Not everyone I spoke with last night agreed, but to me the big issue was wrapped tightly around the sales pitch delivered by John Harabedian pushing an RFP for his Public Safety Master Plan. An earnest chat designed to create the public will necessary to spend upwards of $50,000 on a consultant for a study on whether our Police Department is worth the money we pay them. Or, to put it tabloid-speak, spend a ton of dough to get some paper together that'll make the cops look good. Which is probably the only way it will ever happen.
This happened, of course, exactly one City Council meeting after 3 City Councilmembers (UUT3) recommended that our utility taxes be raised to 12%, by far the highest in California. A dubious distinction and something opposed by over 60% of the voters during last April's election.
After a whole lot of back and forth between various Councilmembers, it was finally decided by the UUT3 (Moran, Johnny and Ms. Walsh) that this RFP for a Public Safety Master Plan could be boiled down to just a consultant borne survey of the residents in Sierra Madre. One that would question them about their feelings for the SMPD, with the gamble being that most people would feel a love pulse for our brave men and women in blue when taking the survey.
A result that would then be brought up repeatedly in 2014 when a new Utility User Tax (UUT) Measure goes on the ballot. Despite the voters having overwhelmingly rejected an extension of the UUT last April, Moran, Johnny and Ms. Walsh decided that the vote was not a legitimate one, and that they are entitled to a do-over. With the issue this time being the survival of Sierra Madre's Police Department. Because, and let's face it, unless the UUT does get extended, the chances of this City retaining our public safety arrangements in their current form is not a guarantee. All of which makes for a classic case of political hostage taking.
As an aside, here is something to ponder. Has Councilmember Harabedian ever had to pay for anything himself? The guy is now in his thirties and still living in the home of his parents. Since John has never owned a house, made a mortgage payment, paid property or parcel taxes, or purchased much of anything in his entire rather privileged life, how can it be considered appropriate for him to decide whether we, who do live in the big boy and girl world, should have to pay more taxes?
Another unfortunate moment at the meeting revealed itself last evening right about the time Elaine Aguilar made her rather lengthy speech about why City Staff is no longer capable of attending resident Committee and Commission meetings as much as they used to. Her reasoning being that with recent cutbacks a work load that includes having to attend all of these commission/committee meetings had become too arduous to even contemplate any longer. This coming from a facility where the employees work only 4 days every other week.
Since nobody on the City Council wanted to entertain the radical notion that Sierra Madre resident volunteers might be capable of holding commission and committee meetings without City Staff on hand, the discussion naturally went towards either reducing the amount of these organizations, or combining some of them together into single units. The assumption being that their responsibilities are similar enough to do so.
One grim aspect of this scheme that seemed especially sneaky was the notion that the Tree Commission and the Green Committee could be combined. What preserving trees versus using them to build transit village condos have in common is beyond me, but perhaps logic wasn't the point in this case. This would allow the stack/pack/rack development loving Green Committee to assume the Commission status of the tree people. A kind of hostile takeover, except most of the victims probably wouldn't notice.
This would also help to avoid a public debate on the downtown development agenda contained in what was formerly known as the Green Committee Accords. A name they had to abandon after the development agenda hidden within it became known to the public.
But perhaps there is a bright side to all of this. Without having all of those meetings to go to, City Staff won't have as much work to do. Which means we likely won't need quite so many of them. As anyone who has worked in the corporate world can tell you, the day you start giving up responsibilities is the day you start getting shoved out the door.
The Rain Tax came up, and apparently the City Council concluded that they had already pushed for enough tax increases already, and instead chose to protest this new parcel tax to the County of Los Angeles. Which is fortunate. If you have not mailed in your protest to the County and are a property owner not keen on having to pay a new parcel tax designed to fund yet one more useless County bureaucracy, you can find the necessary paperwork by clicking here.
Most of what you will see there has to do with some deceptive greenwash that calls itself the "Clean Water, Clean Beaches Measure." You'll need to pass by all of that to get to the actual protest form. It can be found on the bottom quarter of the third page. Mail in your protest today.