City Council meeting agenda item #9 was moved up to #3 last night, which was also mixed in with public comments on both the water rate hike and whatever else came into peoples' minds. That an issue having the importance of water expense would have been casually tossed in with Tuesday Open Mic Night seemed odd. But then perhaps Mayor Mosca doesn't see much importance in public comment anyway, and just figured what the hell.
But that is neither here nor there. Because as far as this blog is concerned, it was Councilmember Josh Moran that saved the evening. Thank God he wasn't in his car, because that boy was driving angry.
The topic of contention was the possibility of bringing back the Prop 218 process. MaryAnn MacGillivray, in favor of a water rate increase herself despite the unruly crowd she hangs with, thought it would be inappropriate to ask people for more of their money without also allowing them the ability to review the financial sacrifices they would be required to make. And by denying the rate payers their Constitutionally guaranteed rights under Prop 218, they would be without a truly meaningful review. Something Americans are not supposed to be endure, even if they are uncivil. Or live in Sierra Madre.
This seemed to touch off something sore and festering within the obstreperous being of Mr. Moran, because he went off on a bit of a tirade. Apparently he was deeply displeased that people should have questioned the judgement of a City Council that he so kindly graces, or actually gone out into the streets and attempt to overrule one of its august pronouncements.
In the mind of Mr. Moran it seems that those who protested the original water rate hike last May (you know, back when it was all about fixing old water pipes and had nothing to do with servicing bond debt) were engaged in sour grapes, playing games, passing misinformation (but not by telling people it was about fixing pipes as Mr. Moran did), or bitterly practicing some sort of grudge politics.
Now being one of those grudgeful guys myself, I did get to speak with many of the people who gladly signed the water rate protest forms I had to offer. Business owners and landlords signed them because times aren't so good and they feared that such additional expense would put them into a financial bind. And some of these folks do use a lot of water in their businesses, own large pipes and meters, and felt that Bruce Inman's occult tier scheme was an unfair burden aimed squarely at their taxpaying selves.
Then there are the retired people on fixed incomes. People who, despite the scoffing of Mr. Moran about the supposedly small amounts of money involved, would find the additional demands to be onerous. Among our most vulnerable citizens in this gentrifying city, most gladly signed the protest forms I offered to them as well.
And then there is also the Sierra Madre that Mr. Moran apparently does not care to acknowledge. Families that are barely making ends meet and really can't afford any additional expenses. People who live in a world where the relentless nickel and diming of small additional costs and taxes has accumulated over the years to the point where life's basic necessities become a daily struggle to attain.
In the choleric mind of Mr. Moran it would appear that those described above are nothing more than malcontents and troublemakers, bitter because they do not share in the kinds of glories attained by himself. And rather than people duly exercising the Constitutional right to redress their grievances with an obviously out of touch government, they are instead individuals consumed by a sour grapes resentment of Mr. Moran. Who I assume must believe that he occupies a special place on an altar at the center of their lives.
Another highlight of the evening came about when MaryAnn MacGillivray questioned the City Council's preference for water rate increase Option 3, further leavened by Mr. Moran's 4 years of 7.5% additions. City Attorney Levin, while not troubled by the notion in itself, did caution that such increases would exceed what she referred to as a "cap." Something that, should the additional amount of water money collected go beyond that limit, would trigger an automatic return of the dreaded Prop 218. Which, after the vast outpouring of public protest last spring, quite obviously scares the crap out of the G4. Sandi advised "tweaking" the take in the latter two years to keep them all safe from so horrifying a prospect.
MaryAnn then asked if the tweaking of these third and fourth year increased rates was actually to be done with the express purpose of avoiding another run-in with Prop 218.
And when none of the G4 dared to gainsay the obvious truths in her question, another chapter in the water rate saga was written. We have now gone from pipe repair canards, to water bond servicing, to City of Sierra Madre bond rating maintenance, to a soon to be created ordinance where rates will be set in order to attempt to deny people the right of challenging a decision this City Council so badly wants to put into place.
Has there ever been a municipal rate increase created with suppressing the right to protest taxes as one of its fundamental rationales?
Additional stuff happened, but I'll leave it to others to write about. Though I do have to admit, that the Obama Administration is actually pushing the notion that a way to cure childhood obesity is to build mixed-use development had me laughing loud and long. And here I thought mixed-use development was supposed to save the world from global warming.
The magical powers of condominium construction seem to be endless. And the G4 eagerly embraced yet another example of the strange madness currently gripping this nation.
I got an email from a friend this evening ...
... and she had an interesting story to tell. It seems that the Sierra Madre Nursery School was holding its annual crafts fair in the park yesterday. They also were conducting a "Mrs. Nelson's Book Fair" as well. Both happening as a way to help raise funds for their renowned parent supported school. Stuff they have been doing for years.
Sadly for both the moms and their kids, someone from City Hall sent over Code Enforcement Officer Lisa Volpe to shut all this down. The parents apparently were operating without a business permit. Something they had never been required to get before.
Lisa was nice about it all agreed. I mean, who wouldn't be embarrassed by having to chase a bunch of nice families out of a park? Lisa was just doing what she was told to do. So the parents packed up their kids, books and crafts and went home.
Only in Sierra Madre.
(Ed: This post originally appeared on Nov 10, 2010.)