It also leads to the proliferation of such unfortunate things as blogs, which is where many then go to try and figure things out when those who are supposed to represent their interests go south.
The other method is a little bit more effective. And that is to put out vast quantities of information. It might not always be accurate information, or contain everything that it should, but properly presented it can give at least an appearance of transparency. Roiling dense packs of facts and figures that on the surface seem to possess great meaning, mostly because there is just so much of it. That is, until you try and decipher exactly what it all means. Then that information often turns out to be sadly deficient.
Currently on our closely designed City of Sierra Madre site is something called the 2010 Proposed Water Rate Increase Fact Sheet. There are numerous things cited on this fact sheet as reasons why we must go through with this increase, most notably aging infrastructure (those darned old pipes) plus the need for a new well. And there among the many reasons why we need to raise our water rates nearly 40% over a 5 year period (which also comes with a complimentary 15% backdoor UUT rate hike), is this rather opaque little beauty:
Improvements to recharge facilities - Sierra Madre plans to work with its East Basin partners, Los Angeles County Public Works and the City of Arcadia, to make extensive improvements to the existing groundwater recharge facilities in Arcadia and Sierra Madre. This funding will not come entirely from Sierra Madre rate payers. The three agencies will be assisted in the East Raymond Basin program by a $20 million Federal authorization from the USEPA. These Federal funds must be matched by similar amounts of local funding, or they cannot be used by local agencies. However, under Sierra Madre's current rate structure, the City cannot provide the match funding for its $10 million to qualify for the federal funds.
To interpret here, "recharge facilities" in Citizen English means the place where these two cities get and distribute water. And if Sierra Madre comes up with an additional $5 or so million (along with existing water dept. funds), we qualify for $10 million dollars in Federal Environmental Protection Agency money as well. Which could be the one clue revealing the actual agenda driving City Hall's sudden mad rush to radically raise our water rates.
When an agency of the Federal Government turns over large sums of money to small cities such as ours, that offer doesn't come without at least some strings attached. And the best way of finding out what exactly the Feds have in mind for their $10 million in EPA funds is to examine the actual documents involved in applying for and receiving that grant. However, that is information the City has yet to provide the "rate payers," forcing us to go with alternative sources.
If you've been following this stuff as closely as we have here at The Tattler, you'll know that one of the Obama Administration's big priorities these days is "Smart Growth." Which has goals very similar to California's "Anti-Sprawl" law, SB 375. Both of which call for tremendous amounts of infill redevelopment, as we will show later in this post. Here is an item from the President's "Organizing for America" blog entitled "Obama on Smart Growth." It points out his strong commitment to the concept:
Obama will build upon his efforts in the Senate to ensure that more Metropolitan Planning Organizations create policies to incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks, and he will also re-commit federal resources to public mass transportation projects across the country. Building more livable and sustainable communities will not only reduce the amount of time individuals spend commuting, but will also have significant benefits to air quality, public health and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
One of the goals of Smart Growth is to redevelop traditional downtown neighborhoods that are located near transportation corridors. This is done in order to encourage people to move out of their single family homes and into high density transit oriented housing units, in the process abandoning their greenhouse gas producing cars as well. All based on the magical notion that if you convince people to live in newly constructed condominiums located near bus or train stations, they'll decide to give up driving their automobiles. Thereby saving the world.
Now it might make sense that the Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama would reflect his policies when allocating funding, right? After all, he is the boss. And here on the EPA site that assumption is confirmed. In an article entitled Making the Connection: Smart Growth and Water Resource Protection, we can read the following:
Solutions - It Is Possible To Do Better - Smart growth efforts have taken different forms around the country, but the 10 guiding principles address a variety of goals. In the context of a watershed approach, smart growth offers great potential for achieving water resource management and water quality goals.
- Water quality standards are better met using smart growth methods.
- Conservation of open space and clustered development patterns protect water quality.
- Taking a long term-term approach to zoning helps avoid sprawl through better planning.
Sprawl, of course, being suburban communities like ours. Which you somehow make eco-correct by turning them into densely settled cities.
All of which indicates to me that when Sierra Madre receives its $10 million dollars in EPA money, it will not be just a gift with no strings attached. Rather its use will come with the requirement that our city use it in order to help project the Smart Growth goals currently holding such sway in Washington DC. It's just the way these things work.
Here it is, plain and simple. Let's say we raise the $5 or so million through a 40% water rate hike, along with the 15% backdoor UUT increase, plus we get $10 million of the EPA money. That is in the neighborhood of $15 million dollars. Our contribution to the shared new well is $1 million, which would leave us with a $14 million dollar balance. Add to that whatever unidentified existing water funds are available (another mystery), and we're talking about a lot of money. Which in my mind is a heck of a lot more than what is required for replacing those funky old pipes we hear so much about.
If the goal of our current City Council is to comply with CARB/SCAG's upcoming SB 375 required new high-density infill redevelopment in the downtown area of Sierra Madre (and I for one have never heard anything credible from them indicating otherwise), the first step that would have to be taken is to upgrade our water infrastructure. Obviously it will take a lot more water to make this happen. What we currently have is barely adequate for today's requirements, much less supplying the needs of new condo racks downtown.
Since Arcadia has already embarked on this path in their new General Plan, both cities will need significantly more water. Which means having to drill that shared new well. And here in Sierra Madre our aging water infrastructure will need to be upgraded to meet the new demands of all that projected redevelopment. What better source for the cash necessary to do so than an administration and a federal agency committed to marketing just that kind of "smart growth" development?
If City Hall gets this money, based on what we've seen here it will most likely come with an obligation to the federal government that our City use it as an integral part of their plans for high-density infill development in Sierra Madre. Smart Growth, SB 375, call it whatever you like, the result will be the same. Obviously this is a turning point in any effort to control development in Sierra Madre.