Of course, the agenda for tonight's meeting isn't without its moments of droll comedy. That we're forking over another $10 grand to our so-called Community Redevelopment Agency should certainly be a poignant reminder that it's probably going to be be sucked up by Sacramento in the next round of confiscations. Which, while it is certainly better that the state should use this money to help fund California's public education system than what it was originally intended for, wouldn't it be even better if we didn't have a CRA at all? As far as our property taxes go, Sierra Madre's CRA has become the equivalent of the Gulf Oil Leak. Our money keeps gushing out and nobody seems to be able to do anything about it. Better to just plug the damn thing and shut the whole mess down.
Then there are the deliberations our City Council will engage in over the very serious matter of the Temporary Use Permit (or "TUP" for the acronym infected) for "Stonegate At Sierra Madre." Which I guess is the name some marketer came up for what is more commonly referred to here in town as "McMansions On the Hill." Hopefully John Buchanan will cut the ribbon.
Now in the past there had been discussions regarding signage up there on the rocky road to nowhere. And it was generally agreed that the sign should be small, unobtrusive, very temporary, and in no way like the kinds of big old things you can see out on the 210 freeway hawking banks and lite beer. However, we are in the new era now, and I suspect we'll be hearing talk about how important it is that this TUP be for a sign that is noticeable and clear. After all, there are some big old houses to be sold. Hopefully the Stonegate sign won't come with flashing multi-colored lights and a North Korean-style public address system.
And you just know the Go4 is dying to disband our current General Plan Committee and spend that $300,000 on a consultant that will cook up the SB 375 compliant document they so ardently desire. The last thing any of them want is a General Plan that will in any way assert the traditional independence of Sierra Madre. That is something they most decidedly wish to see come to an end. It gets in the way of business.
Not to be in any way dismissive of their importance, but these kinds of items are just low hanging fruit. Certainly subjects that we are very familiar with. However, did you know that there is something new mixed into this agenda? And it is revealed to us in only the vaguest of terms? Snuck in, as it were, upon little cat paws in hopes that none of you would notice? That can be seen way down there at item #4. The sucker punch is delivered this way:
Discussion - 2010-2011 Assessment Districts - Engineer's Report And Resolutions Of Intention No.'s 10-33, 10-34, And 10-35 ... Recommendation that the City Council defer increases in the amounts of these assessments; and adopt Resolution No. 10-33 initiating assessment proceedings for FY 2010-2011 and directing the City Engineer to prepare and file and (sic) Engineer's Report; and Adopt Resolution No. 10-34 approving the Engineer's Report for FY 2010-2011; and adopt Resolution of Intention No. 10-35, to levy the assessments for FY 2010-2011 and set the Public Hearing on said assessments for July 13, 2010. Additionally, staff seeks direction whether a feasibility study on the establishment of a city wide street assessment should be undertaken.
This is most likely the initial foray into Joe Mosca's campaign threat to raise around $5 million big ones to pave our streets. Rather than the fiscally responsible pay-as-we-go approach to repairing our streets, Joe would rather do it Sacramento-style and borrow a lot of money through the bond process, effectively saddling us with 20 years of significant new debt. The service alone would end up being around half the amount, or $2.5 million dollars.
Of course, by the time all that money comes due in 20 years, Joe and anyone else involved will be long gone. As would the effects of the street repairs. But that would hardly be their problem. And, as anyone not born yesterday can tell you, "feasibility study" most certainly means consultants. Someone to hold the hands of City Staff as they traipse down the primrose path of bond issuance.
The good news here is that, like the water rate hike that has so many in town up in arms, this can be stopped if 51% of the folks in town decide that they don't want to face 20 years of paying service on a $5 million dollar street repair bond. If you follow this link you'll be taken to something known as the Streets and Highways Code Section 22585 - 22595. And, unlike the agenda for tonight's City Council meeting, the issues in question are laid out in clear and unmistakable language. Let me cite the two most relevant passages:
22585. Proceedings for the formation of an assessment district shall be initiated by resolution. The resolution shall:
(a) Propose the formation of an assessment district pursuant to this part.
(b) Describe the improvements.
(c) Describe the proposed assessment district and specify a distinctive designation for the district.
(d) order the engineer to prepare and file a report in accordance with Article 4.
The descriptions need not to be detailed but shall be sufficient if they enable the engineer to generally identify the nature, location, and extent of the improvements and the location of the assessment district.
And then there is this:
22593. Proceedings for the formation of the assessment district shall be abandoned if there is a majority protest, as defined in Section 53753 of the Government Code.
Which is why the hearing is being proposed for July 13, 2010. It will be the same night as the hearing on the water rate hike. Some coincidence, eh?
So it looks like not only are the Moscateers trying to raise our water rates 40%, but they're also going to try and whack us upside the head with a $5 million dollar bond that will eventually cost the taxpayers of this town around $7.5 million to repay. All with intention, I believe, of tarting the old town up for the real love of their lives, developers and development.
And they certainly are not wasting any time.