New guerilla art in Pasadena …

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Well, the art was new when it was up, hugging a palm tree in Defenders Park at the southwest corner of Colorado and Orange Grove.

But that was weekend before last, when this … stuffed effigy depicting someone I perhaps should recognize but don’t … clung there early on a Saturday morning. It was captured by local photographer Anthony Shaw. By mid-day, it was gone,

Neighbor Mike Cornwell figures it was the work of the infamous guerilla artists of Fork in the Road fame, but who knows … do you?

More Arroyo Seco hardscape

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I shot this last week from the far northwest corner of the Arroyo Seco recreation loop, up Parkview from West Drive. The construction site in the middle distance used to be a raised triangle that was occasionally landscaped; now it’s flat and black-topped. It’s part of the plan to make the heavily used Arroyo floor safer for all concerned, especially the cyclists and runners who make that turn onto Washington going east at high rates of speed.

My wife thinks more’s the pity ’cause it’s yet more macadam down there. I think, much as I am for dirt rather than pavement, that it will make things better for all the exercisers. (I run on trails, not pavement — that hardscape is bad on the knees.) What do you think?

Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton

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*updated below:

Big Star was the greatest songwriting-centric rock band to never make it … big. Its co-leader, Alex Chilton, had a big taste of the big at 16 with “The Letter,” a crazy blue-eyed Memphis soul No. 1 hit he sang for the Box Tops. But never again. He should have been Beatle-sized on the basis of his sweet songs — “September Gurls” especially — alone. But who’s to say how that kind of fame would have helped rather than hurt? His work stands on its own as pop genius, and genius is some consolation, down the ages. Chilton died Wednesday in New Orleans, on the way to more cult adulation at this week’s South by Southwest in Austin. From the New York Times blog obit by Dave Itzkoff:

* Even better than “Gurls” — if you think this is all deathbed mopery, google “thirteen big star” to hear much of the Big Star song “Thirteen” from their first album, “#1 Record.” Got it? Can you just imagine how that would have sounded on FM rock ‘n’ roll radio in the early 1970s? Having never watched something called “That ’70s Show,” for which “In the Street” is apparently the theme song, I can’t say how it sounds on the television. But I’ll bet it sounds all right …

Michelle Bagneris on the secret police chief panel

Saturday morning, Pasadena City Attorney Michelle Bagneris and I were two of the three panelists — city head librarian Jan Sanders was the other — at a forum at the Neighborhood Church on openness in government sponsored by the League of Women Voters as part of a celebration of Sunshine Week, the annual homage to governmental non-secrecy.

Since the city has been embroiled in a spat over just that — its secrecy — it seemed like a great time to question Bagneris on the issue, and a very germane topic for the audience of about 100 passionate locals who turned out.

Most of us indeed appeared to find it interesting. For instance, former City Councilman Sid Tyler came to the event precisely because he had read in the Pasadena Star-News about the city manager and city attorney keeping secret the names of members of a public panel that has been formed to help select Pasadena’s next police chief. Sid said he was very disturbed by the secrecy and wanted to find out more about it.

But moderator Pete Peterson was more interested in telling stories about things that happened in public process in Humboldt County and Kauai than something that is going on right here, right now in Pasadena.

When I sought to continue to press Bagneris on the issue of why she considers it legal for the names to be hidden until after the selection process is over, Peterson cut me off.

Here is a transcript of the small part of the morning in which we were able to discuss the secret panel:

Michelle Bagneris: There was a request for the names of the panelists for the police chief interview, which will be conducted sometime this month I believe. Using that balancing test, among other rationales as well, it was determined that at this time, before the interviews are conducted, the public’s interest in non-disclosure outweighs the public’s interest in disclosure. That doesn’t mean that the names will never be released. It just means that, before the interviews, to avoid those interviewers being lobbied perhaps or pressured or … the interviewers don’t know who the candidates are, they don’t know who the other interviewers are, they won’t know that until the day of the interviews. It’s a process that the city employs for its hiring … It’s a process that while it’s public, some portions of it are private. And that’s using in some respects the privacy issues involved, in some respects the balancing of disclosure of information at an appropriate time … While I am doing my job of trying to protect all of your interests, I am doing it with all these balls in the air.

Larry Wilson: But Michelle … The question that will be asked, and as long as we are talking about freedom of information it ought to be, is that you could take that argument –that this body is secret — and take it all the way up to the City Council. Why should we know who our City Council members are, since they can be lobbied while something’s going on. So this is not something that is going to be held up in court … because the logic is absurd.

MB: No, because the council members are elected, and that is established as a public process. …

LW: OK, then let’s say the Planning Commission, which is not elected. By that logic, it would be better if they were secret, and would serve for a year, then after that year, we will disclose who they are, because then they could not be lobbied …

MB: No, I think there again — first of all, there are statutory requirements, Brown Act requirements with respect to legislative bodies. This isn’t a legislative body; it’s a group of individuals selected by the city manager. It’s a process for hiring, an interview process, and I think quite frankly it would be held up in court based on the distinction of what their role is …

LW: OK, then not the Planning Commission. The Arts & Culture Commission. They are not a legislative body …

Pete Peterson: Larry, just so you know, we have are other questions.

LW: Right, but this goes to show how important public information is …

PP cuts me off.


In response to a later question from the audience:

MB: Whenever their involvement is completed, then there will be a disclosure of the names. The goal is to ensure that their remarks are not a popularity contest. It’s a professional evaluation of the candidates’ credentials. As many people here are aware, there has been a very public process in terms of the of the city manager soliciting and considering Web site comments and direct comments to him.

New middle school at Blair

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This rendering by GKK Works, the Pasadena architectural firm, was up on the fence this morning in Allendale Park at the groundbreaking celebration for the Blair Middle School campus across Marengo from the Blair High campus.

In my day — early ’70s — as a Blair Viking, the 2-acre site was known as the C Campus, and it’s where all the great English teachers held forth, mostly from portable bungalows: Stan Sheinkopf, Mike Riherd, Bill Pickering.

Now, thanks to bond measure TT, there’s about $25 million available to bring some younger grades to the campus. The contractor, C.W. Driver, is also local. Ideally, someday, if there were demographics and demand for the International Baccalaureate program Blair has long touted, the Allendale primary/elementary across the street would be reopened and there would be K-12 IB programs available at one site.

Bond oversight committee member Jon Furman was there this morning as the dignitaries spoke — Mayor Bill Bogaard, Supt. Edwin Diaz, Principal Rich Boccia — and he told me the bonds were sold at a good rate last fall, and that it’s a particularly good time to cut deals, both on materials and with construction firms who really need the work. When he served in the same capacity on the PCC bond committee in the early ’00s, it was boom time in both our economy and in China, and construction costs were going through the roof.

Now they are headed for the basement. Good luck to the PUSD in getting this project done efficiently for the taxpayers and in getting a full cohort of students there.