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Dougherty: Unite for Tuesday voting

Posted April 9, 2012 (see also my answers to questions e-mailed to me by Natalie Ragus at

I hope you have all spent time enjoying and appreciating family and friends, and appreciating our great community over the Easter and Passover season. It was a great time to pause and reflect upon all the things that make our lives a joy. We are truly blessed!

Mary Dougherty

We in Arcadia are indeed fortunate to have a City Council candidate pool of five that each has had significant involvement in Arcadia’s community. That has not been the case in many past elections. Each of us has a different perspective and different backgrounds, so there is a lot for voters to review and consider. However, April 10 will come and go, and we’ll still be around on April 11; let’s be sure that we turn our differences into a collective view for positive improvements to Arcadia and the community. It has been a pleasure to be involved in the many candidate forums, and to have the opportunity to express my concerns and my vision for the future.

Yes, I hope that you cast one of your two votes for me for Arcadia’s City Council. I know that you will not always agree with every decision I might make; pleasing everyone all of the time is simply not possible. However, I pledge to you that I will listen to your concerns, study the issues, and strive to represent the best interests of our community and the City of Arcadia.

Be sure to deliver your ballot to the City Clerk’s office at Arcadia City Hall by Tuesday, April 10, no later than 8:00 p.m.

It would be my pleasure to represent you on Arcadia’s City Council!

Posted April 1, 2012:

Arcadia’s Unfunded Liability

Arcadia shows a surplus of $2.4 million; however, the footnotes show a $67 million unfunded liability for Pensions and Post-Retirement Health Care, and this figure is based on a mix of 2010 and 2011 figures reported by the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS).

Further, PERS used unrealistic assumptions in their reporting. PERS used a projection of 7.75% income from investments, when their actual income from investments had been in the neighborhood of 1-2%. PERS just recently lowered their projection of expected income from investments to 7.5%. Why didn’t they make it a more realistic figure? If they had done so, many cities would have had to declare bankruptcy, since that would mean they would have to increase their funding to the retirement system beyond their ability to pay. That means that Arcadia’s liability is even greater than what was reported.

Now let’s look at the level of funding compared to expected pension funding in private industry. The report states that Police and Fire pensions are 77% funded, and funding for other employee pensions is 82%. The expectation in private industry is 80% funding, so that doesn’t look too bad until you realize that the funding level is way overstated because of the unrealistic assumptions of PERS earning levels. Also, the report notes that the Post-Retirement Health Care is 0% funded.

Arcadia did attempt to address the problem of its unfunded liability by no longer paying the employees’ contribution to the pension fund. However, to make that change the City negotiated a 9% increase in police and fire salaries and a 7% increase in other employees’ salaries over a three-year time period. Some would say this was probably a good business decision. It would seem that these pay increases would only make the unfunded liability greater, and thus would dig the hole deeper. The next report from PERS won’t be out for two years, so hang on and we’ll find out!

The City also created a Second Tier retirement system for New Employees. Under this system, when new Police & Fire employees retire they will get 3% at age 55, instead of 3% at age 50; other new employees will get 2% at age 60 instead of 2.5% at age 55, for each year of service.

Added to this complex set of issues is the fact that the City projects that a third of its employees will retire within the next 10 years. To complicate the problem further, retirement is based on the highest paid year – typically the last year of employment. So, the amount of retirement that must be funded from General Fund monies each year depends upon the length of employment and the pay level at the time of retirement of each retiree. That is whether or not the individual is an Arcadia City employee at the time of retirement, or has moved on to some other jurisdiction to a job at substantially higher pay.

There are so many variables in this equation that my head is spinning just thinking about it! How about yours?

Admittedly, Arcadia is in a better position than many or most other cities; however we should not ignore this problem. Talking only about the budget surplus and not the unfunded liabilities leads to unrealistic expectations for greater expenditures and higher levels of service, and kicks the can down the road to a future generation. Let’s start a discussion of how to address this issue and not saddle our children, grandchildren and future generations with solving this problem.

Submitted March 27, 2012:

I have attended several meetings of the Arcadia Downtown Business Association, and find the enthusiasm of its members encouraging and invigorating. Their members are excited about exploring the options for further improvements in the area.

The City provided a parking study of the area and is hiring a consultant to help the area determine how best to form and implement a Property Owner-based Business Improvement District. A PBID is a mechanism for a property and business owner collaborative. It is a partnership between the public and private sector organized for the improvement of a specific commercial area. The property owners determine the level of services and improvements necessary to fit the needs of the commercial area, and funds are raised through a special assessment on real property within a specific geographic area to fund those desired services.

Community residents told us on the General Plan Advisory Committee that they wanted a walkable area with restaurants, gift shops, art shops, boutiques and other retail that would promote an old-town or village-type atmosphere – a place to grab a bite to eat or to leisurely dine and stroll, surrounded by interesting shops. A less hectic place than the Mall with a more community-based atmosphere seemed to be the desire of the residents.

I don’t know where Arcadia’s “downtown” is – is it Baldwin Avenue, the Mall, Huntington Drive, or First Avenue? For that reason, I have suggested that the business and property owners consider changing to a unique name for the area – it might be “Village at Arcadia,” “Old Town Arcadia,” or some other name that they select, and that defines the area included in their PBID.

I believe that among the early steps is development of a shared database of the available properties, and sharing that information with the City, the Chamber of Commerce, Realtors, The Downtown Business Association, and the business and property owners. In that way, anyone interested in locating a business in Arcadia could be provided information no matter which they contacted, and those various entities could actively seek appropriate businesses for the available spaces.

Last year’s Independence Day parade was a terrific success. I think the community wants more of that kind of event, and with the business community’s enthusiastic support we can reach that goal.

I believe the possibilities for developing a viable business community that has its own charm provides a wonderful opportunity for Arcadia to enhance its commercial base for the future!

Submitted March 22, 2012:

Preserving Arcadia’s Community of Homes

I served on Arcadia’s General Plan Advisory Committee.

The residents of Arcadia told us that their most important concerns were the preservation of the atmosphere of a community of homes, and the prevention of mansionization.

To that end, I strongly believe in individuals’ property rights. Not just the property rights of the owner/builder/developer of property being developed, but also the property rights of the neighboring properties.

The City of Arcadia has Single-Family Residential Design Guidelines that were adopted in April 2009, that notes in site planning that “the location, configuration, size, and design of new buildings and structures, or the alteration or enlargement of exiting structures should be visually harmonious with their sites and compatible with the character and quality of the surroundings.”

New 17,000 square-foot home under construction on south side of Longden Avenue just east of Santa Anita Avenue, as viewed from backyard of neighbor whose grey wall is in foreground (Note that new house extends beyond the neighbor’s rear property line).

It further states that “The height and bulk of proposed dwellings and structures on the site should be in scale and in proportion with the height and bulk of dwellings and structures on surrounding sites;” and that “the design of a new house should provide effective and varied open space around the residence.”

In light of these requirements, how did the City approve a 17,000 square foot residence with 10 bedrooms, 15 bathrooms and an indoor swimming pool? This residence that is currently under construction sits between two houses that each has fewer than 2,500 square feet.

That means that it is nearly seven times the size of those homes!

Furthermore, the design has a solid wall with windows facing the neighbor’s yard with no open space. The next largest house in the neighborhood according to the Assessor’s map is 5,900 square feet. So this house that is being constructed is nearly three times the size of the next largest house. Yet, no one was notified of construction plans. The first notification the neighbors received was the beginning of construction, at which time the neighbors were told that it was a legal house and they had no right to appeal.

The new house can be seen between the neighbor’s house and garage.

This means if staff had denied the application that the owner/builder/developer could have appealed to the Planning Commission. However, the neighbors that were impacted had no right of appeal. I think that is just plain wrong!

When one person’s proposed actions impact another’s property rights, that individual should be notified. That doesn’t mean that a neighbor can veto his or her neighbor’s project. It simply means that the neighbor can be heard, and that protecting the neighbor’s property rights are as important a consideration as the developer’s in the development process.

Yes, I believe in property rights! I believe in everyone’s property rights!

Submitted Feb. 18, 2012:


Over the last five years the Arcadia Unified School District has cut $17 million from its budget, and if this measure isn’t passed the District faces the potential of cutting another $4 million. The District has kept the cuts as far away from the classroom as possible, thus trying to reduce the impact on the students. During the 16 years I served on the AUSD Board of Education we always made the students and their education our highest priority, and I’m proud to say that philosophy has continued.

With Measure A, none of the money can be spent on administrators’ salaries or benefits; it can ONLY be spent on teachers and the school program. There will be an oversight committee established by the Board of Education to ensure that the proceeds of the tax are spent according to the purposes stated in Measure A.

You might ask how the District has been able to build the Performing Arts center and renovate the schools, and still has to layoff teachers or have furlough days. The answer is simple. We, the voters, passed a $215 million bond issue to allow this construction. The bond money CANNOT BE USED for salaries or for ANY purpose other than for those purposes stated in the bond measure when it was submitted to the voters. A Bond Oversight Committee is charged with seeing that the monies are spent according to the plan that was approved by the voters.

Most of us moved to Arcadia because we wanted excellent schools for our children. Business needs an educated workforce to grow our economy. The desirability and value of our homes is tied to the educational value presented by our schools. Thus, I believe that we must continue to support our local schools.

I believe that Measure A is an investment in the future of the children, an investment in economic growth, and an investment in our property values.

Submitted January 17, 2012:

I believe there is a need for a fresh voice on Arcadia City Council, with a new perspective. My daytime availability will allow me to thoroughly study issues in advance of meetings. I have no conflicts of interest that would preclude my full participation in Council deliberations and decisions.

Mary Dougherty (right) seen filing her paperwork with City Clerk Lisa Mussenden on deadline day for City Council candidates: Jan. 16, 2012

I am an ardent supporter of the concept of maintaining Arcadia’s image as a Community of Homes, and recently chaired the group of architectural review chairmen that drafted the newly adopted Joint Resolution covering development in all five homeowners’ associations. I believe in development that is compatible with the neighborhood streetscape and promotes architectural harmony.

I also am an enthusiastic supporter of business development. I have been a member of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors for the past ten years, and co-chairman of the Chamber’s Government Affairs Forum. I have been actively involved in many Chamber activities and represent the Chamber at the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership and the San Gabriel Valley Legislative Coalition of Chambers. A goal of mine is to promote small businesses as well as to encourage larger commercial developments in order to grow our local economy.

As a past Arcadia Unified School District Board Member for four terms (16 years), I am a supporter of education, and believe that an investment in education is an investment in the youth of the future, as well as an investment in our local property values. Most Arcadia residents moved to Arcadia for the high quality schools; the schools epitomize the quality of our community. I highly value the collaboration between the City and the School District.

I am a fiscal conservative who believes in conservative budget practices. Our School District projects came in on time and under budget, and prudent reserves were maintained. Careful advance planning makes adhering to the budget possible.


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