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La Cañada’s cup runneth over

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition — Target is coming to La Cañada Flintridge! It's just what I've always wanted, all the more so since Foothill Boulevard has been recently graced with two 7-Elevens within spitting distance of the supposedly "upscale" Target that will soon be the anchor of the hard luck Town Center.

Imagine the traffic! Imagine the spillover into our neighborhoods of a small portion of the hundreds who will pour into LCF at a time when crime statistics are running well above normal! Imagine how jealous San Marino must be as their City Council members scratch their heads and wonder how we managed to snag these jewels in addition to Big Lots, Marshalls and TJ Maxx! Why, it's as if the Wizard of Oz gave Dorothy nothing she asked for.

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Now, I admit I am a little bit late to this party. However, the fact that it is going to happen suggests that many La Cañadans either ignored the whole issue believing that the City Council would do the right thing, they simply didn't know about it until it was too late (that's me), or they just plain didn't care (very small contingent of "I don't cares" in our unique town). Either way, I am going to spend the rest of this op-ed writing about the financial atrocity that is taking place with the relocation of City Hall. It's not too late to stop this $15-million-plus self indulgence dead in its tracks.

Long story short is the City Council authorized the purchase of the vacant Sport Chalet headquarters building at a cost in excess of $11 million. This took place last year. In the interim, I suspect all sorts of plans have been discussed as to how to put the building to its best possible use. What they have ended up with is a $6.45 million remodeling of a basically brand-new building so it suits the needs of La Cañada's civil servants.

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A few clarifying facts: The old City Hall encompasses about 7,200 square feet. It is in relatively good shape and, if I had to guess, a couple of million would take care of any real shortcomings. Last time I was there, you could have rolled a bowling ball down any of several halls. Overcrowded it isn't. What it also isn't is modern and the kind of place that reeks power and influence. In short, it is what it should be: a modest building suitable for operating the town of La Cañada Flintridge. And make no mistake, La Cañada is more a town than a city.

The new City Hall is almost four times larger: 27,881 square feet. You know what you get when you move several dozens of civil servants into bigger quarters? You get hundreds of civil servants, and faster than you can blink, the well-managed, fiscally prudent town of La Cañada Flintridge will find that it is a bankrupt wannabe city.

The powers that be do intend to lease out some of the new City Hall to other tenants — about 8,000 square feet to be more precise. That still leaves 19,000 square feet for civil servants to busily plan how to spend other people's (taxpayers') money without much in the way of constraint. By the way, spending other people's money is the basic problem with any politician who is worth his salt. The only way to stop it is to forbid them from doing it and then watching to make certain they don't.

Here's how we fix this. Demand that the modernization plan be put on hold. Organize a special election and vote on it. A year and a half ago, the city had a healthy comfortable emergency stash (millions in reserve funds) to get through hard times. What will it be left with after all this money is spent on the new City Hall?

Don't be fooled by statements that moving City Hall to the Sport Chalet corporate office is a 30- to 50-year investment in our community. Nonsense. What it is is a totally unnecessary palace. Keep the staff where they are and if the overcrowding becomes too much, have a layoff.

Bob Lang is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident. A former aerospace executive, he is a volunteer tutor and inner-city SAT prep teacher. He has a website, Medicareorbust.com.

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