Some have been taken aback by this. Certainly applause and politics go together in a hotdog and mustard sort of way. But Mayor Mosca, a man with a sensitivity for political correctness equaled by few others, has come down hard on the clapping thing. And why, dare we ask? Because it makes those not receiving any applause for their efforts feel bad.
Which as why Agenda Man has been clapping for almost the entire week. Much to the annoyance of Agenda Woman.
But this isn't what we're here to talk about today. There is a City Council meeting tonight, and some very important issues will be under consideration. So let's put aside any of this lesser stuff and get down to the real nitty gritty.
Some of the most interesting things being covered this evening will not be for your eyes. Certain matters can only be discussed in closed session, and there are a couple of those tonight. The first is the ongoing negotiations with Sierra Madre's Police Department. Given the SMPD's obvious support for the Bobblehead Slate during our last election, plus the pro-public union predilections of doctrinaire L.A. County politicos such as John and Joe, the chances of this City Council not giving away the ranch to the SMPOA are slim and more slim. While there is still a 2% cushion left before the UUT is maxed out at 12%, that might not be quite enough. Something that could lead to a voter referendum for the approval a new tax hike, one needed to cover a raise and benefits increase promised the SMPD by City Hall.
The other preliminary bout is a job performance review for our highly compensated City Attorney, Sandi Levin. The timing couldn't be better here as much of the conflict expected later in the evening over the water rate hike can be credited to some of the poor decisions advocated by the celebrated Ms. Levin. Particularly on what was supposed to the crown jewel of her professional expertise, Prop 218.
Of course, since Sandi has taken care to see to the needs of the current City Council on this and other matters (and not those of the people actually paying for her robust fees), chances are good that she will emerge from this ordeal with all flags flying. Oh, and did you know that Sandi is asking for more money? I mention this in case anyone might be wondering why Joe brought his wheelbarrow to the meeting.
After that the City Council emerges into the light and begins the public portion its deliberations. Mayor Pro Tem John Buchanan will be leading the community in tonight's moment of inspiration. The rumor I've heard is that the Mayor Pro Tem might be assisted in this by an actual Druid Priest. Though a dispute over the appropriateness of human sacrifice could put a kibosh on what might have otherwise been a very colorful moment in Sierra Madre history.
After God, Country and the City Council Reports have been so honored, the money spending will commence. During this evening's Consent Calendar the neat sum of $711,022.50 will vanish in the twinkling of an eye. The usual suspects will be the beneficiaries to this end product of our labor, including the CRA, the Sierra Madre Library (home of the largest Belva Plain collection in the Western United States), employee payrolls, liquor bills, Guatemalan cigars, iPads, all that rhythm and blues.
Also tagged onto the Consent Calendar is a hoped for approval of the Mayor's recommendation regarding the selection of a Council Liaison to the Tree Advisory Commission. This year, and for the first time ever, an actual tree will be selected to perform this important function. Further cementing this Council's reputation for being the greenest ever. I'm not supposed to mention this, but that has never stopped me before. The selected tree is an 8 foot high Knotty Pine.
Item #2 deals with appointments to the Utility Users Tax Oversight Committee. Now I had the dubious honor of serving on this turkey last year, and I have got to tell you, it was perhaps the most complete waste of this body's time in a life noted for its time wasted. What you do on this committee is pore over long lists of numbers denoting items that were purchased with money raised through the Utility User Tax. And what is expected of you is to make sure that all of that money was spent on the professional needs of the Police Department and Paramedics alone.
Try as I might last year, I could find no kegs of beer listed, no subscriptions to magazines of questionable morality, nor could I find any expenses related to donut or energy drink purchases. Much to my lasting disappointment they just weren't there.
This UUTOC deal is a relic from the last Sierra Madre Police Department raise. Which is when the City Council had to go to the tax payers to get them to approve the nearly 100% UUT hike required to meet a new blue reality. A well meaning soul at some meeting or other had asked if there was any possible way to guarantee that this UUT hike dough was used for what it was supposed to be used for, and not bled off into other things. So this committee was decided upon. And it is still with us.
My sincere condolences to whoever gets selected.
Item # 3 is the main event. That being the Water Rate Hike. Now after last Tuesday evening's joyous public demolition of the Walk & Talk nonsense that was supposed to be a critical marketing strategy in creating the illusion of some sort of public consensus on gouging water rate payers, I really don't see how they're going to make this fly. It certainly isn't the style of Mayor Mosca to come to a decision before he has convinced himself that everyone admires him for the vision and wisdom of his leadership. Which in this case has been even more sorely lacking than usual.
Plus there is also the question of whether this rate hike is supposed to help pay debt service on $19 million dollars worth water bonds, or repair Sierra Madre's ancient pipes. Maybe Joe will flip a coin and resolve this matter for us once and for all. But please, only after somebody has checked the coin first.
The key thing to look for here is the "billing rate tiers" issue. People hate those things with a passion, and ever since they showed up on our most recent water bills there has been quite a lot of poor decorum and incivility. But the problem for the Bobblehead Quadrant is if they take those hated tiers out of the mix, they will have changed the rate hike into something it wasn't before. Which means that the public will be entitled to reclaim their right to a Proposition 218 protest that was - let's be real here - stolen in an extremely unpleasant fashion by City Hall last spring.
This is something that I do not think Joe and John will dare risk. The last rather massive water rate protest took them completely by surprise and I don't believe they are confident this rate hike could survive a second uprising no matter who does the counting.
But will they have the cheese and crackers to pass a water rate hike that includes tiered billing? Or, for that matter, any water rate hike at all? Certainly that would be a little abrupt for this City Council. My money says that they will fall back on process and push this doggie down the road a couple of months in hopes that everyone will fall asleep and forget about it.
Of course, there is another option. And that is the forming of a Citizen's Water Rate Hike Commission. This would be a group of residents who would sit down and ponder just what exactly the populace at large might be willing to pay for their water. Having access to all the facts and figures (including bond debt both present and future) could help to build a consensus on this trickiest of questions. Particularly if they choose the right people, and not just folks who think our water tastes good.
Certainly this would be far preferable to more of the deception and double-talk that have typified the failed efforts of Mayor Mosca and his acolytes on this matter.
Item #4 is the last item for this evening's get together. It has to do with a meeting held at the YAC recently to discuss "strategic plan goals and objectives." This is the meeting where Joe spoke about the need for selling more bonds in order to help make his administration seem more glorious. A notion that was met with something approaching horror by City Staff. The more sober conclusions arrived at during the YAC meeting will then be blessed with the City Council's approval, then filed wherever it is such things go.
And then whoever is left in the room will file out of the building and into their cars. They will then drive home.