Thursday, December 13, 2012

UUT Rate Hike: Were the Commissions Set Up?

Anti Claus?
"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 / commissions 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." - reader comment left here yesterday morning

The message that I have been receiving from persons belonging to the various City Commissions whose heads spoke at Tuesday evening's City Council meeting is that they were indeed set up. Each of the Commissioners who spoke, along with those belonging to the various Commissions represented, were given very specific instruction by the City Manger and Staff about what exactly they were supposed to cover at Tuesday evening's meeting. And those instructions were to prioritize what they have now and then present a wish list to the City Council comprised of those things that they would like to see for any areas under their purview if there was adequate funding. Cost savings and cuts were strictly off limits.

According to those I have spoken to, in no way were any of those speaking from any of the City Commissions informed that they were presenting evidence that 3 members of the City Council would then immediately begin to use as a justification for raising Sierra Madre's Utility User Tax to 12%. A figure that the Pasadena Star News notes this morning (click here, scroll down to the end of the article) would be the highest in the State of California.

Here is exactly what the Commissioners were told to prepare for this meeting. The passage presented below was cut and pasted from the document prepared for Sierra Madre's Library Commission.

During Phase II the City Council has requested that the Commissions / Boards provide initial, preliminary input that the Council can take into consideration when they provide general policy direction regarding the preparation of the budget. This means that a Commissioner / Board Member will make a 5 to 10 minute presentation to the Council.

So that there is uniformity between the departments, the attached “Commissioners / Board Budget Plan” provides the format to frame the discussion and the presentation.

At this phase, each Commission/Board should assume that they will have the same operational resources (funding) as the current fiscal year. (Do not assume the same level of capital funding, or grant funding as the current fiscal year. At this phase, assume that there are no funds for capital items or capital projects – concentrate on “operational” expenditures.) This means that any “new” programs, projects will need to be prioritized with the current programs, projects, etc. So in essence, it may be necessary to “delete” or “remove” a current program, service, or project in order to prioritize a new program, service or project. At the end of the Commissioner / Board Budget Plan document, you will see that there is a place to list any capital projects or capital needs separately from operational needs.

At the end of this document specific instructions in the form of a series of questions were laid out. These instructions dealt very specifically with Tuesday evening's City Council meeting. And if you watched this meeting you will see that the representatives of each of the commissions speaking adhered closely to this list.

To help with the preparation for the upcoming budget discussions and goals for the upcoming year, staff has put together a budget plan framework. The plan includes a list of general goals and objectives for the upcoming biennial budget (FY 2013- 2014 & FY 2014-2015), as well as any specific tasks the Commission/Board would like to see accomplished during the two year period. This plan will facilitate budget discussions. Input regarding the Commission’s/Board’s departmental budget should be completed by November 30th, for presentation at the Council’s December 11th meeting.

1. What do you see as the primary challenges or issues that need to be addressed by the Library department during FY 2013-2014 & FY 2014-2015?
a. What goals and objectives would you like to see accomplished for FY 2013-2014 & FY 2014-2015?
b. What specific tasks would you like to see accomplished in FY 2013 to 2014)?
c. What specific tasks would you like to see accomplished in FY 2014 to 2015?

2. How would you describe or define success for the Library Department?

3. What do you see as the strengths of the current Library Department?

4. What do you believe are the most critical, department needs? (Please answer as applicable for your Commission/Board.)
a. For the overall population of the City? 
b. For youth in the City (pre-teens, and teens)? 
c. For the senior population in the City? 
d. For people who work in the City?

5. Please rank, in priority order, with the highest priority item listed first – the department’s current services, duties, responsibilities, projects.

6. Please re-rank, in priority order, with the highest priority item listed first – the Department’s proposed services, duties, responsibilities, projects; inserting new programs, projects, services. Please provide a ranking for each fiscal year. (Please remember that the Commission only has the current operational funding available to allocate to programs, services, projects, etc. This means, new programs/projects will “bump” current programs/projects off the ranking.)

7. Please rank, in priority order, with the highest priority item listed first – capital project, facility, capital expenditure needs.

8. Do you have anything else you would like to add (comments or questions)?

Again, these were instructions given to the commissions on what they were expected to present at Tuesday evening's meeting. They were in no way informed that immediately after their presentations Councilmember John Harabedian, along with Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Walsh and Mayor Josh Moran, were going to use what they had to say as a justification for a Utility Tax rate increase. Nor were they asked to present any information that could be used to reduce costs associated with their commission, or to refer to any relevant financial information that might suggest possible cost savings if implemented.

It is not right that people who volunteer their valuable time to work for this City should have been used as pawns in an effort to raise taxes. Particularly when the tax rate increase being pushed for comes on the heels of a Citywide vote where the residents of Sierra Madre voted overwhelmingly to oppose just that tax increase.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com 

47 comments:

  1. I don't know why any of us are surprised. For city staff and the UUT3 to engage in "budget" talks, of course means there would be no mention of cutting costs, of less spending. Those words may be in their vocabulary, but the actions that come with them are simply inconceivable.

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    1. The words weren't even in the instructions!

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    2. Seems pretty obvious to me that the whole thing was rigged to make it seem that there were substantial financial demands coming from the Commissions, and the UUT3 wanted to be perceived as both listening and generous. It was a cynical and dishonest ploy.

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  2. I got sucker punched by the word budget, because in my house, budget means reign in expenses.

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  3. The City's solution is never to live within its budget, rather just try and get more from the residents. Sad to think that a UUT rate that is already the highest in the state is not enough.

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  4. Elaine is just a professional carpetbagger. It must be time for a raise or year end bonus. When there is a major issue concerning Sierra Madre, which always brings with it an outcry, Elaine's name is connected to it. The Troll, the "J" behind or before her name, but always connected. Until we replace our City Manager, we will continued to be fleeced!

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    1. The city is a corporate entity that, by it's very nature,is always looking for revenue to expand and have it's books look good.
      Elaine, is of course, part of this. However, simply blaming this all on Elaine is looking at a small part of the problem, and can only be laid as the fault of the voters and who they elect..
      Your city council is where policy is made, and the majority directs Elaine. She takes orders from the majority.
      If you had a citizen friendly council, she would be directed to cut operating costs.
      You need to put pressure where it would be most effective, the people you voted in.
      Until you find people to vote for who are interested or motivated to not increasing fees and cutting overhead, enjoy what you have "bought".
      Merry Xmas.

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    2. I miss Mary Ann even more.

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  5. Elaine runs the show. The City Council only see what she wants them to see. She is the root of the problem. Our Council is not a full time position, it is the job of the City Manager to run the City. She made the request of the Commissions. There is a lot of back door dealing and Elaine is involved in every aspect of those dealings. It would be extremely foolish to think otherwise. Elaine is dangerous to the City and our welfare.

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    1. I'm no fan of Aguilar, but I agree with 9:11.
      The problems of the residents being ignored and fleeced started long before she showed up.

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    2. The City Manager serves at the will of the council. They can fire her today.

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    3. Aguilar answers to the people who really run this town. And that remains John Buchanan, bart Doyle, and the money that backs them up. She does what they tell her to. And right now her job is to get ther UUT up to 12%. The last thing her real bosses want is a City Hall without the staffing necessary to accommodate development. The kind the Green Committee wants. Pieces of the puzzle, and they all point back to the very same thing.

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    4. plus Elaine wrote and approved the misleading mailers that were sent out on the UUT designed and written with complete misinformation

      when an employee will lie to her employers - it's time for a change

      trouble is she'll sue the city and will walk away with a pension

      what will happen to all the pensions when the city goes bankrupt and we end up having to become a ward of the county or Arcadia or Pasadena?

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    5. Recently read a report from UCLA that said city managers are a plus up to 5 years on the job in one locale. Afterward the return drops rapidly, check how long she has been our town. Boot her along with karen s.
      Roll back everybodies salary and call for an audit.
      Then work hard to rid our town of the leadership of drinking buddy moran, the mean old lady nancy and comical jonny boy

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  6. Every once in a while the facade drops and we get a peek at the real power running this city. This is one of those times.

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  7. this reeks of underhanded borderline corruption and is a complete disregard of the voice of the people

    please, are we gonna let the likes of Josh Moran, Nancy Walsh and another mouthpiece lawyer dictate to us like this?

    we all know that Moran and Walsh conceded any original rational thought to whatever they have been told by John Buchanan when he was on the Council and I find it seriously a problem that Buchanan, a employee of SoCal Edision is still obviously involved with the UUT and pushing for development, which benefits his employer

    Buchanan is a snake. He uses his "lawyer" smirk and demeanor which is really a boring facade to his agenda as a SoCal Edision employee to get involved with local politics and protect the interests of SoCal Edison.

    Moran and Walsh aren't bright enough to do this on their own - Walsh is never prepared and Moran wants a chicken ordinance

    The UUT vote was a massacre and was a clear and decisive message and what does our three clowns on the council do?

    They decide they know better.

    Moe Larry and Curly.

    Buchanan is Shemp.

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  8. this city is being pounded by a few miscreants who are hellbent on adding a massive amount of condos downtown, disregarding Measure V and the UUT vote despite the vote results and flat out lying to us about what is going on and why.

    we are delusional as a city if we don't think when we elect a juvenile deliquent, a bitter snippy entitled starlet wannabee and a lawyer with subterranean ethics to the council

    none have any real experience to deal with these issues and I'm positive that these three have exposed the city to violations of the Brown Act

    it's just who is going to sue the city?

    wouldn't you love to hear Moran and Walsh in a depostion?

    I take the 5th...I take the 5th....I'll take you out.....

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    1. Josh, Nancy, they're just meat puppets. They don't do or say anything without Big Boy approval.

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  9. wow - neighbors "setting" up other neighbors

    what are we doing here people?

    it's time to tell Moran, Walsh and Harbedian to either listen here (ala batty Walsh) or get off the Council

    despite a 61% vote against the UUT rate hike, these jokers ignore the obvious like spending cuts and instead add more taxes

    it is no surprise that this Council majority (like the last one) and key city staff continue to mislead, lie and spread complete misinformation to the people of Sierra Madre and do it with a big smile of deceit

    but to have a Council and City Manager completely mislead volunteers and commissions with a staged survey to make an end run around the UUT vote and basically lie once again

    this is gone on way too long

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  10. In the City's thinking, having more money (revenue derived from taxing our money) makes their job easier. They don't have to sharpen their pencils and look for better ways to do things. Yes, if I had all the money I wanted, my house would be on the cover of House Beautiful. Unfortunately, I must work with what I've got. Why can't the city do this too? We don't need the theatrics of pulling hair and holding one's head in one's hands in mock despair (a la Buchanan). We need folks who understand economics and realize the tax wave coming down the road (in State and Federal taxes) in 2013 is going to be worse than anything we've ever seen. Let's prepare now. Time to tighten the city's belt.

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  11. Mama Moran must be real proud of her son

    he's protecting the realtors and those commissions regardless of how her neighbors think about the UUT

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  12. They think we're stupid and would fall for this.

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  13. Look, Josh, Nancy, and Harabedian do not understand basic economics. Do you recall during the discussion of the Green Committee, Koerber asked Nancy where all this grant money that she just knows we will receive if we have a Green Commission was going to come from and her reply was that it was "pass through" money. The Feds send it to the State and the State "passes it through" via grants, etc. to the local cities. She has no concept that the money originates from our TAX DOLLARS. Harabedian and Josh just want to make the folks happy with all the services the city provides because then they will be liked and people will vote for them. Harabedian is proving that he is over educated but not very smart. Josh is very needy in that he wants so very badly for people to like him. We need an intervention here in the form of Economics 101. I recommend Milton Freidman's "Free to Choose" and Thomas Sowell's "Basic Economics".

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  14. According to the staff report the City will have a $288,000 deficit for 2013-2014. (Probably higher because those are Karen's numbers.) The discussion the commissions and councils should had was were are the cuts going to be?

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  15. Insurance, PEERS, and workman's comp equal an employee's pay. The 3.5% proposed raise really equals a 7% hit to the General Fund.

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  16. The best way to stop SB375 "stack and pack" development in Sierra Madre? Shut down their development planning operation at city hall. Kill the UUT in 2014. It's like a vampire. One death was not enough.

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    1. "Kill the UUT in 2014. It's like a vampire. One death was not enough."

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  17. The City should not subsidize any group or program. Little League/Girl's Softball/ Pony League receives the largest subsidy.

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    1. it's enough that the city takes care of the fields but the groups make some serious money and the city doesn't need to subsidize these programs





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  18. What do we actually need?

    Bond payments, thank you Bart
    Water
    Public works repairs
    Some kind of police/sherriff
    Paramedics
    Fire fighters

    Anything else? Remember, the word is "need," not want.

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    1. You list is my list. Everything else is fluff.

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    2. Development Services is what Bart and John care about. And on my list THAT would be the 1st to go.

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    3. Senior services would be first to go for me. It only serves about 40 people.

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    4. 11:23, I'm with you.

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    5. The city needs to get out of the development business and out of the entertainment business.

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    6. Anyone who relies on City Staff for entertainment is a sad soul indeed.

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  19. http://mcphee.com/shop/foie-gras-bubble-gum.html

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    1. Kind of like those cans of unicorn meat you can find on Google.

      "Rich in Sparkles!"

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  20. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Sorry dude, but I am getting complaints.

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  21. Tattler, you hit the nail on the head. The list for my Commission contained lots of cost cutting ideas instead of spending ideas. Even the "wish list" was frugal. But Elaine said we didn't have to consider costs, only operational needs for our particular area to keep the programs we have.

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  22. "Kill the UUT in 2014. It's like a vampire. One death was not enough."

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  23. We are so fortunate to have the Tattler, unfortunately it is just a blog. Seeing as we have a "City Council" why not a "Citizens Council" perhaps we can organize some of these very important points of view, all these very lively, witty and extremely bright posters and make a difference in a lot of aspects in our town. With the common goal of not going the way of Orwell's Animal Farm.... I'll bring the main dish for the first meeting, someone has to help with the sides though.

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  24. Just get rid of the idiotic Mayor and his ego and Nancy and her .....gawd, there is nothing to describe her lack of brains and common sense. Shameful.

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    1. OK. Buchanan's proteges go, but then who will the Downtown Investment Club try to push on us next, to keep their boy Harabedian company?

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    2. Casper the Friendly Goss has to be on their list. And Count Buchanula looks restless and ready to rise again from his 5 corner box. Josh will run again. He is too full of himself to know any better. I suspect once she is Mayor Queen Walsh will step aside and return to browbeating seniors.

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  25. Buchanan must be utterly worthless to SoCal Edision as an actual employeee working a 40 hr week at the office as a Human Resources lawyer fighting workman comp claims and filing paperwork

    but he has value to SoCal Edision as a marketing rep working within a city government and pushing development which benefits the company

    apparently SoCal Edision smiles upon it's employees who lie to the public like Buchanan did to us and still works to dismantle citizen intiatives because it's contray to the interests of SoCal Edision

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