Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pasadena Star News: Tax Revolt In The Foothill Village

(Mod: Today's column in the Pasadena Star News deals with the defeat of the 2 UUT Measures on April 10.)

A most remarkable thing happened recently in the sleepy foothill village of Sierra Madre. This town, which has long had a reputation for its colorful election year battles, is in reality not all that different from most other L.A. County bedroom communities. While the hyper-political Hatfields and McCoys of these leafy hillside streets shoot it out on blogs, Facebook pages, in weekly newspapers and through "phone trees" (the political equivalent of the old party line), your average Sierra Madre work-a-daddy and mommy would actually be hard-pressed to name the Mayor. Their concerns being decidedly elsewhere.

Which is why this month's election took many by surprise. Whereas most voting days in recent years have seen turnouts of less than 40%, this one attracted more voters than had been seen in, well, awhile. The modern standard for excellence in a voter turnout category had been the 43% seen in 2007's Measure V election. But that record was severely tested. The April 10, 2012 election here saw nearly 60% of all absentee voters mail in their ballots. It was unprecedented. The lines at the polling places were notable as well, spilling out through the doors and down into the streets.

What was the cause of so much excitement? Oddly enough, it was the renewal of a Utility User Tax increase that had originally been approved 4 years earlier. This 2008 ballot question, which was labeled Measure U, called for a utility tax hike from 6% on 5 categories to upwards of 12% on 9 categories. A rather massive increase designed to cover the costs of a police salary increase and the implementation of a paramedic program. This Measure was approved by a huge 63% to 37% margin.

There was a sunset clause attached to Measure U, however, and in order to keep utility tax rates from falling back into the now problematic 6% range, the City of Sierra Madre needed to put the matter back on the ballot in 2012 for a voter renewal. This time called Measure 12-1, it was pretty much a duplicate of Measure U, with a slightly longer sunset period. The result this time? It went down in flames, by a 61% to 39% spread. A nearly identical percentage, but this time turned upon its head.

Why so radical a taxpayer mood swing in a mere 4 years? It would seem to have something to do with a water rate hike gone wrong. In 2010, under the auspices of then Mayor Joe Mosca, it was decreed that water rates needed to increase. This was presented as necessary due to the aging of much of the City's water infrastructure. An antiquated system made up of ancient equipment and pipes, some of which predated World War I.

This explanation was made plausible by numerous water main leaks, many of which coincidentally occurred right around the time the problem became a topic for discussion. Residents were resigned to paying more.

However, one resident was not convinced. And using the connections in Sacramento she had developed over the years in her work as a bond broker, discovered that the actual reason the City was calling for higher water rates was quite different from the version originally put out.

Apparently there were millions of dollars in old water bonds that had slipped out of covenant, and unless the City built up its cash reserves municipal bond ratings would plummet. Backed up with this irrefutable state information, she took the story to my blog. It quickly became a topic of public concern. City Hall had no choice but to change its story.

A city that is no longer trusted will always have trouble getting additional money from its residents. And once lied to, the taxpayers will not be forgiving. The City of Sierra Madre will be paying dearly for its water rate shenanigans for many years to come.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

73 comments:

  1. This should be a wake up call to politicians across California and across the United States.
    They taxpayers are starting to question why they have to keep paying and paying and why the politicians keep spending and spending their money in spite of the fact that things keep getting worse and worse.

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    1. I'm glad the Pasadena Star News ran your article today, John Crawford.
      Hopefully, some of the people in town who don't use the internet will like to read this today.
      We are very fortunate to have the Star News covering important stories like this.
      So many of our "other local papers" and websites do not cover anything but what city hall wants them to print.

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    2. Agreed 7:57. It's great to see the PSN take up an important local political issue.

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  2. voting no on the uut will only hurt you beloved city. The sad thing is everyone is betting on removing the police force. When that doesnt happen now what? Have all the audits in the world. You will never raise enough money. hate the mayor all you want, bottom line is sierra madre is a town that needs money. You cant have it all, slow growth and no taxs. this town is already looking like crap.

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    1. You think Sierra Madre looks like crap? Maybe you should move to someplace better. Can I help you pack?

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    2. I don't think the town looks like crap, as dirt at 6:40 posts.
      It would really look like crap if the DSP would have happened.
      People who voted against the UUT were voting against the failed policies and lies of people like you and your friends.

      People who live here, do so, because we are what we are.
      They would live elsewhere if this was not the case.

      You are either a crook or a fool.

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    3. "...hurt you beloved city." Just what we need, a semi-literate hater telling us our city looks like crap. Somebody tell the guy at the tea shop to get out his water hose.

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    4. Look at the boulevard. Do you see black asphalt on our white sidewalks? That looks like crap because we dont have money for cement

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    5. Then get your tubby butt off the couch and clean it up.

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    6. Maybe if we would stop hiring expensive attorneys and consultants to promote development.....we could afford cement.

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    7. Clean it up?

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    8. What, you're too special to work?

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    9. How about a answer to the question? To good to work, cant say im to good for that. by the way a poster sais sierra madre oeople are what they are? What exactly is that? Because I see alot of houses in need of repair, paint and lawncare. Must be too good to respect your neighbor.

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    10. This guy needs some remedial courses on basic literacy.

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    11. Take it easy on 6:40. Obviously just somebody who wanted to go to a cookie cutter home in Orange County, in a neighborhood with patrols that measure lawn length, who got lost on the freeways and ended up in the wrong place.

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    12. Nah 7:40, the sloppy writing is intentional.
      And predictable.

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    13. Some people just want government to do everything for them. It's infantile.

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    14. Oh! 7:30 am must be referring to former Councilman and Mayor Bart Doyle's run down shabby residence on Baldwin. If ever there was a property that could be called in need of repair, paint, and yardwork it's the Doyle house.

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    15. Maybe we could afford some city improvements if we bail out of the SGVCOG and save the money we waste on this secret society?

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  3. Time to take out the trash,April 19, 2012 at 6:58 AM

    The crappy thing wrong with Sierra Madre are the people who tell us our town looks like crap. These crappy people want our town to look like Glendale, Pasadena and Monrovia with it's vacant multiuse buildings. Now where did I leave that shovel and broom to clean this crap up.

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    1. Over development and over spending by shenanigan loving politicians and their consultants and special interests:

      BANKRUPT CITIES. Happens all the time these days.

      People are sick of it. This will be a very bad year for tax increases and over development. It could well last for several years to come, so Bart Doyle and the rest of you losers, why don't you just pack up and leave Sierra Madre. You are the problem.

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  4. Here is another take. Mismanagement!!! Guess what, the Hildreths went to court yesterday. The out come was NOT pretty for the City of Sierra Madre. The Hildreth's didn't go away and have stood up to the abusive behavior of the City Manager and the Administration that she controls and the Corrupt Past City Council, two members of which are still there. This town has NO money due to mismanagement, not because the funds were not available. Instead of working with the citizens of our village, the people we hire to help run this city think that they can do whatever they want with our tax dollars. It is not their money nor their piggy bank.

    Time to fire the Hire and Spend Manager.

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    Replies
    1. Was there a judgement made in favor of the Hildreths?

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  5. You can use a shovel and a broom. No water. No hose to wash down the sidewalk could go to jail for hosing down the Code Enforcement Official. The dirt poster really meant that the City has crap on the sidewalks that can't be hosed.

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  6. The city didn't tell the truth on the UUT either.

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    1. No, they sure didn't 7:55!
      John Buchanan lied to the Women's Club. The city shenanigan crowd lied to everyone. Susan Henderson lied, as usual in her horrible paper, the MVN.

      However, John Crawford and the Concerned Citizens of Sierra Madre got the word (truth) out to the voters and they responded.

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    2. I don't believe anything I hear from the city. As a matter of fact, when the city says something, I immediately assume the opposite must be true. They are not to be believed. Especially about money.

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  7. It is not either/or, either we pay more taxes or the town falls apart.
    There are always alternatives, and city hall needs to prune itself drastically.
    Any good business manager could fix it.
    And many more staff members need to be let go.

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  8. We need to get rid of Sid and Nancy in 2014. Replace them with competent adults.

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  9. Thank God for John Crawford and our former Mayor Kurt Zimmerman, Two people with the courage to tell the truth.

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  10. An accurate accounting of the money wasted by the city in the last ten years would make even the most slavish devotees of city hall gasp.

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  11. I'm glad that Zimmerman insisted on the Sunset Clause.

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  12. Great column Crawford. Not sure whether I'm a Hatfield or a McCoy, but I'm sure glad the Pasadena Star News is printing your work!

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    1. Too bad they did not run the story on the SGVCOG tax grab or the silencing and censorship of the opposition by Conway.

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    2. Because of Girardot I'm going to give the Star News the benefit of the doubt, and hope they are in the midst of an investigation of their own into Slick Nick.

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  13. The City ran an advertisement for ten new positions right before the UUT election. Elaine just doesn't get it. It's time for her to go.

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  14. Elaine already has that additional 2% spent, 8:22. She never believed that the voters would see through all of her nonsense.

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    1. The Sierra Madre city staff are nice people, but they are not our dependents. They are working people who do a job, and the way things are going just now, many of them need to find other jobs.

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  15. In a conversation with a citizen about the UUT, the man insisted that the measure was just a rate extension, not a tax raise. If this was just a rate extension, why didn't they take Councilmember MacGillivray's suggestion to write the measure with a 10% limit and extension, rather than automatically raising it to 12% in 2013? Because they wanted to raise it to 12% plus they didn't want to take any logical suggestion from MacGillivray. Just as they wouldn't take her suggestion about the water rate raise that would have saved our bond rating.

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    1. If they had taken MaryAnn's suggestion and capped the UUT at 10% the measures would have passed. But they got greedy.

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    2. There was a knee jerk reaction against MacGillivray, almost like an allergy to intelligence.

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  16. I happen to agree with the illiterate dirt that the asphalt patches on the sidewalks are substandard. But of course the problem is not a lack of money, the problem is wasting the money on everything from sullen cops to irrelevant consultants to city attorneys who fight against the will of the majority of the people.

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    1. There is enough concrete in the heads of Moran and Walsh to patch all the sidewalk cracks and then Buchanan can permantly seal the repairs with his patented hot-air-fog-and-glaze-over.

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    2. not eoughe cement. Each repair could take up to a cuubic foot. this town is going around the drain plugs.

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    3. A $30,000 Market Demand Study isn't good enough for you? Ask yourself this, would you rather have cement or know where Sierra Madreans buy their toilet paper?

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    4. Good point, 9:50.
      this is exactly what the voters are responding to.

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  17. Poster 6:40, how do you know that voting no on the UUT will only hurt the City? Is it because John Buchanan told you so? John Buchanan told you that voting no on Measure F would only hurt the City. That was a lie.

    Buchanan told you we needed a water rate increase to replace rusty pipes. That was a lie too.

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  18. I love it, Susan runs an article falsely claiming that we are laying off employees when Elaine's plan is to hire more!!!!!!
    I'm not sure who is worse, Susan or Elaine.

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  19. It's "reorganization" 8:34, not new hires.
    It's the extensive reworking of jobs and classifications to rearrange the deck chairs you-know-where

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  20. Jk Rowling's new book is about a city council (parish) election.

    When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils …

    Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

    Sound a little familiar?

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  21. There's a doozy of a new post on yesterday's article from a representative of the real estate industry....

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    1. Crawford and most of the Tattler regular posters were not even around back in the Maranantha/One Carter disputes.

      The realtor/dirt gang is very unhappy with this week's Tattler posts.
      Especially yesterday and today's articles.

      Hurts don't it, dirts? The truth is something you can't tolerate.

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    2. Nice post 11:07, but you might be surprised at how many old timers there are who participate in this blog.

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    3. Lots of people post on this board, and lots of people read this board. Not all live in Sierra Madre.
      I know Crawford gets a lot of tips from activists in other towns. Some are quite well known, but Crawford being a true jounalist/reporter would go to jail before revealing a "reliable source".
      People know things, and they want to expose evil doers.
      Crawford has the b***s to print it.

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    4. Crawford is not a journalist/reporter... he is a blogger.

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    5. Maybe he's all three. Heck of a writer.

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    6. He is a very good writer. But he, himself, has said that he is a blogger. He moderates and controls his site as he wishes. Indeed, he has exposed some very shady dealings. But it is his way or the highway...

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    7. I prefer the 210 to the 15, and then on to Vegas.

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    8. I have my doubts if Crawford will go to jail to preserve his sources' identity...

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    9. The need for that certainly hasn't arisen on this blog - but were Crawford to be writing in an environment that required that, I think he would.

      4:33, on the other hand - have to wonder why you even thought of that - what it shows about your perspective.

      4:16, of course it's his way or the highway. You're on the blog he writes. How else would it be.

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  22. "passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations . . . " and cops in uniforms that Harabedian describes as simply dark pants and shirts . . .

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    1. Harabedian is practicing on us.
      Later on, when the stakes are higher, those kinds of mistakes will cost him the race.

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    2. I don't know. I'd say the scrutiny in Sierra Madre is pretty intense. Maybe more than in some other races. I mean that airhead from the Rusnak family is running for Assembly and I have yet to see one solitary article about her.

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    3. Maybe we should all take a trip to the uniform shop and pick up a set of matching dark pants and shirt. Then wear them to the reorganization.

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  23. I lost trust in the city representatives and management a long time before the water rate show.

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  24. When Officialdom request higher rates and or taxes,demand an audit first!In addition,begin to ask Questions as ,Whose Lining Their Pockets,Does Their Story,as in "Rusty Pipes" check out? and" Do We Employ the Most Inept,Unqualified Bunglers in LA County",should also be considered.Our community has already experienced fraud!less we FORGET the 7.5% water rate hike.If you continue to remain so submissive and resigned to this abuse,you can only expect more of the same!

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  25. what else do they expect when the Mayor, Mayor Pro Temp, two councilmembers all stand in front of the people and tell bold face lies to pass a tax trying to protect political supporters, secretly attempting to blindside us with special pork projects, like the doofus plan by Buchanan to build a multi-million dollar libary (for his desperate legacy) and then along with a few city staff, purposely lie and send out misinformation on the tax with the shady shoody endorsement of our City Attorney - just a pack of lies and more lies and they all stood by and smiled as they did it and then denied all the lies despite being caught several times over - not to mention purposely ignoring the state constitution in a pathetic attempt to snowball the public

    in the real world, all of their bony arses would be fired and fired with cause and it would be justified - well not are bony :)

    but not in city government or politics, and it's no surprise one of the biggest supporters of the lies was Susan Henderson and her Mt View News and since she's been fired for lying and misusing company assets (credit cards for personal items

    Henderson printed the lies verbatium and also sought to deceive the public trust, with what little she has left after all the crapola she's done

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  26. all we can do is twist Harbedian in the media so that he flys straight and if he's using us as a springboard in politics or to push SCAG agendas - just blast him for being a snake oil salesman in a lawyer suit

    I wonder if he would have stood along side Buchanan,another lawyer, albiet a Human Resources lawyer, if Harbedian was privy to all the lies being spun with the UUT

    we'll see soon where his ethics and loyalty lie and he can't hide behind The Patch or Henderson's sidewalk rag

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  27. Just in from the always entertaining SGVCOG meeting. Lots of important stuff, not a peep from Walsh......although she may have said pass the salad dressing please.

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  28. The Planning Commission meeting is still going on.
    Thank you Planning Commissioners for your excellent stewardship.

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