Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The World Cries Out For Agenda Man!

Life is good, and do you know why that is? Because every so often Agenda Man shows up here at The Tattler and gives us an insight packed preview of that week's Sierra Madre City Council meeting. And I must be completely frank with you, if it wasn't for Agenda Man to make sense of it all, I'd be but a babe lost in the bureaucratic woods crying for momma. It's all just so confusing and intimidating for us poor citizens, and we need a true superhero to help us.

(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.

58 comments:

  1. I work for a nearby city and I got a 4% increase this year... then I got furloughed the equivalent of about a 4% increase... which equalled a 0 increase in my paycheck. My city is struggling; I'd like to see the SM employees join my struggle as a sign of solidarity with almost every other city in the San Gabriel Valley. We're looking at a water rate increase, a UUT increase, and a bond issue to slurry seal the streets - all thanks to Joe Mosca and the Moscateers.

    I see no reason to increase city employees' rates of pay unless a couple are thrown under the bus as a gesture of oneness with the rest of us.

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  2. Agenda Man! My all time 2x a month favorite favorite! If Agenda Man ran the public notices division of City Hall I bet we'd have a lot better attendance. I think they purposely make the notices dull as butter knives to discourage citizens from becoming involved.

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  3. Agenda Man takes few prisoners this week. Good for him.

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  4. Could I have some more heroes please?June 8, 2010 at 9:07 AM

    Agenda Man, Agenda Man, Agennnnda Mannn! Hip Hip Hip Hooray!!!

    Thank you for coming today, I feel comforted knowing you are out there, primary elections are sooo stress full of it.

    I will wear agenda man blue colors today in your honor. I don't know if they will let me vote if I wear a mask. These days heroes with
    masks are considered terrrrorisssts or at the very least as in the new patriotic act congress was forced to sign with only twenty four hours to read and consider, could subject me to the search and seizure of my intellectual and real property.

    Vote it if you got it

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  5. Thanks, Agenda Man! You're the lone voice of truth left in the press here in Sierra Madre.

    There are still a few honest voices left in Sierra Madre. So please support these great neighbors!

    MaryAnn MacGillivray.....thanks for hanging in there for us. You are the absolute best!

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  6. Census Units Will ObeyJune 8, 2010 at 9:27 AM

    8:14 that is a perfect example of double entry bookkeeping, multitasking par city excellance.

    I know you were told you would be safe and secure all your life if you got a city job. 39 million people in California and never have chance of a pension or negociated pay raise, but I will agree the ritual sacrafice of city employees is not working of late in many cities.

    City cannibals are hungry, they must feed the cog and scag idolaterous gods of transportation,something. Lots of city and public employees are on the menu. I wish you luck, I hope you get the solidarity you need.

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  7. Old Kentucky...

    Don't you know you are a hero too?

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  8. good memory skillsJune 8, 2010 at 9:45 AM

    Best picture of Agenda Man ever.

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  9. Agenda Man has the ability to transcend time, and can take on the appearance of himself at any stage in his life. Buit his powers remain always the same.

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  10. Vote yet? Gotta do it! No on Props 16 and 17 whatever your political affiliation!

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  11. All in all this City Council meeting only seems like a partial affair. Probably because some important things like the General Plan and Hoiusing Plan stuff has been peeled off for special meetings.

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  12. Vote for Mickey Kaus. He doesn't stand a chance, but all the right people hate him.

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  13. I'm looking forward to the new half a MILLION dollars accounting software that will show one and all precisely how much we spend on staff.
    Good for you Jane. We should absolutely cut down the expenses in staffing this small place.

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  14. Do we really need this much city government?

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  15. sabatoge in the cityJune 8, 2010 at 10:15 AM

    9:58 humans imput information onto the computer, rest assured if an audit comes, a virus that magically eats all the limited information put in it will appear, an expensive software, will still be subject to human greed and limitations.

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  16. And that's why, 10:15 am, every Tattler in town should submit an FIA request for quarterly copies of the town's actual to variance budget! It should be required reading for every taxpayer! I've seen a prototype and it's very very good. I'm confident we'll see far more detail that we've ever been allowed before.

    Let them know there's community oversight even if the Council is running amok!

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  17. See, you keep talking about this whole police thing, and I still don't understand exactly what is going on.

    One side is saying they are paid less than all police officers in all of greater Los Angeles and they want their pay to match at least the next lowest paid in South pasadena. You say they are overpaid and south pasadena and La Canada pay much less for the same services.

    So does Sierra Madre have a larger staff? Is it that Sierra Madre pays for more building stuff? I don't understand what the truth is.

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  18. 10:22 - maybe we should set up a shadow council. We can get everything the G04 gets
    through FIA requests.

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  19. Julia you seem to show up at the strangest times, like during the election, and now you are asking naive but contrived questions. No offense and since the election was in april and had a union flavor, your questions above are union questions, I am mipsing you are a shill, and you will never understand the truth.

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  20. Good for you 10:55. You've outed another troll. These folks think they are being coy. It is not the Tattler's mission to teach to the lowest common denominator. If you can't keep up, keep reading until you understand. Trying to bring Julia or whomever up to speed is simply wasting time.

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  21. Hey Julia, stand up at city council tonight at public comment and ask your questions.

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  22. Oh, I'm with you Anonymous at 10:50 am. If we had a shadow council we'd be in a much better position to refute Joe and the Moskateers. Maybe Sir Eric could post a FIA request to use as a pro forma. Everyone should learn how to use them. We can form committees and study groups so it isn't too time consuming for any one person, and so we aren't re-creating the wheel everytime.

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  23. I can't wait to pay more for water and sewage, and
    in January, when we all get hit by the increase in taxes when the Bush tax reductions run out, and the economy spirals down more, I can loose weight!.My compulsive habit to eat will be tempered by higher prices. Three cheers for the Gang of 4.

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  24. Hopefully there will be some funding to help relocate those residents no longer able to afford living in Sierra Madre. Particulalrly the older ones. They hold some of the most desirable properties in town, and their removal will help greatly with the revenue production increases necessary for required infrastructure upgrades.

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  25. Don't you recall? That's the reason they are building the condos... so the older ones can sell their homes that are too big for them and buy a condo at Baldwin and Sierra Madre, or on Sierra Madre across from the EMT's (so farsighted of the SMVFD don't you thing?). So sorry that the home of a lifetime doesn't sell for enough to buy one of the beehive honeycombs but they'll be able to shop downtown.

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  26. Bet you there will be a lot more people missing Don and Kurt besides MaryAnn MacGillivray....just you wait!

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  27. I am still not a shill. I only comment about the stuff that interests me.

    For instance, when we went to war in Iraq, I literally tracked the parts request forms coming out of Baghdad's major power plant for two years to see how well managed things were over there.

    On this site, there are several articles with actual numbers that show that La Canada and South Pasadena pay less for police than Sierra Madre. I am way too lazy to go back through this site, but I think Tattler said those two municipalities paid nearly a million dollars less, and yet had more people to police. But, there are several news articles and statemetns from the police themselves that say their take home pay is lower than both of these areas.

    I went to the Sierra Madre site and looked at their budget, and then tried to find the same information over at La Canada and South Pasadena and I got fatigued.

    I like coming here because you guys are into this sort of information and I'm hoping you will do all the work and tell me what the truth is with your references so I don't have to.

    You kind of exist as my sierra madre factcheck source.

    So how can the Sierra Madre police say that they make less money than South Pasadena and La Canada, and yet the tattler has shown that those areas pay nearly a million less?

    Where is the disconnect?

    Am I saying that the tattler is lying? No. I'm not. Because I've seen the weekly publish the same thing. Almost a million dollars difference for larger cities. But then everywhere else I see it published that Sierra Madre officers make less money than those areas.

    So what costs a million dollars more? It's a simple question. If you can point me to the article here or elsewhere that explains it, then thanks! Or if someone wants to ask tonight, then thanks!

    I'll see if I can go tonight.

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  28. SMPD Vanity ForceJune 8, 2010 at 1:05 PM

    You misunderstood, Julia. We could have saved a million or so bucks if we had accepted one of a few offers from outside police agencies to patrol the streets of Sierra Madre. It is not other cities that are paying a million less, but we could of had we ditched the SMPD and hired outside.

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  29. Bobblehead alertJune 8, 2010 at 1:45 PM

    Guess what? I've got it! Julia is Councilmember Nancy Walsh!

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  30. Let's put this to a vote...Councilman Moran how do you vote?


    "party on dude".....said Moran

    Is that a "yes"?

    "party on dude"

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  31. Good news, 1:45. She'll be able to learn about all kinds of things here!

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  32. Don't miss public comment tonight.

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  33. Maundry, excellent observations about how quickly the city hall jobs would be snapped up by grateful applicants.
    There are many good people looking for work, and it's foolish to reward the parasitic.

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  34. Gratitude for employment goes a long way in providing good service. As it is now, except for some of the friendly people at the front desk, when you walk into city hall people seem suspicious. Get quiet, look down at their desktops. Feel like I've walked into a room of teenagers, and I'm the teacher. Kinda weird.

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  35. Make-work flustering is usually hiding awareness of incompetence - or awareness of bloated job descriptions for work that doesn't really require all that much effort. When people are working hard, they don't have time to pretend that they are.

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  36. There is definitely a hothouse atmosphere in that place. I'm not sure if they're in touch with what most people have to deal with.

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  37. I grew up poor and started working as soon as I could. One of the lessons that was drilled into my head was to be responsible for what your duties are. Maybe that means getting the paper to land on the porch, or leaving the hoses in a certain way, or filing correctly even if you have to stay late to finish. Whatever the task is, there's a responsibility to it.
    And working in a city hall includes the responsibility of serving the residents in a helpful and welcoming manner. City hall should not be a barrier to keep residents out or guard the very wealthy staffers at the top.

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  38. I have a one year old, and I'm trying to get a sitter. Not looking good.

    If you want to call someone a moron, please feel free to call me a moron, because the truth is, I just like looking into these things and knowing the truth.

    I usually find that I am frequently wrong in my assumptions or confused, and I don't mind admitting to it.

    I will say that the number one thing I was most impressed by, when reviewing the previous tapes of the city council, was Don Watts saying he was talking to someone who might move into the skilled nursing facility. I personally think that 90% of good governance is doing very mundane and boring things like cold calling a bunch of people to see if they will bring the exact services into town that you want. As opposed to hiring a committee to talk about it.

    The truth is, Sierra Madre appears to need a lot less services than it has. It appears to need less police officers than it has. Perhaps it could do just as well with a security team, rather than real police officers. I don't like complaining about nebulous things, I like complaining about real data. Do I think a police officer should be paid 45k? Sure. Do I think that maybe the pension plan is out of whack? Probably so. I imagine the retirement age is too early, and the payout promises a lot more than you would get in the private sector.

    But I don't know any of these things for certain because that information is buried. And I don't like sitting here and reading stuff and commenting on it, if I don't understand what the real problem is.

    This site is a platform to problem solve the issues of Sierra Madre. At least it is for me. I may be an idiot, and I may ask bad questions, but I am asking them honestly.

    I am also starting a forum site for parents living in Sierra Madre, and I'm hoping to get it up in a few weeks, and then you will know all about me. And you will probably be very disappointed. :)

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  39. I don't think anyone thinks poorly of you Julia. I think you're just confusing some folks. But maybe that's because you're just trying to figure things out yourself. Sometimes people forget how hard that can be. It's not like these things are made easy. Good luck with the site!

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  40. Julia, obviously this blog is not the place for you, so best of luck on your own.

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  41. 3:33, Julia has appeared before, always with slanted questions, and a lot of time to post lengthy discourses.

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  42. Old old @3:24, you really are old. You're talking about a quaint old tradition called a work ethic.

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  43. Not everyone who works has ethics.

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  44. Edison rents out to SGVCOG?
    C'mon, what kind of colluding redunculous conflict of interest is that!@!!!

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  45. Choose your fights wiselyJune 8, 2010 at 4:25 PM

    Julia, in a nutshell, each city contracts with its own police force. They submit a contract/budget to the city and are represented by a union, the union protects them from cities budgetary cuts and or employee rights, A few years ago, A Dieter C Dammier, started a legal firm, and really got quite large increases from the local cities, for the police, however due to cuts and sacramento takeaways, they have not been given the raises promised in the development years of say 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and then boom we have the bailout of 2008, and every year they continue to fight for raises and/or contracts, promised by cities pressured by the police department officiers, Now there is the mid class police group by rank and the high maintenance POA group, they are fighting among themselves, in these bad budgetary times. You can find out a lot by going to dammier, lackie, somebody else law firm and or searching the POA itself, or you can use the search engine on the blog to search the tattler stories I believe. Or you can ask Ms Diaz, whatever facts you obtain, remember they are married. It is like a single person trying to get in the middle of a married persons fight, you take sides, but ultimately they make up and they are mad at you for meddling. No pay no protection each city has its own relationship with its police department, there is no logical answer because there is no logic to it.

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  46. Anybody catch Dave Hinton's comments? 15% total net UUT increase because of the water hike? This is a tax hike as well as a rate hike. It needs to be voted on. The protest procedure does not meet the legal requirements.

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  47. channel 3 watcherJune 8, 2010 at 7:14 PM

    Mr. Hinton gave some eye-opening facts all right.
    Any chance Neuroblast filmed that?

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  48. Amazing amounts of money - and yeah, what are they going to do with that, and yeah that consultant did seem to randomly back into that number. Let's get more vetting from this resident on this big tax hike. And how can it be legal that doing nothing means yes??????

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  49. Did you hear Bruce Inman say he was surprised to get a lot of bids for working on the streets, and that he was surprised that the bids were low?
    He's surprised that people are hurting for work and are willing to take less profit.
    Guess city hall really is in a bubble.

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  50. Doh! Bruce estimated that we would pay twice what the bid actually was. The man is a giant.

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  51. Chief Diaz is now admitting that our mighty police force can't keep cars from parking illegally on street sweeping days. It's quite a night for confessions.

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  52. 4:25,

    Thanks so much for the longer answer. That makes sense. I realize I should just shut my mouth, because I imagine I will befriend a police officer someday, and then I will have to admit that I said that Sierra Madre could probably use less police officers and the pension plan is unsustainable, and they will be angry with me. But I think all the health plans and pension plans are unsustainable. And the health plan fix is a very difficult fix, as it means someone somewhere is going to have to figure out price controls on medical care.

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  53. Please Julia! It's "fewer police officers" not "less police officers". If you learn nothing else on the Tattler, master the use of less versus fewer.

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  54. I think Mr. Hinton really took Elaine and Karen by surprise with his figures. perfect timing just before Karen did her song and dance routine. John was paying attention to what Mr. Hinton said and tried to run interferance for the water rate increase..

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  55. Dave's entire statement plus a video of his talk will be tomorrow's feature here on The Tattler. The cat is now out of the bag. I have scheduled it for 6AM.

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  56. David Hinton is my new hero!

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  57. Okay, for those of you who watched Bruce Inman's presentation on a contract for street paving, it was less than 50% of the Engineering Estimate. That mean's Joe's bond only has to be $3 million. If he actually has the b***s to try to put this in play what'll he do with the other $3 million?

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  58. Ahh, but might that not be the play? It never was going to be the original amount?

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