There are 90 year old pipes that need to be fixed and uh this doesn't go that far to be that proactive to fix those pipes so um ...
And then he kind of trailed off. Perhaps he thought the better of it, deciding instead the product he was setting loose would be better delivered at another time. Or maybe the Mayor Pro Tem snuck The Mayor one of those "Are you #@%*//$#! nuts?" looks he gives him from time to time, and Joe decided he should talk about something else. You know, like how he told Senator Feinstein's staff that water is important.
It was also about as clear a message Joe has yet to deliver on something very important here. That the claims made last spring and summer about their water rate hike being based on the need to repair pipes was obvious hooey. After all, didn't the Mayor just say it wasn't "proactive to fix those pipes?"
This statement was made right after the City Council had finally passed their water rate hike. An event that followed 10 months of some of the most ridiculous nonsense I have ever witnessed. The message creep started out last Spring as a claim that water rates had to be raised in order to fix old pipes, and then slowly evolved to what the real reason was, the need to raise more cash before they blew a big hole in the City's already damaged bond ratings. City Hall is the home of $19 million in such water related debt alone, and was in danger of falling further behind on certain aspects of its financial obligations.
News that was first broken here on The Tattler after a tip from some folks who know their bonds. People who let us know that the City had been fibbing up a storm on this matter.
Which takes us to this. How are you going to float those big development related bonds the G4 yearns for if your Standard & Poor's bond rating numbers are in the tank? You do know that new bonds is what they're going to be attempting to roll out in the next few months, right?
Ironically this initiative will probably come riding in on the back of yet another pretty pony campaign based on the need to repair infrastructure. Just like the last rate increase, except this time you'll need to throw in things like streets and sewers. Joe's mysterious product preview last week on the need for more water money being perhaps the first real indication of G4 thinking on this matter.
Delivering to the people a message designed to make them feel less bad about having to pay more for the same old thing is a tried and true practice in both politics and governance. But usually the message is expected to have some truth to it. Today it is a well known fact that when the City of Sierra Madre, at the insistence of this City Council, claimed last summer that it needed to raise our water rates to pay for water pipe and infrastructure repair, they were not telling us the truth about their intentions. Why be delicate about it? This was always about bonds and City bond ratings. Something somebody must have decided we can't deal with.
Now when I want to get a feel for where the City's "official policy message" is going on some topic or other, I always turn to The Mountain Views News. The MVN basically functions like our very own local Pravda. It delivers the official message of our City government faithfully and unchanged, no matter how untrue or absurd it might be. Carrying the word of the Gang of Four like a dog fetching its master's slippers.
And nowhere is this more obvious than with City Hall's message creep on the water rate hike. The initial - now discredited - water pipe version can be found in the 7/3/10 edition of the Mountain Views News, written by Susan Henderson. It goes like this:
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 ... The City's current water delivery system, which dates back to the early 1990s, 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 and aging water main broke in the canyons (sic). It appeared that the main had not been replaced since the 1930s.
That was very much in line with what City Hall was putting out last summer. Now compare that to what is said in the latest issue of the Mountain Views News. Notice just how closely it mirrors today's very different City Hall message on the reasons for the rate hike:
At stake was the City's ability to pay the existing bond obligation on time. Those obligations, entered into years before this Council was seated, were created in the 1990s and for political reasons, rates were not raised as recommended to keep up with increasing costs.
Now with any Henderson written article you do need to keep a careful eye out for information suppression. The $19 million in bond debt does have some of its roots in the '90s, but the majority of it came into being in 2003 when Bart Doyle was Mayor. Bart, widely suspected of being a generous benefactor to Susan's paper in many ways, was given what appears to be a pass in this article on any responsibility for Sierra Madre's current bond debt crisis.
Which, in my opinion, is one reason why the G4 fibbed about the reasons for the water rate hike in the first place. They didn't want to in any way impugn the reputations of their friends who sat on what we here at The Tattler enjoy calling the Shenanigan Council. Possibly the worst this City has ever seen until now, and the genesis of many of the problems we're wrestling with today.
You see, the Shenanigan Council didn't only put us into massive debt, they also administered a City Staff that utterly screwed up important paperwork as well. Which is how our once AAA bond rating got submerged in the first place.
Too bad they didn't spend that 2003 money on fixing our pipes.