Monday, March 17, 2014

City Demands Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council Submit Missing Financial Records

In light of a steaming serving of DONE-DUNG served up by the otherwise decent chap Paul Hatfield at CityWatch (no links because we don't give Google juice to dung and we understand the owner of that site loves the clickety-clicks such drama brings) and said CPA Hatfield's consistent slamming of anyone in Sunland-Tujunga who has called for fiscal transparency of their neighborhood council, we offer up the following official letter from none other than Empower LA.

Some time back, Joseph Mailander went through public data with regard to the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council's finances. That which was a frequent pattern of cash withdrawals from the city funded panel's account, all around the same time and without any description as to the purpose. No one individual was mentioned or any specific acts of impropriety suggested. That being said, the point was the lack of specificity in the public record keeping and the odd pattern of withrdrawls. Also of particular note was that many of these withdrawals were made last minute, resulting in signifcant bank fees, that would not otherwise be charged for purchases on the Sunland Tujunga Neighborhood Council's debit card, or for city checks requested.

Rather than an explanation, Mailander and others were met with stonewalling, name calling and a very righteous Hatfield who was aghast that anyone had even suggested there was a problem.

Here's the problem. Public funds, in the form of cold hard cash, was being withdrawn from a cash machine on a consistent basis with no apparent explanation. Again, no specific impropriety was charged, yet the appearance of such should be of concern to officials and stakeholders alike.

Sunland-Tujunga's treasuer, Nina Royal, has adamantly declared that the books are in order, they are as clean as can be and that anyone may make an appointment with the Sunland Tujunga Neighborhood Council's part-time employee to visit their office and review documents.

That now appears not to be entirely true. Again, for the sake of folks like Paul Hatfield and others, no specific charges are being made. But as the saying goes, where there is smoke, there may be fire. Certainly the city agency, DONE, charged with overseeing these expenditures is clearly not satisfied with the records and lack of records being submitted. It is very likely once they are, all will be fine. It is also very likely DONE goofed. If either is the case, and is presented and confirmed to us, we'll print that here. The bottom line is that in the handling and spending of the public money, extreme care must be taken to be fully transparent and to demonstrate that everything is on the up and up. If this isn't done, it is certainly justified for stakeholders to question otherwise.

Let me say this: nothing would please me more that after appropriate investigation, everything is on the up and up and at the very worse, we're looking at sloppy bookkeeping and lack of clear direction from DONE. Cherry on top would be for DONE to work for a more transparent system - where this information is available at any time, on line, for stakeholders so that they need not take time off from work to make an appointment with a part-time employee.

Stay tuned.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council Elections

Do you wanna be known as a homeless haven?
Do you want to go back to the Sunland-Tujunga you use to know and love?
Is Sunland-Tujunga better off today than it was two years ago?

VOTE - March 8th, 2014

Make a!

Thomas Smoker, Jr.

Wally Wharton
2nd Vice President/Outreach

Bonnie Corwin

2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
North Valley City Hall
Tujunga, CA 91042

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Bonnie Corwin is a Friend of Sunland-Tujunga, First and Foremost


A lot of folks are making the case that you should consider who one associates with when you make a selection for Neighborhood Council this Saturday.

There may be some validity to it, but in the end, each person is accountable to themselves, and God (if you choose to believe that), only.

Many folks are simply voting for Nina Royal for STNC treasurer because they have personal animosity towards David DeMulle, who has a friendship with Bonnie Corwin, who is Royal's opponent.

We've documented here that Royal has put in many hours over the years on behalf of the community. Frequently, she's found her efforts bogarted by various charlatans who took advantage of her good nature. But we have also noted that despite Royal's service, she is not the right choice for treasurer, given the current state of our community's finances and the need for more fiscally adroit folks to work with new City Controller (who unlike our last controller is less politician and more technician) to make our finances more transparent and ethical.

The city has a very rudimentary technology in place at present to present fiscal information to stakeholders online. For example, we can see expenditures and cash withdrawals by STNC but there is no backup online or even descriptions as to what the funds were intended for. For example, why are there regular monthly with withdrawals of cash for the same amount? Why is the STNC shopping at Home Depot and what are they buying? I am certain that nothing nefarious is going on here (some of you might suggest otherwise). But we have no way of knowing.

Nina Royal suggests the answer to this conundrum is to make an appointment with Ed Rock, the office manager for the STNC, a kindly gentleman who works a few hours a day keeping track of things. During such an appointment, one may sift through piles of receipts in folders kept by STNC treasurers past. That's a practical suggestion if this was 1978, when folks worked 9-5, had hour long martini lunches and Peppered up at 10, 2 and 4. Today, most of us are doing the work of 2-3 people 20 years ago and don't even take a lunch break. Such an activity would be out of the question. This is why the Internet was developed and why this information en toto needs to be online - to empower good governance.

Bonnie Corwin has impressed many as a thoughtful and resourceful individual, with the technical expertise required in the financial world, as working financial professional. Those who wish to maintain the status quo - many of whom privately trash Nina Royal - are using the specter of David DeMulle to unfairly tar and feather Ms. Corwin.

How many of you have a friend or even spouse that you would not want to be judged by? Indeed, many of those opposing Ms. Corwin are tied up with folks who have exhibited questionable private and public behavior. Would it be fair to judge Nina Royal by their activtiies? I don't think so.

I believe there are many areas of community need, starting with a decent newspaper, that Nina's talents can address. But at the STNC level we need change and we need it now.

Vote for Bonnie Corwin for STNC treasurer, if you truly want change.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Voting Status Quo in S-T is 'insanity'

Voting for the status quo does not solve this problem. The status quo created the problem.

David DeMulle and Joe Barrett both support Brenda Fortune for VP of Outreach for STNC. That alone is reason to vote for Wally Wharton. But I'll give you a few more:

  • No one studies local issues in S-T more than Wally, she gets it, she knows who the players are, all the way up to the City Council level.
  • She is passionate about S-T and has been a homeowner here for over 20 years. No one fights as hard and aggressively for our quality of life than Wally.
  • Even her opponents call her fearless, something that she is. We need someone who won't cower to the city staff, developers and others who have no idea how our way of life works here - and who want to take it away from us.

When you look around S-T at the shuttered businesses, the excess of pot shops, liquor stores, auto repair, the blight, the daily growing homeless population - basically how blighted our main commercial corridor is, it does not sync with most of the rest of our beautiful town. Something made that happen and something radical has to change to make it better.

Wally Wharton discovered this gem where former Councilman Alarcon
admits the City wants to export homeless to S-T. Did you read that in the news?

Brenda Fortune is a nice lady. But she has been part of the LA City Council staff and all the status quo organizations in S-T for decades. Have things got better? Doesn't seem like it. We thank Brenda for her service, but it's time for a change.

If you expect the town to get better and you plan to vote for all the same old people who have in charge for over a decade, then you have to reconsider the old saying that "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

If you really care about S-T, are angry about the state of things and want results, then you have to vote for Wally and the new blood that will make a change.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

What You Need to Know About the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council Elections

Joseph Mailander and his Publisher
Joseph Mailander posted this on our Facebook page. We are publishing it here for wider distribution.

You are having elections in Sunland-Tujunga in a week. You are urged to vote even if you don't feel a mastery of the issues.

Most of us who have contributed to shaping the spirit of this particular patch of scorched Facebook earth feel that the community has not benefited by its present set of civic community officers, who have been nearly the same for a decade. And most of us feel that your community's decline over the past decade has been far more acute than LA's in general.

Though there are many troubles with LA that have amplified over the past decade, there have also been many cultural and some economic consolations elsewhere that your own community has not experienced. In nearly all other bedroom communities in LA, for instance, real estate values have more than doubled in the past decade. There is more money around for the rest of LA than there was in 2004, and lots of residential communities but especially commercial strips have been able to gussy up and fix themselves. In the rest of LA we have seen a stabilizing number of homeless and dwindling numbers of at risk youth. In the rest of LA we have seen much rehabilitation of park land and adding to its acreage.

This hasn't happened in Sunland-Tujunga, however, none of it. Instead, you've lost a source of civic pride, the Watermelon Festival. You've become more of a homeless magnet. You were deliberately annexed into a Latino-majority district in which you persistently receive the very short end of the stick with regards to civic largesse. You've looked on powerlessly at your top own commercial strip as it has become more and more blighted even as the edge cities down the road have drawn even more business away from you.

I've been looking into Sunland-Tujunga as an outsider but intensely over the past three years. I've looked at nearly every single City contract involving Sunland-Tujunga and looked at the operations of the Chamber of Commerce too. I know they've both done utterly miserable jobs making your community better. Worse, when posed the simplest of questions, your present leadership at the Chamber and the NC have instead attacked, sometimes blindly and often viciously. (And regarding "outside" observers, Americans were far more charitable and hospitable to Tocqueville I must say).

There is much to fix in Sunland-Tujunga but your civic leadership is instead most interested in lending a hand to the rest of the City, even while denouncing normal political opposition in your own community with a vehemence we just don't see elsewhere.

The past six months especially have seen the community slowly waking up to the fact that your own civic leadership has not held City Hall in nearly enough contempt for what it has done to your community. I don't know if that's because they lack esteem or that they simply are too gullible, not savvy enough to know when a politician is glad-handling them. Certainly the fact that you have had four Councilmembers in five years has only created less opportunity for the City to feel that it needs to bother fixing your community at all.

The most important thing is that you all need to vote next Saturday. It's not my job to tell you who to vote for, but it's your job to learn as much as you can about what your Neighborhood Council has and has not done for your community. As you can see merely by clicking around on this and other message boards, your community obviously needs considerable fixing. You don't have lots of other professional and paraprofessional organizations around to turn to as alternatives. You need to vote and to tell your friends to.