Saturday, January 19, 2013

City Hall Prepares To Raise Water Rates Again

Bang!
Coming up in just about a month the folks we pay to run this City will once again be holding something called the Annual State of the City Address. This celebration of itself began under the auspices of then Mayor Joe Mosca, who at that time was looking for a way to make some of his questionable governmental initiatives and decisions more palatable. Initiatives that included a very unpopular water rate increase. That his address ended up being little more than a party for himself was hardly a surprise. Most everything Joe did was pretty much that and, as you may recall, there were lots and lots of colorful balloons to help set the stage.

In what is now threatening to become something of a municipal tradition, one apparently deemed necessary by the powers that be as this City's government continues in its struggle to make much sense of itself, the 3rd "State of the City" installment is coming up in just about a month. Here is how a recent press release about this event reads:

On Tuesday, February 19, 2013 from 6:30 – 7:30 pm the City of Sierra Madre will host its 3rd Annual State of the City Address at the Community Recreation Center in the Sierra Madre Room at 611 East Sierra Madre Boulevard. This year’s theme is “Finding the Right Balance” and this event will highlight programs and services the City has provided over the past year and give residents insight to the City’s goals for the next fiscal year.

It shouldn't be too big of a surprise to the relatively small community of people in town who pay attention to our city's somewhat odd government that this theme, "Finding the Right Balance," is predicated on what is looking to be Sierra Madre's first ever tandem UUT, water and sewer rate increases in its more than 100 year history. Which really is quite a spectacle if you think about it. With the "right balance" appearing to be, at least in the minds of some of those running this place, just how much money they can ask for and still get away with it. As far as I can tell there are no natural limits to what they feel they're entitled to receive.

It was little more than a month ago that Mayor Josh Moran, Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Walsh and City Councilmember John Harabedian loudly proclaimed their burning desire to raise our city's utility (UUT) rates to 12%. Done despite a City-wide vote last April where more than 60% of those who cast ballots expressed their opposition to just that very thing. 12%, as you are likely aware, would be by far the highest municipal utility tax rate in the entire State of California. If you click here you will be taken to a California city by city UUT rate chart that doesn't even go that high. Making the UUT3's proposed 12% utility tax rate literally "off the chart."

Now, to go along with this proposed UUT increase, the City is about to launch a campaign to raise water and sewer rates as well. You may recall that the last water rate increase in Sierra Madre, which went into effect on January 11, 2011, was met with considerable rate payer disapproval. It was strongly resisted with a strong Proposition 218 revolt, one that ended with the disgraceful spectacle of city employees literally shredding water rate protest ballots in Council Chambers. Done under the purview of our City Attorney and City Manager in hopes of holding off what had become a full blown civic rebellion. It clearly was one of the ugliest examples of government abuse in our town's history.

And now, just barely more than two years after the last water rate increases went into effect, the City of Sierra Madre is back at it again, and priming itself to ask for more. This from the relevant Staff Report, specially prepared for Tuesday evening's City Council meeting:

As discussed earlier this evening (?), water revenue has not kept pace with water expenses under the recently adopted rate schedule. Staff is seeking direction from the City Council as to: 1.) Whether or not staff should initiate the rate study process by issuance of a professional services Request for Proposal for preparation of the Study, and 2.) If so, what specific provisions should the required Scope of Services include.

As those of you who understand City Staff-speak know, what Elaine Aguilar and Bruce Inman are asking here is for the City Council to fund the hiring of a consultant who will, for a substantial fee, build the case for raising our water rates again. Something that I am certain Moran, Walsh and Harabedian will fall all over themselves to do. After all, if they are willing to raise UUT rates to a state-wide record setting 12%, why would they want to end there? And just because Moran and Walsh didn't get the water rate increases right two years ago is no reason for them to want to stop the madness now.

So who is at fault in the City's failure to "find the right balance" with their January 2011 water rate increases? Apparently that culprit is, as always, you the water consumer. Again from the Staff Report:

As the City has experienced in both the Utility User Tax collection and Franchise Fee collections, residents have been conserving and on average, utility costs overall have been decreasing consistently with the downturn in the economy. Two years ago when the revenue downslide began, it was assumed to be temporary and perhaps more related to seasonal water usage rather than being recognized as an ongoing trend. 

In other words, it's all your doing. By reducing your water consumption, you the consumer have caused City Staff's revenue projections to come up short. Which means that now you must have your water rates raised again. This in a city that Bruce Inman so famously proclaimed a few months back will run out of water "within the year." You answered the call, reduced water consumption during the ongoing crises, and your reward is to have to pay even more.

You really have to wonder if these people ever get tired of hearing themselves talk such nonsense. Can it be that they have become so delusional that they actually believe they are making sense?

There is also this matter. As you may recall, then Mayor Joe Mosca, when attempting to raise water rates the last time, neglected to share the most prominent reason for doing so. That being to keep up with the financial requirements of certain water bond covenants established during the free spending Bart Doyle era. Joe, with the assistance of City Staff, instead falsely claimed that the reason for increasing water rates was to upgrade such at risk water infrastructure as the city's aging water mains. This was, of course, a damnable lie, one they were forced to rescind once the residents figured it out and went ballistic.

There is no mention of any water bond covenants in this City Staff report. Given City Hall's previous prevarications on the topic, can we be certain that these bond covenants are not playing a role this time as well? And if so, why was that not included in this Agenda Report?

So once again, here is my question. Has there ever been a City Council that attempted to raise water rates, sewer rates and utility rates all at the same time? Can this be what "finding the right balance" is really all about? Tandem rate hikes? To me this seems like quite a singular event. To use the more acceptable cliche' - a "perfect storm" of panic driven rate increases.

You really do have to wonder if they're ever going to stop.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

62 comments:

  1. I think the fact that the evil CRA was done away with has a direct connection to his "water rate" hike fest.

    These development wonks have to get cash somewhere, if not from all the Cal. taxpayers, from the Sierra Madre taxpayers and everyone who uses water for that matter.

    Shame on these bums!

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    Replies
    1. Maybe the City is raising everything to create a little fund to help out their DIC pals? After all, isn't it all about them?

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    2. Yes!
      We've all heard of "Friends of the Library" fundraisers?
      Let's have a "FRIENDS OF THE DIRTS" fundraiser.
      After all, these ex-mayors and realtors, politicians, stupid old gadabouts deserve to get their gambling loses back. Don't they? LOL

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    3. I doubt if the dirts have too many "friends" on the Tattler!

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    4. The dirts have behaved poorly in the past.

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    5. They (the dirts) hate the Tattler, because they have all been exposed for what they really are here.
      We know who you all are.
      This is a well known fact!

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    6. I think it depresses them that so many people read it and there is nothing they can do to change that. Try as they might.

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  2. How many lattes' does it take to raise all the rates all at once?

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  3. One of the well known realtors in town told us a few years ago that if California does away with the CRA, development in Sierra Madre will be for the most part, finished.
    Downtown investors......you will not get your bad gamble on the DSP back anytime soon, if ever, doesn't matter who you put on the City Council.

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  4. I think the City's process on this is once they get done raising rates, then they start their planning to raise them again. The two to three year cycle must seem about right to them.

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    1. These people are shameless, they don't give a damn about what the residents want. It's all about $$$$$, their $$$$$$. No matter what they tell us, that's what it's about.

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  5. We just need to get the facts out. If some one is for raising the UUT then they work for the government, builders or are believing the lies. If your not staying up on politics you have no way of knowing that your good friends are misinformed or selling you a bill of goods. This is not about the truth, this is about raising more money from the innocent, uninformed tax payer. We defeated this before and we will defeat this again. Of course it is going take time and money to over come all of our tax money fighting us for more of our money. The truth shall prevail.

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    1. If we stand behind Chris Koerber and John Cappoccia and stop electing these dirts to the city council.....we can stop this theft.

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    2. Unfortunately, the voters in Sierra Madre are getting what they voted for.....Cappoccia and Koerber needed MaryAnn MacGillivray to be re-elected. What happened?
      The dumb voters voted for the phony, John Haribedian. MISTAKE.
      When you stop voting for these pro-development, pro-big central government wonks, you will get honest government and fairness in Sierra Madre.

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    3. But little Johnny grew up in Sierra Madre!

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    4. John Harabedian has turned out to be an almost exact replica of Joe Mosca. A double talking lawyer with an LA County agenda.

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    5. When Harabedian was out campaigning when asked about the UUT measure told people outright that he believed the rates should go up, and not only that, if the measure didn't pass, he would raise the rate to 12% asap. True story.

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    6. So did Broadrick and Goose. Or at least they did at first before catching an earful from the residents. Didn't help them. My guess is while Harabedian might have said this initially, he clammed up about it much more quickly than those other two.

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  6. since when does a report on the financial well being of the city need a theme? why not just be honest and call it the annual smoke and mirrors speech?

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    1. Why tell the truth when you can have a circus?

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    2. Will they serve bread to go along with the circus, Nero?

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    3. A COG buffet.

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  7. Stop spending on consultants, dump the police and go with LASD, Money problem solved!

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    1. Somehow City Hall believes hiring consultants is "doing something."

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    2. Amen, 8:26.
      And while we're economizing on sacred cows, keep the library, but downsize:
      http://www.npr.org/2013/01/15/169412670/a-new-chapter-a-launch-of-the-bookless-library

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    3. Sometimes I think our library is more about nostalgia than anything else.

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  8. The State of the City was a performance piece for Joe Mosca, no doubt created by some political consultant, as an additional way of maximizing his face time. It is not needed - an eblast or inclusion in the Wisteria Vine will convey the information adequately for those who pay attention. Otherwise we are paying again for excessive staff time, and more food for the party. Tight belts mean no party food.

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    Replies
    1. The City types want everyone to know that just because they keep raising taxes and rates doesn't mean they aren't fun.

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    2. Please remember that Josh Moran will be giving the address this year. Fun has nothing to do with it.

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    3. Actually the food at the State of the City is donated. That just means that the City staff is out shaking down local merchants for donations. Food still costs somebody.

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    4. No such thing as a free lunch. This is very true.

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    5. Maybe we can have a Buxton Buffet!

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  9. So when is the City going to tell us that the state rejected their claim and the $30,000 for the Buxton consumer study whatever is going to have to be paid out of the General Fund?

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    1. WTF???? What is the BUXTON comsumer study and whose idea was this?

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    2. It was the brainfart of then Mayor Buchanan. Buxton did a study to determine exactly what products Sierra Madre residents buy. The objective was to help downtown businesses get their product mix right. $30,000 flushed down the sewer.

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    3. How dumb was that?
      They could have asked anyone in Kersting court or asked questions of shoppers on the sidewalks and got a good answer for FREE.
      Or, they could have asked Crawford to put up a questionaire on the Tattler......they would have gotten good information.
      Buchanan is an fool, but a destructive one. Good riddence to Buchanan.

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    4. Buchanan thought that he could get it paid out of CRA funds. Sacramento had a big laugh over that one. Dig deep, Sierra Madre!

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    5. Buxton doesn't wait for years to be paid. Their bill has been covered - out of CRA funds. What's at stake is reimbursing the CRA for the $30,000 and that's what will come out of the General Fund.

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    6. It's becoming very obvious, that cities should be run by fiscal conservatives. The big government spend what you don't have system doesn't work.
      Guys like Buchanan, Doyle, Mosca et all, have hurt this town...they have made one mistake after another, either planned (by big central government in Sacramento) or just because they are stupid. Whatever...it doesn't work, and it never will work.
      You can't over tax people and grow a healthy economy. This should be obvious. We are still in deep debt in California. The inept state legislature may "kick the can down the road" but the debt will remain and increase. We are losing business and population.
      Sierra Madre better get back to basic, sound and honest accounting or we will suffer the consequences.

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    7. Actually, Mayor Pro tem Nancy Walsh takes credit for this Buxton study. She heard about it at a League of Cities convention and came back all excited and insisted we spend our CRA monies on this.
      Good idea Nancy - spend that "pass through" money.

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    8. Maybe she should take a loan out on her house to pay for it.

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    9. Like a reverse mortgage?

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    10. If she keeps spending taxpayer money so foolishly, we all will have to take out a loan on our house to pay for it.

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    11. Nancy got shuffled at a League of California convention, and we end up paying $30,000? Damn. Even my most mentally challenged relatives aren't quite that stupid.

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  10. This is why the middle school in Sierra Madre will never be built. On the front page of Saturday's PSN there is an article about the decline of childbirths in the area. No kids, no need for a school. Can we ask for our TT money back?

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  11. Is Edison sponsoring this State of the City Address? They helped finance the previous ones.

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  12. There is a State requirement that inorder to raise utility rates, a study must be conducted to determine if the raise is actually necessary, or does the utility company just want to make a profit. It doesn't seem that things have changed so much from our last water rate study, so why not go for a "update" instead of paying for a full study?

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    1. A consultant is as much an analyst as a sales tool. A study like this would be taken by the more poorly informed as proof that the water rate increase must take place. And the City really doesn't have much choice, especially given that not very many people are going to believe anything Moran or the City Manager says these days.

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  13. As long as good citizens continue to elect swindlers and confidence men and women into public office ,you can expect nothing more than a barrage of shakedowns,extortion,fraud and graft!

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    1. "barrage of shakedowns extortion, fraud and graft"

      You must live in Sierra Madre!

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  14. you can't trust women

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    1. OK, Lonesome.

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    2. Can't trust women - or men. Quite a pickle.

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    3. That explains all the dogs in Sierra Madre.

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  15. No Hail Hamilton in the Looney Views News this week. I wasn't sure if Susan was capable of embarrassment.

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    1. Between the two of them, I vote for Hail thinking he has a sense of ethics. Maybe he finally realized who Sue was.

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    2. Hail's plagiarism so rises above the usual standards at Susan's paper.

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    3. 5:42 no way - Hamilton's is a blooming idiot and the town nutty dude spouting conspiracy theories and rants based in fiction. If he has more ethics that Susan Henderson, it's not much more but he hasn't ripped off people like Henderson has.

      Hamilton probably thinks the stint on the paper will look good on his resume' and loves the attention of the five people in town who actually reads his printed tirades.

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  16. leave it to Joe Mosca to create another event where it was all about him - that was all he was good for, promoting himself and his snippy partner

    Mosca's "state of the city" was a bunch of BS lies and half truths so what are we gonna get out of the party boi? Moran will start the drinking game that every time somebody says "Sierra Madre" during the meeting, every body has to take a shot of tequila.

    It is alot nicer here in town since Joe Mosca and Matt Bossypants moved out

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  17. On the good news side, Nick Conway's prelimnary hearing commences on Jan 29th, 2013 in the courthouse at 210 Temple Street, in LA. Court is in Division 30, at 8:30 AM on the fifth floor. If you have nothing to do, it might be fun to watch.

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  18. with talks about raising water rates, the city rationale and why it has to happen, I start with the known premise with the current city manager, public works and the council majority that they we are having to sort through lies, misinformation, favors and hidden agendas - lying to us is a common thread with our city manager and a few councilmembers, past and present

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