To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Saturday, March 2, 2013


By Peggy Drouet, March 2, 2013

Today, I went to a talk about earthquakes, especially California earthquakes, given by Margaret Vinci from the Office of Earthquake Affairs, Caltech. Only about 10 people showed up, which really isn't that surprising as I am sure that most people here have already been to numerous earthquake preparedness meetings, there was a ground-breaking ceremony for our new fire station at the same time, and the day was just too beautiful--a heavenly winter heatwave day--to spend any part of it inside.

I've been to some earthquake preparedness meetings beforehand but today's talk was exceptionally interesting as earthquakes and earthquake zones around the world were discussed with both great graphics and action simulations, one being of the southern portion of the San Andreas Fault breaking from south to north, showing the earthquake waves starting in the desert and then coming into the Los Angeles area and overpowering it. An overview was given of the damage that will occur when this scenario (not an "if")--a 7.8 on the San Andreas--does occur.

Margaret Vinci told us of some of the changes of advice given in how to prepare and survive an earthquake: No longer are you advised to stand under a door jamb during a quake. Rather lay on the ground or floor on your stomach to protect your inner organs and cover your head with your arms. If you can, get under a table or a desk before doing this. You can stay in bed if the quake hits during the night, but turn over on your stomach and cover your head with a pillow.

Another big change is that you should be prepared to be on your own for food, water, etc., for at least two weeks--not only for three days, which is the advice previously given.

For advice on how to prepare for and survive earthquakes, go to http://www.earthquakecountry.info/ This information is important for everyone to have, not just us who live in earthquake country, as you may be visiting California or another area or country when an earthquake occurs and you should know beforehand how to react if it happens.

If you live in California and you want to know what particular hazards an address, such as where you live, has earthquakewise (ground shaking, liquefaction, landslides, tsuanami, flood, fire) go to 

Poll: Narrow majority support L.A. sales tax hike


By Dakota Smith, March 2, 2013

 A slim majority of voters support Proposition A, the half cent sales tax increase on the ballot Tuesday, according to a USC/L.A. Times poll released Saturday.

The poll surveyed 500 likely voters on the tax hike. City leaders say Proposition A, which would boost the city's sales tax to 9.5 percent--one of the highest in the state--will fund police, parks and other basic services.

The poll found 53.4 percent of voters definitely or probably support the tax hike, while 40.6 percent are against it. Six percent of voters said they were undecided.

The proposition needs a simple majority to pass.

"Although measure A is ahead in our poll, the fact that it's so close to the 50 percent threshold puts it in a very precarious position," USC's Dan Schnur, director of the poll, said in a statement.

Supporters include Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Council President Herb Wesson, and real estate development companies, such as Anschutz Entertainment Group, owner of the Staples Center.

Developers, billboard companies and unions are heavily funding pro-Proposition A advertisements. In television and web spots, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and Maria Elena Durazo, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, urge voters to approve hike.

Opponents include all the mayoral candidates. Councilman Eric Garcetti has said he believes the L.A.'s finances aren't as dire as portrayed by City Hall's budget analysts.

The same poll also weighed in on the City Attorney's race. Former Assemblyman Mike Feuer has a lead of 23.8 percent, while 16.4 percent back current City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. The poll also showed 15.2 percent of voters support attorney Greg Smith, and 4.7 percent back attorney Noel Weiss.

The polls were conducted Feb. 24-27. The margin of error is 4.4 percentage points.

USC Price/LA Times will release a poll Sunday on the L.A. mayor's race.

Ground breaking held for Pasadena fire station renovation project


By Brian Day, March 2, 2013


PASADENA - Officials broke ground Saturday on a renovation project expected to re-open the Pasadena Fire Department's Station 39 by the end of the year.

Built in 1952, the station is among the department's oldest, and was closed in April of 2011 due to concerns over seismic safety, authorities said.

The $1.78 million construction project, being carried out by Pasadena-based contractor MallCraft and managed by the Pasadena Department of Public Works, is designed to bring the building up to modern standards, while maintaining the structure's historical significance and brick exterior, Pasadena Fire Department officials said in a written statement.

City officials including Fire Chief Calvin Wells and Mayor Bill Bogaard took part in the ceremony at the station at 50 Avenue 64.

Funding for the project comes from the city's Capital Improvement Project Fund.

Though the official ground breaking took place Saturday, work has already been ongoing.

Westside traffic jammed amid 405 Freeway construction


  March 2, 2013

Traffic was gridlocked in parts of Westwood and on L.A.'s Westside on Saturday as construction work on the northbound 405 Freeway in the Sepulveda Pass continues.

Three lanes of the northbound 405 were blocked off for the repairs and traffic was backed up for miles. Several surface streets around the freeway were also jammed.

Construction work on a 2.4-mile stretch of the freeway will cause shutdowns of some or all northbound lanes at different times throughout the weekend.

During the day the northbound freeway is reduced from five lanes to two between the Montana Avenue entrance ramp and the Getty Center Drive exit ramp in West Los Angeles until Monday morning, Metro officials said. The lane closures began Friday night.

The northbound 405 will be closed completely in the construction zone from 2 to 7 a.m. Sunday and from  midnight to 5 a.m. Monday, officials said.

All northbound freeway lanes and ramps should be open by 5 a.m. Monday, Metro officials said. If rain affects the work, the operation will shift about a week, officials said.

As of Saturday morning, the work was proceeding on schedule, said Dave Sotero, a Metro spokesman. All northbound lanes were closed late Friday night and reopened at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, he said.

The construction work is part of the 405 Freeway Sepulveda Pass Improvement Project, in which a carpool lane will be created and the freeway will be realigned. Construction crews had finished grinding pavement and had begun placing new pavement by Saturday morning, Sotero said.

Traffic was moving slowly Saturday morning, Sotero said. It took freeway motorists about an hour to travel from Venice Boulevard to Getty Center Drive, he said.

Motorists should expect delays throughout the weekend and have been advised to take Sepulveda Boulevard or to find alternate routes, said Marc Littman, a Metro spokesman.

Here are some images aggregated from social media:

The construction could cause SigAlert conditions, Littman said.

 Oh hi 405. Yes there are worse things in life, but this BLOOOOOOWS!


  That 405 traffic


 It's called the #405 because you only go about 4 - 5 miles an hour!

South Pasadena 125th year Anniversary Celebration
From Sylvia Plummer:

Saturday, March 2

The Freeway Fighters will be in a booth at the intersection of El Centro Street and Diamond Ave in South Pasadena.  They will be there from 12 noon to 4pm, so be sure to stop by if you are in the area.  There will be Local and State Officials, entertainment, food trucks, and an evening art walk which begins at 5pm.

Los Angeles Mayoral Race
From Sylvia Plummer:

Election day for the City of Los Angeles is Tuesday, March 5th

Based on what the candidates have been saying......

Candidates who oppose the SR-710 Extension (our friends):

Eric Garcetti - Candidate for LA Mayor
Kevin James - Candidate for LA Mayor

Jose Gardea - Candidate for LA City Council  District 1
                       Highland Park/Mount Washington region

Candidates who may be neutral on the SR-710 Extension:

Wendy Greuel - Candidate for LA Mayor
Jan Perry - Candidate for LA Mayor
Emanuel Pleitez - Candidate for LA Mayor

Candidate Statements regarding the SR-710 extension are now on http://www.no710.com/contact.html

LA Times Article "Who will be L.A.'s next Mayor?"

Volunteers Needed
March 2, 2013

Message from Trish Gossett:

Volunteers are needed from the NO 710 group to help out this weekend thru Tuesday, to phone bank, etc. for Jose Gardea, who is a candidate for Los Angeles City Council District 1. 
As you may know, his opponent Gil Cedillo want's the 710 tunnel.
The campaign office where all the action is taking place is located at:

Devon Glass and Mirror
5320 N Figueroa Street
Los AngelesCA 90042
Neighborhood: Highland Park

If you can help out please contact Trish Gossett at:

March 5 endorsements: The Times recommends 

 Our picks among the candidates for mayor, city attorney, controller, City Council, L.A. Unified Board of Education and Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees in Tuesday's election.


March 3, 2013

 Candidate for Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti

 The Los Angeles Times endorses Eric Garcetti for mayor.

Voting may be the ultimate act of optimism. If it can't help, why bother? People who go to the polls are investing in the future of their city, asserting by their action that there is a choice to be made and that the choice is consequential.

But voting counts regardless of who prevails. The victors cannot help but take careful note of just who put them in office, and who can keep them there if they perform well — or throw them out if they don't. A high turnout sends the message that voters are on duty and paying attention, regardless of how much money was donated by interest groups looking for favors.

A low turnout may well signal inattention or despair, and that's hardly a signal of civic good health. When too few voters show up at the polls, it gives disproportionate power to those people — too often affiliated with one special interest or another — who do bother to turn out.

Turnout in Los Angeles city and school elections is often disappointing, so the city needs the optimism provided by voters who do go to the polls because they hope — they know — that their choices make a difference. In the same spirit, The Times resists the temptation to coast through elections without making choices. In the March 5 city and school primaries, this page has endorsed in each race. If none of the choices in a particular race is a good one, we have been straightforward about that. But in the spirit of optimism, and following the example set by voters, we choose the best of what may be less than ideal options — and we prepare ourselves, as citizens do, to hold the victors to account once they are in office.

Candidates for mayor, city attorney, controller, City Council, L.A. Unified Board of Education and Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees will win office outright if they receive more than 50% of the vote Tuesday. For each race in which there is no such winner, there will be a runoff between the top two candidates on May 21. Winners take office July 1.

The digital version of this endorsement recap includes links to fuller endorsements.
Mayor: Eric Garcetti. This candidate's strengths and weaknesses are the same: Garcetti navigates among opposing viewpoints to broker consensus. That can make him appear weak or lacking in conviction. But he has a solid record of accomplishment as a councilman and as City Council president, and he seems to grasp the city's potential — and can articulate it and pursue it — in a way that the other candidates cannot. He is a work in progress, with the emphasis on progress, a trait missing elsewhere in the field. Wendy Greuel, by contrast, touts achievements that are at best hazy — such as her claim to have uncovered (but not recovered) $160 million in waste, fraud and abuse — and plans that are equally amorphous for correcting the city's budget problems.

City Attorney: Mike Feuer. The city attorney's office desperately needs some stability, some creativity and some wisdom. Feuer can provide them. Voters should see their task as not merely hiring a criminal prosecutor or a civil trial lawyer but electing a person capable of steering the city through legal minefields to secure the best quality of life for residents and the best policy making for the future. Feuer has repeatedly shown, as a state lawmaker and before that as a Los Angeles councilman, that he can deliver.

Controller: Ron Galperin. Without care and attention from voters, the office of controller could easily become Los Angeles' lieutenant governor — an elected position without power, productivity or purpose. The city needs a part-wonk, part-gadfly, part-brainstormer who can rethink how the city is managed while patching financial leaks. Galperin has the wonk part nailed, and he comes closer than the other candidates to filling the other roles.

City Council District 1: Jose Gardea. Voters in this northeast Los Angeles district can choose between the brainy, planning-oriented approach of departing incumbent Ed Reyes and Gardea, his chief deputy, or the development-oriented labor and Chamber of Commerce ties of his principal opponent, Gil Cedillo. For a more livable, sustainable district and a more responsive council office, Gardea is the better choice.

City Council District 3: Bob Blumenfield. The southwestern portion of the San Fernando Valley needs a councilman who can sustain economic development while preserving residents' quality of life and applying fiscal discipline to citywide matters. Blumenfield's experience as a district director for a congressman and as the Assembly budget chair during the state's meltdown and recovery make him the best choice. The quality of candidates who come from the neighborhood council system is improving, and some in this race would be credible alternatives to candidates in other districts, but Blumenfield offers knowledge and experience that voters should not pass up.

City Council District 5: Paul Koretz. As an incumbent, Koretz hasn't always made the most responsible choices in the citywide fiscal crisis. But he has been a capable council member in his Westside and San Fernando Valley district, and his challenger fails to demonstrate that he would do better.

City Council District 7: Felipe Fuentes. Fuentes is smart and has relevant experience to serve as councilman in this northern San Fernando Valley district, but he has left himself ample room for improvement, having allowed special interests to write many of his bills while he was in the Assembly. The Times endorses him, somewhat reluctantly, because we have examined the field and found none of the alternatives to be capable of serving. That's a shame because this district, more than most, is in need of strong advocacy and wise decision-making to better the lives of residents.

City Council District 9: David Roberts. A new community spirit is afoot in this South Los Angeles district, and residents need someone who knows how to parlay it into economic development and improved quality of life. Given his successful experience as a City Council deputy, Roberts is the better choice over candidates who have stronger ties to other communities inside and outside Los Angeles.

City Council District 11: Mike Bonin. Styles and strategies are different enough between departing incumbent Bill Rosendahl and Bonin, his chief deputy, that voters in choosing Bonin would be opting for continuity while still getting some new energy and verve.

City Council District 13: Mitch O'Farrell. In this classic showdown among candidates embraced and funded by politicos and by labor, voters in this district of Hollywood, Atwater Village, Silver Lake and parts in between would be wise to instead opt for O'Farrell, who is independent of both groups. He is a former council staffer with a track record of responsive constituent service.

City Council District 15: Joe Buscaino. Watts, Harbor Gateway, Harbor City, Wilmington and San Pedro deserve a council member committed to top-flight advocacy and constituent service. It's too early to say that one-year incumbent Buscaino has delivered, but he's on the right track.

Board of Education District 2: Monica Garcia. Incumbent Garcia is the best of a bad bunch of candidates because she supports the reform efforts of Supt. John Deasy.

Board of Education District 4: Kate Anderson. A reform-minded candidate, Anderson is the better choice over incumbent Steve Zimmer, who has failed in his efforts to bridge the gap between the union and reform camps.

Board of Education District 6: Monica Ratliff. A fifth-grade teacher at an inner-city L.A. Unified school that has steadily raised its standardized test scores, Ratliff has the background, smarts and independence of mind to become a true leader in the district.

Community College District trustee seat 2: Mike Eng. Eng has substantial government experience and would be a quick study for this at-large board.

Community College District trustee seat 4: Jozef Essavi. A real estate broker and repeat candidate, Essavi is more focused than his opponents on the key issues: high dropout rates, lack of course offerings, misuse of construction funds and the role of outside interests in determining board priorities.

Community College District trustee seat 6: Tom Oliver. A retired president of Pierce College, Oliver is by far the most articulate and informed challenger to longtime board member Nancy Pearlman, who has not been effective and has trouble outlining a clear vision for reform.

Proposition A (permanent half-cent sales tax increase): No. It's hard to count all the ways that City Hall leaders have blown this opportunity to pump more revenue into the city, but let's start with these: This sales tax should have been temporary, and it should not have been proposed at precisely the time that neither the outgoing administration of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa nor the incoming team of the new mayor and City Council could avoid accountability for it. Nor should it come just in time for both management and labor negotiators to see the revenue as a new available pot of money for new contracts.

Charter Amendment B (fire and police pension plan): Yes. This measure would allow police officers transferring from one city pension agency to another to buy into the appropriate retirement plan. Because officers would be paying for the transfer, this measure would allow an acceptable transfer without adding to the pension crisis.

L.A. mayoral candidates square off in last debate before Tuesday's election


March 1, 2013

Marking the final debate of the L.A. mayor's race, the five leading candidates squared off Friday night during a live television event.

During the hour-and-half debate, hosted by KCBS2/KCAL9, the candidates sharpened their positions and rebuffed recent attacks. The round-table discussion forum meant the candidates - City
Councilman Eric Garcetti, City Controller Wendy Greuel, attorney Kevin James, Councilwoman Jan Perry and former tech executive Emanuel Pleitez - were seated close to one another.

At times, testy exchanges ensued.

Perry coolly asked Greuel to denounce a negative radio advertisement attacking Perry over her spotty financial history. Greuel would not, stating that everything should be on the table for voters.

The radio advertisement attacking Perry was paid for by an outside group, funded by the Department of Water and Power union, which is backing Greuel.

The DWP union has spent at least $1.7 million supporting Greuel through advertisements and attacking her rivals Garcetti and Perry.

In another heated exchange, Greuel and Garcetti argued over over Greuel's audits of the DWP. Garcetti pressed Greuel to explain why her office hasn't been able to find more wasted money at the department. He suggested Greuel was intentionally avoiding scrutiny of the DWP, which the controller denied.

Garcetti's challenge over the DWP audits devolved into bickering about the auditing process. "Do you know what an audit is?" Greuel asked of her colleague.

The back and forth marked the growing tension in the race between the five major candidates, and perhaps their fatigue in the final stretch of the election. There have been dozens of debates in the past few months. Voters head to the polls March 5.

At one point, host Dave Bryan held up various mailers sent out to voters, a sign the harsh turn the race has taken in recent days. In one mailer, Greuel's campaign calls Garcetti and Perry liars. In another, Garcetti accuses Greuel of holding too many press conferences.

Both Pleitez and James repeatedly cast themselves as the outsiders during the debate, painting Garcetti, Greuel and Perry as the root cause of the city's financial difficulties. At certain points, they paired up challenging the City Hall veterans and echoing one another's comments.

Repeatedly, they sought to return the conversation back the city's financial state. Moderator Bryan also asked Garcetti, Greuel, and Perry to explain why they backed pay raises for employees in the mid-2000s given the projected deficit. The pay raises came months before the economy crashed, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa ordered thousands of jobs slashed.

James seized on Bryan's comments, adding: "They knew, they already knew the city had a projected deficit ... they were irresponsible."

"They made decisions on numbers they didn't understand," Pleitez added.

Greuel, who was a City Council member at the time, said the council relied on the advice of the city's budget analysts.

Going forward, Perry said that she would ask the unions to forgo the already negotiated pay raises they will get next year.

As he frequently does during debates, Garcetti sought to focus on achievements seen in L.A., rather than the economic gloom.

"There are challenges, sure, these have been some of the toughest economic times," he said, before listing improvements like improved public safety in L.A.

Despite the recession, crime in L.A. has continued to drop, Garcetti said. He also talked about the new parks and other improvements in his district.

James rejected such a rosy view of L.A. "He lives in a different city than the one we live in," he said of Garcetti.

In a lighter moment, Bryan asked all the candidates if they'd ever inhaled. Garcetti and Greuel, as it turns out, were the only ones who said they'd smoked marijuana.

"Once, in 10th grade," Greuel said.

"Asthma," said James, explaining why he'd never lit up.

Imported Water Flows Into City Pipes Again


March 1, 2013


Water deliveries via the Metropolitan Water District’s Upper Feeder Pipeline resumed late Thursday night, February 28, marking the end of Pasadena’s Level 4 Water Shortage Emergency.

The watering ban in Pasadena Water and Power’s (PWP) service territory has since been lifted.

The city’s permanent water waste restrictions, which prohibit outdoor watering between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. among other prohibitions, will resume per the water ordinance (PMC 13.10).

“Once again, this community rose to the challenge and has proven that they are fantastic water savers,” said PWP General Manager Phyllis Currie. “We are sincerely thankful to our residents, businesses, city officials, sister departments, the Pasadena Arts Center, the Pasadena Conference Center, the Pasadena Unified School District and many others for their outstanding conservation efforts, which have helped us avert a true crisis situation.

Even in the wake of unseasonably warm weather, the water demand within the PWP service territory was reduced by more than 20 percent during the eight-day shutdown, as compared to the historical average for this time of year. Throughout the shutdown, daily water supply updates were provided to
customers online on the PWP website and social media sites, as well as via PWP’s shutdown hotline, where residents could also report water waste violations.

MWD, which supplies about 60 percent of Pasadena’s water, stopped all water deliveries to Pasadena through its Upper Feeder Pipeline from February 21 through February 28 as it performed vital system repairs and upgrades to the Eagle Rock Tower in Eagle Rock and to the F.E. Weymouth Water Treatment Plant in LaVerne. During the pipeline shutdown, Pasadena relied solely on its groundwater and reserves and enforced a ban on outdoor watering, with few exceptions.

PWP customers can continue to find up to date information about water supply issues and water conservation programs by visiting www.PasadenaSavesWater.com. For more information about the City of Pasadena, go to www.cityofpasadena.net.
District 3 PUSD Board of Ed Candidate Ruben Hueso Loses United Teachers of Pasadena Endorsement


March 2, 2013

 Bone bit

 You might recall that The Tattler made some news a few weeks back when we revealed that Ruben "Bone" Hueso had violated the rules of the Boy Scouts of America by swiping scout imagery for a campaign postcard. Despite Hueso's supposed close association with the Boy Scouts he was reprimanded by authorities there for what was a direct violation of the rules of that organization. One that takes a dim view of its emblems, and in this case actual uniformed Boy Scouts as well, being used as personal campaign props. When questioned about this by the Pasadena Star News, Hueso's response was: "I can't hide who I am."

Apparently he hasn't be able to hide who he is from the United Teachers of Pasadena, either. The influential labor organization whose endorsement had become the centerpiece of Hueso's campaign has decided they no longer wish to be associated with this particular candidate, and instead has now rather unceremoniously dumped him. This from the Pasadena Star News (click here):

The city's teachers union has rescinded its endorsement of school board candidate Ruben Hueso, who said he learned about the action only when contacted by the media.

The United Teachers of Pasadena didn't specify why it's no longer backing Hueso, one of four candidates vying to represent Northwest Pasadena's District 3, an open seat.

"The United Teachers of Pasadena Executive Board unanimously recommended pulling the endorsement at an emergency Executive Board meeting last week," union president Alvin Nash said in a statement. "We did not make this decision lightly but after much thoughtful consideration. It was our collective decision that Mr. Hueso did not satisfy the UTP requirements for endorsement."

The Pasadena Weekly also has a story about Ruben Hueso's now vanished UTP endorsement up on their web page (click here). And while the teacher's union did not seem to care to share any of the juicy details of their unprecedented dropping of Hueso, at least officially, the P-Weekly did find someone there who had something to share:

No love lost: United Teachers of Pasadena rescinds endorsement of Board of Ed candidate Ruben Hueso - United Teachers of Pasadena (UTP) has rescinded its endorsement of District 3 Board of Education candidate Ruben Hueso over questions regarding some of Hueso’s other supporters.

“There were some issues with his endorsements and campaign team,” UTP President Alvin Nash told the Weekly. Without being specific, Nash said Hueso had provided conflicting information on different forms regarding endorsements from individuals and organizations. Hueso, Nash said, was informed of the union’s impending action by phone message on Feb. 14 — Valentine’s Day — and was given until Monday night to respond, but did not.

“Communication broke down and he stopped returning our calls,” Nash said. “We gave him a deadline and he did not call back.”

When reached by phone Thursday, Hueso told the Weekly he did not know UTP had withdrawn its support. “They have my email, phone number and personal phone number,” Hueso said. “I have not received anything from them. I need to call them. For an organization like this to make this decision, I would say the least they could do is contact me.”

Nash said that when UTP officials contacted a number of people who Hueso said supported him, they were told that information was incorrect. He also said that the UTP board had problems with Hueso receiving endorsements from some unnamed school officials from outside the Pasadena Unified School District who were not aligned with pro-labor and pro-teacher groups.

After reading this piece you really have to start wondering if Hueso is even capable of telling a straight story. He apparently fibbed to the UTP about some of his campaign endorsements, and after having been informed of his growing problems with the union, refused to return their phone calls, later feigning complete surprise when they dumped him. Ruben appears to have misplaced his Scout's Honor.

And then there is this:

Hueso, who has a daughter in public school and another daughter who recently graduated from Pasadena High School, is also s endorsed by Assemblyman Chris Holden, Ed Honowitz, former Board of Education member Jackie Jacobs and Democrats of the Pasadena Foothills.

Obviously Hueso is the candidate of the corrupt Pasadena political establishment, and none of this should have been a surprise. These are people who will do or say anything to keep their grip on political power. There are also some growing questions about Hueso's campaign finances, specifically in regards to those who have been giving him substantial donations. We will be reporting on that soon.

Gil Aguirre reports on the SGVCOG's "Clean Beaches - Water Tax" so-called workshop

COG's water tax workshop was pretty well attended, I would guess about 60 brave souls ventured out to hear about the new Clean Beaches tax proposal.  Most were local politicians, but a few members of the public seemed to show up as well. It was nice to see the public wasn’t turned away, but then again they weren’t really invited either.

Over the last couple of years I have grown accustomed to attending SGVCOG meetings and am always amazed how the COG can make simple issues complicated and complicated issues incomprehensible.

And their “workshop” on the proposed Los Angeles County Clean Water Clean Beaches Measure didn’t disappoint.  Pretty simple proposal really – levy a tax on every single piece of real estate in Los Angeles County based on the potential water runoff caused by rain ... aka the rain tax.

Now I can usually spot a slick sales pitch and it was quickly clear that was exactly what was in store for those in attendance.  The technique employed was the old two step method: first confuse and scare everyone, then introduce their salvation … this new tax proposal.

SGVCOG Vice President Mary Ann Lutz kicked things off by describing the compliance process required by each city under the Federal Clean Water Act. She explained the permit process and characterized how burdensome and costly the requirements can be. These regulations and the permit are created and administered by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, however Lutz failed to mention that she helped create these very regulations and the permit requirements while she sat on this Board for some 8 years. (I understand she was removed from the Board recently, something about the law saying you can’t hold incompatible offices I think)

Now Lutz is a lot of things, but a great orator may not be one of them.  Think of Nancy Walsh running a two hour meeting and you start to get a vision of how painful this part of the workshop quickly became.

After describing how complicated the compliance process can be, Lutz went on and on about the potential fines each City might face for non-compliance. $10,000 per violation per day was hammered home to the local officials in attendance.  My favorite was when we all heard that if 5 McDonalds bags were discovered in the City run off canal, that could result in a $50,000 fine. When the crowd was sufficiently scared about how they were going to comply with these burdensome and costly regulations, it became time for the big gun from Los Angeles County to take over.

A well spoken gent by the name of Russ Bryden from the Los Angeles County Flood Control District took over.  I didn’t get his exact title, but it sure sounded important. He began by letting everyone know that he wasn’t there to advocate in favor of the measure, but was there to educate and inform. So it was hardly a surprise that he then proceeded to spend the rest of the evening advocating for the Measure!

Russ also let everyone know that the forward thinkers (his term not mine) over at the County had determined that the answer to the compliance issues was to create a regional solution, as this is just too tough of an issue for the cities to handle on their own.  He even used the MTA and COG as glowing examples of how regional agencies were the answer to all our problems.

There was a slide show with charts and bright lights. And Russ waived a handful of papers around which apparently contained lots of important statistics and information upon which he relied. But in the end it boiled down to just two key points:

First, the proposed tax measure would create 9 new regional agencies similar to our very own COG.  These newly created agencies would be called WAG’s, for Watershed Authority Groups, and each would be comprised of appointed, not directly elected, bureaucrats charged with deciding how best to spend the new found cash raised by the tax.  There would also be a Stakeholder Advisory Board and Oversight Board created, which would again be comprised of appointed hangers on.

Russ took great pains to let us know that these groups would protect us from any potential malfeasance on the part of the WAGs, he just forgot to mention that they really won’t have any power or authority beyond making recommendations.  These Boards will operate much like the Citizen Oversight Board does for the PUSD Bond program. Something that turned out to be a bit of a nightmare for those serving on them.

More importantly, the measure would also create a much coveted revenue stream. This "revenue stream" (which is government speak for new taxes of course) would impose a billion dollars in new taxes on property owners over the next 5 years alone.  The County would get $100 million of that money for “administering” the program, while the WAGs would get the lions share to spend as they see fit.  Some of the tax money would go back to each City to spend on their own projects and in the case of Sierra Madre that would be about $150,000 a year.

Russ also wanted to make it very clear that the program would charge property owners a fee, not a tax.  He pointed out that sure the fee would be listed on your yearly property tax bill and collected by the Assessor, but it isn’t a tax. Now I am a simple guy, if it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it must be a duck.  Although the distinction may have consequences for property owners when it comes time to try and deduct these costs from their annual income taxes.

A couple of other points came out such as the measure having a yearly cost of living increase built right in. In other words, the tax can go up each and every year with no further approval from voters needed.  As well, the measure has no sunset clause, which means the tax can be collected on a permanent basis.

Lastly Russ Bryden explained that the confusion over the measure, and the fact that only property owners would be required to pay the new tax, was due to the evil requirements contained in Prop 218.  Passed by an overwhelming majority of voters back in 1996, Prop 218 requires that those being affected by the tax be given the right to vote on the proposal. In this case, that would be the property owners.  Of course prior to the adoption of Prop 218, the taxing agency could simply approve the new tax and we had little to say about it.

That pretty much sums up the evening. The County wants to charge us $Billions in new taxes and create a myriad of new agencies filled with un-elected bureaucrats, all to deal with the pesky rain that happens every now and again.

And for you movies fans out there, think of the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. I have no doubt that if the County guys should ever find themselves out of a job they do possess the needed skills to peddle swampland property to elderly retired folks.