The City Council Meeting Agenda this week is short, but decidedly unsweet. There are some things on the list that have been bouncing around for a bit, so even a City Council as decision averse as this one might just have to make one or two calls tonight. As abruptly uncivil as that might sound. But even the world's longest tap dance has to come to an end some day. So rather than delay any further ourselves, let's get involved in appraising the important issues at hand.
The Consent Calendar (aka Item # 1) manages to spend nearly a million bucks by the time it gets to the letter "g." Which is a little off the pace of the previous meeting's figure. I'm sure that will be more than made up for in the not too distant future. After all, the economic recovery requires us to spend our little hearts out. In this particular set of economic stimulous warrants the Library, Payroll, CRA, Gateway Cities Council of Governments (GCCOG), Sewer Fund, Sully-Miller Contracting Company, Pasadena YMCA, UWMP, and the Recreation Center Fireside Room all get to lay claim a share of our tax money. The lucky dogs.
Someday I am going to have to figure out how to get from the tax paying side over to the tax receiving side.
Item #2 is poetically entitled Interim Moratorium Ordinance Regarding Land In The Canyon Area of the City. This is to be an extension of the previous moratorium ordinance that put on hold any further construction in the Canyon until the Canyon Zone Advisory Committee could come up with some common sense solutions for saving the unique character of what had become Sierra Madre's most threatened legacy. The CZAC's recommendations are now complete, have passed muster with the Planning Committee, and now face a final test before the City Council. But since exacting noticing procedures must be followed, it appears that the building moratorium would have run out before the City Council was able to make its final deliberations. Which means that the Canyon would have reverted to R1 zoning, unleashing God only knows what barbarity.
The time span for the extension that seems to be on everyone's mind is 6 months, so hopefully that call will be made. It is more than enough time for even this City Council to talk to all sides of the issue.
Item #3 looks to be well on its way to becoming quite a controversy in town. Not just because of what it is in itself, but also because it seems to be yet another move by our elected officials to cozen additional cash out from the pockets of what are already some pretty stressed out city taxpayers.
Why the City Council would be attempting to get even more money out of the taxpayers during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression really is a daunting question. And there is a disturbing pattern developing here. The almost 40% water rate hike, the recent revelations regarding over $22 million in hitherto unheralded water bond debt, the prospect of additional costly bonds for sewers and road paving, plus contract negotiations with the Police Officers Association that appear to be leading to yet another tax hike along the lines of the 100% UUT increase of a few years ago, all have contributed to the growing impression in town that the current City Council has decided treat us like the proverbial angry ex-wife out on the town with our Platinum American Express Card.
The topic here, of course, is a study of Sierra Madre's fee structure and its recommendation that the City start charging exponentially more money for services rendered. All courtesy of a consultant (NBS) that charged us $35,000 for their happy wisdom on the topic. Here are some examples off the "jo-el" site that we linked to yesterday as well.
Downtown District Street Light Pole Banner Hanging and Removal - was $309, under the consultant recommended new fee schedule, $1,216. So much for that Huck Finn Fishing Derby banner that gets unfurled over Baldwin every year.
Sidewalk Dining (the cost charged to restaurant owners for putting tables out on the sidewalk) - was $344, under the consultant recommended new fee schedule, $1,273. I can't imagine that too many of our struggling downtown eateries will be too excited about that. Hopefully the Rooster will be talking some down home sense to the City Council about this one.
Second Dwelling Unit Permit - was $459, under the new regime $2,242. What was that about encouraging residents to turn their granny flats into rental properties, thereby cutting our overall RHNA numbers? I guess someone figured out how to fix that problem.
Major Variance - was $2,670, in the brave new world? $5,604.00.
Minor Variance - was $748, in the nuttier future, $2,242.00.
Swimming Pool Piping Inspection - was $100, soon to balloon to $560.00.
House Sewer Connection to Public Sewer - was $100, in tomorrowland $280.00.
Sewer/Septic Inspections - was $100.00, could soon be $560.00.
The list goes on. Can you think of a worse time to be asking people for more of their money? And can you think of a worse time to be asking people for more of their money over and over again? As one poster put it yesterday, "What are they funding, a nuclear weapons program?"
Item #4 is all about the odd decision made by the Gang of 4 to suddenly add 4 new members to the General Plan Steering Committee, a group of folks who are already well into the process of updating this important document. The suspicion that many have being that Joe and John really don't want the citizen volunteer system to work in this case, preferring instead to monkey wrench the proceedings so they can spend a lot of money on outrageously expensive consultants that will give them the kind of General Plan they really want. One that would make large scale development here in the future far easier to initiate and carry out. The wishes of Sierra Madre be damned.
There is some irony here, however. Apparently 18 people have volunteered and asked to be included in the new 9 member GPSC. Many of them very good people who, entirely suspicious of the Gang of 4's motives, stepped up to help save their community from corporatist style overdevelopment. Watch the Gang of 4 completely sidestep some very highly qualified people with excellent resumes to pick their cronies from the house selling and home repair trades.
Item # 5 deals with educating the public about street sweeping. Did you know that street sweepers cannot properly clean a street when people park their cars on it? That is why the City asks folks to not park their cars in certain places when street sweepers are scheduled to do clean it.
Item #6 is all about furthering the cause of the Blight Ordinance. Something that was first proposed here on The Tattler a year or two back. Since this remarkable notion worked so nicely in gussying up the Killed Nursing Facility, the City has now identified a number of other downtown eyesores that could use a little TLC.
I wonder if the Downtown Investors Club is aware that this topic is up for discussion?