Monday, August 1, 2011

Water Rate Increase Lawsuit: The City Caves and Settles

As some of you might have already heard, I've settled my lawsuit with the City of Sierra Madre. That lawsuit arose out of the City Council's approval of a water rate increase on January 11, 2011. In my suit I alleged that the City had violated Proposition 218, which governs the procedures for approving or disapproving water rates by customers. Proposition 218 allows customers to file protests against a proposed water rate increase and, if a majority of protests are received, then the rate increase fails.

So that customers can make an informed decision regarding whether or not to oppose a rate increase, the City must provide customers at least 45 days before the hearing on the water increase with written notice of the amount of, and the reasons for, the increase. That way, customers can make an informed decision regarding whether to approve or reject a water rate increase. The City in its usual and cavalier way chose to ignore those requirements.

While the City sent residents a "bare bones" notice regarding the water rate increase in May of 2010, it did not provide information regarding the actual reasons for the water rate increase until only weeks before the hearing in violation of Proposition 218. To this day, many residents still believe that the water rate increase was necessary for capital improvements and repairs.

As explained in great detail in the petition and writ I filed upon initiating the lawsuit, the City's primary reasons for increasing our water rates was to satisfy a myriad of bond obligations and prop up the City's bond rating. Approximately, 1,600 customers filed written protests -- almost the majority required to defeat the water rate increase. How many customers would have filed protests had they known the City's real purpose in raising water rates?

And, while we all like to believe that everyone in Sierra Madre is affluent, in point of fact, there are many low income families in our town. The City's Ordinance adopting the water rate increase contained a discount for such families, but neither the notice that was sent to customers back in May 2010 or the Ordinance itself explains precisely how a low income family would determine if they qualified for such a discount, or even how to apply for one.

My lawsuit was intended to shine a light on the City's allegedly illegal conduct in violating Proposition 218. If the extensive coverage of the lawsuit in the local newspapers, newspapers throughout California, along with this blog (sierramadretattler.blogspot.com) is any guide, I was very successful.

Most importantly, my purposes in litigating were to force a recalcitrant City to comply with Proposition 218's notice requirements and to ensure that low income families receive a discount for the water they consume. The settlement entered into with the City accomplishes those purposes with respect to future water rate increases that will be proposed by this City Council. More specifically, the settlement requires that this City Council provide the residents with written notices containing real information regarding the reasons for future water rate increases as well as the detailed information necessary for families to determine if they qualify for a low income discount and how to apply for it at least 45 days before the hearing on the future rate increase.

While my lawsuit, if successful, would have forced the City to conduct another hearing on the water rate increase approved in January of this year, ironically, it would have had no impact on these future water rate increases. And apparently there will be more. At the City Council meeting, where the water rate increase was approved, then Council Member and now Mayor John Buchanan stated that "there will be another Prop 218 process" (i.e., another water rate increase). Accordingly, and notwithstanding the spin you will hear from City Hall, this is a great result for myself and every other water customer.

Finally, what it boils down to is this: The City was sued for violating the law. The City settled the lawsuit by agreeing to take measures, which we believe are required for compliance with the law. If this isn't a litigation victory, then perhaps such things don't exist.

In closing, I want to thank all of my supporters, and especially my attorney Kurt Zimmerman.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

108 comments:

  1. So the next water rate process will receive over 1800 letters of protest? Especially if the City has to be honest about what it's for (Bonds)?

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  2. I wonder what the sales pitch for the next water rate hike will be?

    "This time we're telling the truth. Honest!"

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  3. Sounds like a win to me! And it sounds as if it puts the City Council on notice that the residents are watching their every action. No more back room deals and no more treating the voters as if they doddering old fools.

    John, Kurt and all the Tattlers who supported this action, WE WON! We're awesome.

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  4. No matter what the reason, we need to stop the next water rate hike. There is no reason why they should be forgiven for all that lying. I will never trust any of those people again.

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  5. Chief Black KettleJuly 31, 2011 at 8:38 PM

    Congratulations, John. This is the speediest litigation I've ever seen. It only goes to prove that the truth always resolves any issue with dispatch. And hopefully this will serve notice to the Gang O'Four that we Tattlers mean business.

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  6. Justice prevails! As it should! But do we always have to fight these cheats? Forever vigilant is the exhauting price we pay to live in this town to keep it being what we would like to think it is.

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  7. Great job John and Kurt!

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  8. Congratulations John. This is great news.
    What makes the news even better is the entire water rate fiasco happened under Joe Mosca’s reign as mayor. It appears the City got bad legal advice from Sandra Levin who was supposed to be the authority on Prop 218. Will we get a refund on her legal fees????

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  9. Great result. How long before the City starts bashing Kurt and John in the press.

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  10. Joe Mosca lied
    Bruce Innman lied
    John Buchanan lied
    Nancy Walsh lied
    Josh Moran lied
    Elaine Aguilar lied
    Sandra Levin lied

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  11. Sandra Levin is an example of how our tax dollars get used against us. We get lied to, and then our taxes are used to defend the liars. We need to rethink local government.

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  12. What will the "rusty pipe believers" say when the City tries to raise rates to fix the rusty pipes?
    Hope they ask, "What did you do with the money?"

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  13. a river in EgyptJuly 31, 2011 at 9:10 PM

    9:05, those articles are probably being written at this very moment.
    Or perhaps the city will go the silence way - just like they did with the animal brutality.
    What elephant? What lawsuit?

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  14. In my opinion, the City's decision to settle is an admisison that it violated Proposition 218.

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  15. The Mayor back in May of 2010: "They'll never figure it out, and even if they do, so what?"

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  16. Somebody needs to bring this up at the first Holden / Mosca debate.

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  17. The last time Kurt beat the City, he got smeared in the Cumquat. I hope City Hall has the decency to admit defeat and leave this decent man alone.

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  18. The City's worst fear is that Kurt will run for City Council again. After this victory, they're going to go after him with a vegeance

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  19. The only bullgoose looney they have left is Terry Miller. And he is a joke. The rest of them have become as tame as kittens.

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  20. You have to admire Zimmerman as an attorney. He ends up settling the case and obtains a result that's better than if he had litigated it to conclusion.

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  21. It occurs to me that if this was a victory for the City, Buchanan would have already sent Susan Henderson, Terry Miller and Brenda Gazzar a press release.

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  22. Congratulations John and the residents of Sierra Madre. It will be interesting to see how the powers at City Hall spin the outcome.

    Nice to see there are still some folks who stand up and demand their elected officials do what should be a very simple thing......follow the law!

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  23. I don't know -- what does this mean? It means they won the first round -- we still get the water rate increase, the tiered rates, the meter rates. But, when they want to raise the rates again, they have to conform to the law. This is like someone robs a house and gets caught, but they can keep the stuff from the house, but next time they can't keep the stuff. Big deal.

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  24. 11:27 has a point.Nothing will really change until the regime changes.The lying and deception will continue.The ball continues to be in their court.

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  25. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  26. I guess we now know why Buchanan was in such a swivet on Tuesday night. Didn't like the settlement terms, did he?

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  27. The Gang of 4 have now joined ex-wife beaters and recovering crack addicts on the list of less glorious reformed offenders. City Councilcritters who promise to no longer lie to get ratepayer money.

    Too bad we can't put it on Oprah.

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  28. One slice at a time,known as "Salami" tactics.They will get there eventually!

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  29. Congratulations John, Kurt and Tattlers!
    Thanks so much to all the Tattlers who collected signatures against this unfair and illegal water rate hike!
    We DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  30. The legacy of Joe Mosca's year as our Mayor continues. No wonder he was passed over twice.

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  31. Yes indeed, 7:11 am.
    Hey all you dirt Mosca supporters! How about apologizing to MaryAnn MacGillivray for slandering her?
    How about apologizing to Nancy Shollenberger for slandering her?
    Especially you, "Father" Michael Bamberger and you Harriet Susan Henderson Carpenter Poole, or whatever fake name you are using, along with your fake degrees.

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  32. Yes indeed, how will City Hall spin this story???

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  33. I don't know what they would have to gain by saying anything. My guess is City Hall won't say much of anything. The last thing they want is for this story to go on any longer than it has.

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  34. John Crawford settled his/our lawsuit with the best possible outcome for the residents and ratepayers of Sierra Madre. He and his attorney, Kurt Zimmerman, avoided a costly court battle that would have been devastating to the citizens and would have been in the courts for months if not years, and it forced Sandy Levin to resign as the City Attorney. We are protected when the next cycle of rate increases come, and we have plenty of ammunition if we're forced to walk to collect signature to keep Buchanan from forcing generational bond debt down our collective throats.

    Crawford is modest in claiming victory. On his behalf and on behalf of the world of Tattlers, we've had a productive summer.

    Smirk, we deserve it!

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  35. Your followers continue to grow. Nice work!

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  36. Think of the massive amounts of doubt there will be in this town the next time Buchanan and his bobbleheads come looking for more of our money. They'll fall over themselves to be "transparent." But how much of it will be true?

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  37. Thank you John and Kurt. YOU are men of integrity and perseverance. And, you are men of honor.

    The best is that you have exposed the TRUTH! Hopefully, this will speed up the process of a recall and the people who have chosen to put on the blinders of the propaganda will open their eyes and see how they have been used and send their "friends" to their ole boy bart club and to find an empty state to develop, like
    maybe, Alaska....where there is...water and empty space...

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  38. Party time!!

    I'll bring the water!

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  39. 11:27. If it was victory for the City, it was a Pyrrhic victory.

    There is no way in hell that the City will ever be able to raise water rates in Sierra Madre again.

    Congrats John.

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  40. The next win will be the Hildreths. More egg on the face of the city. I just hope that they don't settle. So the abuse of what the city can do to our citizens can be heard. Good luck to them and good job John and Kurt.

    Kurt since you are a white knight maybe you could throw in your help. I know they could use it.

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  41. As somebody who has practiced law for decades, I am accustomed to both sides claiming victory in litigation based on the terms of a settlement. In this case, however, I am compelled to agree with Mr. Crawford's assessment:

    "Finally, what it boils down to is this: The City was sued for violating the law. The City settled the lawsuit by agreeing to take measures, which we believe are required for compliance with the law. If this isn't a litigation victory, then perhaps such things don't exist."

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  42. Team Crawford 1
    Team City 0

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  43. 8:24. I'm with you. By bringing to light the City's shenanigans and forcing it to comply with Prop. 218 in the future, any future water rate hike is doomed.

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  44. I got up to speak against the "smoke and mirrors" Prop 218 illegal process. My reward for doing so was a "smirking CC and a rebuke from 3 minute Mayor Mosca who then cut off the microphone. Astonshing to me was the presence of the Sierra Madre Police at this Council Meeting. The Tattler did post my cut off remarks the next day, so in a sense I did get a hearing.

    Out of this illegal, silly nonsense of a Council doing the bidding of a few special interests and the statewide corruption of millions of dollars to promote these special interests, a revolt is necessary. Lets hope it is beginning.

    The cynicism of our Council and City Administration should be a turn off for what they represent and attempt. I hope we can take advantage of this opportunity and make Sierra Madre reflect what most of us want. A Great Place to Live. Thanks John and the many who valiantly tried to head off this illegal cover up. Democracy does work.

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  45. 9:46 You said it all!

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  46. The City would not have settled if they had been right. They always fight. Sandy screwed up big time.

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  47. So, will there be an announcement at the next council meeting? And what will it be -- that the city settled and that will be the end of it? Crawford and Kurt, are you preparing a press release to all concerned and maybe someone will print it in all its truth?

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  48. Josh...How much would it have cost to send out another Prop 218 notice ? About $800. How much did the City pay in legal fees? And to think this idiot will be the next mayor. We need to follow the warrants and let the public know during public comment.

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  49. Even after serving on the City Council, Kurt Zimmerman continues to serve the residents of Sierra Madre. Thank you Kurt and John

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  50. Bill Coburn's Sierra Madre News Net site has the City's Press Release in all of its spinning glory. Good photo of Crawford.

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  51. Maybe Spiro will engage an elephant to selll the water rate increases.

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  52. Looks to me like Sandi got her revenge for not being given a raise. How she sold this to the Gang of Bananas is beyond me.

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  53. They lie, they lie, they lieAugust 1, 2011 at 10:32 AM

    Buchanan:
    "Although I believe there was no basis for this lawsuit, this resolution ends the matter at no cost to residents."
    True, if you don't count our hiked up bills to pay for the bonds Buchanan is so partial to, and Sandi Levin must have done this case for free!

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  54. Ya think city hall has maybe worked on the master list of water customers, cleared it up and made it accurate?

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  55. Who is your daddy now city hall water fibbers?August 1, 2011 at 10:54 AM

    A settlement is a win, took that little thumb in the plum pie and twisted it backwards till they said uncle, works for me, and hey that was a short but sweet battle won.

    So yeah, a fund raiser appreciation celebration party is in order. Hugs all around Tattler crime fighters.

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  56. John Buchanan did something to save money? Now there is a stretch.

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  57. In the city spin, they claim that they'll give out the information just like they did before.
    Just like before, after they were caught lying and had to confess to what the increase was really for.

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  58. My guess is Buchanan didn't write that statement. His nose would have been too long to reach his keyboard.

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  59. So Sandy Levin's time was pro bono?
    Kind of a good-by, thanks for all the money, this one's for free?

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  60. Looks like the City is doing damage control.

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  61. Momentarily on another topic right turnAugust 1, 2011 at 11:44 AM

    Was behind someone at Beantown early am over the weekend. Seems Bosca's thinking is along the lines of: if Holden runs in the new district the dems will be identifying another district for Mosca to run in - which means they'll be selling the Sierra Madre manse and moving to the new district. Same scenario as his initial run for City Council in Sierra Madre.

    Don't underestimate how much support he has outside Sierra Madre or how savy his advisors (including Bossypants) are. Spilling the beans was one of his "core member" RE Dirt types.

    Loose lips do sink ships but also give us hope!

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  62. And of course Patchy and the Weakly now have their versions of the settlement up...

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  63. Bless their crooked little heartsAugust 1, 2011 at 12:12 PM

    It was so sweet of rooster to print Johns story in his little webpaper. The rest of the story, the part that the roost wrote was so full of bullshite, and at the part where Ms Aguliar was quoted, well I was getting ready to have to put my boots on because the ____ was getting deep.

    They act like they were not asked over and over and over and over, and we know the city was not so confident. Poor Mr Inman will be scarred forever with his rusty pipes.. Oh and the famous overheard words, "they'll never get enough votes"

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  64. 11:44 No matter where Joe and Bossypants go, you can be sure there will be people from SM following him to reveal the truth about Mr. Blue Eyes and his tale of lies. He will never "serve the people of anywhere again."

    He will not even work for the spinmeister Beckster. Their lies would be too much for each other.

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  65. Aren't Mosca's eyes brown?
    Or maybe they are the color of choice of whatever gathering he's in.

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  66. 11:44, oh if only!

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  67. The City of Sierra Madre and its leadership continue to lie based on their press release.

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  68. It's very likely that Mosca wrote the press release - after all that's what he does for the gas company, right?

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  69. 10:54

    I like that....TATTLER CRIME FIGHTERS vs THE DIRTBAGS

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  70. I disagree 12:49.A city press release regarding a lawsuit would only be written by a city attorney.Mosca probably suggested that it be sent out tied to purple balloons.

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  71. Spin or not on Coburns site, it sounds like Crawford did not get anything he asked for in his suit, The City got a slap on the hand and that's it.

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  72. Well done to you and Kurt. You certainly had the right lawyer for this case.

    It's a sad fact of life that a lawsuit of this nature will not permanently roll the clock back. The City always gets another bite at the apple. But now they've admitted that this last raise was to pay their bonded indebtedness. So when the next one comes around, we can all go out and meet our neighbors again and get some signatures on a referendum so that the City can't keep going back to the well--except to cover its bonds.

    You can thank Bart Doyle for the bonded indebtedness. He was smiling when he described how the money would never get paid back--it would just be refinanced endlessly.

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  73. The City's press release is very misleading.

    In point of fact, the information the City claims it "already provided to residents," was not provided to residents in the timely fashion required by Prop. 218.

    The City determined to disseminate information about the reasons and basis for the water rate increase to residents only a few weeks before the hearing on the rate increase (i.e., so that opposition to the rate increase would be muted).

    Moreover, some of the information regarding who qualifies for a low income discount and how to apply for it was not disseminated until after the rate increase was passed!

    Crawford's settlement addresses both problems.

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  74. 1:31. You're right. If you read the above article, Crawford got more than what he asked for.

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  75. Hey Staccato! What do you think?

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  76. 1:57. I agree that the settlement was a litigation victory and by suing the City Crawford brought to light the lies it told about needing the rate hike money to replace water mains.

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  77. Whatever the outcome of the lawsuit, the fact remains that the City was not not truthful about their reasons for a water rate increase. This was not about repairing pipes as was originally claimed, it was about paying for bonds. Something that came out much later. This has been a shameful episode for Sierra Madre.

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  78. This litigation had another and positive impact -Joe Mosca is going to be asked about it during his Assembly campaign.

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  79. The city never would have settled if they thought they could get away with it. Buchanan, Aguilar, they're lying like they usually do.

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  80. Those of you who think Crawford should have continued the litigation rather than settle for terms favorable to the residents, should volunteer to sue the City the next time it violates the law.

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  81. Well said Henry @2:04.
    There are close to 1800 residents who know that they were lied to and who know that their legal protests were ignored.

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  82. Henry - you also left this comment on Patch, and I thank you. Their law suit article has been up all day and you are the only one to reply so far. The Tattler is also linked to Patch in that piece, and so far this blog has received one lonely hit from it. One hit. Besides Henry and I, does anybody in this town read that site?

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  83. Do you think anyone goes to the AOL site for local political news?
    Not likely.

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  84. A much better entry on the Pasadena Star News not only has snippets from the City's Press Release but from John Tattler blog this morning.

    No attribution but definitely more evenhanded.

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  85. John,
    I also put a comment up on the Patch. I don't read the Patch regularly but thought an honest attempt at clearification to the "public spin" of the City needed posting
    Jim

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  86. slow growth GertrudeAugust 1, 2011 at 4:00 PM

    If the city staff and city council had been innocent, they wouldn't have settled.
    I for one am happy with this outcome.

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  87. The most ridiculous article will make an appearance next Saturday, maybe Saturday, maybe not, in Suzies Looney Views.

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  88. It's always difficult to sue the city because we have to pay twice: pay to get the suit to happen, and then through our tax dollars, pay to defend against the suit. A frustrating situation, and only to be entered into when the city government has behaved as badly as it did in the water rate hike debacle.
    Thanks to Crawford and Zimmerman for carrying through on this one.

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  89. It is not true that the SM Patch has no readers. John Stephens does have parents.

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  90. A very evenhanded and fair article is now up on the Pasdena Star News site.

    http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/news/ci_18595166

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  91. Thanks for the reference 4:14, and I agree that it is a pretty good article. However, it would have been better if at some point it would have mentioned the fact that the city said the increase was for pipes when it was really for bonds.....

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  92. We can't follow all the complicated legal mumbo-jumbo, but if Johnny and Kurt made a decision, it had to be the right one. And Mosca and Buchanan--incorrigible!

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  93. Susan will write an article that attacks Kurt and John and than congratulates John and Joe.

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  94. The fact that Harriet Poole Susan Henderson (and Carpenter? Where did that one come from?) is supported by tax dollars is a festering immorality in Sierra Madre.

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  95. Hey Bucky, the Hard Decisions Are Going To Get Harder!August 1, 2011 at 4:56 PM

    What the lawsuit proves is that you Liars will lie, until the Few and the Brave force you to modulate the amplitude of your lies. (We know you are incapable of ever telling the truth.) I've got a few hundred more dollars to support Crawford, should he choose to rein you in again.

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  96. That Mayor Mosca sure did a lot of good for Sierra Madre. At least as far as providing entertaining political theatre, that is.

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  97. It has also occurred to me, 5:14, that Joe Mosca has a positive gift for inciting residents' anger, and then increasing it. Lying a lot will do that.

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  98. It's not that Joe deliberately says things that are untrue. it's just that he can't see far enough past himself to tell the difference.

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  99. Poll who thinks john stephens is a rat fink?August 1, 2011 at 5:45 PM

    Dear Moderator, heck no we don't read the patch, nor the weakly, nor Cocky Burns, either.

    But since I saw it mentioned in the comments I went to that parasitical little rat finks site.
    The Patch, I want to do a week long poll too.
    "who won the water rate" is like a kid poking a dead horse with a stick. How desperate for advertising and brown nosed smoozing can a little twerp be? The summons and complaint never asked for money. Why am I seeing non monetary in all these canned spam look alike stories? They settled because they would have lost big time. It does not matter how the spidergoatpigs masquerading as journalists spin it. I just settled two cases and I imagine they put a confidentiality clause in your settlement. But leaked what they wanted to who they wanted. City caved is right cause those little beasties like to live and deal in the dark. Now they got the light on them. Their beady little eyes are rolling around, their little rot smelling whiskers are a twitter, and their trained rat journalists are dancing with the devil for crumbs.

    Besides I get computer worms and attachy things when I post on Patch.

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  100. I went on Patch once. Now every time I turn on my computer it says, "You got mail!"

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  101. The lawsuit was never about monetary damages, it was about compelling the City to follow the law!
    To that end, it accomplished the goal of gaining future compliance with the law by the City.

    Having endured the hassle and significant financial expense of filing such suits against various agencies, I can tell you first hand that John was smart to gain compliance by settling the matter.

    Kudos to John....

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  102. Tattler petition carrierAugust 1, 2011 at 7:17 PM

    I got signatures for the water protest.
    We objected at the time for reasons Mr. Crawford and Mr. Zimmerman and 2000 residents were concerned about.
    We did not know, at that time, nor did the residents about the BOND DEBT SCAM.
    Had we have known that, we wouldn't have allowed the city council to cheat us like they did.
    Shameful.

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  103. You know what is sad about the city's response to all this? It is just the same old garbage. The same old lies, the same old strategies, the same old players, the same old, well, everything. It is just all so tired and familiar.

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  104. Dr. Staccato knows!August 1, 2011 at 8:34 PM

    Very interesting comment from the good Dr. S:

    "You can thank Bart Doyle for the bonded indebtedness. He was smiling when he described how the money would never get paid back--it would just be refinanced endlessly".

    That pretty much tells us all we need to know.

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  105. Every idea John Buchanan has ever had were Bart Doyle's first.

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  106. I don't know why the voters in this town can't see through these criminals.
    They tried to sell out Sierra Madre with the DSP for God's sake, why don't people realize just who these people are and what and who they represent?

    Instead of electing decent people to the council to promote honest and decent government, such as the lone member of the council, MaryAnn MacGillivray,
    they chose to believe the cruel lies slandering good people and elected the worst 3 possible choices. Unbelievable.

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  107. The Elephant really came out !!August 1, 2011 at 9:26 PM

    Many people DID KNOW that the water rate increase was about the BOND DEBT, and thank you KURT and JOHN for exposing this shameful lie.

    But, now the problem is exposing these shameful people to the public and not allowing anyone to let this be dropped as if it is not important.

    THIS IS ALL PART OF THEIR BIG SCHEME TO COVER UP THEIR LIE. REMEMBER SANDY THOUGHT THE PEOPLE WOULD NEVER WALK THE WALK AND GET THE SIGNATURES.

    The G4 will always try to cover up their lies.
    We must get this news out to everyone in Sierra Madre!

    This is what is more important! We know Susan will lie and deceive like she has done to scam the Dunns and her housekeeper. It is no longer important that people read the Tattler. It is important that everyone knows what really happened at CITY HALL and INTEGRITY now rules.

    Thanks again, Kurt and John.

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  108. Please people fix this before this gets worse. And, it will.

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