. Active, thoughtful water conservation by everyone in Sierra Madre now could help the City avoid even more stringent mandatory measures and/or the import of water from sources outside the City.

If the original stated goal was to prevent having to import water from the San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District, or anything like it, then obviously the City's water use restrictions did not get the job done. The wells for all intents and purposes did run dry, and we are now hooked up to the same outside water supplies as many of the other communities in the area. Our water independence is, for the time being, over. Hopefully not forever, though I do have doubts about that despite reassurances from all of the usual sources.

The City's "Mandatory Water Conservation Plan" is also on the website, though you will need to download that one for yourself. There is no available link that I can give you. Here is what is said there about civil penalties (fines):

13.24.140 - Failure to comply—Penalties: It is unlawful for any customer or user thereof of the water department to fail to comply with sections 13.24.070 through 13.24.120 of this chapter. Civil penalties for failure to comply with any of the provisions shall be as follows:
A. First Violation. For the first violation by any customer of the water department of any provision of sections 13.24.070 through 13.24.120, a surcharge penalty is imposed in an amount of twice the Tier 1 water rate per one hundred cubic feet of water or billing units.
B. Second Violation. For the second and all future violations by any customer of the water department of any provision of sections 13.24.070 through 13.24.120, a surcharge penalty is imposed in the amount of three times the Tier 1 water rate per one hundred cubic feet of water or billing units.

So again, here is the question. If civil penalties (fines) for using too much water were put into place as part of the "stringent mandatory measures" designed to help prevent our wells from running dry, are they still appropriate now that we are importing water from the SGVMWD? While certainly we are not awash in the stuff, and conservation is always the wisest choice, technically the water emergency that will soon lead to the implementation of these fines is over. We are no longer on the verge of running out of water.

Here is a perception problem that the City might want to ponder. When these fines actually begin to be imposed, and that is in the near future, they will result in a significant revenue increase for the City. We have been told on numerous occasions that the only purpose of these fines is to curb water usage by residents due to emergency conditions. But with these stated emergency conditions now past, are financial punishments still justified?

And without a demonstrable emergency to justify them, are they even legal? These civil penalties (fines) will obviously bring the City more money, but with our new and quite adequate water supply in place, don't they now become nothing more than a de facto water rate increase? One taking place well outside of the state mandated Prop 218 process?

Or, to bring the question to its next obvious level, can it be this really always was about the money?

At a time when the City's ability to impose yet another water rate increase upon residents is in some doubt, it is not the kind of question they should want people asking.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Whatever Happened to the Downtown Retail Market Demand Study?

You can find all sorts of things on the Internet. Apparently there is an unlimited amount of stuff out there, and if you poke around a little you just never know what you are going to turn up. As an example, I came across the following article on an archival site called Paperblog. It was originally published by something called LA Newser, which is sadly no longer with us.

The Newser took an enthusiastic viewpoint on the governmental affairs of our town, along with those of many other burgs in this area. And none more so than when they wrote about the Buxton Downtown Retail Market Demand Study. Dated June 14, 2012, judging by this article you'd have thought it was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Or something as equally exciting and momentous.

Sierra Madre to Attract Downtown Business with Marketing Study (link): Sierra Madre, like most cities in this Post-Redevelopment Era, must go to creative lengths to attract new downtown business to fuel economic growth.

At its Tuesday meeting, the City Council gave staff direction to implement a downtown market demand study that would not only help recruit new business, but invigorate current businesses to help the city compete with neighboring market areas.

Prepared by Fort Worth, Texas marketing firm Buxton, the study identifies Sierra Madre’s retail strengths and weaknesses to assist the city in recruiting specific retailers that would best compliment the area’s consumers. The study was also intended to assist current businesses with making strategic merchandising and marketing decisions, according to City Manager Elaine Aguilar.

The first step in implementing the market demand study is to focus on business retention, said Aguilar. The idea is to inform local merchants with the study’s consumer propensity reports, which list retail items that local consumers purchase most frequently in Sierra Madre’s trade area.

“We could prepare these reports for current businesses to help them figure out if there is something they should be carrying in order to capture some of the sales that are being lost to our neighboring communities,” said Aguilar.

She told the council that staff would like to provide these study findings to local business owners by setting up two forums this month. Staff would then survey participants to know whether or not business owners find this information to be useful. Staff also proposed that members of the Sierra Madre Chamber of Commerce help get the word out to local merchants, while also generating enthusiasm toward the market demand study.

Bill Coburn, Executive Director at the Sierra Madre Chamber of Commerce and editor of Sierra Madre News Net, told the council that the Chamber had discussed the Buxton study at previous meetings and was excited to make it work for Sierra Madre as it has for other communities.

“I have seen it implemented in other cities where businesses benefit directly from specific items that nobody in the town is carrying,” said Coburn. “Once they saw that, they started carrying them – now all of a sudden they’re selling them.”

According to Aguilar, the next phase for the study would be business recruitment. She said that staff has already been provided a list of specific retail businesses that match Sierra Madre’s market demand area.

“Once that list is narrowed down to two or three businesses, Buxton actually prepares what they call pursuit packages, and that is information tailored to that specific business showing why Sierra Madre has the customers that will support their businesses,” Aguilar reported.

As part of the recruitment plan, staff suggested that the city offer potential businesses special incentives to setup shop in Sierra Madre. Aguilar said that staff had brainstormed some ideas such as reduced building and safety permit fees, expediting permit processing at no extra cost, relaxed parking standards, or reduced business fees. She noted that the City Council would need to discuss this idea in greater detail at future meetings.

“We’re just throwing this at you as a way to generate ideas,” said Aguilar. “We could do none of these, or we could do one or two things that you might think are interesting.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Nancy Walsh did not hold back her enthusiasm for putting the study to use. She said local merchants would need to be inspired by the prospects of increased economic activity for the study forums to be truly productive.

“It’s going to take all of us talking to business owners,” she said. “And I think it’s going to be very interesting that we are going to have to sell it to the business owners because they have a lot on their hands, and they’re not going to want to go to these meetings if they think it’s going to be a waste of time.”

As you might recall, the Buxton people did not come cheap. The price of admission to their Downtown Retail Market Demand Study was a cool $30,000. A lot of dough at any given time, but especially so today when the constant demands being made by the City for ever larger amounts of the tax and ratepayer's dime has become controversial here in town.

So where did all of that money come from? According to the June 28, 2011 City Council Agenda (link), it was paid for out of Community Redevelopment Agency funds. A cash source we no longer have access to I'm afraid. It was all taken away by Jerry Brown to pay for things that he wants, like the state's public schools. Perhaps that is a good thing. This money may have been too much of a temptation for our people, and they didn't quite understand how it needed be handled.

Being curious about what exactly we ended up getting from Buxton for our $30,000 in CRA money, I turned to the June 12, 2012 Agenda Report for this item. It is titled "DOWNTOWN MARKET DEMAND STUDY – IMPLEMENTATION." Many bold claims are made there about Buxton and the sophisticated marketing methodology that they call "Psychographics." A word that might suggest to some the artwork of a madman, but in the Buxtonian worldview actually indicates how people might decide what consumer products to purchase, and where exactly they would go to do that.

According to verbiage found in this Agenda Report, all we would ever need do to bless our downtown shops with hitherto unseen levels of prosperity is identify these products, and then convince our reluctant retailers to bring them here to Sierra Madre to sell.

Our retailers apparently being a little too slow to figure any of this out on their own. Fortunately for Sierra Madre, Buxton's psychographics would make that just as easy as snap for them.

As an example, here is a portion of that Agenda Report, as authored by Sierra Madre's City Manager, Elaine I. Aguilar. There is some forward thinking to be found in this material.

Marketing and Branding: A possible implementation item pertains to the creation of a new, “Shop, Dine, Visit Sierra Madre program,” or a similar marketing program for Sierra Madre. The marketing program would be aimed at enhancing the experience of the City’s residents and visitors and the goal is bringing more residents and visitors downtown.

The development of a marketing program is a very involved process. It can involve branding, developing a slogan, logo, and marketing materials including digital information such as a website, and full use of the internet and social media. Most importantly it will involve making a decision regarding “how” Sierra Madre should be marketed – for example, is Sierra Madre:

 A “day trip” destination – walking through the downtown shops and enjoying a meal
 An outdoor person’s paradise, with hiking trails, bicycle riding, etc.
 A “dog-friendly” place to visit
 A family oriented town with parades and special events
 And any other ideas.

Additionally, a decision will need to be made on “who” to market the City to, for instance:

 People living in Sierra Madre
 People coming into Sierra Madre for work or school
 People inside or outside the City’s market trade area
 People looking for daytime destinations or “staycation”

Making a decision regarding how and to whom Sierra Madre should market itself, will aid in the development of the rest of the marketing plan (or plans), including the development of a slogan and the marketing materials.

It is recommended that a “Shop, Dine, Visit Sierra Madre” committee be formed. The Committee can be assisted by City staff, but it is recommended that the committee members be one or two Council Members and interested community volunteers, with involvement of residents with a background in marketing and advertising. Staff would need Council direction regarding the formation of the committee. The committee could either be a committee formally appointed by the Council (and subject to the Brown Act.) Or, the committee can be an informal committee composed of any interested individuals and less than a quorum of Council Members.

A very involved process indeed. But at least it's dog friendly.

So here are my questions. It has now been about a year and a half since implementing the Downtown Retail Market Demand Study was discussed by the City Council. To date I have yet to hear of any meetings of the Shop, Dine, Visit Sierra Madre Committee. Did that not happen? Do we know who was appointed to serve on this committee yet? I happen to be an expert on menu use, and would be glad to help out.

And the flood of exciting new products and businesses that Buxton's acclaimed "psychographics" concept was to bring to our little portion of the western paradise, what's up with that? I personally will tell you that I still cannot seem to find superfoods like quinoa or goji berries in town. I was in the Bottle Shop just the other day and they didn't have either of them in stock. Though they did try to get me to taste some wine. I had to turn them down, however. Unless I am in church I rarely drink that early in the day.

Certainly there has to at least be a logo, marketing information or a slogan available by this late date. "Sierra Madre: We now stock toilet paper" would be a good one.

Can anyone supply me with information about how exactly this all turned out? I'd be curious to know.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dr. Reese Halter: Ubiquitous Plastics, Toxic Sponges Extraordinaire

(Mod: Something that came up in the comments the other day is that one of the consequences of the colorful chloramine enriched liquid effluent now being pumped into this town from the SGVMWD will be a huge increase in the use of bottled water. Which, of course, means that we as a community will be tossing out 10s of thousands of additional plastic water bottles every few weeks. Something our lapdog EENER Commission might describe as unsustainable behavior were they to ever go off script. Don't hold your breath. So what are the real consequences you ask? Here our favorite conservation biologist Dr. Reese Halter lays it all down.)

Toxic plastic pollution is filling-up the Great Lakes, European lakes and even subalpine lakes in Europe's famed Alps. This insidious byproduct of petroleum has infiltrated the marine food webs and Earthlings are indeed in harms way.

It wasn't until World War II that polyethylene (plastic single-use disposable bags, dispensable bottles), propylene (bottle caps, fishing gear) and polystyrene (take-away food containers) were invented, and by the late 1960s being mass-produced. By 1979, the production of plastics in the U.S. eclipsed that of steel. Today, globally humans produce 280 million metric tons of plastic, annually.

Plastics are long chains of monomer hydrocarbon molecules. And one of the principle ingredients of all plastics is crude oil. How much? Four percent of the entire world supply or about 3.4 million barrels of oil, each day, are used to make them.

Earth's oceans are choking with plastics. It is incomprehensible that each day an additional 3.5 million pieces of plastic enter our oceans or 1.6 million pounds of plastic each year.

Two summers ago researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Superior discovered that Lakes' Superior, Huron and Erie were crammed with plastic and smaller micro pieces of plastics dubbed 'micro-plastics.' This past summer (2013) they confirmed that both Lakes' Michigan and Ontario were also brimming with micro-plastics.

It turns out that the sources are abrasive plastics or micro-beads containing tiny bits of polyethylene plastics used in exfoliants, in face soaps, body washes, toothpastes and other personal care and household products. The particles are so small about the size of one sand grain; they slip through the screens at the wastewater treatment plants and then accumulate en masse in the Great Lakes.

Scientists know that both plastics and micro-plastics act as chemical sponges attracting toxins dissolved in water.

The Great Lakes micro-plastics' are rife with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), bisphenol A (BP As), phalates, dioxins and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), which are all known to disrupt the human endocrine system and cause cancers and birth defects.

Moreover, fish consume these micro-plastics mistaking them for food sources and these toxins are bio-magnified up the food web ultimately poisoning humans who consume fish.

In addition many large cities draw their drinking water directly from the Great Lakes.

The octillion pieces of plastic and micro-plastics in the Great Lakes can also act as a vector for alien species and diseases like the Vibrio bacteria that causes the pandemic cholera.

Sadly, my favorite lake in Switzerland Lake Geneva is also full of plastics. And last week scientists from the University of Bayreuth in Germany found that Italy's largest lake: Lake Garda located high in the spectacular Italian Alps has 1,000 particles of plastic per square meter and 450 pieces of micro-plastics per square meter. Clearly Lake Garda's drinking water has been contaminated. Furthermore, European scientists now suspect that lakes in Bavaria mirror this micro-plastic pollution, which is not only thought to now be European-wide but worldwide.

What can each of us do?

Refuse to use or accept single-use disposable plastic bags.

Refuse to use products that contain plastic ingredients.

Please avoid buying beauty or health products that contain polypropylene or polyethylene.

If each of us joins together and refuses to buy these products that are poisoning life on Earth -- our purchasing power globally will send a clear message to the manufactures and distributors to stop making these deadly micro-plastic sponges. Please help protect our fresh waterways from pernicious petroleum-based plastics - now!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Tattler Weekend News & Review: "The Waters Run Red In Sierra Madre" Edition

I kind of thought so
(Mod: It may be a world of woe out in news land, but we think there is a solution. Rather than risking any actual contact with that awful stuff, it is far safer to read about it in the Tattler Weekend News & Review. Please wear your safety goggles.)

Colored Water? (City of Sierra Madre link): Several Sierra Madre water customers have contacted the City with questions and concerns regarding water coming from their taps that is yellow or orange in color. Although the discolored water does not pose health concerns, it is perfectly understandable that our customers do not want to drink that or use it for cooking. The water is safe for use, but aesthetically unappealing.

The discoloration of the water is a direct result of the change from our deep well water treated with free chlorine to the use of MWD chloraminated water. The difference in chemistry between the two sources has caused a scouring effect on our distribution system. While the imported water has zero iron and manganese when it leaves the MWD treatment plant, the discoloration is caused by iron precipitating from the City’s older steel pipelines and the galvanized plumbing of many of the city’s residences and businesses. The iron is what gives the water its coloration.

Buildings and homes with galvanized steel plumbing are more likely to see water discoloration. Moreover, within those buildings, a little-used bathroom or faucet is more likely to produce red-tinged water. If this happens, please be patient and allow your cold water to run for a few minutes at full velocity. After a few minutes the water should clear. In addition when running laundry allow for whites to be laundered last as discolored water may stain whites.

Until the City’s water system acclimates to the “new” water, incidents of discoloration will continue. Water Department staff has estimated that these incidents may continue for as long as 6 months, particularly in low flow areas where water system circulation is minimal. In order to reduce the acclimation time, water department staff is “flushing” the water system frequently, by opening fire hydrants to rapidly move water through the system.

The City is dedicated and committed to water conservation. We understand water is a limited resource that must be carefully managed. Since flushing is critical to maintain high-quality drinking water, an efficient flushing program is also essential. The flushing program is monitored to ensure the least amount of water is used. Whenever possible, flushed water is captured in a water tanker and released at the spreading grounds so that it does not go to waste.

(Mod: No matter how awful things seem to get, City of Sierra Madre news releases always sport a certain "it's nowhere near as bad as you think" kind of flair. Sure your water is looking a little bit like the rainbow lately, but that's OK. And perhaps you should be paying extra for all those pretty colors? Hmm? Of course, if one day you turn on your tap and little snakes come out, that would be a bad thing. At least until the City's email blast arrives. I'm sure they would have a comforting and logical explanation.)

RED Closes Seniors Housing Balance Sheet Construction Loan for $20.6 million in Sierra Madre, CA ( link): Red Capital Partners, LLC, the proprietary banking arm of RED CAPITAL GROUP, LLC, announced today that it closed a $20.6 million seniors housing balance sheet construction loan. Kensington of Sierra Madre will be a 75 unit, 90 bed assisted living and memory care facility. The two story building will be situated in a premier location in Sierra Madre, California. This will be the first purpose-built assisted living facility constructed in the close-knit and highly desirable Los Angeles-area community in approximately 10 years. The property will be developed, owned and operated by affiliates of Kensington Senior Living, LLC.

The non-recourse construction loan will finance the completion and stabilization of the project over an initial five year term. Following successful lease-up, RED CAPITAL GROUP, LLC anticipates providing a permanent loan refinance through Red Mortgage Capital, LLC, its mortgage banking arm. The transaction illustrates RED’s ability to support its clients with a comprehensive set of debt financial solutions, which can be applied to high quality seniors housing assets throughout their life cycle, from ground-up development through stabilization.  

RED’s expertise and access to balance sheet capital allows us to provide customized capital to seniors housing and long term care projects in the form of first mortgage, subordinated, gap and bridge loans, participating debt, first loss debt and residual debt. Each transaction financed is project specific and as such each negotiated structure is a customized solution.

“Senior housing debt deals remain difficult to source and RED’s solution orientation combined with exceptional terms provided the ideal capital for us.” said Dan Gorham, Finance Partner at Kensington Senior Living.

“RED is proud to partner with Kensington, led by a top tier management team with extensive seniors housing development experience and a modern, progressive approach to providing high quality of care to seniors in thoughtfully designed settings.” said Adam B. Sherman, Managing Director of Red Mortgage Capital, LLC and lead banker on the transaction. “The transaction demonstrates the capabilities of RED’s powerful financing platform and our ability to provide comprehensive debt capital solutions to our seniors housing clientele.”

(Mod: This is worrisome. Not that the Kensington will begin its existence here awash in $20.6 million dollars in debt, but rather this fine lending institution thinks the place will have 75 units. That is not true, they're suites. Everybody knows that. Danny Castro needs to call these guys up on Monday and straighten them out. I hope it doesn't kill the loan.)

Opponents of transgender rights law say signature-gathering efforts to repeal are “exploding” ( link): Republican Frank Schubert, the veteran strategist behind Prop. 8, says the signature-gathering effort to repeal a controversial law regarding transgender student services is “exploding” around California.

Schubert, who is in charge of the referendum effort to repeal the transgender bill, said in an email Thursday that 300 churches have been added to the signature-gathering drive in the last week alone. That brings the total to 750 statewide now engaged in the effort by a coalition called Privacy for All Students that’s circulating petitions to repeal AB 1266, he said.

The law sponsored by San Francisco Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano and signed by Governor Jerry Brown mandates that schools allow transgender students to use services, including bathrooms and sports teams, with which they sexually identify.

The bill passed with Democratic support, and not a single GOP vote. Proponents like Equality California and the Transgender Law Center have argued the law will guard transgender students from bullying and better protect their rights. But it’s become a lightening rod for evangelical and conservative groups, who say it’s unnecessary and an example of more government intervention in California families’ lives.

Though Schubert couldn’t provide us with figures of total signatures collected Thursday, he confirmed that — with donations of at least $250,000 and paid signature-gathering at work — some 320,000 petitions are currently in circulation with a potential of gathering 2.5 million signatures by the deadline.

(Mod: Now that is a blast from the past. Frank Schubert used to run a political consulting firm called Schubert/Flint, which was the company hired by the "No On Measure V" campaign here a few years back. You know, the guys with the hundreds of really stupid postcards? Frank has gone on to find political glory as the sultan of gay negative ballot initiatives such as Prop 8. So why would the people who wanted to defeat Measure V here in Sierra Madre have hired such a fellow? Maybe they're homophobes? Oh, and the next time you see Josh Moran around town, ask him why he had a former Schubert/Flint operative working on his 2010 City Council campaign. My bet is he'll deny ever having met him.)

The iPad Goes to School (Business Week link): In September, the Los Angeles Unified School District began carrying out a $50 million plan to equip 30,000 students in 47 schools from kindergarten through 12th grade with an iPad. Giving kids iPads sounds like installing candy machines on every desk, or worse, Xboxes. The educators naturally disagree. They spent $678 per iPad, loading them up with software from the Pearson (PSO) educational group and locking them down so that students couldn’t wander around the Internet unchaperoned.

It took only a few days for students at Westchester High School, in southwestern Los Angeles, to bypass the filtering software so they could update their Facebook (FB) pages and stream music from Pandora (P). “It was predictable that people were going to find a way,” says Dominique Daniels, a 16-year-old at Westchester. “It wasn’t that hard.”

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) treated the security breach as a crisis. At Westchester High and two other schools where students managed to liberate their iPads, it ordered that all tablets be returned.

In a confidential memo intercepted by the Los Angeles Times, LAUSD Police Chief Steven Zipperman warned of a larger student hackathon and suggested the district was moving too quickly. “I’m guessing this is just a sample of what will likely occur on other campuses once this hits Twitter, YouTube, or other social media sites explaining to our students how to breach or compromise the security of these devices,” wrote Zipperman. “I want to prevent a runaway train scenario when we may have the ability to put a hold on the rollout.”

(Mod: I am always thankful that God made children strong enough to survive the knuckleheads who run some of our area Unified School Districts. Too bad the taxpayers don't have that same level of protection.)

L.A. County audit finds failures in oversight of drug rehab clinics (The Center for Investigative Reporting link): Los Angeles County authorities have let problem drug rehabilitation providers run away with millions of dollars in public money and failed to follow through on threats to stop funding errant clinics, according to a new report by the county auditor-controller.

County and state officials should communicate better, crack down on deadbeat clinics, set higher standards for approving new ones and conduct criminal background checks of clinic operators, the report stated.

The report, released late Friday, was commissioned by the county Board of Supervisors after The Center for Investigative Reporting and CNN revealed pervasive and unchecked fraud in the Drug Medi-Cal system, which provides addiction counseling for the poor. A state audit ordered in response to the investigation is due next year.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who called for the Los Angeles review, said in an interview that he’d like to see the county get clear and strong authority to cut off fraudulent providers.

“Some of these contractors who are fly-by-night operations are certified by the state originally, got funding and then weren’t held accountable by the state or county,” he said. “That’s a troubling situation. It needs to be corrected.”

(Mod: Isn't that a bit presumptuous of the Zevster? I mean, why should drug rehab facilities be operating any better than the rest of the vast bureaucracy he and his fellow L.A. County Board of Supervisors pals are supposed to be running? Maybe they were distracted with other things, like raising sales taxes and extorting money out of cities like Sierra Madre over storm water runoff.)

Support for Weed Legalization Outpacing Support for Gay Marriage (New York Magazine link): Andrew Sullivan wrote something about the marriage-equality effort a couple of years ago that stuck with us, not because he was expressing a particularly new or novel thought, but simply owing to the succinct way he put it: "I'm proud to say it must represent one of the most successful political, social and cultural movements in history," Sullivan said.

Sullivan was obviously right, as anyone who has kept an eye on those swiftly "evolving" marriage-equality polling graphs would agree. However, a new Gallup poll today pegging support for marijuana legalization at an all-time high of 58 percent is a reminder that the stoner-rights movement has been just as successful over the past two decades — if not in terms of material changes to the law, then at least in shaping beliefs. We plotted both Gallup poll trends together on a single graph, and they're nearly identical. Who will hit 60 first? 70?

(Mod: Apparently Frank Schubert is now working for the potheads as well.)

Critics howl over lobbyist walking governor's dog ( link): Does the hand that holds the leash of California's "first dog," cuddly corgi Sutter Brown, also have a hand in guiding policy with the dog's master, Gov. Jerry Brown?

That's the question being raised about Jennifer Fearing, the senior state director for the Humane Society of the United States, who critics suggest has turned her role as regular walker of the governor's dog into a cannily effective way to lobby the state's chief executive on animal rights issues.

Fearing scored a perfect 6-for-6 record this legislative season in getting bills signed by Brown, placing her in the ranks of Sacramento's most effective lobbyists.

Among the coups for the Humane Society was legislation banning lead ammunition that Fearing said endangered as many as 130 species in California. It was one of 11 bills signed by Brown out of the 18 that the Legislature passed to restrict guns or ammunition.

"The question needs to be asked," said Jennifer Kerns, spokeswoman for Free California, a gun-rights group that opposed the lead ammunition ban. "Is there a conflict of interest with such a close relationship between a lobbyist and a governor" - and his popular pet?

(Mod: Dog walking is fine. But will she also give Sutter a bath?)

That should do it for this week.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sierra Madre Water Quality Called Into Question - Plus What Is the Difference Between a Pig and a Hog?

(Mod: I received the following e-mail from a reader who is concerned about the quality of water in Sierra Madre. I would be interested in hearing from anyone else who might have been testing the waters lately.)

I would like to share some interesting data regarding the recent blend of Sierra Madre water with the MWD supply line.  I have been using a "Zero Water" filtration device for the last few years, which came with a TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) meter that allows you to submerge the device in a glass of water and obtain a readout indicating the amount of "particulates" in that body of water.

From the time that I started using it, I consistently found readings of approximately 155-160 to be the average.  About a year ago or so, they climbed to and settled into a consistent 207, which is where they have remained over the last year.  I was curious how the water condition would change with the supplement supply coming in from the MWD line.  Well, it's not pretty.  I have tested it every few days since the blend began a week and a half ago or so, and we are extremely consistent now at 406.  This is virtually a doubling of the particulates in the water, not to mention the addition of previously absent chloramines.

The Zero Water filters literally bring the TDS levels down to zero, but the more particulates they have to remove, the quicker they expire.  My last filter only cleared about 15 gallons, where I would normally be able to filter roughly 32 gallons with the previously mentioned numbers.  Needless to say, I may start to buy bottled water from the store given that it might work out to be more economically favorable.

(Mod: Let me know your findings.)

So what's the difference between and pig and a hog?

(Mod: Now that the Neil the Pig fracas has been settled, we figured it would be safe to discuss the one issue that remains. What is the difference between a pig and a hog? We'll call it the Tattler Special Investigation into the Hog Gate Affair. Today's Pasadena Star News has an article up, and the Pig vs. Hog matter is specifically raised.)

Iconic pot-bellied pig will continue to roost in Sierra Madre (link): Neil the pig, a 17-year-old Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, has become a mascot in the community, and lives at the home of Kate Emerson. The Sierra Madre Police Department believes that Neil violates city code that states no hogs are allowed in the city limits, but Neil’s owner Kate Emerson maintains that Neil is a pig, not a hog.

Neil, a plump, 17-year-old, pot-bellied pig that been a pit stop for generations of residents ambling down Montecito Avenue, was in danger of going wee wee wee all the way out of city limits on Wednesday. The city’s code states that hogs cannot be kept in Sierra Madre, but what defines a hog in the code is left ambiguous.

“We had to do a bit of research and decided that Neil is a pot-bellied pig; therefore, he doesn’t violate the code,” said Police Chief Larry Giannone. “The important thing is that were being fair and equal to everyone.”

(Mod: For some insight into the hog vs. pig controversy, we naturally turned to the Internet. It would appear that the difference is pretty ambiguous everywhere. Here is what we found.)

What is the difference between a pig and a hog? ( link)
Answer: In the United States, the term "pig" refers to a younger domesticated swine weighing less than 120 pounds (50 kilograms), and the term "hog" refers to older swine weighing more than 120 lbs. In Great Britain all domesticated swine are referred to as pigs.

Pork and Hogs (America's link)
Do you know the difference between a hog and a pig? Hog is a generic term for all swine and a pig is a young hog. Pigs are raised both indoors and outdoors, but most pigs have a barn enclosure to protect them from the weather. Pigs are growing in popularity as a household pet and in some cultures are considered "good luck". There as many as 60 million animals in the U.S. hog herd and close to 68% can be found in the Corn Belt area. One fourth of the meat American's consume is pork and Iowa is the largest pork producing state. Only Denmark and Canada export more pork than the U.S.

Pig Information (The 4-H Club link)
The words "swine," "hogs," and "pigs" refer to animals of the porcine family or pig family. The term swine can also refer to the pig family in a general way, and "pig" can be used in referencing young animals. "Hog" will generally refer to animals at or nearing market weight or finished for market. The term "barrow" means a neutered male, and "gilt" means a young female. Pigs are also referred to as growing pigs (40 - 125 pounds), and finishing pigs, weighing from 125 pounds to market weight--usually about 230 pounds.

(Mod: Judging by these definitions the only differences between pigs and hogs is size and age. Neither of which works for Neil. So we refined our search to Vietnamese Pot Bellied Pigs and hogs. Here is what I found.)

JUST THE FACTS, PLEASE! ( link) All potbellied pigs are miniature in relationship to their cousins, the farm hog. Farm hogs can grow up to 900 pounds or more.

Pigs have dense compact bodies, especially when compared to dogs or people. A 150-pound pig is much smaller than an 80-pound German shepherd or a 100- pound person. A 150-pound pig is not as big as one may imagine!

A typical, full grown, potbellied pig can be anywhere from 100 to 250 pounds. The largest registered potbellied pig is over 400 pounds (not recommend for the health of any pet pig). As with people, the size varies, but the average size is somewhere between 100 and 150 pounds, being less than 20 inches high at the shoulder.

(Mod: That doesn't help, either. A cousin to a hog is still a hog. This next one is better.)

IS IT A PET OR DINNER? (KSA link): The argument about whether to legalize Pot Belly Pigs as pets or not always comes down to a very simple question and that is "Are they pets or are they dinner?" Pot Belly Pig owners of course insist they are pets while many animal activists insist they are not pets, yet these are the same groups that typically do not want you to eat meat either. The viewpoint of the public in general is simple, if it is not a pet and not a wild animal then it must be a farm animal, which is for dinner.

People fighting to legalize Pot Belly Pigs in their city often tell us that they find that the problem is not so much trying to make the government officials aware that they are truly pets but that the problem is dealing with specific animal rights groups who somehow think that keeping Pot Belly Pigs from becoming legalized will somehow further their cause in getting people to not eat meat. That thinking is very self destructive to their true cause and sometimes it makes sense to explain this to them in the hopes that they will not be the ones fighting against you in your goal for legalization.

However, if we have to show the difference between Pot Belly Pigs and real pigs (hogs) you have to be able to explain that Pot Belly Pigs are pets and real pigs (hogs) are a farm animal used to eat. I realize there are people with real pigs (hogs) as pets but you can't fight the battle of saving farm pigs if you can't even get past saving Pot Belly Pigs as pets. Another reason that you may be able to persuade animal rights groups to be on your side to legalize them as pets.

(Mod: That works for me. Pot Bellied Pigs are pets, and hogs - older pigs that weigh a lot - are bred to be eaten. And until the City Council finds a way to fit that into whatever our hog law is properly called in legalese now, we should just go with it. )

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Don't You Go Messing With Neil the Pig

Neil and some celebrity friends
It seems that Neil the Pig, Sierra Madre's own beloved potbellied porcine institution, had run into a little ordinance trouble with City Hall earlier this week. A couple of the tone deaf out-of-towners running this city tried to give the 17 year old Sierra Madre legend some sort of a code enforcement bum's rush, and the outcry in the community was immediate, and loud. Social media lit up and within 24 hours Neil had over 300 Facebook friends. The following could be found on Bill Coburn's website where this matter was being followed closely (link):

There’s been a lot of chatter on Facebook about a citation issued to the owner of Neil the Pig, who resides on Montecito.  It started with a post by Neil’s owner, Katherine Emerson early yesterday evening, which said: “Due to my multiple complaints regarding the rooster violating city ordinance, the Sierra Madre Police Department has informed me that I am in violation of city ordinance 6.08.030-hogs. I was issued a warning stating that I have to get rid of the pig… yes, that means Sierra Madre’s beloved Neil the Pig. Please get the word out that the Sierra Madre Police is now trying to evict Neil from the city where he has lived for the past 17 years. Rich Johnson I need your help. Save Neil the Pig.”

And then there was this story on the Sierra Madre Weekly website (link):

Neil is being evicted from Sierra Madre for being overweight Now, honestly … what code enforcement officer would issue such a hogwash citation for eviction to Neil’s “parents”? We find it absurd, to say the least that a city like Sierra Madre would attempt to enforce such a stupid ordinance. What if that were the case for homosapians? Half the town would have to be evicted. This has to be the silliest thing Sierra Madre has tried to do since raising the water rates….they must know there will be a HUGE public outcry!

Over 160lbs, so what? Neil is a loving kind pig! Kids have grown up with him on Montecito street. Surely our lawmakers can find better things to do with their time!

There is a support rally for Neil in Memorial Park Thursday Oct 24 at 11: 30…..Don’t miss it! We’ll be there. Hope you will too!

Yesterday cooler heads apparently prevailed however, mostly in the form of the politically savvy Chief Larry Giannone, who I am sure sensed a PR disaster in the making, and not at a good time for the PD. In the process averting a possible confrontation with a bunch of unhappy residents who planned to demonstrate today in Memorial Park. Neil's bacon was saved.

And that is probably a good thing. Not just for Neil and his many friends, but also for Sierra Madre as well. Why? The story was starting to get some significant outside attention. I kid you not. This from (link):

Social media asks you to help #SaveNeilthePig from eviction from Sierra Madre Sierra Made is a small community east of Pasadena. If you have ever been there you have probably heard talk of Neil. Neil is a Vietnamese potbelly pig that has resided in the small community for the last 17 years. Yesterday he was threatened with eviction.

Neil has been living in a front yard behind a white picket fence greeting passersby for 17 years. He was adopted by Diane Emerson in 1996 after a chance meeting at the Pet’s Delight pet store in Monrovia. She fell in love at first sight and brought him home to Sierra Madre the following day. Her daughter Dr. Katherine Emerson inherited Neil after Diane died six years ago.

Yesterday Officer Story of the Sierra Madre Police Department came by to cite Dr. Emerson. According to Story, Neil is a violation of municipal code 08.030, entitled simply “Hogs”. The code prohibits hogs from residing within the city limits. However Neil is actually a pig, not listed in the code. Dr. Emerson said she was warned if Neil is not removed from the city limits they will proceed with legal action to have him destroyed.

Dr. Emerson believes the citation is in response to a complaint she made about a neighbor who brought home a rooster a few months back. The rooster is in violation of two different city ordinances, including a noise violation, but has yet to be removed.

A social media campaign began Tuesday to save Neil on both Facebook and Twitter. The family encourages everyone to contact 626-355-1414 or stop by 242 W. Sierra Madre Blvd. and show their support for Neil.

Locals are outraged by the citation and can’t believe Neil’s home is being threatened.

“Why in the world are they citing him now after 17 years? This outrageous.”

“SAVE Neil the Pig! Back away from the bacon!”

“The City cannot do this to you. We had recently heard a rumor that Neil had passed away and my kids were devastated! We got in the car to go over and make sure he was still okay. Neil is an icon in this town and our children should not be hurt by ridiculous bureaucracy.”

“Let's make Neil Pig the Grand Marshall of the next Sierra Madre 4th of July Parade!!!!”

“This reminds me a lot of Charlotte's Web. Like we are all Charlotte and neil is wilbur. I was very sad to hear that they want to evict neil. I am 15 years old currently and have fond memories of going to see Neil with my grandmother at a very young age.”

Neil has been called the “real treasure of Sierra Madre”, was named Mr. November in the local realtors calendar as a Sierra Madre landmark and has been featured on Village Vine Online radio.

According to Dr. Emerson, locals volunteer their time to help take care of Neil. One friend would come by in the morning to sing to Neil; his song of choice is “Rock Your Body” by Justin Timberlake. Another has spent three to four hours a week cleaning up Neil’s yard and staying to chat with him.

Neil’s regular diet is a bowl of Cheerios and the occasional apple but most of his food comes from those passing by. People were so generous with their donations, Neil had to be put on a strict diet by his doctor. Visitors now bring him food such as organic lettuce and other vegetables from their garden.

A rally is scheduled for Thursday October 23 (sic) in Memorial Park on Sierra Madre Blvd. at 11:30 am. It will be a peaceful demonstration by his friends and family to show the city how much he is loved. Neil has asked for support on Facebook.

“Attention friends...we will be gathering tomorrow in Memorial Park in Sierra Madre at 11:30 to show support for "Save Neil." Please bring your kids, dogs, neighbors, etc. Make signs and write letters of support so my sister can use them at my administrative hearing. We cannot block the street or cause a problem, but we do have the right assemble. Unfortunately, due to my age and health I will not be able to be there in person, but I will be there in spirit.”

Dr. Emerson is distraught by the citation but is ready for a fight. “There seems to be no reason to try to evict Neil now when he has lived peacefully within the city limits for the last 17 years. Please follow Neil on Twitter, become his friend on Facebook and help me communicate with the city of Sierra Madre how his removal would be a loss to the community as well as my family.”

UPDATE: Dr. Emerson has received word from Sierra Madre Police Chief Larry Giannone that they will NOT pursue any action against Neil. He is free to stay in his home with the Chief’s support. After spending the day checking the municipal code, he declared Neil exempt because he is a potbellied pig and not a hog.

Dr. Emerson would like to thank everyone for their support of Neil including the Sierra Madre Police Department for resolving this issue so quickly. She credits social media with getting the word out and helping to save her beloved family pet.

No news yet on where Neil the Pig stands on the water rate increase or the vote to extend our currently California high UUT rates. But somebody should ask him. Apparently he has more political clout than just about anyone else in this town.

Rumors that Mayor Nancy Walsh and Councilmember Josh Moran will be seeking Neil's endorsement for their upcoming reelection campaigns cannot be corroborated as of this typing.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

City Council Meeting Wednesday Morning Quarterback

Well, that was a fairly momentous meeting. Two big things were discussed and then moved along towards their inevitable conclusions. Trying to raise water rates almost 60% while also extending some of the highest utility taxes in California, and both at the same time, is quite a challenge. But the City is going for it anyway. They want it, and they want it now.

First the water rate hike. The City is going to send out Prop 218 ballots, and when (or should I say if) these are mailed back to City Hall by the ratepayers, the people who work there are going to count them with their own hands. The consultant idea was not received very well, and despite Mayor Walsh's deeply felt (though largely confused) reasons for wanting to do so, none of her four gentleman colleagues saw the point in shelling out $35,000 to hire somebody else to count mail-in water protest ballots.

Here is how we thought this would all turn out when we did our meeting predictions on Monday:

As you may recall, the City refused to mail out a Prop 218 water rate ballot in 2010, the last time they raised our water costs. Something that led to the sight of men and women as old as their late seventies going door to door with petitions, desperately trying to undo the effects of what was an act of planned and deliberate vote suppression. Only to see many of those ballots later thrown out by a Joe Mosca led City Council contemptuous of their efforts.

If you click here you'll be taken to this Agenda Report. It details how this water rate increase is to proceed towards enactment. And there you will also see that it calls for a City Hall mailing of a Prop 218 ballot, which would allow the ratepayers to vote on this water rate increase. It is quite a change from 2010 when Sierra Madre's residents were forced to fend for themselves.

Of course, this is only a staff generated meeting report, and there is a high likelihood that any Prop 218 water rate ballot mailing will be voted upon by the City Council.

I believe certain members of the City Council fear that the results of this vote will not go their way. I also have few doubts that three of them would have no misgivings whatsoever about trying to suppress the vote once again. And will if they feel they can get away with it.

I was right about the Prop 218 ballot being mailed out by the City. This is going to happen. Where I was wrong is in saying there might be some City Council opposition to that. There wasn't much. Apparently the ugly chaos surrounding the last Prop 218 process made an indelible impression on some well situated folks. And none of them want to see that happen again.

The City is going to do this one by the book. They will put Prop 218 protest ballots into the hands of the water ratepayers. If the voters send them back to City Hall it means they are opposed to the water rate hike. If they just toss them out then it means they are OK with being charged more for water.

Having the City mail these ballots out might sound like a good thing, or at least better than what happened to us last time. But there is a real problem, and here is how one commenter put it last night:

The problem is that most people will have no idea what these ballots are for, assume it is just more city BS, and toss them. Most wouldn't want the water rate increase, but they won't make the connection.

That is the problem with Prop 218, and the City knows it. Getting enough people to mail in ballots is very difficult. The City is counting on that. I have no doubt that the majority of people in this town are against paying more for water. But I also have some real misgivings that enough people will know they need to retrieve these ballots from whatever paperwork they get in the mail, fill them out and then send them in. A lot of educational work will need to be done by those opposing this water rate increase.

The second big issue last night was the UUT do-over vote. I have long said that those opposed to allowing our double digit utility taxes to sunset back to 6% would not be above hostage taking. And there were a lot of hostages taken last night. The Police Department, Library and Paramedics were all threatened with the same fate as the Lindbergh baby.

Just so you know. You either vote to approve the UUT extension at 10%, or the puppy gets it.

Here was my Monday morning prediction on how this one would turn out:

You need to look at this as a two step process. Tuesday evening the UUT-3 will react loudly to the long and woeful laundry list City Hall has put together. This list details all of the many things City Staff feels will suffer should the UUT not be renewed at its current State of California leading double digit rate.

Nancy, Josh and the MPT* will all proclaim themselves to be aghast that such things could happen, and will burn immense amounts of oxygen griping about how things could have gotten to so sorry a state. It is also at this time that the possibility of putting a do-over UUT extension measure on the ballot in April of 2014 will be brought up. It won't matter in the least that the residents here have already decided that the UUT should sunset back to 6%. Which they did, and by an overwhelming 60% vote.

Pretty much nailed that one.

Prepare yourself for some very long months of metaphorical hostage taking. City Hall is going to do everything it can to keep utility taxes as high as they are today, while at the same time also raising our water rates to new heights.

That is something you can count on.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Sierra Madre Tattler Hit With A Malware Attack

Click to enlarge
I had been wondering how the forces of evil would come after The Tattler now that another election is drawing near. There have been so many bizarre strategies used against us in the past, you just knew something was going to happen. The most recent instance being in the spring of 2012 and involving a failed character actor          who called himself Lady Elizabeth Wistar. The addition of a now imprisoned Internet extortionist by the name of Cyrus Andrew Sullivan to that mix only added an extra layer of intrigue to the situation. You can read all about that adventure by clicking here. It should leave you with the impression that there are some people around who do not appreciate our approach to reporting the local news.

The malware situation was definitely an entirely new and modern approach to Tattler suppression, though. And it really must have been something of a challenge. The platform I use is called Blogger, and it is a part of the vast Google empire. Planting malware on a Google property like Blogger had to have been difficult. Google has been up against such serious players as the Peoples Republic of China. They take security very seriously, and have spent many millions of dollars protecting themselves against people who long to insert bad digital juju into their systems. Systems that are worth many billions of dollars and are at the heart of one of the wealthiest corporations on the planet.

The way it was done is as follows. Until yesterday I had a digital clock on this site. It was a gadget I had picked out months ago from the grab bag of such things Blogger offers to site owners like me. Somehow that digital clock, which I now believe must have had a third party origin, was recently infected with a malware virus. Probably within the last two weeks.

It was no threat to you, there was no real way the virus could have been downloaded from my blog onto your computer. It didn't even infect my computer. But what it did do was set off alarms at various Internet Service Providers. The screenshot above was sent to me by a reader who had been completely blocked from accessing this blog by his ISP. Instead he got a message telling him to stay away. The Tattler was being quarantined.

And it did work. Traffic on this blog had been cut by about 40% over the last two weeks as more and more people were either blocked from accessing The Tattler, or just scared off by the warnings. Which I assume was the purpose. After all, what possible good is a blog if it has no audience? Without readers this would be a pretty absurd exercise. We'd just be talking to ourselves.

After receiving that screenshot from my concerned friend yesterday, I contacted Blogger/Google and let them know what was going on. It took them about 2 minutes to locate the problem and cure it, though they continue to try and figure out the source. They apparently don't like malware very much, and in their eyes this was a problem. Hopefully whoever created it left some digital fingerprints.

We are now back in business, and plan to stay that way at least through the upcoming City Council election next April. After that I am going to rethink this project. I might take this blog regional, or I could go find something else to do. I don't know. Five years is a long time.

So now City Hall wants to hire a Prop 218 consultant?

We might have gotten to the point where residents need to start questioning the sanity of the people working at City Hall. They just keep hemorrhaging money in ridiculously large amounts.

As you may recall, the last time there was Prop 218 vote on a rather large water rate hike, hundreds of resident produced ballots were collected at City Hall and counted by the City Clerk and some volunteers. The cost was minimal and, while the result wasn't quite what a lot of people were looking for, at least the City didn't spend a fortune to get it.

But apparently this time the City wants to spend that fortune, and in the process completely remove the residents from any participation. This from the City of Sierra Madre website (link):

The process that is currently required by law, is less expensive than what is required under SB 553. If the current process is used, the estimated direct costs are $8,000 for printing, mailing house, and postage. If the process prescribed by SB 533 is used the estimated direct costs for printing, mailing house, and postage are $16,000. At the high end, staff costs are estimated at $16,000, based on the amount of time incurred during the last Proposition 218 process. It is also possible to retain the services of an outside consultant to conduct the entire process, at an estimated cost of $20,000 to $35,000.

The obvious objections to the ridiculous amounts of money being so casually discussed here aside, how can the services of staff cost an additional $16,000? Don't we already pay their salaries? Why does it cost an additional $16 grand to hand them some envelopes, glue pots, stamps and xeroxed sheets of paper and set them to mailing out the people's business?

There is an entirely different form of reality existing inside that building.

Now here is a rather bold solution to staffing issues

This from (link):

San Bernardino: Mayor moves to eliminate police, fire departments The San Bernardino City Council Agenda now has an interesting item listed for Monday, October 21, 2013.

Items 7A reads as follows: Direct the City Manager to begin the process of soliciting proposals for contracting fire and police services to outside agencies, including, but not limited to, Cal Fire and San Bernardino County.

The move comes after Fifth Ward Councilman Chas Kelley’s resignation on Thursday. Kelley resigned after pleading guilty to a single felony perjury charge, related to his campaign finance reports.

Kelley’s departure now shifts the balance on the seven-member Common Council.

City insiders must feel they now have  3-3 tie, to contract out, with Mayor Patrick Morris as the tiebreaker.  

Difficult times demand bold decisions.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Preview to One of Our More Momentous City Council Meetings

Step right up, the show is about to begin!
We are getting down to the big stuff, boys and girls. City Hall is now about to attempt one of the most astonishing stunts in the history of the downtown circus. Our city government is going to try and push through a massive water rate increase, the third in as many years. They are also going to attempt to jury-rig a do-over vote to extend some of the highest utility taxes in the entire State of California. And they're going to try and do both at the very same time. It really should be quite an amazing spectacle, one filled with bunkum, blather, blithering, blarney, bromides, baloney, balderdash, bathos and, of course, good old fashioned bull.

Pop some popcorn, crack open a Sam Adams, and get yourselves ready. You are about to witness more out and out malarkey and sideshow chicanery than anyone might have thought humanly possible. At least for this small of a town. The Sierra Madre Money Circus is now in town. Hands out, palms up and spinning like a top.

It all starts quietly, of course. This meeting begins as all these gatherings do, in a secret session with our City Attorney, the legendary Teresa of Barstow. Here is how this occurrence is noticed in the City Council Meeting Agenda:

RECESS TO CLOSED SESSION REGARDING: Pursuant to Calif. Government Code Section 54956.9(d)(4) - The City Council finds based on advice from legal counsel, that discussion in open session will prejudice the position of the local agency in the litigation. Initiation of Litigation: Number of potential cases – One.

Now we can't tell from this what is really going on, and the esteemed Teresa (lately of the famed legal acrobatic troupe, The Flying Colantuonos) prefers it that way. But it would appear that after months of mulling things over the City Council has now authorized our City Attorney to sue somebody. Or some thing. There is a Govt. Code number (54956.9(d)(4)), and here is what the Sacramento Book of Legal Mysteries (link) has to say about it:

For purposes of this section, "litigation" includes any adjudicatory proceeding, including eminent domain, before a court, administrative body exercising its adjudicatory authority, hearing officer, or arbitrator ... For purposes of this section, litigation shall be considered pending when any of the following circumstances exist: (d) ... For purposes of this section, litigation shall be considered pending when any of the following circumstances exist: (4) A statement made by a person in an open and public meeting threatening litigation on a specific matter within the responsibility of the legislative body.

Now I personally do not recall anyone threatening the City Council with legal action. At least not lately, and certainly not in a public meeting. But perhaps I had fallen asleep, or was off looking for coffee. We'll have to wait and see how this one develops.

Once the back room legal mysteries are dealt with the City Council emerges from darkness to face a ravening horde yearning to be free. That is if a group of six or so people can be considered a horde. I am sure Chief Giannone will bring in some extra muscle if the horde gets much larger than that. Or if at least one of them is under retirement age.

Among the usual rituals we will also be hearing from Michael Cacciotti, Board Member of the South Coast Air Quality Management District. What is of actual interest here is that Michael, in his role as a Councilmember in South Pasadena, recently denounced the water rate hikes there as being both cruel and excessive. Water rate increases surprisingly similar to the ones the UUT-3 is pushing for here. We wrote about the ramifications of Michael's statements for Sierra Madre on Saturday, and you can read our shocking conclusions by clicking here.

The first order of the peoples' business is the Consent Calendar, and per the usual practice lots of money will be spent.

1a) ADOPTION OF RESOLUTION No. 13-76 OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SIERRA MADRE APPROVING CERTAIN DEMANDS - Portions of this $533,417.17 spend will be in some lucky pockets shortly. A few of the big and more curious items include $1,348.50 for "Ordinance Publications" in the often newsless Mountain Views News, $84,844.32 for Third World Edison, $10,847.04 for Dial-A-Ride and $168.08 for the good folks at Beantown for feeding those solons present at the Strategic Planning Retreat. When you figure that $331,443.72 of the total is for staff salaries, the spend this time around is rather slight. The real kicker is in the next item.

1b) AUTHORIZATION OF PAYMENTS ON BEHALF OF PUBLIC FINANCE AUTHORITY AND SUCCESSOR AGENCY - This, dear friends, appears to be another of those interest only payments on the 2003 water bonds so controversial to the handful of people in this town who actually care about this stuff. The amount is $169,672.50. There is a lot of suspect  and diversionary claptrap about all of our diverse water bond debt in the Staff Report, but in the check register it is only described as "Interest/Financing Auth Series 2003." Sneaky.

All of this brings the week's spend up to a rather hefty $703,089.67. Enjoy your services! Just make certain you always remember to lock your doors and windows.

1c) RESOLUTION No. 13-75: APPROVAL OF BUDGET AMENDMENT TO THE STORM DRAIN – NPDES BIENNIAL BUDGET FOR FISCAL YEARS 2013-2015 - Whoop dee what? Oh, this one is truly dismaying. Apparently Sierra Madre is being forced by the eminently corrupt Los Angeles County (the "Cook County of the West" as some have taken to calling it) bureaucracy to set aside $886,840 and keep our storm drains clean. You know, so that the vast piles of ocean killing refuse we don't ever generate won't flow to the sea and kill Flipper. Which is a crock. What this is really all about is L.A. County has discovered another way to suck even more money out of towns like ours so it can lard in yet another layer of bureaucracy. In this instance funding a bunch of half-slackers who will drive around in pickup trucks and stick their red noses into our storm sewers. Please remember, the next time you vote for an L.A. County Supervisor, you are likely voting for our worst enemy. It is what they all become, and sooner rather than later.

1d) RECOMMENDATION TO FILE A NOTICE OF COMPLETION ON THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE CITY'S SGVMWD CONNECTION BY PERRY C. THOMAS CONSTRUCTION, INC. - The hook up with the apparently particulate rich product of the SGVMWD water bureaucracy is now complete, and at a total cost to us of $565,200. The water district spent $2,268,000 on the deal. Which to me begs the following question. If this is supposed to be a "temporary" hook-up as claimed in the city document below, why would the SGVMWD be spending so much dough on it? Here is what City Hall states in its notice, which is available on the portal page of its website:

TO: All Consumers of the City of Sierra Madre Water
SUBJECT: Temporary Change in Source of Water Supply
The City of Sierra Madre is preparing to temporarily change the source of water supply you are receiving. Beginning on September 16, 2013 the source of water will change from local groundwater to imported water from San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District (SGVMWD). SGVMWD will provide imported treated surface water produced by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD). The change to MWD water supplied by SGVMWD is necessitated by the seriously reduced local groundwater levels resulting from several years of dry weather conditions. MWD is a fully permitted water system to treat and distribute treated surface water.

So let me ask it again. Why would the SGVMWD be shelling out $2,286,000 of the public trust for only a temporary water hook-up? Are they really that easy? Or that into wealth redistribution? It seems to good to be true. My take is this has to be a permanent water arrangement, and I wish our City government respected its citizens enough to level with them about that.

1e) SECOND READING OF ORDINANCE No. 1344 AMENDING THE SIERRA MADRE MUNICIPAL CODE BY ADDING CHAPTER 15.58 ("LOW IMPACT DEVELOPMENT PLAN") TO TITLE 15 ("BUILDINGS AND CONSTRUCTION") - This is another part of the City's ongoing struggle to cope with the LA County storm water runoff scam without going broke. Good luck.

2. PUBLIC HEARING - CONSIDERATION OF RESOLUTION No. 13-74: PUBLIC FACILITIES FEE RATE ADJUSTMENT - This one will raise the costs of fees developers must pay to this city in order to build things. The idea being that since their projects will have to be hooked up with sewers and water by the City, they'll need to cover the taxpayers' costs. And according to a recent study those costs have been going up steadily over the years. We here at The Tattler strongly support this item. Hopefully these new costs will be so inconvenient that the posse of developers who have worked so hard to wreck this place will now pack up their lawyers and other tools of destruction and go back to bothering Pasadena. A place where they don't seem to care as much about this sort of thing as we do.

3. PUBLIC HEARING – 2013 CALIFORNIA BUILDING CODE ADOPTION - As you are likely aware, Sacramento, in its endless need to appease and please the development and Realty lobbies that shower it with campaign funding (i.e. "bribes"), has confiscated many of the planning functions that used to be the responsibility of cities like ours. What we are being forced to do here is incorporate into our building codes things that they have invented, done in order to pay off their obligations to their generous private benefactors. In a perfect world a place like Sierra Madre would be allowed to do city planning within its own borders without interference. Over the many years we had been pretty much left alone, with the result being this wonderful place we all know and love.

But apparently those days are over, and instead vast state central planning bureaucracies now dictate how we need to run our affairs. California is run by a corrupt (and oftentimes overweight) one party oligarchy. This item is a result of that.

4. PUBLIC HEARING – 2013 CALIFORNIA FIRE CODE ADOPTION – There are some new state fires codes that need to be incorporated into the city's paperwork. Chief Heydorff and Captain Snyder will give us the lowdown. Just to give you a taste of what is happening, don't expect to be able to bar-b-que on days when the air isn't so good.

5. DISCUSSION – CONSIDERATION OF APPOINTMENT OF YOUTH SEAT TO THE COMMUNITY SERVICES COMMISSION - I hope that they will consider appointing the rest of that youth as well.

(The next two items are where most of the excitement is to be found. It is at this point that we recommend that you brew yourself some strong coffee, sit up straight, and get into it. It's money time, and the City is planning to take as much of it from you as possible.)

6. DISCUSSION – CONTINGENCY PLANNING FOR POTENTIAL UTILITY USERS TAX DECREASE AND CONSIDERATION OF ALTERNATIVE BUDGET REDUCTIONS FOR FISCAL YEAR 2014-2015 AND FUTURE BUDGETS - You need to look at this as a two step process. Tuesday evening the UUT-3 will react loudly to a long and woeful laundry list City Hall has put together. This list details all of the many things City Staff feels will suffer should the UUT not be renewed at its current State of California leading double digit rate.

Nancy, Josh and the MPT* will all proclaim themselves to be aghast that such things could happen, and will burn immense amounts of oxygen griping about how things could have gotten to so sorry a state. It is also at this time that the possibility of putting a do-over UUT extension measure on the ballot in April of 2014 will be brought up. It won't matter in the least that the residents here have already decided that the UUT should sunset back to 6%. Which they did, and by an overwhelming 60% vote.

The second step will occur at November 12th meeting when by a 3 to 2 City Council vote it will be decided to put this question on the ballot for a do-over vote. It will then be proclaimed by each of the UUT-3 that they had no other choice, events forced them to do it. None of their discussions will in any way be authentic or in any way spontaneous, of course. The fix has been in on this one for since April of 2012.

7. DISCUSSION – PROPOSITION 218 PROCESS FOR PROPOSED WATER AND SEWER RATE INCREASE - As you may recall, the City refused to mail out a Prop 218 water rate ballot in 2010, the last time they raised our water costs. Something that led to the sight of men and women as old as their late seventies going door to door with petitions, desperately trying to undo the effects of what was an act of planned and deliberate vote suppression. Only to see many of those ballots later thrown out by a Joe Mosca led City Council contemptuous of their efforts.

If you click here you'll be taken to this Agenda Report. It details how this water rate increase is to proceed towards enactment. And there you will also see that it calls for a City Hall mailing of a Prop 218 ballot, which would allow the ratepayers to vote on this water rate increase. It is quite a change from 2010 when Sierra Madre's residents were forced to fend for themselves.

Of course, this is only a staff generated meeting report, and there is a high likelihood that any Prop 218 water rate ballot mailing will be voted upon by the City Council.

I believe certain members of the City Council fear that the results of this vote will not go their way. I also have few doubts that three of them would have no misgivings whatsoever about trying to suppress the vote once again. And will if they feel they can get away with it.

8. DISCUSSION – APPLICATION FEE FOR TEMPORARY USE PERMIT – BLOCK PARTY - Many months ago a resident complained to the City Council about being charged a $120 fee by City Hall to host on a block party. And by a block party this resident was talking about closing down a block of a lightly traveled side street so that a group of folks could hang out and celebrate as friends and neighbors often like to do.

Now the City is claiming that a party such as this would cost them $1,500, and that a fee of $120 is not enough. In the Staff Report (click here) all the usual explanations are given.

But we should look at this another way. Let's say that on a given block there are 20 homes. Let's also say that each of these 20 homes pays $7,000 a year in property taxes, or $140,000 total. A figure that doesn't include utility taxes, or anything else. Don't you think this would cover the cost to the City of a block party?

Somehow putting City Hall first here seems kind of, well, ungrateful. Also no thanks to Mayor Walsh for sticking this at the end of the meeting where it might not even get discussed. It does say a lot about priorities.