Monday, November 21, 2011

The UUT Was Never Specifically For Public Safety

So maybe folks were sold something other than what they thought they were voting for when the Utility User Tax increase to 12% was originally approved.

As I am certain you will recall, the big impetus behind raising our UUT rates in April of 2008 was to help pay for a Police raise while maintaining the Paramedic set up. It was always supposed to be about public safety, which were then often referred to as being "the essential services." And that apparently is what many chose to believe. Even those curmudgeons who voted against raising the UUT. Such as myself.

But apparently that was not actually the case. While it is true that we the people did vote on Measure U and Measure UA, and approved both by substantial margins, there was nothing in either of them that made the funding of such public safety services mandatory.

With Measure UA, which is where the voter's actual guidance on how this money needed to be spent was stated, being only advisory. And therefore has no real legal power to direct anybody on anything. That little bit of power having been quietly in the hands of the City Council all along.

Here is how the analysis of both of these measures reads on Ballotpedia.org (click here):

Sierra Madre Utility Users Tax, Measures U and UA, April 2008

Two Sierra Madre Utility Users Tax ballot propositions, known as Measure U and Measure UA, were on the April 28, 2008 ballot in Los Angeles County, California, for voters in the City of Sierra Madre.

- Measure U was approved. It proposed a temporary increase in Sierra Madre's UUT up to a total of a 12% tax and extending it to cover a broader range of taxable activities.
- Measure UA was approved. It was an advisory question about what to do with any additional funds raised if Measure U passed.

The ballot language for Measure U was:

"Shall an ordinance be adopted increasing the City's existing Utility Users' Tax by up to 6% in order to maintain general City services such as public safety services, including police and paramedic programs, and to reflect technological advances in communications, expand existing exemptions to low and very low income households, and establish a citizen's oversight committee?"

The ballot language for Measure UA was:

"If Measure 'U', the increase in the Utility Users' Tax, is approved by the voters, should the additional revenue generated by that increase be used to fund public safety services including paramedic programs, police salaries and benefits and additional safety staffing?"

As Ballotpedia.org states, Measure UA was strictly advisory, and therefore little more than a beauty contest.

Of course, it does beg the question of why a UUT Citizen's Oversight Committee was formed. Since the UUT has apparently always been a general tax, and therefore goes into the General Fund for the City's use on just about anything, what exactly was there to ever oversee? Could it be this was only for show?

We have already posted information on The Tattler showing that Sierra Madre has amongst the highest, if not the highest, Utility User Tax rates in the State of California. And that is at our less than maximum voter approved rate of 10%. Which is often claimed as being the product of the City Council's supposed restraint.

But should that rate ever go up to 12% Sierra Madre would then be in territory never before reached in the annals of higher Utility Taxation. Anywhere. Which is really saying quite a lot. Certainly the views from so high a peak must be spectacular.

And that does look like where City Hall is going with this. The language quoted below is from a proposed (and as yet unnamed) new ordinance. I've lifted it from the Staff Report for tomorrow night's meeting. This pretty much lays things out in a way that you probably were not supposed to dwell upon too much.

The first "Whereas" is intended to be the scary part. There always has to be a scary part. The second one is the solution that will save us all.

WHEREAS, essential City services remain in jeopardy because safety services within the City are understaffed (sic), the City's revenue has not kept pace with its expenses, police, fire, paramedics and other employees are paid substantially below their counterparts in comparable jurisdictions, infrastructure is deteriorating without the funds to make necessary improvements and repairs;

WHEREAS, the City desires to increase the tax rate incrementally from 10% (established by the City Council in 2010) to 12% in order to continue to fund general city services, including safety services, street maintenance, library services, and park and recreation services, and to extend the sunset provisions which will decrease the UUT rate.

The assumption that this City is understaffed might not fly with everyone. Crumbling infrastructure, wasn't that what the water rate hike was for?

And that when we'd vote on any new UUT measure next April it would come with a tax increase might be problematic for many as well. It would certainly make this something more than just a matter of extending what we have now.

But who knows? People in this town are capable of convincing themselves of anything. Even those who you might have assumed knew better.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

54 comments:

  1. I would be outraged if it weren't so damn predictable. Instead I'm just disgusted.

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  2. I wonder if the City can make this work for a second time. It doesn't look like they're working with a new story. Just the same stuff reheated.

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  3. Looks as if the City feels confident in continuing their extortion of the politically inept as well as naive citizenry.I read statements of outrage and dismay but no strong effective measures taking by concerned"citizens" to reverse the onslaught.Take a lesson from Bell!

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  4. I'm having difficulty thinking I was so successfully duped. I really thought I was voting for something very specific - funding for police fire life safety. I really thought I wasn't voting for a sizable contribution to the general fund. I don't think the Community & Recreation Department needs expanding and I don't think the City needs more employees, more consultants. I do think it's time to get in line with other cities the size of Sierra Madre and cut staff, cut expenditures, and tighten up the belt,

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  5. It has become obvious, the only way to get the city to reign in it's inablility to budget, is to be forced into it.
    Scaring people into believing the only way to maintain city services is to pass the UUT again is not going to work.
    By not passing the UUT a second time, it will force them into actually budgeting.
    Expect the same old arguments about having to close the library, etc. rather than freezing salary increases, etc.
    They need motivation in the form of limiting endless tax increases as a stimulus.

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  6. City Hall is funding their pensions. There is plenty money to run the town, but that is not what they are concerned about.

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  7. How is it that people who would lie to us about the real reasons for the water rate increase should expect us to support them for the rest of their lives?

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  8. Just another money pot for City Hall. Next will be special assessments for the library and the pool and streets and lighting, and sewers and tree trimming. All of t he above are what we pay taxes for already. The only thing the General Fund will pay is SALARIES AND PENSIONS for our out of town City employees who spend very little in the City of Sierra Madre except for an occasional taco or soda.

    NO ON ANY UUT OR ASSESSMENT

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  9. Very disappointing turnout at the General Plan meeting yesterday. If the community doesn't give a damn why should the members of the General Plan Update Committee waste their time ?

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  10. No, I wasn't for the original UUT tax in the first place. The idea that a town three miles long by a mile wide needed to be packed full of "peace officers" and "firemen" was beyond my comprehension. This unsavory group of bandits that call themselves a city council when not engaged in self aggrandizement see fit to spend their time picking our pockets. Not one more penny to these charlatans.

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  11. Please vote NO on any extension of this increased UUT. The lies and obfuscation emanating from our city hall are not new. If this "funding" source can be cut off, the council's outrageous spending sprees will be curtailed. Don't give them play money because they will just PLAY. These are tough times and the city government needs to respond appropriately and tighten its belt just like the rest of us. Man, I am sick to death of being bled like this...

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  12. In the end it is always a handful of people who make the difference, 7:58. Nobody shows up to an 8 hour meeting on obscure governmental zoning considerations and procedures on a Sunday when football games are on? Why is that surprising? That is the way it is.

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  13. Yeah you are right, increasing the density in the R3 areas of town really should not bother anyone. Lots of new neighbors.
    Go Eagles...they are green

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  14. You want to look at what Sierra Madre is really about? Look at Josh Moran and Nancy Walsh. Self-interested, narrow, and only committed to the needs of those they call their friends. Josh is out to avenge Measure V and the awful things that did to his mommy's real estate business. Nancy Walsh is vain and desperately desires to be part of an in crowd. That's as far as it goes. If you want to do something good for this town you have to accept the fact that most of the people living in this town are just too clueless to understand what it is you are doing. The higher good is usually like that.

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  15. What makes you all think that the people of Sierra Madre care if the UUT goes up or not? No one but a core group shows up at City Hall to let them know how they feel. The lack of interest in City affairs is disgusting. Even the non-development citizens are busy hiding in their homes when they need to be getting informed. They tell me that they get all they need to know from the local papers. . .sad isn't it?

    Nancy Walsh excoriated the GPU Committee and MaryAnn MacGillivray for lack of transparency, supposed secret meetings and disrespect of the City Council. Yet, where was she when the Committee gave up 7 hours of their time yesterday plus the time it took to do their homework? Where was everyone that supports Nancy and her ilk? Where was Josh Moran and John Buchanan for that matter?

    It seems as if no one cares that they increase density in the neighborhoods of San Gabriel Court, Santa Anita Court and the area at the top of Baldwin. Well, I can't say they deserve what they get, because it's my utility bills and home value they they are effecting.

    The Tattler is preaching to the Choir, but the Choir is not coming out to practice. Action is what we need, not words.

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  16. It is a pretty rough lesson in human nature. People side with those who do not have their interests in heart because it appeals to the ignorance and predjudices that they use to deal with the world. You have to have a very strong stomach to want to save the world. And a clothespin for your nose.

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  17. I am on a group in town that gets to vote on stuff that affects the town. I have been trying to do what is best for the town, only to be smeared by others and the media. So from now on this is what I am doing. First, I will arrive at all meetings prepared with an open mind. Second I will listen to everyone in the audience.I vote the will of the people. Third, if no one is present in the audience to voice their opinion either for or against something, I will vote for what ever staff recommends. At least staff took the time to prepare something.

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  18. What if staff and the agenda of those who smear you are one and the same?

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  19. The best way to make sure the General Plan ends upo reflecting what the people really want to to take back the City Council. If a Mayor Moran controls the votes on the CC it won't matter what the GPUSC turns in.

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  20. Measure F failed as it had no sunset clause--it too was for public safety! The UUT passed because of the smoke and mirrors game of the scheduled increases, the scheduled decreases and then a sunset! These new shenanigans should not passé! The voting public has to be informed!

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  21. 9:58 am, I will retreat to that old, tired, but still relevant adage: You can't please all the people all the time. You are a volunteer. You come to meetings prepared. You attempt to vote the will of the people. You are to be commended. I may not agree with your vote from time to time, even all of the time some of the time, but I respect your service to the community.

    Please! Toughen up that outer shell and remember that if you vote your conscience and what is in your heart for the good of the community you may be fulfilling your mandate for community service.

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  22. 99 out of 100 people in Sierra Madre would tell you that the UUT rate hike was to pay for cops and paramedics. In so many carefully chosen words that is what they were told.

    Tell me, does government in this town EVER tell the truth?

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  23. 9:58 you are too trusting. The well being of Sierra Madre is not a priority for staff, except to the extent that it impacts their jobs.

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  24. The money grab has a lot more to do with the needs of staff than it does the needs of the community.

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  25. I'm another resident who thought the UUT was for very specific safety needs. And I thought that council that promoted it was telling the truth.

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  26. John Buchanan was the Mayor then as well, 10:45. Doesn't that explain everything?

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  27. Who wrote the ballot language for U and UA? In reading the language on U, I see "in order to maintain GENERAL CITY SERVICES..." Apparently that means the revenue can be used for any city services?

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  28. The City of Sierra Madre didn't tell the truth in order to get money out of the residents? That's terrible! Excuse me, I need to go get a glass of water.

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  29. I thought the UUT increase was cooked up under Enid.

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  30. RE: 10:36 I am not trusting at all. I know exactly what motivates Staff and it is not the good of the City, but if people don't bother to voice their opinions or opposition I am going to assume the Staff report and recommendations are fine with them.

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  31. Can't believe how many stupid people did not realize that the Council could spend the money how ever they wanted. If the 10% had been raised to 12%, the extra 2% would have been used for other things. It took great restraint not to grab the extra bucks. Remember the UA Measure was only said that we would like the money to be spent...not that it had to be used for safety. Read the Measures and wake up.

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  32. 11:17 You got that right. It has always been that way.

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  33. 11:59, very reminiscent of Cartman when he decides to go home.

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  34. Enid Joffe and John Buchanan. Now there was a gang that couldn't shoot straight.

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  35. John Buchanan's dream ticket for 2012. Bart Doyle, Enid Joffe, and, making his third run for the glory, himself.

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  36. Isn't all ballot language part of the job for the city attorney?

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  37. I think that is why C&L attys are worth the money to Johnny B. They can write ballot measures that sound like what the voters want to hear, but once approved serve his ends without fear of any possible legal complications. Nice for him!

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  38. I fell for it and voted for the UUT last time. Can't fool me this time. It's a big no.

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  39. 2012 Vote Yes! Measure U slogan:

    "It's for public safety. No, really!"

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  40. Thanks for a good laugh 1:00.

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  41. "Measure U: The life you save may have nothing to do with it."

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  42. Remember you pay the UUT and then when the paramedics come to your house you get billed again. About $1000 for the ride to the hospital.

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  43. Sierra Madre is famous for the double dip. Go to City Hal to get a permit. Then you pay a processing fee. Why? Because it consumed taxpayer money for the staffer to do the job. Of course, it is your taxes that pays that person to process the permit. So aren't you being charged twice for labor? Of course you are.

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  44. 1:10, I pay the UUT and then subscribe - so I pay twice, but the subscription cost is considerably lower than the ambulance would be without it.

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

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

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  47. Far too harsh. I mean, what is the point?

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  48. I know that some staff have postponed their raises for a year or two. Other than that, is there anything the city government has done in recognition of the economic condition the world is in? It's the city staff who is saying Let them eat cake.

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  49. With all the talk about commitment to transparency and public trust, maybe city hall should think about putting out a fact sheet listing each of the ways they've saved us money in the last few years.

    But it would take some of that oh-so-valuable 'staff time.'

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  50. I think they're still trying to figure out how to get staff reports on line. I hear it is going to take them six months to do something most 9 year olds know how to do.

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  51. what?

    say it ain't so.

    john buchanan distorted and muddied the facts?

    no way

    he's never lied to us before

    we need him....more than ever....

    ...need him to shut up - quit lying - quit looking out to benefit SoCal Edison his employer and to take his ego and shove it

    is there room in Mosca's moving cargo to put Buchanan's stuff in?

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  52. Tom Canterbury@hotmail.comNovember 23, 2011 at 4:40 PM

    Sierra Madre has pathetic voter turn out!!!!!!!!!
    Tom Canterbury

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