Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Letter You Will Receive With Your Water Bill Next Week

A confused water customer.
Assuming that you live in a part of Sierra Madre receiving a water bill next week, I thought it would be a fine service to the community to give everyone a look at the letter that will accompany it. A sneak preview courtesy of The Tattler. It is dated March 2nd, but I'll just put it out there anyway. What the heck.

As you know, this whole water overuse financial penalty mess has been immensely confusing for many people, and even the most sophisticated observers of this city's affairs have found the entire episode to be a little bit baffling. Which I guess explains the purpose of the following letter from our currently waterless Water Department. I am pretty certain they think this note is really clear and all, and that once you and everyone else gets a look at it things will seem all hunky dory again. People will stop complaining about being fined, or having City Hall recommended hired inspectors visit you at home to snoop around the place, and move on to happier issues.

This letter even comes with that always expected and important pat on the head for a job well done. Something many in town find essential in any communication they receive from the city. Most everybody wants to be good, and would feel inadequate if they were told that they are not.

So here is that letter. Having read through this it does seem fairly clear and to the point. There is just one critical matter that apparently gets passed over entirely. More on that in a minute.

Good enough, I suppose. So what is it that does not get discussed in this letter? That would be how exactly the Water Department arrived at your personal water reduction goal, and why your number is so different from your neighbor's number.

The devil is in the details, as they say. Can anyone here explain how the assigning of individual water reduction goals actually works?

Oh heck, it might not matter anyway

The way you are charged for the use of water is based on a tiered water rate system. And according to a lawsuit brought about by a group of residents in San Juan Capistrano, tiered rates could be in violation of voter approved Proposition 218. Their lawsuit has already made it past the first level of judicial review, and now the 4th District Court of Appeals is about to weigh in with their decision. The results could be dramatic.

Here is how they describe it in today's edition of the Daily Republic (link):

Orange County case challenges legality of tiered water rates A lawsuit in an Orange County city could change the way customers California-wide pay for water.

The suit alleges San Juan Capistrano’s tiered water-rate structure violates state law, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

Under tiered systems, the more water a customer uses, the higher the rate. It’s a strategy water districts employ to encourage conservation.

A group of taxpayers argue the tiered structure violates Proposition 218, a 1996 state law that prohibits agencies from charging customers more than the “cost of service” provided.

A lower court decided in their favor, and an appeals court is expected to rule soon.

The residents argue that San Juan Capistrano charged arbitrary fees — especially in the highest tiers. The city’s 2010 rate schedule charged customers $2.47 per unit — 748 gallons — of water in the first tier and up to $9.05 per unit in the fourth, the newspaper said.

The city charged customers who used the most water more than the actual cost to deliver it, plaintiffs said.

“People were getting nailed,” said John Perry, a 79-year-old resident who helped create the taxpayer group. “They were having $500 or $600 water bills on Tier 2 and Tier 3. There were horror stories.”

At least two-thirds of California’s water providers, including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, use some form of the tiered rates that are at issue in the lawsuit, consultants and water lawyers said.

A 2014 study at the University of California, Riverside, estimated that tiered rate structures similar to the one used in San Juan Capistrano reduce water use over time by up to 15 percent.

A state superior court judge declared the city’s rate structure invalid in 2013. The city has flattened its tiers and tied charges more directly to water costs while it awaits a decision by the state’s 4th District Court of Appeal.

If the appellate court publishes an opinion upholding the previous ruling, many Californians could see changes to their bills either immediately, or during their water agency’s next rate-making cycle, lawyers said. Agencies could flatten their tiers, adopt uniform rates or simply wait to see if they get sued, they said.

That could prove interesting.

For the record, we did cover this story a little back in August of 2013 when it all began. Check out who San Juan Capistrano hired to defend their legally at-risk tiered water billing system. None other than Michael Colantuono himself (link).

I swear, that dude is everywhere!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Pasadena Star News Writer Sarah Favot Steps Into The Pasadena Unified School District 6 Board Of Ed Race

Mod: Probably the first news report out anywhere (except here) that has somehow escaped the Peter Dreier noise machine. A pretty interesting piece.

PUSD campaign for Sierra Madre seat turns feisty and vitriolic

The bid to fill the newly formed Pasadena Unified School District school board seat in Sierra Madre and East Pasadena is not the highest-profile race in the March 10 citywide election, but it has been the feistiest.

While the Pasadena voters will be electing the city’s first new mayor in 16 years and selecting a new person to represent District 1 on the City Council, much attention has been drawn to the District 6 PUSD race and candidates Sandra Siraganian and Lawrence Torres.

While Siraganian, a Realtor, has mailed campaign literature targeting Torres for his union membership and teaching at a low-performing LAUSD school, another set of anonymous mailers have circulated in Sierra Madre attacking Siraganian for failing to appear at candidate forums and citing her political views as extreme.

“I’ve seen how it’s become a pretty controversial race,” said Randy Jurdo Ertl, a longtime community activist, who hasn’t endorsed in the race.

Siraganian’s campaign has made Torres’ union membership its touchstone. And the candidate believes Torres cannot serve on a school board that must negotiate with unions.

“It’s a complete conflict of interest,” Siraganian said. “Any teacher would have this conflict.”

It’s not just the candidates going at it.

Supporters of each have been delivering their own jabs — mostly online.

Local blogger John Crawford, who supports Siraganian, posted a story about Torres’ conviction for drunken driving in 1985, which is not disclosed on Torres’ literature or his campaign website.

“It didn’t even dawn on me to report this because it happened 30 years ago,” Torres said. “I hope that people don’t judge me for mistakes I made in my youth but rather look at the breadth of experience and service to the community I have performed both throughout my career and as a parent.”

Peter Dreier, who teaches politics at Occidental College and supports Torres, distributed a story from LA Progressive written by a PUSD parent who lives in the district, Robert Niles, about Siraganian’s Tea Party ties and also some controversial tweets Siraganian allegedly sent.

Siraganian, who was part of an effort to eliminate the Users Utility Tax in Sierra Madre, has given money to TEAPAC California, campaign finance records show. She said she has worked on a “Get out the Vote” effort.

“I’m a Republican,” she said. “Most of the people that I’ve worked with are Republicans or declined to state. Mostly they’re people who believe in the Constitution.”

Siraganian’s Twitter account, @ulrichfan, established in 2009 takes jabs at illegal immigration, “the gay agenda” and deadbeat dads.

In an email, Siraganian defended her activity on the social network — which totals 11 tweets between 2009 and 2011.

“My tweet mentioning the gay agenda was a joke about what I thought were overheated attacks on Kobe Bryant, nothing more,” she wrote. “The fact that my opponent’s union activist supporters would take them out of context shows the lengths they will go to control the PUSD school board.

“I stand by my statement that illegal immigrants are an expensive burden on the State of California budget.”

Torres’ Twitter account, @votefortorres, was established earlier this year. The majority of his tweets focus on the campaign.

Ertl characterized the campaign as vitriolic.

“I think it’s happened in the past, but it is probably getting nastier because people have personal interests, special interests , they have hidden agendas in terms of what to get out of public school districts,’ he said. “A lot of times people are running to get contracts. It has taken away from the priority of improving public education for students.”

When it comes to issues within the school district, Siraganian said she believes it’s important for students to attend their neighborhood schools.

Sierra Madre and East Pasadena pay more and get less,” her campaign website says. “Sandra will work to make sure we get our fair share.”

She said in her work as a Realtor, she sold a home in Sierra Madre to people who moved from San Marino because they wanted to send their children to Sierra Madre schools.

“School board members should be ambassadors,” Siraganian said. “What we’re not doing well is marketing what we have.”

Mod: For the entire article click here. A couple of things. The UUT effort identified in this story was to bring that tax down from levels that were among highest in the state and back to its original 6%, not eliminate it altogether. The time when Sierra Madre will get to consider its elimination may happen, but hasn't yet. 

Did Larry Torres not disclose his conviction for drunk driving because it happened in his mid 20s, or because he didn't want anyone to know about it? My suspicion is it's the latter.

How come when newspaper accounts include supposedly nonpartisan "long time community activists," you invariably have never heard of them? Randy Jurdo Ertl writes for the quite partisan Pasadena Weekly. He thinks Coca Cola has conspired to kill us all (link).

The "anonymous mailers" come from (and continue to come from) Peter Dreier, the Marxist tenured radical (link) college professor straight out of Occidental that has made a career of running such smear campaigns. Torres has to have known these cowardly anonymous hit pieces were (and are) happening, and seems to have no problems with this kind of political activity. He might "love the kids," but he is some kind of a monumental jerk when it comes to adults.

Here is a college kind of question. How many people have been killed by the Tea Party that Professor Dreier hates so passionately? The answer is none. How many have died at the hands of the kinds of Marxist proponents Peter Dreier venerates in his lectures at Occidental? According to Wikipedia, between 85 and 100 million (link). Give or take a few.

Count the political bromides in the last four paragraphs of the column. I found three. Don't you get sick of that kind of vacuous talk from politicians?


Thursday, February 26, 2015

New Siraganian Postcard Is Out And Again Larry Torres Is Put Into An Unfortunate Light

The Pasadena Star News article is called "Pasadena school board eliminates suspensions for ‘willful defiance’' and can be linked to here. This is pretty much the gist of the article:

 Students in Pasadena public schools will no longer be suspended for not following their teachers’ directions.

The Pasadena Unified School Board has eliminated “willful defiance” or disruption of school activities from the district’s policies as a criteria for suspension and possible expulsion for all students.

The state Legislature passed a bill this year that eliminates willful defiance as a category of suspensions for students in kindergarten through third grade and the authority to recommend expulsion for willfully defiant students of all grade levels.

There are a couple of great reader comments attached to this article, and I thought I would share them here. Reader comments can be far more reality based than any news article, and these two get it right in my opinion. Here is the first one:

The second comment comes from a woman named Sally.

Schools that do not enforce discipline quickly become chaotic and out of control. Hardly the kind of place anyone would be able to teach successfully. It does make you wonder what is going on in the minds of some school administrators and those enabling them these days.

Of course, and as is almost always the case with government, the culprit turns out to be money.

Ruth Cusick, a staff attorney at nonprofit law firm Public Counsel, said removing willful defiance as a category of suspensions is about giving teachers other ways of dealing with students’ behavior.

“It’s not about taking something away from our teachers or administrators but actually being honest together about what works and what’s going to increase your attendance and increase academic achievement in schools,” she told the board.

In other words, it is about the additional money a school district gets through improved attendance. Every time a kid shows up at school the state gives that school and its district more money. In this case the priority is getting kids there, not what actually happens after.

That may be why Larry "DUITorres's City of Angels school has a 77% failure rate in math. Perhaps it is a school with mostly "at risk" kids and no realistic plan for maintaining a proper level of discipline. This sad brand of education just wants to get them there so they can charge back the taxpayers. No matter how badly they perform.

Look at it this way. If kids were to perform better at PUSD schools, those schools would be better able to compete in the education marketplace. The PUSD would then not lose the kinds of students that they really need to find competitive success. But I guess that isn't their priority right now.

The Preserve Sierra Madre Take On Tuesday's City Council Meeting

(Mod: Late yesterday afternoon Preserve Sierra Madre put out this wrap up of what went down Tuesday evening on the question of building demolitions.)

At Tuesday night's meeting, our City Council extended the Demolition Moratorium for an additional six months but directed City Staff to make their best efforts to complete the revised Demolition ordinance by April 30th.  Once the rules for demolition are established and the appropriate safeguards are in place, then the moratorium can be lifted.

After extensive discussions about additional historical preservation measures including an Historical Survey of properties in Sierra Madre, the City Council elected to defer that issue to another meeting.  While every council member seemed to support the need for historical preservation, it came down to whether the demolition ordinance is sufficient or whether a historical survey is also needed.

Once again, we have to commend the City Council for taking up these issues and staying late into the night in an effort to get this right.  We also want to particularly thank our City Attorney, Terri Highsmith, for her efforts in trying to craft reasonable and effective historical preservation measures that will protect Sierra Madre for generations to come.

Thank you to all  of our supporters who sent emails to the City Council encouraging them to continue their efforts and to those who took a night away from their busy schedules to attend the meeting.

Thank you for your support.
Steering Committee
Preserve Sierra Madre

Lambdin Land 

Will Sierra Madre become Lambdin Land?
(Mod: One of the reasons Preserve Sierra Madre is as successful as they are is they keep it positive. Maybe they're right. Certainly the results show it. Here on the blog, however, people do get down and dirty. Life is down and dirty, and we respect those who deal with it at that level as well. Here is an entirely different assessment of Tuesday's meeting from a reader.)

The Council completely lost their vision of what the demolition ordinance was supposed to be. It was supposed to prevent our older, historic homes to be demolished and then a lot split or a McMansion to replace it. It was an emergency ordinance to prevent someone from filing for a demolition before the final ordinance was passed. And as Denise said, they have to do the historic survey in order to know what they are talking about in the ordinance. Otherwise it would be willy nilly decision making. Capoccia at first made great sense but lost it when Harabedian made his case, forcefully and over and over.

For the first time I can remember, Elaine and Teresa made perfect sense when they argued that a 6 month moratorium was necessary to let the Planning Commission do their job, and have time to do the survey to make sure all the points were covered. Harabedian wanted to keep it to 90 days and said it didn't need to go to the Planning Commission as the Council was smart enough to make the decision themselves. Clueless Goss kept going on about individual property rights, completely missing the point altogether.

In the end, they voted for a 60 day extension of the moratorium with the proviso that they do a rush job and try to get it to Council for the final reading in April. This is completely unrealistic, and as one of the public said, you need the 6 months to get it right. There is something fishy about that discussion last night.

(Mod: Take your pick. Personally I think the Bob the Builder faction, as represented by the always narrowly focused Glenn Lambdin, got to Mayor Johnny Process. Glenn has made it his lifetime's work to fight historic designations of homes here, probably because he believes it will get in the way of his attempts to turn the town into pirate's booty.)

Barry Gold on Water Conservation penalties

(Mod: Barry Gold sent the following e-mail to the City Council yesterday afternoon. We are making it public for you today.)

Dear Mayor and Council Members,

I cannot tell you how disappointed I am concerning your passage of the Water Conservation Penalties Resolution.

You asked the people of Sierra Madre to cut their water usage by 30% below their water allowance which I believe was set using 2012 usage data.

Many residents are reaching their target goal.  Some are doing even better while some have made no effort to conserve any water and are using even more than they did in 2012.

I certainly agree with the council in imposing fines on those who do not make any attempt to conserve and those who are trying to conserve and are not yet at the 30% reduction.

Where I am really troubled is with the City Manager's plan to reward those who have done the best job by conserving more than 30% by punishing them with lower target goals.  Their current target goal was set to reflect actual usage in 2012 less 30%.  I believe the city wants to get rid of the 2012 usage based allowance and replace it with an unfair Calculator Tool that is subject to change by the council and staff and which we have not been able to see and study.

The usage based system reflects the differences in family needs by using actual prior usage data.  The Calculator Tool cannot be fair since on size cannot fit all.  A family of four with two children will use a different amount of water per person then a family of four adults.  The Calculator does not provide for this.

Please keep the 2012 usage based system in place.  The calculator may be useful when considering appeals, but it should be a tool to use along with other considerations not the uncaring abusive tool it could become.

Finally I am most disturbed by Section 4 of the Resolution which states "Violations of Urgency Ordinance 1359U Implementing the California State Water Resources Control Board Emergency Regulation - Staff is authorized to initiate the Administrative Enforcement provisions of the Municipal Code Section 1.18."

Please read the Administrative Enforcement provisions.  I have included some of the provisions below.  I highlighted some of the provisions to call your attention to them.  If this is what you had in mind to give the staff full discretion to do I think you are making an enormous mistake.  We cannot be ready for such heavy handed tactics at this time.  At least see if the fines work before using a cannon to kill an ant.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.  I know that you have numerous reports to read and that you are receiving many letters and e-mails from many residents each week.  Some say your job is a thankless one.  Well that is not true.  We depend on all of you to always know what is best for the people of Sierra Madre and the city in general.  This is a lot to ask of anyone.  And I do thank you for your sincere efforts to do that which is truly best.
Respectfully, Barry Gold


1.18.010 - Purpose and intent.
The city council has determined that the enforcement of this code, any uniform or other code it adopts by reference, and any other ordinance of the city is an important public service and is vital to the protection of the public's health, safety, and quality of life. The city council has determined that there is a need for alternative methods of code enforcement and that a comprehensive code enforcement system includes criminal, civil, and administrative remedies.

1.18.030 - General enforcement authority.
Enforcement officers may issue notices of violation and administrative citations, inspect public and private property, and use whatever judicial and administrative remedies are available under this code and other law to enforce the ordinances of the city. More specific provisions regarding administrative or other enforcement authority and procedures for particular violations may exist in this code and shall to fullest extent permissible, be construed to complement rather than contradict this chapter.

1.18.050 - Authority to inspect.
Enforcement officers are authorized to enter upon any property or premises within the city to ascertain whether code violations exist, and to make any examination and surveys as may be necessary in the performance of their enforcement duties, in accordance with Fourth Amendment of United States Constitution and the related protections of the California Constitution. These inspections may include the taking of photographs, samples, or other physical evidence. All inspection, entries, examinations and surveys shall be performed reasonably and in accordance with law. If an owner or occupant or property or his or her agent refuses to consent to entry and inspection, an enforcement officer may seek an administrative inspection warrant pursuant to law.

1.18.060 - Notice of pending administrative enforcement.
An enforcement officer may record with the Los Angeles County Assessor a notice against a property which is the subject of an administrative enforcement action to give notice to potential transferees of the property of code violations thereon. A notice of pending administrative action shall be on a form approved by the city manager and shall describe the nature of the administrative action and refer to the code provision governing the pending administrative action.

1.18.070 - Administrative fines and penalties.
A.   Any responsible person may be subject to an administrative fine pursuant to this chapter for any code violation.
B.   Each and every responsible person is joint and severally liable, in accordance with notice and procedures of this chapter, for all fines, penalties and interest imposed for the code violation(s) as to which he she or it is a responsible person.
C.   Each day a code violation is committed, continued or permitted, shall be a separate violation for which a citation may be issued. An enforcement officer may charge several violations of the code on a citation.
D.   The administrative fines delineated in this chapter are in addition to, and do not preclude imposition of, any other remedies, criminal, civil, or administrative, available to the city. Imposition of administrative fines shall be at the sole discretion of the city.

Arcadia's City Council Abandons Their China Junket

(Mod: Kudos to Terry Miller and his Arcadia Weekly for getting out in front on this one.)

(Mod: You can check out the rest of this report by clicking here.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Jet Setting Arcadia City Officials Called Into Question

Hopefully a one way ticket

Probably one of the most heavily viewed articles we've posted in quite some time was called  "Arcadia Officials Going On A Fully Paid Trip To China - Many Arcadia Residents Pray They Never Come Back" (link). We ran it on Feb 18, and in that piece was the following excerpt from that week's Arcadia City Council meeting agenda report:

"The City has been offered two donations, each in the amount of $10,000. One donation is from Companhia de Domercial Dingyuan Limitada, a, international trading firm based in Macau which is believed to have operations in the United States. The other is from Sichuan Arrow Recovery Tech Co. Ltd., an electronic waste recycling firm based in Sichuan, China, which is not believed to have operations in the United States but may receive recyclable goods from within the United States. Neither donor has previously done business directly with the City of Arcadia. However, one or more owners of each firm may have interests in real estate and development companies in the San Gabriel Valley that may operate in the City of Arcadia. More donations may be solicited as well , and the Council will be updated if and when additional donations are offered."

The notion that City Councilmembers, staff and their happy families might be accepting a very expensive trip to China from not only heavily capitalized foreign nationals with business interests in Arcadia, but also some of the very parties responsible for the out of control mansionization of that city, raised quite a few questions there.

On Feb 22 the Pasadena Star News printed a follow-up story to their previous investigations. Here is a screen shot of what the lead portion of that article looks like on their website. To read the entire piece click here.

This PSN piece also raised a lot of concern in Arcadia, especially from those who have come to believe that much of that city is practically being bought outright by nationals from a not always friendly foreign country as a place to launder dirty money and other smuggled assets. Mostly in the form of crass McMansions and other forms of predatory real estate investment.

I received the following email from one resident, someone with a lot of insight into the ethical and possibly legal ramifications of this suspiciously funded China junket for Arcadia's wayward city officials and their loved ones.

Some pretty good stuff. The Pasadena Star News article cited above also dug into the ethical and possibly legal ramifications of this potentially ugly conflict of interest.

When this news organization filed a Public Records Act request seeking the names of the business owners of each firm that donated funds, along with the real estate and development companies the individuals are affiliated with in the San Gabriel Valley, City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto said he did not have that information.

“It isn’t our normal practice or policy to investigate unencumbered donations to the city,” he said via email. “In this case, we stopped asking for greater details when we opted to limit the amount of reimbursements for City Council members.”

Open-government advocate Gil Aguirre said the city’s vagueness about the origin of these funds is cause for concern.

“It’s problematic that elected officials who are making decisions about development in the city would be accepting money from organizations that do business in the city,” he said. “What’s even more problematic is when you have a city manager who can’t even tell you where the money came from.”

Los Angeles Ethics Commissioner Jessica Levinson, an attorney and professor at Loyola Law School, said the city should disclose the identities of those funding portions of the trip and what their interests are.

“Does it raise concerns or questions? Sure. Clearly these are people trying to influence our elected officials, but in the interest of transparency, it’s good for the public to know who they are.”

In a response to the city attorney’s request for informal advice about travel and gifts relating to the Political Reform Act, the California Fair Political Practices Commission stated that the facts provided by the City indicate the delegation would take tours to understand development and land use in the cities. The city would then use the information obtained to “market and seek investment into the city from Chinese and Taiwanese developers looking for real estate investment opportunities within the city.”

This information was not mentioned during the city manager’s report about the donations at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, nor was it listed in the accompanying staff report.

You know what the real deal might be, right? Asian capital and the interests that control it now have such pervasive control over Arcadia's land use decisions that they decided to fly their de facto City Hall functionaries to China for a series of home office meetings designed to detail just how they are to perform over the next few years.

To boil it all down to its core essence, Arcadia City Hall is for all intents and purposes owned, and the bosses decided it was time to make certain their investments are performing at the most optimum and profitable of levels. And a good way to do get that done is to arrange for a little face time with the employees.

That seems to me to be a likely possibility for the officials of what has become known in China as the "California Mistress City."

Last night's Sierra Madre City Council Meeting

I tried to watch it on my cell phone, and then my computer, but due to the ineptness of the third rate company the city contracts with for broadcasting such events both proved impossible. So I have no idea how things went. If I did I'd have posted about it.

However, here is an early comment posted here that indicated things did not go well.

If you have more info please share it here. I'm all ears.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

This Evening's Sierra Madre City Council Meeting Will Deal With The Demolition Moratorium

New: NBC LA video added below.

(Mod: The following e-mail went out to all of the people on the Preserve Sierra Madre list. I thought I should reprint that here in case you are not on their list and haven't seen it. This explains exactly what is at stake tonight.)

Dear City Council Members:

At your Tuesday, February 24th City Council Meeting, among other items on the agenda, will be a discussion about extending the demolition moratorium and enacting further historical preservation measures.

We have read through the Agenda Report relating to these items.  It is quite evident that the City Staff did an outstanding job in their analysis of these issues, in presenting the various alternatives in response to concerns about historical preservation and in their recommendations.

Preserve Sierra Madre urges you to stay the course and continue your courageous efforts towards preserving the small-town character of our village in the foothills that is manifested in the historical nature of its architecture.

Specifically, we hope that you will take the following actions:

1. Take the City Staff's recommendation and extend the demolition moratorium for an additional six months.  This will allow City Staff time to enact specific details of one of the four recommended alternatives.

2. Direct City Staff to move forward towards implementation of Alternative 1: Comprehensive Historic Preservation Program.

With teardowns, mansionization and other development threats affecting so many cities in the San Gabriel Valley and with most cities only reacting after significant and irreparable damage has already been done, we feel that, out of the four alternatives presented by Staff, that Alternative 1 offers the best chance for preserving what's best about Sierra Madre.

We have only to look no further than our immediate neighbor Arcadia to know that we need to be proactive rather than reactive to the challenges facing Sierra Madre.  The Historical Context Statement and Historic Survey found in this alternative are critical to any serious effort at preservation.

Again, Preserve Sierra Madre appreciates this City Council's actions thus far and sincerely hopes that, as Maude Ann Taylor said at an earlier City Council Meeting, you will continue to be "bold" in your efforts.

Steering Committee
Preserve Sierra Madre

There are still a lot of unanswered questions about water use penalties.

(ModAPPEALS OF WATER CONSERVATION TARGETS - This might have somehow made it all the way to the Consent Calendar, but a lot of unanswered questions remain and needs further discussion. Here are my top 10 questions.)

1) It requires that the city obtain info from the appellant so the number of units can be calculated. Specifically, what "info" is being required?

2) The "info" they refer to needs to be specified in the resolution. The questions could be too invasive. There is NO sample appeal form included. So, would the questions could change over time?

3) The current application states that a customer can only appeal once. Will the new application state the same thing?

4) If one of your adult kids moves back home, will you be able to appeal again?

5) The City claims they are basing this on 65 gallons per day, per person, for indoor use. Is that enough water for indoor use?

6) Is more water needed for outdoor use? How much more? That outdoor amount should be in the resolution.

7) Where is the Water Budget Calculator? If there is no calculator (formula) included, the city can change the calculator at whim.

8) How is it "voluntary" when a customer cannot get a higher number without complying with an inspection? Specifically, what is the city going to inspect? Exact verbiage needed here. Limitations should be in place so the city cannot cite a customer on other infractions.

9) Some appellants' requests may actually result in lower numbers. (It has already happened once.) Are these appellants going to be forced to take the lower number?

10) At their last meeting, the City Council discussed: when a customer appeals their number, the city will use the water calculator to give them a new target number. If the customer isn't satisfied, the city will use the Water Budget Calculator to make a recommendation. If the customer isn't satisfied with that, then the customer will be mandated to do a home inspection. But in looking at the written resolution, there is nothing in Section 3 that guarantees a customer will be given the new target number BEFORE having to comply to a mandatory inspection.

(Mod: Obviously here are a lot of questions remaining. This was not quite ready for the Constant Calendar yet. Hopefully someone on the Council will ask that this item be pulled out and the conversation reopened.)

NBC LA news video: Sierra Madre Mulls Water-Waste Fines

 Link to video here.

What happened to this one?

A recent City Manager Report had the obviously politically inspired "Consolidating Municipal Elections" question front and center. However, it appears to have been pulled and is not being discussed tonight. What is up with that?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Larry Torres: An Arrest And Conviction For Drunk Driving

There isn't any law stating that you have to reveal everything that went on in your life before you run for an elective office, but it might be the smart thing for you to do. Because it is always much worse when the news media uncovers some unfortunate event in your life and puts it out there for all the world to see, and on a rainy Monday morning no less. You do not want to appear like you were hiding something. Not when you are asking people to actually vote for you. It makes you seem untrustworthy.

The problem with this particular kind of arrest and conviction is that we are talking about an office that deals with the supervision and instruction of children. And in a world where values must be carefully taught so that kids can safely navigate the many toxic shoals that will be thrown their way by life and commerce, we expect that those who instruct them, from the Board of Education member to a Teacher's Aide, to serve as shining examples of what is right, proper and good in this badly flawed world.

Considering the intense level of highly personal scrutiny Larry's opponent in this race for our Board of Education seat has faced from the likes of Peter Dreier, Robert Niles and other disreputable and radical elements, what we are presenting today is in that spirit. I do not mind doing the dirty work. I think of it as being an agent of karma.

If you wish to check up on this yourself, Larry Torres's birthday is Dec 5, 1960.

So what crime was Larry Torres charged with? Let's go to our next document, which is from the Court Record.

There are two charges here. They are 23152(A) VC MISD and 23152(B) VC MISD. What do these mean? Here is how the State of California defines it (link):

If you poke around on the Internet you can discover websites for all sorts of helpful legal firms that will help you get through all of the legal ramifications associated with being arrested for drunk driving. I found this one (link) to be fairly informative.

What do they mean when they drop the term ".08% or more alcohol in your blood" on us? Wikipedia provides us with the following helpful chart (link).

On The Tattler impairment effects of alcohol chart, .08 BAC is called "well baked." Which is one level higher than "toasted," but not quite so bad as being "four sheets to the wind" or "completely fried."

Here is the rest of the record on Board of Education candidate Larry Torres's multi-stepped magical journey through the Courts.

That is pretty much it. These past two days on the blog have shown us that Larry Torres currently runs a school where the vast majority of the students fail (a place where the "at risk" are "at risk"), and he has been arrested and convicted for drunk driving.

A little tip for our friends who believe that they have been supporting the Torres campaign. When you employ the sorts of tactics you have, it opens the door for those supporting the other candidate to do the same.

And in this case the results have been far far worse.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Is Peter Dreier The Meanest Old Dude In The Valley?

In case you aren't up on all of the excitement, we are in the midst of a stemwinder of a PUSD Board of Education election here in Sierra Madre. Not that many more than 15% of the voters in town are actually paying attention, but it is still pretty wild. Last week the Sandra Siraganian campaign dropped a bombshell of a postcard on the badly faltering Larry Torres effort. Here is the message:

The word on the street is that this postcard has badly staggered the Torres campaign. After painstakingly attempting to construct a narrative of educational experience and competence, it now turns out that the school Larry Torres has been helping to run for a number of years has a record for failure that is amongst the worst in the state.

And while it is true that some of the students at the City of Angels school are "at risk" (we are all at risk if you think about it), a 77% failure rate in mathematics hardly makes them any less so. This should be the last place that any caring parent would ever want to send their child.

Many here had hoped that the "culture of failure" issue that has dogged the Pasadena Unified School District over the last decade or so would have finally subsided. And since this is the first Sierra Madre election for a BOE seat under the new "subdistricting" system (an unfair designation since our election is two years behind some of the other "subdistricts"), the hope here has been that we would be the community to choose the person who could finally turn the PUSD around.

It is now painfully obvious that Larry Torres is not that person.

Endorsements from such over-development stalwarts as Bart Doyle, John Buchanan and Rob Stockley have not helped the Torres effort, either. Sierra Madre is now desperately fighting to save itself from the kinds of atrocious Mansionization that have engulfed Arcadia, and because of that association with these kinds of people the Torres campaign is taking considerable heat.

Nutty Uncle Pete
So where does a failing candidacy from this particular crew go when things have gone so bad? To a gentleman named Peter Dreier, an Occidental College professor who has over the years earned a reputation for being one of the meanest political smear artists in the San Gabriel Valley.

Dreier, who is very much a lingering survivor of the failed 1960s Marxist "New Left" political movement, was once upon a time a senior figure in the now kaput Democratic Socialist Party (link). A rather oxymoronic name for a political organization if you think about it. This sad little party was neither democratic or socialist enough to satisfy many of the warring factions claiming it as their home, and eventually collapsed under the weight of its own absurdity.

Starting on Friday many Sierra Madre residents began to receive e-mails posted from Dreier's Occidental College account. A practice that could be at odds with California political law since it puts Oxy in the position of having made a monetary in kind donation to the Torres campaign. Something that the people who actually run that place probably weren't told about. In many companies such a misappropriation would be considered theft and grounds for dismissal.

True to form, Pasadena resident Peter Dreier's mass distribution email is comprised of a series of unfair attacks on Sierra Madre resident and single mom Sandra Siraganian. Teaming up with another political hack by the name of Robert Niles, a writer who until now was known mostly for writing reviews of amusement parks (Robert's moaning about a recent price hike at Disneyland can be read by clicking here), the product they've generated is way out of place for this community. Then again, neither of them have ever lived in Sierra Madre, so how would they know?
Local Dreier fans

I have pulled out a couple of the nonsensical attacks that Dreier/Niles attempts to make against Sandi. The first one deals with court ordered busing.

Siraganian's first flyer dredges up the ancient history of court-ordered busing in the PUSD, claiming that "The PUSD never allowed me to attend my neighborhood school." But no family is (sic) the Pasadena Unified School District these days is denied the opportunity to attend its assigned neighborhood school.

This one is almost funny. Many people in this community can still remember the effects court ordered busing had on both them and the quality of the Pasadena Unified School District. The PUSD went from being one of the best in the state, to something that few parents with the wherewithal to send their children to private school would ever think of using today.

The double-talk here is fabulously whack. What Dreier/Niles appears to be doing is defending busing while at the same time noting that there is no such thing happening here today. And why is that? Because that policy failed, miserably. Their intention, of course, is to race bait Sandi over something that no longer even exists. And merely because she dared to mention this court imposed and failed state policy.

Where the silliness takes a far darker turn is with this unfortunate passage.

Perhaps when Siraganian talks about "supporting neighborhood schools," she's not talking about making sure there is space available in them for the neighborhood kids, since that's not a real issue. Perhaps, then, she is talking about making sure that there is no space in them for anyone else — such as children from outside the neighborhood, from elsewhere in the district.

People with a long memory for politics remember how "support neighborhood schools" has been used as a segregationists' rallying cry. Given the complete lack of PUSD families in recent years who've been denied the opportunity to attend their neighborhood schools, plus Siraganian's political background, it's hard to see her mailer as anything other than a coded racial appeal.

As I hope that many of you are aware, the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide will be observed on April 24th of this year. Millions worldwide will participate. Here is how Wikipedia describes the reasons for this (link):

The Armenian Genocide[7] (Armenian: Հայոց Ցեղասպանություն Hayots Tseghaspanutyun),[8] also known as the Armenian Holocaust, the Armenian Massacres and, traditionally by Armenians, as Medz Yeghern (Armenian: Մեծ Եղեռն, "Great Crime"),[9] was the Ottoman government's systematic extermination of its minority Armenian subjects from their historic homeland within the territory constituting the present-day Republic of Turkey. 

The total number of people killed as a result has been estimated at between 1 and 1.5 million. The starting date is conventionally held to be 24 April 1915, the day Ottoman authorities rounded up and arrested some 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople. The genocide was carried out during and after World War I and implemented in two phases: the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and subjection of army conscripts to forced labour, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian desert. Driven forward by military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and massacre.

To snottily accuse Sandi Siraganian of "coded racial appeals," someone whose own Armenian ethnicity fell victim to an almost incomprehensible cataclysm of race-based murder and hate against a minority population, is truly beyond the pale. That the attack was made this year, during a time of great importance to Armenians everywhere, is equally outrageous.

It is time for Larry Torres to call off his misguided attack dogs and stop the madness.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Club Ped: Another Sex Offender Found In Sierra Madre

I'll be the first to admit, it is good that the Sierra Madre Police Department is ahead of the curve on the sex offender issue for a change. Considering that AWest had been allowed to freely wander around town for a few months unsupervised, or that they lacked the will to register downtown society party favorite Bob Matheson as a sex offender even though he had been jailed in Nova Scotia for possessing a laptop packed with some truly nasty child pornography, this really is quite a major step forward for them.

I'm sure the SMPD will get a lot of "likes" on the City of Sierra Madre Facebook page for this law enforcement feat. And well they should. They did their job.

Below is a screen shot from a portion of the article currently up on the Pasadena Star News website.

The rest of this PSN article can be accessed by clicking here.

So I guess all we have to do now is wait for the folks from the California Reform Sex Offender Laws (CA RSOL - link) to show up here and tell us how unfair we are being to this poor woman.

Planning Commission Wrap Up from Preserve Sierra Madre

(Mod: I was feeling a little guilty about not posting a wrap up of the Planning Commission meeting yesterday. So I thought I'd try and make up for that oversight by posting the message Preserve Sierra Madre sent out to their mailing list yesterday.)

At last night's meeting, the Sierra Madre Planning Commission directed city staff to lower floor area limits (how big a home can be built on a given size lot), lower the CUP threshold (which homes will receive additional scrutiny from the Planning Commission) and made a  CUP mandatory for all second stories.  These all represent significant improvements to the current code and will hopefully be enacted at the March 5th Planning Commission meeting after one more review.

We must commend each member of our Planning Commission for their actions which send a clear message that Sierra Madre, while allowing reasonable development, will stand firm against over-development and the kinds of development that can adversely impact on the existing  neighbors' views, light and privacy.

Chairman Desai and the rest of the Planning Commission engaged in very thoughtful and deliberate discussions as they arrived at a unanimous consensus on each one of the issues.  While the end result differed slightly from some of the recommendations of Preserve Sierra Madre, the Planning Commission is to be commended for their actions and we support their efforts wholeheartedly.
Finally, we want to thank all of the people who spoke at the meeting and who attended the meeting in support of preserving our "village in the foothills".  You are making a difference.

Thank you for your support.

(Mod: I do have one complaint about Preserve Sierra Madre. They are doing so good a job that I am running out of things to write about. Thank God for Arcadia and Pasadena.)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Eric Maundry Interviews Ann Erdman On The Pasadena City Hall Embezzlegate Cover Up

Ms. Erdman
Mr. Maundry
It wasn't a real interview, of course. Former Pasadena City Hall Public Information Officer Ann Erdman really didn't have the foggiest notion who she was talking smack with on the celebrated Pasadena Politics Facebook page. Which, in my opinion, makes it all the better. There is nothing quite as joyously entertaining as a stalwart establishment opinion enforcer rebuking the picture of a famous comic strip character. Of course, when it comes to Pasadena politics, almost everyone is a comic strip character. It must be hard for a crusader of accepted government truth like X-PIO Erdman to tell the difference sometimes. I certainly know that I can't. Even when I am wearing my eye glasses.

For some relevant background I turned to our good friend the Pasadena Insider. This voice from "Under the Dome" has given us some enlightening insights before. Mostly on the rose colored reality that shines from the local government agency ruling from a building that looks a little like the capitol of Bolivia. And I mean that in the good sense.

So I turned to that generous source once again. Here is the Insider's take:

Following a life threatening illness, Ann Erdman left the City of Pasadena in 2012 after serving as Public Information Officer for many years. She represented the interests of the Mayor and City Council, as well as the City of Pasadena, in the very best light.  

Ann's prime directive while serving as PIO was to rule with an iron hand - no one spoke to the press or opined on an incident without first being briefed by her. Frequently she sat by their side while they were interviewed or chatted on the phone. Welcome in almost every salon or newsroom, and privy to the secrets of the Rose City intelligentsia as well as the hoi poloi, she is genuine, lively, and sanguine.   

For her tenure under the dome she could and did demur in a folksy, non-threatening manner with which few could find fault.  She has emerged to follow where her literary, journalistic and blogging talents lead, and we are all the richer for her effervescence.

That certainly is a most positive take, and does set us up nicely for the following exchange of opinion. This is taken from the Pasadena Politics page (link), located on the oftentimes annoying Facebook.

Alas, this is where X-PIO Ann Erdman vanished from our impromptu Facebook interview on the slipperier aspects of responsibility avoidance by Pasadena's elected officials in the Embezzlegate Scandal. Maybe she finally figured out that I am the guy from The Tattler, or something. I did try to resuscitate our conversation, but it did not work.

So exactly what is there to excite people about the Pasadena Mayoral election? Will more than 20% of eligible voters even bother to show up this time? Apparently the big message from the Embezzlegate Scandal is it's all the fault of the help. This while at the exact same time letting City Manager Michael Beck, that most ultimate in Pasadena City Staff uber-rule, off the hook completely. 

Go back to Ann's explanation for why this wasn't the fault of Pasadena's elected officials: 

"… the mayor and council do not oversee departments and are not responsible for managing or overseeing most administrative staff. The only three staff positions that report to the city council are the city manager, city clerk and city attorney."

This has been the standard PeeDee City Hall explanation throughout the scandal. If it actually is the case, and City Staff does have a near complete run of the asylum, then why should anyone vote for or against the powerless and responsibility-free stuffed shirts in Pasadena's election next month? If what Ann says is true, then this really does become nothing more than a beauty contest election.

If you think about it, this makes Pasadena's Mayor and City Council a figurehead government. Kind of like the Royal Family of England. There to give the appearance of governmental order and demonstrable rule, but without the real juice to even call incompetent officials onto the carpet and fire their useless selves. 

Even when over $6.4 million dollars was embezzled right from under their upward turned noses.

You do have to admit one thing about the voters of Pasadena though, they are civil. Kind of like the way the Eloi are civil in the movie Time Machine.

Just before they get eaten.