After the rituals are completed, the inspiration delivered, and the Consent Calendar has been fully consented to, we then move on to the main rounds of the night's fight card. The heavyweight issues are called on the canvas, and you can tell that they are just that by their size. They're bigger, and the stakes are far higher. Naturally people lean well forward in their seats during this part of the meeting, sensing that they are about to witness things of true importance. Even those who intended to arrive fashionably late have by now assumed their places. It's go time, baby. So go hard.
Item no. 2 deals with something called Council Succession Policy. This matter was brought to the attention of the world by the sudden and somewhat mysterious departure of Joe Mosca. Nobody quite knew how to fill his seat on the City Council as there was no succession policy in place. Does the City Council appoint someone to take his spot? Should it be put on the ballot so the people can decide? Should the seat just be left open as a reminder of the faithless critter who promised to serve the people of this town, yet bailed out because it just didn't suit his sense of himself as a young man of destiny anymore?
I don't mean to be too flippant about this because it actually is a very important issue. The thought that Sid & Nancy might have been able to appoint someone of their notorious ilk to that vital third spot on the City Council is not a happy one, and a shudder had passed through the body politic. Rules need to be put into place, and that is what is being discussed this evening. The chance that a ruling clique will someday get to further their hold on power in our city by appointing pliable cronies to the City Council must be removed.
Item no. 3 deals with the controversial matter of artificially extending the life of the entirely valueless Green Committee by raising it up to full Commission status. Which would be unfortunate since the Green Committee is, at its heart, little more than a greenwashed bureaucratic pressure group concocted by John Buchanan and designed to wedge DSP-style development into downtown Sierra Madre. All in the name of saving the world from climate chaos through condo construction. Something that is made more than clear by reading their broadside called The Green Committee Accords. A tendentious document that was appropriated almost word for word from a similarly entitled document published by the United Nations.
I wrote about this quite a bit last Friday, and rather than just retype the whole thing today, I'd like to invite you to click here and view it in the original setting. With City Staff's rather amazing typo intact.
Item no. 4 is entitled "Discussion of Water Fund Revenues and Expenditures for Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2012 and Estimated Five Year projections." This one has its origins in the water rate increases that officially began in July of 2011. At the end of a very contentious Prop 218 process, which was in large part brought about when it was discovered that the City had not been telling the truth about the reasons for the then proposed water rate increases, the City Council promised the ripped off residents that they would come back from time to time to let everyone know how things are going.
And, as you've probably already guessed, things are not going very well. "Water fund reserves fell short of projected revenues by $146,000 in FT 2011-2-12 as compared to water rate studies." No surprises there. This is followed by a litany of possible causes for the numbers being off quite so much, leavened with a number of options for savings that might hopefully cut the shortfall. The one that makes the most sense to me is numbered 3:
Water fund continues to budget for water meter replacement and other scheduled maintenance, $150,000 to $450,000 annually. The Water Department has a 10-12 year rotation on water meters and began in 2006 to install smart reader meters with the goal of gaining grants for technology to allow for radio read meters.
And, as you probably also expected, the option of again raising water rates is also discussed. This one is numbered 6:
City Council may consider beginning a new water rate study with a goal of meeting the 2003 bond covenants and deferred maintenance policy.
While it is nice to see that this time (at least) the bond covenants issue is being put out front, I'm not sure that the political mood in Sierra Madre right now is conducive to raising water rates. Better to just can the smart meters.
This is logically followed by Item no. 5, which is "Water Conservation Ordinance, Phase IV Customer Curtailment, Penalties, and Appeals Process." If the notion that with every new law a further erosion of freedom accompanies it is true, then this one surely fits in. It appears that back in November of 2011 the City ruminated upon its "Mandatory Water Conservation Plan," something dictated to us by the run amok State Legislature in Sacramento. The City Council did pass what became known as Ordinance 1322 to meet that demand, and looked it over once again in January of this year.
However, there is unfinished work here. That being what exactly the penalties will be to those who do not meet the demands of the Water Conservation Ordinance. So this evening the plan is for the City Council to reluctantly help City Staff create a menu of financial punishments for those scofflaws who refuse to keep their water usage within the legally defined limits.
There are a number of charts in the Staff Report on this item, all delightful. One that beckons in particular includes proposed penalties for 1st, 2nd and 3rd violations, which do go up substantially at each step. But what happens after that? The City would then impose something called "flow restriction." Which, I assume, means that after a certain point each month the water supplied to you, the serial violator, would either be curtailed, or perhaps even cut off altogether.
Which raises this question, at least in my mind. What is to keep residents from digging their own water wells? Is that legally proscribed? And at what point does such an option begin to make financial sense to Sierra Madre's more obstreperous water users?
Last, but never least, is Item no. 6, which is that hardy perennial known as the "Strategic Plan Update." This one stems from the latest of these get-togethers, held on April 17, 2012. And again the prospect of a Green Commission raises it ugly proto-development head, something that hopefully was shelved earlier in the evening.
And then there is this Orwellian line. "Preserve Our Small Town Character with a Vibrant Downtown." You might find yourself asking what a "vibrant downtown" is, or how it somehow assures the continuance of Sierra Madre's "Small Town Character." Why not "Preserve Our Small Town Character with the Construction of a NASCAR Race Track?"
What a "vibrant downtown" might be is not defined in the Staff Report I am looking at. Like most of the objectives contained in these Strategic Plan Updates, the stated goals do not seem to be rooted in anything approaching a commonly shared sense of reality. Therefore passing into the realm of propaganda designed to push for things that people are not really interested in seeing here.
This item is always saved for last because it helps to clear out whatever remaining residents might still be there in City Council chambers.
There will be no second City Council meeting this month, which is fine with me. I'm going to shut The Tattler down for the last couple weeks of August anyway. It's time for a vacation from all of this.