Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tomorrow Is July 1st And It Will Be An Historic Day For Sierra Madre

Why is July 1st now such important day for Sierra Madre? What makes it different from every other day on the calendar for the Foothill Village? And in any year for that matter?

For the first time in the history of this town taxes will actually go down. This has never happened before in the City of Sierra Madre.

This took two elections and the hard work of a lot of people to make happen. It is also not over. The cash greedy city government agency here still has not given up. It looks like City Hall will now try go to the ballot box for an unprecedented third time to undo all of that heavy lifting. Unhappy, self-interested and eternal killjoys that they are.

Certainly there is no rage quite like that of a city government deprived of your tax money.

But no matter, history has already been made. That cannot be taken away. Tomorrow utility taxes go from being amongst the very highest in the State of California at 10%, and fall to 8%. And fairly soon after that they will fall again to 6%. All because the people demanded it.

Expect to hear a lot of wailing and the gnashing of teeth. That tiny yellow fellow, Chicken Little, will be dancing up a storm. Again.

Maybe we should call it Tax Day. Because no standing tax in Sierra Madre has ever gone down before. Never. Think about just how rare and unlikely this was.

Heck, taxes hardly ever go down anywhere. But they will here. On July, 1st, 2015. And you are the responsible party. And while they try real hard to never show anything, they are hopping mad at you for doing this. They're taking it personally. You would not believe.

So how did this happen? It took two election victories to defeat what were utility tax hikes here. Once in 2012, and again in 2014. Here are the results. First 2012:

And 2014:

No matter what the future may hold, and no matter how much frankly untrue garbage City Hall may throw at you over how much of your money they believe they deserve, and as quickly as possible, you made something happen here that has never occurred before. Your vote made taxes in Sierra Madre go down. That has never happened before.

Enjoy the moment. City Hall won't talk about it, of course. There won't be an e-mail blast or Facebook post on any city controlled site. Councilmembers Gene Goss and John Harabedian won't be out shaking hands in front of Starbucks.

Nor will any celebratory purple vinyl banners be seen stretched out across Baldwin Avenue. I also do not expect that there will any commemorations at the Library, despite the importance of similar tax controversies in this history of this country.

And this most certainly won't be written about in the Mountain Views News or on the Sierra Madre News.net website. Apparently they've decided that this is an event nobody should even dare to talk about.

It could be that The Tattler will be the only place this occasion will ever get mentioned. Anywhere. But this is still an historic event, despite the supercilious official neglect of what was a most democratic expression of the will of the people. The very folks whose tax dollars sustain this city.

July 1st, tomorrow, will be the day taxes actually go down in Sierra Madre. For the first time ever.

It also may never happen again.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Movoto Proclaims Pasadena "Snobbiest City In America"

(Mod: Here is a stunner from from the always entertaining Movoto blog. What makes the following article special for the San Gabriel Valley is it names Pasadena as the "Snobbiest Mid-Sized City In America." Here is how they lay to all down - link.)

These Are The 10 Snobbiest Mid-Sized Cities In America: Do you turn your nose up at anything unrefined? Then you might feel right at home in these supremely snooty cities.

Everyone’s a snob about something. Wine, video games, books, clothing, food…you probably have your own particular thing you’re snobby about. Still, there are some places where people are just a little more stuck up than others, and you might be surprised where those are.

Here at the Movoto Real Estate Blog, we’re kind of snobs about our top 10 lists, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to indulge our passion. We put on our boat shoes, canceled our reservations at Chez Fancy, and used our new state-of-the-art totally chic computers to make a list of the most persnickety places.

After some math and research, we came up with this refined and high-society list of the snobbiest mid-sized cities in America:

(Mod: How awesome is that? Congrats to Glendale as well for their #7 finish. Here is what Movoto had to say about the big winner.)

(Mod: So how is it so wealthy a community has such an at risk school district? Easy. Snobby Pasadena hates its poor. When they are not denying their poorest citizens a decent public education, their $220,000 a year cops are shooting them. After which they are given a raise by the City Council.)

Pasadena Weekly feature writer Justin Chapman & the LA Press Club Awards

PW scribe Justin Chapman, who used to turn out some ridiculous nonsense for the Sierra Madre Patch (remember them?) back in the day, actually got nominated for something at the LA Press Awards. That happened this weekend, and he didn't win anything. Probably for a good reason.

Here is what Justin was nominated for:

Here is how that article is described on-line. But there is a little bit of a problem. Check this one out first.

Now get a load of this:

You catch that? Chapman's piece, which was nominated for an award to be given for an article that appeared in 2014, was actually a rehash of a "news feature" that he'd published the year before, in 2013. Something that the Pasadena Weekly ran both times, possibly proving they don't read some of the things they put in their paper. And even if they did, all they pretty much changed was the name.

Which means, as a 2013 article regurgitated a year later under a different name, it never should have been nominated for an LA Press Club Award this year.

That said, it really is too bad Justin Chapman didn't win. I would have had so much fun calling those folks out.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Tattler's Ugly Arcadia McMansion Contest Is Now Up and Running

We are now putting out the call for your pictures of the ugliest McMansions in Arcadia. It is a rich environment to choose from I know, and we look forward to each and every submission. Just so you know, below is the current leading candidate. It is a rather nasty specimen to be sure. But is it really the worst starter castle design of all?

To tell you the truth, we are not certain that the brute pictured above is the worst McMansion in Arcadia. We will have to see quite a few more pictures before we can make any final decisions. So please, do get your entries in. This is a matter that needs to be settled before the end of July. People need to know.

First prize is a free subscription to the Arcadia's Best blog.

Chinese website puts The Tattler's value in the millions

Check this out (link):

Interested parties are encouraged to get in touch.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

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

Video link here
You may have noticed recently that a rather old Tattler article had crept back into our "Top 10 Most Read Posts" list. Floated all the way back up to the surface. Like magic.

Originally posted here in October of 2009 (link), it asks this loaded question: "The Head of SCAG is a Former Soviet Planner?" The article was based on a cite from the Orange County Register, and yes. Hasan Ikhrata, a man noted for his striking lack of a forehead, was once upon a time an actual Soviet planning official, and somehow ended up here in California, and in a rather powerful capacity. From The Register (link):

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

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

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

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

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

And did you know that the Feds are getting involved as well (link)? The majority of SCAG's funding does come from Washington DC, you know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He just brought it here with him.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Is Former Pasadena Unified Superintendent Jon Gundry In Legal Dutch?

Jon Gundry and his amazing cranium
As dozens know, it is about a year ago to the day that Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent Jon Gundry left us all behind and headed for greener (as in dollars, not grass) pastures up north in Santa Clara County. Here is how this singular event was recorded on the pages of the Pasadena Star News (link):

Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent Jon R. Gundry on Wednesday said goodbye to the district and announced he is the lone finalist to become the next superintendent of schools in Santa Clara County. The announcement came after this news organization exclusively reported Gundry’s pending departure.

The Santa Clara County school board is set to vote on Gundry’s appointment at a July 16 meeting, according to a press release from the Santa Clara County Office of Education. He is the only candidate for the job and contract negotiations are underway. Gundry has led PUSD since 2011.

“It has been an honor to work with the students, educators, community members and families of Pasadena Unified,” Gundry said in a statement released Tuesday night. “The district is well-positioned to continue raising student achievement and preparing students for success in the 21st century.”

Up in the lower Bay Area region of San Jose, where folks were soon to become the beneficiary of Jon R. Gundry's celebrated professional skill set, this news was greeted by many with a somewhat muted level of joy. Here is how the newsweekly San Jose Inside shared that viewpoint (link):

The Santa Clara County Office of Education announced Tuesday that Jon Gundry is the lone finalist to take over as superintendent of schools.

Gundry has more than 30 years of experience in education and currently serves as the superintendent for Pasadena Unified School District. He is negotiating a contract with the county Board of Education and could start as early as Aug. 1, according to a SCCOE press release. Approval of a deal is expected to come at the July 16 board meeting.

Board President Leon Beauchman praised the decision in the county press release, saying Gundry's time spent in county and district offices make him "well-suited" for the job.

But the SCCOE has repeatedly said it wants a superintendent to help eliminate the achievement gap, and a recent report did not give Gundry a passing grade. Earlier this month the Pasadena Star-News reported that Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) "received an overall 'D' grade and an 'F' when it came to improvement of low-income and minority students."

In his article, "Pasadena Unified Superintendent Promoted, $55,000 Raise, Despite District’s Failing Performance" (link), our own Robert Fellner reported on the disparity between Jon Gundry's job performance as PUSD Superintendent and the far richer rewards awaiting him up north. The message being that failure had been no impediment to financial success for Wonder Gundry.

Robert Fellner's report came with the following chart detailing the "pay high - achieve low" financial disparity in the relationship between the PUSD and its soon to be departing superintendent.

So that is the rather unhappy background to today's Tattler report. But why would we want to dwell on any of that?

Now that a full year has passed, Santa Clara County Superintendent Jon Gundry has presumably settled into his new gig and things must be going a lot better for our peripatetic pedagogue, correct? The kids there certainly must be reaping the rich rewards the presence of so great an educator brings to them, right?

Apparently that is not the case. If anything, things are going even worse for Jon Gundry than they did here. Inside San Jose breaks this unhappy news down for us.

There is a lot more to this troubling story, and you can access it all by clicking here.

John Harabedian, Nancy Walsh and Susan Henderson all endorsed this guy for L.A. County Sheriff

Apparently Paul Tanaka is going the Nuremberg Defense "I was only obeying orders" route. This from KPCC:

LA Sheriff scandal: Tanaka says he was following former Sheriff Baca’s orders - Like the seven deputies convicted before him, former Los Angeles County Undersheriff Paul Tanaka will assert what’s known as a “public authority defense” when he goes to trial on federal obstruction of justice charges later this year - claiming he was just following orders - according to a motion filed by his attorney.

“The defendant acted on behalf of order(s) issued by Sheriff Leroy Baca, who was Mr. Tanaka’s ranking superior officer,” the motion states. “Tanaka will assert the defense of actual or believed exercise of public authority.”

The move sets up a possible showdown with his former boss, Leroy Baca, who now may end up being forced to testify. Baca has yet to be called to testify in any of the obstruction cases.

Federal prosecutors have accused the once-powerful Tanaka of orchestrating a scheme to block a federal investigation into brutality by Sheriff’s deputies at the jails by hiding an inmate who was acting as an FBI informant. Tanaka and a confidant, former Sheriff's Capt. Tom Carey, go on trial in November.

Read the rest here.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Is the "Arcadia's Best" Blog In the Pocket of Development and Government Interests?

There might be better.
I recently had the temerity to ask the major domo of the Arcadia's Best blog (link), Scott Hettrick, what effect all of that City Hall money sent his way through the Chamber of Commerce offices he runs might have on the objectivity of his reporting. To my wandering eye it appeared that his blog had said some unkind things about preservationist and slow growth people in Arcadia. Especially those involved in preserving the Highlands from those huge mausoleum looking things that have sprung up there like so many unchecked architectural tumors.

So I thought I should ask.

The reaction I received to my question was not what I'd hoped for, however. Scott Hettrick, just so we are perfectly clear, is the CEO of the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, he also publishes the self-described "Arcadia's Best" blog. A name that, depending on your perspective, might be cause for debate.

Scott as he appears on his blog
Now the precedent for my concern would be Sierra Madre's Mountain Views News, which owes much of its existence to taxpayer largesse. Claiming to be the weekly newspaper of record here, the MVN more often than not serves as a mouthpiece for whatever unhappy initiatives and agendas the city happens to be pushing at the time.

The current City Hall run campaign to put another draconian UUT increase measure on the ballot, and for the 3rd time in six years no less, has gotten nothing but extremely supportive press from the MVN. In my opinion this makes it more a local establishment booster publication than newspaper.

For the record, The Sierra Madre Tattler has never accepted money from anyone. Even to the point of turning down advertising. Whatever gets said here is completely free of any possibly corrosive influence from someone else's money. You might not like what we have to say, but you can read The Tattler happy in the knowledge that we don't sell our opinions for cash.

Even your cash.

So here is the very brief question I dared ask Scott Hettrick.

Rather abrupt I know, but that is pretty much how we do it here. Why beat around the bush, right? However Mr. Hettrick, who is obviously not up on the aphorism "Brevity is the soul of wit," replied with a rather voluminous and quite wordy screed on his blog.

We'll get into that in a minute.

Hettrick also unleashed a rather pointed email at me personally. Which is fine. I get that sometimes, though not quite as often as I did a few years back. It does go with the territory. My assumption is Scott was upset by what I'd asked and didn't want to reply to any of my follow-up questions in public.

Here is a portion of Mr. Hettrick's wonderful example of e-mailed indignation.

Now was that really necessary? About as long and grumpy a non-answer to a perfectly innocent question as you will ever get, all while claiming he was too busy for that sort of thing. And this was only a part of it.

But who knows, maybe he was having a bad day a work. Or someone found a peacock in the prize spinach artichoke fondue at some Taste of Arcadia event.

Where Scott may have drifted a little off to sea, however, was with his initial response to that pithy question I posted on his blog on the 18th. Here is the portion where his personal bridge over troubled waters may have gotten all wet.

Much more information than was required. And that 20% figure is a little hard to figure. Especially when you consider that, and despite Scott's snarky remarks, I did do my research on this matter. What I turned up is as follows.

The City of Arcadia pumps a lot of money into Scott Hettrick's two person Chamber of Commerce. And, judging by his unwillingness to respond to my questions in a sunny manner on his blog, it could actually be a much larger sum than he wants anyone to know about.

What follows is two portions of the Staff Report describing the cash agreement between the City of Arcadia and its Chamber of Commerce.

Please note that the City of Arcadia gives the Chamber of Commerce $73,761 per annum, plus $40,000 a year (actually $120,000 spread over 3 years) for capital improvements to the facility where the COC offices. The Chamber pays $400 per month rent for that place, which is fully owned by the City. Its true rental value is probably closer to $3,000 per month.

Here is a portion of the Staff Report detailing that generous money outlay.

If my math is correct we are talking about $154,761 in taxpayer donated value to Scott Hettrick's operations, as designated by the City of Arcadia. Or about the equivalent of the entire Community Services Department budget in Sierra Madre.

Scott as he looks today
Add to that the use of city offices at a bare minimum cost, and you can see where we're going with this. All of which indicates to me that this two person operation runs on about three-quarters of a million dollars a year. That is, if Scott's 20% claim is correct. $619,044 of which is obtained through sponsorships and fundraisers according to CEO Hettrick.

They must run some really effective bake sales.

These could all be legit numbers. I am not privy to the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce's internal budgets, so we are going on pure gut instant here. I wouldn't bet my semi-sustainable Chevy Volt on any of it, but who knows? Stranger things have happened.

But I also believe that what we're talking about here just may back up the spirit of my original question. That being Arcadia's Best might very well be little more than a de facto compensated publicity vehicle run with the needs of the City of Arcadia and its big McMansion development agenda (examples: link and link) in mind. And not what most of us would refer to as an authentic or real blog.

At least that is my opinion. I'm sure there are others.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Sierra Madre's Memorandum of Understanding With Its Police Department Ends June 30th - Here is How the City Can Save Itself $200,000 a Year

Mod: Despite the many questionable claims made by the male faction of the City Council last night, the residents of Sierra Madre are not exactly foaming at the mouth to have their utility taxes raised to state record setting rates of 12% or more. And since John Harabedian doesn't answer his e-mails I am not sure exactly who it is he can claim to be hearing from. But the real mysteries driving the UUT increase have very little to do with anything you might have heard last evening. As an example, here is how Transparent California's Robert Fellner explains how the City can save a lot of money by requiring that employees pay their portion of their own pension benefits. As you will see, past claims of having cut all costs "to the bone" were clearly overstated.

The Sierra Madre Police Association’s current labor agreement expires in one week; ending the absurd practice of having taxpayers pay the employee’s share of pension benefits would save the City approximately $200,000 a year.

The below depicts a breakdown of the benefits cost for three Sierra Madre police officers:

Job Title Employee’s Pension Share  Employer’s Pension Share  Health
Sergeant $4,177 $33,887 $13,994
Sergeant $4,112 $33,368 $16,401
Sergeant $4,112 $33,368 $15,429

(Mod: Those numbers are based on the figures found in the "total benefits" column below, which is the next to last one located on the right. )

As you can see, the employee’s share of pension benefits is much less than the employer’s (taxpayer) share. However, Sierra Madre police officers, along with most other City employees, are not even required to pay that amount, as current labor agreements require that taxpayers pick up the employee’s share too!

You read that right, many city employees can receive extremely generous pensions at literally no cost.

But wait, it gets better (for city employees, taxpayers not so much.) On page 5, section 3 of the current MOU (link) states that: "The City will include the EPMC (employer paying employee’s share) as part of the “salary subject to PERS.”

This means that not only do Sierra Madre employees have to contribute nothing towards their pension, but when it comes time to calculate their pension they get to include that amount that they should be paying – but taxpayers are paying instead – as part of their pensionable compensation.

So in the example above, the first sergeant made $107k in pensionable pay.

If he decided to retire now and had worked 30 years, his pension would be 30 * 3% * 107k = $96.3k.

But his pension is not just based on his actual highest pay, he gets to include “his” share of his pension payments, which has been paid by taxpayers instead. So his pension would be  30 * 3% * 111.1k = $100k.

It’s the best of both worlds – he gets his pension for free and the salary his future pension will be based off of appears to be lower than it actually is, while working.

While the Pension Reform Act of 2012 correctly banned this practice for new hires beginning in 2013, existing employees remained untouched. Nonetheless, the City of Sierra Madre can end this practice for all employees when it comes time to sign a new MOU. Since the current one ends on June 30, now is the time to do just that.

The total cost of this practice for all city employees was $182,845 in 2013 – a number which was mathematically guaranteed to rise in 2014 and 2015, despite the final numbers having not yet been released.

Mod: Dropping approximately $200k in unnecessary pension costs to the taxpayer would save the equivalent of a full 1 percentage point of the UUT all by itself, each and every year. But does City Hall want to make that effort, or would they prefer instead that you conveniently vote yourself a big utility tax increase? In the process having you continue to pay all city employee pension costs (including the part employees should pay be paying for themselves), because it would be less confrontational and therefore easier for them?

Will a Sierra Madre resident be considered for this job?

Or will current City of Sierra Madre hiring practices hold and jobs like this remain closed to residents?


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Are You Really Worth Only Half the Pay a Sierra Madre Police Officer Makes?

Thanks taxpayers!
Your unfortunate self-esteem issues aside, here is a sort of fun fact for you. According to 2013 compensation figures posted on the Transparent California site, Sierra Madre's top paid police officers make about double what the average resident here makes. We'll get to why we think that is later on in this post. We even have a pithy quote from Mayor Capoccia to back us up.

How so? We have a lot of good friends who send information to The Tattler all the time. That includes things some might later wish they hadn't said. Where would we be without our friends?

It must also be pointed out that the sole reason why Transparent California only has 2013 figures up on their site is that City Hall has yet to cough up their 2014 numbers yet. Something that definitely does not flow with City Hall's claim that they really did want your input on taxes and salaries from the taxpayers.

The contradiction being that if the City actually wanted to hear the opinions of you the people on the topic of the budget, shouldn't they have supplied folks with the most current numbers? You'd think so, right? Perhaps this means that the city never was that interested? And instead they were merely engaging in reality creation and astroturfing?

In my near humble opinion the answer to that one is yes.

So here is the 2013 version of what some of the Sierra Madre PD are pulling down in total compensation yearly. The figure we are most concerned with is the one on the far right. That is the total yearly amount you the taxpayer is funding for these richly rewarded gentlemen.

Recently the Los Angeles Times published a feature (link) that ranked area communities by their median income. And despite what you might have heard, Sierra Madre is not anywheres near a top tier community in this regard. Rather this burgh comes in at a rather modest 51st place.

So there you go. If you multiply that $88,008.00 median income figure times two, you end up at $176,016.00. Or still less than what any Sierra Madre PD Sergeant pulled down in 2013. A pretty sobering statistic, right?

Now you might be wondering why it is that such a ridiculous disparity in income exists here in this town. And by a piece of luck we were forwarded a letter written by current Mayor John Capoccia that gives us some real insight into why this might be. We aren't going to publish the whole thing because much of it is not relevant to what is being discussed today. But here are a couple of interesting passages.

Now that is a loaded brace of paragraphs. First it reveals that Mayor Capoccia has already decided that a third utility tax measure will be going on the ballot. Which makes you wonder why the City Council is going to put everyone through the kinds of disingenuous charades we will see tonight.

Especially the one where the City Council establishes a committee of hand-selected though sincerely concerned residents to determine whether a tax hike is necessary or not. Like there is any doubt what their conclusion will be.

And it shows that Mayor Capoccia is also peddling that cooked up "astroturf" nonsense about how small groups of tax supporters showing up at places like Rob Stockley's house to advocate for utility tax increases somehow overturns the results of two official citywide elections.

But for the purposes of this post, the big line is found here:

I appreciate your suggestion to balance the budget, but it is not feasible. The majority of our personnel are represented, and even if they weren't, we still need to set compensation levels such that we can attract and retain competent employees.

And that is what the push to raise utility taxes to 12% (or more) is really all about.

"Represented" in this context means unionized. Proving that this was never about "services" or "The Library" or whatever other infant pablum is being spooned down the throats of this community's most credulous residents. It is, and always has been, about city employee union compensation.

Which is, of course, why the SMPD is making double what you, Mr. or Ms. Average Sierra Madre Wage Earner, are making these days.

So let me ask you this. Do you believe that is the way things are supposed to be? Or do you think that perhaps you've been screwed by years of dishonest and gutless City Councils that put the interests of out-of-town unionized municipal employees over yours? The person whose taxes pay all of the bills around here?

Unlike City Hall, I would actually be interested in hearing your opinion.

Rip Off

Here is what City Hall took from the Mount Wilson Trail race this year.

City Hall claimed it put in an incredible 703.25 hours on the Mt. Wilson Trail Race, and then charged back $35,921.00.

For what?


Monday, June 22, 2015

The "Process" To Raise UUTaxes Will Take Another Step Forward @ Tuesday Evening's City Council Meeting

What, no City Council meeting?
As I'm sure you already know, the decision to put yet another Sierra Madre utility tax increase on the ballot, and for an unprecedented third time in six years, is pretty much in place. Signed, sealed & delivered.

But seeing how the voters of Sierra Madre have not been particularly crazy about tax hikes lately, and made their opinions on the matter known twice already, City Hall needs to gin up a fresh dog and pony show to sucker in the marks. It is, of course, "a process." Which I guess is better than calling it a newly enabled propaganda campaign designed to cozen even more money out of you so the city can shovel additional cash to its municipal employee unions. Like the cops.

Following hard on the heels of those community input meetings, we will now see the reintroduction of yet another recycled pro-tax increase consensus building strategy Tuesday evening. One that, while it never worked very well in the past, is also pretty much all that City Hall has up its sleeve. Old dogs are not always very good at coming up with new and credible tricks, and there is absolutely nothing groundbreaking about any of this.

Here is how the City Council Agenda Report clues us in on the next step in the utility tax raising process:

Pretty much the same old same old. First we were treated to the bizarre notion that the 100 (to be generous) or so people who showed up at a city sponsored event held in a garage to chat about tax hikes with City Staff made for an event immense enough to overturn the results of two city elections.

And next we will bear witness to a committee of fine citizens, handpicked by the city, who will dutifully ponder whatever budget data the City Manager carefully selects for them, and then come back with a less than surprising recommendation that Sierra Madre needs its third utility tax increase ballot measure in six years.

This is an example of something called "astroturfing." Here is Wikipedia's definition:

Once that comedy is concluded the City Council will then regretfully scratch their heads, sigh profoundly, chat for a bit amongst themselves, and then proclaim that while this is not what they'd hoped to ever have to do, it is something that must be done.

After all, wasn't it the consensus opinion at both the community input meetings and committee deliberations that utility taxes need to be increased?

At which time the City Council will wash their hands in the very finest Pontius Pilate style, assign much of the responsibility to folks other than themselves, and once that political cover is clearly established and astroturf in place, vote for the tax increase.

The Mountain Views News Chimes In

There you are. The budget town outreach (not input?) meetings were some of the biggest events "in Sierra Madre's recent history." Or at least according to H. Susan Henderson. The committee meetings will be really big, too. Possibly even historic.

Just you wait and see.

When City Hall and the cop union are working as hard as they are to overthrow two election decisions, every event they enable to accomplish these shared platinum dreams is going to be the super-de-dooper biggest that has ever been seen.

By the way, it certainly does look like Susan Henderson's grammar editor was on vacation this week. And yes, "tomorrow isn't look good either." Especially if you're going to that City Council tax increase meeting.

I ran this yesterday, but what the heck, I'll post it again

Still not sure what is up with that. Anybody know?


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Your Father's Day Pre-Apocalyptic Tattler News & Review

(Mod: Almost every generation throughout the troubled history of mankind has, at one time or another, believed that they were going to be the last one ever. Apparently our era is no different. The only possible explanation that I'm able to come up with for this is that apocalyptic people just don't want any future surface dwellers to be around after they've already been stuck in the ground. Better it should all just end now. If we can't be among the living, then nobody else should be either. And why not? Certainly the news is bad enough. Here are some examples for you.)

UK Government-backed scientific model flags risk of civilization’s collapse by 2040 (Insurge Intelligence link): New scientific models supported by the British government’s Foreign Office show that if we don’t change course, in less than three decades industrial civilisation will essentially collapse due to catastrophic food shortages, triggered by a combination of climate change, water scarcity, energy crisis, and political instability.

Before you panic, the good news is that the scientists behind the model don’t believe it’s predictive. The model does not account for the reality that people will react to escalating crises by changing behavior and policies.

But even so, it’s a sobering wake-up call, which shows that business-as-usual guarantees the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it: our current way of life is not sustainable.

The new models are being developed at Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute (GSI), through a project called the ‘Global Resource Observatory’ (GRO).

The GRO is chiefly funded by the Dawe Charitable Trust, but its partners include the British government’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO); British Bank, Lloyds of London; the Aldersgate Group, the environment coalition of leaders from business, politics and civil society; the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries; Africa Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, and the University of Wisconsin.

(Mod: Look at the bright side. Our kids won't have to save very much for their retirements.)

Let the Donald Trump bashing begin – Mexican artisan launches piñata (The Guardian link): After Donald Trump’s Mexico-bashing comments this week, Mexicans are engaging in a little Trump-bashing of their own.

Artisan Dalton Avalos Ramirez has launched a Trump piñata, featuring The Donald’s inimitable hairstyle and a big, big mouth.

The papier-mache figure will come in a variety of sizes. The first was on display Friday at the Pinatas Ramirez store in the border city of Reynosa.

Avalos Ramirez says he created it “because of the hatred Trump expressed for the Mexican people”. He said “people want to burn the pinatas, they want to break them”.

During his presidential campaign kickoff speech Tuesday, Trump accused Mexican immigrants of bringing drugs, crime and rapists to the US.

It isn’t the first piñata the Ramirez store has made of a controversial figure. Avalos Ramirez said he made Miley Cyrus models after the singer used a Mexican flag against her buttocks prosthesis during a show in 2014.

Previous piñata-worthy figures included Kim Kardashian and Dutch soccer player Arjen Robben, who knocked Mexico out of the 2014 World Cup on a questioned penalty.

Children use sticks to break open candy-filled pinatas on birthdays and holidays.

(Mod: I can't see how this kind of publicity is going to help The Donald become the next President of the United States. We'll have to see how he deals with his piñata problem.)

Water Penalties to begin July 1st (City of Sierra Madre link): Sierra Madre City Council has approved enacting monetary penalties for water customers that exceed their Water Conservation Target beginning with the July 1, 2015 bill. This bill would include water usage during the months of May and June for customers on the East side of Baldwin Avenue. For customers on the west side of Baldwin Avenue the August bill will include penalties for water usage during the months of June and July.

PENALTIES ONLY APPLY TO CUSTOMERS THAT EXCEED THEIR CONSERVATION TARGET.  For more information regarding the current ordinances, please visit our page on water conservation available on our website.

(Mod: I am not sure I understand this. Penalties for too much water consumption will happen a month earlier for one side of Sierra Madre than the other? This makes sense for what reason?)

California Legislature passes drought bill imposing fines, water system consolidation (Sacramento Bee link): A California budget bill that would allow the state to force consolidation of water systems, exempt certain water projects from environmental review and make other far-reaching changes in response to the drought cleared the Legislature on Friday over the angry objections of Republicans.

The legislation, Senate Bill 88, also would require anyone who diverts 10 acre-feet of water or more to measure and report on their diversions and allows agencies to fine people who violate a water conservation measure as much as $10,000.

The measure passed the Senate 24-14, shortly after it cleared the Assembly 52-28, with all Republicans opposed.

“This is nothing more than a state coup on local water districts,” state Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula, told colleagues, calling the measure an abuse of power that came before lawmakers with little public airing. He predicted bureaucratic chaos prompted by water agency litigation.

(Mod: Look at it this way. They could come in and take over the Sierra Madre Water Company. Water bond debt and all. I can't see how we can lose here.)

Detransitioning: Going From Male To Female To Male Again (Vocative link): One day about seven years ago, Joel Nowak sent a letter to friends and coworkers announcing his plans. Ten years before, he had begun identifying as a woman: he’d changed his name, taken hormones, had surgery. Now he would be transitioning again—retransitioning, as he puts it. He would be a man once more.

“I can remember when I first started buying clothes from the men’s rack at Old Navy again,” he says now. “It felt kind of scary, but was also kind of a rush.”

Nowak had concluded that he was female at his core and decided to transition when he was in his late twenties. “This is something I had felt since I was a kid,” he says. “I had questioned my gender identity since I can remember.”

“It was really an exciting time,” he said. “I felt self-actualized. It was something I had wanted to do all my life.”

But after transitioning, Nowak felt haunted by the gender he’d been assigned at birth. “I started to have doubts,” he says. “I had come to believe that I was basically a female in a male body—but as time went on, I realized, well, no, in a lot of ways I do feel that I am male, and I am actually kind of okay being male. … I was in this closeted mode of trying to deny being male and trying to cover up maleness and being uncomfortable with my history and my past and the physical remnants of being male.”

So, Nowak began to detransition. “It felt liberating for me to give all that up and say to heck with that,” he said, referring to the constant worry of appearing male instead of female.

In the wake of Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair premiere, a “sex change regret” narrative has entered the mainstream media. Earlier this month, CNN interviewed Walt Heyer, an activist who transitioned to female in his 40s and then back to male less than a decade later. Heyer, who writes for the conservative website The Federalist, regrets his initial transition and argues that transgender people who seek surgery are categorically suffering from “delusional psychological problems.”

(Mod: Some people have just got to learn to make up their minds.)

Baseball team Orem Owlz cancel 'Caucasian Heritage Night' after backlash (The Guardian link):  A minor league baseball team in Orem, Utah, has cancelled a ticket promotion it called ‘Caucasian Heritage Night’ after a severe backlash from critics and fans.

The Orem Owlz, who play in the Pioneer League and are affiliated with the LA Angels, had planned the event on August 10, and said in their promotional material: “Irish, Italian, Scandinavian, German … or even Utahn! Whatever your background, celebrate it at the Home of the Owlz!”

But after fans discovered, shared, and criticized the existence of the promotion – particularly in light of the fatal shooting of nine black people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday – the Owlz opted to cancel. They confirmed the U-turn in a hastily written, and deeply eccentric, press statement.

The statement read: “You may have read that the Orem Owlz had long ago scheduled Caucasian Heritage Night as one of its 38 promotions.

Minor League Baseball, and the Orem Owlz, is about baseball, togetherness and family fun for all fans of all races, religions, and orientations. Our goal in this promotion, like any of our promotions, is to have fun and make fun of everyday normalcies. Our night was to include Wonder Bread on burgers with mayonnaise, clips from shows like Friends and Seinfeld, and trying to solve the vertical leaping challenge. We understand, in light of recent tragic events, that our intentions have been misconstrued. For that, we sincerely apologize.

The Owlz are committed to all its fans, families and all fans of baseball alike - no matter who you are. The event has been removed from our promotional schedule effectively immediately.”

Whether the vertical leaping challenge would have been solved will presumably remain an unanswered conundrum.

Orem, a town in north-central Utah about 45 miles south of Salt Lake City, has a population of about 90,000, and is nearly 80% white. Less than 1% of its residents are African American.

(Mod: Too bad. I'd heard Donald Trump was going to throw out the first ball.)

Feds accused of pushing ‘utopias’ in wealthy neighborhoods with diversity regs (Fox News link): Congressional Republicans are trying to thwart a new federal housing rule they claim would allow Washington to play a heavy-handed role in trying to remake upscale neighborhoods as racially and economically diverse "utopias."

The forthcoming regulations, expected to be formally proposed later this month, would leverage grant money to try and bring more affordable options into these neighborhoods. It would require local jurisdictions to report on their progress; they'd risk federal housing money if they don't.

But while the Department of Housing and Urban Development program essentially aims for more integration and equality, critics see a meddling federal government.

"[The rule] tells us how we can live, where we go to school, how we will vote, what this utopian type of neighborhood should look like," charged Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., who sponsored an amendment to the House HUD spending bill Wednesday, blocking any future funding for the new rule. The spending bill was passed in the House with the amendment.

"These rules want to manipulate the way American neighborhoods look," he told FoxNews.com in an interview.

HUD officials and proponents of the new rule say it would do nothing but clarify -- even simplify -- current obligations under The Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Right now, local and state housing authorities must have plans showing they are "affirmatively furthering fair housing." In other words, making sure their communities offer affordable housing opportunities in all neighborhoods, not just the poor ones, and do not discriminate based on color, religion, sex, or national origin. Affordable housing is generally defined as housing that costs no more than a third of a family's monthly income.

The new rule would require jurisdictions to file a full assessment every five years that not only addresses the affordable housing landscape, but patterns in poverty and minority concentrations, as well as "community access" to transportation, good schools and jobs.

In addition to the assessments, the new requirements include an action plan obligating the jurisdiction to "identify the primary determinants influencing fair housing conditions, prioritize addressing these conditions, and set one or more goals for mitigating or addressing their determinants." For its part, HUD would be sharing demographic data that local officials need to pull this together, while offering guidance and technical assistance.

But here's the rub. If cities and counties don't comply, it could put millions of dollars in annual federal block grants at risk, which critics say is how Washington can bully governments to do their bidding.

(Mod: It looks like SCAG is going to be busy. I wonder, how will Sierra Madre's Planning and Community Preservation Department handle this situation when it hits their desk?)


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Robert Fellner: Over 8,000 LA County Retirees Made at Least $100K in Pension Pay as Taxpayer Cost Soars

(Mod: Ever wonder where your property taxes go? That several thousand dollars you cough up every once in a while? Some of it is returned to Sierra Madre by the County of Los Angeles. But the rest? They keep for themselves. What they do with it is the topic of today's post.)

Last year, 8,088 retirees in the Los Angeles County Employees’ Retirement Association (LACERA) received yearly pension and medical benefits packages worth at least $100,000, a more than 11% increase from the previous year, according to Transparent California’s recently published 2014 pension data.

At the same time, the employer’s annual required contribution – the cost borne by taxpayers – hit a record high 20 percent of payroll, more than double the 8.9 percent paid in 2001.

Topping the pension list was former Los Angeles County Sheriff, Leroy Baca, who is collecting a yearly pension and benefits package worth nearly $340,000.

The next three highest compensated members were:

1. Larry Waldie, retired from the Sheriff’s Department in 2011, received $333,009.
2. Thomas Tidemanson, retired from Public Works in 1994, received $332,200.
3. Michael Judge, retired from the Public Defender’s Office in 2010, received $325,078.

The average pension and benefits package for a retiree of the Fire Department with at least 25 years of service was $128,729 and the average for a retiree of the Sheriff’s Department was $106,299. For all other members who had retired with at least 30 years of service, the average pension and benefits package was $74,568.

Current LACERA members are able to include a variety of supplemental pay items as part of their pensionable compensation – which is their highest single year of pay that will be used to calculate their pension benefit. Additionally, LACERA allows employees to sell back any unused vacation, holiday, or sick leave and counts that as part of their pensionable compensation.

While the Pension Reform Act of 2012 sought to ban “abusive practices used to enhance pension payouts” and calculate pension benefits “based on regular, recurring pay” only the practice of selling back unused leave was banned, and only for employees hired after January 1, 2013.

LACERA’s unfunded liability has more than doubled over the past 10 years – rising from $5.6 billion in 2004 to $13.3 billion in 2013, despite LACERA hitting their investment target over that same time period.

A Moody’s Investment Services report calculated LACERA’s adjusted net pension liability at nearly $40 billion. They also found that the rules governing public plans inappropriately emphasize investment returns over yearly contributions, resulting in shortfalls even under ideal investment conditions.

Moody’s also cautioned against the increased risk public pension portfolios have taken. When comparing LACERA’s most recent investment portfolio they found a higher allocation of riskier investments such as private equity and hedge funds, as compared to prior years.

This “increases the risk of sharp asset declines” and, consequently, increases the likelihood that taxpayers will be required to pay substantially more to keep the system afloat.

A recent paper published in the Journal of Retirement found that many public pensions will remain underfunded, even if they hit their investment goals, because they rely on flawed actuarial assumptions that understate the true cost of benefits.

Pete Constant, Senior Fellow at the Reason Foundation, observed that there are strong incentives for pension boards to adopt assumptions that are wrong. Doing so directly benefits both the pension system and its member agencies – which now have more tax dollars at their disposal – while the costs are borne by future generations.

To view the complete 2014 pension report in a searchable and downloadable format, visit TransparentCalifornia.com.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Unanswered Questions from the June 6th Sierra Madre Town Hall Meeting

(Mod: None of these questions have been answered by City Hall yet, so I figured I'd post the whole lot here and bring them to a wider audience. While the perceived message to raise the UUT to a highest rate in the state has been discussed repeatedly by certain city parties, oddly all of this other stuff has somehow been ignored. At least so far. Which is a shame since many are excellent questions. Perhaps you have some of the answers?)

How much money does the City receive from the Police citations of over 3,000 issued last year?  Is this money added to the UUT income to offset the Police Department expense?

When did the City start charging the Franchise fees to the utility bills?  Why was this charge started when the City used to receive payments without transferring that cost to the customers?  How much income does it give the City?

Where does the income come from to pay the 1998 water bond payments?  Is the payment made through the CRA Successor Agency?

How many dollars has the City paid for the water received from the MWD pipeline?  Are we using credits that have accumulated over the years?

What is the true cost of the water from the MWD pipeline and which of the four tiered rates is the true cost?

How much is the contract amount of the City Attorney?  How much has she been paid so far this  year?

How much has been paid out in legal expenses for cases that never get settled?  How many more years will it take?

Does the City Council have the authority to contract out any department such as the Police, Fire or the Library?  Should this be settled by a vote of the property owners?

Where does the money come from to pay for all the service contracts and what is the money spent on?  Please list individual amounts.

How many new employees has the City hired since the last defeat of the UUT increase that was on the ballot?

Does all of the income of the City get deposited into the Bank of America account which is known as the General Fund?

How much cash is in the restricted fund known as the Redevelopment Fund?  What is that money supposed to be used on?

What is the project known as Scarecrow and how much was paid to the Creative Arts Group?

How much money has been paid out to the more than one plan checker company and why does it take six to ten months to clear a plan through checking?

How many acre feet of water, per year, is used by the flushing of the water hydrants?

When will the water system be repaired and in working order?  This includes the tunnels, pumps and water main pipes?

What other departments, other than Police and Fire, is the UUT income spent on?

How much money does the Whitman Company receive for handing the billing of insurance companies?  Do they also do the billing of the non-insured?

What is the value of the purchase of a Paramedic Subscription?  Is it a flat donation or does it have some meaningful value?  If it is a donation, is it tax deductible?

Why are we spending money on a lobbyist?  Most people say City government should not be involved in this practice.

Is there any form of checks and balances on the spending side?  Who is the responsible person that is responsible for controls on spending?

When will the electrical switch panel be repaired that was burned out many years ago?  This is located in the building in the City yards.

Has the litigation over former Police Chief Diaz been settled?  If not, then when will it be done? How much has this cost the taxpayers?

       • When is the City going to end the fight against the property owners of 1 Carter so that the threat of the $30M lawsuit/claim can come to an end?  When will the first building permit be issued?  The Council and Administration know that the City settlement required that homes must be built for this subdivision that has been approved all along?

Why doesn’t the Police Department purchase one or more paper shredders and do their own shredding instead of contracting it out?

How much money has the City spent on outside consultants, for the General Plan and when will it get approved and finished?  Isn’t the over five years of time and money enough spent on this project?

Why did the City spend $50,000 on an EIR report against the 710 Freeway extension?  Why did we hire a new employee that was in favor of the 710 Freeway extension while he was working for Pasadena?

Is this meeting really for the purpose of laying the background for the introduction of another UUT tax increase?  Remember, this has been defeated twice already? If we are looking for reductions in spending then let’s not spend money foolishly.

The allocated amount of electrical usage on the water department was $500,000 per year.  Since the pumps have been shut down the Edison bill varies from $12,000 to $22,000 per month.  How much is the dollar saving on electricity? Why hasn't the city invested in Solar Power to save money?

Does the Police Department really respond to over 300 calls for Police service per week?  Are many of these calls simply transferred to other departments?

How many volunteer firemen live in Sierra Madre?

How many City employees have City credit cards?

Does the City Council understand that the people are looking for a smaller government that spends less instead of always focusing on tax increases?

How much does the City Administration pay out for computer and computer related services in a year’s time?

Why does the City pay out over $2,000 per month to the Pasadena S.P.C.A. when they receive all of the license income from the City?

When will the storage room at the Hart House get built?

What is the total cost per year of all the City employees, including all fringe benefits such as retirement payments, medical coverage and all other benefits including auto expense?  In other words, what is the big round number per year?

Why do we continue to give money to SCAG and the SGVCOG?

These two entirely antiquated and useless organizations continue to get money from us yearly, yet we receive very little of value in return. Rather they serve mostly as soapboxes for some of the biggest fools in the region. Why should we want to help financially enable their ridiculous behavior?

Here is an example from the Pasadena Star News (link):

San Gabriel Valley COG recommends tunnel option for 710 After nearly three hours of debate, the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments voted to support the 710 Freeway tunnel Thursday night,

The 31-member group’s governing board voted 16-7 to endorse building a tunnel to connect the gap in the freeway, running under Alhambra, South Pasadena and Pasadena and connecting to the 210/134 freeway interchange.

A recommendation will be sent to Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Agency for inclusion in their joint environmental impact report, ahead of the July 6 cutoff date for comments.

The SGVCOG’s governing board rejected suggestions by delegates from Pasadena, South Pasadena, Sierra Madre and La Canada Flintridge to take no position on this controversial project.

In one of his first appearances since leaving the position of mayor, Bill Bogaard of Pasadena suggested SGVCOG would be taking a premature action and urged the agency to wait until the final EIR is completed.

“This has been going on for decades. It blows my mind for you to say it is premature,” retorted Alhambra City Councilwoman Barbara Messina, who introduced the successful motion.

Messina said the support for a tolled tunnel is in line with the Southern California Association of Governments, which put the tunnel option into its Regional Transportation Plan in 2012.

“SCAG has the (710) tunnel in their RTP. It meets requirements of the federal government on air quality, mobility and congestion,” Messina told the board. Dissenters said the vote in support of a freeway tunnel would break the SGVCOG in half. Some urged a no position to preserve a unified voice in the region on transportation matters.

“I feel this is like the Middle East. Either we are damned if we do or do not. We are just splitting the cities,” said Sam Pedroza, Claremont City Councilman and SGVCOG member who did not attend Thursday’s meeting.

Here is the real absurdity in this. On the one hand we spent $50,000 in taxpayer dough to fight the 710 Tunnel. I am OK with that. If this tunnel ever gets built it will not only severely degrade the environment around here, the 210 Freeway would be turned into a 24/7 parking lot as well.

On the other hand we are also sending money to SCAG, an organization that is lobbying for the 710 Tunnel nonstop.

Seems kind of schizophrenic, right?