Thursday, March 31, 2016

Barry Gold's Catch 22

Courtesy of the satire page "Yes On UUT" link

Mod: What follows is the latest news from the Barry Gold write-in campaign for City Council.

In last night's update I told you that on the Election Information page of the city's web site I am not listed as a candidate for city council.  Only Mayor Capoccia and Council Member Harabedian are listed.

I wrote to our city manager, Elaine Aguilar, and she told me that the city only puts, on the city web site, the names of the candidates who are listed on the Sample Ballot. Here is the exchange of e-mails Elaine and I had.

Monday, March 28, 2016 8:32 AM
Subject: City Web Site "Candidate Page"
Good morning Elaine,
I see on the City Web Site, the page titled Candidates, that Mayor Capoccia and Council Member Harabedian are listed as candidates for city council.
I am also a qualified candidate.  Maybe because I am a write-in candidate I am not allowed to be listed on the city Web Site.  Is that the case?
Barry Gold

Tue, Mar 29, 2016 3:11 pm
Subject: RE: City Web Site "Candidate Page"
Hello Barry –
You are correct.  The City’s website only lists the names, and measures that appear in the official Sample Ballot.
I apologize that I have been so busy the past 24 hours, but I do appreciate your patience.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016 3:29 PM
Subject: Re: City Web Site "Candidate Page"
Thank you Elaine for getting back to me.
Since there has not been a write-in candidate in some 25 years I guess this has not come up recently.
I do respectfully request that my name be added the list of city council candidates on the city web site.  I am a qualified write-in candidate and I feel it is proper to include my name with the words "Write-In Candidate".
I thank you for your consideration of my request.
Barry Gold

Wed, Mar 30, 2016 3:21 pm
Subject: RE: City Web Site "Candidate Page"
Hello Barry-
I understand what you have expressed in your email.  I am sincere when saying that pursuant to your request I have taken another look at this situation.  However, the official Sample Ballot information is what has appeared on the city’s website with respect to candidates and measures.  You were correct; because your name is not listed in the official Sample Ballot, it is not listed on the City’s website.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016 4:41 PM
Subject: Re: City Web Site "Candidate Page"
Hi Elaine,
Concerning the election information on the city's web site, specifically the listing of the candidate's names, I understand that the city has always just listed the names of the candidates that are on the Sample Ballot.  I do not think there has ever been a qualified "Write-In" candidate since the city created the web site.
In the city's "NOTICE OF NOMINEES FOR PUBLIC OFFICE", copy attached, the city listed me as a Write-In candidate.  Why would I be put on the Notice and not on the web site.
I again ask you to put my name on the web site.  It is not fair to say that because no one before, who was not on the Sample Ballot, has been put on the web site, because this has never happened before.
Please reconsider the decision to leave my name off of the city web site as a Write-In candidate for city council.
If this is against some law or rule please let me know.  I would not ask the city to do something that is against the law.
Barry Gold

Wed, Mar 30, 2016 4:52 pm
Subject: RE: City Web Site "Candidate Page"
Hello Barry,
The “Notice of Nominees” is not the same as the Sample Ballot.  I understand your instance in this matter, but I cannot deviate from past practice as far as the City’s website is concerned.
Thank you,

So there you have it.  I cannot be listed on the city web site as a candidate because there has never been a write-in candidate listed on the web site before.  Of course the reason a write-in candidate has never been listed on the city web site before is because there has never been a write-in candidate running since the city web site was created.  If you haven't seen the movie "Catch 22" now would be a good time to rent it.

I am a candidate.  If you write my name on the ballot it will be counted.  If I get more votes than one of the other two candidates I will be elected.  But on the city web site I do not exist.

During this campaign I have been telling people that among the first things I will do if elected is support contracting with the sheriff, cut more costs, and start to improve our infrastructure.  Now I will have to add to the list changing this ridiculous policy of our city refusing to acknowledge the existence of a qualified candidate.

It is not because I am the candidate that is suffering from this awful policy.  It is because this policy is just WRONG.

Barry Gold
Your Non-Existent Write-In Candidate for City Council

Mod: The following e-mail was sent by a Sierra Madre resident to all of the addressed officials listed below. If and when a reply comes through we will post that as well.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Bulldozer Bob Harbicht's 30 Year Political Legacy: Pension Tracker Shows Arcadia Is Now Insolvent

Pension Tracker is this useful tool that allows adventurous citizens to explore and confirm just how deeply sunk in CalPERS pension debt their local government agency is at this golden moment in time. It also gives folks the opportunity to see where exactly things are going as well.

PT is run by a Dr. Joe Nation, Project Director for the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. As in Stanford University, just in case you had any doubts, or perhaps thought this was some sort of a conspiracy. The revelations to be found there regarding the financial peril many California cities face is pretty sobering. Not that everyone will understand it, of course. Certainly a lot of Sierra Madre's Yes On Measure UUT "Facebook Friends" won't have the foggiest notion of what this is all about. After all, it doesn't address that most important of topics for these folks, which is themselves. But I have faith in the abilities of people like you.

Here is what was reported a few days ago about unfunded CalPERS debt in Sierra Madre (link here). 

There are a lot of interesting and very large numbers there, including that $9,665,477 in "unfunded actuarial liability." What this means is the solons who run the city's affairs have committed to more than $9 and one half million dollars in CalPERS pension debt that they cannot otherwise pay for without first raising utility taxes here a full 66%. Out of an incredible total amount of $36,907,048. And, under California state law, the only way they can do this is to get you to vote for Measure UUT.

According to Pension Tracker, every individual household in Sierra Madre owes $6,754.00 dollars in "unfunded market liability" CalPERS debt. That is what each family living in Sierra Madre is on the hook for right now. And it will go up even more as CalPERS fund investments continue to underperform. Measure UUT is how City Hall plans to collect on that family by family debt to pay for its immense CalPERS liabilities.

Kind of awful, right? While the Yes On Measure UUT people babble disingenuously about the saving the Library or the Police Department, the truth is pension debt in Sierra Madre is beyond the ability of the city to pay without raising utility taxes. Which means claims like "Measure UUT will save the Sierra Madre Police Department" are laughably absurd and untrue.

Of course, even then that 66% increased take will not be enough to fix much of anything, either. That will come in 2018 with either a parcel tax or newly hiked property taxes. But don't worry, you will get to vote on that one as well.

However, and as bad as all that is, Arcadia is even worse off. Much worse, actually. Here are the numbers (link):

What this shows is that Arcadia has a total CalPERS liability of $312,798,284.00. Subtract the total assets number of $207,821,674.00 (which includes things like streets and buildings such as the Police and Fire Stations), and that total owed pension debt (or unfunded actuarial liability) comes to $104,886,610.00. Or, even more dramatically, $15,822.00 in unfunded market liability per Arcadia household.

Right now the City Of Arcadia is shelling out upwards of $14 million yearly in pension cash to its rather poshly compensated employees just to keep up with its current obligations. However, even then this already massive debt keeps increasing, with the breaking point perhaps just a few short years away.

And when did this all come to be? While Bob Harbicht was on the Arcadia City Council and gave away the farm to every city employee and municipal employee union in town. Done in exchange for the political support that has kept him in power off and on for the last three decades.

Why would anyone want to bring this guy back? It's a mystery to me.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tony Brandenburg: Home, Sweet Home

This Year in Review
I have been on an extended vacation. Well, that is not exactly true. You may recall that I am a musician in between long breaks as an educator.

I went on a couple of band tours, two in the United States, and one in South America. I got sick down there in Argentina and I was swallowed alive by a toilet. Don't worry, it burped me back out. The promoter in South America was a sweetheart. His name is Caca. You say it like the secret password in the Three Amigos (click here). He wears a ring on every finger and has grandchildren. Yes, we are a proud tribe of geezers.

Anyway, he brought a doctor to see me before one of the shows. I was very sick and needed a plug. She spoke Portuguese quite well. She was also very beautiful. English was a smile and a nod.

Yes, she was the perfect doctor.

When she asked me what was wrong I thought about it for a while. I suppose I could have told her the truth, that I had been staying within three feet of a toilet for about five days and that even the heartiest Brazilian barbecue turned to decaf in my digestive track.

But I lied like a rug. A fine, well worn carpet.

I'm fine! Not a problem in the world. Thank you!

Where Was I? Oh yes. My blog is an education blog. Or it was. Nowadays it is a swampland of  bric a brac and that's ok. I like that just fine.

One day I'll change the name of my blog. Something to reflect my ego most completely. That's because no one else in my house helps me write anymore. They just 'cc me in their world of words.

 ..... and then I hit delete.

You may recall that I live in a small town in the foothills that I despise.

Yeah, whatever. I have my reasons. Some of them are even good, but that's no matter.

People always tell me to move. My friends tell me to move. People who live here and who hate me tell me to move. People who live here and like me tell me to move.

Mary doesn't want to move. She likes to see me wriggle on the devil's fork. If I turned to decaf before her eyes, I think she'd go into medicine like my beautiful Brazilian doctor.

In order to live here you have to pretend you are happy paying taxes for stupid stuff that no one uses or wants. That's to raise revenues for events that make us hillbillies seem quaint.

I don't eat out here much because I don't want to talk to anyone who may have betrayed my family a few years back. I get it to go, or more likely, I don't go at all.

I do go to the butcher shop because they've earned my patronage and respect. They did this by being friendly, courteous, and raising money for people in need.

I know. I'm a jerk. I need more pride in others and less in myself. I'm sure there's a twelve-step plan for that somewhere in town.

Parking Enforcement
There is a new police person in town. She stopped by the house a while back and asked Mary about my truck outside, parked in front of the house I bought, with a parking sticker I paid for. I know because I bought the parking pass like I have every year for what seems like forever.

The officer asked if the truck was running. A solid logical question. She asked the wrong person why it was never moved. Mary, no doubt, said it was because her husband is 'a low-down dirty scoundrel.'

Imagine if we weren't madly in love with each other.

What I really mean is the the officer told Mary that it needs to be moved every three days. Mary told her that the truck does, indeed run, that I am the only one who knows how to control the beast, and that it has a parking sticker on it.

I mean, I get it, sort of. The truck has cobwebs on it. It's filthy because I stopped washing it in order to conserve water. It has a broken air conditioner which makes it unbearable in this oppressive heat. So I wait until Winter to drive it. It sits part of the year in front of my house. Sometimes I paint witty slogans on it.

I have come into the attention of the newer police in town. They like to occasionally pull me over by my house so my neighbors can see the rebel hillbilly from up the street engage in conversations instead of going away.

Before I left on tour I paid online for the pass. When I got home a few weeks later it wasn't on my truck, and it wasn't in the mailbox. That was a concern, of course. The online parking system has been a royal pain in the neck. It is farmed out to some company- no doubt to make policing in Sierra Madre easier.

My dog, a little orange terrier, notoriously attacks the mail when it comes through the slot and flings it all over the living room.

She's free range. It's cool. I have no problem with her quirks. But I do have to climb under furniture to find my mail sometimes.

No parking pass. But lots of UUT endorsements from people I no longer believe in.

The Parking Fairy
So, I walk over to the police station to ask about my parking pass.

I am helped by a young officer who tells me I need to pay for my parking pass online. I explain that I have done this, but the parking pass was never put on my truck, and that I have checked my email and post for a receipt that never came.

He explains that, clearly, I have done something wrong.

Of course I have. It certainly couldn't have been that the crappy company they hired to do this for them - to make their jobs and lives easier- had somehow messed up. When all else fails, blame the public you serve.

Just like the teachers at Sierra Madre Elementary. When all else in the system fails - blame the kids.

Anyhoo, I told him that of course I was confused.

For many years I had handed a check to the person sitting where he was sitting, and two weeks later the parking sticker would be placed on my truck.

He told me that no such thing has ever happened.

I assured him that indeed, it had. It had been that way for years, prior to his employment.

"I see," he said. "It just magically appeared on your truck. Like a Parking Fairy came and stuck it on in the middle of the night?"

Yes. Like that.

There was a time when the Sierra Madre Police took the time to place a paid sticker on our cars. I never called them fairies though. That came from Officer Friendly.

Third Time is a Charm
After a second online attempt to get my parking pass, and after a visit to the station, I finally called the company who hadn't issued my pass.

Good old land line telephone.

Nothing quite like efficiency.

Chalk It Up to Outdated Ordinances
There is a certain symbiotic relationship that has to exist between law enforcement and citizenry. We have to break rules so that they can exist. They have to exist because we break the rules.

Even if the rules are stupid.

I am sure that somewhere in time it was necessary to have an overnight parking ordinance to keep cars off the streets or, more likely- to insure that mechanics wouldn't work on their cars on the street- or that people wouldn't live in their cars. It justifies shooting them in the backs if they fall asleep in the back seat. Oh. I digress.

Personally I'd prefer to park mine on my beautiful green lawn that the city keeps tabs on with an occasional letter or warning.

But I don't.

So the result of my exciting exchange with Officer Friendly and the news of the magical parking permit beings, I now get visits from my new friend in ordinance control. The rear left tire of my truck, parked in front of my house- which I pay for in taxes levied twice a year- with a parking permit I pay for annually - it periodically gets chalked to insure I move it every three days.

Now everyone in Sierra Madre can see my shame. They can all see that I'm naughty and don't follow the rules. Shame on me.

No recess.

But I, too, have chalk. I can chalk all four of the tires for good times. I love chalk art.

You may not know this, but in some cities chalking the streets in protest of police brutality is an offense worthy of arrest for vandalism.

I wonder if I should make a citizen's arrest.

If chalking the streets is now ok, believe me, I have plenty of tubthumping slogans to share.

I also have paint, and I love to paint messages on my car. I'm quite good at it.

Maybe I can paint it with witty messages across about archaic city ordinances.

I can start parking it every three days on Sierra Madre Boulevard in front of that lovely ALF monstrosity you all approved. Or in front of the schools and churches. Or down by the cemetery.

Maybe you'd like it in front of your house, since it's not ok for me to park it in front of mine any more. You can paint an advertisement on it. Something like:

You love mediocre food? Dine in Sierra Madre, where the only thing higher than the price of the food on that plate is the City Council and their tax infatuation.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Dearest Amy: I Found Your Nose. It Was In My Business

Mod: I get comments from time to time that suggest I somehow do not have the right to do this blog. These criticisms are often personal. I think that is because some don't actually understand the issues we discuss here. I received the following from someone named Amy, and here is how our moment went.

Amy: I'm so glad that you've moved out of our wonderful little city. Since you've moved out, why do you think you can contribute to this conversation.

Tattler: Because I completely enjoy doing it, Amy. I lived in Sierra Madre for 15 years and still have a lot of friends here. As I do in Arcadia, Pasadena and the other SGV towns this blog covers. When I moved out a lot of people asked me if I would keep writing, and I said that I would. Besides, 3 to 4 thousand people a day read The Tattler. So now I am supposed to stop writing it because you don't like what I have to say? It seems obvious to me that you are far more concerned with silencing people you don't agree with than anything else. Especially those folks who are politically and personally empowered by this blog.

What makes you believe you have the right to tell people what they can or cannot do, read, contribute or say? Certainly that sense of entitlement can't come from anything you know, or have accomplished. Personally I think your pique stems from a small town animus to anybody who isn't exactly like you. Anyone who doesn't belong to your small circle of identically thinking pals, or is not content to live in an information vacuum. If you don't like this blog, then go read something else. Trust me, I won't lose a moment of sleep over it.

Mod: This next one appeared on the No On UUT Facebook page. Apparently Scarlett, who lives in Pasadena, thinks I own that page. I do not. I suspect Scarlett's problem with The Tattler stems from the fact that her husband is a retired government employee, and receives an immense yearly CalPERS haul. Yes, it is always about the money. Scarlett's message also has a whiff of madness to it. Particularly her stated support for the right to a free exchange of ideas, but only so long as everyone understands that not agreeing with her is an evil incarnate.

Scarlet: I hardly ever voice my opinion politically, but I feel that I have to finally speak up. This is one the ugliest most hateful sites I have ever seen!! This site brings out the worst and ugliest in America. I had the most horribly enlightening opportunity to listen to one of these hate mongers attack everyone at the last council meeting. Please everyone!! Go by what you know and love in your heart. Not by people that are trying to destroy all that we value in our wonderful town and lives!!

After this speaker who went way over the allotted 3 minute non-agenda items (she'd probably still be talking!), my daughter gave a wonderful speech that got a standing ovation and clapping. Even if we disagree on many issues, that is our right and gift as Americans. But we need to continue to respect our differences without hate and war mongering and work together for our common good!!

Mod: Like I said, the agitated Miss Scarlett's Facebook page identifies her as being a Pasadena resident. Which pretty much explains her belief that voicing opposition to an unfair tax hike in Sierra Madre is tantamount to "hateful war mongering." 

The Lightly Visited "Yes On Measure UUT" Facebook Page Finally Allows Barry Gold To Defend Himself

Mod: In keeping with their belief that anyone who disagrees with them is a warmonger, the "Yes On Measure UUT" Facebook zoo launched a series of smear attacks on Barry Gold. They then refused to allow him to post anything there in his defense. However, so loud was the outcry over this ugly censorship, even from some of the people supporting Measure UUT, that Eddie Garcia and the other dotty dictators running the site caved in. Here is Barry's account.

Mod: Barry also made this rather profound observation.

Mod: Pretty much nails it. The Yes On Measure UUT people seem to believe that they have the right to demonize and attack any neighbor who opposes a tax hike in this town. It really is very strange behavior, and you have to wonder what it is they base that on.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Measure UUT & Sierra Madre's CalPERS Pension Debt: "Every individual household in Sierra Madre owes $6,754.00 dollars in 'unfunded market liability ...'"

Sierra Madre's untrue ballot initiative question? (link)

Most people in town would tell you that the reason they are going to vote "Yes" on Measure UUT is because they want to save the Library, or what remains of the Sierra Madre Police Department, or the Paramedics, Water Department, that sort of thing.

And you really cannot blame them too much. After all, isn't that what they are being told by the elected officials they've entrusted to run their city's affairs? Backed up by a $30,000 largely city employee union funded postcard campaign run by a Pasadena political consultant? With cash also kicked in by those very same elected officials?

So why should residents not believe what these people are telling them? It's not like they would deliberately fudge any facts in order to get more money out of the taxpayers, right? Then again, maybe they would. Because it certainly doesn't look like they are telling the truth.

Unfortunately, Measure UUT isn't going to pay for much of anything quite that useful. It isn't going to fix the pipes, repair the sidewalks, trim the trees or maintain any parks. Mostly it is going to be used to pay for employee salaries, benefits and, for the largest part, Sierra Madre's potentially crippling CalPERS municipal employee pension debt.

There is this very interesting website called Pension Tracker (link). It is run by a Dr. Joe Nation, who is the Project Director for the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. As in Stanford University in case you had any doubts, or feared some sort of conspiracy. Here is a screenshot from the site that displays just how immense California's government employee pension debt problem has become.

This $946.4 billion dollars in unfunded statewide liabilities is unequally divided among hundreds of California cities, Sierra Madre included. Here are the numbers for the town we're discussing today (link).

There are a lot of interesting and very large numbers there, including that $9,665,477 in "unfunded actuarial liability." What this means is the solons who run the city's affairs have committed to more than $9 and one half million dollars in CalPERS pension debt that they cannot otherwise pay for without first raising utility taxes here a full 66%. Out of an incredible total amount of $36,907,048. And, under California state law, the only way they can do this is to get you to vote for Measure UUT.

Untrue claims?
However, the political problem for these folks is that should the city share the real reason driving their need to get Measure UUT passed, paying for vast amounts of stupidly acquired pension debt the city cannot otherwise cover, they fear you will not vote for it. So instead City Hall, along with the mercenary-run and veracity free crew at the "Yes On UUT" campaign, have chosen to tell you that instead it is to "Save the Library," the Paramedics, etc.

None of which is actually true. Though yes, City Hall probably would fold the Library into the county system before reneging on their CalPERS obligations. 

According to Pension Tracker, every individual household in Sierra Madre owes $6,754.00 dollars in "unfunded market liability" CalPERS debt. That is what each family living in Sierra Madre is on the hook for right now. And it will go up even more as CalPERS fund investments continue to underperform. Measure UUT is how City Hall plans to collect on that family by family debt to pay for its immense CalPERS liabilities.

And why would the city want to do this? Partly because it is their own pensions that are at stake. How will they be able to retire if they don't? Or if the City of Sierra Madre slips into insolvency because it cannot pay this debt? Which, right now, it cannot. They're almost $10 million dollars in the hole.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of misinformed and naive people out there who probably never will be able to wrap their heads around any of this. Or, as P.T. Barnum famously put it, "There's a sucker born every minute."

In Sierra Madre you can tell who they are by the purple signs in their yards.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Best People Give So You Can Pay More Utility Taxes

Mod: We managed to get our mitts on the campaign donor list for the Measure UUT ballot initiative, and it is quite the who's who of the frilliest folks in the Sierra Madre community. Leona Helmsley once declared that taxes are for the little people, and writing checks so that the hoi polloi can pay even more taxes is very much in style this season. This is also pretty much a roster of those who supported every bad idea to come down in town over the last 20 years or so, from the Downtown Specific Plan right up to some of today's less than brilliant moves. Like paying $100,000 a month in hopes Larry Giannone can find people willing to work for his vanishing Police Department. And honestly, do you really want to pay an additional 66% in UUT costs to support an SMPD that recently saw nearly half of its officers quit on this town, leaving it without adequate personnel to patrol the streets at night? So you know, this is an early list of donors. Another one hits at the end of this month. Today I'm posting a partial list, I did leave some folks out. But I think this will give you the flavor of what is going down. Enjoy!

Sierra Madre Police Association ... $2,000
D. Barton Doyle ... $100
Judy Webb-Martin ... $120
Patrick Holland ... $300
John and Marta Capoccia ... $250
Janice Nelson and Doug Hayes ... $250
Robert and Antoinette Buckner ... $200
Jacqueline Pergola ... $200
Charles and Karma Bell ... $150
John and Teri Buchanan ... $150
Edward and Amelia Garcia ... $150
Carol Canterbury ... $100
David Felt ... $150
Jeffrey Dapper ... $200
K. Goldstein Trust ... $100
Kurt and Jasmine Richter Trust $150

Mod: Thank all of them for so generously giving in order to make your taxes higher. Besides, if you can't afford a 10% UUT, what are you doing living here? No cake for you.

Pasadena Star News: Arcadia council candidate gets controversial $26K donation from local developer

Mod: The Pasadena Star News has now picked up on the Bulldozer Bob Harbicht/Ta-Jen Lee campaign donation scandal. For the entire PSN article click here.

ARCADIA: A local developer that has been trying to build on an Arcadia hillside for 15 years has spent $26,850 to support a City Council candidate’s campaign, according to campaign finance records.

Instead of donating directly to Harbicht’s campaign, Nevis Capital LLC, owned by Ta-Jen Lee, routed the money through the California Homeowners Association, a political action committee in Sacramento.

The PAC spent $15,000 on a mailer sent to voters this week asking Arcadians to “bullet vote,” or only cast one vote for Harbicht, even though there are two seats open. The PAC also spent $10,000 on online marketing for candidate, records show.

Open government advocate Gil Aguirre called using PACs for local politics a “new phenomenon” that obscures where campaign money may be coming from.

“That’s an incredible amount of money for a developer to be funneling to one candidate,” he said. “Obviously, the stakes are high in Arcadia.”

And the move has some residents concerned that Lee is trying to buy Harbicht’s vote on a future project. But Harbicht disagrees.

“I consider that an insult,” he said. “My vote isn’t for sale.”

Mod: Yes, Bulldozer's vote is not for sale. But that might be because it has already been bought.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Could This Be The One And Only 2016 Election Postcard So Far That Was Created By Actual Sierra Madreans?

There have been quite a few postcards in this election to date, but it appears that the only one that was put together and mailed out by actual Sierra Madre residents is the example we've posted here today.

There are those postcards and mailers printed up by the Sierra Madre Police Association, but they were taken from prefab designs that get used for various purposes by cop unions all over the state. Besides, not only do none of the members of the SMPA actually live in this town, a large portion of them no longer even work here.

Of course, the "Yes On Measure UUT" materials being received in the mail by residents on a near daily basis are also not of Sierra Madre origin. Rather that baloney is being processed by the angry and quite secretive Pasadena political consultant John Capoccia and John Harabedian apparently hired so that they could "win at any cost."

That cost has now been estimated as closing in on $30,000, and counting.

You really do have to wonder what all of this is worth to some of the out-of-town contributors to the 66% utility tax increase campaign. Special favors at City Hall, perhaps?

The main text of the above postcard was taken from an editorial the Pasadena Star News published last week. The editorial board of that paper urgently recommended a NO vote on Measure UUT, and for some very good reasons. If you haven't read this editorial yet, here it is in its entirety.

You can link back to the PSN editorial in its original on-line setting by clicking here. That will also enable you to read the three reader comments left there as well. All of them written by a Pasadena Attorney named Mark Davis.

How many thousands of dollars are needed to defeat a write-in City Council candidate in Sierra Madre?
One indication of just how thoroughly unhinged John Capoccia, John Harabedian and various other colorful yet eccentric "Yes On Measure UUT" personalities are over Barry Gold's write-in candidacy is the amount of money, time and effort they've committed in their attempts to defeat him. On one day alone four separate articles (none of them true, of course), were posted on various Yes On Measure UUT sites about the write-in candidate.

When Barry Gold attempted to reply to the slurs directed at him on the Yes On Measure UUT Facebook page, he was blocked and censored. A stone cold indication of the control freak atmosphere driving the "Yes" campaign.

Barry then tried to contact Yes On Measure UUT headman Ed Garcia (Yes on Measure UUT Campaign Committee, FPPC# 1382371, 117 E Grandview Ave, Sierra Madre, CA), but Mr. Yes refused to take or even acknowledge his calls. Barry and Ed had served together on the UUT Oversight Committee together, and apparently got along quite nicely.

Some fellow, that Ed Garcia. My guess is that he received orders not to reply from his almost always angry Pasadena master, and was completely obedient in that regard. Apparently Ed has been told by this perma-irked one man political machine that if he behaves himself he'll get to be a City Councilman in 2018.

Have you begun to detect a pattern here? Apparently that is the going rate for useful idiots this year.

As for all those well-funded personal attacks, bigotry and (why beat around the bush?) bald-faced lies being thrown at him? Barry Gold had this to say in one of his near nightly e-mails to his supporters.

The more you get to know Barry Gold, the more you have to respect him.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Arcadia Weekly: PAC Contributes Heavily to Bob Harbicht’s Campaign Coffers – Nevis Capital, LLC Named

Bulldozer Bob Harbicht - Development's $26,850 puppet?
Mod: We're in a "tale of two cities" situation with Arcadia right now, but with only the most subtle of differences. In Sierra Madre we can see the influence of big outside money and Pasadena campaign management being brought to bear against a City Council write-in candidate. Ferocious overkill I am sure, but did a bigoted Yes On Measure UUT proponent really have to attack Barry Gold over his religion? A new level of ugliness has now been attained in the Foothill Village ... In Arcadia the troubled candidacy of big development messenger boy "Bulldozer" Bob Harbicht has just received an incredible $26,850.00 campaign contribution from, you got it, a developer. Cash committed in order defeat an insurgent opponent who has had the actual temerity to stand up for resident rights and against invasive mansionization. Terry Miller has put together quite a story for us today.

As Election Draws Closer; Lines in Sand are Drawn
By Terry Miller
As is always the case during an election, some objectionable mudslinging and misinformation finds its way to the public's attention, especially via social media and through the good ol’ U.S. Mail.

Recently the Chinese language social media venue ‘WeChat’ has targeted candidate April Verlato. The anonymous posters’ attempts to discredit the candidate by claiming she was a ‘bully’ were later quelled when another comment caused fear of a possible libel lawsuit. Meanwhile Verlato said she has no plans to file a lawsuit, but needless to say was disturbed by some of the allegations being made.

An out-of-town group known as the California Homeowners Association, out of Willows, California, is encouraging people to vote for Bob Harbicht, saying he will bring “Government Transparency.”

Arcadia Councilman Thomas Beck said: “I am disturbed by the attacks that have been leveled on at least two candidates for Arcadia City Council. In my memory this has not been done in the past, and it is not the ‘Arcadia Way’ of doing things.

“When I learned that Bob Harbicht was being attacked [referring to a previous incident] I spoke to the person I thought was behind it and to his credit I have not seen any more attacks on Bob.

“Now I am seeing outright libelous statements being made against April Verlato. I have tried to get it stopped but have been unsuccessful. This all makes me very sad. We Arcadians are better than this type of campaigning. I understand having differences of opinion but attacking and name calling of a candidate has no place in Arcadia.”

We discovered that Harbicht’s campaign has been helped significantly by one “California Home Owners Association,” allegedly out of Willow, California, but the money trail leads to Nevis LLC, the developer who wants a major hillside development in Arcadia.

We checked with the Secretary of State, and the supporting documentation shows that the California Homeowner’s Association is a PAC – “political action committee”- out of Sacramento. It recently received $26,850 from Nevis Capital, LLC. The direct beneficiary of this is Bob Harbicht.

Nevis Capital, LLC is owned by Ta Jen Lee, aka, Jeff Lee. He is both a Pasadena resident and a developer in Arcadia.

Ta Jen Lee owns the hill above the Highlands, something that he has been trying to develop for the last 15 years. The residents of the Highlands have been fighting this development as it would result in the excavation of the hillside and removal of 32 healthy oak trees for a single home.

The California Homeowner’s Association acts as a shell organization so that their candidate does not have to report contributors on his campaign finance disclosure statements.

California Homeowner’s Association disclosure statements show that $15,000 were spent on mailers for Bob Harbicht, and another $10,000 was spent for online advertising for him as well.

Arcadia Weekly contacted Jeff Lee of Nevis Capital LLC. Lee confirmed that he did contribute a large sum of money to a PAC but said he “donates to a lot of PAC’s and is never sure where the money goes…” We asked him if he supported Bob Harbicht. Lee emphatically said, “Do I support him? Absolutely… Will I vote for him? Absolutely!” But he denies being directly tied to Harbicht’s latest mailer. “ This is how PAC’s work,” he said.

Lee also made reference to the denial of a project of his on Canyon. Lee says the denial of a single home on his 100 acre hillside property there is leading his company into exploring “pre- litigation against the City of Arcadia.”

Candidate Verlato said "I cannot compete with the kind of money that can be raised by developers for Bob Harbicht. Nor would I accept money from developers. Anyone who believes that Bob Harbicht will be ‘fair and impartial’ when a project by Nevis Capital/Jeff Lee is before the City Council is fooling themselves. Do you really think that Jeff Lee is going to take a chance and contribute $26,850 to a candidate that will vote in the best interests of the residents even if it means denying Jeff Lee his project? Developers don’t care about our Community. They only care about their return on investment.”

Mod: So what is it that connects Arcadia and Sierra Madre in this election? Development. The mansionization crowd does not want Barry Gold or April Verlato on any City Council. At least in Arcadia they're being upfront about it. To read Terry Miller's article in its entirety (and there is a lot more) click here

The Sierra Madre Police Association's latest postcard

So answer this for me if you can. How can a Police Department that lamely stood by while half its officers deserted to other cities, and now cannot find the manpower to actually protect this community without the overnight assistance of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, actually claim things like "They know our neighborhoods because they are their neighborhoods, too?"

No, they're not their neighborhoods. Half of them quit and left Sierra Madre vulnerable to all kinds of criminal activity. They apparently cared little about any of that, and chances are they never did.

Just one more transparently ridiculous and deceptive postcard from the Yes on Measure UUT gang. You can only wonder how much money they have for this nonsense.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Arcadia McMansion Slump: Zillow Rates the Peacocktown Housing Market "COLD" - Sierra Madre "VERY HOT"

There is this blog from Arcadia called "Arcadia's Best." Run by some dude who now lives in Omaha, NE, it is where many decidedly naive development apologists go to post their extraordinarily clueless opinions about the town where they reside. In particular matters concerning that imported and imposed housing market cancer known to all of the world as McMansions. Something that they, folks who apparently live in a state of childlike innocence, believe will someday soon be a source of great wealth for them. You know, just like that other celebrated Arcadia investment engine, the GemCoin. Here are some examples of opinions from a few offbeat individuals.

Well, you know what? All three of these gents don't have the foggiest notion about what they're talking about. As misguided as they come I'm afraid. 

Fortunately we have a cure. What follows here are two charts from, which is one of the more widely read and consulted resources for what is going on with property values in housing markets all over the country.

You will see that Arcadia, which has allowed significant portions of its environs to be turned into an unfortunate imitation of the ultra-conformist mansionized cookie cutter suburbs of Beijing, is in quite a serious housing slump. Whereas Sierra Madre, which has put into place tough restrictions against such McBlight, is clearly on fire.

Here is a portion of Zillow's Arcadia report. For all of the sad news click here.

Pretty bad, right? Arcadia's -6.1% home value slide is truly awful. By contrast, here is some good news about what is going on in preservationist Sierra Madre (link).

Just in case any of those three oxymoronic "Arcadia's Best" correspondents are reading this, "very hot" means homeowners are going to get a lot of money for their wickiups if they sell. In this case Sierra Madre, which has a Planning Commission and residents who never sold the place out, is that desirable a housing market. 

Whereas the word "cold," as it is used here by Zillow, means that people who are attempting to sell their homes in Arcadia are likely to get hosed. Probably with ice water. Just like those now desperate developers who built the dozens of still unsold mausoleum-looking McMansions currently littering the place.

Not that they're likely to understand any of this, of course.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Not Too Much Going On At Tonight's City Council Meeting

Apparently the City Council doesn't want to distract anyone too much from the important business of voting to raise your utility taxes, so they decided to not do much of anything tonight.

No important decisions will be made this evening, rather a few pleasant and congratulatory presentations will take place, and then a discussion about the important topic of water conservation will commence. Lucky you, right? Certainly nobody can ever have too many of those.

The good news here is Sierra Madre is actually hitting its state mandated water conservation numbers for the first half of March. After many long months of coming up way short in this regard, it does look like things are going much better now. So what is the reason for this dramatic turnaround? It is kind of a surprise, actually (link).

Let me ask you this. Is it now possible to say that Sierra Madre's past months of futility in regards to its failure to hit state mandated water use reduction numbers was due to water "distribution system leaks?" Kind of an odd thing since none of that was ever officially considered the cause in the past. We weren't even supposed to go there, or so I was told several times by someone in a position to know better.

As a matter of fact, weren't we also told by all the usual suspects that water main leaks could not be claimed as a cause for Sierra Madre's water reduction shortfalls because such things couldn't actually be measured? And therefore these shortfalls had to be considered the fault of water-wasting residents instead? As a kind of default position I guess. Somebody had to take that blame, and City Hall would never accept the honor.

Here is what Bruce "Master of Disaster" Inman told the Pasadena Star News last December 27th (link):

So now these things can be, to use the fat word, "quantified?" Does this mean that after a couple of years of being asked for this data, City Hall can finally cough those numbers up? Do the residents get an apology for being blamed for water conservation shortfalls when it reality it was those leaking pipes all along? 

I know, asking for carefully reasoned and measured consistency where none can ever possibly exist is pretty much the definition of folly. But for sanity's sake at least you do need to say something.

Speaking of which, I won't be able to watch this evening's meeting because of my now robust work schedule. If anyone wants to send me some notes about the goings-on tonight, I'll use them for tomorrow. Otherwise I'll just find something else to write about.

A Recent Statement From Preserve Sierra Madre

(Mod: I kept meaning to post this. Sorry about the delay.)

Dear Supporters:

There are three houses located at 86 E. Highland, 78 E. Highland and 70 E. Highland in Sierra Madre that are being sold together as a development opportunity to build 9 condominium units.  According to the Realtor multiple listing service, the asking price is $3,300,000 and the property is currently in escrow.   The combined square footage for all three lots is over 29,000 square foot and the property is in the R-3 Zoning.  The current gross rent for all the homes is $7,600 per month.

The link to the property and pictures can be found at:

If you drive by the properties in question, you are likely to conclude that it would not be an improvement to the neighborhood to tear them down in favor of another big condominium development.
86 E. Highland and 70 E. Highland were built in 1931 and 1933 respectively. We presume they will be subject to the demolition ordinance that applies to homes that were built before 1940.  While it doesn't prevent the demolition of these two homes, the applicant does have to show that the homes have no historical significance. 78 E. Highland was built in 1947 and so will not be subject to the demolition ordinance. Evidently there is also a fourth rental unit that must be located behind one of the other homes and we do not know when it was built.       

We are also presuming that the water meter moratorium will prevent additional water meters from being added to the property although there has been some concern expressed to us about the possibility of "sub-metering" to allow the 9 units.

We don't know what the new Buyers' plans are for the property so any actions would be premature until the new Buyers submit a plan to the city. We are still hopeful that the new Buyers will consider leaving the property the way it is.
If you have any further information regarding this property, please email us. Thank you for your support.

Steering Committee
Preserve Sierra Madre

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Great Letter To The Editor That You Probably Missed

No election readers?
You really do have to wonder if all that many people are tuning in to this election. Obviously a lot of perfectly innocent trees have been murdered to supply all of the pulp products being printed upon by the always politically panicked and pro-UUT Pasadena campaign consultant Napoleon Cheesecake. But to what actual effect? Has it all been little more than just one big junk mail fail?

By all accounts that boozey and rather incestuous "Yes On UUT" fundraiser held at cop union compliant Councilmember John Harabedian's house yesterday was a disappointing mess. Many are now questioning the ability of that campaign to financially sustain its largely counterproductive "canard by postcard" effort all the way up until the city's April 12th election.

There is also this picture of an awfully large stack of near pristine issues of the Mountain Views News. Taken out in front of Bean Town at around noon yesterday, a full day after having first been delivered there, Sierra Madre's adjudicated paper of record would, during a normal election, be snapped up at a quite high rate right about now. Yet here we can see that the paper was almost completely ignored this weekend by those frequenting Sierra Madre's downtown area. It does seem as if nobody cares much.

Which is actually a shame because, and quite contrary to the paper's usual practice, there was a very well written and thought out anti-Measure UUT letter published in this largely ignored edition. In case you missed it, and by all appearances you apparently did, we are now reproducing it here. You do need to check this out.

That letter does list some inconvenient facts, all of which have apparently been air-brushed from the picture being presented by City Hall. Then deliberately not included in those taxpayer funded flyers that were mailed to the voters. Done as part of their effort to get Measure UUT passed so that the CalPERS gravy train benefitting them personally stays on the tracks.

I believe the term for this is "lie by omission." Here is the Wikipedia definition:

Not at all a pretty picture.

So why does the "Yes On UUT" campaign lie so much?
As I am sure all parents have told their kids, and way more than once, the truth is always the strongest argument. But what if that truth works against your real purposes, as it so clearly does in the case of City Hall and Measure UUT?

Obviously the city wants more utility tax money because that is what will further fund their CalPERS retirement accounts. But they can't actually come out and say that, right? Well, I guess they could, but it probably wouldn't get them the votes they need to pass this sadly misrepresented measure.

One lie that has been making the rounds lately is directed at Barry Gold, the write-in candidate for Sierra Madre's City Council. Here is how this absurd distortion of the facts was stated yesterday in a comment published on this site.

Here is how Barry Gold responded to that.

A good answer from Barry Gold, but apparently that wasn't what his attacker was looking for, because later that individual (I believe) came back with something else.

It got much worse
The following is pretty ugly, but I would not be doing my job correctly if I did not share this with you. Here are two comments also targeting Barry Gold yesterday. Both took aim at his religion.

After I deleted that rank act of stupidity, the commenter was not happy. This is what showed up next.

I am not about to accuse the entire "Yes On UUT" campaign of anti-semitism. That would obviously be incorrect. But apparently it is an available option for at least one of them.

Arcadia has a General Fund of billions 
Or at least so says Joan Schmidt, a Mountain Views News correspondent for the City of Arcadia. Here is a screen shot of her article published in this weekend's edition.

A $54.9 billion dollar General Fund does seem like a lot. Even for a city with as many overpaid employees as Arcadia.

Hopefully they can find it in themselves to trim that budget just a little bit.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Tony Brandenburg: Oh Mother of God, if I Don't Cave in We'll Lose Our ...

Tony and Dario Brandenburg
Mod: After about six triumphant world tours with his band The Adolescents (and I mean everywhere in the world, even some of those weird little out of the way countries most people will never visit), Tony Brandenburg, a guy who gets to have more fun than anyone I know (including me), has at last returned to the electronic pages of The Tattler. After the vast sea swells of sanctimony that have hit this town lately, it is not a moment too soon.

Oh Mother of God, if I Don't Cave in We'll Lose Our ... Library. Be honest. When was the last time you went to the library? I mean that cute one in Sierra Madre, the one that we drive past every day on our way to somewhere else. Yeah, that one. I don't remember either. Once in a while I go to the Walnut Branch of the Pasadena Library and get books. I am totally cool with their taxpayers paying for a library for me to get books from. Check it out, I am a big boy and I have big boy britches, and I can go a couple miles to get a book. Hell, Abe Lincoln did it, and he didn't even have a Ford to take him there.

Put that in your stove pipe hat and smoke it.

I think the last time I actually went to the Sierra Madre Library was around the time my youngest one was in grade school and half of the Sierra Madre Elementary School staff, the horse jockey, the Navy Seal, the then Los Angeles County Sheriff/prisoner beater, and the District Attorney all decided he was the most dangerous 6 year old on the planet.

Yeah, I haven't forgotten any of those fine people. I'm probably the only agnostic on the planet who prays to the Dark Lord to rain brimstone all over their pathetic souls.

But, yeah, the school had decided a punishment room was a better choice for the money, not a librarian at the elementary school. Much more practical to get the suckers in Sierra Madre to pay for a library so that Pasadena kids going to school here don't have to read cereal boxes, the Internet, and endless tax me mailers sent by the Sierra Madre Police Association PAC and Sierra Madre City Council turncoats.

Oh, hey, did I ever tell you about how the Los Angeles District Attorney and his wife went to the PUSD superintendent a couple three years back with a letter about how afraid of us they were? This being the big bad wolf that blows down all the gang bangers houses with cease and desists?

Hilarious. Remind me to find their whiney crybaby letter that they walked over to the superintendent  one of these days. Yeah, the Pasadena Unified School District gave it to us, mostly because they were as baffled by it as we were.

Notorious B.R.A.H.
We stopped fighting to keep our boys in the PUSD public sector a while ago. We finally decided to let the PUSD put them into a private school. It was the smartest thing we ever did - giving up that fight. Now my kids get an education at a taxpayer cost that would feed a third world nation.

Fine. You win, District Attorney, and so did your queen. And the rest of you namby-pamby twerps. Good on you. Lol.

Speaking of District Attorneys, did our smirky Councilman Little Johnny Sunshine really get himself a job with the rest of that piddle of pond scum? Somehow that makes perfect sense to me.

Oh yeah, I was talking about the Library. I know, I know. It's cute, it's ours, and it makes us feel all high, mighty, and superior to the other cities because we have it. We like to wear our privileges out in front like that.

But, much like the Assisted Living Facility, and its groovy street level shops that the marketing guy promised as they sucked out the water and kicked up the dust - and all of those groovy stores in town - no one actually uses any of it. Well, except for the bar and the coffee shops. Even those would get a boost if they sold hash instead of donuts. It won't be long.

Yeah. The library. We really care, man.

Police Department
Good grief. Again? What do they want now? A tank? More chalk to mark my tires? A bitchen Camaro with psychedelic blue and red lights? Paintballs? Another taser? Detective Amos back targets?

And oh, please God help us if they leave and we don't have our own Police Department. Those are the things that matter, right? Because, much like the Sierra Madre Library - the Sierra Madre Police Department is ours, and it gives us that pride that makes us better than everyone else.

I know, I know. They make you feel safe. Me too. I know that you will wear your seat belts correctly, and park between the lines. When they are actually painted there.

But what, exactly, are we worried about?

A home invasion in the middle of the night?

I have seen some gnarly skunks, raccoons, a thirsty coyote, and a pack of marauding squirrels out late into the post-Buccaneer last call night creeping around. Maybe one of them could talk to the owl that keeps crapping on my car. I have a permit that I bought from the po-po so I have first dibs on that spot. I'm sure the owl does not.

Me, I've lived here 25 years, and though I had a neighbor around 20 years back who acted batshoot crazy, the only people who've ever pointed guns at me were Sierra Madre Police. They wanted me to drop my towel.

Good thing I was dressed.

UUT, or the Tax Hike that Cried "Wolf"
Just when the whiney crybaby crap had mellowed out as much as it could in this town, back came the rate hike that wouldn't flake-off-and-die.

Apparently the City Council hasn't figured out that after two elections we don't want it. So here we go again.

I know, there's this big huge DEBT that can only be fixed by raising taxes. I get it. We pay for a Police Department that outsources as much as they can (parking permits anyone?) and we gotta boost those revenues somehow to make sure we can pay their salaries and benefiber - I mean benefits - so they have the time to outsource more.

We can't seem to make enough bank on our craft fairs and all the streams of buses going up and down the street to see the damn wistaria. Porta-potties cost money! They don't grow on diminished pepper trees!

Oh, help me Jesus, if we don't do this we're going to lose everything that makes us so quaint and full of ourselves. God help us if we have to actually be responsible for ourselves and our well-being. Everyone knows we really need a city government to budget for us. What would we do without that Wistaria Fete, the Halloween Parade, and the oh-so-vital Huck Finn Fishing Derby MWD swamp.

Yeah, yeah. I know. Shame on me for fish bashing.

Donald Trump
Speaking of which. Thank you Dingleberry Don for dragging politics down to a whole new level. The best pissing match on earth. Grab your rulers, gentlemen. The candidate with the biggest hands wins.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Measure UUT Postcard Shocker: A Sierra Madre City Council Supports A Tax Increase

Silliest damn postcard yet. Where do they come up with this half crazy nonsense? Of course the entire City Council supports Measure UUT. It is a tax increase ballot initiative, and Sierra Madre's City Councils always support tax increase votes. It is a timeless Foothill Village tradition.

Even for those City Councils with members who ran for office as candidates opposed to utility tax increases. Which for this card is 60% of the smiling emojis pictured above. Also a Foothill Village tradition. It is some sort of a mysterious transformation that takes place once anti-utility tax increase candidates are elected and park their mighty fine selves behind the dais. They quickly develop tax hike ants in the pants, and Good Lord Almighty they sure wanna dance.

Maybe it is that pod people thing. Or somehow the City Manager has convinced them to turn over their eternal souls, which she then keeps under her desk in small dark blue bottles. Preserved in pickle brine, powdered batwing and Clorox. I hear she has quite the collection. Certainly that would explain her ability to hold onto that job while everything she touches crashes, burns, explodes, or just flat out fails.

But wait, there's more. Apparently the "Yes On UUT Party" has now spent so much money on these dotty cards that they've run out of money. Why? That Tattler bashing 4-page flyer their narcissistic Pasadena campaign manager spent $3,900 dollars on, done in a steaming hot snit because this blog dared to point out his utility tax flip-flopping ways, helped break the piggy bank.

So now they've been forced to hold a fundraiser. Over at Harabedian's house, of all places. An appropriate setting for dull and uninspiring tax cultists to gather and chew their cuds. Think of it as an exclusive tax hike party just for Measure UUT supporters, necessary because the Five Emojis and their preening campaign manager spent all of the money. Nothing new in that, right?

Did you get this e-mail recently via something called Mail Chimp?

You might want to think carefully about this. It is 2 hours of your life that you will never get back.

Also from today's "Yes On Measure UUT" postcard

I'm sorry, but that is flat-out untrue. A large portion of the funds that would be raised by Measure UUT will go to pay for things like Sierra Madre's over $9 million dollars in unfunded CalPERS debt. It is the elephant in the room that this City Council refuses to acknowledge. Probably because it might cause you to vote "NO."

Rachelle Arizmendi on tax hikes when she ran for office in 2014

"The City of Sierra Madre must learn to live within its means without tax increases."

Uh, sure. Also, apparently Rachelle's solution to "the city's unfunded pension liability ... a growing problem that must be solved" is Measure UUT. Meaning 100% of that money isn't going to stay in Sierra Madre to fund things such as the paramedics or library like it says on "Yes On Measure UUT's" deceptive postcard. Rather a big chunk of it is going to CalPERS, which is located in Sacramento.

Is Eric Olson "All Caps?"

Mod: Interesting exchange on the "No On UUT" Facebook page.

Some of you might remember Mr. Olson from his One Carter/Maranatha advocacy days. Good to see he hasn't gotten the least bit smarter with age.