Thursday, August 28, 2008

Remember when "Athens" wasn't garbage?

Seeing that we just celebrated the most-watched Olympic games in history, I think it appropriate to post about Athens considering it was the site of the first Olympiad in modern times.

I find it interesting, however, that what once was the epitome of greatness and strength has been reduced to trash -- quite literally.

Athens is the infamous garbage hauler of probably most cities in the San Gabriel Valley, and they pay handsomely to be just that. I wouldn't be surprised if they had an entire staff devoted to finding out who's running for what and greasing their wheels like crazy.

Recently, in the city of Montebello, three council members thought it best to give Athens an "evergreen" contract to do all trash-hauling duties. In case you don't know, evergreen means for the next 15 years, even if a hauler comes in saying they'll pick up trash twice every day at five bucks a year, Montebello is bound to Athens and no one can compete for the city's contract.

Sounds like it lacks common sense, doesn't it? It seems the Montebello City Council thought so, too, so they decided to skip on the last meeting and for the first time in 20 years, there was no meeting due to lack of quorum. Well, I have a story that may not be as juicy, but another example of how Athens always gets what it wants from our elected officials.

Athens is the garbage hauler in West Covina and a couple years ago, our esteemed elected officials voted on the MOST curious contract with Athens. Not only did they allow an increase for fuel costs, it was retroactive. Now, Councilman Herfert had a problem with that and stated half the retroactive cost would be "absorbed" by the city, and not the residents. I have a question: don't the residents' taxes make up the city's piggy bank?

Even against city staff's recommendation, the council voted 3-1 to allow the retroactive fuel increase, along with the CPI index increase.

Honestly, though, there was so much double talk going on at that meeting that I was still able to see on TV........ that it's just a little complicated, which is where I find a red flag.

Nothing in this world EVER has to be as complicated as some make it out to be, which is probably why E! cancelled Denise Richards' reality show. It's been my experience when people try to dilute things, they don't want you to see what's staring you in the face. Sure, there are exceptions, and most of those exceptions have nothing to do with dollars and cents. When it comes to taxpayer money, though, all we're talking about is dollars and cents.

The West Covina news is old, but it's just another example of how it seems our elected officials are so devoted to Athens. I dare any elected body to turn its back on Athens, just to see what happens next.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Over the Edge? Me?

According to a person with the sophisticated handle called "I love West Covina" over on the Leftovers blog, I have gone "over the edge" and he/she is concerned about the council's "safety."

Never have I threatened anyone on this space or on the Leftovers space. I said I thought Councilwoman Shelley Sanderson was a pretty woman. Good God forgive me for stating the obvious. And since these people also have absolutely NO sense of humor ("I love West Covina," "Average Joe" and "The Commish"), I guess I have to explain a couple things:

I'm a happily married man. MAN. What man -- besides those of the homosexual persuasion (not that there's anything wrong with that) -- doesn't look at pretty ladies?

Secondly, I like ironic humor. Irony= an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected. Since I fundamentally always disagree with her on every single vote she seems to cast, I think it's funny I find her attractive.

Thirdly, I like all the attention, so the more you give it, the more I post. If your goal is to wipe me off the face of the World Wide Web, you sure are doing a LOUSY job.

Good luck with that.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dear Average Joe...

Since my post yesterday, I've been receiving lots of emails from readers really upset about the City Council's decision to pull the plug on televised meetings. All alternatives offered to them were virtually ignored, including a very smart one to have volunteers work the booths. If the city can have volunteers directing traffic and giving parking tickets, getting some to push a couple buttons twice a month shouldn't be so hard.

I also got an email from a friend to read the Leftovers blog and a response to what I had posted by someone named Average Joe.

Average Joe said:

"West Covina Watcher also has some of the info but gives out always misinformation. Mt. Sac chargers the city according to the staff report Appox. $60,000.00 a year plus annual cost of living adjustments for there services to broadcast the meeting only they do not film the meeting or produce it. So that leaves $120,000.00 a year for the 2 Prod Asst. that are city employees one at 42,900.00 Salary plus benefits of $17,754.00 thats health, dental, optical and retirement. The second Prod Asst. $42,268.00 Salary plus benefits of $18,193.00 thats health, dental, optical and retirement. That totals the $180,000.00 Appox. for the cable broadcast. West Covina Watcher I thought you state in your bio that you work for a college what is your salary and benefit the taxpayer pays for you. When government tells you there cost in this case they were telling you both salary and benefits. You took that total and acted like they each make $90,000.00 a year! Come on West Covina Watcher the facts just the facts!"

I don't know who Average Joe is, but he's not really great with the reading and comprehension. I don't work for a college, in fact I'm an HR director for a medium-sized private business, but whatever. I did mention once that my wife works at a university as a researcher/instructor. A private university, so I don't know if the taxpayer pays her salary either.

Also, I don't think Average Joe quite grasps the concept of punctuation. If he had read more closely, he would have seen that I asked if the two guys made $90 Gs a year, hence the question mark. See what happens when emotional people post? That's why you never should blog angry-- you blog smugly. Like me :-)

Oh, and thank you to someone called The Commish, who told me:

"Shelley Sanderson was wearing an orange blazer and you're a perv. Plus, why didn't you mention the real news of the night? The council approved the overhaul of Orangewood Park for soccer fields. We don't have the money, but I'm sure we'll find a way."

Yeah, wishful thinking, Commish. Keep on dreamin'.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Off the air

I'd like to first thank all of the loyal readers who wrote me with what occurred at the West Covina City Council meeting last night.

As I understand it, the conversation went quite a while but, as suspected, the Foursome said budget constraints are keeping them from bringing back the broadcasts, even though the odd man out suggested a slew of other trimming options, including lofty contracts with lobbyists and some marketing firm. Why is there a marketing firm when the city has a Public Information Officer? Why, Lord, must common sense flee from our elected leaders in such large numbers?

My favorite email came from reader who I only know as "True Patriot":

"As suspected, the four -- especially Mike Touhey -- played the Public Safety card all goddamn night. He must be a Republican, but instead of using the word "terrorist" to justify his actions, he uses the word "public safety." If we bring cable back we'll have to fire all our officers and kill your puppies. Even though his more thoughtful colleague found ways to cut, they still didn't go for it. He also said something like, 'If you have a heart attack, you won't be looking at cable TV,' which I thought was in extremely poor taste considering his colleague had just lost his father to a heart attack."

Another reader who calls him or herself SWV said:

"Oh that Touhey and his crocodile tears! He was "offended" that Hernandez suggested cutting the public info officer position. He was all choked up. He must be friends with that person or something. I mean, $100 grand they spend on him or her AND they contract with another marketing firm? Yeah... that makes sense."

Apparently the man of the hour was a resident named John Solis who suggested the city look into a grant he had found on the Internets. Shouldn't that be the first thing City Staff look into? How come the council didn't take into consideration other options that were apparently mentioned at the meeting. One reader told me someone suggested volunteers. The equipment's already there!

Hey, whatever happened to just taping the damn thing yourself and posting it on the Internet? Any idiot with a camera phone and a connection can do that. In fact, I employ you, readers, to tape the meetings, send me the digital file and I'll post it right here on this very blog. How much money is that gonna cost? A helluva lot less than the alleged $150-180 thousand.

Although my readers really came through for me today, I'm just a tad disappointed. What was Shelley Sanderson wearing? No one bothered to tell me. I heard that she wouldn't mind doing away with the Herfert Herald, aka Discover West Covina.

Oh, Mrs. Sanderson. I know she probably doesn't like me very much because I constantly disagree with her, but you know how when a hot chick hates you it makes her even hotter? Well, if you're a guy you'd understand...

That's all for today, dear friends. Please...give me your input.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tonight's the Night

Dear Watcher Readers,

Tonight is the night I urge you to go to City Hall if you disagree with the Council's decision to cease broadcasting of the City Council Meetings. People have been signing petitions, talking to each other and writing letters to the editor in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. In fact, the paper's editorial board came on the side of the people and is urging the Council members to rethink their decision.

You know what I like about the Council, especially Councilman Mike Touhey, they always find a way to stick to a bad decision even if there's outrageous support against it. Not only that, whenever their reasoning to make these bad decisions is proved to be wrong or rectified, they find ANOTHER excuse.

This is one of my favorites: Mayor Pro Tem Roger Hernandez told the Tribune that there is a lot of fat in the budget that can be trimmed, such as an apparent do-nothing lobbyist, an alleged do-nothing public information officer, and -- of course-- the Herfert Herald, aka Discover West Covina.

Upon hearing that fat can be trimmed elsewhere, Touhey came out and argued only 33 percent of West Covina residents have cable access. Where was this argument before, when HE was Mayor, and HE had the "Mayor Show?" Now that his arch rival is set to be Mayor pretty soon, it's an issue? Oh brother, will the pissing contest between these two egomaniacs ever end?

The Watcher would love to be there, but I have to stay at home with the kiddies. Please let me know what happens, faithful readers.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Could it be?????

Did someone at City Hall actually LISTEN to the people?

As you all know, there have been several complaints regarding the cancellation of the City Council meetings on Charter Channel 55. Allegedly due to budget cuts, the 20-some-odd year broadcast is all of a sudden "too expensive" to operate. Personally, I believe the $180,000 cost projected by City Staff is a bit inflated, but that's just my opinion.

It looks like the City Council will get a chance on Tuesday to rethink their stance. On the agenda, the item is coming back on the Tuesday, Aug. 19 meeting.

Maybe then, by the grace of God, the City Council can think of innovative ways to make the cuts WITHOUT taking away the meetings. All you really need is an open mind.

1. Cut down on Discover West Covina! I know its going from monthly to quarterly, but there are other ways to trim, like hmm, I don't know -- only sending it to people who want it! Like, 35,000 of those things go out, but how many of those 35,000 households actually read it? Make receiving it optional. I know what you're thinking, Mr. Herfert, "How will I ever let people know about BLD?...Again and again and again and again?" Well, you're just gonna have to trust somewhere in that $1.3 million we're paying for BLD each year, there's some cash set aside for marketing... Which brings me to item ...

2. Public Information Officer. From what I understand, a Public Information Officer is like the city's spokesperson to the media. I read the paper religiously and I can't remember a time when West Covina's Public Information Officer was quoted. This person could be writing and designing the newsletter, BUT if you look at the newsletter now, and a newsletter from a couple years ago (before the Public Information Officer was hired), you don't really see a difference in design or writing style. I wonder, is the person writing and designing the newsletter now the same person doing it then? If so, why are we wasting money on a Public Information Officer?

OK, if you guys don't want to lay anyone off, even if they've only been around a short time and don't really do anything (seriously, if you are or know the PIO, please let me know what she does and I'll issue a Watcher-style apology), here's another: Broadcast the City Council meetings only. Stop with all the other things, like the Mayor Show, the Planning Commission Meetings, the events, etc.

I'm definitely not being a hater. I do enjoy those things, especially since I -- born in Dodger Blue -- got to see and hear a speech from the great Maury Wills on Channel 55. But to me, those things can wait til things look a bit brighter, fiscally.

Also, on the Leftovers blog, someone suggested having volunteers work the cameras. What a novel concept! Volunteers!!

Maybe the many people expected to go to Tuesday's meeting will have some other ideas. I got an e-mail from a person called only "KWG" and it reads:

"I am not happy with the city turning off the cable broadcast of its meetings.
I would like to encourage everyone to attend the next meeting and voice our displeasure.
Any suggestions on getting the word out?
I have even considered putting this in the Tribune by buying a quarter page or more.
Please let me know your feelings.
I am in no way associated with the city other than being a resident."

I suggested to KWG he write a letter to the editor to the Tribune. Apparently, this cause of getting the meetings back on the air caught its attention. The editorial board agrees: Broadcasting the meetings yields and open government. While other, smaller, cities are broadcasting -- or looking to do it -- the "Hub of the San Gabriel Valley" is shutting it down. That makes no damn sense.

Godspeed, KWG! You have to tell me what happens, considering I won't be able to see it on TV.