I'm not going to go into the minutia of the fee schedule discussion, but I will ask you this. The City's justification for fees has always been that they are in large part for "cost recovery." And that unless the City collected those fees necessary to recover the cost of getting something done for somebody, they would then be subsidizing whatever that might be, and with what they regard as their money.
But here is where this has never made much sense, at least to me. If our tax money is being used to pay City employee salaries, then doesn't it seem proper that when you walk into City Hall for a (let's say) plan check, you shouldn't have to pay anything more than you already have, right? After all, you already paid for City Hall's time when you paid your taxes.
So when you pay a fee for so-called "cost recovery," what you are actually doing is paying for the use of City Hall's time and labor twice. Once out of your original taxes, and again to recoup the spending of money that came out of your taxes.
I do know that small city governments like ours are challenged to find revenue streams. And quite obviously they are dependent upon things like fees to keep the lights on. But if you, as a Sierra Madre resident, pay taxes here in town, then you have already paid for your right to service at City Hall. You shouldn't be expected to have to pay for that a second time. Especially as a way to recover costs that already came out of your pocket when you paid your taxes.
John Harabedian's statement on fees was humorous, and in a way I'm certain he never intended. What he said is if fees are raised too much, people will start to hide their activities from City Hall even more than they do now. All so they won't have to pay such onerous fees. Instead they will take their chances and build things like home extensions without informing City Hall. Something that actually diminishes the City's overall take, rather than bringing in more money.
The part I found sort of funny is his intimation that this has already happened. Sierra Madre does have its underground economy. And for a community expected to pay as much for permits and fees as they already do, a necessity for many.
Josh Moran and Nancy Walsh revealed their hostility to things like zoning laws. Nancy Walsh asking at one point whether or not we want everything to fit into a zoning code. Then reinforced that rather radical notion by questioning whether it matters if we enforce codes or not. Josh then piped in with some odd story about a $1,000 light post, and how wild it is that the City should have regulations governing such things. Maybe Sid and Nancy really are anarchists?
Watching Harabedian, Walsh and Moran allow $48,000 in red ink to stay on the books could end up being a moment of some historic importance. Before last night Sierra Madre was in the black. But this morning? We are officially in debt. With Mayor Moran actually stating that we should dip into General Fund reserves to pay for it. That it was all done with such insouciance was quite interesting to watch. Hopefully the City Manager isn't calling China for a loan today.
John Capoccia argued long and hard to keep the debt triplets from going down this road. But to no avail. His counter to Josh Moran's pollyanna pronouncement that the city's finances could somehow improve without doing anything was met with a very logical reply. "Yes, but they could also get worse."
Hearing our City Attorney inform the City Council that we have no legal recourse to any of SCAG's decisions on our RHNA numbers had a 1984-style totalitarian ring to it. Can't sue them, can't challenge their decisions in Court. Since when did some two-bit regional planning organization become above the law? Who exactly took away our rights for their benefit?
It was also rather fascinating hearing John Harabedian offer a kind of inverse apologia for SCAG by bringing up the Pleasanton case. His offer to help put together a packet of interesting examples of cities that dared to challenge Sacramento's central planning authority being eagerly accepted by Josh. The inference being everyone should read them and learn that resistance to the state is futile.
It seems pretty obvious that John Harabedian is now in the same trick bag that Joe Mosca fell into a few years back. Happily informed by key members of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party that he has a brilliant political future ahead, the chances of Harabedian ever offering an opinion that might be deemed politically incorrect by the keepers of his dreams and ambitions are remote at best. The "Joe Mosca with Brains" meme grows stronger all the time. Expect little unpredictable behavior from the rising young star of the political machine.
Finally Bart Doyle rolled into City Council chambers and gave a ridiculous defense of Measure A. Apparently we are expected to believe that Sierra Madre won't have any Board of Education representation until the year 2015 because otherwise we wouldn't have a district that we would control. This was done in part because it is important to save the seats of some old PUSD pols. You know, like Selinske or Big Ed. All of whom happen to be cronies of Bart Doyle. Watching Chris Koerber rake Bart over the coals on this topic was worth the cost of getting there, and more.
Of course, John Harabedian proclaimed that this would be good for Sierra Madre in the long run. Which is what any establishment politician on the make would say. But how not having a representative on the Board of Education during the two critical years when all that Measure TT money will be divvied up is good for us is certainly lost on me.
Bart got really hilarious when he admitted that Sierra Madre was screwed out of a lot of Measure Y money. And he should know, after all he was there when it happened. But the good news, according to Bart, is that this should make the Pasadena Board of Education recognize that we deserve more Measure TT money to make up for this injustice.
Expecting such mercy from the exact same people who cooked up a Measure A that would keep us off the Board of Education until 2015 seems like a stretch. And I'm not sure that we should expect people that Bart described as "being off the rails" to be really capable of such sensitivity and caring. Personally I would put little faith in them.
But apparently Bart Doyle believes in them. His solution to all of this? Another round of bonds in a couple of years. After all, just because the PUSD screwed up with both Measure Y and Measure TT is no reason not to vote for an entirely new bond measure.
One interesting piece of information did come out of this. In 2000 there was something called Measure BB. It was the first ballot initiative that would have created sub-districting in the PUSD. It failed miserably. Hopefully Measure A will follow in its footsteps.