This is going to be short and sweet. A rarity for this blog to be sure, but the situation calls for it. Despite that vast array of painstakingly detailed information given at last night's Special City Council Meeting on the 2011-2013 Budget, this isn't really all that complicated.
Two apparently converging themes have now emerged in the newly launched second coming of Mayor John Buchanan. And while it might be fairly early in his term to be making such a call, this is where he appears to be taking us. The directions at first seem to be opposites, but they actually move towards a common goal.
1) We need to remain a Full Service City. This is John Buchanan's mission. We need to run a town filled with everything people would ever want. It is what it means to "do good."
2) Revenues are down, and because of this the City has been forced to cut an average of 10% out of every department budget. With the exception of the Police, Fire and Paramedic budgets, of course. And as the years go on the situation isn't going to get much better. But rest assured, the City is doing everything it can under difficult circumstances.
City Hall is selling itself as a hard working outfit that is making the tough sacrifices necessary to keep everything together. But despite all that, the long range outlook is not great. Some valued things might have to go away. But, as Mayor Buchanan promised the people of Sierra Madre a week ago Tuesday, he is dedicated to keeping Sierra Madre a "Full Service City." It is the mission of his administration, and he is prepared to make unpopular decisions to keep his word. It is why he was elected.
So how do you rectify the sacrifices and cuts being made by City Hall with Buchanan's rather expensive vision of a City that forever serves the needs of all?
You are going to have to raise more money. And since taxes would take a popular vote of the people to happen, that cannot be depended upon. In an economy such as this one people are not likely to be in the mood to raise their own taxes for the second time in three years.
So it will have to be bonds. Perhaps as much as $50 millions worth. By my estimation that is what it will take to do things like fix the pipes, repave the roads and bring the sewer system up to the level necessary to "sustain growth." Which is the euphemism being used in place of "development."
Last night's meeting wasn't just about the numbers. It was also marketing. Rather than a push poll, this was a push meeting. You need the City to help maintain your quality of life, the City needs more of your money to make that happen. So you need to agree to the raising of more money, and the only way that can be done now is through the sale of bonds.
Nothing about this is rocket science. Watch as this scenario plays out over the next few meetings. I don't know if John and his allies will succeed, but they are certainly prepared to do everything they can to make it happen.
Arianna Speaks: Over on Le Patch right now is an article from Arianna Huffington, the woman famously given $315 million by Aol for her website. She apparently has initiated a new philosophy for the 800 hyperlocal site strong Patch, one that incorporates "blogs" onto the premises. Bloggers, as you know, are desirable mostly because they write for no money. Which, given the fiscal situation the McBlog now finds itself in, is probably a necessity.
In what is becoming perhaps the greatest trainwreck in internet history, Patch is apparently consuming vast amounts of Aol's dwindling cash reserves. Here is how Forbes puts it:
No wonder AOL is so eager to get folks writing for free for Patch. The internet giant pumped $40 million into its network of hyperlocal news sites in the first quarter of 2011, and it will almost certainly lose well in excess of $100 million on the venture this year. That's on top of the $75 million AOL put into the venture last year, mind you.
The total amount lost could be near $200,000,000 by year's end, friends. Add that to the $315 mill Aol paid for the Huffington Post and you're talking some serious cash money.
The Tattler, on the other hand, is estimated to have lost around $150 dollars over the last year. This mostly in costs accrued through the purchase of copy paper, printer ink, a new Mr. Coffee and a subscription to an on-line news research site. The good news is we are now watching costs.
Bonus Coverage: Big congrats to The Sage of Altadena and his Altadenablog on hitting the rather incredible 1 million page view mark this week. More proof that if you cover all those things the more traditional forms of media refuse to touch, they will come. People want to know.