Friday, May 18, 2012

Bill Coburn Claims the City Told the Truth About the Water Rate Hike - We Disagree

If you go over to Bill Coburn's site you will find an article regarding Earl Richey's call for a repeal of the water rate increase. It is not very respectfully done, but then Bill does not usually show much favor for those who challenge the status quo in town. But what really piqued my interest was something Bill posted in the comments section of this article, a response to someone who called the City out on it's less than honest presentation of the reasons for the water rate increase (click here). Bill claiming the bonds that were the true reason for the increase had always been evident, and that the City Council's initial claims that rates had to go up in order to repair rusty pipes and aging infrastructure was in no way a contradiction or deception. Despite the fact that in the final analysis the money raised through the water rate increase went to cover old water bond obligations. He then goes on to back this up with the following:

So you see, these bonds were out in public view the whole time (not to mention they were passed in 1998 and 2003, do you think they were passed without the public knowing anything about it?) No secrets. They weren't mentioned, I assume, because having been around as many years as they had been, they were just part of the everyday cost of doing business for the water business, at least for the people who were paying attention. The fact that some people hadn't been paying attention, and became aware of them several years after the fact, doesn't mean anybody else was lying or misleading anyone.

Below is an article that first appeared on this site on August 2nd, 2011. In it we carefully laid out, step by painful step, just how the City's deceptive water rate increase claims were presented to the public. Despite Bill's claims that those who disagreed with the City (and him) in this matter were merely ignorant of what was really going on, I believe the case made here shows something quite different.

Which City Hall Version of the Water Rate Increase Was True?

In an informal Tattler poll conducted last year, we asked residents if they favored a water rate hike and if so why. Needless to say, most of the residents we polled said that they were opposed to a water rate increase. This is hardly surprising when you consider that the City of Sierra Madre received upwards of 1,600 to 1,800 written protests against the water rate increase.

Those residents who favored a water rate hike told us they favored such an increase because of statements made by City officials that such an increase was necessary to fund capital improvements and repairs to the City's water infrastructure. Sadly, there are still residents in our little town who believe that "Big Lie." Those misinformed residents still reject the real reason that the City was determined to raise water rates -- satisfying bond obligations.

So for their edification I thought it would be useful to include a generous quotation from our Verified Petition below, as well as quotations from the City's Demurrer (objection) to that Petition. As I hope they will see, the City's water rate increase had everything to do with water bonds, and nothing to do with capital improvements and the repair of rusty pipes.

First the quotation from the petition. Please note that for the most part the statements cited therein are supported with documents generated by either the City or the non-Tattler press, and reflect actual facts rather than my opinions.

44. Compounding the City's refusal to comply with the detailed procedural requirements of Proposition 218 and its failed "educational outreach" program were the City's frequent and misleading pronouncements that the proposed water rate increase would be used primarily for infrastructure repairs and particularly the replacement of older water mains, instead of the service of water bond and other debt obligations.

45. Upon information and belief, the City Manager stated that, "payments routinely made on outstanding bond debt and associated interest are part of the city's ongoing water costs, but that the proposed rate hike is needed primarily to fund improvements to water infrastructure." (See true and accurate copy of online article by J. Stephens, "City Announces Special Water Meeting," Sierra Madre Patch (Oct. 7, 2010) attached as Exhibit 15; emphasis supplied).

46. The City Manager also addressed the City Council at its meeting on June 22, 2010, wherein the proposed water rate increase was being discussed, stating "the water mains (need to be) replaced." (See Minutes of Sierra Madre Council meeting, June 22, 2010, at p. 14 attached as Exhibit 9).

47. At that same City Council meeting on June 22, 2010, wherein the proposed water rate increase was being discussed, the City's Director of Public Works stated "we need to address water main replacement. We need funds for water mains." (Id. at p. 18).

48. At a later City Council meeting City Council Member Moran even claimed that the water rate increase would provide "$500,000 for water mains and capital projects." (See Minutes of Sierra Madre Council Meeting (Nov. 9, 2010) at p. 15 attached as Exhibit 12).

49. Moreover, upon information and belief, at the City Council meeting where the Ordinance was adopted by second reading, former Mayor JoeMosca stated before casting his vote in favor of adopting the Ordinance that "a lot of the water mains need to be fixed up." (See streaming videotape of Sierra Madre City Council meeting - Jan. 11, 2011 - at http://kgem.tv/2011/01/sierra-madre-city-council-january-11-2011/).

50. Then too, a story about a broken water main and the need for a water rate increase to effect infrastructural repairs appeared in a local newspaper while the proposed water rate increase was under consideration by the City Council (See true and accurate copy by T. Miller, "Water Rate Increase on Hold Thanks to Resident Outcry," SierraMadre Weekly, Oct. 9, 2010, attached as Exhibit 16).

51. The City's own documents, however, belie its repeated claims that it ever intended the proposed water rate increase to address aging infrastructure and replace water mains.

52. For example, in a letter addressed to a resident and dated August 26, 2010, the City Manager conceded that the money generated from the water rate increase, if approved, would be insufficient to make capital improvements including water main replacement. In her own words:

"The proposed rate increase is enough to meet the requirements of the City's existing debt obligations and to begin rebuilding the water fund reserve. It is not enough to fund a pay-as-you-go capital improvement program. Funding a capital improvement program to begin immediate replacement of deteriorated water mains (for example) would require a rate increase significantly higher than what was proposed earlier this year. (A true and accurate copy of Letter from City Manager E. Aguilar to Resident E. Richey (Aug. 26, 2010) attached as Exhibit 17).

53. Further, upon information and belief, the City made a PowerPoint presentation to interested residents in October 2010 entitled "The 411 on H20." A PowerPoint slide in that presentation corroborated with the City Manager wrote in her letter to the resident. The first "bullet point" in the slide stated "the proposed rate increase did not provide for a pay-as-you-go capital improvement program." The second bullet point stated "the proposed rate increased (sic) covered only the bond requirements and projected increases in operational expenses." (A true and accurate copy of the slides from the presentation, which appear on p. 9, is attached as Exhibit 18).

54. More recently, the City Council took action indicating that it did not intend to use the revenue from the water rate increase monies to replace water mains. At the City Council meeting of April 12, 2011, the City Council by a vote of five to zero approved a proposal in the amount of $38,300 from an engineering firm to design a water main replacement project. The Minutes of that Meeting reflect that the City had already allocated $750,000 of redevelopment funds (i.e. not funding from the approved water rate increase) for the water main replacement project. (See Minutes of Sierra Madre Council Meeting, April 12, 2011, at pp. 22-23 attached as Exhibit 19).

55. Upon information and belief, many residents were mislead into believing that the revenue from the water rate increase would be used primarily to replace the water mains instead of satisfying water bond and other debt obligations. Indeed, as the City Council's November 9, 2010 meeting, former Mayor and Council Member MacGillivray observed that with respect to the City's handling of the water rate increase process, "people felt misled." (See Minutes of Sierra Madre Council Meeting, Nov. 9, 2010) at p. 15 attached as Exhibit 12).

Surprisingly, rather than repudiating the factual allegations quoted above, the City chose in its Demurrer (objection) to concede that I was right and the water rate increase was driven by complying with bond obligations. Lest I be accused of misstating the City's position regarding the reason for a water rate increase, here are quotes from its Demurrer:

"The petition ... threatens the City's ability to abide by its promises and the bondholders' ability to rely upon the bonds." (Demurrer at p. 2; lines 12-14). "

"Bond agreements require the City to fix adequate water rates to pay off the bond debt because the City's water rate revenue is the source of payments to the bondholders (Demurrer at p. 4; lines 18-20).

"The City adopted the challenged Ordinance to preserve the 2003 water revenue bonds and comply with its obligation under those bonds ..." (Demurrer at p. 8; lines 12-13).

"The City Council passed the challenged Ordinance to comply with the rate covenant in the installment Sale Agreement in the 2003 bond issuance and to preserve the validity and marketability of bonds." (Demurrer at p. 9; lines 9-10)

"The Petition seeks to invalidate the actions required to comply with the rate covenants and promises to bondholders and, if successful, would render the City in default under the bonds." (Demurrer at p. 10; lines 3-5).

"The Ordinance (providing a rate increase) ... directly relates to the City's bonds ... The revenue derived from the rate increase is directly linked to the financing mechanism of the bond issuance. (Demurrer at p. 11; lines 22-23).

Conspicuously absent in the Demurrer is any mention of using the water rate increase for the replacement of water mains. Which, as we have clearly seen here, was the stated reason for raising rates at the beginning of the process.

So why did the City choose to justify a water rate increase based on a false tale about rusty pipes and aging infrastructure? Rather than basing their claims on the actual cause, which were out of compliance water bonds?

The only answer that I can come up with is that the City Council believed that water rate paying residents would accept an increase to fix water mains, but not repair old bond debt. In other words, they chose to lie rather than deal with rate paying residents in a forthright and honorable manner.

Which should raise this question for you. Having lied in order to get their hands on more of your money, are these people still worthy of serving as your elected leaders?

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

67 comments:

  1. Let's see if I have this straight. Despite the fact that early on all of the statements from the city council and staff claimed the water rate increase was need to fix old pipes, Bill Coburn says it was the obligation of the ratepayers was to go into the city records and look up information about bonds. And once discovering there were bonds, conclude that the rate hike was going to pay for them, and not old pipes.

    That is the most absurd thing I have ever heard.

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  2. I love the "They've been around so long nobody thought to mention them" rationalization. That was creative!

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  3. 3 Dollar Bill.

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  4. The bonds happened when there was still some trust in the citizens of Sierra Madre for their representatives, so people were not paying attention they way they should have been. Then came the demolition of parts of the hillsides, followed by the Downtown Plan, and the perfidy of Joe Mosca. By then, everybody could tell that the shenanigans were running amok. The bonds were bad decisions made during times of less public participation.

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  5. You know there are people in this town who, to this day, believe that Joe Mosca was not a liar. Go figure. There are aspects of Sierra Madre's political behaviors that would make a great psychological study about the impact of denial, and the effects of rumors.
    But willfully ignoring the obvious facts of city hall's clumsiest campaign ever, pipes as visual aids and all? Jeez.

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    1. Coburn is right. I just realized, those weren't rusty pipes on display outside City Hall.

      Those were bonds in technical default.

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    2. The display should have been a group of bankers, wringing their hands and pacing back and forth in front of city hall.

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  6. I fell asleep last night. I apologize to anyone who may be aggrieved by my question, but what happend at last night's Planning Commission? Did the Asbury's and The Sierra Madre Hotel win? Is Sierra Madre going to get its first B'nB?

    Thank you.

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    1. The playback will be on tonight.
      I only saw the end, but it looked like the commission's usual careful work, with detailed conditions.

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    2. I watched some of the neighbors express their concerns - hope the Planning Commission helped them as well as helping the owners.

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    3. I don't think the place is going to sell at close to 3 million, with no history of being a success as a bed and breakfast inn.

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    4. We are so lucky to have such dedicated volunteers as the Planning Commission. Yes. Even Bob Spears and Replogle. As they say, "Even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while."

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  7. The "Tai the Elephant Award for the Sierra Madran with the Longest Memory, the Best Writing Skills, and the Undying Perseverance to Expose the Truth" goes to young Johnny Crawford.

    The "Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire Award" goes to old Bill Coburn.

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    1. These awards should be presented at the next city council meeting!

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  8. Bill is right. You should never listen to what the likes of Joe Mosca, John Buchanan and Josh Moran have to say. You need to do your own research. Which is how we found out that the water rate increase money was going for bonds.

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  9. Wild Bill has inadvertently let the proverbial cat out of the bag: the city council has felt it has the right to conceal the truth from the public in the arcana of inscrutable records. Hey, Bill, tell me you can explain bond debt in layman's terms. What a tool!

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    1. Sure, Coburn, the city council's job is to chat on TV while the people who voted for them spend their time in the library researching the city's economic history.

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  10. I love it. Coburn declares: "No secrets." A colossal lie in just two words. The Doyle-Mosca-Buchanan councils were as byzantine as Coburn's crazy-quilt website.

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    1. I didn't know Coburn had a website. Every time I went to what I thought was the correct address, my computer crashed, leaving me with a jumbled screen.

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  11. Bill Coburn either misapprehends Crawford's articles and Kurt's petition or is simply lying. Neither John in his articles nor Kurt in his petition denied the existence of the City's water bonds. More importantly, neither John in his articles nor Kurt in his petition denied that they had knowlege of the water bonds. Instead the argument they advanced and meticulously supported with citations to the City's own documents and comments from the City Council and City manager was that the City lied about the reason for the rate increase. The City iinitially claimed that water main replacement and capital improvements were the reason for the rate hike. When confronted with Crawford's articles and Kurt petition, the City then admitted that it was primarily bond covenants that required the rate hike. Right up to and even after the count of the rate protests, however, the City continued to claim falsely that the rate increase was also necessary for the water main replacement and capital improvements. If you read the documents and aforementioned comments, you will see that the City never intended to spend any of the rate increase on the water main replacement and capital improvements. Indeed, the City Manager advised a resident in writing that the rate increase would be insufficent to fund capital improvements and wate main replacement.

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    1. Bill is bucking for the City of Sierra Madre Director of Historical Revisionism position. Pays $90,000 a year. They have a large state grant to rewrite the entire history of the Bart Doyle years. Somebody pulled strings in Sacramento to get it.

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    2. Get your facts straight, 10:24, the position pays $190,000.

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    3. Thank you 10:28. People need to get their facts straight. The DHR would also get to use the fire engine for coffee and donut runs to Pasadena.

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  12. as neighbors of the Pinney house had concerns over the property turning into a b & b Coburn stands up and proclaims it was his total lack of doing his job as chamber dic to let the neighbors know that tour groups would be invading their street. Why do we put up withy this boob?

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  13. what's a "news net"May 18, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    apart from tattler referrals, does anyone actually read the coburn site?

    PS: billy bob spears is correctly trying to kill the ALF so that the city can build condo/retail "mixed use." this will enable the city to reap sales tax revenue and local realtors to reap condo flipping commissions.

    way to go billy bob. kill the ALF. and while you are at it kill the pinney house b & b. we don't need a small town version of the chelsea hotel along with a bunch of sid nancy wannabees and in the middle of our neghborhood.

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    1. Sorry to kill your buzz 10:31, but commission member Spears wasn't in the meeting last night.
      Too bad too, because he always has insightful remarks, especially about public safety.

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    2. If you want to ID the guy on the PC who is most pro-development, you're looking in the wrong direction.

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  14. Deception IS the Rule of Law for our city government - has been for many, many years. This is how its operatives were able to bring us to the brink of destruction via development (i.e., the near implementation of the Downtown Specific Plan, which was foiled by passage of Measure V and those brave and hearty lads who authored it - Dunn and Zimmerman, with assistance from an out of town attorney). Folks in town have awakened, but they need to stay alert from now on. Money is a most powerful, aphrodisiacal motivation for the less than ethical, profit hungry (over)development crowd.

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    1. Yeah, money might be the key here. But do you really think they give any of that to Bill? What does he get out of it?

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  15. Sorry, to bust your bubble. Spears has always been the biggest opponent of Measure V. His name was all over the No on V propaganda. More recently, he has made statements indicating that the proposed suites in the ALF are not dwelling units. If Spears has his way, there will be no Measure V vote on the project. He is exactly as a previous poster described -- a big cheerleader for mixed-use condos in the downtown.

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  16. 10:54. Actually the most pro-development guy on the PC is Bob Spears. He never met a condo project in the dowtown he didn't like.

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    1. You haven't been watching closely enough. Spears has come down on the pro-development side more than once, but he's also come against it. There's another commissioner who is always for development. Always.

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  17. There was an interesting exchange between Bob Spears and Kurt during a joinbt Council -PC meeting on the DSP. Kurt pointed out that most of the resdients who submitted comments on the draft DSP supported a 2-story limit on condo development. Spears lost his temper and started arguing with him about how we needed 3 and 4-story condo buildings in the downtown.

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    1. MaryAnn spoke about Measure V at the previous PC meeting. Spears got his grump on and yelled at MaryAnn as she left the podium, "How may units does your house have?" I think he is dyspeptic.

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    2. Until Mary Ann schooled Spears: "My house isn't in the Downtown Central Core."

      It was a classic.

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  18. I received one of those flyers with all sorts of lies about Measure V with Spears' name on it. I have no respect for the man.

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  19. It's funny how Spears didn't think we needed extra EMT personnel when the draft DSP proposed 300+ condos. Now, he thinks we need an extra ambulance because there is a proposal to build 55 suites.

    He's a big hypocrite.

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  20. If Spears has consistently opposed Measure V, why is he allowed to vote on how it should be interpreted? Isn't there a conflict of interest?

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    1. Nah. He's entitled to his own opinion.

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  21. Politicians, Ethically Challenged Business Types, and Public Employees long ago discovered WATER was the most fluid comodity around. You can lie, cheat, disguise, and mmisrepresent it from source to your tap. You need to no further than today's LA Times to see two water districts jockeying for the money dammed up from ground water stored in their two reservoirs. The comodity was made for crooks.

    Mr Coburn should start in Sacramento with our own Lawyer Levin authoring a bill to bypass a legitimate approval process with the most cynical Bill (Prop 218) to engineer a phoney taxper process, to bypass the intent of a 2/3 majority for such a tax. ("oh it isn't really a tax increase, it just looks like it").

    Then Lawyer Levin returns to Sierra Madre and with the special interests (City Mgr Aguilar, Mayors Mosce, Buchanan and a lot of Dirts, Realtors, and Developers) to make the new shenanagian law "a non vote is a yes vote" Prop 218 work to their advantage, deceite being the modus opreandi, even going so far as to doctor the overwhelming rejection of the residents to barley alow the water tax to pass.

    Water is the new "hen house" and it attracts the new "foxes". Those willing to forgo ethics and self enrichment practices will flock to the Water Works. Coburn is delusional justifying crooked behavior. He fools no one and cultivates sleaze.

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    1. The old timers called the Sierra Madre Water Department the cash cow.

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  22. We the Citizens of Sierra Madre are demanding that the city council immediately:

    1. REPEAL all (2011) water rate increases,
    2. or put the water rate increases to a vote on the November 2012 Ballot,

    3. It is quite evident that the city council, city manager, city attorney are running scared, they have failed to honor EARL RICHEY's request to agendise and discuss this wrong doings!

    4. I am recommending that the CITY MANAGEMENT needs to be changed at the same time the CITY MANAGEMENT changes those old dirty - rusty water pipes....

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    1. Where do I sign?

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    2. Works for us. We'll sure sign!

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  23. Pinney House article on the Star News site. Click on my name.

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    1. Very upbeat and positive.

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  24. It's about time we smoked Billy Bob Spears out.

    To be clear, the Patch noted that Billy Bob spears is holding up the ALF because it does not meet his desire for a fully immersed "mixed use" project. In other words, not enough retail and condos. No retail, no sales tax. No condos, no real estate commissions. Hence the development conditions shell game and the effort to kill the ALF with delay.

    Billy Bob Spears is "pro conservation" in the same way Joe Mosca was. As Pete Townsend would say, "we won't get fooled again. No No!"

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  25. The mob would just burn it downMay 18, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    The Asbury's are knuckleheads.

    The Star News notes that they must have a B&B because this house is simply to expensive to maintain unless you are "wealthy" The same is true of every house. If you can't afford it, it's too expensive to maintain. Does that mean I should be allowed convert the lovely faux Cape Cod the family and I own into a B&B?

    The Asbury's problem is they overpaid and can't recover what they've sunk into the Old Gal without a sales price that no sane person would pay. Too bad. The good news is that you can walk away from your purchase money mortgage due to the anti deficiency laws.

    Is the Star News right? Did Billy Bob Spears and crew actually approve this thing?

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    1. The Pinney House is a much beloved dinosaur as well as a firet trap. It's a disaster waiting to happen. I hope code requires it to have sprinklers, fire extinguishers, and that the smoke alarm batteries are replaced more frequently than every New Year's.

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  26. The personal animosity towards Spears is making me think that the poster who feels so passionately about him ought to start a blog about the object of his disaffection.

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    1. There truly is a thin line between love and hate.

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  27. So who is the most prodevelopment pc member if it is not Spears.

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    1. That would be Commissioner Replogle! Never met a development project he couldn't approve!

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    2. I vote for the Development Services staff and city attorney.

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  28. I'm posting for the first time on this blog because I think Spears is trying to undermine Measure V. It's obvious from his comments that he hates Measure V.

    Also, I don't think there is one poster who hates Spears, as one of the posters suggested. There are lots of people in town who think he's working to kill Measure V and the ALF.

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    1. Welcome! We look forward to more of your observations.

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  29. Good point, earlier poster about Spears approving a school in a commercial zone, but holding up the ALF and trying to trash Measure V. The guy's a jerk.

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  30. I count three Council Members who support Measure V. Spears better get with the program, or he'll be taken out as Nancy W. likes to say.

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  31. With he exception of KZ, nobody has had the balls to take Spears on. All you Spears haters need to come to the next PC meeting and call him out for trying to f--k with Measure V.,

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    1. The unmitigated bs served us regarding the water rates per bill coburn seems to prove that he has rusty pipes & sh*%t for brains, but then I get very uncivil when people try act smart and talk out of their buts.

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    2. City Hall has gotten by on lies for too long. When the UUT measures went down in April, the best news was the people of this city had woken up. Sierra Madre is sick of the lies.

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  32. Rumors has it!

    that the residents of Sierra Madre will be signing a petition to "Repeal" - "all water rate increases" which will allow all Sierra Madre Residents the right to vote yes or no...

    Can anyone one fill us in with the details?

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    1. Please keep us up dated!
      Our family is will to help in any way possible!

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    2. Our neighborhood is willing to pay for the cost of signage and flyers!
      Maybe our message could be mailed out with the water bills!

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    3. I am willing to pay for a message to be printed on a banner, to be hung on Baldwin Avenue.

      This could be alot of fun!

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  33. the only people that actually pay attention to what Bill writes is about six people total in city

    or he's completely absorbed into his perceived image of a pillar of the community that he forgets that we all know the truth and our Council almost did everything but admit that they lied to us from before day one as the plans were in place to deceive the public and the "water pipes" were the illusion for a tax hike

    Bill lives in a time warp because it wasn't until months later that the "bond" excuse began floating around and it's quite amusing that he actually believes the same delusional thought processes as Susan Henderson

    print or post obvious lies over and over again - defend the city regardless (especially when you get paid by the city) which is what Bill and Henderson both do - so they are biased and completely unreliable and murky with the truth

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