Monday, May 14, 2012

The UUT Next Time

While the Utility Users Tax (UUT) Measures went down to overwhelming defeat in April's municipal election, this was hardly the last word. Instead it has set up what could be a final showdown, and not over just a double digit utility tax. Faced with the loss of substantial revenues in a few years when the UUT increases of 2008 begin to sunset, there can be little doubt that the City Council will begin discussing putting the question back on the ballot within the year. And as challenging as this concept might be for some to grasp today, that might actually be the easiest route for them to take.

The UUT next time will not be just about maintaining the 10% rate we have now. That is, of course, assuming that Mayor Moran is not foolish enough to push for a 12% rate again. Probably one of the biggest political blunders this town has seen in quite a few years. And don't get me started about the attempt to extend the sunset period to a full five years.

No, what will be at stake is the kind of City government Sierra Madre wants. The so-called full service city that features an in house Police Department, or one that is willing to contract out for something far less expensive.

There is an interesting piece on the OC Watchdog site of the Orange County Register. And while this may very well be an apples to oranges comparison (sorry) because obviously we are far closer to Los Angeles than Yorba Linda, what we can see here is that Sierra Madre is hardly the only city in Southern California grappling with the high costs of maintaining its own police department. The question they ask being, "Could your city police department cost less?" (click here). This is what they have to say:

We've been talking about how governments might pool their resources to save money, so we thought we'd look at what cities pay to provide that thin blue (or khaki?) line of police protection.

Some cities have their own police departments, with their own top brass. Others farm out policing to the Orange County Sheriff's Department. The difference being in what it costs Joe Public can be a bit startling.

> San Juan Capistrano is bigger than Laguna Beach - by about 50 percent - but it pays about half what Laguna pays for policing ($7.2 million, to Laguna's $14 million).
> Mission Viejo is bigger than Newport Beach - by about 12 percent - but it spends just a fraction of what Newport pays for policing ($15.2 million, to Newport's $41.5 million).
> Buena Park is about the same size as Mission Viejo - but spends millions more on policing ($23.6 million, to Mission Viejo's $15.2 million).

The article then goes on to detail what exactly is the cause of the huge disparities in the costs of law enforcement. With the easy conclusion being that more and more cities, faced with the kinds of intractable financial pressure that we also face here, are opting to jettison their traditional police departments for the Sheriff's Department. The latest example being Yorba Linda, which recently made the change and will realize over $1 million in savings per year for having done so.

In Sierra Madre our police department accounts for around 53% of our General Fund revenues per year. And even with our UUT rate at 10%, we are barely eking by. As a matter of fact, for the first time in a few years the City of Sierra Madre could very well be running a deficit. Despite the fact that our UUT rates are just about the highest in the state.

The choices that will be before the voters of Sierra Madre when the UUT questions are put back on the ballot as early as next year will be rather stark. And while the ballot language will in no way resemble what I am about to say here, this is what the real choice will be. Which would you rather have, a 6% Utility User Tax, or the Sierra Madre Police Department? Because obviously without that additional funding the choice to go with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department will have already been made. There really would be no other choice.

Earlier I mentioned that putting the UUT Measures back on the ballot would be the easiest route for the City Council to take. The easiest because, given the City's current financial projections, they might otherwise have to make some of these difficult choices themselves. By voting 'no' on any future UUT Measure you will pretty much have made those decisions for them. In this case the opinions of the voting tax payer being far more consequential.

So which will it be? A 6% UUT rate, or the Sierra Madre Police Department? That is pretty much what the choice is going to be.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

66 comments:

  1. Harabedian told some voters as he was campaigning that he intends to push for an increase in the UUT. Since he was endorsed by the Sierra Madre POA, it seems highly unlikely that he will go for a look at the sheriff's department. Looks like a long, hard battle ahead to even consider a change given Moran and Walsh's propensity of wanting it all without considering the cost to the taxpayers.

    I love the romantic idea of being a full service city, but in this day and age, we just can't afford it.

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    1. He said whatever he thought you wanted to hear to get to his goal of being elected

      The dude has caused a public inquiry into the ethics of a Candidate who either secretly photographed police officers as he posed for a picture and then never got a model release or permission from the PD to use image, which mean he could be sued by the City Attorney for damages

      or someone in the PD knew about the photo, saw it gave a wink approval and said like "but first you have to airbrush out those city patches on the arms.....but you can leave the guns in the photo"

      No way he will be unbiased or not be beholden to the PD when it comes time to discuss contracting out with the Sheriff's dept

      And it's deja vu all over again, the local paper will come out in force with a scathing attack on the prospect, defend what ever position the city endorses (keep the PD) how it's unAmerican to lay off people and yack yack yack

      and never report on a Councilman who either did or didn't have the written or verbal approval to openly violate some law that is known by defense lawyers and police departments when it pertains of the implied visual endorsement with staging political pictures in uniform and obviously airbrushing out the city patch

      who's on first again?

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    2. Harabedian has no more allegiance to the SMPD than he has to the voters of Sierra Madre. His focus is on bigger game. If it looks like bringing in the Sheriffs is acceptable to his counsellors, then Sheriffs it will be.

      Full service city? What the Special People in Sierra Madre are angling for is a private club sponsored by your tax dollars. Keep out the undesirables, offer the amenities, and sure, they'll pay a bit more for smooth streets and green lawns. Full service country club is closer to the definition of the desires of most of the Supers.

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    3. "Full service" to me means a policeman will show up when there is trouble. With the whiny ungrateful attitude some members of the SMPD have shown in the last few years, and with the hostile aggression from their lawyers, I'm not even sure they will show up when they are needed.

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    5. Dammier & McGill runs a pretty good con.
      They find the lowest paid department and start screaming about it - never mind that some departments, like ours, have really easy assignments, say compared to South Central.
      So that department gets more money, and hey, there's a new lowest paid.
      And so forth and so on.

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    6. 11:53, they'll always have an active case that way.

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  2. Contracted pool out to save money didn't we? All five CC voted on that. Next step the PD!

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    1. Great point 6:40. And it's a win-win for us and the Aquatics company.

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  3. In the end there might not be a choice.

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    1. and that is when the choice will be made: in the end

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  4. Pinching The PenniesMay 14, 2012 at 7:17 AM

    Over the years I have worked with many agencies. Our local PD and the SD just one of the many. If SM goes to the SD then all the SM police officers would get to go to the SD. The switch to the SD from the SMPD would be a raise in pay and most likely benefits, so why wouldn't they be happy to move up in pay while the City saves money. You ask how there would be a savings? SMPD has some functions that need to be in place in case they are needed. The SD have the same functions in place and more, but can send them out to the various Cities when needed. Our overall cost would be down but the talented back up would still be there when needed. When something really big goes down who does SM call for help, think about it. I really don't understand why SM officers would not jump at the chance to be on the SD, more money and a chance to work in a vast variety of jobs with more of a chance to promote. I know the 53% cost is just a bottom line that does not include lawsuits and other hidden costs not mentioned in that 53%. GO FIGURE, I just want my town safe at a reasonable cost.

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  5. We could have afforded the SMPD if The SMPD last chief didnt increase the amount officers and interdepartment lawsuits.

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    1. 7:19 am, Ditzy Mayor Joffee negotiated the contract of the century with the SMPD - you know the one, the contract that actually gave the department more than it was asking for. The 53% of the General Fund that gets spent on the PD is not the part that includes the POA lawsuits. Your statement is fallacious. Chief Diaz was a victim of the old boys network of SMPD intent on keeping a woman from being Chief and installing a local favorite in the top spot. Give it up.

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    2. Chief Diaz walked into a mess. Yes, old boy's, and some frightening incompetence. She is unpopular with some of the regular posters on this board, but she made a great improvements in the department. It was worse before.

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    3. "It was worse before." Always a great confidence booster. Have they registered Matheson yet?

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    4. Ah damn, that Matheson sicko, wandering around town with no consequences for his despicable actions. Damn.

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    5. Diaz didn't leave the department better than she found it.

      She promoted a dispatcher to a full officer and we (the people) were never told about her qualfications etc but she's out on code enforcement like a banshi.

      She bloated the office with more officers and provided less services.

      She had a police officer shooting on an unarmed suspect who was shot in the back as awakening from the back of an SUV and Diaz defended the officer's training? get a grip please former Chief.

      She promised weekly walk abouts downtown based on a image marketing consulted suggested and that lasted a few weeks and then was too busy back with code enforcment and revenue.

      The Sheriff's Department won't be all up in Sierra Madre with code enforcment and petty vandalism investigations and wasting time with our Sierra Madre batty neighbor conflicts.

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    6. M. Diaz ruined SMPD.

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  6. One of the consequences of the city not being honest about the reasons it needs more and more of our money is it has cost them their credibility. If they had been straightforward in the past they wouldn't be facing the problems they have now. Nobody believes them anymore.

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  7. Pinching The PenniesMay 14, 2012 at 7:58 AM

    6:47,,,, there is a choice and the Voters made that choice when they voted in the Bart Doyle gang. Hopefully we now have 3 council members who are on the same page for preserving what we have here. Hopefully they want to Maintain Density and become more sustainable, we shall see.

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  8. Do the LA Couty Sheriffs sit in the shade on side streets and at corners looking for moving violations or do they come quickly when called and do a through review of a burglary?

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    1. They sid in the shade on side streets and give out tickets.
      Burglary? What bugarlary, we don't have this in Sierra Madre.....and a UFO just landed in Kersting Court.

      There have been several homes burglarized in the past month, including one very high profile resident's home.

      Why the cover up?

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    2. As someone recently pointed out to me, if the police don't report the crime, the crime stats in town remain low; if the crime stats remain low, the real estate values stay high. Maybe there is collusion between local law enforcement and the development industry after all...

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    3. We are in the strange position of having city employees who are almost entirely from out of town, and a city council with a majority much more concerned with the agendas of large corporate interests than they are with what those living here want. Somehow residents have become second fiddles in their own town.

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    4. If we lose the SMPD we won't have what revenue and what amount and much does the SMPD costs the city annually and with hidden costs etc etc

      Compared to sincere bids from Pasdena, Arcadia and the Sheriff's and we allow the SMPD top present a bid also - done by themselves and without any support from City Hall.

      Make it fair and realize that any department besides the SMPD can handle our real emergencies and the Sheriff's Dept already does.

      In dangerous situations, the SMPD does the far perimenter traffic control - always.

      Our local sidewalk news rags will say that we've had bids in the past etc however everybody knew, including those submitting the bids that it was a total BS request just to justify the SMPD.

      We won't have an officer writing minor stop sign violations and some locals will lose their sounding board for any petty issue.

      Sierra Madre is the same city when the local newspaper used to print the police blotter and it would include the silly calls to solve civil matters.

      I just don't feel safe with the SMPD being first responders to a bank robbery or anything that involves a handgun.

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  9. Come on people,

    what we are basically saying is our PD is a step up from Post Alarm but nowhere remotely as qualified and "seasoned" as the Sheriff's Department.

    I never the SMPD on television working major cases but I always do see the Sheriff's Dept.

    I would venture a guess that Sierra Madre per capita is one of the most over zealous code enforcement and on it 24/7 - for revenue.

    I'm not worried about a police officer who wishes to work in Sierra Madre because it's easy money for what is actually done as compared to a Sheriff's deputy whose primary duty regardless of rank is code enforcement, yuppie neighbor disputes and event security and I'd still feel safer with the Sheriff's dept responding to serious issues

    which come to think of it - happens anyway

    if we are forced to decide this, bring it to a public vote

    but last time we tried this our Council authorized very calcualated misinformation, delays and misplaced memos (with 2 incumbents still seasted)

    and our local paper because it get's paid for posting legal notices it does nothing but tout whatever the city needs to "sell" us

    like a bogus resume'
    or having unlimited free time off from a utility company to be podunk Mayor

    or having a Councilmember summarize a meeting or conference she attended as "it was good".....that's it? and have unmitigated gall to rant and rail degrading city volunteers because they had the audacity to question her direct orders, hence she's become the nutty lady on the Council to the locals who aren't in the "in crowd"

    which is the Mayor's crowd - Webb Martin, Mortage Sales, Facebook friends and being "civil" as only he can be

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  10. But they are celebrated in SMMay 14, 2012 8:28 AM 987 radio posted on FacebookMay 14, 2012 at 9:14 AM

    DUMMY OF THE DAY:

    Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson is officially out after it was found he padded his resume with an embellished college degree! who the hell lies about a college degree? microsoft excel maybe - a DEGREE???


    Read more: http://www.987fm.com/pages/onair/musicinthemorning.html?article=10122945#ixzz1uqticamL

    ---------

    however, in Sierra Madre we've got a key civic leader accused of a similar blase' musings of being a "lawyer" or actually being a "lawyer" and getting elected or directly profiting from city business without answering the questions and basically ignoring requests of public information or compliance with advertising regulations or ignoring Measure V to push an agenda of developer's visions for SM - like doubling our population ala former Mayor, John Buchanan

    maybe this Council will again the local paper to comply it's requests - not when the paper can get to it or be protected by favored Council candidates or current Council members

    our paper endorses who it will benefit from, not from what is best for SM

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    1. A former City Attorney stated that Sierra Madre could not advertise its legal notices in other newspapers because the adjudicated paper for legal notices in Sierra Madre was the Mountain Views News. I read a number of the legal notices in that paper over the weekend and saw notices from El Segundo, Los Angeles, and any number of other cities that I know have locally adjudicated papers. What's the deal? Has the City and the Mountain Views News entered into a quid pro quo agreement? Suzee gets the advertising for favorable stories on local politics and hit pieces on politicians not currently in favor?

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    2. If you all recall, Ms. Henderson claims to have a degree from Cal Berkeley, and has included such statement on her own CV, but the university has no record of her attendance there.

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    3. 9:57, the municipal notices have to be in locals, not the "legals" such as DBAs.

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  11. It is not a newspaper. It is not much more that a vanity newsletter.

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    1. Press releases mostly. Plus all those columns from middle aged dudes discussing what they have seen on cable news lately.

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    2. Do you think anyone reads those opinion columns? Why would they?
      Henderson keeps that [paper for one reason only - the money she makes from the legals.

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    3. All filler, no meat.

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  12. 8:48 you said it!

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  13. All I care about is that that the police come to a person's aid quickly and that they have been properly trained.
    If the sheriff takes over the station we built with CRA money, there's no reason their response time won't be as good as our own PD.

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    1. I'm guessing their response time will be better. A resident recently called 911 because there was an intruder in her home; it took the PD 15 minutes, according the resident, to arrive.

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    2. That is a completely unacceptable response time for 3 square miles.

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    3. dude all we have to do is enter into a 911 agreement with Aracadia or Pasadena, which end up showing up when anything of significance happens with regards to criminal activity

      if you want first aid, Arcadia has a Fire Department on Orange Grove seconds from our border and has better access - our PD and FD are smack dad downtown, in the worst possible locations with traffic

      and when the nursing facility is built out, there's more traffic and danger that will delay response time

      and personally, i'd rather wait an extra few minutes than have our PD show up with guns drawn

      due to poor training, improper procedure and a collision of mistakes, our PD shot a unarmed man point blank in the back because our officer was alarmed or frightened.

      it wasn't just a couple years ago the local paper would print the police blotter and our PD were writing tickets and making arrests outside of Sierra Madre - the Chief in response to blog posts said that that only happened when our PD were driving back from Pasadena courts/jails and didn't explain why the stops were happening in Arcadia and deep into Pasadena, like on Del Mar Avenue

      all of a sudden our PD is either no longer patrolling outside our borders by several miles and dozens of traffic lights

      or the info is withheld from the public

      or the paper is just deleting them off reports to appease the City and keep the lucrative legal advertising contract.

      say what you want about the community, but many of us feel safer if the SMPD didn't show up at all

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  14. Faced with every increasing state taxes as well, I'd have to opt for the 6% UUT. We are being taxed to death so that those "difficult" but absolutely necessary decisions can be avoided by the politicians. Since the pols won't make those decisions, looks like we have to and perhaps we will do a better job of it. Maybe the local police should consider seeking employment with the Sheriff's Department - they're certainly going to be hiring soon to cover the added burden of policing all of these municipalities approaching them for the less expensive alternative of contracted public safety services.

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    1. After all of the police lawsuits and the current anti-tax mood in this city, whatever UUT measure the city council comes up with will be a very hard sell.

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    2. Don'y worry, 11:53.

      The 6% UUT that is Sierra Madre's base has no sunset, it goes on forever with no vote of the people.

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    3. Yeah, and the council that put the 6% UUT in place promised that it was temporary, as Mayor McGillivrey has repeatedly reminded people. Now it's the new base line.

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    4. Perhaps a petition could put that on the ballot, too.

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  15. 6% to add to our otherwise measly tax base might be ok to go on forever. I would respectfully venture to guess when the CC put the first 6% in place with the idea that it could eventually go away, none of then had any idea how we would be cut off at the knees for financing the city of Sierra Madre.

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  16. As a retired federal law enforcement agent who has worked with and along side of the Los Angeles County Sheriffs office extensively over the past 25 years, and respect, trust and have the highest regard for them as a law enforcment agency, let me give you this word of advice. If you even think about replacing our police department with the Sheriff you have absolutely no knowledge no sense, and no idea of what turmoil and choas this will bring to this city. If you succomb to this "cheaper is better" attitude when it comes to who enforces the law in this city, within two years you will be willing to pay double to get them back and get the Sheriff out of the city.

    I have worked with nearly every local law enforcement department or agency in the Central District of California (five counties) doing fugitie apprehensions. All I can say is that you have no idea how lucky we have it.

    We need Mayberry cops.....Not SWAT officers....

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    1. How come it took ICE two months to get around to searching Bob Matheson's house? Despite the fact that he had been convicted in Canada of transporting child pornography, and with the Crown Attorney there howling bloody blue murder about your Fed pals letting Matheson off the hook? Which basically they did here in the US. Speaking of useless law enforcement ...

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    2. I'm a retired federal law enforcement agent. Having said that, you must listen to me. Otherwise I won't stop 9-11.

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    3. What about cheaper AND better?

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    4. we already have Mayberry cops who fantasise about being SWAT - we've all seen the steroid attitude of mostly the younger officers.

      and there is a reason why someone on the SMPD settled for Sierra Madre and did not pursue another agency

      it's gravy money - you write tickets, you write tickets, investigate minor crimes and anything tough is handled by another agency

      are we more concerned about code enforcement, revenue to continue to feed the predatory interests of the political real estate crowd elected to City Council

      we are basically with a department that is a premium private security company that is costly to operate as a service that this city actually needs

      why in the world do we need as many officers as we do and get saddled with lawsuit happy PD union and the drain on pensions for what exactly?

      the Council has always been consultant happy - why not bring in a cost reduction consultant based on actual evidence and statistics and tell us what we need

      We've got more cops than La Canada'.

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  17. stop the HYPERBOLEMay 14, 2012 at 3:03 PM

    Wow. Chaos! Cats and Dogs sleeping together! Poor panicked Federal Marshall! Calm down. Don't wet your pants! It's going to be okay. In fact, we are lucky.

    We have virtually no crime. We can solve our budget problem (and run a surplus) by signing one contract with the Sheriff. That's it. Budget problem solved.

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  18. Why can't Josh just get the Hells Angels set up at the Buck to police the town from there? Obviously the Sheriffs are too tough for this town, you heard it from Marshall Dillon above.

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    1. I run into federal law enforcement officials every time I go to the airport. They make me take off items of my clothing, then stand in front of an X-Ray screen and hold my hands up in the air like I am under arrest. The acronym is TSA, which I have been told stands for Twits Standing Around.

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    2. I don't mind security checks. Better alternative than dying in a fiery ball of exploding aircraft. Thank you TSA.

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    3. 40 years ago I was given a pat down when I went to check mail at an American Express office in Germany that was shared by the El Al (Israeli) Airline.

      We have watched over the years our saftety measures being amped up everytime some terrorist pulls a new stunt.

      Israel has been there for decades, now the whole world.

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  19. Cafe 322 is going to cease business and it is said a sports bar is going in its place. Wasn't it a cop bar before? Wasn't there a shooting on the sidewalk one time? More to come?

    Can someone take a look out there and find us a town that is very similary to SM (Altadena comes to mind) that has LA Co Sheriffs.

    I had a neibghbor in town who was a sheriff's homicide investigator. We had a recurring problem that SMPD could not get a handle on. He said that we could go over/around the SMPD and call the LA Co sheriffs. Is that still possible? This information is from several years ago.

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    1. Altadena is not a valid basis for comparison because of the high crime rate they have to deal with.
      La Canada is closer to the mark.

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    2. I think some one has posted about how this works in La Canada. Do it again, please?

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  20. Anyone that can actually describe the advantages of SMPD over LACS? I'm sure the majority of residents would pay more for a "better" service. But why pay 53% for the level of service we have?

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  21. It will be very tempting for me to vote no on the next UUT measure and take the nice tax cut. Not an opportunity that comes our way every day.

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  22. Can you imagine our two illustrious encumbents, Josh and Nancy, campaigning on increased UUT in 2014?

    Every two years we go through the throws of local elections and the lies are told once again.

    This will be carefully watched.

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    1. Watch Harabedian. He wants to increase the UUT to give the SMPD a raise.

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  23. Harabedian has good judgment. He can read the UUT vote as well as anyone. Certainly better than Johnny B and poor, hapless, Professor Goff. He will drop the SMPD like a hot rock.

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  24. I kind of doubt it. Young John is politically ambitious, and his path to political success runs through the LA County Democratic Party organization. There is no way he will oppose a public employee organization like the SMPOA. That would fly in the face of party philosophy.

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