Sunday, January 31, 2016

Bob Loewen: How Government Unions Are Destroying California

Mod: There is a lot of nonsense out there about why Sierra Madre needs to raise its utility taxes by 66%, giving this town one of the Top 5 UUT rates in all of California. The latest canard being floated by certain individuals (who really should be ashamed of themselves because I am sure they know better), is this is needed to keep things like the Halloween celebrations on Algeria and the Mt. Wilson Trail Race from going south (link). It is a whole new level of hostage taking, and sad to say there are people who are actually buying into this baloney. What follows are some relevant excerpts from an important column written by Bob Loewen (link). Bob details the real forces driving taxes higher in many cities such as Sierra Madre. Just in case you are wondering what the actual truth might be.

How Government Unions Are Destroying California: California was once the State that everyone looked up to. With the best weather and natural resources, we were full of hope and innovation. We had the best public schools, a world class system of higher education, the best freeways, infrastructure to provide fresh water to our growing population, which also doubled as a source of clean energy through hydro-electric power, a business-friendly environment where entire industries grew in entertainment, aerospace, and technology, making our economy virtually recession-proof.

Then in 1978, then-governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order that imposed union-shop collective bargaining on public agencies in California, and the rise of public sector union power began.

(Mod: Then Governor Ronald Reagan signed something similar into law in 1968 called the Myers-Milias-Brown Act. Just to keep everything accurate and nonpartisan. As most Tattler readers know, with this matter there are very few truly innocent parties in California government.)

Today, public sector unions are the most powerful political force in our State. They control a majority of our State Legislature and might control a supermajority in November if a few swing districts fall their way.  No politician, Democrat, Republican or Independent, acts without considering how it will affect the union agenda.

These government unions press 100% for a progressive agenda, and they consistently agitate for increased spending. In two areas, the quality of our public education system, and the financial health of our cities and counties, the consequences of government union power have been catastrophic.


Police and firefighter unions do the most damage at the local level. They have attained unsustainable pensions, known as “3%@50”, meaning that a member of that bargaining unit is eligible at age 50 for a pension equivalent to 3% of his highest salary times their number of years of service. 

While the age of eligibility has been raised for new public safety employees entering the workforce, the vast majority of active police and firefighters still retain these “3%@50” benefits. So at age 50, a 20-year veteran can retire with a pension equivalent to 60% of their highest year’s salary, which can be manipulated through spiking, and a 30-year veteran is eligible for 90% of his or her highest salary.

These pension requirements are held under the “California Rule” to be irreversible. In other words, once they have been adopted, democracy is incapable of turning off the spigot. With the spigot running constantly, communities go bankrupt. First, they cut other services. Then they increase taxes. Then they refuse to pay bondholders, so no one will invest again.

Current unfunded liabilities in California:

At CalPERS: $93.5 billion (ref. page 120, “Funding Progress,” CalPERS 6-30-2015 financial report -link).

At CalSTRS: $72.7 billion (ref. page 118, “Funding Progress,” CalSTRS 6-30-2015 financial report - link).

Local Unfunded Liabilities add considerably to this total, since CalPERS, with assets of $301 billion, and CalSTRS, with assets of $158 billion, only constitute 62% of California’s $752 billion in state and local pension fund assets (link). If all of these systems in aggregate were 75% funded, which is probably a best case estimate given the poor stock market performance since the official numbers were released, the total unfunded pension liabilities for California’s state and local government workers would be $256 billion.

And $256 billion in unfunded liabilities, a staggering amount, still understates the problem for two reasons: First, these pension funds may not succeed in securing a 7.5% average annual return in the coming decades. If not, then they will not earn enough interest to prevent their funding ratios from getting even worse. Also, this doesn’t take into account “OPEB,” or “other post employment benefits,” primarily health insurance. The unfunded OPEB liability just for Los Angeles County is officially recognized at over $30 billion.

A realistic estimate of the total unfunded liabilities for retirement obligations to state and local workers in California is easily in excess of $500 billion. These benefits, which are financially unsustainable and far more generous than the taxpayer funded benefits available to ordinary private sector workers, were forced upon local and state elected officials through the unchecked power of government unions. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Arcadia Police Night Patrols In Sierra Madre Is On The Arcadia City Council Agenda For February 2nd

Coming soon to a street near you.
It happened. And Arcadia's staff report for this issue, wordily titled "TEMPORARY MUNICIPAL LAW ENFORCEMENT SERVICES AGREEMENT WITH THE CITY OF SIERRA MADRE FOR THE PERIOD OF FEBRUARY 15, 2016, THROUGH JUNE 30, 2016," does make for some interesting reading. It also goes into a lot more detail than the agenda report we saw for Sierra Madre's last City Council meeting. Considerations that were then bumped to a later date because Arcadia's decisions on the matter had not yet been made and the Mayor didn't want to be seen as being presumptuous.

In the following portion of a rather City Hall-centric Pasadena Star News piece titled "Why half of Sierra Madre’s police force suddenly left," the dollar amount involved in bringing the Arcadia PD to the late night streets of Sierra Madre is identified as $40,000 per month. In the Arcadia agenda report that figure is $164,000 for the period covering Feb. 15 through June 30th, or $1,200 per day. With the potential for some additional charges when arrest expenses and overtime costs are factored in.

Here is the PSN info (link):

During Tuesday night’s city council meeting, an agreement with the Arcadia Police Department was being considered to offer supplemental patrol services, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. 7 days a week, to Sierra Madre at a cost of about $40,000 a month.

“I’m not happy at all,” said Mayor John Capoccia about the dramatic drop in the police force. “What we have here is a perfect storm because of the financial concerns.”

In a staff report, the department says they “have reached a level where there are insufficient personnel to provide safe and reliable police services twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week,” and cited the city’s lower salaries for trouble recruiting full-time officers.

“This is totally a temporary measure to make sure we’re providing the same level of service to the community as we start to build our department back up,” said Giannone. “We have a great working relationship with Arcadia and we’re here to help each other.”

Meanwhile, the department is doing heavy recruiting for full time sworn-in and non-sworn positions. “I think that’s going very well; we have 65 applicants,” said Giannone.

In the still sorta relevant Sierra Madre City Council Agenda Report, dated January 26 (link), that amount is also identified as $40,000 per month, with additional costs alluded to but not yet factored in. The period mentioned here was to begin on Feb. 7, which is now no longer an operative start date.

I'm sure the final dollar amounts will all be hashed out. But as it stands now any potential additional costs really are open ended and subject to events that have yet to occur.

Here is the Arcadia Staff Report in its entirety (link).

That's what we know as of now. More as it shows up.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Is Sierra Madre's Bill Coburn Math Challenged?

Remedial ciphering required?
There is a Facebook page in town that goes by the name of "Sierra Madre." It is a place where you can often find some of this city's more innocent folks posting their opinions. A few of them appear to be from the old Civility Party crowd, and likely are still mourning events such as the departure of Nancy Walsh from the City Council. Apparently for them things have gone downhill in Sierra Madre since the Queen of Cray hung up her tinfoil crown and stopped treating us to her oftentimes edgy opinions.

If it is any consolation whatsoever to them, I too miss Nancy Walsh. But probably for very different reasons. She used to bless us with great video content. Here is one where the former Mayor compared a report about reducing City Hall hours to the repellent practices of child predators (link).

A word of warning though, some of the language contained in that linked video clip gets a bit blue. Do not share it with your younger kids.

However, I also miss the Sierra Madre Facebook page. I used to post links there to articles posted on this site. Sadly, after I left one about an article that included a leaked internal report detailing a culture of employee institutional violence at Southern California Edison, I suddenly found myself blocked from the Sierra Madre site. I can't even view it any longer. Truly a sad commentary on the inability of certain elements in this town to deal with opinions they might not share.

Here is a snippet from The Tattler post that got me booted from the site (link).

I dunno. Maybe it just wasn't Facebook material.

But I digress. Bill "Rooster" Coburn, who runs an antediluvian on-line news site called, apparently is not a person who cottons to the challenges of independent thought. He rarely publishes anything more than City Hall press releases there, and never dares to add any commentary of his own. Apparently Bill regards the stuff he is sent from downtown as wisdom received from on high, and it is not his place to second guess such things.

Unfortunately, Bill also has some problems with basic math. Particularly when it comes to Measure UUT, the City Hall proposed April ballot initiative that will raise your utility taxes to some of the highest levels found in the State of California. Here is what he posted on the Sierra Madre Facebook page.

I wasn't aware that the "Algeria on Halloween" event was funded by city money. Probably because it is not. The residents living there foot most of the bills all by themselves. And it would be equally sad to think that the Mount Wilson Trail Race would have to be discontinued without the participation of City Hall. Especially when you consider that nobody employed there ever actually runs in that race.

Also, while the 6% UUT might have had its origins in the distant past, there was quite a long stretch there when it was at 10%. I believe right up until July of 2015. Not certain how Bill could have forgotten that.

However, the worst part of Bill's Facebook post is that it is mathematically illiterate. It took former Sierra Madre City Councilman Chris Koerber to explain why.

This does explains some of Bill Coburn's work on the Public Safety Committee. I'm also not sure what sort of latte' he is talking about.

I hope it isn't the kind you can now legally buy in Colorado. I hear they're highly expensive.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bloomberg Business: The Surge in U.S. Mansion Prices Is Now Over (McMansions Sitting Unsold In Arcadia)

"Mysterious and spooky"
Mod: One of the big myths coming out of Arcadia these days is that all those Addams Family McMannies being built there are somehow creating extraordinary amounts of wealth, and their mere presence has been an economic boon for those privileged enough to dwell behind the Peacock Veil. And, like most myths, particularly those cooked up by specious special interest groups like the Arcadia Realtors claque, nothing could be any farther from the truth. Or at least according to those celebrated and always well-informed financial analysts at Bloomberg Business.

Bloomberg: The Surge in U.S. Mansion Prices Is Now Over

So apparently, and despite what you may have heard from all of the usual suspects, McMansions have actually become a financial burden on the communities where they are built as well. For the rest of this eye opening article click here.

Arcadia Chamber of Commerce Big Dome Quits, Heading to Nebraska

Mod: Arcadia Chamber head Scott Hettrick, who has enjoyed some notoriety on this blog over the last year or so for his willingness to serve as an easy apologist for both Addams Family McMansion development and such infamous Arcadia political figures as John "Johnny GemCoins" Wuo, is hanging it up and heading for Nebraska. Of all places. Another sign that big changes are under way in Peacockia as its once all powerful old guard continues to just fade away.

Thanks to the assistance of invisible hands, here is Scott Hettrick's resignation letter.

Is it just me, or is there some irony in the confessed fact that the CEO of the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce can no longer afford to live in that town? And now finds the prospect of living in an apartment complex in Omaha to be a better option?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Late Night Police Patrol Agreement With Arcadia Gets Pushed To Another Day

If you stayed up late last night to watch the City Council decide whether or not to hire the Arcadia Police Department to patrol the now apparently defenseless late night streets of Sierra Madre, well, I am afraid you were disappointed. With good cause I must add. Here is how this event was originally billed on the City of Sierra Madre's website (link):

At the Tuesday, January 26, 2016, City Council meeting, the City Council will review an agreement for the City of Arcadia to temporarily provide police patrol services, seven days a week between the hours of 6:00 pm and 6:00 am beginning Sunday, February 7, 2016. Staffing levels within the Sierra Madre Police Department (SMPD) have reached a level where there are insufficient personnel to provide safe and reliable police services twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Apparently City Hall jumped the gun on this a little bit because their equivalent governmental figures in the City of Arcadia have, according to Mayor Cappocia, agreed to do no such thing. At least not yet. This item was then accordingly removed from the roster and will only reappear after Arcadia has actually agreed to help the imperiled Sierra Madre out.

So you know, the next meeting of the Arcadia City Council takes place on February 2nd, and any possible discussion about patrolling Sierra Madre's police depleted streets does not appear on their agenda. At least it doesn't yet. It is a week until that meeting takes place, so things could always change. But so far there doesn't appear to be too much urgency in Peacockia about this matter. You can link to that meeting agenda by clicking here.

My guess is the February 7th start date for late night Arcadia police patrols described in that City of Sierra Madre website article cited above will not be met.

Remember, that same now inoperative news item was also published by Pasadena Now,, the Mountain Views News and on the City of Sierra Madre Facebook page. Hopefully all of those vigilant news resources will be issuing corrections and clarifications, and soon.

The oddest part of this abrupt course correction last night was Police Chief Larry Giannone pronouncing the now open ended delay to be "no big deal." I believe that a lot of people were previously led to understand that the loss of almost half of the Sierra Madre Police Department actually was a big deal.

Certainly all of that City Hall initiated press in the publications cited above might have led some to share that impression.

Yesterday Preserve Sierra Madre sent out the following email

The good news is all of that was ratified last night by the City Council. Both Councilmembers Goss and Harabedian did voice their usual misgivings about all of this, but in the end voted for ratification along with the rest of their fellow Councilmembers. Gene Goss cited last night's strong advocacy by John Hutt for getting him on board.

Any way you look at it this really was a big victory over bad development. Hopefully none of this will be challenged after the election is over.

The City Hall $7,500 Measure UUT Media Blitz 

This so-called nonpartisan effort to "educate the residents" about Measure UUT was passed unanimously by the City Council. Here is how one group of unimpressed commenters described this last night.

The City Council did not opt to send out a second postcard, so if you are really simpleminded you might actually be led to believe that they saved the taxpayers $2,500.

I hope they don't spend it all in one place.

One more thing. The stop sign requested by residents for the intersection of East Highland and North Mountain Trail was approved. This despite the advice of the stop sign engineer from Wildan. A lot of concerned parents turned out for this item. The school kids who cross there every morning will be be better off because of their efforts.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

City Hall Will Spend Upwards Of $10,000 To Send Out "Nonpartisan" Utility Tax Increase Voter Information

"That is a very good question. Once we contract out 100% to LA Sheriff Dept., any and all suits about police would be handled by the LASD Attorneys. Less billable hours for City Attorney Highsmith and her crew." - Reader comment

The City of Sierra Madre, like most cities from anywhere in this great land, cannot spend taxpayer dollars advocating for or against candidates, issues, or especially ballot measures asking the voters to give them more of their money. It just is not done. However City Hall, which is staffed by persons whose continued employment may very well depend upon Measure UUT passing, will be preparing supposedly nonpartisan information that will be sent out to you the public. Information that, and without showing any preferences whatsoever (or so it is claimed), will inform the voters about this ballot initiative. Here is how this is explained in the appropriate staff report (link), prepared for tonight's City Council meeting.

Seems rather dicey, right? I mean, how can it be claimed that the very persons who would financially benefit from Measure UUT being approved by the voters will be able to send out information about a tax increase without showing at least a little bit of institutional bias? And wouldn't the mere act of sending out that material itself contain at least something of a pro-tax message? After all, it does come from a government agency. In this case the very one that pushed for this utility tax increase in the first place.

Trust me, Measure UUT was not an idea that the residents came up with. They had already expressed their opinions by voting down two similar utility tax increase measures in 2012 and 2014.

But those crafty City Hall types believe they found a way around this. They used the not ordinarily all that exalted UUT Oversight Committee as its nonpartisan judge and jury. Here is how that one was baked.

However, since the UUT Oversight Committee voted unanimously for utility taxes to go up, and I believe at one point actually claimed that a state leading 12% rate would be the most appropriate one (no city in all of California has so high a rate, just so you know), their nonpartisanship might also be called into question as well. At least by this blog.

But you know, and I know, how this really goes. It is a kabuki dance permitting the employees at City Hall to campaign for the utility tax increase they feel that they deserve, and do so on the public's dime. A legal gray area that they believe nobody will ever challenge, in a court or anywhere else.

Here is how much City Hall is spending for their "Schedule of Information Dissemination," designed to convince you to vote for Measure UUT.

$10,000 to hold a tax party at the Fire Station, plus send out postcards, mailers, social media campaigns and flyers. About as nonpartisan as a high school cheerleader, right? But the UUT Oversight Committee said it was OK, so there you go. How could anyone ever challenge that?

Tonight's City Council meeting starts at 6:30 PM. The "cops beating feet" agenda item alone should be more than enough to keep you amused and happy for hours.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Was This The Beginning Of The End For The Sierra Madre Police Department?

Mod: I originally posted this back in 2009. I believe it still quite accurately depicts what the capitulation of then Mayor Enid Joffe to the Sierra Madre Police Officers Association (SMPOA) cost this city. I also believe it called what all of this would eventually lead to in Sierra Madre, which is why I am reposting it eight long years later. What we are now seeing today was a long time in coming, and not unpredictable. Check it out and see if you don't agree.

How The Police Officers' Association (POA) Got Business Done In what was probably one of the most extreme cases of "Little Miss Sunshine" syndrome I have read in a while, the Mountain Views "Observer," on 12/21/07, ran the following effervescent headline:

Sierra Madre And Police Reach 'Historic Agreement' - "It ends years of discord between the city and POA" - Mayor Joffe

Discord that resumed a few short months later after the passage of the Utility User Tax hike with a Police Officers Association initiated lawsuit against the City of Sierra Madre. Apparently this short love match was only a one-sided affair, with this caddish Police Officers Association quickly leaving (by then voter removed) Mayor Enid Joffe crying at the altar. Oh, and the taxpayers of Sierra Madre holding the very large bills both parties left behind.

The MVO article continued with this little frothy bit of heavily medicated delirium:

"Everyone clapped, cheered and shook hands as the City Council approved during a special meeting Tuesday night, the first police pay raise in years. The increase is subject, however, to Sierra Madre voters approving an increased Utility Users Tax on April 8, 2008."

Of course, not everyone was quite that chipper. Many who read the agreement worked out by Mayor Joffe and the SMPOA realized that this, along with a much higher UUT rate, was going to be a large new financial burden on the City's taxpayers. And there were even those who took this to actually be a fairly serious defeat for the City of Sierra Madre, with the cooked up joy offensive by the paper merely an attempt to put a pretty face on disaster. All something that could very well have hurt the re-election chances of MVO darlings Enid Joffe and John Buchanan if not properly spun.

So who is this Police Officers Association that so completely took City Hall to the cleaners? It turns out that its leadership isn't quite as local as you might have first assumed. Here's a passage from a March 21, 2009 article in the Union Tribune detailing an acrimonious Police labor dispute in Escondido.

"The association should be like a quiet giant in the position of, 'Do as I ask and don't p--- me off,' the law firm advises ... As the fight between the City and the Escondido Police Officers Association unfolds, the association appears to be taking some of its cues from the hardball battle plan devised by Lackie, Dammeier & McGill of Upland, which is representing the association in negotiations ... The law firm was founded by a former deputy sheriff, Michael Lackie, and a former police officer, Dieter Dammeier, and represents more than 120 public safety unions in California."

Among those 120 "public safety unions" represented by these gentlemen is the Sierra Madre Police Officers Organization. And if you recognized the names of Lackie and Dammeier you get bonus points because those are the two gentlemen that won their clients a stunning and profitable victory at the expense of the taxpayers of Sierra Madre.

How they did it really shouldn't be all that big a secret to anyone. Because if you go to the Lackie, Dammeier & McGill website, you will actually be able to read all about the kinds of hardball tactics that have made them the leaders in their field. Some of which you might recognize from what has happened here in Sierra Madre.

In a March 23, 2009 piece called "Caring For Union Cops, Not Their Bully Tactics," veteran syndicated columnist Logan Jenkins highlighted a few of them for us (link):

* Storm City Council: No meeting should take place without association members publicly chastising council members for their lack of concern for public safety.
* Billboards: Nothing seems to get more attention than a billboard entering the city limits which reads that crime is up and the City could care less about your safety. The message being City councils love crime and hate safety. (Remember all those Arcadia billboards last year?)
* Job Fair: Encourage cops to sign up at job fairs, sending an alarming, but false, signal of imminent flight from the department, leaving virtually no one to protect the public from gangs, parolees and sex offenders.
* Work Slowdown: Drive the speed limit, make investigations as time-consuming as possible, while "asking for back-up on most calls." In other words, perform the job in malingering slo-mo, thus inflating the need for more officers and better pay and benefits.
* Focus on an individual: "Avoid spreading your energy. Focus on a city manager, council person, mayor or police chief and keep pressure on until that person assures you of his loyalty and then move on to the next victim." Victim? You heard it right.
* Press Conferences: "Every high-profile crime that takes place should result in the association's uproar at the governing body for not having enough officers on the street, which could have avoided the incident." Read: Exploit suffering, fear and anger.
* In its summation, Lackie, Dammeier & McGill acknowledges that cops often come up with their own variations on the theme of beating public officials into submission. "Just keep in mind, the idea is to annoy your opponents into giving in to your position and almost equally as important, to let them know that next time they should agree with you much sooner."

In the same issue of the Mountain Views "Observer" cited at the beginning of this article, then Mayor Enid Joffe, in her "Coffee with Joffe" column for that week (grandly entitled "Peace In Our Time?"), had this to say:

"The entire MOU (Memo Of Understanding) is conditioned on the passage of the proposed Utility User Tax (UUT) ballot initiative approved by the City Council on December 18th. Without approval of the Measure, the POA agreement is null and void, and we will all go back to our previous adversarial positions."

I can only assume that by "adversarial positions" the mayor was referring to a possible return by the Sierra Madre Police Officers Association to the kinds of hardball tactics described on the Lackie, Dammeier & McGill website. The ones that drove City Hall to cry uncle, surrender, and then get their MOU on.

Which, judging how the UUT vote turned out, worked quite well for our Police Department. And yes, when it came to larding out the bull, nobody could ever do it quite like Enid Joffe.

One thing that always needs to be remembered. Without community support most of the POA's tactics will not get it done. They are dependent upon the natural goodwill many citizens feel towards police officers in general, which is what makes these bullying methods work.

People elected to City Councils are keenly aware that if they oppose the demands of a police union, they run the risk of alienating the more naive voting public. People who, properly marketed to by labor organizations such as the POA, will always give a sympathetic ear to their demands. This in spite of the fact that the results will likely come straight out of their own pockets.

What the SMPOA needs to understand is that if they go down this path once again, it could adversely affect the vote on any UUT extension request. Something that is going to have to go back on the ballot eventually.

And should any future UUT extensions ever get turned down by the taxpayers? Then the Sierra Madre Police Department will become a luxury that this city will no longer be able to afford.

Peace in our times, indeed.

Mod: A couple of things to add. The police law firm Lackie, Dammeier & McGill later dissolved in scandal. Their tactics leading to indictments for some of their top lawyers, and for very serious crimes. Their organization and website are long gone. Today police officers quitting on Sierra Madre and leaving for greener pastures are not helping the cop union cause, or at least whatever truncated portions are left of it. Badly needed change could finally be coming down and yes, it really has been a long time coming.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

KCAL9 News: Sierra Madre Residents Worry About Police Officer Shortage - (And More)

Mod: Kind of a vanilla "TV News Lite" report on what is up with the mass SMPD cop exodus. A pretty typical representation of why local television news isn't all that good. But at least the word is getting out to the big world. But is it the right word? I've posted the video link below this screenshot.

Link to this news video and more here.

The meme developed here is the SMPD is deserting in large numbers because the pay is not that good. Rather than the more accurate story, which is this town is quite possibly looking to drastically reduce the effects of what is a huge financial burden for 11,000 people. Possibly by contracting with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

The Sierra Madre Police Department now consumes just under 50% of the city's entire General Fund, which means taxpayers here are forced to pay far more than they can afford for public safety services. And the pressure to vote for more in taxes is both intense and never ending.

But for whatever the reason none of that comes out in this KCAL9 News report. Here is what they  are reporting on their news site. 

The full compensation figures on the Transparent California website (link) detail just how much each officer actually costs the taxpayers. While the salaries quoted in the KCAL piece are merely above average for employees from this part of the world, it is the benefits, and especially the CalPERS hit, that makes the cost of propping up a financially unsustainable boutique police department like the SMPD so cost prohibitive. 

The real issue here is not salaries, it is the average of $40,000 per officer in total benefits that tips the scale. Most of which is in CalPERS costs. When people talk about how the LA County Sheriffs would save the City of Sierra Madre nearly $800,000 dollars in taxpayer money it no longer has, CalPERS is one of the major reasons for such savings. 

Overtime, of course, would be another. Combine the benefits and overtime costs of some SMPD officers and that total exceeds their salaries.

The Mountain Views News is also pushing this message

Not that anyone should be surprised.

Isn't it strange that Pasadena Now ran the exact same story as the MVN?

Apparently some of our local news media are publishing only what they are being spoon fed by City Hall (link).

You can also add to the list as well (link).

So where do these valiant guardians of the public weal get this stuff?

Straight off the City of Sierra Madre website, of course (link).

It's a regular cloned media blitz. All the mynah birds are singing the exact same song. Does the lack of an attribution from either the MVN or Pasadena Now constitute plagiarism? Or is it just really unfortunate examples of publicity release "journalism?"

Apparently the publicity folks at Sierra Madre City Hall have been working quite hard to try and control the message going out to the public on this story. But to what purpose? And who is calling the shots on this messaging?

My theory is that Mayor Capoccia, Mayor Pro Tem Goss and police union buddy boy Councilmember Harabedian will offer a solution Tuesday evening that calls for raising police salaries. Done in the name of being able to entice trained officers to come here and work for the SMPD.

This rather than hiring the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, despite the huge savings to the taxpayers it would bring.

Most solutions at City Hall involve the spending of more money. I guess we'll have to wait and see if that pattern holds Tuesday evening. My guess is it will.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Sierra Madre Weekly: Sierra Madre Police Department Seeks Outside Help - Dept. Has Lost Half of its Force

Mod: Strong article from Terry Miller of the Sierra Madre Weekly on City Hall's latest crisis du jour. It hit their website yesterday and has yet to be published in the paper edition, which is distributed on Thursdays. For the original setting click here.

According to a press release sent out by Sierra Madre last night “Staffing levels within the Sierra Madre Police Department (SMPD) have reached a level where there are insufficient personnel to provide safe and reliable police services twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.”

This in itself, of course is extremely alarming for any city but especially one that has been recently plagued with residential burglaries, yet ironically was also just named one of the safest cities in California by a survey company.

The troubles at the Sierra Madre PD have been long and serious, including multiple lawsuits both aimed at the dept. from citizens, and from within the department itself. Additionally, the tiny city has little sales tax base unlike neighboring cities such as Arcadia.

A tough time indeed for this embattled little city.

Elisa Cox, Assistant City Manager, told the Sierra Madre Weekly Friday that the city is actively seeking new police recruits from the police academy but freely admits other cities pay considerably more than the SMPD. This is key in the dilemma this city’s chief executives face. Cox also said the election and the UUT tax will, of course, also play a crucial role in deciding the fate of the police.

A Sierra Madre Police Sergeant was dismissed during closed session at a City Council Meeting held on July 14, 2009. In response to a request for information related to this dismissal, City Manager Elaine Aguilar said that “personnel matters are confidential, and we really can’t say anything. People have a right to privacy.” No further information was able to be obtained regarding the dismissal.

According to Federal District Court filings, John Ellins, a SMPD officer, filed a lawsuit against the City of Sierra Madre and Marilyn Diaz. The suit was filed on June 3, 2009 under the category of “Civil Rights – Employment.” Marilyn Diaz was the police Chief of the Sierra Madre Police Department at that time. She was the first female police chief in L.A. County.

Also in 2009, at Approximately 3:30 a.m. Jan 30, a Sierra Madre police officer discovered a Nissan SUV within the city that had been reported stolen. The Nissan was towed back to the rear of the police station on Sierra Madre Blvd. To their surprise, officers opened the hatchback of the SUV and found a man in the vehicle’s cargo area where he had allegedly been sleeping under a blanket.

Why the officer(s) didn’t see the individual before the car was towed has been the subject of much speculation and supposition. 46-year-old Jason Jensen had allegedly been living in the car that had been reported as stolen. The SMPD’s Henry Amos then shot Jensen with a single round to his upper torso.

An internal investigation was completed and the now Detective Henry Amos is back on duty.

The city has been divided over the possibility of outsourcing for police services. On one side are residents who believe that their police officers do not appreciate their recent pay raises and generally have a negative attitude about working in Sierra Madre. They call for the police services to be outsourced, which would save the city money and potentially receive better service.

A central comment on both sides of this question relates to the salaries of the police department. Some say that the SMPD already receives too much money from the city, while others believe the SMPD remains one of the lowest paid departments despite help from their recent raise funded by the now-controversial Utility Users Tax increase passed in 2008.

At their Tuesday, January 26 meeting, the City Council will review an agreement with the City of Arcadia to temporarily provide police patrol services, seven days a week between the hours of 6:00 pm and 6:00 am beginning Sunday, February 7, 2016.

Over the course of the last few months, the Sierra Madre Police Department has lost nine of its twenty full-time employees, three part-time Community Service Officers, and one part-time Police Officer. There is a good possibility that the Department may lose a few more employees in the coming weeks.

Employees are resigning for a variety of reasons including retirement, an opportunity to work at higher paying departments, a perceived lack of job security in light of the scheduled decrease of the Utility Users Tax and the pending revenue measure on the April ballot.

According to City Manager Elaine Aguilar, the “No on UUT” measure did qualify for the ballot by getting a sufficient number of qualified signatures. However, it was too late to put it on the April 2016 ballot per both Election Code and the City Clerk.

The proponents did not request a special election so pursuant to the elections code the measure would technically go on the April 2018 election. However, the City Council could decide to consolidate with a County Election, for example in June 2016 or November 2016. The Council has not yet decided to consolidate with the County – they will be discussing their options during the February City Council meetings.”

During the term of the temporary contract, the Sierra Madre Police Department will continue to staff a dispatcher in the Sierra Madre Police Station during the nighttime hours. This will allow the Dispatcher to greet and assist walk-in lobby traffic, answer routine business calls such as overnight parking permits, and lessen the temporary impact to citizens who call the Police Department. All non-critical reports and calls for service will be handled by SMPD officers during their daytime shift.

The Sierra Madre City Council will review the contract at its regular meeting on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 6:30pm in the City Council Chambers, 232 W. Sierra Madre Blvd. The Arcadia City Council is scheduled to review the contract at its February 2, 2016 meeting. The temporary supplemental policing services for nighttime patrol is anticipated to begin on Sunday, February 7, 2016 and be in effect until June of 2016.

For additional information, the Sierra Madre staff report is available on the City’s website at:

Friday, January 22, 2016

SMPD Exodus: Will The City Council Agree To Contract With Arcadia's Police Department For Night Patrols?

"Amazing. Everybody stand back and watch. The SMPD is firing itself." - Reader comment @ 5:57 AM

Mod: I am going to post this City Council agenda report in its entirety because I think you are going to want to read it all. Apparently Sierra Madre Police Department members are now abandoning the force in such large numbers that there is no longer a sufficient supply of officers available to patrol the city's streets at night. Because of this development City Hall has been forced to discuss with the City of Arcadia the possibility of their officers patrolling Sierra Madre's streets during those very late evening hours when the SMPD no longer has sufficient numbers to get the job done themselves. It is a pretty remarkable situation for this city to be in. It might also make you wonder what kind of future the SMPD has in this town. If the city can no longer find officers willing to work here in the numbers required, and now has to contract out elsewhere to make up for that loss, has the time to bring in the LA Sheriff's Department already arrived?

Mod: To view this report on the City of Sierra Madre website, click here.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Save the Arcadia Highlands Leader April Verlato Announces Her Candidacy For Arcadia City Council

April Veralto has been one of the leading voices for change in Arcadia over the past couple of years. Especially on the matter of mansionization where she has been one of the leaders of Save the Arcadia Highlands, a group of concerned and influential residents who are currently in the process of gathering signatures for a ballot measure that will effectively bring Addam's Family McMansion development there (link) to a grinding halt. And now, April has decided to run for Arcadia City Council.

Here is her announcement.

Pretty good news for the City of Arcadia. Sierra Madre used to have many principled people like April who were willing to put it all on the line and run for City Council out of a sense devotion and duty to the community. Not so much this year.

You have to wonder what Sierra Madre's de facto capitulation to fiscally profligate municipal union pols is going to mean for preservation in the long run. How soon will it be before those folks decide that the property tax and impact fee money to be made off of big development to pay for things like CalPERS is in everyone's best interest?

My guess is not too long after the election.

Another Defeat for McMansions in Arcadia

Nice Courtney Tomkins article in the Pasadena Star News (entire article here).

When even Sho Tay votes against a project like this one you know big changes are being made in Arcadia