Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Despite Last April's Vote the City Council Moves Towards Raising Utility Tax Rates to 12%

The UUT 3 do not understand your anger
"I'm being priced out of my home town." - comment left last evening

Eight months after 61% of the residents of Sierra Madre voted against raising Utility User Taxes (UUT) to 12%, Councilmembers Walsh, Harabedian and Moran (heretofore to be known as the UUT 3) indicated at last night's City Council meeting that they intend to do just that. Apparently each believes that they know better than those whose taxes they not only want to raise, but spend in ever greater amounts as well. It would seem that in Sierra Madre any vote by residents against tax increases is no longer respected by City Hall.

The apparent theme for last night was "We have a revenue problem." Something that was repeated over and over again by its assigned and well-rehearsed players. And while many here might feel that the problem is more of the spending variety, none of the UUT 3 did anything to disabuse the skeptics of that notion. With John Harabedian actually going so far as to follow up his call for increased taxes by proposing to give city employees a raise. For a while there it looked as if the UUT 3 might spend the entire tax increase before the meeting was even over.

The way this was set up was both cynical and extremely shoddy. Coached by the City Manager, various committee heads came up to the public podium and spoke about the additional things that they needed for their areas of responsibility. And while they certainly wanted to lay claim to increased amounts of the City's budget for things under the purview of their commissions, were they actually aware that they were being used to help set up the UUT 3's call for an increase in utility taxes?

I spoke to several outraged Commission members on the phone after the meeting, and all of them believed that their particular commission had been set up for that very purpose. One Commission member described the scam to me as follows:

Elaine asked Commissioners to talk about what is important to them. And when we asked to see the numbers on certain things, we were told that we didn't need to see them. We were only supposed to discuss our wish list.

All of which suited the UUT 3's purposes perfectly. Josh Moran kept citing the requests of the testifying commissions as proof that the City needed to solve its "revenue problem." Walsh and Harabedian also joined in that call by citing the Commissioners' wish lists as well.

Were any of these testifying Commissioners in on the joke? I think a couple of them were. But some were not, and the UUT 3's use of these people in that way was both gratuitous and cynical.

One of the reasons the residents of Sierra Madre rejected the call for a 12% UUT rate last April is because many here are suffering in the hard economic times. There are seniors in this town who are living hand to mouth on fixed incomes. Many other households have experienced the loss of one or more jobs during the Great Recession, and they too will notice the increased tax hit on their limited means. And when you consider that the reason this is being done, to provide a comfortable job security for City employees while also guaranteeing them the pleasure of our support for the rest of their lives, it does seem unfair. The apparent belief being that they are entitled to live better than many of those who are paying their way.

As we have said on other occasions, there are only two cities in the entire State of California with UUT rates as high as 10%. Those being Sierra Madre and Bell. However, Sierra Madre taxes four more utility categories than Bell, which therefore makes us the reigning champion. A 12% UUT rate has never existed in California before, with most utility tax charts only going as high as 10%. Which means that at 12% our taxes would literally be "off the chart."

We also need to discuss a possible Brown Act violation. To my eyes it appeared that Walsh, Harabedian  and Moran were scripted and prepared to deliver an orchestrated UUT tax increase message. With the floorshow of Commissioners eager to grab a bigger slice of the city's fiscal pie being obviously staged as support for this message. The UUT 3 were all on the exact same page. Something that gave the entire charade an appearance of being a rehearsed show in a venue that legally supports spontaneity alone.

 We got our present. The Christmas Utility Tax Hike is now on its way.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

108 comments:

  1. As residents, no one in my household uses any of the services the Community Services Department offers, no one uses the Senior Services, and since the internet, the library is superfluous. Why should we pay for services we never use?
    I am willing to pay for water, police (would prefer the less expensive sheriffs), paramedics and fire services, public works repairs on infrastructure, and I think a Planning Department is necessary. The rest of it can be an optional luxury people can sign up for. I do not want to subsidize tennis playing residents anymore than I want staff to be my dependents.
    If people want something enough, they will volunteer.

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    1. Totally agree with you. The City needs to get out of the business of providing entertainment. Let the civic organizations have their events back and use volunteers not paid staff.

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    2. If something doesn't happen then people must not want it. Safety and public works only. A part time city manager.

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  2. Moran actually claimed that "everyone" wants to maintain the services as they are now. Looks like you are not included 5:23. Me either. The 61% was some kind of glitch that the UUT3 are deciding not to see.

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    1. Moran sees through intoxicated eyes and a foggy brain - what a joke.

      Seeing him drunk at the 4th of July beer garden was such a treat



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    2. please note: no beer tax. thought that should be pointed out.

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  3. Last night was not about cutting costs - it was about increasing spending. Ignore the language and watch the actions.

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    1. They will spend us into bankruptcy....this is what will happen.
      Count on it.

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  4. Look at the slick timing. Throw out the tax increase bomb at the last meeting of the year, and there will be no public comment forum until the first meeting in January.

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  5. Is it wrong to want Karen S to balance to budget? Just balance the budget. This is what we all do for our homes. We make the expenses less than the income. If the income is not more than the expenses, we rein in the expenses. WTF. Isn't the job of the finance person of the city to balance the budget. In a corporation if you give a presentation that says you can't balance the budget, you would be fired. In the City of Sierra Madre, you give a presentation and it rains money.

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    1. Right you are, 5:52.

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    2. Karen whines. She is never right about the numbers.

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  6. To all Sierra Madre voters who voted in Moran, Walsh and Harabedian:

    YOU ARE STUPID AND EVIL!

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    1. Wow, have a cup of coffee. Or maybe some oatmeal. I'll agree with the stupid, but not the evil.
      More like just too lazy to get involved and figure out who the hustlers are.

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    2. I'm sorry, but I am backing 6:01 here. For people who are forced to budget their lives down to the last dime, a UUT hike now must seem evil. Especially when those pushing for it behaved as arrogantly as those people did last night. I'd go so far as to say we should recall one of them.

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    3. How evil was it to spread lies about MaryAnn MacGillivray?
      One "committee", soon to be green "commission" member did just that.

      The stupid public believed this.

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    4. I miss Mary Ann.

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    5. We lost MaryAnn, we got Harabedian. Probably the most radical decline in ability and ethics in this city's history.

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    6. MaryAnn would have saved the city.

      Voters are naive/stupid and/or evil.

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  7. I am disgusted with the lies Walsh, Harabedian and Moran continue to spread in order to maintain the Downtown Dirt Investment Club agenda. It is my opinion these puppets now on the council will continue to ruin Sierra Madre until their unethical abuse of the Brown Act is brought to the attention of our justice system.

    Neuroblast Films

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  8. Did you hear Walsh say "I am a County person, so I think 5%" for the staff raise?
    No wonder the County is imploding.

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    1. Good. Then Cha Cha your way out of Sierra Madre, Nancy.

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    2. Nancy is a stupid/evil person.
      She should be very happy, because idiots like her will bankrupt Sierra Madre and we'll be "wards" of the County of Los Angeles.
      Sierra Madre is finished.

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    3. If Walsh is a County person, she'll love the Sheriffs.

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  9. What a deceitful meeting that was. What a fraud.

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    1. Sly and sneaky. Just like the Mayor and City Manager.

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  10. Anybody notice the presence of John Buchanan at City Hall last night? I guess he was there to help orchestrate the Brown Act Choir.

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    1. Yes, yet another evil-doer.

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    2. The UUT3 were absolutely playing from Buchanan's book: the poor underpaid staff, the 'hard truths' those mature people had to decide for us idiots, the whole sanctimonious schtick he always did.

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    3. I agree, but in the hands of Moran it looked obvious and cooked up. We need to send a DVD of this meeting to the DA. It seems clear to me that there was a big Brown Act situation going on. One designed to get more taxes out of residents.

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    4. Be interesting if some of the more complicit commissioners were asked by the DA's office about how they arrived at their obviously coordinated appeals.

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    5. Tired Out in Sierra Madre sez:December 12, 2012 at 7:53 AM

      These political thugs don't care about the Brown Act, Buchanan never did, so why should they?
      The way the Brown Act is "enforced" is a sham in itself.
      You can scream all you want, but nothing will come of it.
      The individual councilpersons communicate through Elaine, and she correographs the dance.

      The only way to put a stop to this is through recalls and elections. No one cares until it hits people in the wallet.

      So maybe they should be trying to get 15%, then "duh" they will discover people are having to cut into their beer budget, and you will get the electorates' attention.

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  11. How could 61% of the voters reject the UUT extension yet John Harabedian got elected?

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    Replies
    1. Because voters are naive.

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    2. $19,000 in campaign spending may have had something to do with it.

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    3. Harabedian, when asked, said before the election while he was going door to door that he was in favor of raising the UUT "as high as I can" to support the safety of this town. I guess not many people asked him what his views were when they voted for him.

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  12. Why raise the UUT when the City is going to Bankrupt and wipe out all the debt. Who's going to pay for the damages caused by all the lawsuits? How many lawsuits is the City currently involved in? What are the costs? How many law firms work on behalf of the City? I heard rumor that the City Manager is being sued for ethical violations. Is that true?

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  13. Yes, it was deceitful. Did you notice that the surveys the commissions completed were basically wish lists? I don't believe there was a single question on it that asked where a commission could cut/scale back. When the city knows it will need to trim services, the better input from the commissions would have been to ask them the best places to cut back. Now, when cuts are made, everyone will be angry and gnashing their teeth.

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    1. When cuts are made? What cuts will be made?

      Cuts will not be made, and in fact, staff will get more money, there will be more consultants, and there will be bigger budgets for all departments.
      No cuts.

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    2. I'd say it should be put to a public vote which services should be cut and which should be saved. But then since our vote is disregarded by the Mayor and his pals it would probably be a waste of time.

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  14. It seems our lil city with UUT taxes more than the city of Bell, probably has more corruption going on than the city of Bell. Recalls are a good idea, how many fat hands can you fit into one cookie jar before they all get stuck?

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  15. The only reason commissions exist is to rubber stamp what council wanted in the first place although to the public these commissions and committees superficially appear to be neutral or independent "citizen advisory groups."

    It's all planned out in advance.

    Also have you ever noticed that this kind of thing happens right in the middle of the holiday season when few people are paying attention?

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    1. People are paying attention. The traffic on this post is very heavy.

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  16. The only service I've received from the city lately is a traffic ticket.

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  17. That's why August is usually the month for public "stealth hearings", but December works, too, if you don't mind paying extra to staff

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  18. Last night's meeting was an outrage. I am on a commission/board. We were told to assume that funding would be at current levels and to prioritize the needs of our entity. We were also told to prioritize any capital improvements that we would like to see completed IF THERE WERE FUNDS MADE AVAILABLE.

    We were not allowed access to any financial information.

    We were not allowed to suggest any cuts in spending.

    From the beginning, I believed the City was setting up all of the boards/commission in order to push for a higher tax either on utilities or starting a parcel tax.

    Sierra Madre has a SPENDING PROBLEM NOT A REVENUE PROBLEM.

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    Replies
    1. No, Sierra Madre has a revenue problem. Johhny Harabedian said so.

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  19. WE NEED A FORENSIC AUDIT!!!!!!
    WE NEED TO KNOW WHERE THIS MONEY IS REALLY GOING TO?
    IT'S HARD TO BELIEVE THAT THIS COMMUNITY HAS REACHED THE POINT WHERE THEY NEED A 12% UUT.
    I DON'T BELIEVE WHAT THE CITY IS TELLING US. IT'S JUST INCONCEIVABLE THAT THIS SMALL COMMUNITY NEEDS THE HIGHEST UUT IN CALIFORNIA.


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    1. Don't make me get the caps lock out.

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  20. Anyone who trusts the city's figures is smoking some very bad dope.

    When are we going to demand a recall of these bad people?

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  21. "We were not allowed to suggest any cuts in spending."
    Well that says it all, doesn't it?

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  22. Staff's compensation should be tied to two things. What they do(which is pretty much nothing) and their level of education (which is very little). All directors and managers should have advanced degrees and certificated/licenses in the area they are working. You shouldn't be promoted based on the fact you are breathing or nice. The City has a bunch of uneducated morons running the place.

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    1. The Director of Finance doesn't even have a CPA certificate. Why not?

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    2. I don't have a problem with staff that has a BS or BA degree. We don't need to pay the big buck$ for a Sierra Madre staffer to have advanced degrees. Especially if the taxpayers are footing the bill for that Masters degree.

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    3. Pay raises?????????????????? For what???????????????????

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    4. Ask what Inmann's degree is in.

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    5. paying more for advanced degrees simply gets you a more expensive and educated staffer, no guarantee more effective or efficient. Your a dept head with a several hundred thousand dollar budget and a list of services to provide - provide a higher range of services within budget and/or come in under budget and get a bonus. Can't do it, no bonus.

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  23. Harabedian has turned out to be such a disappointment - I can't wait to vote him out of office.

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    1. Harabedian suggesting the pay raises tells why he could not cut it in banking.
      He quit and became a lawyer.

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    2. With all of his tony over education Harabedian must not have ever had a class in classic economics. He has zero understanding of how money works. Yet another reason to never elect an attorney to city council.

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  24. Josh turned Commission heads into dogs and ponies. Quite a magic act.

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  25. Has anyone noticed the Council members who say we can't cut more are those who never had to make a business budget? Always raise the taxes, always!!

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    1. I dare Nancy, Josh, and or Harabedian to move to raise the UUT to 12% at the next Council meeting. If we need it so badly, why let's put it in motion and get that additional revenue coming in!

      Here's Josh's platform for his 2014 council run: "I don't know Bob Matheson, I want to raise taxes by 20% on folks that said no by a 61/39% margin, and I want to turn all the decisions regarding life in Sierra Madre over to the "experts" on the Green Committee.
      I think it's a winner!

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    2. Run with it, Josh, run with it!

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  26. It is time that Sierra Madre be run by people from Sierra Madre. If your first priority for getting a job here is a retirement package, then we don't want you. This is a town of less than 11,000 people. What exactly are we expected to afford?

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  27. We get the government we deserve.December 12, 2012 at 10:30 AM

    Non one is stealing. No one is lying.

    Nancy, John and Fat Slob Josh have decided, openly, that having our own police department is worth 53% of our $6.5 million general fund budget. They have also decided that instead of having the sheriff having our own police department is worth $1.5 million extra each and every year - that's $15 million over ten years for the math challenged.

    Our brave heros - Chris and John whom I like - have not asked for a competitive police services bid or made the case as to why one is necessary. Instead, they have focused on chicken feed by asking for a bid on city attorney services (which will save us precisely nothing).

    You, friends and neighbors, voted for this bunch. You are getting the tax hike you deserve.

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    Replies
    1. yep, it's all out in the open.

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    2. Are you running next time, 10:30 am?

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  28. Recall John Harabedian NOW.

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  29. Elaine did manage one thing. Her collaboration with Sandra Levin and the delivering of the Prop 218 Water Tax has been picked up by the County. Your failure to recognize the scam in the recent mailer where if you don''t respond your vote will be counted as a yes vote and a huge pile of money will masqurade as a "clean up the beaches" program which will not even come close to what that money will be used for. Elaine is the problem. The Council is a barier between the residents and herself. Are they planning a Prop 218 vote on the UT @12%? We are being screwed by Moran, Walsh & Harabidean.

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  30. Here is something that I have been thinking about. Making the safe assumption that John Buchanan was the driving force behind this, you have to wonder why he felt it had to be done. This is a dangerous political move on his part, and one that could finish the city council careers of Moran and Cha Cha. There must be something very large and expensive hidden away somewhere. And he needs to generate some money very quickly to deal with it before it explodes and takes a bunch of his crowd down with it. What could it be?

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    1. Follow the money.

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    2. Has anyone requested copies of the city's certified financial audits for the last few years?

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    3. Buchanan is rapidly becoming one of the least liked people in town and he revels in it

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    4. You're right 2:41. He has deluded himself into thinking that the animosity he has created is because he is making the "unpopular but ethical" decision.

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    5. John Buchanan is a lawyer for SoCal Edison.

      He is given all the free time out of the office to work as a marketing rep for SoCal Edision at the local level. SoCal Edision does this all over - hire political wannabes and unleash them onto an unsuspecting public

      Buchanan has done very little for the everyday person who lives in Sierra Madre but he goes out of his way to push for development and he's not above lying to us to accomplish his SoCal Edision agenda

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    6. 5:17 when Buchanan needs ethics he just steps outside to the sewer drain and scoops up an handful and dabbles it on like colonge

      Buchanan is unpopular because he lied to us and kept lying.

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  31. First, one wonders if Buchanan was texting messages to Josh during the meeting and second, it we make cuts to the commissions, why he may not get that Green Commission (oops, the Committments and Goals Commission) that he so desires.

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  32. Seriously, if I don't have enough money in my household budget, I do NOT go to my employer and demand more money. I find a way to make the income I have work. I cut expenses. Period. The City needs to do the same damn thing!

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    1. The City has one surefire solution for all of their fiscal problems. Ask the taxpayers for more.

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    2. "ASK" the tax payers for more?

      More like steal more from the taxpayers.

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    3. we need to hire a consultant on this matter

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    4. I volunteer. I mean, I'll do it for $30,000.

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    5. I'll do it for $29,000. Unless it's to head up the COG. Then I want $300,000.

      Signed,
      B.D.

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  33. Something happens to people once they get on the council. They think being elected means much more than it really does, and that being a council member in a little city is somehow being all-powerful. It's very weird.

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    1. Yeah, they also forget about who elected them and why they did, then start thinking that if they kiss all the right butts thay'll have a big political career in Sacramento. It is a disease.

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    2. Elected officials think it's their money. The hell it is.

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    3. IT IS THE ELECTED OFFICIAL MONIES UNTIL THE RESIDENTS TAKE THE MONEY AWAY FROM THEM...

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  34. SOUNDS LIKE THE RESIDENTS ARE PISSED OFF...

    WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT THE CONTINUED SPENDING & DEMAND THAT THE SIERRA MADRE RESIDENTS PAY MORE MONEY?

    awaiting a reply...

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  35. The money you have earned is your private property. The government taking it from you is theft.

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  36. The planning commission was told at its meeting with city manager that they would not be taking suggestions on cutting thevbudget at that time..... it would come back to them on 12 / 20 / 12. Iam sure that will be a !lively.meeting

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  37. Buchanan needs a fully staffed and functioning City Hall to help process all of that (oxymoron alert!) "green development" he wants for our downtown. That is what is at the heart of all of this. We clean out City Hall and Buchananoid development dies on the vine.

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  38. when I see John Buchanan in town and I think what a lying son of a biscuit

    I'm doing all I can do to not call him a ahole to his face

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  39. will John Buchanan PLEASE move out of town, please?

    he is nothing but a corporate dweeb just pushing an agenda that benefits his employer and has a smug arrogant demeanor and reeks of slime

    I used to like the guy before I got to know him and now I just cant stand him at all

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  40. you gotta give Josh credit. he said publically that he was going to use his position to benefit his friends and supporters and he's lived up to his word to being dishonest and be open about his dishonesty

    we've got three completely incompetent Councilmembers making fisical decisions and it is obvious that they are consorting with John Buchanan



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  41. Don't worry. Once the 12% UUT is in place it won't be enough, either.

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    1. You are absolutely right. It's like getting another credit card for a compulsive shopper.

      More money is not going to solve an addiction.

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  42. Harabedian wants to raise OUR taxes to give city hall a raise?

    you gotta be kidding me?

    what an idiot

    claims we have a "revenue" problem and instead of addressing spending like a rational person, these three clowns instead raise a utility tax?

    wow just how stupid are we?



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    1. We need to put an end to this "Harabedian is smart" canard. He is not.

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    2. I don't think anyone ever said he was smart, just well educated - as his actions demonstrate, there is a big difference.

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    3. there is a mindset that believe youth in politics is a good thing, they point out insignificant things like "energy" and "importance of young people being involved."

      everyone needs to be involved, but the only thing youth bring to the table is inexperience. taxes are not something the young have had a lot of experience with, not even a young accountant, except maybe paing 1/2 a cent up on their pokemon trading cards.

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    4. He probably has areas he is smart in. How to help a city in bad economic times is not one of them.

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  43. It was a dark day for Sierra Madre when Prom Committee wannabes started to infiltrate city government.

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    1. It was a darker day, when the "dark evil" Bart Doyle came to town and spread his disease.

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  44. Lets face it folks, the UUT rate is going to go up and the Council has the power to do it without our vote. But, it will also go down in 2015 if the voters don't approve getting rid of the sunset clause. The water rates are also going to go up. There is no way that the City can sustain their water department at the rates that are currently in force. It's also too late to tell them "MaryAnn told you so." They were so bent on going against MaryAnn's idea, they failed to see that her plan would have given us some cushion.



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    1. Yes it would have. Another reason the town is worse off because MacGillivray was not re-elected.

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