Saturday, April 21, 2018

Sierra Madre Final Vote Is In - And Nothing Has Changed!

Well, OK, the numbers are a little larger than the last time we checked. It does look like Bencosme is going to remain stuck forever at just under the 1,000 vote mark. Which is kind of sad because even I broke that threshold. I think I was at the $5 a vote level. Modest by today's standards, though at the time it seemed like a lot.

However, I don't recall having had a budget of anywhere between $20,000 and $30,000 dollars. No, I know I didn't. We won't really know about MrAndy B's complete boodle for certain until sometime in July when final campaign financial disclosures will be revealed. And yes, we will find out. It is very important that we do.

Remember our latest Tattler aphorism: "The big money is in lying. Truth is for volunteers."

But I digress. These truly are great days for Sierra Madre. The city is in the best shape it has been in years, preservation is making regular work-a-day folks into home owning millionaires and, God bless us all, the voters have actually become smart enough to elect people who represent their interests. As unbelievable as that may have seemed just a few years back.

So, can we celebrate yet? Well, I am happy to tell you, folks are getting ready for that. The political juggernaut previously known as Preserve Sierra Madre (actually, they still are), sent out the following email blast yesterday. For people who worry so much they sure do sound happy.

Dear SupportersThere will be an installation ceremony for the new Mayor of Sierra Madre at the next City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 24th beginning at 6:30 pm. 

We are very pleased and excited at the re-election of the three candidates endorsed by Preserve Sierra Madre: current Mayor Rachelle Arizmendi, Mayor Pro-Tem Denise Delmar and former Mayor Gene Goss.  They have done an outstanding job in their four years on the City Council and we expect the same from them over the next four years.  

All of you made a difference in this election and helped to make this day possible so it might by fun to attend this event.  The formal presentation will occur towards the end of the meeting and refreshments will be served in the City Hall reception area immediately following the City Council meeting. We hope to see you there!

Thank you for your support. Steering Commiteee

Did you see that? The word committee had three e's at the end. I'm telling you, I have never seen them so wild before.

For those of you who enjoy walking on the analytical side of life, I was on an e-mail chain yesterday where they broke down the vote totals in some surprising ways. Or at least I was impressed.

We had a meeting of Inspectors with Laura Aguilar yesterday. Interesting facts: Vote by mail was 1,521 ballots, or 19.8%. Precinct voting was 1,161 or 15.0 %. Overall that was 35.9%. Total ballots cast: 2,682.  I don't know how that compares to the last few years, but in the '80's and 90's we had well over 50%. 

Another interesting fact: Many ballots had only two votes, Denise and Andy.  And, many had single votes --- most of those were for Delmar. Of the vote by mail ballots, the County invalidated 10.  

There were an additional 7 with no signature. Laura contacted those folks and got signatures from 6. And, all in all, only 12 ballots were not counted, those were for signatures that didn't match the registration. People who say that elections are not on the up and up need to take heed. I think Sierra Madre has the fairest elections anywhere.

Many ballots voted yes on Measure D and didn't vote for the council candidates. But the no votes got 81.7%; Yes 18.2%

You know what? Somehow all of this makes me happy.

Paul Lauritz (1889 - 1975) "The Evening Hour, Sierra Madre"

Wait. Even more good news for Sierra Madre?

Mod: I know. You might find yourself wondering, am I reading The Tattler? But this really is more good news. Remember the conversations here recently about some impending Sacramento high density housing development mandates, and how even Sierra Madre's funky little bus station by Kersting Court might have become the cause of some big LULU (Locally Unwanted Land Use) development? Well, all of that misery died last week. Here is an article you should enjoy.

The takeaway from the sudden death of California's most controversial housing bill in years (NPR link): The most controversial state housing bill in recent memory died with a pretty resounding thud.

Senate Bill 827, which would have forced cities to allow taller, denser development around public transit, got only four votes on the 13-member Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing. Both Democrat and Republican lawmakers voted against the bill.

Authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener, Democrat from San Francisco, the bill would have allowed developers to build five-story apartment buildings near major public transit stops, including neighborhoods previously zoned for single family homes. The bill received a ton of media attention, including a fairly flattering write-up on the front page of the New York Times.

UrbanistYes In My Backyard” (YIMBY) groups mourned the bill’s death as yet another roadblock to building the new housing the state so desperately needs. Cities and anti-gentrification groups cheered the demise of what they viewed as an unprecedented inroad on local control.

Mod: Too much joy, I'm telling you. The rest of the good news is available at the link.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Did Mayor Pro Tem Sho Tay Trigger The Brown Act At Tuesday Evening's Arcadia City Council Meeting?

Mod: I was forwarded the following email sent by Arcadia resident Laurie Thompson to City Attorney Stephen P. Deitsch this past Wednesday. It now appears Sho Tay has opened up a legal Pandora's Box with some of the words that slipped from his loose lips at Tuesday evening's City Council meeting. Here is her note to City Hall.

Last night MPT Tay described a vote taken in closed session regarding public safety in Arcadia.  Can you please provide the date of this closed session and a copy of the notice of the agendized item?  I do not recall the Brown Act allowing for a closed session to discuss public safety and crime. If this meeting truly did occur, please provide the reference in the Brown Act that allows for such a meeting.

This claim by MPT Tay seems dubious at best.

Also please send me copies of any other emails or letters you receive regarding MPT Tay’s claims of closed session deliberations as I want to start a support group for victims of MPT Tay’s false claims.

Laurie Thompson

Mod: City Attorney Deitsch has yet to reply to Laurie, which is not surprising. I'm not sure that he, or anyone else there, has decided quite how to handle this latest mishap from a loose cannon who apparently doesn't understand right from wrong. 

Do Post Offices in other cities have to do this?

Mod: You might have thought that one of those highly compensated cops in Arcadia would have stopped by and checked up on the Post Office every once in a while.

Final Arcadia vote totals

Mod: To look at the exact same thing on the City of Arcadia site, please click here.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The FPPC Launches An Investigation Into Arcadia Mayor Pro Tem Sho Tay's Possible Misuse Of Campaign Funds

With Arcadia's City Council reorganization scheduled for this coming Tuesday, today's news couldn't be coming at a worse time for Mayor Pro Tem Sho Tay. His elevation to Mayor, which due to the custom of succession should have been a nearly automatic process, is now very much on the minds of many. Can an elected official under investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission for serious campaign law violations still be voted by his colleagues the next Mayor of Arcadia?

The complaint was filed because of independent cash expenditures made by the Committee To Elect Sho Tay Arcadia City Council 2018 in support of the campaigns of Bob Harbicht and Roger Chandler. Candidates cannot send mailers supporting other candidates. This is considered a "fraudulent use" because it in effect makes contributions seem like they went to one candidate, in this case Sho Tay, and not to the candidates that the contributions actually benefited, which was Harbicht and Chandler. What Sho Tay did was allow contributions from real estate interests to go through him and not directly to Harbicht and Chandler as they should have by law.

Here is the passage from an FPPC document that spells out the law in this situation. It comes from that portion dealing with the legal use of campaign funds (link):

Sho Tay's wife, Sherry Tay, is the Treasurer of his Committee. This could also possibly be a serious problem according to the FPPC rule book (link).

The opening of this investigation means that the FPPC has found clear evidence of campaign law violations. Now they are determining just how egregious these violations were, and how much money they should fine Sho Tay. Here is the FPPC's notification.

Mod: Today's edition of The Arcadia Weekly also has a report on this scandal (link).

Arcadia Mayor ProTem. Under Investigation by FPPC - State Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) Scrutinizes Multiple Complaints

By Terry Miller

Arcadia Weekly has received documents regarding an investigation into Mayor Pro Tem Sho Tay’s election campaign alleging unfair political practices, specifically eluding to spending campaign dollars he received and used to support candidates Bob Harbicht and councilman Roger Chandler.

This newspaper has learned that at least 3 separate complaints against Sho Tay have been filed for not only financing the printing and distribution of “misleading and false” mailers, but also not disclosing campaign funds he received within the required 24 hour period after receipt.

Arcadia Weekly has also learned that Sho Tay received two separate payments of $2500 and $1000 on January 15 for his campaign. Tay did not disclose the $3500 until March 13, 2018.

Ironically, Sho Tay never needed the campaign funds as he was appointed to council when the only opponent to Tay’s campaign abruptly changed his mind at the eleventh hour.

Another complaint registered is in regards to Sho Tay’s conflict of interest in not disclosing, initially, on his election paperwork that he owns a gun range.

Councilman Tom Beck took exception Tuesday to Sho Tay’s use of derogatory mailers attacking him. Beck held up copies of mailers during the meeting that Tay had paid for which directly attacked Beck in English and Chinese during the election.

Councilman Beck’s assertion was that it was an ugly campaign where his opposition insisted that he (Beck) wasn’t for a safer Arcadia, or a stronger police force. Beck pointed out that all council members had voted 5-0 when it came to public safety, therefore Harbicht and Chandler’s statements were completely unfounded.

Councilman Beck also made a concerted effort, during Tuesday’s council meeting, to point out that traditionally candidates donate unspent campaign funds to local charities…and not for personal gain i.e. spending money supporting other candidates.

Tay countered saying he doesn’t understand why people were picking on him when all he wanted to do was ‘unite’ the council and the community at large.

Mod: Here are some of Mayor Pro Tem Sho Tay's possibly illegal campaign flyers.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

What Is Up With Sierra Madre's Kersting Court Now?

The topic of renovating Kersting Court is once again rising from its shallow cobwebbed resting place and is beginning to work its way through the Community Services Commission. This isn't the first time such a thing has occurred, which is why some folks have been keeping a wary eye on these latest Kersting developments.

Just to give you the bare bones of what has only just begun this time, to the left is a document put together this week by the Community Services Commission detailing how this could all break down. Again, it is just a start, so there is plenty of time to get things done properly. But there is also the potential for other things to occur as well, which is why I've decided to bring it up now. Because the last time this puppy got out of the pen things got a little wild, with the end result being the entire project was unceremoniously jettisoned, and Sierra Madre's rather tiny version of a Central Park remained untouched for a while. Somehow the town survived.

The Last Time This Happened

Here is how a City Hall document (link) created in July of 2016 described what was to become of Kersting Court. Trust me, it was not as well received as its creators probably hoped.

"Permanent Holiday Tree" indeed. I think what probably skewed the imaginations of a concerned portion of Sierra Madre's residents was the accompanying art. In what became derisively known as "Starbucks Park Modern," these illustrations were soon rather famous, but not in the good way.

Using my best "Art Talk" prose, here is how I described this at the time.

But what fascinates me today is the actual art involved. No, not that rather commonplace stuff they're talking about planting in Kersting Court. What I find quite remarkable are the graphic depictions of that once happy place found at the bottom of the staff report. They are really something.

The adult figures shown in these pictures are all sitting up straight, and in the most painfully erect postures imaginable. Their collective gaze, true thousand mile stares, are firmly fixed upon matters both internal and far away. Beyond the park is a vast encircling landscape that is featureless, empty, spiritually vacant, and uniformly gray.

All of which makes Kersting Court appear like an island having no visible exits.

With the possible exception of some well-mannered children, and the obligatory dog of course, nobody seated there is looking at the person next to them. As I said, some there have Starbucks beverages in their hands and, elbows held high, their only concern is consuming those drinks.

Obviously most of those so depicted have contributed to the well-being of the downtown economy by purchasing and ingesting mass manufactured drink products, and paid a little sales tax to do it. Perhaps it is their one true purpose in life?

So is this a new art genre? If so, I would call it Future Kersting. A brave new world populated by people dedicated to both good posture and drinking liquids from cups. All while apparently oblivious to an ominous world that has now consumed them.

I guess we'll have to wait and see how it all rolls out this time. I'm sure we'll have fun.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Paul Krugman Asks An Apt Question: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a pee tape?"

Mod: It has been a minute since we discussed what is quite possibly the most disgraceful fellow to ever move into the White House. But I have been a Paul Krugman fan for years, and in my opinion he really hit a home run with this series of tweets. Of course, you might not agree. That is what is so great about this country, you don't have to. And isn't it fun to think that national politics can be just as bizarre as the local version?

Paul Krugman Asks An Apt Question: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a pee tape?" (Daily Kos link): Dusting off a famous phrase from John Kerry’s Winter Soldier testimony Paul Krugman asks: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a pee tape?"

Twitter: “I've met a fair number of serving officers in the U.S. military. They're very impressive -- smart, sophisticated, well-informed. And they take honor very seriously. What must it be like for them now?

They know perfectly well that the current commander-in-chief is a man of no honor whatsoever -- dishonest, corrupt, quite possibly being blackmailed by a hostile foreign power.

Could such a man deliberately wag the dog? That is, might he engage in military action -- killing people, and putting U.S. servicemen and women at risk -- to distract from his scandals? Of course he could.

Was the Syria strike an example? Not clear. But the suspicion is obvious and unavoidable. And who knows what comes next? So if you're in the military, you have to be asking yourself: how do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a pee tape?”

Trump supporters rip decision to strike Syria (Politico link): Some of President Donald Trump’s staunchest backers tore into his decision to attack Syria late Friday night, arguing it was unnecessary, reactionary and even Clinton-esque.

In tweet storms and video responses, they compared Trump’s decision to attack Syrian targets to actions taken by President George W. Bush or a hypothetical President Hillary Clinton.

“We lost. War machine bombs Syria. No evidence Assad did it. Sad warmongers hijacking our nation,” tweeted conservative author and radio host Michael Savage. Savage also posted a video discussing the missile strikes, tearing into Trump’s decision.

There was a clear sense of disappointment among a certain strand of Trump supporter as the president announced a “precision strike” against the regime of Bashar Assad on Friday in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack last week.

The anguish came from supporters who latched on to Trump’s “America First” promise during the campaign. They argued that Trump’s decision undermined his promise to disentangle the U.S. from global conflicts, saying it reeked of the same old, same old.

Donald Bush,” tweeted Mike Cernovich, a conservative author and once a staunch supporter of Trump.

“Congratulations to the Trump administration for adopting the same failed foreign policy and ignoring of the constitution as the last two administrations,” tweeted Doug Stafford, a strategist for Sen. Rand Paul’s RANDPAC.

Mod: And then there was that time Republicans threatened to impeach Obama if he bombed Syria without congressional approval. The following is from Sept of 2013.

Hunter: Obama inviting impeachment if he strikes Syria without Congress (Washington Times link): Rep. Duncan Hunter said Tuesday that President Obama would be breaking the law and even inviting impeachment if he went ahead with strikes on Syria after a congressional rejection.

“I think he’s breaking the law if he strikes without congressional approval,” Mr. Hunter, a California Republican, told The Washington Times. “And if he proceeds without Congress providing that authority, it should be considered an impeachable offense.” Mr. Obama this weekend sent Congress a draft resolution authorizing use of force to take out Syria’s facilities for weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons.

But the president said he believes he still has authority to strike unilaterally without backing from Congress, and his aides reportedly said they believe he could still act even if Congress voted next week to reject his request for authorization of force.

Mod: Personally I find it hard to believe that there are still people who actually believe Trump is a conservative. Then again, they probably never really got it anyway. They just wanted their side to win.

Monday, April 16, 2018

LA Conservancy: Pasadena, Sierra Madre and Arcadia

Mod: I've been enjoying some of the comments left on the so-called Arcadia's Best site back during the recent election, and there really is a wealth of fine blogging material there. I don't know if it is the naivety of the commenters themselves, or if they were expected by AB's administrator to say such things, but some of these folks really missed the point. One such individual, who alludes to himself as Nelson G, even referred to the LA Conservancy as "extremist." Here is this dude's rather wild ride:

I support the preservation efforts, but not the over reaching draft ordinance as it stands today. I am very aware of LA Conservancy. In fact, the recent push for historic preservation ordinance in Arcadia was triggered by an “F” grade received by Arcadia in 2014 for the lack of historic preservation effort. OMG, an F! The fact is, there are more cities getting F than the sum of all other cities getting all other grades. That makes you wonder how objective the criteria used by LA Conservancy are. How legitimate is LA Conservancy? I feel that their views are quite extreme, as are their criteria. For example, a city will get credit for “Owner Consent Not Required for Designation”. How outrageous! I wonder if getting an F from LA Conservancy is a bad thing or good thing. Of the small list of poster children you provided, our close neighbor San Marino fare even worse than Arcadia, because they had the sense to not waste $120k on a “Survey of Historic Resources”, hence lower total score. San Marino has not adopted a historic preservation ordinance, although they may be considering one. San Marion has proved that it is possible to do a good job preserving their city over the years, without the tyrannous preservation ordinance. Our other close neighbor Temple City got 0 points for their historic preservation effort. But they are $120k richer than us. There are more cities getting 0 than 100% for sure. 

Just to help Nelson understand how the LA Conservancy works (link), not every city in Los Angeles County has received an ignominious 'F' grade. As a matter of fact, 2 out of the 3 cities this blog covers actually did rather well. Proving that some cities do take some pride in making themselves both attractive and historically interesting. Here are the grades for these towns, in descending order.

The news on the two cities cited above came from overviews, which is what I have supplied to you here. However, with Arcadia there isn't very much good to talk about, so sadly there was no such overview provided. So what I am going to do here is go directly to the LA Conservancy report card. As you already know, it isn't what anyone would call pretty. 25 out of a possible 245 points never could be anything but bad.

It is sad to think that the one thing Arcadia did have going for it was the Denny's windmill. Unfortunately, the windmill itself fell off its spindle recently and crashed through the restaurant roof. Think of it as a new version of the Grand Slam breakfast.

Maybe our friend Nelson G should consider that a metaphor worth pondering.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Homeland Security Begins to Compile a Database of Journalists, Bloggers and Social Media Influencers

Mod: Back when anybody actually cared about what was being said there, the following remarks were left on the so-called Arcadia's Best website by some humorless little knob who uses the anonymous handle "Edmund L." At the time I thought it was just about the funniest thing I had ever read there.

"As an Arcadian resident I’m curious and puzzled by how some of our residents will take so seriously what the infamous Sierra Madre Tattler writes about what’s going on in our town and in the Arcadia election. First of all, we seriously question the legitimacy of this blog. We never see any authorship to any of those articles. All the comments following the articles are anonymous as well. Can people believe in those articles and comments? Yet, some campaign helpers of this election are using these articles to send to different communities and even posted those on the Nextdoor application, only to be taken down as illegal posting by Next Door administration ... He always calls us Arcadians Peacockians and calls Arcadia Peacocktown with a rather disrespectful tone. His articles are even more out of touch of reality, they are full of misleading information, personal attacks, and sometime pure lies ... I would like to urge our own city news paper to be very cautious and prudent when they decided to publish articles with that seemingly illegal blog. This will ruin Arcadia Weekly’s reputation and credibility, soon to lose subscriptions and commercials when they found out the connections."

I'm not sure how many subscriptions a free distribution newspaper can lose, but you do understand that some people will say anything to make a point. And trust me, I've been kicked off of far better websites than Next Door. Obviously City Council meeting gadfly Edmund L. did not make his points that well since his candidate, Aloha Bob Harbicht, just lost his second City Council race in two years. But where I might have underestimated Edmund L. is with his comment that The Tattler could be an "illegal blog." You know, like many blogs are in China, or in any other similar third world dictatorship. According to the Huffington Post he may have been on to something.

Homeland Security To Compile A Database Of Journalists, Bloggers And Influencers (Huffington Post link): The Department of Homeland Security sparked concerns among media circles after news spread that the agency was creating an online database to monitor journalists, bloggers, social media influencers and others. Word got out after Bloomberg Government surfaced a job posting from DHS seeking a contractor for a “media monitoring services” project. The job entails creating a searchable database that has the ability to track about 290,000 news sources, both foreign and domestic, according to the DHS’s statement of work.

The contractor will help DHS monitor “traditional news sources as well as social media, identify any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event,” the job description reads.

“Services shall provide media comparison tools, design and rebranding tools, communication tools, and the ability to identify top media influencers.”

The online platform should also be able to instantly translate media from 100 languages, including Chinese and Russian, into English. It should also be able to analyze the coverage’s “sentiment” and “momentum.”

With President Donald Trump’s aggressive rhetoric against the mainstream news ― he once labeled journalists as the “enemy of the people” ― many in the media industry saw the database as yet another attack on the free press.

Department Of Homeland Security Compiling Database Of Journalists And 'Media Influencers' (Forbes link): In today’s installment of "I’m Not Terrified, You Are," Bloomberg Government reports on a posting by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the relatively benign-sounding subject “Media Monitoring Services.”

The details of the attached Statement of Work, however, outline a plan to gather and monitor the public activities of media professionals and influencers and are enough to cause nightmares of constitutional proportions, particularly as the freedom of the press is under attack worldwide. And "attack" is not hyperbolic.

Every day, journalists face serious consequences including physical violence, imprisonment and death. A few days ago, the Committee to Protect Journalists launched its annual Free The Press campaign to raise awareness about imprisoned journalists throughout the world.

On May 3, UNESCO will once again mark World Press Freedom Day "to inform citizens of violations of press freedom — a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered." Meanwhile, the United States government, traditionally one of the bastions of press freedom, is about to compile a list of professional journalists and "top media influencers," which would seem to include bloggers and podcasters, and monitor what they're putting out to the public.

What could possibly go wrong? A lot.

Mod: So who knows, maybe Edmund L's desires could come true. No more pestiferous blogger to disrupt the campaign message of whatever development industry funded meat puppet he will be genuflecting to during the next election. America could soon become more like the country Edmund left behind than he ever dreamed possible.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Is Public Education Going Out Of Business In Pasadena?

Mod: Scott Phelps, who is just about the only Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education member who dares discuss real issues in public, published the following unpleasantly stark appraisal of what is going on at the local public school system recently in the Pasadena Weekly. This isn't a pretty picture, and obviously not very many people care all that much about what is going on there. Practically the only elected official discussing this in such realistic terms is Scott. The PUSD has become a poor peoples option, with most having the wherewithal to do so having bailed out on it long ago. Pasadena, a city that prefers to be viewed as quite an enlightened place has, judging by the way it does public education at least, become something of an apartheid society. 

PUSD is far from out of the woods when it comes to fiscal stability (Pasadena Weekly link): To address its budget crisis, the Pasadena Unified School District submitted a mandatory Fiscal Stabilization Plan to the County of Los Angeles in February, and then took a major step in implementing that plan by issuing over 100 preliminary teacher and administrator layoff notices for the 2018-19 year by the legally required March 15 deadline.

This plan reduced expenditures for the current 2017-18 year by about $4 million, and by over $12 million for the 2018-19 year. The board then adopted its second interim budget on March 15, per county requirements.

To try and reverse as many of the preliminary teacher layoffs as possible, the PUSD has offered a retirement incentive to its senior teachers. This would minimize the number of layoffs of more junior teachers and also the disruptive effect of teacher turnover to school sites, some of which had over 10 teachers receive layoff notices.

The United Teachers of Pasadena’s (UTP) bargaining position (despite not surveying — until just this past week, results not shared yet — the many teachers who would like this retirement incentive to be enacted) has been that they won’t agree to this retirement incentive unless we agree to use the savings from it to provide raises for teachers in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Despite the PUSD’s obvious budget challenges described above, UTP has insisted on raises, even when our county-appointed fiscal adviser met with them to explain the situation.

Throughout the crisis, they have been steadfast in their request for a 3 percent raise retroactive to July 1, 2017, and another 3 percent increase on July 1, which reminds one of the 6 percent raise they complain was so hard to get in 2015-16.

In addition, during a month of trying to get the UTP to agree to accept the retirement incentive, the district increased its retirement incentive offer and extended the timeline for it, but UTP has not budged in its insistence on tying the offer to raises. They have claimed that the retirement incentive would generate millions in “surplus money.”

The second interim budget approved by the board on March 15 shows that over $8 million in reductions will be needed for the 2019-20 school year in order to maintain the state-required 3 percent reserve. That means that during the 2018-19 school year, for which over $12 million in reductions have already been made and which is not very far away, we will be trying to find $8 million in further reductions or more revenue so that we don’t have to lay off more staff.

We will have to submit a new Fiscal Stabilization Plan with the first interim budget in December. So describing any savings as “surplus money” is fallacious. That money simply doesn’t exist when you are already making reductions and faced with declining enrollment, corresponding flat revenue, and the annual significant mandatory cost increases described in detail above.

This is magical thinking, and it is why no one can find any record of any district ever agreeing to any such use of any savings from retirement incentives, which are notoriously difficult to calculate given the many variables affecting rehiring.

Yes, the 6 percent raise agreed to in the settlement in the spring of 2016 was difficult. The other two PUSD bargaining units had agreed to much smaller raises much earlier in the 2015-16 school year.

But that same 6 percent raise is now a documented part of our budget challenges, as is the large increases in costs that are invisible to employees like mandatory pension increases, health care cost increases, workman’s compensation costs, etc.

So pushing hard for that raise has contributed to our current challenges. Pushing hard now for raises just prevents the district from reducing the number of layoffs.

The board and many fellow parents and teachers earnestly hope that the UTP leadership will help us retain as many of their colleagues as possible, and agree to the retirement incentive without further delay and without insistence on raises that the county wouldn’t allow anyway.

We also encourage all of the concerned parents and teachers to lobby the leadership to survey their membership so that all members can weigh in on this important issue.

Friday, April 13, 2018

McArcadia: A New Vanity Castle Has Now Been Proposed For Possibly Election Fraud Afflicted District 5

A new McMansion has now been proposed for an afflicted dirt patch located at 1104 S 1st Ave. That’s in District 5, if you were going to ask. The place where the election fight over a City Council seat is so close nobody is really quite sure who won, and might not for quite some time.

Just in case you were wondering why the 5th District seat is so important to some folks that they might have even committed voter fraud in hopes of winning it, Vanity Castles like this are probably the reason.

Initially the house was going to be 8,405 square feet, with an accessory dwelling unit of 1,177 sf. The potential neighbors to this protean pile quickly filed comments with the city complaining. The developer then went back to the drawing board and has just released his amended plans.

The main house is now a still vast 7,574 square feet, and the accessory dwelling unit is 1,200 sf. Which is not really all that significant of a change in size.

Neighbors are now submitting a petition in opposition. I imagine they’ll be denied, and then will be forced to appeal the denial, that is assuming they can raise the funds ($600) to do so. Public comment period ends on April 19, which is just around the corner.

This proposed Vanity Castle is far too large for its neighborhood. It encroaches on an area of far smaller single story homes, is not at all homogeneous with the existing neighborhood, and its perpetually snoopy windows will violate all neighbor privacy.

It will also block existing sky and mountain views, in the process casting shadows as dark as a McMansion developer's heart.

The architectural style is called “French Transitional.” It should actually be called “Slobbovian Stucco Box.” Or perhaps even "Post-Modern Mausoleum."

Can anyone help these neighbors describe what’s wrong with this design (link)? Anyone willing to submit an email in opposition? Anyone willing to help fund an appeal?

Emails can be submitted to Development Services at Let City Hall know your thoughts. You're likely the last person they would ever care to hear from about this, so you'll need to speak loudly.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Preserve Sierra Madre: Incumbents Re-Elected to City Council - Plus: Possible Voter Fraud in Arcadia?

Mod: One organization that made a big difference this election was Preserve Sierra Madre. The following email blast went out yesterday as the city awoke to some very great news. Sierra Madre has entered a new era, one where the preservation message is no longer a minority one. This is where the leadership came from. April 24 will be a big day.

Dear Supporters: We are very excited to announce that the three incumbent candidates endorsed by Preserve Sierra Madre were re-elected to the Sierra Madre City Council following last night's resounding election victory!

Our congratulations go out to out-going Mayor Rachelle Arizmendi, Mayor Pro-Tem Denise Delmar and former Mayor Gene Goss. They all ran a great campaign and all their hard work and effort paid off in a resounding win.

Please join us on Tuesday, April 24th at 6:30 pm at the next City Council meeting to congratulate the three candidates and witness the formal installation of the new Mayor. It should be an exciting evening.

Our motto from the beginning was "why break up a good thing" and the voters saw fit to keep this City Council intact to continue their great work on behalf of all the residents of Sierra Madre.

Finally, a big thank you to all of our supporters who answered the call with your willingness to help make this result come to pass. You walked, you called, you allowed signs to be put up and most importantly, you voted!

Thank you for making a difference.  As always we appreciate your support.

Steering Committee
Preserve Sierra Madre

The City of Arcadia's strangely underwhelming response to possible voter fraud

Mod: You'd think that with the unofficial vote margin between Joyce Platt and Roger Chandler being razor thin this would be a matter of greater urgency than it apparently is for Arcadia City Hall. Check out this email sequence. The first has to do with the suspected sudden population explosion at disgraced former Mayor John Wuo's house.

Mod: This is a story The Tattler will be following closely. You might want to jump in as well. I think if enough people start sending emails and making calls we might actually get some action. Obviously the election in Arcadia is not over.

Arcadia's large remaining uncounted vote

Mod: There is a big article in today's edition of the Arcadia Weekly about Tuesday's election (link). Here is a part that jumps out.

Over in District 5, incumbent candidate Roger Chandler is barely ahead of first-time candidate and former school teacher Joyce Platt. In third place at last check was first-time candidate and self-funded pharmacist Jolly Wu. At 8:54 p.m. on Tuesday, Chandler had 704 votes, Platt held 659 votes and Wu had 264 votes.

However, the election is not yet over. Mailed ballots sent by Arcadians are still being accepted and counted, so long as they contain a postage stamp prior to April 10 and are received by April 13. The City Clerk’s office estimates around 500 votes have still not been counted, including expected mail-in ballots.

Mod: With this high number of uncounted votes, plus the now emerging story of possible voter fraud in District 5, Chandler's unofficial 45 vote lead could quickly evaporate over the next few days. Big story developing, peacock pals.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Preservation Wins - Bottle Rocket Bencosme Fizzles

In the end it wasn't even close. Andy Bencosme, the Century 21 Realtor who didn't want anyone to know what he does for a living, and outside of cynically flipping on the Library question had absolutely no campaign policy commitments whatsoever, got even fewer votes than when I ran for City Council in Sierra Madre.

When you also figure that Andy probably spent somewhere around $25,000 or more of somebody else's money to achieve this meagre a result, it becomes obvious that his was about as poorly run a campaign as this town has seen in quite some time.

The people of Sierra Madre are prospering thanks to preservation. The price of real estate in this town continues to soar, and folks are getting rich because of it. Fending off mansionization and generic stack and pack development has made The Foothill Village something other towns can only envy.

In the face of that quite astonishing fact nobody in their right mind was ready to buy into the so-called "property rights" nonsense being peddled by the candidate from the Arcadia Association of Realtors.

Speaking of "property rights" advocates, the Tea Party's Measure D truly gave new meaning to the words complete failure. We here at The Tattler were saying that the Tea Boyz would be lucky if they got even a quarter of the vote. Well, they weren't lucky. This one was dealt the worst defeat of any ballot initiative in Sierra Madre history.

I guess Michael Alexander and the rest of the Green Street Gang are going to have to find another way to butter up the Koch Brothers. This was the final round of their multi-town ballot initiatives to take down utility taxes, and not a single one of them passed.

Tea Time is now officially over in the SGV. Exit stage right for an uncomfortable eternal resting place in the celebrated dustbin of history.


Perhaps the combination of mail-in only voting and districting didn't have quite the positive effect some solons claimed it would. Well, OK, obviously it didn't because these are some extraordinarily low numbers. What were those people thinking? Yesterday voters in Arcadia were as rare as an Aloha Harbicht campaign appearance.

Check this out.

So it wasn't all bad news. Bob Harbicht lost and can now return to Hawaii and commune once again with his deep sea buddies the Manta Rays. And in District 5 it is close enough that the remaining votes still out there could possibly propel Joyce Platt to a win over the sorely in need of retirement Roger Chandler.

The deal in Arcadia is votes received at City Hall through Friday will still be counted. And since this was a mail-in only election, there could conceivably be a decent amount of ballots still in need of counting.

Will it be enough to give Platt a come from behind victory? You won't really know until the end of your busy work week. And neither will I.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Stop the Vote Count! Is There an Election Landslide Going On at Johnny Gemcoins' House?

Mod: This showed up in my electronic mail yesterday evening. Allegedly there has been a sudden population boom at disgraced former Arcadia Mayor John Wuo's domicile. This being Johnny Gemcoins Wuo, if you're into name-dropping.

Jennifer is his daughter, who is married and lives elsewhere. Jane Wuo is John’s wife. Jonathan is his son who is also seems to have moved out. His Facebook page indicates he now lives in Pasadena, not Arcadia. The other 2 are believed to be John Wuo’s parents who apparently don’t chill there with him, either. What this means is there are six votes total coming out of a house where only two people are living the empty nest lifestyle. Judging by the lawn sign outside, that means six votes for Roger Chandler.

One alert Arcadian picked up on this troubling voting anomaly and sent the following detailed e-mail to City Manager Dominic "Legal Lazer" Lazzaretto and City Clerk Lisa Mussenden.

Mod: It appears six votes were cast from a household of two. The count is as follows:

I can tell you one thing for certain. Not all of those votes are backed by amber mines.

The Sierra Madre Vote Count Betting Line

Every time an election rolls around a certain individual invariably leaves their detailed election prediction in the comments section of this blog. And he is usually pretty accurate.

So in the interest of filling up the remaining space on this page with something moderately interesting, here is how our comment section correspondent is calling today's Sierra Madre voting horserace. Check back this evening to see if he actually knew what he is talking about. And do remember, please bet responsibly.

Ballots returned through today indicate that turnout will be 10% lower than in 2016.

In 2016 3,000 people voted and this time we are on track for 2,700. Predicting that 1,200 absentee ballots will be counted tomorrow followed by 1,200 polling place votes followed by 300 or so absentee ballots counted next week that were mailed in tomorrow or turned in at the polls on election day.

Goss and Arizmendi are in a battle for first place (in 2014 Goss beat Arizmendi by 38 votes). Arizmendi will likely beat Goss this time around because the advantage he had in 2014 (he had name recognition from his failed run in 2012) is no longer a factor and Goss has been significantly out-mailed.

Bencosme needs to be beating Delmar by 75 votes when the absentee votes are reported sometime before 9 pm. Delmar will likely do better with poll voters than she will do with the absentee vote. If Bencosme loses the absentee vote he will lose the election.

Measure D will get only 23% of the vote and fail. Our long local nightmare will be over very soon.

Why Does Arcadia Andy Hate Commuters?

Mod: This was probably the weirdest postcard to go out this election. Because you commute to work you apparently are not to be trusted because of all the distractions. There must be a lot if untrustworthy people in town.

So a good reason for voting for Andy Bencosme is because he hangs around town day and night? What does he do with himself all that time, eat ice cream?

One other thing. Andy describes himself here on this postcard as being a "local businessman." What he actually does is run the local Century 21 real estate office downtown. Something that he never once cared to share with the voters. Why is that? Is he ashamed of what he does for a living?

Hopefully today the voters will send this latest carpetbagger candidate packing.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Sierra Madre Architecture: Irving Gill’s Lewis Courts

Mod: With community preservation and the architectural legacy of Sierra Madre being such a big issue in this election season, which by the way ends tomorrow, I thought it would be a good moment to step back and take a little tour of something you might not have noticed all that much before. This comes to us from a notable local blog that deals with architectural issues called Industrious Lily (link). The article, written in 2012, is called Irving Gills Lewis Courts, which are found right here in Sierra Madre

Irving Gill's Lewis Courts - Growing up in San Diego, I have had the pleasure of seeing much of Irving Gill’s architecture in person. From various residences to the Women’s Club and my middle/high school in La Jolla, his work is so reflective of the tenants of simple, modern design.

Moving to Sierra Madre, I loved to drive around and one day drove up Mountain Trail and saw a row of buildings that looked very Gill-like to me….. Run home, google, and yes! The Lewis Courts, one of his first “social architecture” projects (built in 1910) still stands here in our small town.

Sadly, as is the case with so much historic architecture, the courtyard-style apartments are only a small reflection of what they once were. The courtyard, around which the complex was designed and oriented, is now filled with a large post-war apartment building that is incongruous in both style and scale. Peeling paint and cracking stucco also tell of the years of wear and tear that the buildings have endured.

But there is life there still - good bones, great lines, good light …. and people are still living and using the buildings every day. That is significant, and comforting. Also impressive, these apartments were designed and built before our 1912 bungalow, and yet they look modern, current and timeless. Interesting.

If you are ever in this neck of the woods, drive up Mountain Trail, almost to the top, and you will see them on your right…best seen in the early more or dusk, in my opinion. Worth the drive.

Mod: There is an interesting Facebook page called So Cal Historic Architecture (link) that also discusses Sierra Madre's Lewis Courts. Here is what site owner Linda Hammonds has to say about this interesting slice of local legacy.

Irving J. Gill saw such small houses as the embodiment of economic democracy. While he had no control over the cost of the land, he did control the cost of construction. Gill believed modern materials and building techniques would lead to affordability, and he experimented with different variations of this approach through the early 1900s.

Lewis Court in Sierra Madre is one of his most notable examples from this period. Built with concrete floors and terracotta walls, each of the small cottages featured a private terraced garden and projecting porch for lounging or outdoor sleeping.

The Lewis Courts, one of his first “social architecture” projects, built in 1910. If you are ever in Sierra Madre, drive up Mountain Trail, almost to the top, and you will see them on your right.

Mod: Interesting, right? Small homes versus those massive mausoleum looking things certain people think should be allowed here. Let's call that anti-social architecture. Today's post was put here in case you don't think there is something to lose tomorrow.