After that business is concluded the curtain gets pulled back and the faithful file into City Council chambers. There are quite a few items on the agenda for this evening, and while some may seem inconsequential, they do mean something to someone. And tonight is that special night for them. And then there are those other discussions that will take place. In particular Items 4, 6, 7 and 8. Do stick around for those.
The meeting kicks off with the ancient rituals. This is to establish a strong connection with the ancestor spirits of past City Councils. All of whom will be in Chambers this evening, just in case you detect the faint aroma of old garlic and cigar smoke. Newly minted Mayor Moran will conduct the Pledge of Allegiance, and then inspire us with his weighty thoughts on the troubled times we live in.
This will be quickly followed by a report from the City Attorney about things we must not know, an approval of the Agenda upon which all seated at the dais will soon speak, and the approval of the Minutes. John Buchanan will not be present to ask the City Clerk for "a couple of minor corrections." No one will notice.
Public Comment follows that. I suspect the line to speak will be fairly long due to the concerns many have regarding the City's quite crass attempts to sidestep the California State Constitution and eviscerate Measure V. After which we will get to meet the new Sierra Madre Fire Department Battalion Chief, along with six new firefighters. Some of us will ponder why it is that among the most effective services this city has to offer, one of them is performed by people who do not get paid.
The Consent Calendar is, as always, a many faceted thing of delight. This evening the love train goes all the way to the Letter G. First and foremost is the spending of the money. Tonight a relatively modest $458,000 will change hands, which is almost exactly a million bucks less than last time. Bills will be paid, paychecks cut and Library warrants executed.
Consent Calendar Item B has to do with the replanting of trees that met a sad fate during the December 1st windstorm. I am due six trees by my reckoning. That is, if I want them. After what the last crop did I am not so certain I do. Michael D. Antonivich (not often noted as a tree lover due to last year's ancient oak removals in Arcadia) established a grant program for this purpose, and we need to get him an accounting of our (to use the lingo) urban forest loss to participate in this largesse. The maximum that can be asked for is $100,000. I'm certain we will.
Consent Calendar Item C invokes an "authorization to seek proposals for engineering project." If I am reading this correctly (it is out of sequence on the City's list of Agenda Reports on the website), this is all about street resurfacing. We as a City might be broke, but thanks to Measure R, Prop C and various gas taxes, $650,000 is available. A menu of streets that will be blessed with resurfacing is given up in the Agenda Report. A lot of this list is made up of that stretch of West Sierra Madre Boulevard where so much of last year's water main repair construction took place. Work that was not paid for out of water rate increase money, just so you know.
Consent Calendar Item D proclaims itself to be a "notice of completion, public facilities entry project." What this means is that City Hall and the SMPD now have new doors. If you are attending this evening's City Council meeting you will walk through one of them. And if you do not behave yourself while there, you will then get to walk through the other one.
Consent Calendar Item E deals with moving the Library computer file servers to the basement. The total cost for doing so is $18,000, most of which will come out of the Library Gift and Memorial Fund. Your $5 a glass wine tasting money at work. The reason for doing this is that computers of this ilk require a chill existence, otherwise they will overheat and the Library will lose all of your overdue book data. And a new air conditioned room in the Library's basement is being provided to do just that thing.
Consent Calendar Item F is in regards to the Children's Room Remodel at the Library. This is being accomplished at a cost of $91,314 in donated moneys from such organizations as Friends of the Library.
Consent Calendar Item G deals with a Temporary Use Permit (or TUP if you are acronymic) to shut down certain streets during the Mount Wilson Trail Race. The last thing you want is one of those runners hitting your car.
Item Number 2 discusses in quite some depth a Municipal Code Amendment to allow historic homes here in Sierra Madre to be turned into bed and breakfast inns. Until now you were only allowed to live in them. Why this is the city government's business is because the owners of historic homes (and where would you want to have a bed and breakfast except in a historic home?) get certain tax breaks for being old. Which means they are historic. This will probably pass and the acrid odor of wheat bread toast, marmalade and fussy tea will permeate the local ecosphere every weekend.
Item Number 3 is kind of interesting. Apparently Bruce Inman has rediscovered a way to exchange unwanted Community Development Block Grant (CDBG - not to be confused by the NYC rock club of a similar name) cash to the City of la Mirada for folding money that can be used in our General Fund. CDBG money has to be used for things like the new doors on City Hall, and we already have them. The thing that I find amusing is that we will be selling $33,806 in CDBG money to La Mirada for $21,972 in General Fund money. Seems odd to me, but then again I work in the private sector.
Item Number 4 will probably consume a large share of the City Council's time this evening as it deals with what is termed the Biennial Budget Consideration. The baseline considerations for this one include:
A) The City is broke.
B) The UUT is now in danger of sunsetting in a few years, so who knows what will happen.
C) Additional cuts will be required.
D) Despite that we'll still be running a deficit.
Certain City Council members are likely to burst forth with flowery talk about the value of what this City produces, the extreme sacrifices that are made by those employed here to provide those services, and other such loony gibberish. The stone cold fact here is there isn't any money, and the residents of this town don't see any reason to dig deep and change that equation right now. Particularly in light of the City's deceptiveness in the recent past when asking people to fork over more of their hard earned dollars.
Item Number 5 is about something called a "Memorial Sitting Corner" in Bailey Canyon Park. The issue is a fee waiver for a memorial to the late Midge Morash, who advocated for and helped create this park.
Item Number 6 covers Assessment Districts for such things as street lighting, energy, maintenance, water, street sweeping and landscaping. This baby packs a real punch, however, because we are talking a potential Prop 218 tax increase process here. Check out this palaver from the Agenda Report:
As illustrated below, the revenue generated by Districts 1, 2, 3, 5 and Ad Valorem Districts A and B is not adequate to cover the expenses incurred in those Districts. In order to adjust the assessments to provide the revenue to fully fund those Districts it would be necessary to increase the assessments, the City would be required to initiate the Proposition 218 process. A study prepared by the City Engineer in 2010 indicated that at the the time most assessments would have had to be at least doubled in order to balance the individual District's budgets. It was determined at that time that the City would not go forward with an adjustment to the assessments.
That situation remains unchanged at this time. The assessment districts continue to be subsidized by other funding sources. The City Council may at any time direct staff to initiate the Proposition 218 process to increase the assessments to levels that cover expenses. This process would necessitate an update of the 2010 Engineer's Report and a "majority protest" balloting of the owners of only those properties within the districts.
Asking for a tax rate hike, especially after the resounding rejection of the two UUT Measures in April, would be quite an adventurous thing for City Hall to attempt right now. However, with the City believing it is at the proverbial financial crossroads, they may feel they have no choice but to take the plunge. Make some coffee, this one could be interesting.
Item Number 7 covers the Strategic Plan Retreat from April 17. It includes such deceptive oxymorons as "Preserve Our Small Town Character with a Vibrant Downtown," and "Make Sierra Madre an Economically and Environmentally Sustainable Community." The rotten heart of this sour porridge is elevating the development forward so-called "Green Committee" to full Commission status. What this is all about is incorporating a large downtown redevelopment agenda, along with SB 375, into our City's General Plan. It is an attempt to raise from the dead the discredited "Downtown Specific Plan" concept. There is nothing "green" about putting high density development into our downtown. Don't succumb to all the greenwashing, that is the real aim here.
Item Number 8 is all about the new Liaison Appointments. These appointments will be for the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority and the LA County Sanitation District. The COG appointment is the plum job here, and Josh will likely reward Nancy Walsh with another go-around for the utterly brain dead job she did with the post last year. Bad government is its own reward.
It ain't pretty, but that is how it's gonna roll.