Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Different/Better Approach to Rebuilding the Library


Mod: I received all of this last week. Sierra Madre resident Gary Hood has been working on some very imaginative ideas for the Library that I believe are pretty exciting, and need to be carefully considered. Especially now that the community has spoken and the notion of moving the Library poolside has been rejected. Rather than just selling the back lot and using that money to patch the old building up, why not take advantage of some of the resources that are available for libraries and can be used to do something incredible? Why automatically accept the unfortunate limitations that were built into the survey postcard process? As Gary shows, charitable resources for libraries are plentiful, and if asked some could actually kick in. A lot. Plus there are intellectual resources available as well. Why not give some of these a try first? It never does hurt to ask. What is the worst that could possibly happen, they'll say no?

Sierra Madre City Council

Mayor Delmar
Mayor Pro Tem Harabedian
Council Member Arizmendi
Council Member Capoccia
Council Member Goss

The following information stems from my attending the Library meeting at the YAC. My interest was in having at least two, preferably three bids so that the city could compare prices and performances. I had a better understanding of the situation after hearing what all the comments were from those in attendance and finding out that there were no plans for bidding because that was too expensive at this stage of the process.

The City is in an excellent position right now and can take advantage of having a competition for a new, up to date design that preserves the existing structure with an added on design that takes advantage of the most recent technology.  See #2 & #8

When you look at #10 you are looking at a sign in front of the Library that shows they are educating in the most recent technology.  The Library and the community should have a building that reflects what they are teaching.

The list on the next page can be a guide for an Architect in the competition for designing something unique and imaginative. Huntington Library #5 is a good example of what a Library can provide.  As of 2-12-18 #6 shows there is grant money available today, specifically for Libraries installing a Solar system.

When you take into account that using Geothermal #12 and #9, Solar Heating, the overall long term costs are recoverable.  #1 by Calif Department of Water Resources covers Grants and Loans for Recycling, Desalination, Stormwater and Gray-water.  This should be a consideration in a New Library design and other buildings in the City.

A Library with a Digitizing room #3 could be a real asset to community and the City. Think of a Library where you could go sit in a Virtual Reality Room and experience the Desert, a Forest or the beach.

Think of what it would be like for a study group to walk into such a room where the look and feel were the same as being there. This is not futuristic dreams, this is all possible today. Think of a proposal to Samsung, Sony, LG or RCA to help build such Library rooms. The possibilities could get people and organizations interested and involved.

Sierra Madre sits in the heart of Caltech, JPL, Hollywood and many advanced technologically advanced schools. We are lucky to have such talented residents that I’m sure would love to be involved with such a Modern Library Design. With a good design that takes advantage of the latest that technology has to offer I think we would be surprised at the contributions and donations.

Thank you for the opportunity to present this.

Respectfully, Gary Hood

Information and Points for Discussion

Ca. Water Grants & Loans *1

Competition,  Collegiate Schools of Architecture *2

Digitizing,  System/Room and Storage *3

Front View of SM Library and Sign *4  ‘cover page’

Germ Free Buildings

Geothermal Heating and Cooling

Huntington Library Geodesic Dome Greenhouse & Botanical Gardens *5

Hydroponic Climate Control

Hydroponic Greenhouse

Library Grant money from EBSCO as of 2-12-18 *6

Library installs Solar, may even make money *7

Rendering of SM Library as an Updated Design *8

Solar Heating ‘Wikipedia *9

Solar powered Buildings

SM Library STEAM for Adults *10

Virtual Reality Rooms

Virtual Reality Headsets *11

Why Geothermal *12

Financing

http://fortune.com/2016/06/22/fortune-500-most-charitable-companies/

Morgan Stanley 2015 cash contributions: $62.5 million

PNC Financial 2015 cash contributions: $72 million

Kroger 2015 cash contributions: $76.5 million

Pfizer 2015 Cash contributions: $93.3 million

General Mills 2015 cash contributions: $105 million

Target 2015 cash contributions: $111.5 million

AT&T 2015 cash contributions: $112.9 million

Coca Cola 2015 cash contributions: $117.3 million

Merck 2015 cash contributions: $132.5 million

Microsoft 2015 Cash contributions: $135.2 million

Citigroup 2015 cash contributions: $142.8 million

Google 2015 cash contributions: $167.8 million

Bank of America 2015 cash contributions: $168.5 million

JPMorgan Chase 2015 cash contributions: $224 million

Chevron 2015 cash contributions: $225 million

ExxonMobil 2015 cash contributions: $268 million

Goldman Sachs 2015 cash contributions: $276.4 million

Wells Fargo 2015 cash contributions: $281.3 million

Walmart 2015 cash contributions: $301 million


Mod: This could end up being a lot more than just building a couple of cement ramps.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Monday, May 21, 2018

Prop 218: New "Water Rate Adjustment" Coming Down (Now with Informative 1 O'clock Update Added)

 Expensive date.
At tomorrow night's Sierra Madre City Council meeting yet another water rate adjustment "process" will be kicking off. Is it as severe as past ones? I have not deciphered that yet. Raftelis Financial Consultants will be in the house once again to emcee the festivities, having been rehired about a year ago.

Long time readers of this blog must be feeling a bit of deja vu. We have been down this road many times over the last ten years. Rate and tax increases seem to come down here on a two year cycle, and usually right after a City Council election has been held. This instance fits that pattern, with the last water rate increases happening in 2014, and 2016 being a utility tax year.

Proposed are water rate hikes, sewer rate hikes, tier width adjustments, and the usual balderdash about meter sizes. Below are the water rate increases, before and after. You can link to all of that rhythm in its original setting here.



As you can see, the increases are to those with 3" and 4" meter sizes. The big boys, and not most residential users. But remember, there are also the other increase categories as well, which you will have to look up for yourself. Hopefully you'll be able explain all that to me in the comments. As always, things are not immediately clear. Water rate adjustment processes being famous for their transparency challenges.

Here was the rationale for all of this in a staff report issued on May 9, 2017 (link). This was where the umpteenth rehiring of Raftellis was discussed. They were rehired at considerable expense and have been busily working on this for the last year.


In the agenda report for this item, which is the last one on tomorrow's schedule, there are some tweaks to the rationales for charging residents more for water. Here is how this is all justified now.


Pretty vague in my opinion, but these things often are. Coming right on the heels of that $1,000,000 dollar water meter spend however, asking for more money now does seem insensitive. But I suspect City Hall is not too worried about it.

This will be a Proposition 218 "process," meaning you do have the right to run around town trying to get people to sign paperwork protesting these increases. It is a lot of great exercise, but has been something residents have never quite been able to pull off in the past. We came close once, but then City Manager Elaine Aguilar threw out just enough signatures to guarantee that particular Prop 218 effort failed.

Under Proposition 218, the amount of the charge imposed upon any parcel of land must not exceed the proportional cost of service attributable to the parcel. The costs of water (and sewer) rates and charges should be recovered from classes of customers in proportion to the cost of serving those customer classes. Prop 218 provides that utility rates cannot be arbitrary and capricious. Raftelis has strictly followed the guidelines of Proposition 218 in order to ensure that the proposed rates are equitable for all customers. Critical to the design of the utility rates is the nexus between the costs incurred and the rates established. Once revenue goals are set, there is limited flexibility in rate design, other than pass-through costs of imported water or electricity costs and modest cost of living adjustments for subsequent years, both of which are built into the new rate structure.

The Proposition 218 election process requires a 45-day notice and a public hearing.

At the direction of Council, staff will mail protest ballots (Attachment C) to explain the process as well as findings for the proposed new rates.

All protests will be due at City Hall on July 24, 2018. If 50% +1 one of the needed protests are not received at the public hearing scheduled for that evening, then the water (etc.) rate increases will go through. The staff report does not say 50% +1 of what, so that will need to be asked about.

One O'clock Update

I've been emailing back and forth with City Manager Gabe Engeland today, a fellow who somehow has remained committed to the fine art of transparency despite having worked here for a while. It does look like this will not be a very radical rate increase, and except for a very few unfortunate souls almost all will escape the unholy wrath of Water Wise Owl. This is what Gabe had to say:

"Here is the chart breaking down our water meters size by number of meters.  The 3” and 4” meters are typically institutional use, though they are relatively scarce in town. There are 8 meters in Sierra Madre that are 3” and 1 meter that is 4”, so a total of 9 meters out of 3,873 fall into this category. Apartments tend to have 1.5” or 2”, though this number will vary, and apts may have multiple meters serving the property.


It appears that unless you are one of those nine places with 3 inch or 4 inch water meters, you are going to get yourself a water rate decrease. I know, be still all of our troubled hearts. And if you are the proud owner of one of those nine afflicted facilities?

You're not going to be as happy as everybody else. Or at least that would be my understanding at this particular moment in time.

I'll let you know if any of that changes.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sierra Madre Library Survey Says: Don't Move It!

Hands off.
Mod: At Tuesday evening's City Council meeting the moment we have all been waiting for will finally arrive. Those much discussed Library survey postcards have now been tabulated, the numbers examined from all of the possible angles by highly compensated statistical experts from Colorado, and with great assurance and exactitude the final results determined. And do you know what? Its just like we have been saying all along. Most folks do not want to see the Sierra Madre Public Library moved next to the community swimming pool.

If you head on over to the City of Sierra Madre website and spend a little quality time with Agenda Item #3 (link), you will be able to witness for yourself what it is you get from the National Research Center for your $18,000.

However, if you have a busy schedule, or would just prefer to spend your Sunday afternoon in front of the TV cursing out the Dodgers like I plan on doing, here it is in the briefest of all possible ways.


They go on for quite a while with their results, but that is pretty much all of it. Just fix the place, put in a few cement ramps so that the ADA people are happy, widen the aisles a little, and forget about it. That whole "21st Century Library" pitch was always an oxymoron, you know. You want to go stare at your laptop, go to Starbucks

It's about books. Things are supposed to be old, dusty and weird. That is the way libraries have been for centuries. It never should have even gotten to this point.

What I would like to know is this. Whatever happened to the $100,000 those highly earnest Friends of the Library people were going to spend on their feasibility study for moving the Library? Now that the issue of moving all of those books poolside is pretty much dead in the chlorinated water, or at least it damn well better be, did they actually go spend all of that money in so rash and needless a manner?

That money took a lot of serious wine drinking and brie eating by very dedicated residents to raise, you know. The Friends owe it to the battered livers of Sierra Madre. Let the people know.

Speaking of raising taxes 

Also on the schedule for Tuesday evening is yet another water rate hike. Or, for the more polite out there, a water rate adjustment. 

As we have been saying for the last decade or so here at The Tattler, every two years there will either be a water rate increase or a tax hike of some sort. You can set your clocks by it. That is just how City Hall likes to work. And it is always the last one they'll ever need, you know.

Of course it is. More on this tomorrow.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Mark Hong Claimed This Video Never Existed & Attacked Tom Beck For Saying He'd Heard A Rumor It Does

 View video here.

Mod: If you have been following the fool show over on the political vilification site Voice of Arcadia, you are probably up on this story. Mark Hong, an apparently lapsed attorney I've been told, and with an immense chip on his shoulder, has repeatedly attacked Tom Beck over the existence of the above video. Mark oddly claiming it never existed, and that Tom deviously made the whole story up in order to defeat Bob Harbicht at the polls. Something the sore loser Hong is still bitterly struggling with.

Anyway, here is an interesting email forwarded to me yesterday, written by someone who writes in both Chinese and English exceedingly well.

I just saw from the pinned-to-top post of the "Voice of Arcadia" page that "Mark Hong" is making trouble for Tom Beck about a video.

Mark Hong is accusing Tom of being dishonest, saying that Tom lied about the existence of an online Chinese language video on how to register to vote. I happened to have seen a Chinese language video on how to vote in the past city election before and I've included it here.

It was posted by "Arcadian's Rights Protection Association" (link). The narrator suggests that Harbicht & Chandler's names should be selected on the ballots. Some Chinese speaker must have seen it and told Tom about it. 

However, I suspect that due to translation inaccuracy, Tom thought it was about how to register to vote. I could be wrong. There might be another Chinese language video on how to register to vote, though I have not seen one.

Mod: Apparently Mark Hong is one of those VOA guys who thinks that anyone who didn't support Bob Harbicht this year is either racist or, if you are Asian, a "banana." A person's attitude about mansionization and community planning having something to do with their feelings about race as well.

I digress. Here is that bizarre rant from Mark Hong referred to in the email above.

My DISHONEST TOM BECK story (too many people have been asking about it): On the campaign trail, he SPREAD A RUMOR that “The Asians” in Arcadia were conspiring to win the city council election by voter fraud.

On March 11, Dishonest Tom told me and a living room of my neighbors that Arcadia City Councilman Sho Tay and “The Asians” had made a Chinese language video on how to register to vote online.

While making imaginary check marks in the air with his right hand as if he were holding a pencil, Dishonest Tom repeated over and over: “Do you know how easy it is to JUST CHECK that you’re a US Citizen? No one ever verifies it.” I believed him and when I told Helen, she believed him.

I’ve always said there’s a difference between a witness and a rat. While I would never rat on someone to get myself out of trouble, Helen and I decided we could not sit back and witness a voter fraud conspiracy that would ultimately make ALL Asians in Arcadia look bad (e.g., John Wuo). Helen and I decided to report Sho Tay and the video so I asked for evidence.

DISHONEST TOM BECK REPLIED - IN WRITING - THAT IT WAS JUST A RUMOR!

He said he would forward evidence as soon as a group had collected it; still waiting.

I have come to believe there never was a video. I asked Sho Tay, he denied it and it looked convincing to me. I discussed this issue with City Councilwoman April Verlato, it didn’t seem like she had heard of the video. And every local Asian community activist I’ve met in the last 2 months had never heard of the video before I described it.

On the other hand, Dishonest Tom Beck says he has seen the video - in writing.

Mod: Let's take a short break here, because this really is crazy talk. Just a few sentences above Hong declares that Beck said the video was a rumor, and did so in writing. Now Mark is saying Tom claimed he has seen this video, and said that in writing as well? Just saying, you can get very dizzy reading Hong's nonsense.

If he cannot produce the video or any evidence that it ever existed, in my opinion the only honorable thing to do would be to resign. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

One last thing: a lot of people strongly encouraged me to expose all this before the election. They’re upset and I understand others will be, too. I regret that I didn’t. Deeply.

Mod: Well, maybe Mark should finally pull himself together, because we now know that this video does exist and can be easily viewed on-line. It isn't just a rumor anymore. I also rather suspect that Hong always knew of its existence as well. And if I am correct about that, maybe we now start calling him Dishonest Hong?

Oh, and as far as I know LA County is still investigating election fraud in District 5.

Somebody tell him that, OK?

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Friday, May 18, 2018

The New York Times: Top Republican Senator Says ‘No Reason to Dispute’ That Russia Favored Trump

Mod: It hasn't been all that good week for Donald Trump. Here is one of the reasons why things have been going so badly lately. It will only get worse.

Top Republican Senator Says ‘No Reason to Dispute’ That Russia Favored Trump (The New York Times link): The Republican at the helm of the Senate’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election backed on Wednesday the assessment by American intelligence agencies that Moscow favored Donald J. Trump in the race, contradicting both the president and fellow Republicans in the House.

Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that he saw “no reason to dispute” the intelligence assessment, which was delivered in the final weeks of the Obama administration.

Mr. Burr’s statement, while indirect, offered a clear rebuke to Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters in the Republican Party and in the right-wing news media, who have sought to cast the assessment as the shoddy work of Obama loyalists bitter over Mr. Trump’s election victory. Russia’s only goal, those supporters have insisted, was to sow chaos, and thus it could not have colluded with a campaign it cared little about.

The only logical conclusion, they contend, is the one that Mr. Trump has already reached: The investigation led by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, is a “witch hunt” cooked up by Democrats desperate to undermine a president they detest.

American intelligence officials, including Mr. Trump’s own appointees, who now run the agencies that compiled the assessment, say otherwise. They have repeatedly backed the work of their predecessors and sought to shield Mr. Mueller’s investigation from political attacks.

Asked at a Senate hearing on Wednesday if he stood by earlier statements that the special counsel’s investigation was not a witch hunt, Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, did not hesitate: “Yes,” he said.

And now, the intelligence assessment on Russia’s interference has the support of Mr. Burr, who said Wednesday that his committee was also continuing to investigate whether there was any collusion between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia. Examining the assessment was only the first step, the committee said.

“Committee staff have spent 14 months reviewing the sources, tradecraft and analytic work, and we see no reason to dispute the conclusions,” Mr. Burr said in the statement. “There is no doubt that Russia undertook an unprecedented effort to interfere with our 2016 elections.”

The Democratic vice chairman of the committee, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, added, “The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton.”

Mod: But you know, it probably won't be the Russia problems that will take him down. It's this. The President of the United States has now admitted to paying a porn star for her silence days before the election. This after denying the relationship and lying about the payment on a previous financial disclosure form. Can you imagine what would have happened if it had been Obama that had done that? The impeachment would have been up and rolling within weeks. 

How Mueller’s First Year Compares To Watergate, Iran-Contra And Whitewater (FiveThirtyEight link): It’s a big day for Robert Mueller and his team: One year ago today, Mueller was appointed to lead the special counsel investigation into possible ties between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russian officials.

It’s a miracle, in some ways, that Mueller has lasted this long. President Trump’s relationship with the investigation has grown increasingly adversarial, and at many moments over the course of the past 12 months, it seemed like Mueller’s job was in jeopardy.

So this hasn’t been an easy year for Mueller, but it’s certainly been productive. Since the first indictments came down in the investigation last fall, the special counsel has racked up five guilty pleas and 14 indictments of individuals.1 He also reportedly gave a referral to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York that led to a raid on the office, home and hotel room of presidential lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, which has turned into its own separate investigation.

We’ve taken a look at how Mueller’s first year measures up against the initial 12 months of other special counsel and independent counsel investigations. In terms of the number of charges he’s been able to file, Mueller is moving quickly. At one year after the formal appointment of a special or independent counsel, only the Watergate special prosecution force had obtained more indictments and guilty pleas.


sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Arcadia Weekly Chief Terry Miller Threatens 'Voice of Arcadia' with Legal Action Over Tom Beck Photo Theft

First I need to share something with you. I've been none too happy with the Arcadia Weekly these last two weeks. It wasn't all that long ago that Beacon Media asked me to join their papers because they wanted to "shake things up" and add a little political red meat to their otherwise bland news fare. And, as you know, it worked. More than they'd ever hoped, apparently.

But when the heat got turned up on them a little, Arcadia Weekly folded up like a cheap suitcase, and threw me deep under the bus. However, I've been thrown under buses before. Plenty of times. In these stupid times truth telling often gets you into trouble. Which is actually fun. And now I get to share this wackiness with you. It got really wild yesterday at Voice of Arcadia, which is good news for The Tattler. The issue? The illegal (and in my opinion slanderous) use of a Tom Beck photo that is property of the Arcadia Weekly. Here is how it rolled out.

(Oh, and I will not be posting that Tom Beck picture here for a very obvious reason.)


Did you catch that bit from the anonymous Voice of Arcadia clown about Terry "being perceived as being protective and biased?" My guess is that was a threat. Meaning certain gentlemen of distinction will call Terry's anxious boss again about his daring to tell the truth. Advertising apparently being more important than real news in that office these days.

One more thing. As of midnight last night the Tom Beck picture, property of Beacon Media and Terry Miller, had not been removed by Voice of Arcadia.

They had been warned.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

How to Fight the Property Developer: A Guide for Local Residents

Mod: This book was featured on the Save The Highlands Facebook page. You can link to its Amazon page here. I haven't read it, and I don't own a Kindle. Interesting sentence: "Many case studies of property development campaigns both won and lost are also provided." I wonder if they included anything about Measure V? Judging by some of the spelling here the author is either British or Canadian, so most likely not.


Mod: Here are three chapter previews included by Amazon.


Mod: I am not sure how much of this would apply to Sierra Madre since this is a city that has pretty much won its battles with predatory LULU development. At least for now. Plus I am sure some of the actual details are different. But it is always interesting to see how things are viewed from other perspectives and places.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Border Rally: Just How Politically Far to the Right is Voice of Arcadia?

link to video

They will have the usual touchingly naive supporters of Sho Tay out tonight at the City Council meeting, haltingly delivering talking points the secretive Voice of Arcadia leadership will have prepared for them to read from their cell phones. A large portion of which will be about how intolerant the Arcadia Weekly and Sierra Madre Tattler are because they don't worship that doyen of mass mansionization, Sho Tay, with quite enough righteous fervency for them.

Crimes for which, in their opinion, such newsers must be shut down by Arcadia City Hall for their deviations in thought, and then banished forever.

Pretty radical stuff, yes? But is it leftwing radicalism, or rightwing radicalism? Judging by what can be found on the Voice of Arcadia Facebook page, you're going to have to assume that we're talking about the latter. Especially given their rather fulsome support for political demagogue Travis Allen and his campaign for Governor of California.

Just how reactionary is Travis Allen? Well, if you travel down to the Mexican border on May 27, you will be able to check out Travis in action for yourself. Whipping up a little old time race baiting nativism and fear of immigrants just so he get himself a few votes.


Are we to assume by their fulsome support of Travis Allen that the anonymous folks behind Voice of Arcadia don't like their neighbors of Latin American origin very much? Are they bigots? Talk about your pot calling the kettle black. Can it be that here we have yet another instance where those pointing fingers are guilty of the very things they accuse others?

In an op-ed piece titled "The California governor's race has its own version of Trump. Let's not let history repeat itself," here is how the Los Angeles Times (link) describes Travis Allen and, by inference, those who support him. You know, people like the secretive folks behind Voice of Arcadia.

Before launching his campaign for governor last year, Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) was a fairly ordinary legislator. Republican, but not in a rabble-rousing kind of way, and seemingly willing to work across the aisle to get things done. His first attention-getting legislation was a bill he co-authored in 2013 with a Democratic colleague to stop the South Coast Air Quality Management District from banning beach bonfires.

But now he's running for governor and he's changed. Last year, for example, when the Democratic-majority Legislature passed a bill to stop police from arresting children on charges of prostitution, he wrote an overwrought article suggesting that the state had legalized child prostitution.

Needless to say, that was not the case. The bill didn't make it legal for an adult to have sex with a minor, and Allen knew it. It merely declared that kids who were being sold for sex should be treated as victims rather than criminals.

But Allen clearly felt that his assertion, true or not, would feed a belief about out-of-control liberals held by the "silent majority" of conservatives he thinks exists — and would motivate them to vote for him in the June 5 statewide primary. It was part of a strategy he has followed since then of tapping into fears, making false claims, demonizing certain groups of people and promising things he can't possibly deliver. 

Politicians have, of course, always done such things to one degree or another — and we would never suggest that Allen is the only demagogue out there. But these days, in the aftermath of the November 2016 election, it no longer makes sense to ignore such irresponsible campaign behavior or to view it as the domain of only fringe candidates hoping desperately to get attention.

Hmm. "Demonizing certain groups of people," "tapping into fears," "making false claims." Yeah, I can see why Voice of Arcadia would be into old Travis. He is definitely their kind of guy.

Travis Allen facing sexual harassment charges in Sacramento

This from the Sacramento Bee (link):

On Friday, Allen was named in the Legislature’s release of sexual harassment investigative records. Allen, who the documents show was given a verbal warning but not disciplined in 2013, was accused of sliding his foot over to touch a female employee, and coming up behind her in the cafeteria to squeeze her shoulders. While Allen strongly disputes that what he did was inappropriate, the political fallout was swift. Republican Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, the author of a long-stalled whistleblower protection bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, informed Allen that she was pulling her support.

“I have no choice but to withdraw my endorsement of his candidacy,” Melendez told reporters after reviewing the claims.

Does Voice of Arcadia support work place sexual harassment, too?

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Monday, May 14, 2018

Andy Bencosme is Still Running for Office in Arcadia


The big National Association of Realtors election is running until Friday, and the Arcadia Association of Realtors has a horse in that race by the name of Andy Bencosme. This is about a month and a week past Andy's previous electoral tilt in Sierra Madre.

As Bruce Springsteen might have put it, "Baby, he was born to run."

I couldn't figure out how to cast a ballot. But if you can click here and cast your vote.

And while we're on the topic of REALTOR® stuff, and listings that have the entire world agog with both envy and admiration, Sierra Madre has once again hit that most popular of looky-loo websites, Curbed Los Angeles, with another remarkable listing.

1949 Harwell Hamilton Harris house in Sierra Madre seeks $1.59M (Curbed Los Angeles link):




Looks like a pretty swanky place. And for that kind of bold cash, wouldn't it have to be?

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Trump Impeachment: Michael Avenatti Knows All

video link
Mod: While the world waits endlessly for the Mueller investigation to begin delivering on all of the many things they have been looking into, an alternative venue for news of Trump corruption has now opened up. The host of this bounty? Michael Avenatti, attorney to porn star and presidential date bait Stormy Daniels. It is good to see private business getting into the game. Why should it all be in the hands of the government?

Michael Avenatti Knows All (The Impeachment link): Michael Avenatti’s bombshell release detailing nearly $4.5 million dollars that flowed into Cohen’s Essential Consulting account at First Republic Bank during 2017 has finally linked Trump’s personal affairs to the Russia inquiry.

According to Avenatti’s documents, $500,000 dollars came from Columbus Nova, a company that was, until recently, listed as a subsidiary of the Renova Group which itself is controlled by a powerful Russian oligarch. Columbus Nova’s president is the cousin of that same Russian oligarch. Another $400,000 came from the pharmaceutical company Novartis. An additional $200,000 came from AT&T as well as $150,000 from a Korean aerospace company. Lastly, there is a $62,500 payment from Elliott Broidy as part of his settlement agreement with another woman.

As Avenatti described it, this has all the features of a pay-to-play scheme or, considering Cohen actually reached out to Novartis, an extortion scheme. But it was amazing to see how these companies tripped all over themselves trying to explain why they were paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to Cohen. Even there, however, Avenatti had laid a trap, purposely not disclosing the true total dollar amounts he knew these companies had paid Cohen and waiting to see whether they would come clean on their own.

Originally, AT&T claimed the $200,00 was paid for “insight” into the new administration. Subsequently, they had to admit that the total amount paid was $600,000 over the course of 12 months. Novartis originally provided no explanation for their payment, only saying that the contract was made under a former CEO and had subsequently expired. After a second aborted explanation, Novartis’ third attempt finally came clean, admitting it had paid $1.2 million to Cohen over the course of his 12 month contract even though it was clear from their one meeting with Cohen that he could provide no useful service.

Worse, Novartis admitted that it continued to pay Cohen for essentially no reason and no services for fear of angering Trump. Columbus Nova insisted that their payments had nothing to do with the Russian oligarch and were for advice on capital formation and real estate investments. Lastly, the Korean aerospace company said that the money was for Cohen’s expertise on accounting policies.

AT&T, Novartis, and the Korean aerospace company all had important business in front of the Trump administration. AT&T was trying to merge with Time Warner over the DOJ’s objections. Novartis was one of the few pharmaceutical companies who refused to pledge to reduce drug prices and was obviously interested in the outcome of healthcare repeal and preserving its drug monopolies.

But the Korean aerospace company, despite being accused of massive accounting and billing fraud in South Korea, seemed to be the one that got the most bang for its buck, apparently now poised to win a multi-billion dollar contract to build a training jet in partnership with Lockheed. Lockheed, you might recall, was continually criticized by Trump before and after his inauguration over the cost of its F-35 fighter planes.

It’s bad enough that the corporations’ payments to Cohen indicate that pay-to-play was the immediate option in order to deal with the Trump administration. The money funneled from the Russian oligarch, however, raises even more serious question about it’s intent and purposes. That payment is the first real monetary trail that we have seen that potentially implicates the Trump team in colluding with the Russians during the 2016 campaign.

As Avenatti has joked over the last two days, Michael Cohen seems to have become a renaissance man, a true Leonardo da Vinci, specializing in the pharmaceutical, telecomm, capital markets, and accounting fields. Remarkably, these extraordinary gifts only became apparent starting in January, 2017, the very same month that Trump was inaugurated.

It appears that the only outflows from this Essential Consulting account was the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels and $1 million transferred to another Cohen account at Morgan Stanley. But the timing of those transactions indicates that there was more money coming into and out of that account than Avenatti shows in these documents. In the documents Avenatti released, we do not see the additional monies that AT&T and Novartis finally admitted to paying Cohen, nor do we see Trump’s $35,000 monthly “retainer”.

Cohen obviously has multiple bank accounts and controls numerous LLCs. It is unclear whether Avenatti has only obtained some suspicious activity reports (SAR) related to the Essential Consulting account or actually has access to bank statements for that account and potentially other Cohen accounts. And Avenatti is clearly interested in keeping that uncertainty hanging out there.


The real question, the one that Avenatti keeps raising and clearly knows the answer to, is where the rest of the money from that First Republic account actually end up. He keeps wondering whether a portion of these monies flowed to the Trump Organization or to Trump himself. And, in this entire Stormy Daniels affair, when Avenatti wonders about things, he usually knows the answer.

The ironic part of all this is that all these payments to the President’s personal attorney, which at best are clearly payments for access, are probably legal. Ever since the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell in 2016, the chances of actually convicting a politician of bribery are virtually nil and “pay-to-play” is now effectively legal. That was made clear in the case against New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez. Yes, Cohen could have legal issues about not registering as a lobbyist but those penalties pale in comparison to actual public corruption.

Unfortunately, the President’s current legal strategy for dealing with the Mueller investigation is to focus on reducing the chances or options for impeachment, a largely political process. That means that being able to fall back on the legality of these payments may have less of an impact with the general public, even with portions of Trump’s base, who innately understand that these payments essentially amount to bribery and exemplify the “swamp” of corruption they (gullibly) voted to have Trump clean up.

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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Sho Time 2: Downtown Brown With Dominic & Steve

Mod: Yesterday I posted the following, and I thought that there should be some follow-up so everyone might have a better understanding of exactly what went down here.


Mod: If this conversation of the city's elected leaders, along with key staff, had occurred in closed session, and Sho Tay had revealed what was said in his mailer, it would have been a clear violation of the Brown Act. However, and as resident Laurie Thompson, City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto and City Attorney Stephen Deitsch discover in the following series of emails, no such closed session conversation ever took place. In other words, Sho Tay just made this all up in order to smear his fellow City Councilmembers with the false allegation that they didn't care about crime, and then put it on an illegal postcard to boost the campaigns of Bob Harbicht and Roger Chandler. It is remarkable dishonesty on several levels. Here are the emails.

From: Laurie Thompson
Subject: Checking Back - Closed Session Violation - Request for Document (s)
Date: April 19, 2018 at 3:31:38 PM PDT
To: Dominic Lazzaretto, Stephen Deitsch, Peter Amundson

To all: I haven’t received a response from you regarding my request for the notice of the closed session Sho Tay referenced on Tuesday night. It might be because no noticed agendized item exists in which case there has been a Brown Act violation.

Or it might be because if you identify an agendized closed session item that Sho Tay was referencing, Sho Tay has committed a criminal offense in disclosing results of a closed session deliberation in a very public manner.

Or maybe it’s because Sho Tay made the whole thing up in which case Sho Tay is not presenting the truth. I don’t want to make any assumptions so I’d like a response.

Sincerely, Laurie Thompson
Long Time Arcadia Resident

From: Dominic Lazzaretto
Subject: RE: Checking Back - Closed Session Violation - Request for Document (s)
Date: April 19, 2018 at 3:41:15 PM PDT
To: Laurie Thompson, Stephen Deitsch, Peter Amundson

Laurie: Steve and I have a conference call scheduled tomorrow morning to review your request and what was said on Tuesday night. We will be in touch as quickly as we can thereafter.

Have a great day, Dominic

From: Laurie Thompson
Subject: Re: Checking Back - Closed Session Violation - Request for Document (s)
Date: April 19, 2018 at 5:18:34 PM PDT
To: Dominic Lazzaretto

Thank you.

From: Stephen Deitsch
Subject: RE: Checking Back - Closed Session Violation - Request for Document (s)
Date: April 20, 2018 at 9:50:13 AM PDT
To: Laurie Thompson, Dominic Lazzaretto, Peter Amundson

Good morning, Ms. Thompson.  Thank you for your two emails about this item.  I plan to respond to them after I review the video of this past Tuesday’s Council meeting and as part of my work day at City Hall this coming Tuesday.

Thank you again. Sincerely, Steve Deitsch

From: Stephen Deitsch
Subject: FW: Checking Back - Closed Session Violation - Request for Document (s)
Date: April 24, 2018 at 12:54:37 PM PDT
To: Laurie Thompson

Ms. Thompson, thank you again for your inquiry about Mayor Pro Tem Tay’s reference to a closed session in his public remarks at the April 17, 2018 City Council meeting.  As I indicated I would do in my April 20 email to you (below), I have now viewed and listened to the video of that portion of the April 17, 2018, City Council meeting to which you have made reference.  I can now address your inquiry.

The Ralph M. Brown Act and, in particular, Government Code Section 54963, prohibits disclosure of confidential information that has been acquired by being present in a closed session.

Mayor Pro Tem Tay briefly mentioned in his Council meeting remarks that he had met recently with Mayor Amundson and City Manager Lazzaretto, and had shared with them his thoughts about a closed session discussion.  In his remarks at the City Council meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Tay clearly indicated that he was not allowed under the Brown Act to describe information he obtained at a closed session and, thus, would not be able to be specific in his description in his remarks at the Council Meeting.  He merely indicated that he shared his thoughts about such a closed session discussion with the Mayor and City Manager. As such, there has been no Brown Act violation.

To the extent your inquiry instead possibly questions whether a closed session was held by the City Council in violation of the Brown Act, I can indicate unequivocally that the City Council has lawfully listed and described on its posted agendas, and has conducted, closed session discussions fully in accordance with the Brown Act.  In particular, no discussions were conducted during my presence in any closed session which did not pertain to the closed session agenda descriptions on all posted agendas.  Of course, I hope you understand that having been present in closed sessions, I am forbidden by Government Code Section 54963 (cited above) from publicly reciting what specifically has been discussed in a City Council closed session.

I hope this addresses your concerns. Thank you again for your inquiry. Sincerely, Steve Deitsch

The postcard.

Mod: Sadly, the City Attorney had either misunderstood the nature of Ms. Thompson's request, or he didn't wish to reveal what had actually happened. Read how Laurie then holds his feet to the fire, and in the process gets Steve to unveil the following remarkable revelation. That being, Sho Tay made this all up for the purpose of a dishonest postcard the FPPC is now in the process of nailing him on.

From: Laurie Thompson
Subject: Clarification - Request for Public Records
Date: April 25, 2018 at 12:51:20 PM PDT
To: Dominic Lazzaretto, Stephen Deitsch, Peter Amundson

Dear Mr. Deitsch, Mr. Lazzareto, Mayor Amundson,

Thank you for your response but it does not accurately match my request.

Request Review Background:

 1.  MPT Tay sent out the following statement to several hundred residents in District 5 in a campaign flyer:

"If you folks remember, there were times that proposed plans of ordinances to safety of our community , but I got only one vote from Council Member Roger Chandler from District 5."

2. This statement was challenged as untruthful by Council Member Beck at a subsequent city council meeting. He requested evidence.

3. At a recent city council meeting MPT Tay gave his defense to the truth of his statement in the flyer. He indicated that his claim that proposed ordinances regarding public safety had taken place during a closed session and he could not discuss it.

4. If indeed a closed session took place he cannot discuss it.  However, he disclosed the vote and that he was referencing public safety.

5. Despite the fact he could not discuss contents of the item, all closed sessions have an agenda that is public and subject to a Public Records Search under the law.  Furthermore if the item was finalized then it becomes open to the public.

Therefore my request is simply as follows:

1. As a Public Records Search under the law, I am requesting the date of MPT Tay’s referenced closed session and a copy of the public agendized item referenced by MPT Tay. Discussion and voting on a closed session item cannot take place unless agendized.

2. If this meeting did occur, please provide the reference in the Brown Act that allows for such a meeting on the topic.

Note:  Just saying, If it was a closed session isn’t it strange that he wrote, “As you folks remember”.  How would anyone remember what had been discussed in closed session unless confidentiality had been breached?

Regards, Laurie Thompson

From: Stephen Deitsch
Subject: FW: Clarification - Request for Public Records
Date: April 26, 2018 at 11:08:34 AM PDT
To: Laurie Thompson
Cc: Dominic Lazzaretto

Dear Ms. Thompson,

Thank you for your follow-up Public Records Act request.

I shall instruct the City Clerk’s Office to aggregate all City Council meeting agendas which included closed session items on the posted agenda over the past one year period. If you instead want to have the City do so for a longer period than the one prior year, please inform me as soon as reasonably possible. The City shall thereafter transmit these agendas to you.

Your request is otherwise vague, and for that reason among others, the City is otherwise unable to reasonably respond to your request. To the extent the following somehow addresses your emails, there are no posted closed session agenda items which included a reference to ordinances related to public safety, and I am not aware of any violation of the Brown Act concerning discussions of closed session items listed on posted agendas. Nor am I aware of any other Brown Act violation.

The Public Records Act requires a public entity to produce documents responsive to a request, but does not require a public entity to answer questions beyond providing documents. To the extent that your three emails concerning this matter have posed questions regarding closed session discussions, I can only refer to the email I transmitted to you yesterday in response to your first two emails, in addition to the above response.

Sincerely, Steve Deitsch

From: Laurie Thompson
Subject: Re: Clarification - Request for Public Records
Date: April 26, 2018 at 2:44:21 PM PDT
To: Stephen Deitsch

Dear Mr. Deitsch,

Thank you for your reply.

For now, based on your statement, "there are no posted closed session agenda items which included a reference to ordinances related to public safety”, there is no need to use staff time to send me closed session agendas that document that public safety ordinances have never been included on closed sessions. You offered to send me one year of agendas but am I correct to assume that no such items were on closed sessions during Sho Tay’s  4 year tenure ?

Regards, Laurie Thompson

From: Stephen Deitsch
Subject: RE: Clarification - Request for Public Records
Date: April 26, 2018 at 2:51:45 PM PDT
To: Laurie Thompson
Cc: Dominic Lazzaretto

Ms. Thompson, the precise contents of my previous email would apply to all previous years, as well.

Sincerely, Steve Deitsch

Mod: So there you have it. A clear confirmation from the City Attorney of the City of Arcadia that the Mayor Pro Tem, Sho Tay, was not telling the truth. And did so for the purposes of an illegal political campaign postcard designed to smear his fellow City Council members on the crime issue. Case closed.

The postcard in Chinese.

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