Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sierra Madre's $16 Million Dollar Platinum Pipes

A City Council meeting went down last night. And I promise we'll get to that in the next couple of days. But first we'll need to discuss something else. Because the night's entire proceedings were dwarfed by a single public comment. One that our new Mayor's strict controls on residents and their opinions put an end to after 3 minutes. Well, OK. 4 minutes. But it didn't matter. The damage was already done.

After the opening ceremonies were put to rest, the former Chairman for the UUT Oversight Committee, Dave Hinton, stepped up to the public podium to read some figures related to the water rate increases being flogged by City Hall. There has been much conversation about this in town, and many people are frankly quite upset that their water rates are not only going up, but apparently at a very stiff rate. And with little useful information coming out of either City Hall or from the City Council, rumors have begun to circulate about what this might mean, especially for that portion of the community living on fixed incomes and tight budgets.

If you missed Dave's brief moments at the podium, you can view his talk by clicking here.

What Dave Hinton did is what he always does when the figures don't look right. A CPA in his professional life, he sat down with his calculator and worked out the math. And he came up with what are figures that nobody working in an official capacity at City Hall has yet to share with us. Which is rather disturbing when you consider that they're asking people to turn over their money for reasons that remain for the most part unclear.

Here are some of the points Dave made:

Collections for UUT in '08/'09 came to $255,913. The rate was 8%.
Total of all combined water bills = $3,198,912
At the proposed 5 year 40% increase that comes to $4,478,477

Our current rate is 10%.
Increase in UUT $191,934 = $447,848 collected
This represents an increase for water over two years earlier of 75%

Assuming the UUT rate goes to 12% - $537,417 would be the amount collected
Increase over '08/'09 would be $281,541
Increase in UUT collected would be 110%

Assuming the rate goes to 12% the water increase would represent a 15% increase in collection for the entire UUT over the amount collected in '08/'09.

You see, one of the big problems with the water rate hike is that it isn't just a water rate hike. It is also at very large increase in our Utility User Tax rates as well. Making the whole thing a kind of double whammy. And nobody from the City felt the need to mention this. Rather we're being given a kind of bum's rush with arcane mailings and threats of losing our water service to ominous and unidentified disasters if we don't comply. You know, scare the kids stuff.

The appeal Dave Hinton made to the City Council was on the issue of trust. While the UUT increase voted in a few years back sunsets in 2014, the water rate hike apparently does not. And if people wake up to the fact that this isn't just a water rate hike, but also a backdoor tax hike as well, and very steep ones at that, they are going to feel burned. And not likely to trust the City in 2014 when they're told that they simply must vote the UUT rates back to where they are now.

Unlike the UUT, there is not a sunset for the water rate increase. What does the City plan to do with the extra water rate increase?

As to the water meter charge, residents are effectively getting double whacked. First they pay extra for the larger connection ostensibly because they use more water. But then the water rates are also graduated for higher usage.

What was the purpose of the consultant? Why couldn't someone in City government do the calculations and saved the fee?

Now if you take take Dave's math to its logical conclusion, we're talking nearly $6 million dollars over the course of the next 5 years. And if you go to the City of Sierra Madre website and read the literature there, you will see that our money will be matched with a Federal grant to the tune of an additional $10 million dollars. Which means that through the water rate increase, the backdoor tax hike on our UUT, plus that kind gift from the Feds (watch out for the attached strings!), we're approaching a figure of around $16 million dollars to repair some old pipes.

Which, unless these new pipes are made from platinum, raises some serious questions. As Dave asked, what does the city plan to do with the extra water revenues after the planned expenditures are completed?

To which I would add, what are those planned expenditures in the first place? Just exactly how many pipes, and holes to put them in, do you get for that kind of money?

The only conclusion I can draw is that this money is to be used for some fairly massive (for Sierra Madre) water infrastructure revamping. Something on a scale that would more than accommodate substantial new development here. What else could it be for? If the figure was, let's say, a couple of million bucks, then the pipe repair story being flogged by Bruce Inman and the rest of the downtown choir just might work. But $16 million dollars? Why so much? And why the burning need now?

Students of body language would have enjoyed watching the considerable buttock shifting exhibited by several figures at the City Council's moon shaped meeting table when MaryAnn MacGillivray expressed her wish to agendize the meaty topic of just how Prop 218 is being applied in this matter. And when she mentioned that the way Prop 218 is applied to a water rate hike is decidedly different from how it would be applied to a tax hike, well, the seat shifting took on a near disco intensity.

Keep those cards and letters coming. They're feeling you.

57 comments:

  1. Water Rate Increase Over My Dead BodyJune 9, 2010 at 7:31 AM

    Wasn't the UUT a VOTED in tax? How can a water rate increase affect taxes without going back to the voters in an election? Isn't that what the city is trying to pull - illegal taxation? If it is, I for one don't think Elaine and Bruce are smart enough to do the math, so that somewhat mitigates their involvement. Next question is who could put together such a devious plan? Ahhhh, the Dark Lord, none other than Bart Doyle and his followers.

    Remember THE SKY IS FALLING machinations that led us to the UUT in the first place? Then after the audit was complete, turns out we had a cool million hidden in the "funds". This is just a replay of the same dishonest underhanded tactic of trying to EXTORT money for Downtown Development from the taxpayers.

    It wouldn't have worked if Mosca, Moran and Walsh hadn't been elected to back up Buchanan. Tattlers, the money you save by protesting the rate increase may be your own! Support MaryAnn's agendized investigation into TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION!

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  2. The Wheel of DharmaJune 9, 2010 at 7:46 AM

    You know the older folks in town are being promised some slack in these money raising boondoggles but if you compound the tax with additional city funding requirements it will leave the average elderly resident with a steaming bowl of dog food for breakfast.

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  3. Sierra Madre LemmingJune 9, 2010 at 7:47 AM

    It's amazing how you can literally smell Bart Doyle, and his gang of four at work.
    If you aren't suspicious of who really is in control, you are brain dead.

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  4. Looking at quite a triple play here. The water rate hike itself, the smack upside the head on the UUT take, and the water meter shenanigans. They must want money real bad.

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  5. Why would they need this money when Sierra madre is running a surplus? Isn't that what Karen said last night?

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  6. Dave's tax windfall information sure made Karen Schniders budget numbers look suspect especially when she said that the City had no idea how much money they were going to collect because they did not have the information. My god, the City had been collecting a UUT for over a decade at 6%, they knew pretty darn close how much they were going to collect on all the utilities and if they did not know, they should be fired becasue they don't know what the hell they are doing.

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  7. Lady Liberty with blinders on,June 9, 2010 at 7:57 AM

    People running this town and it's newspapers, don't want the town to know what they are doing, so my guess is the increase will pass easily,
    and will only be noticed by residents when they get the first increase, and wonder why. Oh well.
    The Go4 are in control of the news,and we don't have a free press willing to give opposition opinions. They have turned into propaganda rags.

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  8. Maybe Karen S doesn't know what the UUT take will be becasue she didn't want to factor in the water rate hike effect yet.

    Did you hear Buchanan's comment about not being able to reduce the 10% UUT waetr rate because all the other categories would have to be reduced equally? Johnny B's typical "showing concern" statement.

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  9. Mayor Joe couldn't wait for Dave to finish.

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  10. Did Walsh understand what was said?

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  11. Staff must have been planning this increase for a while. It takes plenty of time to get together all the clerical stuff. So it's been in the wings, waiting for a council that wouldn't be so knowledgeable? Except for MacGilvray and Buchanan, nobody else at the dais probably understands the ins & outs of what is going on. It takes time to get used to the lingo, and remember that Moran & Walsh only came to a few council meetings.

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  12. Makes me wish former Mayor Kurt Zimmerman got his wish and the UUT was repealed.

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  13. 8:08 I disagree. Mr. Mosca is just about leaping out of his chair to shake the hand and smile at public commentors.
    He effusively thanks one and all. Shows his civility-at-all-costs that way.
    Wish he would stop all the "uhs"

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  14. 8:47, you've got it wrong! Staff takes direction from the Council. It goes from the Grand Pooba himself to Buchanan and Mosca, and then to the City Manager, and in this case Bruce Inman. And who might you ask is the Grand Pooba? Bart Doyle. The sharpest arrow in the DIC's quiver. They're counting on Moran and Walsh not understanding; if they did they might actually gum up the works.

    No, it's not a rogue City staff that's responsible for screwing over the residents, it's the realtor/development cartel and their henchmen, the attorney's at the dais.

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  15. City Hall can save money by downsizing.

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  16. Don't be too hard on the newcomers to the council, cuz I don't get it either. Splain please. So we vote a tax hike, and then the water rate goes up, our taxes go up to a higher percentage than we approved in our vote, and that's legal?

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  17. Dog Food or Mac and Cheese??June 9, 2010 at 10:04 AM

    Most excellant work by Mr. Hinton, 110 percent means your water should be marked Perrier and packaged in pretty bottles. According to the Jarvis site, there is no ceiling for water increases, they can keep it coming.

    I remember Al Gore talking about people who are forced to live on Mac and cheese to make ends met, he used in in his run for presidential platform, the one he lost because little jebbie Bush was in control of Florida, and sabotoged the vote count, and georgie won. Was that the 2000-2001 election? Here we are, 2010 and for most seniors it hasn't gotten any better, in fact decidedly worse.

    Years ago, remember LeisureWorld? A lot of seniors sold their houses and bought into seizureworld, a friend who worked at Edison told me their electric bills were 300.00 a month and they could not afford it that was over 15 years ago. Someone commented yesterday they hoped there would be funding for displaced seniors, there won't be.

    Sierra Madre is sucking the marrow out of the bones of it's residents, it isn't the only city doing so, but at least you have a champion and a voice in John Crawford and the Tattler.

    You are luckier than most, good work Mr. Hinton, Tatts

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  18. That, Huh?, is the $16 million dollar question. Prop 218 apparently has holes in it, and the wiggle room for the lawyerly types is rather large. However, it seems pretty clear to me that when you wish to raise taxes, a vote is required. And by rasing water rates, therefore impacting the UUT, is it a tax hike once removed? Might be a matter for the courts.
    Sandy Levin is an expert on Prop 18 issues, and her firm even won a case in the State Supreme Court. This is where she could be paying off big time for the developistas.

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  19. There may be wiggle room, but let's hope there's wide spread agreement that if this move ain't illegal it is certainly morally corrupt.

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  20. I did my civic duty and brought home 3 copies of the Observer and the Weekly and tossed in the recycle.

    3 today and 3 on Saturday.

    Josh Moran's head must be exploding. He thought be a Councilman was going mostly about drinking wine at functions and shaking down developers...I mean panhandling...no I mean shaking hands at Lucky Baldwins...

    quite a difference for Josh, just a few months ago he was officeless and was peddling loans out of Mary's Market

    Ms. Walsh's chiropractor must be loving her election, her head is bobbling so much she's going in for adjustments every week - you can sewe her totally confused and pleading for John to tell her what to think, it's a shame she's turning her back on the people

    at least Josh has the distraction of updating his Facebook page during Council meetings and planning his next executive retreat to Lake Havasu

    there's a show on A&E called "American Greed", it's about scams and rip off artists

    an episode could be based on Sierra Madre's city staff, Mayor, John B, Josh and Ms. Walsh - all pushing a lie and distorted half truths

    I'm just shocked that nobody is skimming money yet but this is all about "being somebody", padding a resume or real estate commissions

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  21. 10:35, that's a might big assumption that Joe Mosca has morals. you've got to have morals to be morally corrupt.

    it'll serve us right to be taxed up the wazoo and eventually have Sierra Madre full of condos, parking structures and empty storefronts, it's what the Congregational Church wants for cost free expansion

    I tell my neighbors about the water hike and most get a glazed look and assume they can't do or say anything about it and have a voice

    Would Joe Mosca please just do us a favor and move away and take John Buchanan with him?

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  22. The litmus test here will be the Looney Views News. If Pitbull Poole starts attacking, we'll know that City Hall is starting to feel the heat.

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  23. I'm going to hope that Josh Moran does love the town and will not want to see us shafted like this on the water. Maybe Nancy too.

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  24. I personally hope to someday see the skies filled with flying pigs. But I know it won't happen.

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  25. only a brainlesss spinless politician or out of touch with the reality of the real busines world would propose a 16 - 40 % tax increase in this economy

    but that's what we've got

    and anybody that believes that Joe Mosca (who told a senior citzen to "get a life") or John Buchanan will have a relieft provision in the tax increase for our seniors - I've got some Gulf front propery to sell you

    John is looking out for his employer with the water hike which will build the infrastructure for new develpment which means new lightbulbs for his employer to provide electricy

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  26. 10:52, you'd think that but Josh is about money, not a love for the town. he once advocating advertisers (including Sierra Madre businesses) because they advertised in the paper that provided a balanced coverage of Measure V. His history appears to be about him and his cohorts at Webb Martin selling and reselling condos.

    I don't think Josh has the depth of thinking to figure out what is really happening and if he puts a rubber stamp without even speaking up and rationalizing his approval, he'll be what most think he is and was, a shill for developers and his "love" for the city was really "love" of money.

    Ms. Walsh should get angry about being labeled a dish rag doormat for John Buhanan and Joe and at least explain why she feels that her neighbors should pay a water premium for what?

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  27. Pig poo dropping from the sky seems to me to be somewhat unpleasant. Please wish for something more civil.

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  28. How about free umbrellas?

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  29. correction to 11:13, Moran advocated a "boycott" of advertisers including Sierra Madre businesses just because they advertised in a paper that provided a balanced coverage of Meausre V and it had "editorials" in favor of Measure V.

    I have a hard time trusting a guy who does't believe in the freedom of the press unless it benefits him. Moran denied the boycott anybody that followed the defunct dirt website knows that he did and often posted random insulting rants about those who were in favor of Measure V.

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  30. Exemption talk is about exemptions that exist - but the folks who have such limited incomes have to prove it, go to city hall and say "I'm too poor" - the biggest catch is that many folks who live here aren't poor enough. Doesn't mean they are not struggling - just that they are not struggling to the degree set by the rich upper level staff at city hall.

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  31. The allegiance of people like Mosca and Aguilar is not to the people of Sierra Madre. It is to the large government and corporate interests who would like to make more money here. We're just a situation that needs to be managed.

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  32. Anyone miss Kurt and Don yet?

    Hang in there MaryAnn.

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  33. I suspect that Moran and Walsh were handpicked by Johnny B.
    That doesn't mean that they do not have minds of their own.
    It means that Johnny B hopes that they don't.

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  34. It's tough on the new council people to be pushed out in front of a big gouge the citizens campaign. You just know others are telling them "It won't be popular but it has to be done" as though gouging the citizens is a duty.
    Same claptrap used for those terrible hillside developments, "not popular decisions but the responsible ones."
    phooey

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  35. 2:06 --- They're fighting for their beliefs. Done in full confiedence that they know better than we what is good for us, and the future will thank them.

    That has been the justification for all kinds of government travesties for centuries.

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  36. Phooey indeed. Ruining the land, creating suburbs of millionaires, promoting the most conspicuous of conspicuous consumption; pretty good trick to call any of that responsible decision making.
    Stonehouse and Carter were the canaries in the gold mine.

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  37. Go read up on all the material SCAG puts out. They very well might be creating exclusive suburbs for millionaires, but if you ask them they'll start spouting stuff about saving the world from global warming and sustainability.

    If this was the '70s they'd be suspected of having joined a cult.

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  38. I haven't laughed this hard in a long time, thank you tattler people, who writes this stuff for you guys?

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  39. making me lose sleepJune 9, 2010 at 2:40 PM

    So our old city attorney, the guy who did such a fabulous job getting the developers what they wanted, is an expert on prop. 218, and so is his partner, our present city attorney? And they must have been consulting Bruce Inman and Elaine Aguilar on how to get away with the water rate hike UUT tax increase,
    ?

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  40. Glad you're enjoying yourself, 2:37. The Tattler is to be read for entertainment purposes.

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  41. bogus taxes are funnyJune 9, 2010 at 2:59 PM

    you're welcome 2:37. It's hilarious for our city to push a tax increase and hide the facts and then distort the reasoning for the increase and insist that we mindlessly follow their demands to accept the water tax as required by
    Sacremento political agencies. I do also find it funny that we've got a liar as Mayor and another Councilman who thinks that he's got a superior intellect and more enlightened than the commmon man - I laugh all day also at a water tax levied just to build an infrastrutre for future development, I've almost peed on myself from laughing so hard

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  42. Yeah, the demise of nice small towns to hungry developers is the modern joke.

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  43. 2:37 So an article about a steep and unnecessary tax hike and citizens complaining about the same makes you laugh?

    Huh?

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  44. in the words of our esteemed City Councilman, Josh Moran, "party on dude"

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  45. I thought it was funny when candidate Joe Mosca promised the voters he would vote to put the DSP on the ballot and then reneged on his promise.

    It was hysterical when he and his supporters falsely claimed that he never reneged on his promise.

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  46. 2:37. If you like to laugh, check out the video of the City Council meeting where Mosca voted to keep the draft environmental impact report on the DSP secret.

    Keeping the voters in the dark about the impact of a plan to destroy our downtown with three and four-story condo buildings is soooooooooo funny!

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  47. Yep, Neuroblast has put together a brilliantly clear record for us.
    Only those in the highest degree of denial can watch the videos and deny the truth of what has been posted.
    Thanks fellow Sierra Madre peops for those accurate recollections!

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  48. Perhaps I've lost my sense of humor over the last few months. I see nothing humorous about an attempt to hijack the city's water system to pay for development. Nor am I amused by a conversation essentially between the right and left hemispheres of a single brain trying to appear to be a public forum.

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  49. Lose sleep, you can bet on it that none of this water tax was hustled together without the guiding hand of the city attorney.

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  50. Why do people read a blog they don't like?

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  51. It's a love/hate thing. It's addictive, gets their dopamine flowing.

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  52. 3:59, some people like to go on sites that upset them and then complain.
    Gives 'em a chance to spit out a little indignation.
    Probably helps em to be nicer offline....

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  53. Blog posting can be opinions expressed with no risk to the poster. Kind of liberating.

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  54. The internet as a purge! Those kinds of off topic complaints and insults will also derail discussions, like how the hell this outrageous money grab by city hall happened.

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  55. Funny that the past two budgets magically found about a million dollars of unexpected money. Is Staff a magician or just a con artist that cries wolf?

    Who is getting the $15K raise because their job description changed?

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  56. Is the replay on?
    Maybe 5:51s question is answered in Ms. Schneiders report.
    The council did decide to bring all of that back to ask questions. Didn't Mossca say bring it back for "questions" like 20 times?

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  57. it is always funny when it is someone else's money.

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