But something highly puzzling did happen during Thursday's rebroadcast. First of all, it started and hour and a half late. Again, not completely surprising based on previous glitches at SMTV3. But after the re-airing finally began things became, well, highly irregular. After the 9:20 pm break, announced by the Mayor, and with the requisite interlude of edifying high classical music, a meeting did resume. But it wasn't the March 10th meeting that we'd been watching. Rather it was a segment from the November 12, 2008, meeting. And it continued for a full 10 minutes.
What made this particularly surreal was that Joe Mosca, who was in Washington DC for some meeting (God knows we'll eventually have to hear all about it), suddenly appeared on our TV screens as if he had somehow been transported electronically from 3,000 miles away. And people who had spoken at the podium earlier in the broadcast now showed up wearing completely different clothing. And the topic being discussed had absolutely nothing to do with what is going on during the previous 2 or so hours of the meeting.
Now some began to wonder what it was from the March 10th meeting that was replaced by a 10 minute segment from the November of 2008 confab. Was it anything important? Was there an overlap? Was there something somebody somewhere would prefer that we not look at too much?
Thanks to the skilled forensic work of two of The Tattler's most valued researchers, it now turns out that something of substantial importance actually was left out. That being the entire speech by Mayor Zimmerman announcing to the community that the long overdue audits from Sierra Madre's rather chaotic past finances were now finally complete. And that we had $1,000,000 more than we knew we had! Which in the minds of many here is a powerful indication of just how badly this City had been run by previous Mayors and City Councils.
Since SMTV3 had not been able to replay this important speech in a timely and professional manner, we here at The Tattler have decided that it is in the community's interest that we reprint the speech in its entirety. If you take a moment to consider that we're talking about years of blown audits and financial mismanagement by Sierra Madre's thankfully departed Old Regime, I think you'll agree that this was a rather important speech, and one that deserves to be as widely circulated as possible.
"The next agenda item concerns our 2007 audit. And because I anticipate that it's going to be a controversial item, I'm going to depart from tradition and discuss it first. Of course, allowing my fellow Council members and members of the public to weigh in. The results of this 2007 audit can be summarized really in one sentence, and that is a sentence that appears in the agenda report. And it reads, quote, "The General Fund has an increase in fund balance of 1 million, 36 thousand and 795 dollars. That's right, in 2007 we had 1 million more in the General Fund than anticipated.
Now the Mayors of most other cities upon hearing that news would be celebrating. Popping open a bottle of champagne and presumably toasting the auditors.
But not this Mayor. Not this Mayor because first much of that extra million dollars has either been spent or will almost certainly will be spent to defray necessary expenses and unanticipated expenses. Fire suppression costs for example, and mudslide abatement.
But there's another reason why I didn't celebrate, and that other reason was, like so many of you, I relied on incomplete and inaccurate information in determining that I should vote for the new UUT tax increase. And I guess as your Mayor, although I was at the time a City Council member, I need to accept some of the responsibility for accepting that inaccurate and incomplete information.
But I do think the lion's share of the blame needs to be laid at the feet of previous City Councils and City staff that determined that the preparation of complete and accurate audits was not a priority. And I want to make it clear that I do not believe we would even be discussing the completion of the 2007 audit tonight if it was not for our new City Manager, Elaine Aguilar, and Finance Director Karen Schnaider, and this Council.
So we have made some progress. That being said, this revelation makes me feel uncomfortable. A million dollars is not a rounding off error. And although I have seen no evidence of malfeasance, and again we're talking about discovering that we had more money than we thought and not less, my strong recommendation would be to have an outside council take a second look at our past accounting practices. Take a very hard look at our accounting practices.
And I know this is going to upset a number of people, including some City employees, but I need to say this, I think it would be fair if we brought this issue back to the City Council to discuss either a repeal or moratorium on the User Utility Tax. Because after all I voted for the UUT because I thought the City was in dire financial straits. And it turns out we're not in dire financial straits. We're not rolling in the money, but as you will hear later this evening, this City Council has actually balanced the budget this year.
Ironically, I also took some solace after hearing this news because I was reminded of the many arguments that were advanced against Measure V. I think we all can recall the biggest argument, the largest lie, which was if Measure V passes the economy of Sierra Madre will be irreparably broken. Well, I take great pleasure in telling you in 2007, the end of 2007, that was not the case. And nearly 2 years after its passage, it is not the case now.
Before I invite the presentation by our Finance Director I want to close with something that somebody told me when I first decided to run for this City Council, a very wise man who will appreciate me not identifying him this evening. He said that Sierra Madre politics is characterized by two things. The first is grudges, and the second is secrets. Now I'm not sure the City Council can do a whole lot about the grudges, they run deep in this town. But I'd like to think that this discussion and what I'm telling you tonight is proof positive that the second characteristic, secrecy, is no more ..."
Now I'm not claiming that this speech was deliberately excised from an SMTV3 rebroadcast of the March 10 meeting. Though I can think of at least several folks who'd certainly prefer that the topics covered not be too widely discussed. But the fact that this speech lasted a full 10 minutes, and that is exactly what was missing from the 3/12 rebroadcast, is a troubling coincidence.