I'd like to say that we planned things this way, but it just turns out to be one of those fortunate occurrences that turn up when you are doing the job you're supposed to be doing. Rather than just sitting around on your tookus and waiting for things to come your way.
The topic du jour is the press release that I received from City Clerk Nancy Shollenburger regarding the findings of her office and the final tallies of the water rate hike protests. Using just the limited information that City Hall has been willing to provide to her, it appears that the protest has indeed carried. Which is what her press release stated.
Now there was a bit of a kerfuffle yesterday regarding this matter at Rooster Coburn's somewhat neglected Sierra Madre News.net site. Seeing that I had this press release but he didn't, Rooster apparently issued some angry e-mail expressing his indignation over having been passed over for this important information.
Of course, his site gets little traffic these days, probably because beyond pictures of the usual suspects drinking wine or wearing colorful historic clothing, there isn't a whole lot going on there. And even then between July 12th and July 17th he posted absolutely nothing new. Be it pictures or news. So why would anyone want to go there? Forgetting to send him a press release is more than understandable.
There is another reason that I got this press release and he didn't. I asked for it. As anybody who has been following this story will tell you, Nancy Shollenberger had promised to issue a report on the protest verification process to the citizens of Sierra Madre within 5 days. And since the City Council Meeting where her promise was made took place last Tuesday, five days would be Sunday. I made the call, he didn't. Snooze, you lose.
Here is how Rooster expressed his indignation yesterday on the News.Net site:
City Clerk Issues Press Release re: Vetting of Water Rate Increase Protest Signatures - The City Clerk has apparently issued a news release regarding the vetting of signatures for the protest of the city's proposed water rate increase. I have requested a copy of the press release from her, and when (if) I receive a copy of the release I will publish it.
All of which seems a bit taut. But here is where things get a little edgy. Apparently my having asked for (and received) this press release ahead of the neglected Rooster caused some consternation on the part of water rate supporters as well. As few as they are. To the point where Rooster actually got a statement from Mayor Joe Mosca on the matter. It is quite revealing.
"The City Council and City Manager were not informed of any press release regarding the verification of the water rate protest letters. City Council's direction on the matter was for the City Clerk and City staff to work together to verify the results. It is my understanding that the process is still going on and that the final results were due to be released on Tuesday of this week."
First of all, the City Clerk is an elected official who can issue a press release any old time she sees fit. Neither Joe Mosca, and certainly not a salaried hire like Elaine Aguilar, has the right to tell Nancy Shollenberger what she can and cannot do. If Nancy wants to issue a press release, it really is none of their business.
Secondly, let's dissect Mosca's statement a bit. The original direction coming from the City Council was that the City Clerk would tabulate the results and issue her findings. And everything the City Clerk has been working towards is to fulfill the requirements as they were originally laid out. Now it almost seems as if Mosca has become frightened of losing control of a process that is, for whatever reason, extraordinarily important to him.
But for the Mayor to actually state that the "City Clerk and City staff " are working together? Nothing could be farther from the truth. Our City Manager has been remarkably uncooperative when it comes to working with anyone on this matter. Despite repeated requests for important information such as that contained in the now infamous "Assessor's Parcels Number List," very little has been forthcoming. And even the list that was provided to the water rate protesters, the one containing the names of those who receive water bills from the City, was done at the cost of considerable chastisement from the City Manager when the identities of the culprits were exposed. People who were only responding to a legitimate request from the taxpayers.
The sad truth is the City Manager has done nothing but throw up roadblocks every step of the way in this matter. And not just in the tabulating procedure, either. As an example - when residents went down to City Hall to obtain copies of the water protest form, they were told that no such thing was available there. And when those involved in the effort to stop this nearly 40% rate hike attempted to drop off blank forms for the benefit of residents looking for them, the City Manager refused to allow them to do so.
So for Mayor Mosca to actually say that it is his impression that the City Clerk and City Manager are working together on this matter is either disingenuous or just plain clueless. I personally feel that the City Manager's evident desire to do everything she can to thwart the wishes of the residents of this City on the water rate protest has been done not only with Mayor Mosca's approval, but his encouragement as well. In the end even this City Manager wouldn't have acted as she has without that level of sanction.
Any other City Council, or at least any whose agenda is aligned with the wishes of those they are supposed to serve, would have realized by now that the will of the people has been plainly heard. And then they would have gone back to the drawing board and worked out something all can agree on. But it seems quite obvious that behind the scenes the long knives are out, and these individuals are doing everything they can to kill the water protest. You can only wonder why this is so very important for them. It certainly can't all be about repairing some old pipes.
Another thing. Is Rooster Coburn dealing from both sides of the deck here? Tuesday evening he stood before the City Council supposedly voicing the opinions of business owners in their almost unanimous opposition to the water rate hike. Yet yesterday it almost seemed as if Rooster had joined the side of those like Mayor Mosca and the City Manager, two people apparently working very hard to stifle the water protest.
I think that if I were a business owner here in town, I just might have to think again about who is speaking for me on important matters like this one.
One more observation. Joe Mosca has now been our Mayor for four months. To finish the quote from a poster I cited above - Is there anyone who doubts that our city government is now in a state of chaos?