No Altadena Library Board Election This Year

The three incumbents up for reelection will be reappointed by the LA County Board of Supervisors, saving the Altadena Library District at least $135,000

By Justin Chapman, Altadena Patch, 8/25/2011

Although three members' terms of the Board of Trustees expire in December, there will be no election held on November 8 because only the three incumbents filed to run.
Board President David Datz and Board members Thomas Hubbard and Gwendolyn McMullins have all filed to run for office, and in lieu of any challengers, will be reappointed to the positions, according to Eileen Shea of the Los Angeles County Registrar. That will save the district the $135,000 that an election would cost.
Though only the three incumbents finished final papers to run for the office, two challengers went through the initial steps and filed their names with the Registrar, though ultimately did not complete the process, according to county records.
Armen Sarkissian, one of those would-be challengers, said he decided not to go forward with the campaign after a conversation with Datz, who would have been one of his opponents in the race. 
Datz told Patch that he contacted both potential candidates and explained what would be required of them, how much of a time commitment it is, and the fact that an election would cost the library district $135,000 or more.
That would be about 5 percent of the district's operating budget of roughly $2.3 million, though according to Datz the board continues to save money in their budget for elections.
"I just wanted (Alene Terzian and Sarkissian) to know all the facts," Datz said. "I didn't try to influence their decision. I wanted to explain to them the commitment involved, what they'd be expected to do, and that they should be aware that it's a substantial amount of money to run this election. People have the right to run if they want to, I just gave them information."
Datz added that he approached Terzian and Sarkissian with the intention of letting them know what they were getting themselves into. Although he did not speak to Terzian on the phone or in person, he did send her an email laying out all the facts and received a response indicating that she would not be running due to time commitments.

Not Directly Asked Not to Run
Terzian could not be reached for comment, but Sarkissian told Patch that he spoke with Datz on the phone and met with him in person. He said Datz never specifically tried to discourage him from running, but he did explain the complications involved if he did run.
"I was never directly asked not to run," said Sarkissian. "I was given information about the background of the board, how time consuming being on the board is, and how much an election would cost the library district. He did specifically tell me, 'I'm not trying to tell you not to run for election, but x, y, and z.'"
The high cost of holding an election was not the only reason Sarkissian decided not to run. He said he felt it would be an uphill challenge if he did find something that wasn't being handled efficiently because the other four members who have been entrenched on the board for years might not have the same perspective as him.
"If I'm the new person I think it would be an uphill battle to try to get something accomplished," he said. "I didn't want to run if I didn't feel I would be effective."

An Unpublicized Election
Although Sarkissian said he did not feel Datz's call was inappropriate, he does take issue with the fact that this election was not posted in the Altadena libraries or publicized in an adequate way (Altadena Patch ran an on the election, but just shortly before the filing deadline)
"The public has no idea about any of this, and that I have a problem with," he said. "I don't know if there are regulations to make sure if this election is being run properly, but how are people supposed to know how to run or vote if it's not publicized?"
The district, which is independent from the county's library system, holds staggered elections every two years as long as there is a challenger. In 2009 there was also not an election because there were no challengers, though there was an election in 2007.  The board members do not receive any pay for their service. 
Datz said the lack of public information about the election was "absolutely not" based on the intention to discourage Altadenans from running for the board. He cited examples of people who ran in the past not knowing how much time it takes to be on the board who later dropped out because it was not what they expected.
"Mr. Sarkissian is right, though," Datz said. "I think the board could post things better and we could put more things out about the election we'll have two years from now."
Still, Datz added, the public should also be able to "find these things out for themselves."
"It's not hard; they can go to the website to get information," Datz said.
He added that the board doesn't do anything in secret. It's a public agency and anyone is invited and encouraged to attend board meetings, which are held on the fourth Monday of every month at 5 p.m. in the Altadena Library Community Room.

JPL to land Mars Curiosity Rover

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Sun, 8/2011

America’s space shuttle era came to an end last month, but roughly 400 workers at Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are in high gear preparing for the launch of the latest Mars rover, Curiosity.

“We’re trying to see if there was ever life on Mars and would Mars be capable of sustaining life,” Ashwian Vasavada, deputy project scientist on Curiosity, said.

Curiosity is scheduled to launch this fall and reach the red planet in August 2012, where it will collect data for two years. Late last month scientists announced Curiosity will land on the Gale Crater, where rock and sediment deposited down through the millennia are exposed. This landscape will help reveal if the planet ever had the key ingredient of life: water.

 “We targeted a landing site that looks to have the necessary environment and ingredients for life, and we’re going to try to confirm that with this rover,” Vasavada said.

Unlike previous rovers, Curiosity will have the ability to drill into rocks. It has a laser that reduces rocks to powder, and equipment to perform detailed analysis of samples.

“That’ll help us in two ways,” said Vasavada. “We’re looking for specific minerals in the rocks that would tell us about the availability of water in the past, which we think is necessary for life. We’ll also look for organic material, such as carbon-containing molecules that are the building blocks of life.”

The Mars Science Laboratory, NASA’s official name for Curiosity, is being run out of JPL’s Pasadena campus. Pete Theisinger, who has worked at JPL for more than 40 years, is the project manager. John Grotzinger, also a geology professor at Caltech, is the lead scientist.

When the Mars exploration rovers Spirit and Opportunity first arrived on Mars in 2004, about 1,000  people at JPL were involved, according to Vasavada. With Spirit already retired and work nearing a close on Curiosity, that figure has tapered off to about 400.

The Mars Science Laboratory is the largest current JPL project, Vasavada said, with an overall price tag of $2.4 billion.

Curiosity is slated to launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., between Nov. 25 and Dec. 18, weather permitting. Unlike the space shuttle Atlantis, which came back to Cape Canaveral July 21, Curiosity will never return.

“All data analysis will be done on the rover on Mars,” Vasavada said. “In 2014 it will have been on Mars for two years and that’ll be the end of our mission. If the rover is still working fine, NASA might decide to keep using it.”

Filming in Altadena and Liquor Stores Addressed by Officials at ACONA Meeting

At Tuesday night's ACONA meeting, professionals in the film industry and officials with Alcoholic Beverage Control and LA County Regional Planning discussed two very popular topics among Altadenans

By Justin Chapman, Altadena Patch, 8/10/2011

The Community Room at the was packed Tuesday night for latest Altadena Coalition of Neighborhood Associations (ACONA) meeting. The crowd was drawn to the informative bi-monthly meeting because the agenda contained two very popular topics in Altadena: frequent film productions in the unincorporated community and liquor stores, a subject that Altadenans have been debating for decades.
Elliot Gold, one of the co-founders of ACONA, started the meeting by projecting predetermined questions onto a screen for the present officials to answer. The audience also had many questions for the film industry professionals, Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) officials, and LA County Regional Planning officials who were present at the meeting.

Geoffrey Smith, the Director of Community Relations of Film LA, which is a company that works with production crews, addressed many aspects of filming in Altadena, including how to get your house inspected by a scout or location manager for possible use in a shoot, insurance should your house be damaged during a shoot, whether or not you have to move out, and most importantly the notification process to your neighbors.
"Look, there's simply nothing subtle about filming," said Smith. "If you're the kind of person who doesn't want a single scratch in your house or you're uncomfortable with 50 people running around during prep days and shoot days, then you probably don't want your house used in a film shoot."
That being said, however, Smith added that he has almost always found Altadena to be very mellow and accepting of film crews. And production companies love to shoot in Altadena because of that partnership, as well as the wealth of beautiful and unique homes that populate the town.
As for letting your neighbors know ahead of time that a film crew will be at your house for a certain number of days, Smith said that while it's the location manager's job to let residents and business owners within 300 feet of the shoot know what to expect, it's also common courtesy for you as the homeowner to do some outreach to neighbors yourself.
"Whether a shoot lasts for a day or two weeks, your neighbors are bearing the brunt of the noise, traffic, parking, and other related issues as well," said Smith. "But it can also be financially pleasing, both for you and your neighbors."
Depending on the kind of production, homeowners can receive up to $5,000 a day in tax-free compensation. And depending on the production's budget, the neighbors may receive compensation as well. Beyond that, the second guest speaker, Russ Fega, has set up a nonprofit organization called the Altadena Community Chest, which gathers donations from production companies that want to contribute to local charities such as the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy, the Altadena Library, and many other organizations.
Fega, an Altadena resident who represents this town as well as Pasadena and South Pasadena with a company he created called Home Shoot Home, also reaches out to other location managers who work in Altadena in an effort to create more awareness about the Community Chest. He said even if they haven't heard of the program before, they are almost always more than willing to contribute because they want to give back to the community that has given so much to them. That doesn't mean there are no complaints about film productions in Altadena, by any means.
"There's no doubt that filming is intrusive," Smith added. "But it's a huge economic engine for the county and for Altadena in many ways, so we don't want it to go away."

Liquor Stores
As Gold transitioned into the second item on the agenda, liquor stores, he played devil's advocate for a moment and reminded the crowd that these stores are also very profitable, but that some donate money back into the community as well. Two officials from the state agency ABC and two from the county's Regional Planning Department took the stage to describe what they do and answer questions from Gold's prepared list and those from the audience.
Anthony Posada, Enforcement Supervising Investigator with ABC, explained the lengthy process for handling complaints about wholesale and liquor retail stores and bars.
"First off, is it hard to get a liquor license? Yes it is," said Posada. "But if you oppose a potential license, you can attend an administrative hearing, and one violation can lead all the way up to the Supreme Court."
He added that every complaint is investigated and requested that any complaint be very specific in order to help with the investigation. Since the agency has so few sworn investigators, it grants funds to local law enforcement agencies. The LA County Sheriff's Department received a grant that began Jan. 1 and ends June 30, 2012. A total of eight stations, including Altadena's, partner with ABC to conduct undercover operations in establishments that sell liquor, according to ABC Investigator Nicole Gomez.
Right now there are 16 off-site liquor establishments in Altadena, but Posada said he can't speak about problems occurring at any one liquor store that might jeopardize an investigation, in response to one audience member inquiring about what she called a "problem liquor store," . That store has seen nearby and this audience member mentioned there are other related problems such as loitering and blight at the location on the corner of Lincoln and Figueroa.
However Posada said that anyone can visit ABC's website and look up information on every licensed store in the state. Another factor that makes it difficult to address suspected violations, according to the county's Supervising Regional Planner, Alex Garcia, is that if a store received a license before 1992 it is not subject to Conditional Use Permit requirements. They've been essentially grandfathered in, making it very hard to enforce because there are much fewer conditions that those stores are subject to.

Next Meeting
Gold announced that an online survey will be emailed to everyone who has attended the six ACONA meetings and put their email address on the sign-in sheet to get an idea of what issues should be addressed at the next meeting, which will be held either Oct. 4 or 25.

Two Packs of Coyotes Target Local Pets: One for Cats, One for Dogs

A county official said at a neighborhood meeting on Tuesday that different coyote packs follow different kinds of prey

By Justin Chapman, Altadena Patch, 8/10/2011

An expert tells concerned citizens that the rash of pet attacks by wild coyotes recently can be explained by two separate packs of animals: One that prefers cats, one that prefers dogs.
Ellen Walton, an Altadena resident, has been paying attention to local coyote packs and taken note of the preferential behavior by the two packs.
Walton, who works for the county's Agricultural Commissioner and Weights and Measures, spoke briefly at the about the that Altadena has been experiencing lately.

She said she has been following several packs that actually roam certain neighborhoods to hunt for "preferential feeding." One pack only looks for cats, while another only dogs.

Lost Pets
recently, and in a recent article we discussed the available to pet owners.
Walton gave tips Tuesday on how to protect pets, such as bringing in feeding bowls and fallen fruit from trees at night, as well as securing doggy doors at night. For more tips on coyote prevention, visit the agency's website for more information on this growing problem, or call the local office dealing specifically with coyote threats at 626-575-5462.
The Department of Fish and Game offers the following advice on coyote prevention:

  • Put garbage in tightly closed containers that cannot be tipped over.
  • Remove sources of water, especially in dry climates.
  • Bring pets in at night, and do not leave pet food outside.
  • Put away bird feeders at night to avoid attracting rodents and other coyote prey.
  • Provide secure enclosures for rabbits, poultry, etc.
  • Pick up fallen fruit and cover compost piles.
  • Ask your neighbors to follow these tips.

National Night Out: Residents, Officers Chill Out

The Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Department and many more organizations participated in the 28th Annual National Night Out

By Justin Chapman, La Cañada-Flintridge Patch, 8/3/2011

Hundreds turned out Tuesday for the 28th annual National Night Out, which is designed to bring community members and law enforcement official together in an informal setting.
Local residents hung out and got to know the Foothills' hardworking police officers and firefighters. 
Check back on Patch later today for a full story and photo gallery.

Hundreds Attend Crescenta Valley's National Night Out

Several local law enforcement agencies and officials were on hand Tuesday evening to show and talk about the equipment they use and explain how area residents can help prevent crime in their neighborhoods.

By Justin Chapman, La Cañada-Flintridge Patch, 8/3/2011

More than 50 local law enforcement and safety officials and some 100 residents participated Tuesday in the 28th Annual National Night Out, giving the community a chance to come together, meet their law enforcement officials, and participate in anti-crime activities.
Hosted by the LA County Sheriff's Department and the National Neighborhood Watch Association, the event was designed to strengthen the relationship between safety officials and the community.
The hosted two local events for the fourth year in a row, in conjunction with the National Neighborhood Watch Association. One took place in the parking lot at the in La Canada and the other in the parking lot at in La Crescenta. In Montrose, the Sycamore Woods Neighborhood Watch, run by Julia Leeper, raffled off prizes to about a dozen families and individuals at the Twelve Oaks Lodge.
Various organizations set up booths in the parking lots to show the community the equipment they use, fingerprint kids, provide information about preventing crime, and allow residents to ask questions about how to keep their families and property safe from criminals.
In addition to Crescenta Valley Sheriff's officials, participants included LASD Deputy Explorers and Volunteers, the California Highway Patrol, the Fire Department, several Boy Scout troops, the Search and Rescue Team, Crescenta Valley C.E.R.T., the Crescenta Valley Armenian Community Center, and the Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition, among others.

Don't Hesitate to Call the Cops
Capt. David Silversparre said the best way to help law enforcement officials is to call them when something happens or if something doesn't look right.
"Basically we want the community to be our eyes and ears," said Silversparre.
"Call us when you see something suspicious, and in each and every case our deputies will respond. This event is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, generate support for local crime fighting efforts, and get the community involved, which I feel is extremely important. We need to work together."

Need to Work Together
Deputy Jorge Valdivia said that while crime rates fluctuate, the area experiences constant property crime, which is one of the biggest issues local law enforcement is dealing with in the La Canada, La Crescenta, and Montrose areas. He and Silversparre urged residents to take precautions in order to prevent becoming a victim of property crime.
"Every year we try to get the word out about these events and make them better," said Deputy Jorge Valdivia. "The idea is to show that the community and safety officials are working together to send the message that this is a community that takes care of itself and basically let the criminals know that they're not welcome here."
Local residents such as Shannon Mumenthaler, who brought her infant son to check out the festivities, said that she would like to see law enforcement officials host more public outreach events such as this one.
"It makes you feel closer to your community and knowing who's going to come out if you do have an emergency," said Mumenthaler. "I think it's also important for our kids to understand what their jobs are, to help them know who to reach out to when something happens."