Saturday, January 31, 2015

North Grove Street Blues: You Can Never Go Home Again

The slanty shanty with the droop stoop will soon be no more.

It is with rather mixed emotions that I bring this news to you today. On the one hand there isn't anything much that I can do about it since I don't own the house anymore. The new owners paid a fair price for the place, and we are most definitely enjoying the upgraded surroundings we live in now. And really, it isn't like the hogan that I used to call home in Sierra Madre is being turned into one of Adele Chang's "Modern Family" homes. Five bathrooms would take up half of the available building space.

But perhaps I should just get right to it. Here's the news:

When we sold the place the understanding was the existing structure would be renovated with a 500 sq. ft. addition being added to the front. Something that would take the place up to around 2,300 square feet. Which is fine. Now it will now be a little less than that. When we bought 491 Grove it was 1,350 square feet. We put on an addition that brought the place up to its present neo-palatial 1,800 square feet. 

It was also just about the lowest costing house in town when we bought it. The S.S.W.T.D.S. had been on the market for over 6 months, and the previous owners had come down considerably in their asking price. It was a different market back then. It was also just about all we could afford.

It certainly does looks like the renovation is going to be a bit more thorough than originally planned. But as far as the size goes, the new owners of what had become known as "The Tattler House" have held to their word. We're also talking about a very small lot, so I am not certain there is much else anyone could do with that site.

I believe this is pretty much how things are supposed to work. The new size will be in scale with the existing property, it will still be one story so nobody's views of the mountains will be obscured, and the new design doesn't scream, "Hey, look-a me! I just made a lot of money!" 

Something that the more McMansion style rebuilds have going on. Having grown up in fairly prosperous circumstances I've never much cared for any of that. It really is overrated in my opinion. I'm happy to leave fixture fussing and doorknob design philosophy to others. It leaves a hole in your soul. There have got to be more important things to do with your precious time than stressing over nonsense such as that. But that is my opinion. It might not be yours.

We did spend a lot of years there. There is that. Before we bought the house it had been a rental property for about 10 years, and even after having been staged and prettied up a little it was still a mess. I'd never seen a house with its hot water heater in the middle of the living room before. Maybe it was done that way for warmth in the winter. And, not being a very materialistic person, I did not see much need for the gold vinyl toilet seats. Those went as well.

However, a lot of life did happen there. And now it all becomes even more of a memory. My wife moved her practice out of town last month because she wants to work closer to where the kids are going to school. So really my last remaining ties to Sierra Madre are this blog and the people there who still put up with me.

I guess I'll have to try and hang on to them for a little while longer.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Sierra Madre Tattler Friday News Clean Up

Mod: This was one of the bigger weeks "the blog" has ever seen as far as traffic and total of reader commentary goes. The last 3 days saw over 11,000 hits and 340 comments, which is a lot for a news site largely focused on the affairs of a small San Gabriel Valley town of less than 11,000 people. We are now also in the running for 80,000 hits for the month, which would be a best ever record for The Tattler. Not bad for a blog that former Mayor Josh Moran once famously proclaimed nobody reads. Which, in case you weren't aware, is why we also like to post pictures. I thought that for today we would take a quick look at a few of the topics we probably would have posted about this week had we not gotten so caught up in what's been going down on Mira Monte. A story we're hardly finished with, so you know. 

Pasadena to pay $275K to fired department heads amid $6.4M embezzlement investigation (Pasadena Star News - link): The city will pay more than $275,000 to two Pasadena department heads who were fired amid a $6.4 million embezzlement from City Hall. Department of Public Works Director Siobhan Foster and finance chief Andrew Green were fired without cause by City Manager Michael Beck last week.

The city released details of the total severance packages that will be paid to Foster and Green on Wednesday morning. Foster will receive six months salary and healthcare benefits totaling $109,425.39. Green’s severance pay totaled $105,840.93.

In addition, Foster will receive a $33,198.21 check for hours worked, car and phone allowances, cash-outs for vacation, management time off and floating holiday hours afforded in her contract. Green will receive a $27,876.65 check.

Their dismissals came in the wake of the Dec. 30 arrests of former DPW employee Danny Ray Wooten, 51, Altadena-based contractor Tyrone Collins, 55, and former temporary city employee Melody Jenkins, 46. In a 60-count felony complaint, the city began an administrative investigation into the alleged embezzlement scandal.

Mod: Now there's a difference between public and private sector employment. If I were to get fired from my job I might be able to keep that box of fine-tipped black Sharpies I ordered recently. But I'd probably have to discuss it with HR first.

Don’t Be Left Out, Get Your Tickets Now for One Book One City Scotch Tasting (City of Sierra Madre website - link) Ticket sales begin on January 31st for the popular Scotch Tasting event, part of the One Book One City program at the Sierra Madre Public Library. The classic detective novel, The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler, is Sierra Madre Library’s 2015 One Book, One City pick and a month of exciting events is planned celebrating Chandler and the LA Noir genre.

A celebration of the hard-living Marlowe will include a Scotch tasting on Friday, February 13, 2015, at 7:00 pm., in the Library and is limited to the first 30 pre-reservations. Tickets are $15 and will be available at the Library beginning at 1:00 pm on January 31st. No tickets will be sold at the door on the evening of the Scotch tasting event.

Mod: This works for me on so many levels I can't begin to tell you. Great book, one of the best genres ever, and scotch? What is the library trying to do, get cool on us?

Ray Bradbury's house, sold for $1.76 million, is being torn down (Los Angeles Times - link) Ray Bradbury lived in his 1937 Cheviot Hills home for more than 50 years. After the author of "Fahrenheit 451" died in 2012, the house was readied for sale.

The home was filled with original details, such as built-in bookcases, that surrounded Bradbury for much of his life. The next owner could be proud to live with the echo of Bradbury, the beloved science fiction writer who advised both Walt Disney and NASA.

Or not.

The longtime home of the late writer Ray Bradbury has come on the market in Cheviot Hills at $1.495 million. The home, which was purchased in June for $1.765 million, is being demolished. A permit for demolition was issued Dec. 30, Curbed LA reports, and a fan who visited the house over the weekend found it in the process of being torn down.

At the request of friends who'd heard the home was being destroyed, John King Tarpinian paid it a visit. "In only one day half of the house was gone," he writes at the science fiction site File

Tarpinian took photos of the shattered roof, half-demolished walls and former patio where a knocked-out door frames emptiness behind. "As I was taking pictures locals were walking their dogs. They’d stop to observe and we’d converse," Tarpinian writes. "One lady had no idea who had owned the house; she was new to the neighborhood. She walked away in tears. Another long time neighbor knew it was Ray’s home and we mutually agreed things like this are just wrong but money wins out. Another young couple had no idea who Ray was ... the saddest encounter of all."

According to Curbed, Bradbury's house was purchased by "starchitect" Thom Mayne, of the firm Morphosis, and his wife, Blythe Alison-Mayne.

Mod: Maybe somebody just wanted to build their dream house there. Starchitect and all.

Falling Gas Tax Revenue Has California Lawmakers Considering Mileage Tax Plan (CBS News SF - link) With an increase in electric and hybrid vehicles along with better fuel-efficient vehicles, changing Bay Area drivers habit are posing a serious problem for state coffers.

As motorists use less and less gas, gas tax revenues to pay for state highways, roads and bridges shrink. Meanwhile, as gas prices fall, so does the sales tax generated by fuel sales. In California, among the taxes collected on fuel is a 2.25% sales tax on gasoline and a 9.67 percent tax on diesel.

Some state lawmakers feel a mileage tax is the best solution.

To pay for the shortfall, California officials are considering a plan that would replace California’s gas tax with a fee for each mile motorists drive. Drivers who log the most miles will end up paying the most, no matter how fuel efficient their car is.

Mod: This one doesn't seem to be going away. In order to track exactly how many miles you've been driving, the state would force you to carry a black box in your car that would pretty much let them know where you've been and what you've been up to. One particularly big champion of this invasive misery has been Hasan Ikhrata, the former Soviet official who now heads up our local regional planning organization SCAG. The very same inept and befuddled central government planners who yearly attempt to tell us how to run Sierra Madre. Detecting a pattern yet?

"Our Water is Black": Families Worry Over Foul-Smelling Tap Water (NBC LA - link) Families in a Southern California neighborhood worried by black and foul-smelling water pouring from their faucets, toilets and showers say their water company is not doing enough to fix the problem.

"We don't want to drink our water, because our water is black," said Gardena resident Emy Sebastian.

"My daughter says, 'Mommy the water is black and it stinks. Why does the water stink?' She doesn't want to wash her clothes."

Diane Morita and her neighbors say it's been happening off and on for months. She said the murky water "has an odor of rotten eggs or sewer smell."

"I'm concerned because it's getting worse, if it's even safe," Morita said.

"I refuse to drink the water," said resident Don Inouye. "I run it through a filter and I drink bottled water."

Some residents wonder if the black water is connected to their recent health problems. Sebastian said she and her daughter have gotten sick from drinking the tap water.

Mod: Don't you hate it when other cities try and one-up us?

City Councilman Pulls Out Gun To Defend Colleagues As Shooter Opens Fire (ABC News - link) A gunman opened fire inside a suburban Minneapolis city building Monday night, injuring two police officers before authorities returned fire and killed him, the county sheriff's department said.

The terrifying moments were caught on video inside the city council chambers. Video shows the city council memberse duck under the desk when they heard gunfire. One of the city council members even draws his own weapon, prepared to defend himself if needed.

Hennepin County Sheriff's Office chief deputy Mike Carlson said the shooting happened around 7:15 p.m. while two officers were being sworn in at the New Hope City Hall.

The newly sworn-in officers and others were leaving the city council chambers when they encountered a man armed with a "long gun," Carlson said at a news conference.

The man opened fire and struck two New Hope police officers, Carlson said. Other officers immediately returned fire, killing the gunman, he said.

Carlson said the officers are in good condition and are expected to survive. He did not identify the gunman or disclose a possible motive for the attack, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

Mod: Does anyone here know if any of our City Councilmembers are packing heat? Certainly could be an effective way of dealing with 15 minute public comments.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

On Tuesday Evening It Was Gene Goss Who Asked The Question Everyone Wanted To Hear

The question that was on the minds of many people Tuesday evening is why would someone buy a classic vintage Craftsman home, and in a community where people are very sensitive about the preservation of such structures, if they didn't want to restore it? That is pretty much what is done with Craftsman homes. The restoration of such houses is a fairly substantial industry throughout this area, driven by the widely held recognition that these homes are valuable, not just as unique and beautiful properties in themselves, but also as good investments. This is what so many people want when they choose to live in a place like this. Demolition just seems counterintuitive.

So here is what many people had been wondering. Did the new owners ever intend to restore the home in question, or was demolition on their minds from the very beginning? That is the mystery. How exactly did we get to this point? The potential destruction of a community heirloom?

Here is how the question was put by Councilmember Gene Goss, and the way the new owner of the 1907 Henry A. Darling home, Dave Brown, tried to explain how it had all come to this moment. The link to the video is at the bottom of the following screen shot.

Video link here

There was a lot of discussion here on The Tattler about this moment of the meeting, which makes sense as when all is said and done this was a very key issue. I've included some comments below that I thing express a lot of what is actually at stake here.

Anonymous January 28, 2015 at 6:14 AM
That was a fascinating meeting last night. We saw for all to see a simple clash of philiosophy. As much of a believer as I am in private property rights, I am willing to sacrifice for the greater good of preserving this village town. In other words, when I advocate for floor area limits, that mean I am going against my own self-interest a bit because I won't be able to build as big a "dream home" as I would without the lower limits. But I'm willing to do that because preserving the character of this town for people like my daughter and others is very important to me. On the other side are those who want to do whatever they want with their land. They want to build the 2-story home so that they can get better views of the mountains and city lights but don't care whether they have now blocked the mountain and city light views of their neighbors. That's the clash in philosophy. It can manifest itself in the example just given or it can manifest itself in bulldozing a 1907 Craftsman like 126 E. Mira Monte with the owner shouting "Shame on You" because she is unable to understand why the community may not want to see a classic craftsman home like that turned into rubble.

Anonymous January 28, 2015 at 6:25 AM
I have to give Gene Goss credit for asking the Perry Mason question of the day to the owner of Mira Monte. It was basically a "what did you know and when did you know it" question because the more the husband talked the more it appeared that they knew going in the condition of that home and really were not surprised that they had to bulldoze it. Whether they knew that going in or whether they were trying to modify the home so much that the "bones" of the home just couldn't stand such significant changes, it doesn't matter. They just threw up their hands and said because we can't do exactly what we want to with this home, we'll just demolish it. They should not have bought that home if the intention was to level it. Before she shouted "Shame on You" to everyone in the audience concerned about the Henry A. Darling home being demolished, she even said she can't sell the home as if no one would buy it. That's simply not true. Put it back on the market and let a person who cares about Craftsman homes restore it. They would still make a tidy profit and the "Henry A. Darling House' gets spared the wrecking ball.

Anonymous January 28, 2015 at 6:50 AM
Capoccia was pretty effective and Goss did ask the question that alot of people were thinking. The husband rambled on and had a hard time keeping his story straight. I'm sure they don't want to admit that perhaps at the get go, demolition was an option for them. If they did admit that, they would look pretty bad. But buy another home then. I'm not saying don't move into Sierra Madre. It used to be that people bought homes that fit their needs. If it didn't, then they didn't buy it. There are lots of other homes they can buy. Let someone who truly cares about the history and the historical significance of a Craftsman home buy it and do the restoration. They complain about financial straights. Come on. I hate to say it but if you can afford to bulldoze that existing home and build a brand new 3,700 square foot home, cash is probably not a problem for you. Likewise, the restoration of that home would certainly cost alot less then tearing it down and building one twice as big.

Anonymous January 28, 2015 at 9:40 AM

I agree with you, 6:50. I kept wondering why they didn't just buy a home they could move into. How about the husband's comment that 4000 square feet is a "small" house. As I said earlier, these comments sounded suspiciously like Adele Chang. Thank you Donald Songster, for showing the Council what can be done with a craftsman that has gone into disrepair. In case you missed it, his home, on Sierra Madre Blvd, between two apartment complexes, "beyond repair" when he bought it 20 years ago was recently on the cover of a magazine (American Bungalow - cover story.)

Caroline Bourque Brown January 28, 2015 at 7:43 AM
The shift in thinking what is suitable as a home for raising a family and cooking a family meal is what is different here. Many of us who have lived in Sierra Madre for fourty or so years were the age then that these Young Families are now. BUT we found an existing home that was to our liking, that we could afford, maybe we added on or remodeled the kitchen with in the existing four walls and went on with our lives to polish our career stars, take our kids to school and activities and involve ourselves with community preservation: hillside ordinance, 1996 general plan, canyon zoning, downtown protection, tree preservation, general plan update, etc. I hope that the folks with the "demolition is mine" glory ideas will read this and understand what the place represents and really love it as it is. Buy another house somewhere in town that is already suitable to your families needs with just a wee bit of suitable remodeling and expansion. Then sit back and say to yourself, I am part of this traditional, vintage community. Welcome.

Anonymous January 28, 2015 at 9:13 AM

People like 7:43 is what this town is all about. Why can't the new people coming in have that same mentality. Its really interesting but when I was growing up, tear downs were unheard of unless a house was literally falling down or had burned down. That's why you carefully choose a house that meets your needs always knowing that you can tinker with it here and there. It's this new mentality of just tearing things down and building something bigger, showier etc with no respect for what was there. We had to cut down a tree that was causing problems for our house. My wife literally cried about it. Don't the Browns have any feelings towards that old house? I don't understand it.

There were a lot of other comments in this vein, many just as good. But these went pretty much to the heart of the argument as far as I can tell.

All of which brings up this. How exactly do those living in a community hang on to their sense of place? Where you live often becomes a lot of what you are, so where do you go when all of that is gone? Who are you then? Is ours an endangered way of life?

Below are some shots of the Henry A. Darling house, rough edges and all. This is what would be taken from this community should the requested demolition ever go through.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Apparently It Was 2006 Throwback Night At The Sierra Madre City Council Meeting Last Night

I don't know how many of you were around for the entire Downtown Specific Plan debacle. It certainly was a contentious era in the history of this town, but it ended with a very good result.

Despite all the hysteria and carrying on from certain investors who wanted to turn downtown Sierra Madre into the kinds of tightly packed generic and unappealing "mixed use"nonsense you can find today in places like Duarte and Azusa, reason carried the day and the voters of Sierra Madre wisely went with Measure V. You'd think certain people would have figured out why by now.

Last night we witnessed the same losing strategy, and wouldn't you just know? It was none other than the same career former Mayor himself on point, leading his misguided and sadly agitated sheep right off the cliff. And what tactics did they learn from their permanent loss leader? The same self-defeating over-the-top shenanigans as last time. Bitter, wildly inaccurate, accusatory, and incredibly rude, nonsense. All done to the soured musical accompaniment of emotional claims to victimhood.

Their message: “No one needs to worry about preserving Sierra Madre because we have all the protections we need, and no one here has anything but mad love for Sierra Madre. Now get the hell out of our way or we just might sue you!”

It was 2006 deja vu. All over again. Complete with yet another big loss for atrocious behavior.

Here is the most telling part of the obviously coached cookie cutter comments from the newbie McMansion crowd. They all said they simply love Sierra Madre. And that is why they moved here. Because they love it. So what exactly is it they want to do? Tear down classic Sierra Madre homes and replace them with starter castles that are utterly at odds with the rest of the community.

You know, that place they love to pieces. Literally, I suppose. If they are ever given their way.

Again we go back to the Henry A. Darling house as our prime example. What the new people in town wish to do is tear down an historic Sierra Madre home, one that is in far better shape than certain individuals claimed, and then replace it with a two-story McMansion nearly twice the size. Why? Because they really REALLY love Sierra Madre?

Horse radish. IMO they want to make money. Period. This is classic mansionizing. And they don't give a damn about the consequences to this community.

Even the people who spoke up in support of the McMansioneers said they didn't want McMansions here. Quite a disconnect for certain, but still it spoke volumes about the confusion and lack of any clarity whatsoever from that crowd. You have to wonder what some of those people had been told. It was like they were reading off an entirely different script.

All of the members of the City Council conducted themselves with cool professionalism and courtesy. Many key questions were raised by this city's elected leadership. The most notable by John Capoccia and Gene Goss. This despite some of the bizarre behavior from the new kids in the block, and their throwback cheerleader.

The end result? Ordinance 1360-U passed. Unanimously. With reasonable tweaks included, the demolition moratorium is now in place.

Those kinds of tactics didn't work in 2006. And they did not work last night, either.

Some of these people have been their own worst enemies for years.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Demo Moratorium Could Turn Into A Sierra Madre Showdown Tonight - Plus More On Embezzlegate: Pasadena's Sheri Stevenson Speaks Out

At risk Sierra Madre
Mod: The word on the streets of Sierra Madre is there will be some opposition to the Interim Demolition Moratorium this evening, with the folks who want to bulldoze the Henry A. Darling home apparently planning on being front and center with their colorful array of complaints (link). In a widely distributed e-mailing yesterday Preserve Sierra Madre put it this way: "A demolition moratorium is particularly crucial because the owner of 126 E. Mira Monte has submitted an application to demolish a beautiful 1907 Craftsman home complete with such classic Craftsman architectural details like box beam ceilings, wainscoting and a river rock fireplace."

This particular home is now at the center of the debate because it represents what many in Sierra Madre are fighting to save. That is preserving heritage homes from the kinds of mansionization that have afflicted our now otherworldly looking neighbor down the hill. The fact remains the owner of the Henry A. Darling house really does want to build something far larger on that property. Something that therefore makes this a not atypical example of a very unfortunate phenomenon.

The nonsense argument that will likely be dragged out tonight is there is a sacred covenant floating somewhere in the developer-speak ether declaring newly arrived property owners have the right to do as they wish with their land, while the rights of people who already live (and own) in this community should somehow be completely ignored. And whatever claims current residents might have to legacy, privacy, views, air and sunlight (not to mention hanging on to their existing property values), cannot hold a stick to the luminous principles protecting mostly out-of-town McMansion builders. No matter how invasive or destructive their intentions, or where they get their funding.

You see, McMansion builders are actually freedom fighters. No, really. Just not for any of your freedoms. They prefer the one that claims they can take whatever they like, and there is nothing you can do about it.

Things could get heated tonight. You really do need to tune in.

Pasadena's Sheri Stevenson speaks out

Pasadena City Hall Insider: As a former co-worker and one who admired Sheri Stevenson immensely, I commend her to you as an unimpeachable source.  She has worked tirelessly to restore a sense of dignity and fairplay to City of Pasadena workers.  When the PMA layoffs began, employees became apprehensive, felt threatened, and did not know whom to trust.  The interim HR Director, literally a plant installed by Michael Beck, maintained dossiers on all of the dissidents, working closely with the City Manager's office to create an atmosphere of fear and isolation.  Sheri Stevenson brought light to the ugly, ugly chapter in the history of the  City of Roses that is Michael Beck.  She continues to bring hope to those who unjustly lost their jobs. Yesterday Sheri posted these comments to this site.

In 2012, Mr. Beck laid off Jean Luter, a Management Analyst in the Finance Department and, similar to those in 2011, an outspoken Budget Watchdog. Ms. Luter, another well-respected, older (over 50) African-American employee, had amongst her duties the oversight of all City purchasing cards (credit cards). Immediately prior to being laid off, Ms. Luter had recommended that a couple of the department heads be sanctioned for improper use of City purchasing cards. She recommended that certain restrictions be put in place with impartial oversight by the Finance Department. Less than one month later, Ms. Luter was laid off, and the department heads were made responsible for monitoring and approving their own purchasing card expenditures.

In 2012, I was also laid off. I was Vice-President of PMA, a Management Analyst, and an outspoken Budget Watchdog in the Public Works Department. In fact, Mr. Beck publicly labeled me Pasadena’s “Resident Contrarian” because it irked him when I questioned inaccuracies in the budget. 

I could go on, but my three minutes will be up shortly. A common theme here is that there are many, many City employees who were and are honest, ethical, long-term City employees. We took pride in our work and weren’t afraid to speak up and question, challenge, and verify. Laying us off was an “in your face” message to the rest of the City employee population that it is, in fact, very dangerous to follow the mantra of “If you see something, say something.” 

Laying us off contributed to a culture of fear for those employees who would speak the truth. And believe me, there’s a lot more that could be said. If Pasadena’s H.R. Department had given it any thought, they would have been wise to do exit interviews with laid off employees, as they would have nothing to lose at that point to discuss the many, many additional things each of us knows and could share with a listening ear. Instead, City employees still working quickly learned to keep their mouths shut.

When asked if this investigation would impact his job, Mr. Beck replied, “As it relates to me personally, this isn’t about me, it’s about the City of Pasadena and ultimately we need to ensure that we can rebuild confidence that the community can have with the City of Pasadena, and that’s what we will strive to do.” 

I would ask you, if it’s not about Mr. Beck, if it’s not about the City Manager who leads our fine City, then who is it about?

Ironically, the same day that the FBI set up their command post in Pasadena and the Department of Homeland Security worked with Pasadena’s TART team to secure the city for New Year’s events, Mr. Beck sent a letter to City employees in which he borrowed a law enforcement phrase. “If you see something, say something,” he encouraged them.

Let me tell you, from personal experience, what happens when you do just that. In 2011, Mr. Beck laid off Susie Sulzbach, an honest PMA President, Management Analyst, and outspoken Budget Watchdog. 

In 2011, Mr. Beck also laid off George Owens, Pasadena’s own Internal Auditor. Mr. Owens was a well-respected, older (over 50) African-American employee who saved the City of Pasadena more than enough money each year to cover his own salary (including benefits and burden) plus significantly more. 

CM Beck apparently did not appreciate the close scrutiny and recommendations for checks and balances that Mr. Owens professionally provided to all departments, including the City Manager's own office. In the City's closing brief regarding the 2011 arbitration requested by PMA (page 11), it states the following, "Grievant Owens was an internal auditor who was assigned audits directly by Mr. Green and reported directly to Mr. Green. In evaluating the impact on the Finance Department, Mr. Green determined that Grievant Owens’ loss would have a minimum impact on the Finance Department as Grievant Owens was in a single-purpose position. Grievant Owens duties could, when necessary, be conducted by an outside auditor or those audits would be conducted by Mr. Green or one of Mr. Green's immediate subordinates." 

Apparently Mr. Andrew Green, Finance Director, did not, in fact, conduct any audits personally, especially in the Finance Department, and he felt that singling out the City's auditor would have "minimum impact." $6.4 million in losses seems to prove that Mr. Green's actions were short-sighted at best and demonstrate fiduciary irresponsibility at worst. 

Another comment of interest was left here last evening.

City Hall employees used to be surveyed about the city and the city manager - since Beck arrived, that stopped. The City has yet to complete a 5-7 year old classification study for all employees to ensure they're actually doing what they're paid to do (or not paid to do). The morale of the entire city is dead. It doesn't exist unless you're one of Michael's direct reports or someone else on the gravy train (basically all his hires....lots of money but nothing to show for it). 

If the city council really wanted to know whats going on in Pasadena, they don't need investigators, they need to sit down and have an honest conversation with the 3,000 employees that actually do the work in this down. But that will never happen because they're all a part of this political backscratching system they created and they know exactly what the issues are but refuse to resolve them. It's just too convenient to have a yes man as city manager, even if it costs taxpayers millions of dollars. 

Paid investigators over simple conversations between elected officials and those who work there? Has it really gotten that bad? Is that what the elected officials there believe the taxpayers want them to do, conduct a government by consultant?

We will continue to monitor the situation in Pasadena as closely as possible. What started out as a case of embezzlement is now becoming so much more.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Pasadena Star News: Pasadena City Council to vote Monday night on pay raises for city attorney, city clerk

Happy! Happy!
(Mod: This stunner just showed up on the Pasadena Star News website. Apparently the worst embezzlement scandal in that city's history, one that is still being investigated mind you, isn't about to get in the way of Pasadena City Hall handing out a couple of beefy raises. More proof that government in the SGV has its origin in a world beyond.)

Pasadena City Council to vote Monday night on pay raises for city attorney, city clerk (link) - The City Council will vote Monday to give pay raises and increased benefits to two top city staffers. The council will vote to amend its contracts with City Attorney Michele Beal Bagneris and City Clerk Mark Jomsky that will cost about $27,000 this fiscal year, according to a staff report.

The council in December authorized City Manager Michael Beck to give 1 percent pay raises to all city department heads, including former Department of Public Works Director Siobhan Foster and former finance chief Andrew Green, who were fired last week without cause amid the $6.4 million alleged embezzlement scandal.

Former DPW employee Danny Ray Wooten, 51, is accused of funnelling $6.4 million from a fund generated by a surcharge on Pasadena residents’ electricity bills aimed at beautifying city streetscapes. Wooten allegedly gave the money to two church groups he is associated with as well as an Altadena-based electrical contractor Tyrone Collins, 55, and a temporary city employee Melody Jenkins, 46.

Beck defended the pay raises, saying the increase was modest and the department heads hadn’t received a pay raise since 2008. He noted that pay raises in 2013 were offset by increases in healthcare contributions.

Bagneris, who earned $225,000 in 2013, according to city salary data, will be paid a $243,461 salary as of Dec. 1, if the council approves the new contract. Jomsky, who earned $139,244 in 2013, according to city salary data, is slated to be paid a $154,661 salary as of Dec. 1.

(Mod: For more on this follow the link I posted above to the PSN site. Oh, and LAFan101? They still haven't fired Beck. I know. You're shocked.)

Tuesday's City Council Meeting: "Urgency Ordinance Establishing An Interim Moratorium On Demolitions"

For my money there are two items on Tuesday evening's agenda that need to be paid some special attention. The first one we wrote about yesterday. The EENER Commission's recommendation that fining people over their water usage, and at rates that are a little beyond any easy comprehension, is as important as the "interim ordinance" temporarily halting demolitions here. The EENER initiative is yet another in a long list of attempts to squeeze more money out of what has got to be regarded as an at risk water company. Money that could be used for any number of things, none of which are detailed in the agenda report. But you could probably take a pretty good swing at where it will go.

The City of Sierra Madre should not be run like just another California benefit and pension factory for its employees. A lot of cities in California, almost all of them far larger than ours, have now fallen into that trap. You could easily include Los Angeles County, or the entire state for that matter, on the list as well.

It is how things got as financially troubled in this state as they are today. According to California Common Sense, "Since 2007, the state’s unfunded retirement benefit liabilities have more than tripled and now stand at $219 billion (link)." There is no reason why Sierra Madre should have to jump into that mess with everybody else.

How much money City Hall will get out of things like fining people is nowhere near as important a question as how much it will cost the people who actually pay for it. On a roster of priorities resident expense should be at the very top of any list of considerations, but often it never even comes up.

Stopping McMansionization in Sierra Madre is a vitally important issue, but it is hardly the only one. In the final result all of these issues are tied together by the City's apparently endless search for more revenue. Don't let one issue be used against another. They are of equal importance.

Here is how the summary for the "Urgency Ordinance Establishing An Interim Moratorium On Demolitions" reads:

This is an "urgency zoning ordinance," and there is a reason for that. The updated General Plan, which would have protected the City of Sierra Madre from mansionization, was repeatedly delayed and waylaid by the previous four Mayors of this town. From John Buchanan through Nancy Walsh's especially troubled 12 months, everything possible was done to hinder putting into place protections that would have safeguarded what residents actually want for this town.

All done in favor of seeing to the needs of developers instead. Today you can see the results of that faithlessness erupting all over town.

And what was the reason for that?

Money. What else? From the water department and its seemingly endless quest to extract more cash from the residents, to increased property tax hauls, or the immense development impact fees City Hall could realize by unleashing out of control development, it was almost always the perceived need for more cash that drove this city's decision making process. At least until now.

Development Impact Fees are far larger in California than they are in any other state in the country. By a mile. You can read about that in a post we called "Are Development Impact Fees A Form Of Bribery?" The link is here.

You got this, right? Money is the connection. That is how it all ties together here. Of course, you could be opposed to one item at Tuesday evening's City Council meeting without opposing the other. Anything is possible.

But you'll need to be careful. The physical contortions alone could throw out your back.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The EENERs Recommend That Water Use Penalties Kick In Now - And At Exponentially Higher Rates

EENER meeny miny moe, catch a townie by the toe
The wrath of the EENERs is apparently now upon us all. What you might have ever done to deserve such a fate is beyond me, but there it is.

Penalties for using more water than deemed appropriate were suspended by the City Council a few months back. These punishments had been established, but then were never activated. They were just there. However, the CC also tasked the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Commission (or EENRC, an unfortunate acronym then Councilcritter Nancy Walsh had swiped from those colorful cut-ups at "The COG"), to deliberate upon the punitory propensities of all this and return with some informed recommendations to the Council.

Well, long story short, it would appear that the EENERs want to crack you upside your water using head a whole lot harder than even the City Council dared suggest when all of this was first coming together. With penalty payment rates that are exponentially higher than before. And they want to start doing it right about now.

As you might know, my feelings for the EENER Commission have never been warm. My take on this rhythm has always been that when then Mayor John Buchanan first imposed the idea in the form of the Green Committee, his intentions were not exactly pure. His true purpose being that if you want to impose something on the townies that is extremely unpopular, you get a Green Committee type resident body to make the recommendation first.

Then, when whatever the unloved initiative might be does get brought up at a City Council meeting, all the elected would then have the luxury of saying this is being done at the request of the Green Committee. All of which conveniently gives a Mayor or Councilmembers the ability to deny that "this difficult decision" was ever their idea. Especially when it really was.

Today, of course, we have the EENERs, and apparently they are rather mad at you over your biological dependence on water. And should their recommendations actually go through Tuesday evening, you could get the holy hopping bejeezus fined out of you for not substantially curbing your use of it.

Here is the section of the relevant Staff Report containing this unhappy news:

There you go. Instead of the original 2 to 3 times penalty rate, you would now be dunned at a 2 to 10 times rate instead. How sweet of them. And it is not like this is a water rate increase requiring a Prop 218 "process" or anything, right? You know that? Good, then will you please tell me why it isn't?

Because that is what it looks like to me.

So what if you decide to appeal all of this crazy stuff? Fight back, as it were. Then you'd better have your "water audit done by water conservation-certified staff" in place first.

There's a visit you could live without.

Like I said, if you are a Mayor or City Council person who wants to get some unpopular piece of legislation in place, especially one that involves the taking of even more money, it is best to first find residents who will make that recommendation for you.

That's why they call them EENERs, I guess.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Pasadena City Hall Insider: "Where two or three gather Under the Dome, a conspiracy is suspected."

"Bogaard, McAustin, Tornek are on Municipal Services and Finance committees. Gordo is fourth member of Finance. Were they asleep or were they deceived?" - InvoiceGate Pasadena

Pasadena City Hall employees know who's absent and why they are missing.  Rumor has it that among the people placed on administrative leave are Finance Department personnel - George, Hasmick, Flo, and Patty.  If not yet, then perhaps soon? You know how rumors go. Why the clerks?  Least likely to be missed when they're replaced. All four technically overstepped their authority in processing payments and blatantly disregarded accounting procedures put in place to make sure abuses of the system didn't take place - or did they?

  • Confirmed Finance Department employee Larry Hammond, Purchasing Administrator, and Public Works-Engineering manager, Bonnie Hopkins, Principal Engineer, are among the disappeared.  

Before the Special Check Request was presented to them by their boss for processing, it would have first been signed by Wooten himself, and Siobhan Foster, Public Works Director, and walked to Larry Hammond, Purchasing Manager - who acted as gatekeeper for all Special Check Requests.  Larry would personally hand the document(s) to Andy Green, Finance Director, for approval, and only at that point would it be returned to the clerks for inclusion into the special check request run.

At what point would an accounting clerk rise up from their desk and say, "Wait a minute, Ms. Foster, this is an illegal transaction,"  "Wait a minute, Mr. Green, your Accounting Prcedures say I must have a payment authority."  It's just a lot easier to place the blame on the clerks.

It's the "we've always done it this way" mindset that created the climate for the financial abuse to occur.  Why would Wooten think after the first sham invoice was presented and paid that he would be challenged?  Suddenly, it became, "We've always done it this way."  Wooten wasn't the only person misusing the Special Check Request system; perhaps he wasn't even the only embezzler - just the one that got caught.

Steve Mermell, Assistant City Manager, was for years Deputy Finance Director, under Jay Goldstone.  No one in the City knows more about the accounting system than Steve.  No one's asking Steve on the record how this could have happened.  Steve put in place procedures and protocols so that it couldn't happen.

Had those very same procedures and protocols been followed by the four people placed on administrative leave, had they been enforced by Larry Hammond, Siobhan Foster, and Andy Green, Danny Wooten would not be in a jail cell and his cohorts would not need to be free on bail.

Use our easy withdrawal form for quick service!
Siobhan Foster had within her department a Financial Services Group.  One of the group's duties is to track fund balances.  Remember it is the Underground Utilities Fund that is in the news.  The funds are reconciled monthly.  How is it that invoices were presented and paid without purchase orders or contracts, reimbursements issued to businesses and individuals whose addresses did not reflect work currently being performed, and for work not scheduled to begin until future budget years?

Did cutbacks so affect this critical function that the analysts were unable to perform basic audits of the funds?

Sheri Stevenson, a laid off Management Analyst in Public Works, spoke at the January 5th City Council Meeting.  She talked knowledgeably about employees who lost their jobs, who had been laid off during cutbacks.  Many of those who left were vocal in their opposition to the loss of benefits and pay negotiated by Michael Beck shortly after he arrived in Pasadena.  Not a single employee union escaped his take no prisoners methods

What Stevenson didn't mention was the work climate as a result of the layoffs:  long term employees who are afraid they, too, will lose their jobs if they complain or speak out.

Danny Wooten was not an island within the Engineering Division of the Public Works Departments.  He, himself, supervised a clerical person, his assignments and work product were overseen by a manager, a fully licensed civil engineer; that manager would have reported to the City Engineer, who in turn would have worked under Siobhan Foster, the Public Works Director.

The wagons have been circled; women and children to the middle; sacrifices made and others identified just waiting for the next bloody chapter.  You can be assured that it is siege mentality within the fabulous Beaux Arts edifice that is Pasadena City Hall.

Who's next they ask one another?  When will the other shoe drop?

Where two or three gather Under the Dome, a conspiracy is suspected.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Is This How CETT Would Take Care Of Our One Carter?

I know that CETT, our favorite erstwhile McMansion developer, has been eager to impress us with just how good a citizen of Sierra Madre they would be. That is, if we would just give them a chance. Or at least until they sold all of their houses, ran out of buildable land and headed back down into the smokey valley from whence they came. But if these pictures showing the sad state of the story pole shanty they constructed at One Carter are any indication, their real time actions tell us a far different tale.

As you can clearly see, CETT doesn’t seem to be too concerned about maintaining their story poles at 610 Baldwin Court. And if you look closely you will see that the ground is littered with large rusty nails. Dog walkers and the parents of young children beware. It certainly does appear to be a rough place for the innocent, and there have always been a lot of them in that neighborhood.

I had a chance to speak with the concerned residents that first brought this matter to my attention. It was they who e-mailed me the melancholy photos I've posted above. Long time habitants of Sierra Madre, these folks have personally witnessed the transformation of this once pristine wilderness area into whatever it has become today.

Here are a few of their observations. They know that this property seems attractive to some people, and that it is widely believed to be filled with nature. But here's the thing, it no longer is. They find it disturbing to go there now because it is almost as if some kind of catastrophe occurred. There's little to be found in the CETT controlled portion but compacted dirt and developer dictated plantings of sterile plants that the deer don't seem to want.

They have begun to wonder if someone is using some form of toxicant up there. On the valley portion there are now few coyote or deer. They no longer see very many squirrels or birds. The only life forms present are people and their dogs. The rattlesnakes that you used to have to look out for, along with the tarantulas, are also gone. The sheer lifelessness of the place jumps out at you, they claim.

No rats, no mice, no rabbits, no bobcats, no foxes, no anything anymore. Has anyone who walks up there seen anything, in those parts where the building pads are? Birds landing on the plants the developer put in? These residents tell me that nature has apparently vanished.

Plus what kind of contribution to the environment are hundreds of rusty nails and derelict broken boards? CETT will likely say it’s the story pole business’s fault, but why don’t they monitor their site, or check on that company’s work? They seem quite indifferent to that kind of responsibility.

It must be pointed out that the alleged One Carter dead zone is where the various developers have, over the years, done their work. The parts of the immediate hillside beyond all of that still see abundant deer, coyotes, birds, and even the occasional bear. Things are like they have always been.

But the One Carter proposed McMansion area is not. And in ways that our friends have become quite concerned about that. They wanted me to let you know.

By the way, here is what One Carter once looked like. Not so very long ago.

Bonus coverage: Some folks have found a use for empty homes in Arcadia

This report comes to us from the Pasadena Star News (link):

Police seized about 1,250 marijuana plants, arrested three people and took two infants into protective custody early Thursday after dismantling indoor marijuana-growing operations inside two Arcadia homes, police said.

As part of an ongoing investigation, detectives and SWAT team members served two search warrants in the 300 block of West Woodruff Avenue and the 1800 block of South Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia police Lt. Colleen Flores said in a written statement.

“Both warrants were served without incident, and indoor marijuana grows were found at each location,” Flores said.

Police uprooted about 750 marijuana plants from the Baldwin Avenue home, and another 500 from the Woodruff Avenue home, police said.

The complex indoor pot grows appeared to be bypassing electrical meters to steal electricity from the grid, Flores said.

Just before serving the search warrants, police arrested a man seen leaving from the Woodruff Avenue home in a vehicle, Flores said. Police also arrested a man who showed up at the home during the operation and a woman found inside with two infant boys, Flores said. The children were taken into the custody of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.

Arrested were Ming Gao, 46, of Arcadia, Jia Hui Shen, 27, of El Monte, and Lan Lau, 34, of Arcadia, according to police and Los Angeles County booking records.

Detectives had not yet determined who owns and is responsible for the homes, police said. Authorities were looking into the possibility of adding additional charges, such as utility theft and child endangerment.

Isn't it interesting that nobody can readily tell who owns these homes?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tattler Exclusive: Pasadena City Hall Insider Tells All 2

Currently out of the office and under a bus.
(Mod: The first time we posted an article here written by the Pasadena City Hall Insider was on January 2nd. Since then that post has stayed on our Top 10 Most Read list for a 3 full weeks, which for this blog is a very long time. This week's very public firing of Andy Green and Siobhan Foster has caused The Insider to take up his pen and write for The Tattler again. And what we get is a pretty penetrating look into the bizarre culture that lives on beneath the dome, and how it reacts when threatened.) 

The Pasadena Star News is reporting that City of Pasadena Mayor, Bill Bogaard, and the Townie Council have allowed the now un-diversified Andy Green and Siobhan Foster to commit seppeku in defense of the City Manager, Michael Beck. Both department heads came late in alleged culprit Danny Wooten's embezzlement career.

From 2003 through 2014, eleven years, a virtual Human Resources carousel of City Managers, Interim City Managers, Finance Directors, Public Works Directors, Acting Finance and Public Works Directors, and Interim Finance and Public Works Directors held sway over accounting processes that ultimately proved too complicated and unenforceable to properly safeguard Pasadena's vast treasuries of the people's gold.

It is fair to posit that none of the more than 15 high level managers who lounged in those comfy Aeron Ergodynamic high backed office thrones had any idea of what the actual process really was. The only person who seemed to have a clue was Mr. Wooten himself, and he chose to circumvent generally accepted accounting practices to the tune of $6.4 million embezzled dollars.

The real reason the residents of Pasadena and the KPAS-TV viewing audience were forced to sit through January 5th's televised City Council Meeting with its interminable Powerpoint presentations is so the Mayor, the City Council, and the City's Management Team could figure out what that process actually was - because none of them actually knew how to get actual work product done.

Sure, there were protocols in place - some of them implemented prior to the computer age, and all of them updated by some low level clerk who initialed their work, but where was the verification that the employees who did that work actually followed the rules?  All the time?

In a culture where no one is encouraged to ask questions, suggest a better system, or take any sort of initiative, why is it surprising that an enterprising thief with an engaging smile and an air of proficiency could bulldoze his way through a paper trail of defenses most managers never took the time to read, fathom, or even discuss with their clerks?

Ms. Foster came on like gangbusters when she assumed the dictatorship of Public Works.  First she obliterated any scent of her predecessor, Martin Pastucha, by consigning carefully chronicled historical data, and files existing nowhere else, to Reycle bins brought up from the basement.

Oh, let's back up.  How did Ms. Foster come to Pasadena you may have asked (a question seemingly overlooked)?  The dormouse records that the highly esteemed Martin Pastucha confronted Michael Beck over further budget/personnel cuts that the more experienced Director regarded as not only unwise, but departmental suicide.  Within that year Ms. Foster was recruited from the City of Riverside (Michael Beck's former employer) and came onboard (even with a pending employee lawsuit against her), swinging from the rigging of the Public Works ship, slashing her way through the functions, the budget, the headcount, and the goodwill of the more than 250 employees left with only a union to defend them, to make the cuts Michael Beck was unable to pursuade Martin Pastucha to go with.

Teflon Mike
Finance and Public Works are not the only departments where Michael Beck left his imprimature:  actually, Human Resources, Planning and Development, the embattled Police Department, Fire, Human Services, Housing, Transportation, IT, and Transportation Directorships have all turned over since 2008. Only the Library and Water & Power Departments escaped the wrath of Beck.

Twelve of the 14 departments under Michael Beck have come under new management since he began his tenure.  Early in his ascendancy as City Manager, Michael Beck also took on the City employees' deeply entrenched unions, drawing accusations of union busting. There was much speculation that the City Council had brought him on for just such a purpose.

In a move which happened with lightning-like speed, the official City of Pasadena organization chart now reflects three vacant positions (Walsh, Green, and Foster).  Didn't even pause to catch up with William "When PIOs Fly" Boyer's official announcement, which hasn't yet been posted to the Invoice Investigation tab.  But lookey here, obliterating their names will not make the debacle that is the City of Pasadena's vast sum of embezzled taxpayer money reappear. Neither will playing a freakish game of whack-a-mole in PSN comments sections anytime Frank Girardot and his crack investigative team surface with another hard hitting expose.'

So all you folks clamoring for Beck's head on a pike tout suite, be assured Teflon Mike isn't in danger of losing his job anytime soon.  Not only has he bought the allegiance of Green and Foster by allowing them to take leave of the City "without cause," and with a severance package the likes of which you and I will never ever see, T-Mike is also providing cover for the Rose City's elected treasures.

Was Beck himself assured of his term of office when he was hired by the Mayor (in collaboration with Council) as a guarantee against his union tactics and budget gutting leadership?  We'll probably never know that answer, right up until the end.

Mayor Bogaard, or Torneck, or Robinson, or any other potential mayors may ultimately get to announce the resignation of Michael Beck, and to great personal advantage. But it is highly unlikely he will be summarily fired as a result of any recent events.

After all, he is Teflon Mike, and he has lots more work to do.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Embezzleburg Wootengate: It's the Pasadena Two Step

By the time they get done throwing Pasadena City Hall employees off the top of the dome and into the streets a lot of buses are going to have gotten hurt. It isn't easy having all of those previously privileged people thrown under your wheels. An omnibus's worst nightmare if you will, and a real pain in the undercarriage to clean up.

In the Rose City it is not only raining men, but just about anyone else the City Hall establishment can get their hands on long enough to throw headlong into the abyss. No matter what the position or classification preference might be that particular week. When the going gets tough, Pasadena's apparently responsibility-free elected officials start heaving the help. Through appropriate channels, of course. And not all of them are what you might exactly call bureaucratic featherweights.

So who got thrown under the bus in Pasadena yesterday? What management level City Hall employees are being cast out from their almost $200,000 dollar a year privileged perches in hopes they will take all of that bad embezzlement juju karma flying with them? Here is how today's Pasadena Star News lays it on us (link):

Two Pasadena department heads fired amid $6.4M embezzlement investigation - City officials Tuesday announced the firings of two department heads who were in charge of overseeing a fund from which $6.4 million was allegedly embezzled.

Finance Director Andrew Green and Public Works Director Siobhan Foster were fired without cause by City Manager Michael Beck. They are the second and third high-profile City Hall department heads that have left their jobs under a cloud in the past year.

“...Our current challenges require a change in department leadership to meet the city’s future organizational needs,” Beck said in a letter sent to city employees. “These are difficult times for all of us and more challenges are ahead.”

Beck named Assistant City Manager Julie Gutierrez as interim head of both departments.

“Siobhan Foster and Andrew Green don’t work for the city any longer,” said William Boyer, the city’s spokesman. Boyer said details about Foster’s and Green’s severance packages were being worked out. Typically city department heads receive six months severance pay, according to their contracts.

Green and Foster were among city department heads that received pay raises in December. Green earned $197,442 in 2013 and Foster earned $192,065 that year, according to city salary data.

Now don't get me wrong, I am all in favor of firing city employees. If that is what PeeDee City Manager Michael Beck means by more challenges ahead, then you keep bringing 'em, boy. Especially the ones that are earning money as large as that. Besides, if done properly, it means that you will always have new blood running the city, and none of them will be around long enough to retire. A good system, right?

However, here is something that I think is just not right. If you are going to fire the help in order to keep the angry mob off your back, then you should also do at least something about the responsible elected officials as well, right? Like maybe admit that they might have done something had they not been asleep for 11 years? Nobody on a City Council should be allowed to blame the help as a way of "getting away with it."

As the highest of elected authorities in their town outside of the Mayor, City Council members should not be permitted to hide behind the skirts of those they are firing. They need to face at least some of the consequences as well. The buck has to stop somewhere.

But that is not what's happening on the far side of the Michillinda Curtain. There the angry mob seems quite content with the whole "fire the help" strategy currently in place. Maybe it is something in the water?

What makes the Pasadena situation even more absurd is that two actual members of the City Council, both of whom are also running for Mayor I'll have you know, served on the very committee that directly oversaw the activities of the guy arrested for embezzling $6.4 million dollars, Danny Ray Wooten!

Here is how InvoiceGate Pasadena enlightens us:

A third member of the Municipal Services Committee, Jacque Robinson, is running for Mayor of Pasadena as well. Right along with Terry Tornek. Tornek has been on that committee for six years, or right up until this day.

Yet few seem to be calling either of them out on any of this. With the exception of InvoiceGate Pasadena, practically nobody is asking these potential Mayors to take their fair share of responsibility for that $6.4 million dollars in embezzled taxpayer funds. Not in the candidate debates, not in the Pasadena newspapers, not on the blogs and news sites. The theft was done on their watch, for years, and now they get to run for Mayor consequence-free, like nothing had ever happened.

I had an opportunity to question an Internet policy expert named Mark Davis about this on the website discussion board attached to the above Star News article. Or at least I think that is what his name is. But he must be an expert because his words can be found on the web.

Besides, he is the only person yet to try and shed some light on this. Trust me, I have been asking. You have to take what you can get.

My question was this: "When are the two candidates for Mayor - who both also oversaw Wooten - going to be inconvenienced by having to discuss their responsibility in the scandal?"

To which Mark answered:

"Maybe because your statement is based on a false premise? Pasadena has City Manager Government. By law, no city employees are "overseen" by the Mayor or any City Council members. The only city employees that answer to the Council/Mayor are the City Clerk, the City Attorney and the City Manager."

Which is pretty amusing if you think about it. If "City Manager Government" even exists as a recognized form of governance, and isn't something that Mr. Davis invented on the spot to deal with an annoying questioner, then it means that the people the taxpayers elect to watch over their financial contributions to the Rose City have no direct control over those spending it. Even if they serve on a Committee tasked with overseeing just those very people.

Joe M, another expert on Pasadena government law, then joined the conversation. Note the complete lack of irony in what he says here.

"In Pasadena the city staff is independent of the Council and reports only to the City Manager in order to avoid the systemic corruption of "political machine" government. I think that is a superior system then the sort of Tammany Hall system you are proposing or falsely claiming exists."

Yeah, Joe. There's no corruption in the Rose City. It is no wonder Pasadena got robbed blind. The lunatics run the asylum, they have the support of Mark and Joe, and the elected officials there are as innocent as little babes.

It also explains why so few people vote in that town. Apparently the City is run by its inmates and everybody there thinks that helps fight corruption.

Or something.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Someone Really Has It In For The Henry A. Darling House

It seems hard to believe, but somebody really is jonesing to do in the Henry A. Darling house. As I am pretty certain you know, the new owner has applied for a demolition permit from City Hall to raze a classic Sierra Madre Craftsman home. One that was built all the way back in 1907, and apparently so they can replace it with one more unwanted and drearily generic mini-mansion.

It certainly does look like standard current developer behavior. Coming from the kinds of folks who would happily drive over their own dear mothers if it made them a couple of bucks, and then look you straight in the eye and tell you how how much they loved the old gal. And really, how wrong would it be for you to say that they didn't?

Love the old gal, I mean. You can only hope that this potential heritage house razing doesn't turn out to be the case here.

On January 10th we posted an article here called "Why The City Of Sierra Madre Needs A Moratorium On Demolition Permits Right About Now" (link). A product of the celebrated Tattler Research Team, it went on to generate well over 100 comments, and still draws a few more every day.

For whatever the reason, someone is very upset about what we have said here. So much so that they have left critical comments regularly ever since. Most of them claiming that those who might want to preserve this classic home, or any like it, are guilty of all sorts of unkind and unfair things.

I saved most of them, and will now post the best for you today. These comments are all over the map, and have a definite mood swing quality to them. I am also fairly certain that they either all come from the same person, or at most two people who know each other very well. Perhaps they work in the same downtown office? Maybe they're the very folks who actually sold the Henry A. Darling house into an undeserved fate?

"Narrow minded point of you" indeed. Like I said, somebody is rather upset.

You have to wonder why.