(Ed: at this point Agenda Man assumes control ...)
Shortly after Councilmember Josh Moran speaks to God for us (apparently they partied together at Alverno), the City Council will move to item 1A on the Consent Calendar, spending a little over a million dollars in the twinkling of an eye. The first portion of which is $678,000, covering the entire warrant register. This includes Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner, the California JPIA (our control freak insurer in lawsuit matters), Commonwealth Edison, you know, all that rhythm. There is also around $9K in Library paste stuffed in here, along with $328K to cover all those paychecks we write.
But that is all pretty standard stuff. The City has to pay its cell phone bill just like the rest of us, no matter how bad the reception is here in town.
Also on the Consent Calendar is the approximately $5,000 the City is forking over to our Chamber of Commerce so that they can cover some "Information Technology Expenses." Which I guess means we're paying for their upgrade from rotary dial phones. Hopefully some of that cash will be used for touch tone training. Otherwise Bill Coburn will have to walk to City Hall the next time he needs some of our money.
Which takes us to item #2. As one of the continuing gifts from the MacGillivray-Watts-Zimmerman years, $364,000 is being spent for some badly needed street repairs. Unlike those who would want to borrow to perform such a needed service, the City of Sierra Madre is paying for these street repairs without having to put us in hock. A rather novel concept in a time when careless politicians simply borrow the money and leave the consequences of their dereliction to others. If anybody needs an example of what happens when government goes the bond and borrow route, look up a place called California on Google. Apparently that one borrowed a lot, and now has absolutely no idea how to pay it all back.
Next there is something about street sweeping. Be sure to move your car on the designated street sweeping days in your neighborhood.
The big topic of the night, and one that everyone should pay special attention to, is item #4. This one has to do with scheduled pay raises for City employees. On the agenda sheet the term "changes to the salary matrix" is actually used, which is just another example of why some people consider bureaucratise to be the linguistic equivalent of waterboarding.
What this all means is that due to previous deals (or "MOUs" if you are so inclined) with our unionized Police Department, and our unionized City Staff, many City employees are up for some scheduled pay raises. These agreements were worked out in earlier times, and the consequences live on today. The last chunk of the SMPD "who did it and ran" MOU worked out in 2006 by Enid Joffe is now due. As is the remaining portion of the 4% raise granted to the Sierra Madre Employees Association 2 or so years ago. Nothing much that can be done about those, I suppose.
But we can reflect upon this a little. We here in California have passed a kind of tipping point in regards to our devoted public servants. I can recall as a child the kind of patronizing way those in private industry would regard public employees. They were folks considered to be not very ambitious, or particularly bright, and needed the refuge of government work because they just weren't capable of competing in the rough and tumble private sector. And in exchange for a life in the arms of mother government, these people were willing to work for far less money than the go-getters out there in the business world.
Today, however, the advantages appear to have flipped. Rather than public employees working at the behest of us, the almighty taxpayers, it appears that today we exist to properly sustain them. Salaries are now competitive with those in the business world, and their health insurance, along with some rather posh pension benefits, are the envy of most. Not to mention job security, which is now nearly nonexistent in much of the private sector.
In order to better provide for the needs of those who occupy positions in the elite world of government, the State of California has now been forced to borrow billions of dollars to support their employees in the lifestyle they have grown accustomed to. And still nobody can figure out exactly how to honor those pensions our elected officials so generously granted them through their unions in exchange for campaign donations and votes. Some saying that if California eventually defaults, this will be one of the major reasons.
Here in Sierra Madre our deals (MOUs) with both the Sierra Madre Police Officers Association, and the Sierra Madre Employees Association, are up in a year or so. And it is widely expected that the Gang of 4 will show exemplary courage and fortitude in their negotiations with these two labor outfits, and then fold up like a cheap suitcase. In the process giving our City employees everything they want, and maybe even a bit more. Some of them do have a strong need to be liked, you know. Which means that our million dollar City surplus, plus the $350,000 we're getting back from Sacramento, will have vanished like so much smoke.
Now we do live in a state with a 12.5% unemployment rate. And with many higher paying industries having fled the State over things not unlike AB 32, those jobs aren't coming back anytime soon. And I suspect that working in a fine air conditioned building like City Hall might seem downright elite to many. So instead of negotiating with these "Associations" (which is just a finely scented term for unions), why don't we just throw these jobs open to the unemployed masses of California? Competition can be a good thing. I'd bet the line during the interview period would extend all the way down Sierra Madre Boulevard and across Michellinda. And who knows, maybe we'd end up with a finer class of employee, people who'd also be willing to work for less money. Not to mention being more helpful when you go to City Hall to reserve a picnic table.
But I have digressed.
Item 5 is an absurd waste of Federal tax dollars. What this entails is that the San Gabriel Valley Congress of Governments, Southern California Edison, and cities just like Sierra Madre, get to spend $4.7 million dollars to tell people to turn their lights out when they go to bed at night. Saving energy is really important, and we certainly cannot hear it enough. And in order for all of this to work correctly in the magical world of regional government, along with big corporate energy partners like Edison (who rents SGVCOG their offices, btw), we the City of Sierra Madre must issue a proclamation declaring that using energy unwisely is a bad thing. Meaning that SGVCOG can then claim that another member city on their turf has joined with them in saying wasting energy is bad. Which will entitle SGVCOG to get even more Federal money. Oh, and one of the bigger greenhouse gas producers in the Western Hemisphere, SoCal Edison, will get to stand before the good folks of Sierra Madre and pretend that they care deeply about the environment.
Item #6 has to do with nearly bankrupt Los Angeles County putting up some cold hard cash so that owners of houses can borrow money to turn their love shacks green. This is associated with AB 811 which, along with local government participation, gives loans for financing energy efficient home systems. These loans will apparently be good for 20 years, with the loan obligation being attached to the house rather than the owner. Which I guess will allow him/her the option of selling their now sustainable home, pocketing the profit, and fleeing for a world beyond. Effectively sticking the new owner with the tab for the solar panels, high-tech insulation, and multi-pane windows.
There is nothing that I have seen indicating how much money our heavily indebted County will be making available for these loans, nor what portion of that our wee little burgh will get. But I do imagine there could be some highly vigorous competition for this money here among homeowners once it does become available. And I don't know about you friend, but the picture that evokes in my mind is not a very pretty one.
The last real item on the agenda will be a chat about recent SCAG and COG meetings. And since Maryann MacGillivray is the only one who attended them this time around, I guess the floor will be all hers.
This has been Agenda Man with another City Council meeting report for the citizens of Sierra Madre. Good luck to you all. Trust me, you're going to need it.