Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Couple Of Talking Points On The Sierra Madre Water Rate Hike

It certainly isn't the popularity of the water rate increase City Hall is pushing that will be the undoing of the growing effort to stop it. I've talked to a lot of people now, and this is probably about as unpopular a City Initiative as I have ever seen. Practically nobody wants it, sees the need for it, or can believe just how big an increase it really is. "Greedy" is a word I have heard often.

The only thing that will prevent the move to stop this rate hike is logistics. There is no doubt that the necessary petition signers are out there. People do not want this thing. It is now just a question of will enough of them be reached by the July 13 deadline. Apparently that is what the City is counting on.

If you go to Appendix B-1 of the study done by some consultants the City of Sierra Madre hired to concoct an argument for raising our costs for water, you'll discover that we are already paying among the highest water rates in the area.

Sierra Madre is a member of the San Gabriel Water District, along with Monterey Park, Azusa, and Alhambra. The chart supplied by the thoughtful consultant breaks down current water rates per billing period for each of these cities this way:

Sierra Madre ...... $104.00
Azusa .................. $80.49
Alhambra ........... $86.39
Monterey Park ... $81.82

With the proposed rate hike here, should it somehow survive the protest period ending July 13, your cost per billing period will increase to $128. Or to as much as $150 depending on your meter size. And possibly even more should you run afoul of the City assigned Tier Scale.

Which means that Sierra Madre residents will be paying approximately 80% more for water than other member cities in the San Gabriel Metropolitan Water District. And that is only at the beginning of a scheduled 5 year graduated increase to approximately 40%.

Now the question of Sierra Madre's bold leadership in the water billing category did come up at a recent City Council meeting. And perhaps as a way of putting a damper on any such embarrassing speculation, John Buchanan asked City water meister Bruce Inman to explain this lamentable situation. Bruce then made the rather logic challenged claim that since these other cities have a lot more people, they can spread the costs out. Thus the already higher rate here.

Which to me seems as if other important factors were not considered. Wouldn't having more people also mean requiring a higher level of water service? More costly infrastructure? An enterprise involving more employees, more electricity, more infrastructure and well maintenance, more equipment, more department vehicles and the fuel to run them, and, naturally, more water? And wouldn't all this more than compensate for Bruce's claim that other cities get a lower rate due to their population?

Sometimes I am offended by the simplistic and dismissive explanations we are given from those attempting to push this water rate increase through. Do they actually believe that carefully thought out and logical explanations are wasted on us?

Here is a very simple mathematical equation that will help even the most numerically challenged individuals appreciate just how much money they will be expected to cough up in the five years. And beyond.

Take your current water bill and multiply it by 140%. That is what you will be paying for water in 2015 should this rate hike be allowed to survive.

As you can see, all the talk about this being a small amount of money is just that, talk. And when this new rate becomes a permanent part of your bimonthly water expenses, something that will never go down and you will be paying for the rest of your life, it really does come to a lot of money. Multiply your personal rate hike by 5, 10, 20 and 30 years. There goes that new car you've been wanting.

Another point. Let's say we don't hit the mark, and we cannot turn in enough signatures to trigger Prop 218 and put Dracula back into its box. The fact will remain that hundreds and hundreds of people will still have protested the water rate hike. And those people, upon discovering that their will has been thwarted and that because of a lack of a few hundred signatures they will be forced to pay more for water, will not be happy.

The City, if it succeeds, will not have done so without a significant political cost.

But nobody here is planning on losing. At the top of this post is a copy of the water protest form. Click on it and that form will increase to its full size on your computer screen. If you haven't done so yet, print it out, sign it, and mail it in to the City Clerk at the address provided.

You only have until July 13, so do not delay.


  1. Also found in the consultant's information is the water consumption in Sierra Madre has gone up in the last few years. The consultant and Inman take that as a sign the residents are wasting water.
    Earth to Mr. High Paid Consultant and Mr. Inman....We are in a drought and when it doesn't rain... we need to water the landscape for fire reasons. The city has not stopped watering the parks. By the way does anyone know how much water the city uses?

  2. The residents of Sierra Madre should be concerned about the interest they demonstrate in the affairs of the city.
    The turn out for the recent council election was in a 20% range of registered voters.
    A recent election in the African country of Senegal experienced a turnout in the 70% range for eligible voters.

    The water increase proposed for Sierra Madre will be automatically approved unless you fill out the above protest or sign a petition people are making available.

  3. So that means that the current council was elected by about 12% of the residents?

    Wow. Stuff the ballot box. Works best in small communities with low voter turnout. Do the math.

  4. Seems obvious to me that the casualness of Mr. Inman regarding his explanations on behalf of the water rate hike show a great amount of confidence that this will sneak by with little attention. Therefore not only doesn't he need to make much of an effort, but to do so would only draw attention to something he doesn;t want anyone to look at. And given the turnout and results of our recent election, he probably has some basis for that opinion.

    However, this town can surprise people sometimes.

  5. "Measure V will never pass!" A famous prediction from the past.

  6. City Hall is doing all they can to halt the protest movement. If we can get win or get close, we can show them that the citizens are waking up. Until now, they were fast asleep. Get out there and get those protests signed.

  7. We'll know that City Hall is worried if they unleash Pitbull Poole and her Looney Views News this weekened. The Looney News piece on the water hike question last week was pretty much a City press release. I'm sure the LVN knows their relationship with the City is dependent on a willingness to do some dirty work for them when needed.

  8. Great article Tattler.
    My water bill is the third highest expense I have, after the mortgage and property taxes.
    I do not waste water. I do not have a fountain, a hot tub, a spa, a fancy shower. Just plain old, and I do not want to pay so much more.

  9. I think the developers and their helpful allies on the City Council see the gentrification of Sierra Madre as a profitable goal worth pursuing. The more they can discourage the long time residents living on strict budgets from remaining here, the more property becomes available for "upgrades." Things like a 40% water rate hike fit in with this scenario. Look for other fee increases as well. Trash collection being next on the list.

  10. I am a "modest" income Sierra Madrean and proud of it. Money has never been a priority in my family as long as we have enough. What the hell has happened to this place? It used to be a real mix here of income types and nobody gave a damn if you had money or not.

  11. It is possible that there could be class war aspect to this large rate hike. A gentrified Sierra Madre would mean a more lucrative tax base for a city administration that is definitely in an empire building mode right now. 31 cops!

    Of course, it also works for developers because it opens up old line neighborhoods for the McMansionizing of Sierra Madre they favor.

    The best way to stop this process is to starve city hall. They can't really do much of anything if they don't have the money they need. Anybody who doesn't believe there is a development agenda somewhere in this water hike is a fool.

  12. You wonder"what the hell has happend to this place
    '" 11:35. Just take a look in the "looney views news". Look at the realestate adds ,that should tell the story. Theres your 12% of voters and there pals.

  13. It's what happens when a community won't defend itself, Curmudgeon. The predators slide on in and grab everything. If you think the 4 Amigos give a damn about you, you're kidding yourself.

  14. Sierra Madre was of no interest to the greedy and the spoiled until they ran out of other places to build. It was the west side of Los Angeles that called them, and it was Pasadena too. Only when those places had become unbearably crowded and ruined did Sierra Madre land on anybody's radar.

  15. 9:29, i didn't pick up casualness so much from Inman,as that kind of understated authority so often employed by Buchanan, Stockily, and the teacher himself, Doyle.It's a smug"Of course I'm right and if you question me it is because you are some wacko with a pea brain"They never seem to realize that they are ascribing to others their own miniscule capabilities.

  16. Maybe in the new Sierra Madre Steve Tobai
    could hold Conspicuous Consumption Seminars
    at the Kiwanis.

  17. P.O,ed CrumudgeonJune 30, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    Its not the people that bought in to S.M>, its the people that sold it to them; therealestate types. Thay have been running this place from day one. And i have lived here since 1963.and seen it all that is the Nutsel tract we all are still paying for that one !

  18. True PO'd. I recall during the One Carter hearings a woman got up and explained that the insurance wrangles/law suits etc that came out of the Nutsel flooding/mud slides took TEN years to settle.
    She cautioned against the Carter development.
    Her experience fell on deaf ears.

  19. The swells of Sierra Madre have got to get over themselves.
    The town has nothing to offer people who are impressed by fancy schmancy.

  20. The "swells" who live in the Nutsel Tract certainly think of themselves as hoity toity. It was a poorly developed low budget tract of uninspired 60's houses bought by up and comers who wanted to appear upwardly mobile. Now filled wit wine swigging socialites who can't really meet the requirements for the golf course set. You can still make 'em think you're somebody in Sierra Madre - just look at the Civic Club ladies who reside there.

  21. Drive down to Foothill Blvd. via Rancho and Rodeo from Orange Grove and you will see the fate that awaits us. Ranch homes bulldozed and mansionized. Sierra Madre sits here ripe for the picking! It did happen a few years ago, too. Problably some of the Tattler readers have one of those monsters in their once intact Sierra Madre residential neighborhood. Watch out when the water rate increase improves the infrastructure and the house next door to you is bulldozed. Check out the house on Grove north of Grandview, east side, can miss it. Just imagine living next door or across the street.

  22. Goodness, what did that neighborhood do to deserve such a reputation? I know what the developer did, but I'm talking about the residents who live there now.
    You can't wipe out a whole area like that because of a few superficial and limited folks.
    The woman who protested at the Carter hearings was great, and she lived there.

  23. The swells of Sierra Madre are like the proverbial men who dine on donkeys. All
    of their taste is in their a**.

  24. Why anybody thinks that being "Sierra Madre" gives tham any kind of elevated social status at all is baffling.

  25. At 1:20 PM today June 30, 2010 they rolled up to the Skilled Nursing Facility. Two midnight black SUV's (it looked exactly like a Secret Service convoy associated with welth, power, and politics). Perhaps lunch with martini's just behind them,they were all smiles bounding up the steps to their new opportunity. Do you think they were wondering where the water would come from? Naw they already know.

  26. Nutzell is to Sierra Madre 1970 as Stonegate is to Sierra Madre 2010. Same mindset of the residents - too big, too ostentatious, an affront to the residents of more modest homes. In 30 or 40 years it'll all be of a piece. I for one won't be around to see the changes.

  27. I have seen the castle going up on Grove.
    I used t think the Planning Commission could stop such things.
    Now I know that they cannot. They just have to follow the rules that are on the books.
    The castles didn't happen so much before because the castle builders didn't want this land.
    They do now....

  28. Sierra Madre isn't a market, it's a community. Our local government seems to have forgotten that.

  29. Our local government is full of people who are just passing through, or who wish they lived in Old Town Pasadena.

  30. Unless you are ready to support any and every decision the local government makes, without question, you are seen as a problem.
    An informed citizen makes government jobs much, much harder.

  31. Informed citizens represent more work for the staff. You have seen a reprise of the Shenanagan City Council with the Foursome CC members taking the staff report fo the Water Rate Fee Increases at face value with nary a questioning remark.

  32. The economic news today is dreadful. Talk of a second dip in the recession is all over the financial sites, with Paul Krugman's "3rd Depression" talk getting lots of comment as well.

    The reality is that the Go4 City Council is just rearranging the deck chairs on the DIC's investment Titanic. There won't be anyone to buy their rubbish for years. Much less put up the money to build it.

    Kill the water rate hike, beach the guppies.

  33. Everyone on this blog needs to get this info to 20 other people. This blog needs to be printed and handed out downtown. We keep blogging to each other. Great comments and great history. But, the right people do not find out. New people here in town need to know about their water bill.

    I ran into a man today and asked him to sign the protest. He did and replied that he did not know about the rate hike. I showed him the letter enclosed in the bill. He said when he got it he threw it out because he did not understand it.

    Who really did fully understand it? But then, wasn't that the point of the Water Dept and Mr. Inman. To confuse us all? To make our lives difficult.

    Why the minimum deadline? Why the rush? Why the scare tactic? Why the lack of communication?

    The informed citizens will continued to passionately keep Sierra Madre chariming and small.




  35. These comments are riddled with silly projections that are less than truthful.

    Anyone who deals in business knows that the more the cost is spread of anything the lower it will be to all. If you folks don't get that then you clearly are not someone in charge.

    As costs rise for the city to maintain infrastructure so must things like water rates. This city's population has remained between 10,000 - 12,000 for the last 50 years. The water rates have not been increased since 2005. Can anybody here tell me what they purchase in 2010 that doesn't cost more than it did in 2005? Oh and your fixed rate mortgage doesn't count. Gas, food, movie tickets, Friends of the Library Wine Tasting Tickets, all your other utility bills.....the list goes on and on. What makes any of you think that the water rates shouldn't go up.

    To Anon @ 10:22 - Really? Your water bill is your 3rd highest bill next to your mortgage and property tax? I own a large property with 3 people living here and my water bill runs about $125.00 every other month, so $62.50 per month. My electric bill is more than that every month not to mention the expense of putting food on the table. So, either you are being less than truthful, or you have an incredibly low mortgage and property tax payment and really don't pay for food each month.

    If you don't want to pay more, then start conserving water. This has nothing to do with any mystery development that the city is hiding. Its simply the cost of doing business.

    and to whoever it is that said the people of Sierra Madre don't waste water... What planet are you living on? Daily I see people washing down their driveways, and yes I even have a neighbor who washes down the street in front of their house. And then there are the people with broken sprinklers letting water spew out into the gutters, never mind all the car washing that goes on. Yes, there are plenty of people in Sierra Madre wasting water.

    And for the record, the house on North Grove was turned down by the planning commission at least once. The sitting city council at the time approved the project which just happened to include the majority vote of Maryanne, Kurt and Don Watts. Go to city hall and check it out.

    As far as the Skilled Nursing Facility goes, just because someone drives a nice car that is black doesn't make them a bad guy. It just makes them someone who might be able to afford the property and finally eliminate the blight.

    Your over the top comments and John Crawford's "the sky is falling" predictions are what lost the election for you people. Why don't you do your homework and make some positive contributions rather than just spouting nonsense.

  36. A lot of ad hominem and very little substance, 5:20. What infrastructure? Why the large rise in water rates? What about the matching funds we will be receiving from Washington? What exactly does that buy? Perhaps you find what you read here to be vague and unsuitable, but we should all accept a rate hike because we haven't had one in a while? That is your in depth explanation of why we should be paying more money? Because movie tickets have gone up?

    Where are the itemized reports? The lists of things that this money will purchase? Would you invest in something just because they haven't asked for anything for a while?

    And anybody who works in the real world knows that running a larger operation inviolves more costs, more employees, and more expenses. Just ask GM.

    Your arguments have all the attributes of the very things you've condemned here. Which is why there is so much skepticism here in Sierra Madre about this rate hike. Bluster and humbug isn't turning out to be quite enough to sell it, pard.

  37. 5:20, there's a rather large omission in your argument, the fact that since we have a smaller population we have less infrastructure needs than a city with more people, and we should also need fewer staff, fewer wells and less pumping costs.

    In addition, while surely most people would agree about the need to pay more, it is the amount that we are asked to pay that is unjustified, and the manner in which the raise is being conducted has angered the people who have been paying plenty already.

    If you have wasteful neighbors, why don't you engage them in a civil conversation?
    Your charm is quite apparent.

    Thanks for livening up the board.

  38. 6:14, actually bluster and humbug won the last election.
    Damn it.

  39. We need to pay more because $2,500,000 in reserves just won't get us to next week.
    Every good business person knows that $2,500,000 in reserves of citizens' tax dollars is a paltry sum in the grand megalopolis known as Sierra Madre.

  40. 5:20 You should apply for the new committee, "Commission of Propaganda". It fits your style and lack of thought. There is abundant real estate available in Idaho for "unhappy Californians". Go there you will be happy. As for Sierra Madre, we may stutter and caugh, but we will get past your kind, and keep our City the way it is.

  41. $2.5 million? Just a bag of shells, my friend. You're in Sierra Madre now. Our special water can only be piped in the most excellent of plumbing.

    "Champagne wishes and Mayberry dreams."

    Anybody here want to invest in a DSP?

  42. Just as I thought, it's all you anti development fanatics writing.
    Don't you ijits get it that life is change, life is growth, 72 condos at Howies are life and change and growth?
    Get with it you old sticks in the mud.
    And sell me your house as you leave town so I can make a tidy profit.

  43. All of the revenue from the water tax will turn into a magic elixir for Sierra Madre as every developers' dreams come true.And there will be crumbs for the realty community too!

  44. Gosh, you know something? I'm paying the same cost for toothpaste that I paid 5 years ago. I think I need to go back to Rite Aid and give them some more of my money.

  45. There's always the economic crumbling of the country to throw into the mix as we consider what to do with our money....

  46. 5:20, I posted the facts of my bills.

  47. Yes, 7:44. But what are you paying for movie tickets?

  48. Do I have this right? Because things cost more today than they did in 2005 we should be happy to pay water rate increases that are unnecessary and poorly explained by a Public Works Department that is notorious for trickery and deceit. And because the water rate is increasing, the UUT Tax will also increase and that's okay, too, because the Chief of Police has a wish list number of 31 to staff the SMPD, and we don't have enough SMVFD firemen available during the day so we have to pay for five shift a week at prevailing rates and that's why the UUT Tax can't sunset because things just cost more in 2010 than in 2005.

    As a matter of fact, my home was worth more in 2005's inflated real estate market than it is at today's downwardly spiraling prices.

    I sense a Grove Street councilwoman on a first flight out of the nest!

  49. Are the costs to maintain infrastructure really rising? Not according to Bruce Inman. He just awarded a street paving contract that came in at half of the Engineer's estimate. Competition, he said. The City Council got so excited they're thinking that they can pave paradise for $3.5 mil instead of $7 mil.

  50. 5:20, you're just the person the City's FAQ sheets are geared to inform. In fact I've got a bridge you might be interested in buying.

  51. oooooh, 7:58, nice point.

  52. You know, City Hall really does have a secret plan. They're going to take that $10 million in Federal EPA money and buy a big Romanesque marble water fountain in Memorial Park. Rumor has it each one of the original DSP investors will have their own statue there as well. Arranged in a circle and showered in the cool fresh water of our newly drilled wells.

  53. Infrastructure costs always go up in a recession. The less business, the more contractors charge. Everybody knows that!

  54. You can not pass by CEQA and the environmental impact with paper water. Water that is not readily available . Don't give them the money (water rate hike)to build water infrastructure and they can not pass the environmental restrictions. Our old city attorney (Michael Colantuano) who is partners with our current Sierra Madre city attorney Sandra Levin has done articles on such(paper water). So far CEQA still exists... for how long I don't know. Bruce Inman , the attorney and the old boy council group hope the residents don't educate themselves on California planning rules & regulations....

  55. No water hike no money to buy water for development from the Metropolitan Water District and no money to build new water piping for mixed use condos and major build-out.And yes Carter paid for their water lines and construction but the citizens will be paying to buy the water from the MWD. And that emergency Grandveiw water connection (that JOe MOsca voted in) being built and paid for by the Metropolitan water district will be the pipeline connection and guess who will have to buy water (the city and it's residents) and from Who (MWD)... Yes the Metropolitian Water district has agreed to build and pay for the connection but we will have to pay them for the water that will go through that connection. Why do you think MWD agreed to pay for the emergency connection? That was the path for the water for the Downtown specific Plan and the source to supply water for the build-out.