Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The 5th of July Parade

"The Water rate increase is ambiguous at best. 'Polluted Aquifers, Tainted Wells, Rusty Pipes,' are all that are mentioned to justify the rate increase. No details, no cost estimates." - comment left last evening criticizing City Hall's "Chicken Little" approach to selling a 40% water rate hike.

Sierra Madre had its parade a day later than the rest of the world, but it was fun nonetheless. I personally gathered around 100 signatures in our quixotic quest to halt the $18 million dollar water infrastructure canard. I probably could have gotten more, but this particular parade seemed to fly by. Others were out gathering signatures as well, of course, and the race to 2,000 signatures (more or less) continues. It will be close.

The City Councilpersons were out in their carefully selected automobiles. Josh Moran looked quite comfortable in a green car. Well, it was painted green, anyway. Which I guess differentiated it from any other Mercedes Benz of another color. John Buchanan was in something vintage that looked like it might have been borrowed from the Shriners. Joe Mosca had what could have been a Sierra Madre first, a personal motorcade of three vehicles. Kind of a statement, I guess. "You see? I DO have lots of friends!" MaryAnn MacGillivray looked amused as she rode by in her convertible. Don't recall Nancy Walsh's car, I must have been getting a signature. Though I am sure it was something in good taste.

Nobody was killed by children's water guns this year, so I can assume the new restrictions are working. The yearly slaughter of innocents that had made us the Belfast of American towns is apparently over. And now, with those years of shame behind us, we can move forward.

Russ Warner and The Foothill Democrats marched proudly behind the banner of Green Jobs. Judging by the 12.5% unemployment rate in California those Green Jobs don't seem to be showing up any faster than Red ones or Purple ones, despite all the hoopla about paradigm shifts. Of course, if you want to find jobs look to mainland Asia where they burn fossil fuels like there is no tomorrow. Russ seems to be well on his way to becoming one of a long line of unfortunate Congressional candidates destined to get beaten by David Dreier often.

I had some great conversations while I was gathering signatures. My favorites went something like this:

Me: "Are you aware that we are being hit with a 40% water rate increase?
Resident: "Oh God, yes. Is this the petition to stop it?"
Me: "Yes."
Resident: "Give me the pen."

Then there were the Mountain Views News conversations:

Resident: "I'm not sure I want to sign. I just read in the newspaper that we really do need the increase."
Me: "By newspaper, I take it you mean the Mountain Views News?"
Resident: "Why yes. How did you know?"
Me: "You do realize that the paper you are talking about is paid by the City, and probably wouldn't even exist without our advertising money, right? And is hardly likely to bite the hand that feeds it?"
Resident: "Oh, I guess you're right. Where do I sign?"

Of course, there were also those astonishing conversations with people who seem bound and determined to work against their own interests. And even pay to do so. Those conversations went something like this:

Me: "Have you heard that the City is hitting us with a 40% water rate increase?"
Resident: "Yes. I guess that is a good thing."
Me: "Have you seen any itemized list of what the $18 million would be spent on? I mean, you wouldn't buy a car without knowing what is in it, right? You do think that maybe the City owes us an accounting of what exactly we're getting for all that money?"
Resident: "We have really good tasting water."

Sometimes you can only wonder what is put into it.

One conversation I had that I found rather heartbreaking was with an elderly woman who seemed quite frightened by the hike. It wasn't that she couldn't afford to pay the increase, because she would find a way. What she feared is what would come next. Where was the assurance that this would be the last rate increase that she would be asked to pay? The sense I came away with was that this town is no longer an environment she feels completely safe in. That she is no longer the kind of person those calling the shots really cares about anymore. To her 40% being less of a rate hike and more the kind of pressure that might found in a community undergoing gentrification.

At Memorial Park there was a band, various kids games involving eggs, and Bruce Inman and Elaine Aguilar at a table with a large rusty pipe. I asked Bruce if perhaps he'd been having trouble with his car and was using this occasion to show us his martyred exhaust manifold. Turns out that this was a rusty old water pipe, the inference being that everything we get our water from looks something like this. Which makes me wonder what they've been doing with our money all along. If that is what we're getting for some of the highest water rates this side of Kinneloa, then maybe I've been missing out on some really good card games.

When I asked Elaine if any sort of itemized list of what exactly we would get for $18 million dollars would be supplied to that small portion of City residents who would actually read it, she assured me it already existed. And all I would have to do is look on the city site to find it. Having been to the City's website about 50 times now on this issue, I'm not certain how I could have missed it. Maybe it has been misfiled under "dogcatcher?" Elaine assured me that if I would stop by City Hall she'd show me all I needed to know.

I'm beginning to believe that this has a lot to do with City Hall's desire to grab the $10 million EPA matching grant that is the lion's share of the $18 million total. The prospect of getting that much money can be quite distracting for some people. The prize becoming of far greater concern than any actual need. A big solution in search of a big problem, as it were.

One other thing that impressed me yesterday. A lot of the people I asked for signatures were not from Sierra Madre. And many of them turned out to be regular attendees at our 4th (or 5th) of July parades. When I asked them why they like to come here to witness our yearly display of small town virtue, they replied that what we have here is so different and so much nicer than what is to be found in their towns. It is neither crowded nor dirty, and that they felt safe. To a person each said they wished that they could live here, but cannot. And that we who do live here are very fortunate because we have something that has vanished most everywhere else.

If only some of the people now running this town could see Sierra Madre through the eyes of those who dream of having what they themselves are so carelessly squandering.


  1. If as quoted "stop by my office and I will show you everything you need to know" relating to the Water Rate Tax, I smell a "bait and switch" manuver by the City Manager. Residents should not have to scour City Hall to find out what the need and plans are for a 10/40/75 rate tax increase. Rather than the platitudes "tainted wells, polluted aquifirs, and rusty pipes, there should be a clear detailed list of major plans (item by item) for the 18 Million we are chasing. If as it appears this is just a "kitty" for the discretionary use of our Council and Manager we are indeed the victims of a "bait and switch". Beware Sierra Madre!! It should have been obvious with the "sneaky" Prop 218 charade as the driver of the Non Vote / being a yes vote.

  2. Loyal Tattler readerJuly 6, 2010 at 10:50 AM

    Looks like a general malaise (as in an ambiguous feeling of mental or moral depression) has come over Sierra Madre. Most depressing is the number of water customer who have said they threw away the letter the City sent out and hadn't paid attention to the attention the issue has drawn from the City, the Looney Toones News, and Tattlers. I wonder if the Water Department had been issuing rebates would the response have picked up?

    We're a week away from the joke of a public hearing sponsored by the jokesters themselves, the City Council, and the public response is basically apathy!

    Keep up the good work Tattlers! You are heroes to me.

  3. People are genuinely confused. They want to do the right thing, but they also don't want to be taken advantage of. Fees and taxes have gone up in town, and this just seems like one more case of that.

  4. The next two weeks are very important! Tonight is a General Plan Committee Meeting; Thursday night is the walkabout at the City Yards; and the 13th is the Public Hearing for the Water Rate Increase.

    Please attend as many of these meeting as you can!

  5. first DOWNSIZE CITY HALLJuly 6, 2010 at 11:17 AM

    People throw away inserts all the time.
    Bet they wouldn't have tossed them so fast if one had been a clearly labeled ballot form, because however the language goes, it is a damn vote.
    Scuzzy behavior from city hall again.

  6. The "tainted wells, polluted aquifers" are the responsibility of the Federal Government, the Raymond Basin is an EPA Superfund site that is only now getting long-overdue monies for cleanup. These funds should be used to clean and repair existing well supply sytems, remove perchclorate from the groundwater (expensive system), not an expansion of the infrastructure and more water draw from an overdrafted aquifer.

  7. Although as the City Manager says the information is on the website, it is confusing and buried. The list of improvement plans is in the Bucknam report under the water system program plan. The info you want is in appendix D listed as a draft in itty bitty print if you download it. This is a 26 page report filled with facts, figures and pie charts - followed by by guess and by golly projections. We all agree we need a water rate increase. But their figures don't add up. Do the math.

  8. Does the report actually state what it is we'd buy for all that money?

  9. Am I getting old, or is the parade not as fun as it used to be. Years ago, there were more people in the parade than watching it and more organizations were represented. Thank you to the playhouse and the Sierra Madre City College for adding to the spirit of the parade.

  10. It's pretty vague, 11:24, items like replacement of wells 3-6 but no projected time line; water main replacement program also no timeline.(this is projected as deferred) and replacement of the tunnel system - no figures, no timeline. If this info is elsewhere in the report, I can't find it.

  11. Don't forget that careers are advanced by projects accomplished. This water project and the big sum it intails will look very good on the resume.

  12. Kind of as I figured. There is no itemized account of how the money would be spent. All we have is some consultant's boilerplate. This
    is all about securing the cash, ands then
    having carter blanche on what water projects to spend it.

    Anybody want to buy a used car?

  13. Protest the Water RateJuly 6, 2010 at 12:11 PM

    The Proposed Water Rates double sided paper which was sent out was incredibly confusing. On the first page half way down it says "Your Opportunity to Get Involved" and goes or to explain how to present the city with a written protest. None of this fully explains IN SIMPLE ENGLISH how Prop 218 works!!

    The second page is a very complex graph. People threw it out out of frustration and confusion. One would think the City should have set up meetings around town to explain the tiers and the pipe sizes and the changes. One would think the City would have taken 4-6 months to explain where the money whould have been spent and specifically who would manage it. Why the rush? Why not more communication to the public?

    A whopping 40% is a whopping 40%. After all Pasadena just got 3%. No one is explaining in any minute detail this huge expense!!


    40% is tooooo much money. Do not let them take your hard earned money. Sign the protest now.

    Women are standing at Kersting Ct. eacch night from 5pm to 7 to receive your signature!

    Plan to attend public comment tonight at 6:30 to tell the CC you protest this charge. Also, attend next Tuesday, July 13 to protest this charge.

    This is your town. SHOW UP and PROTEST this insane tax!! Too much is toooo much

  14. It's amazing how we have to pay hgher fees to get funding on the money we have already given in taxes, while we give money to other entities "too big to fail".
    The required maintenance and repairs should be coming out of the millions already dedicated to do this, and the water district.
    Where is the stimulous money for promised infrastructure?

  15. I think this came about when the city discovered there was a lot of federal money available if we could match it. That is the moment when our water system became an emergency.

    Chicken Little just about sums it up.

  16. I've gotta tell you if the City had come out and said blah blah blah rate increase to match a $10 million grant opportunity blah blah blah and been up front and honest I might have gone for it. But to insult my intelligence and dribble out bits and pieces of an explanation as the rate payers find out for themselves what this is all about smacks of fraud, or at the least duplicitous behavior on the part of the City Council and staff. Contrary to what the Doyalites and the Moscateers tell each other, we're not all dummies.

  17. In order to qualify for the $10 million grant they have to hit us with a very large water rate increase. THAT is what is driving the rate increase. They want the EPA matching funds, and the hike is the only way they can get it. Everything else is an afterthought.

  18. Just heard an interesting discussion on KPCC.
    The LA City Council is going to try to make the water crisis better by limiting people to 2 or 3 days a week for watering their landscaping, some kind of address alternating, and REDUCING THE TEIRED SYSTEM THAT PEOPLE FIND SO CONFUSING AND THAT HASN'T HELPED ANY.
    Maybe our director of public works could check out what the LACC is doing, based on their experience.

  19. long time residentJuly 6, 2010 at 2:04 PM

    Something the out-of-town visitors do not know is that the only reason we are not identical to Pasadena and Arcadia, and Glendale, is because a small group of slow growth activists work like crazy to stop monsters like the Downtown Specific Plan from swallowing us whole.

  20. Just to weary for words . . . they count on us giving up! NEVER! Sign the water rate hike protest letter and send it in/walk it in. Tell all your neighbors, e-mail your contacts and tell them to forward the information. Get a copy of the letter to sign. Mr. Tattler--can you highlight the form letter somewhere easy to find with each of your blogs in these last fews days. July 13 is the deadline for it to be in the hands of the City Clerk. Not in the mail as of the 13th but in the hands of the City Clerk.

  21. All the easy going smallness has come at the cost of fighting tooth to nail.
    It's not easy trying to stop the sale of Sierra Madre.
    It's been going on, bit by bit, for about 20 years.

  22. What a great article Tattler! You can really get the feel of what it was like to talk with people about the water rate hike, and you bet that lady was scared. Anyone who isn't rolling in dough is being encouraged to leave. The poorer people are being pushed out which just goes to show you what low moral character the pushers have.

  23. A question from an e-mail about the water rate hike protest letters . . . they thought that you needed to have the water account number. This sent me to the city web site where I found "process of tablulating letters of protest." It is required that you have the address or the assessor's parcel number (APN) and can be signed by the customer or recorded property owner. So, many have signed letters who are not the person on the address of the bill, but are a property owner with that person, letters with addresses only, and not the water account number, are being signed and sent in. Keep it coming!

  24. Why, after 103 years of the existance of Sierra Madre, do we have a water rate hike proceedure that is so distrustful of the intelligence of the residence of this city? Just let us vote in a forthright and upfront manner. Tell us the real truth about why there is a need for a rate increase, a reasonable rate increase. Own up to the fact that five years ago the City Council and the staff muffed their own time frame and didn't collect fees in a timely manner, establishing reasonalble increases. Gee wizz!

  25. @ 11:51

    are you saying that if the water increase doesn't pass, that the 1 Carter development can't go forward due to lack of water connections?

  26. If that isn't an inducement to get signatures, I don't know what is. One Carter, drying up and blowing away. Please sign here.

  27. During the One Carter hearings wasn't there talk of One Carter having it's own water? What happend to that whole issue?

  28. the fact that our city staff and 4 council members are either lying or being highly deceptive about their reasoning for the water hike is appalling

  29. Our current City Council (or at least 4 of them) seem to have this shuck and jive thing going on. There are no straight answers, just winks, nods, and goofy jokes. It's kind of like hanging around a car dealer.

    Jo-Jo-Jo-Na: "The Hottest Deals On Wheels!"

  30. Carter has its water all set up. It's not a point.

  31. Sierra Madre Weekly posted an article agreeing with Mr. Crawford. Whatever next!?

  32. 11:51 a play on words: carter blanche = carte banc the question being the city has not said what they will actually be spending this huge water fall dollars on, i.e. a white card, open ended, nothing written down. Mist and mirrors.

  33. Dare I be so politically incorrect as to say speak forbidden words, but here it is...

    The $18,000,000 is to pay for new wells and the pipes and water infrastructure necessary to accomodate development. The more the city types say it isn't, the more I believe it is. Stop the rate hike and you will have won a victory against over-development as big as Measure V.

  34. John the Council whisperer, and 3 min Mosca who are "comfortable" with a 40% water rate tax have produced Sierra Madre's own "rain men". Watch out Kansas!

  35. OK everybody, just vote "no" and see what the City comes back with. It'll be another hike of some sort. These things go on forever.

  36. The City has asked for the moon to see if they can get it. The second request will be much more in line with what really is needed. They want that EPA money. Once that fails it will be back to the mundane task of drilling a new well and repairing pipes. Which is where we need to be.

  37. 5:39 IT IS NOT A VOTE!!!!!

    It is a PROTEST!!!

    Get your signature on a protest NOW!!!

    Do not, repeat do not go to City Hall to protest!

    Get yourself to Kersting Ct. one evening this week to sign the PROTEST FORM.

  38. The water increase is only the beginning, it is a test of the political waters to see what can be gotten away with. More of these kinds of increases are just around the corner.

  39. All the Mosca Council seems to care about is getting their
    hands on our money.

  40. Maybe the Mayor water $$ should only be what he is able to grab in three minutes. Your Time Is UP!

  41. Just wait until the street assessment districts are assigned. How much do you suppose they'll want to increase our tax bills on that one?