Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tonight's City Council Meeting Will Be Long and Many Things Will Be Discussed

This week's City Council meeting kicks off with some closed session Sierra Madre Police Officers Association business. Two items to be exact. The first involves labor negotiations, which basically means they're looking for more money and benefits. The other is stuff the POA is suing us about. The sweet and the sour, as they say. This evening brings us yet another of those infamous "Toribio and Ellins vs. City of Sierra Madre" lawsuits that show up occasionally. You may recall that it was these two officers that sued Marilyn Diaz over locker searches. Well, just like Johnny, they're back. The Hildreth lawsuit is also on the sub rosa docket for this evening.

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.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

63 comments:

  1. "...and then inspire us with his weighty thoughts on the troubled times we live in." Yeah, both of them. Giggle, giggle.

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    1. The best part of it will be the "moment of silence."

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  2. After I go to the polls and Vote no on the UUT you now tell me """"The stone cold fact here is there isn't any money,"""" I don't want to hear that, I want to hear how now were going to stream line this mess and not be taxed to death.

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    1. You could always make a donation at the front counter. Though I think there is a fee involved.

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  3. B&B amendment = Pinney House.

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    1. From my reading of the staff agenda report this item is in no way exclusive to the Pinney House.

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    2. Yes, but the Pinney House applied for a CUP to make it a B&B and that is why it was approved by the Planning Commission. They had to make it inclusive to make it legal.

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    3. Wasn't the Pinney House originally built as a hotel? At some point it was divided into units (rent?); and I recall some plan to sell the units as condos but I don't recall how that worked. It sounds to me it's just being restored to some sort of "public house".

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    4. The notice just went up for the CUP to be presented and either approved or rejected at the Planning Commission meeting May 17. There is a big notice board in front of the Pinney House, and the neighbors within the 300 ft distance have already received post cards telling them of the meeting. The CUP is not approved yet, and it should not be approved since the Pinney House sits in the middle of a pristine R-1 zone. Also, the current owners want to sell the property any way they can and move to Oregon. What we don't need in this town is the destruction of any more R-1 areas and the obvious devaluation of the surrounding properties. The Pinney House would cost the city more than the House could earn as a B&B. Let me just ask you all: would you like a B&B and it's transient population next door to YOUR house????

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    5. Maybe our homeless housing requirement can be moved from E. Montecito to the Pinney House? It sure has a big smoking porch.

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    6. 2:05, hope the neighbors have gotten together and planned their response to the city. That's an interesting fact that the people who are trying to get this zone or designation or whatever it is changed are doing so just to maximize their profit and get out of town. I was wondering about the parking.

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    7. Using historic homes as B&B's would decrease their "historic" appearance. There is simiply no way to use a place as a B&B and keep it looking historic. Changes would be made to accomodate the patrons, and pretty soon the appearance of the buildings would suffer.

      In this economy, I don't think B&B's, with their high priced room fees, are very popular. The only two B&B's in the area are clear over in South Pasadena. None in Pasadena, Glendale or Arcadia. I was very surprised to discover that. Wouldn't you think that if they were such a great idea, more would be in existence???

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    8. The Bed and Breakfast gambit might be an attempt to move a very pricey white elephant property. They are asking a fortune for this place, and it doesn't look like anyone is beating path to the Pinney door. This might be a personal favor to the owner.

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    9. BnBs are a great alternative in cities where hotels are 300+ a night. That's not what it's like here.

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    10. One of the docents on Wistaria Day at the Pinney House had glowing recommendations of Enid Joffe. Sure, it's a personal favor by a corrupt government to help out another one of their buddies...

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  4. The Realtor has been advertising the Pinney House as a B&B for quite some time now

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    1. That is presumptuous.

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    2. A realtor, presumptuous?
      Surely he or she is just busy 'building community'

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    3. Bed and Breakfasts are fun. Why should anyone worry about anything else? It's real estate. Josh will provide.

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    4. Isn't there a tax on overnight stays at B&B's? The city could use the revenue. Everyone of the historic old three-story houses could generate a ton of $$$ for the cash strapped coffers. Let's hear it for B&B's. Think of how much tax could be accomodated in the Old North Church! That big old craftsman at the west end of Sierra Madre Blvd. The empty church on Highland. Isn't the monastary a sort of B&B?

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    5. How about a house that was built in 1957. We could put black and white TVs in all the rooms and serve TV dinners. The waitstaff would have names like Midge and Wally.

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    6. Who the heck wants to stay in a B & B in Sierra Madre? Dirty picture afficianados in town to meet with Bob "the Mentor" Matheson?

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    7. Retired school teachers here for our various colorful festivals would be my guess. Hikers looking to walk that extra mile, too.

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    8. That is misleading/fraudulent advertising since the property is not yet approved as a B&B.....

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    9. Misleading, fraudulent - realtors?

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  5. If the Police law suits and negotiations are in the closed session, that means Council member Harabedian will not be, correct? He has to recuse himself from police business because of his endorsement from them, and because of his scandalous behavior with the use of police in his campaign material.

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  6. I'm looking forward to seeing the impact of an infusion of intelligence on the council. God willing, the blustery ego gratification babble so favored by Buchanan and Mosca will be absent. Maybe the meeting will actually end in a reasonable time.

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  7. 8:05 That will only happen in a perfect world and we don't live in a perfect world.

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  8. I love it. Chris K agendized an RFP for legal services and his request didn't get agendized. Elaine is already giving the man the finger!

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  9. Why wasn't Koerber's request regarding legal services put on the agenda?

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  10. Elaine is hoping Chris will forget, or she has already told him that it will be several weeks before it appears on the agenda.

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  11. Elaine is stalling until Colantuono and Levin further muck up the ALF. I hope Chris is smart enough to realize what's going on and demand the item appears on the next agenda

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  12. It's a test. If Koerber protests, he's a man to be feared; if not, Elaine knows she's still running the show.

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  13. Elaine will ignore Chris like Gillison ignored KZ. Capoccia and Harabedian need to chime in or we're stuck with Colantuono and Levin forever.

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  14. Officer Berry and his Cranky Face Must Go!May 8, 2012 at 9:35 AM

    Sad though it may be, firing the law firm charged with bringing back the DSP will not get us out of our budget hole. Nope, we will have to REPLACE SMPD AND OUR BELOVED OFFICER BERRY with the Sheriff's Department.

    The city estimates this will save $1 million a year and completely cure our budget shortfall. I say it will save $1.5 million a year and leave us with a budget surplus. But we won't know exactly how much extra money we have sitting under our fat little faces until our courageous council members grow a pair and put our police services out for a real, hard number bid.

    Actually, it's not that hard. A little information won't hurt anyione. So what have we got to lose?

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  15. Politics is about perception. And the perception will be that Colantuono & Levin and Elaine are calling the shots, and not our frosh Council Member Chris Koerber.

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    1. They are employees who serve at the will of the City Council. You need to brush up on your basic civics.

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  16. It's not just Koerber. Capoccia and Harabedian didn't follow up to ensure that the item on legal service got agendized.

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  17. Follow up on Item 7May 8, 2012 at 9:44 AM

    http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/05/07/dinosaur-gas

    LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL

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  18. Sorry, just joined the party. this doesn't bode well for our new Council Members when one of them agendizes an item and it doesn't appear on the agenda. A real sign of the City Manager's disrespect.

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    1. Nonsense, Steve. Agenidized items usually take a couple of meetings to show up. There is plenty of red meat on the agenda. See if you can't get an adult to explain some of those issues to you.

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  19. The old regime at City Hall will fight tooth and nail to keep Colantuono and Levin. Measure V and the Alfington are what they were hired for. This is a big test for the corporate-developement axis in Sierra Madre, and they will definitely need their legal goon squad if they hope to beat down the residents..

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  20. The other ploy with the new Council is cramming everything into the consent calendar so that there will be no debate. I hope that doesn't go without notice.

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  21. If history is any guide, the Mayor meets with the City Manager to set the agenda. Josh made sure that an RFP for legal services never appeared on the agenda.

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    1. Yes, the Fraudfather needs his consiglieres.

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  22. Yes lets get rid of Officer Barry. He's a jerk. So is Officer Ellins he takes steroids. I do like Officer "Barney" Abbott though. He has really matured into a solid officer. I can remember when he was just a cadet with his over zealous ambition writing some poor old lady a ticket for having a rummage sale without a permit. Abbott also came to my door one early 4:00 AM ! morning to tell me my car door window was down. I thought he was crazy for doing that but did appreciate it. But get rid of Ellins and Barry. They're jerks.

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  23. Dear Officer Berry:

    It seems to me odd that 90% of SMPD's public relations problem are related to one person: You, the esteemed head of the Police Officers Association.

    Given this fact - together with SMPD's vulnerability to being whacked by the budget train - perhaps you should try to adjust your behavior by being nice to the tiny population you police at the population's pleasure. To help you out, I am providing some concrete exercises for you to work on this week.

    First, try smiling and waving at the lovely Sierra Madre ladies instead of sneering at them like a pervert or a psychopathic cop working in New Jack City.

    Second, wave at the kids instead of giving them the stink eye. Give them a break and a wink when they do something stupid. I am just guessing here, but judging from your disposition and jar head hair cut, my guess is that you may have been a handful of hell when you were growing up.

    Third, get your rear out of your cop car and talk to the townsfolk. It really doesn't hurt. Once you get used to saying "hi" you might even try telling some of the townsfolk your first name.

    Finally, stop writing piss ant tickets. You didn't grow up wanting to be glorified meter maid. Dude, you're a crime fighter! Act like it.

    By following these simple suggestions you may find yourself as loved as Officer Ford. And, as a side benefit, by becoming a blessing rather than a curse to the community, you will become a happier person.

    And one more thing. Let's be careful out there.

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  24. If history is any guide, the Mayor meets with the City Manager to set the agenda. Josh made sure that an RFP for legal services never appeared on the agenda.

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  25. So are all SMBD officers name "Barry" or "Berry"? Just like all trolls on the Tattler are now called "Steve"?

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  26. 9:49 My name is not Steve. And from what I can tell, Steve would be the last person to be advocating for an agenda item for an RFP for legal services. Also, as one of the other posters pointed out, waiting weeks for the RFP to get agendized gives C&L more time to work their mischief. By the way, it's the City Manager, Mayor and City Attorney who determine the placement and timing of agenda items. I remember that during Buchanan's first term as Mayor that his agenda items were heard asap and what Kurt and Don proposed had to wait for weeks. Chris needs to be mindful that does not happen to his agenda items.

    Your comment about having adults explain things to me is pretty childish. I do agree that there are weighty issues on tonight's agenda, but they should not detract from what's most important -- replacing C&L with a law firm that will work for our residents. I don't see anything wrong with posters like myself encouraging our new Council Members to follow through on the request for the RFP.

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  27. Steve or not, we are seeing posts from people who have not had much experience following council business. Off hand, I cannot remember a single time in which a council member's request for an agendized item was put on the following agenda.

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    1. The blog is being pretty heavily trolled. It is a better class of troll, though. They do know how to put together a full sentence without dropping an 'F' bomb or two. Their purpose apparently being to get people at each other's throats rather than discussing any actual issues. I've weeded out most of them, but occassionally one or two will slip through.

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    2. Thanks Mod.
      And I agree about the educational level upgrade of the troll.
      Smarter, but still clumsy - a lot of the misdirection 'I said' "You said" just to derail the topic.

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    3. My guess for the mysterious "Steve" is Chip Ahlswede. Formerly of Schubert and Flint during the No on V campaign, Chip was deeply involved in Josh's campaign in 2010. Schubert and Flint was credited with getting Prop 8 passed. Just to let you know what sorts of folks we're dealing with here.

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    4. It is nice that people care so deeply about The Tattler.

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  28. Let's wait and see what Chris says about the RFP tonight.

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  29. Am I being too optomistic, or does it look like there is an effort on this agenda to curtail some of the drunken sailor spending habits?

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    1. I think there might be an effort to make it sound that way. But the Prop 218 stuff on Assessment Districts sends a different message.

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    2. I looked at the staff report and the assessments made sense to me - the streets involved have not paid while a surplus existed and it's gone now.
      I figure it's up to those residents if they want to organize agin' it.

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    3. 1:37 Don't insult sailors by comparing them to big spending cities.

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  30. How the hell did Nancy ever get elected to the CC... I'm listening to her in amazement! WTF is she talking about?! And I'm not even drunk yet !!!

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    1. Disagree 9:25. She is more on her game tonight than she has ever been. Of course she still didn't manage to research any of the material on her own, but she seems to know there's an agenda with items. And she's saying "I second" quite a bit.

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