Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Real Water Rate Misinformation

Yesterday we wrote about Josh Moran's rather intemperate speech at Tuesday evening's City Council meeting, given in reaction to MaryAnn MacGillivray's call to allow Proposition 218 to once again play a roll in the water rate increase "process." After all, if the City is going to ask people for more of their dough, shouldn't those folks at least have some recourse if they decide that demand is not reasonable or fair? This is a free country, and it is the public's hard earned money.

In what was basically a rant against people he has expressed his resentments for on other occasions as well, Mr. Moran used some fairly uncivil language to describe those whose opinion on the water rate hike differs from his. I'm not going to speculate on what the root cause of this outburst was, because frankly that would just be gossip. But I can tell you that it was a rancorous and untrue fit of anger.

Now it has to be said that Josh isn't the only one who has publicly and repeatedly expressed opinions on the water rate controversy in so unpleasant a manner. We can also see similar levels of rage in the words of dedicated Moran political supporter H. Susan Henderson, as self-published in her weekly Mountain Views News. If I didn't know better I'd have thought that she could have been the real author of Josh's speech Tuesday night. Their viewpoints and the unfortunate tenor of their language is strikingly similar.

Here are some examples of Ms. Henderson's printed attacks on those fighting the water rate hike last summer:

Once again, certain citizens of Sierra Madre have gathered together to stage yet another protest about something. This time its' (sic) about the proposed water rate hikes. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely believe in the right to free speech. However, I don't believe that anyone should use that right to deceive and mislead. And recently, in an effort to garner 50% plus 1 of the water rate payer signatures against the rate hike, deception has become the name of the game. (MVN Op-Ed: July 10)

The very organized 'protest' movement that collected signatures in an attempt to defeat the proposed water rate fee hike was nothing more than a political campaign that few people recognized. Many of those who were recruited to submit their 'protest' were not aware of anything more than the 'misinformation' that they were given. They were not aware that the 'organizers' of this 'protest' were actually a group of residents with a craving for dissent regardless of the issue. (MVN Op-Ed: August 7)

However, if we aren't careful, at the very next opportunity, there will be another such disingenuous, dishonest and deceptive attempt to gain the public's support. (MVN - Op-Ed: August 7)

Both H. Susan Henderson and Josh Moran have loudly proclaimed, and on the record, that the campaign to fend off a 37% water rate hike last summer was based on "misinformation." And that in in the process of collecting over 2,000 signatures the protesters had somehow fooled about 20% of the population of Sierra Madre. Which certainly doesn't indicate that either of these individuals holds the critical abilities of property owners and rate payers in this town in very high esteem.

But today I would like to take the opportunity point out to you some examples of the real "misinformation" on the water rate hike that was being shopped around last summer. They could be seen on the front page of Sierra Madre's official newspaper of record, and heard being spoken by key elected officials.

In a July 3rd MVN article entitled "Water Woes," H. Susan Henderson published the following claims regarding the reasons why a water rate fee hike would be necessary. Here the reasons given are the costs of electricity and maintaining aging infrastructure such as pipes:

Current revenues from water users are not sufficient to continue operating the city's aging water system properly. This is primarily due to the fact that there has been no rate increase since July 2006 to keep up with the escalating costs of, for example, electricity that runs the pumps. There is also not sufficient revenue to replace aging parts or to match available federal funds of $10 million dollars to do major capital improvements.

The city's current water system, which dates back to the early 1900s requires constant maintenance and improvements. As recently as this week, as if a warning to the city that the system's need for maintenance is immediate, an aging water main broke in the canyons. It appeared the main had not been replaced since the 1930s.

Note that the reasons Henderson gives here for raising water rates are the repair some old pipes, and the cost of power to run the pumps.

On July 24th Henderson delivered another opus, this time entitled "Water Rate Controversy Continues." Here the reasons given are the same as before, old pipes and electricity costs.

As indicated by Councilman John Buchanan at the last meeting, the situation "isn't going to get better with age." More than 30% of the city's water mains need replacing and, especially during the next few months with hot weather and greater demand, the strain on the system will put further stress on the system. "We just can't take another two or three years to resolve this problem," said one resident who supports the increase ... In addition, at the time of the last increase, there was, and still is, no way to determine the amount and rate of electrical power increases.

So that is how the Mountain Views News and its publisher depicted the need to raise water rates in this town last summer. While water rate protesters were out gathering signatures in order to challenge the rationale for a 37% increase in cost, the drumbeat from Sierra Madre's adjudicated newspaper (and therefore the recipient of our tax money, btw), was that the cash was needed to pay for pipe repair and increased electricity costs.

But is this actually the truth? Apparently not. According to City Manager Elaine Aguilar, in a highly detailed letter written to Sierra Madre resident and real estate investor Earl Richey, the actual reason for the 37% water rate hike proposed by the City Council earlier this year was water bond debt, and not repairing pipes or paying anticipated higher electricity rates. This is what Elaine said in her letter:

Staff noted that in your presentation to the City Council, you began with an inquiry as to whether or not the 37% increase is actually enough. While not specifically asked in this letter, it is a good question that should be addressed.

The proposed rate increase is enough to meet the requirements of the City's existing debt obligations and to begin rebuilding the water fund reserve. It is not enough to fund a pay-as-you-go capital improvement program. Funding a capital improvement program to begin immediate replacement of deteriorated water mains (for example) would require a rate increase significantly higher than what was proposed earlier this year.

So there you have it. When certain members of the City Council, along with Susan Henderson, were pushing a message that a 37% water rate hike had to happen because the money was urgently needed to immediately begin the repair of water infrastructure that is in a state of near collapse, they were engaging in misinformation. Misinformation that was designed to panic residents into forking over more of their money to save the city from the collapse of its water system while at the same time blunting the effects of the water rate protest.

So why did people like Josh Moran and Susan Henderson fib to the public about how their water rate increase money would be spent once the hike became law? My assumption is bond debt just isn't as sexy as rusticating pipes from the 1920s, and that rather than just telling the truth the City fathers decided they needed to go with the marketing ploy that had the best chances of success.

Besides, talking about bonds could lead to uncomfortable conversations, like why $19 million dollars in bond debt is there in the first place.

Since this story on the water indebtedness issue first leaked to the public courtesy of The Tattler, the City Council has reverted to flogging the rate hike in order to pay bond maintenance. They really had little choice. And those old rusting pipes hardly get mentioned at all anymore. Obviously that slug of misinformation used last summer is (to use a Nixon era term) no longer operative.


  1. Rolled and robber...aka The Great Swindle Of 2010!
    I believe there is a name for what the City along with the Gangster 4 committed against the Rate Payers.I quiver with anticipation over the next fraudulent "Outreach" into our purse ...Bonds on and on

  2. Tapped Out, Pissed Off and Ready to Carry a PetitionNovember 11, 2010 at 6:59 AM

    There does not seem to have been a notable water main break in several months. Perhaps the pipes were simply looking for a sign that they were important and cared about by the town. Do you think there was some sort of city yards slug fest between the bond indebtedness and the water pipes? Bonds 1, pipes 0. Residents ? Residents lost either way.

  3. In Johnnie B. we Trust!November 11, 2010 at 7:20 AM

    I have some questions:

    1. How much of the prior bond has been spent and how? Don't we need a full accounting of this?

    2. If the current rate hike and existing revenue is not enough to fund the system upgrade, how will that be finance?

    3. What further debt and rate hikes will be needed to fund the system upgrade and future operations?

    4. Is it just me, or is Susan Henderson now read only when quoted in the Tattler?

  4. Being called a liar in council meetings and in Sierra Madre's own "newspaper"is quite demeaning. Thank you for setting the record straight. Josh's rant at last council meeting was really the last straw. I do intend to call him out at the next council meeting. Stay tuned.

  5. I am wondering that along with the devaluing dollar and the increasing cost of commodities; what the final cost to us will be when the Bonds are factored in.

  6. Liars calling others liars. How "dirt."

  7. I read with interest the outrage people have over what was done to them.Is there nothing that can be done?Are we continuously to be assaulted by petty thieves and idiots.Certainly there has to be an antidote to this pitiful state of affairs.

  8. 7:20 That is the bottom line,,,Would be gratifying if we had some "true"answers on cost.A need for an independent investigation into this matter is called for.We will never nor should we expect truthful answers from the current Establishment.

  9. That's a damn good question 7:23 am. Any of our financial wizards got a prediction?

    7:27 am
    It's called the "Luciferic Inversion"
    Or turning truth into non-truth.
    Nearly all insane people accuse others of what they are or do. It's amazing.
    Example: Harriet Susan Henderson: "I'm not a liar, MaryAnn MacGillivray is and so is Kurt Zimmerman"
    Another example: Josh Moran: "I'm civil and smarter than MaryAnn MacGillivray and Kurt Zimmerman"

    It should be laughable, it's so outrageous, but unfortunately it is not.
    People like Josh Moran and Susan Henderson are exactly what is wrong with Sierra Madre, and what's wrong with California.

  10. My system is I just don't believe anything I hear coming
    out of city hall. There is always an angle and slickness.

  11. That's interesting, a forensic audit obtained by the citizens of Sierra Madre, paid for by a "real" citizen oversight committee with funds obtained from the UUT or other sources that have been developed with local taxpayer dollars.

    That way you don't have to wrangle through the Freedom of Information act and try to parse numbers and bank accounts that have a deep, dark history that's "not available".

    In any case, the residents are being totally stonewalled by an agenda that goes against their interests and desires.

    Good ballot measure for the next election.

  12. wow, the Queen of Deceit, Lies, Distortion and Innuendo Susan Henderson has the unmitigaged gall to question anybody else

    sure Susan, tell us again why you embellzed from your previous employer?

    lol, Henderson believes in free press? yeah right Henderson, so why don't you publish letters or editorials that counter your agenda and political angles?

    heck, even Rich Johnson said once that Henderson edits his editorials to omit any positive references to this blog

    what a liar Henderson is. hopefully nobody believes her pile of dog poop.

  13. when Josh Moran or Susan Henderson calls somebody else a LIAR, the reflection in that mirror must be blinding

    same for Mosca and especially Buchanan, what a liar Buchanan has become in the past two years

  14. I was walking today and step into a pile of cow manure.

    I picked up the copy of the Mt. Wilson Observer and threw it away before it soiled someone elses shoes.

  15. 9;49..Hello Crawford ,are you reading this!!!Maybe a long -OVERDUE forensic audit funded by the many concerned citizens is the way to start.We haven't much time to dance around this."They" are hell bent to saddle us with increased cost and further debt.We need to stop this fraud!

  16. Joseph, the mayor, perfect, thank you, Mosca must being enjoying the heat redirected to Moran. Wasn't there, didn't see the meeting, where is Neuroblast when you need it?

  17. Bond debt is a bigpart of the process. Once Mosca and those other strange characters can get this city wired up with some big new bond debt it will be revealed that the only thing that can save us now is mixed use development and the taxes they will generate. Which they won't since few people actually want to buy the things, much less live in them, but you know how that goes.

    This is, and always has been, about forcing development. Welocme to the process.

  18. Tired of being one of the fewNovember 11, 2010 at 12:59 PM

    If you haven't protested in person this at the Community Communications then shut up. Get off your duff and really do something instead of type ranting. Get in their faces like the few brave souls who continue to do so on a weekly bases. New faces need to be seen.

  19. Did anybody notice that after Moran got down
    ranting Joe looked at him from the corner of
    his eye and said "We're getting a little deep
    into the process here."

    That word "process" seems to have an almost
    mystical meaning to these guys. I guess in
    this case it meant "shut up," but also it is
    as if it indicates a path that the G4 is on,
    and Moran had suddenly veered off it.

  20. 1:10 I heard that and what I personally thought it inflected was the "shite is getting a bit deep in here".

  21. So true 1:10. "Process" is a magic word to Joe. So is "policy." The guy can spin a lot of obfuscating webs with "process" and "policy."
    Perfect. Thank you.

  22. Con Henderson, Are you kidding????
    What I want is a peaceful community that is not constantly imperiled because of idiotic leadership that doesn't mind putting my great grand children into debt.
    I also want a downtown that is not ripped up in stupidly overbuilt dense housing that will make any water we have a joke, and I'd like for the mountains to survive us.
    And when I see people wanting to turn this simple town into something else, or drive us into bankruptcy, yeah, I crave dissent.

  23. To In Johnny B we Trust @7:20,
    City Manager Aguilar has explained actually 4 or 5 times that every single penny of the bond money is audited and watched by multiple auditors and agencies. I think the monkeys are doing their business somewhere else in the equation. As to how the system will work - well, it won't. Neither will the paramedics, the police or probably, who knows, the library. Think we've had a series of very bad managers or what.

  24. The G4 wants to run this city on a bond
    credit card, and then tell us we need to
    build the place out to pay the bill.

    Nice people.

  25. still read the papersNovember 11, 2010 at 1:47 PM

    I saw the farcical Harriet Poole Henderson didn't-graduate-from-anyplace-she-said-she-did paper last week for the first time in a long while, and it has changed.
    Every community she can get a penny out of is now in there.
    So much for local.

  26. 1:46, sorry to say it looks like that's an accurate description of the plans of this council.

    John Cappocia asked the city council to look for other opportunities for saving.

    A contender for one of the most unheard and overlooked remarks in the decade.

  27. The process dictates that debt opens the door for development. Cutting budgets is not what they are looking to do. Quite the opposite.

  28. Guys like Moran, Buchanan and Mosca like to feel like big men. They come in with agendas and they know what will be good for you. Presumptuous, arrogant and underneath a slick surface, they're dictatorial. So the deal is they want to change what we have here. No question about that - maybe the motives are different, but these boys want some changes around here.

  29. 12:59, it's always and only the few that make the difference.

    Getting tired is part of it.You can't get people to talk or particiate until they're ready.And I've never found lecturing people to be succeessful either.

    At some point we all have to ask ourselves how much time and energy maintaining Sierra Madre is worth.There are other, better places to live, so if you're too tired, and nobody's in line to pick up your shield....

  30. It's hard to think of letting the town go to the greedy, superficial and alcoholic.

  31. We need, in very simple language, a one page report on how long Sierra Madre can go on as it is.
    And then we need to start eliminating services.
    Why won't the council show real leadership and start doing that?

  32. Everything that is being done leads to more spending and more debt. The Gang of Four wants to create a financial situation where there are no other options left but to bring in the developers. They are deliberately running the city into a ditch.

  33. sick of shenanigansNovember 11, 2010 at 2:23 PM

    When the city pays Susan Henderson, does a portion of that check go to the Dunns as part of the settling of the judgement against Henderson for $47,000?
    Does a portion of that check go to pay off the cleaning lady she stiffed?

  34. I can just see Moran and Henderson grooving with each other, exchanging hipster looks of mutual cool.Hard to tell who is zooming who.

  35. Oh I disagree 2:57. She is certainly zooming him.

  36. Can you imagine giving up years of your life just to get a couple of buildings built in Sierra Madre? It seems like a lot of time and effort for no payoff.

  37. boy brat is an accurate descripton of Josh Moran

  38. Misinformation, misinformed is a label that really started after the One Carter debacle.
    Might be because the council had done such a disservice to the community that they had to scramble to justify themselves from that point on.
    It's a rotten tactic, but they have used it successfully.

  39. omg that's true. If you opposed hillside development, you were misinformed.
    Rob Stockly would make speeches about being financially responsible and developing the hillsides.
    Wonder what part he played in structuring our crushing debt.

  40. I am looking forward to the General Plan Outreach on Sunday. It seems like one of the truly positive and honest efforts in our town.

  41. Buchanan used it like a son of a gun. Develop or be sued, and if you don't get it, you lack the information you need to make a prudent choice.

  42. I agree Miss @5:50. It's amazing any of the original general plan committee members are still standing.

  43. worked on the recallNovember 11, 2010 at 6:02 PM

    Calling the residents ignorant may have started with Stockly and Buchanan, but Mosca elevated it to new heights with his defense, overnight, of the Downtown Specific Plan. Process and policy were big buzzers then too.

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  45. Just re-read this oldie Goldie from 2010. Nothing has changed, has it.

  46. Just wait until the Water Rate Hike of 2013 comes through. It'll make you long for the bad old days of 2010.

  47. 3 years later and the dregs of politics are still lying to us.

    All I know is that every time a tax comes on the ballot, in this city, I'm voting NO.

  48. Give Josh another chance!

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  50. Unofficial survey for Sierra Madre residents: Are you going to let your parkway die from lack of water this summer? I notice that 2 of my neighbors have decided they won't pay to water the city's grass.

    1. Make that 3 neighbors.

    2. So why won't the water people tell me how in the h*ll I'm going to keep all my landscape from dying? Is the city going to pay to replace my plants?

    3. Why won't the City tell us how much water is being wasted by leaking pipes?

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