Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Timothy Rutt: Clean Water, Clean Beaches -- who wants to know?

(Mod: Some of you are familiar with Mr. Timothy Rutt AKA the Sage of Altadena. Timothy runs the proudly independent Altadenablog, which is an institution in his town. In 2011 it was chosen as a Business of the Year there, and the fact that he knows how to run a blog like a business is in itself kind of amazing. At least to me. Yesterday Timothy posted an article on his site called "Clean Water, Clean Beaches --- who wants to know?" that I thought offered some interesting insights into the so-called Rain Tax. I asked him if I could repost it here and he generously consented. You can also read this article in its original setting by clicking here.) 

They must be pretty desperate out there.  Something happened to us that we thought we’d share:

Sunday afternoon, we got a call from a polling firm.  The nice woman on the phone said she was calling from Nevada, and wanted to ask us some questions about current issues, and we said sure.  It turned out to be more interesting than we expected.

After confirming our identity and that we were a property owner, she began asking her questions, all which which revolved around the Clean Water, Clean Beaches parcel tax idea that is up for a hearing with the County Board of Supervisors.  We sat through the poll and answered the questions honestly (transparency: we’re absolutely against the tax), and it was rather disturbing.

We asked: who’s behind this survey?  Who’s paying for it? The pollster did not know.

Here’s one thing that disturbed us:  if you’ve received the designed-to-be-thrown-away notice, you’ll note that it has the exact dollar amount your particular property will be assessed if this measure is passed.  The proposed fee is $54 per 5,000 square foot lot -- we have a larger lot, so our assessment is greater.  The nice lady who was polling used our exact assessment amount when asking questions.  What this says to us that  somebody official participated in this poll -- like a government body with access to property records who could come up with our exact assessment.

How much of a follower are you?

We were probably three-quarters of the way through it when we decided to sit down and start taking notes.  She gave some unattributed quotes in support of the measure, and asked if this would make us more likely or less likely to vote for it.  Then she gave some unattributed quotes opposing the measure, including the following:

“Property owners, schools and businesses already pay flood control taxes and now they are being asked to fork over more money at a time when families are struggling, schools are hurting and businesses are fleeing the state.”

We recognized this as coming from a Dec. 5 press release opposing the measure from Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich (click here).

Toward the end of the call, she gave a list of people and organizations: if they supported the measure, would we be more likely to?  The list as we transcribed it, with comments:

- LA County Flood Control District
- Tree People
- Julia Louis Dreyfus, actress and Heal the Bay board member
- LA County League of Conservation Voters
- Thousands of police officers and sheriff deputies of LA county
- The LA Area Chamber of Commerce
- Thousands of nurses in Los Angeles county
- Your mayor
- Los Angeles County Public Works Department,
- UCLA School of Public Health Professor and former Public Health Officer of the California
- Department of Health Services Dr. Richard Jackson.
- US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis
- The Construction Industry Coalition of Water Quality
- LA Water Keeper
- Biologists who specialize in water quality and environmental research from USC and UCLA
- Your county supervisor
- Thousands of registered nurses in LA county [as opposed to thousands of nurses, period]
- Amigos de los Rios
- LA County Sheriff Lee Baca
- Los Angeles Times
- Sierra Club
- Coalition of aquarium scientists from the Aquarium of the Pacific, Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, Monterrey Bay Aquarium, and Scripps Institute.
- The LA County Department of Public Health
- Hundreds of beach lifeguards in LA County

Because if Julia Louis Dreyfus is behind it, by George, so are we!

The pollster also asked if we were more or less likely to support the measure if the school district opposed it.  You see, if the measure passes, school districts would be required to pay the fee on their property -- thus taking the money out of the classroom and our children’s education, and putting it in the hands of water bureaucrats.  Since the school districts are just swimming in money right now (cough), this sounds like a good thing ... to somebody. Not to us.

Our major problem with this proposal is twofold: one, we are already a high tax state where business and young people are fleeing for greener pastures, and we can’t see any justification for any new tax right now.

Two, there are no specific projects attached to this parcel tax -- just vague ideas. But what it WILL create is a big pot of money that will go to support the salaries and pensions of an entirely new water bureaucracy that will rain money and favors on consultants and local politicians as necessary. We all want clean water and beaches -- we want a robot and a jet pack, too, while we're at it -- but it would be nice to know exactly how they plan on turning this new, endless tax into clean water.

As property owners, we’re still paying for, among other things, PUSD’s Measure Y and TT funds that were stolen, lost, or mismanaged and will never be seen again.  Hard to get enthusiastic when another government body says “Trust us.”

But if somebody’s paying a polling firm to take the civic temperature on this measure, there must be a lot at stake. Who's paying for this? And where is the money for the poll coming from?

Meanwhile, Back in Sierra Madre ...

Last August we exposed Mountain Views News columnist Hail Hamilton for a pretty egregious act of unaccredited misappropriation. Which is the polite term for the incivility known as plagiarism. We informed the purported owner of that paper, H. Susan Henderson, but nothing much was ever done about it. I personally was not surprised. You can access the article we posted explaining it all by clicking here.

In this weekend's issue of the Mountain Views News we discovered yet another article that Hail Hamilton misappropriated. Hail called the piece he claimed as his own "PPACA: A Big Step in the Right Direction." However, after a Google search we rather easily determined that a portion of it was taken without accreditation from an article written by a Randy Durbin titled, "Health Reform: A Impetus for Better Public Health Surveillance of Medicaid Populations." Here is a passage from Dr. Durbin's October 2012 article (click here):

The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is aimed primarily at decreasing the number of uninsured Americans and reducing the growth of health care costs. It provides a number of mechanisms—including mandates, subsidies and tax credits—to employers and individuals in order to increase the coverage rate.  Additional reforms are aimed at improving health care outcomes and streamlining the delivery of health care. We are left to wonder if increased coverage will yield more data that are useful for tracking outcomes, especially in the context of public health surveillance. Will leveraging those claims data be a meaningful way to augment traditional survey-based public health surveillance activities?

Here is how much of that passage reads in Hail Hamilton's January 12, 2013 column (click here):

PPACA is aimed primarily at decreasing the number of uninsured Americans and reducing the overall costs of healthcare. It provides a number of mechanisms -- including mandates, subsidies, and tax credits -- to employers and individuals in order to increase the coverage rate. Additional reforms are aimed at improving healthcare outcomes and streamlining the delivery of health care.  

Since Ms. Henderson rather proudly proclaims herself to be an advocate for local education, and runs unexpurgated publicity releases from the Pasadena Unified School District almost weekly as proof of that devotion, perhaps she would like to reflect upon how plagiarism of the kind revealed in her paper is not exactly the best example for youth? Particularly when she has been informed of it before and chose to do nothing?

Oh, and if you see Hail Hamilton around town, be sure to compliment him on the article cited above. And make a point of asking him who wrote it.

Bonus Coverage: Pasadena Star News "Edison broke rules in response to 2011 windstorm" (click here). Yes, we're all shocked.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

76 comments:

  1. The Rage of Sierra MadreJanuary 15, 2013 at 6:42 AM

    PUSD is the largest land owner in Pasadena.

    Their refusal to provide the services that they had agreed to in settlement and to protect my children from a particularly vicious group of people has cost me tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

    PUSD is currently in a transition phase in which they will stand to benefit to the tune of millions of dollars, while the folly of mismanaging hundreds of millions of dollars of tax money that was stolen from me in taxes was again stolen from me in their failure to provide the facilities the money was intended for.

    You could say I was robbed four times, three of them by PUSD, and the fourth time will come in their partnership with the City of Pasadena.

    PUSD can afford the tax. That's not my problem with this tax. My problem with the tax is that I have a problem with being taxed to support the most affluent areas in California- those along the coast- while the same builders and weasels that own our town are doing more damage to the wetlands and beaches with overdevelopment than anyone. If the cities want to support that, let them absorb the lawsuits.

    Some of the cities turned suit on inland cities to recover cleaning fees and damage. It was apparently unsuccessful, hence the current approach. They send their solid waste inland and the impact is, apparently, OK, since it isn't directly affecting the ocean (but indirectly still affects the water) but God help us when they have to clean up messes that come from inland when it rains. T/S.

    I get stuff all the time from companies who want me to take out a loan or refinance my house. All of that information- and the information this "unknown" polling group made- public records. They must have spent a good deal of money buying the information from someone. I always wonder who the company is that collected it all and then sold it to the people like the ones that called Mr. Rutt.

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    1. You're right oh noble Rage. PUSD has tons of money to waste. And I don't agree to paying more taxes for anybody.

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  2. I am totally against clean water.

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    1. So I guess you're for the Rain Tax?

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  3. Susan Henderson has something in common with the vast majority of Sierra Madre residents. She doesn't read her paper either.

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    1. She's too busy. Cons never really rest you know - they always have to keep an eye open for the next mark.

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    2. Plagiarism is a very serious offense in higher education, and can be grounds for immediate dismissal.
      Henderson and Hamilton had better take clear action.

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    3. Susan doesn't care. She just needs to fill empty space in her rag so the checks from the city keep rolling in.

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    4. who gives a flying rat turd what HH has to say, he's nobody and an expert in nothing, so he plagiarizes, that's hendersons problem, I don't read that pos anyways.

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    5. 9:16, given the paucity of your vocabulary, I'm surprised that you read anything at all.

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  4. "...there are no specific projects attached to this parcel tax -- just vague ideas. But what it WILL create is a big pot of money that will go to support the salaries and pensions of an entirely new water bureaucracy that will rain money and favors on consultants and local politicians as necessary."
    Would be nice to hear Julia Louis Dreyfus respond to that.

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    1. That same vagueness was one of the chief characteristics of the Green Committee in Sierra Madre. Lots of very high flying philosophical ideas, and not a single practical application.

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    2. They left the practical application up to their friends in the development community.

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    3. The County wants $235 million with no strings attached. Like everything else they do. Our money with no accountability to the taxpayers whatsoever.

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    4. This what we deserve, when you have a one party state. I have started to call them Crooko-crats.
      They really have nothing to keep their excesses in check. Of course, it's entirely a situation of our own making. We vote for the best looking touchedup photo personalities.
      I say who the "h..." are these grifters?

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  5. What do you want to bet that we, the tax paying citizens, paid for the poll?

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    1. Not only the poll, but if the utilities are assessed fines and penalities for the windstorm...where do you think the money will come from? Rate payers.

      zing zing

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  6. Well the simple answer to your question as to who is paying for the pollster....it's us! No doubt the Los Angeles Public Works Dept, the folks behind this oppressive tax, are scrambling and looking for a way to gain support for the proposal.
    The biggest backlash has been from school districts and I understand that there are behinds the scenes negotiations going on to reverse that opposition.

    Here is a hint on the proposed scam.....the law requires that every property owner be "assessed" the new fee (if it passes) however there is nothing in the law which says the fee has to be "collected" from every owner.

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    1. We paid for that crappy little flyer, too. The one where they surrounded the protest ballot with packs of lies.

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    2. Here is my tax money, County of Los Angeles. Now lie to me.

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  7. Oh the agony!! Don't these government crooks ever sleep? Always trying to dreamup another way to game us.

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  8. How much of that couple hundred million will go to consultants and special interests with ties to certain County Supervisors?

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  9. I liked the postcard, it was so "green" made me all warm and cuddly inside.

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  10. This about sums it up:

    Kleptocracy - government by those who seek chiefly status and personal gain at the expense of the governed. - Merriam Webster

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  11. Sorry Sage, PUSD WASTES tons of money. Have you seen their monthly purchase orders? Lots of money for nice lunches, travel and conferences. They spend hundreds of thousands on lawyers every year. I'm not feeling bad for PUSD, you go ahead.

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  12. And what other infamous local agency voted to support this proposed rain tax? Well that would be our very own San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments or COG.

    Wonder how many local citizens know that their elected officials, without ever engaging their constituents, wildly supported yet another tax upon those in their districts.

    Of course the vote was delayed, long enough for the COG members to finish up their taxpayer provided buffet.

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    1. The COG is all about green practices. That is why they want to see the 710 Tunnel built.

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    2. The COG never breaks allegiance to it's mom and dad governmental betters. Never.

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    3. I agree. It is a sock puppet designed to carry out the wishes of Sacramento so the golden ones don't have to dirty their soft pink hands. SCAG, too.

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  13. The rain tax is only one of many proposals to generate new taxes. I hear if it is successful, there is a proposal for a sun tax. Each property would be assessed based on the reflective size of their roofing area to help offset the cost of climate change solutions........don't laugh, they may try it.

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  14. Oh, absolutely I believe that we taxpayers are paying for the poll, the purpose of which is to figure out how to massage their message so we can swallow it like good little drones during the mail-in election (thank you sir, can I have another?) I just want them to be upfront about how they're trying to sell this.

    The key for me is the amount of the individual tax: the flyer gave a figure for my property, and the pollster used the exact figure, saying it was what we would be paying, when she asked the questions. Taxes are public records, but potential taxes -- taxes that don't exist yet -- are not. However, any government body that's contemplating raising property taxes on the drones will have to come up with potential tax revenues on a property-by-property basis -- i.e. the figure in the flyer, and the figure quoted to me. So do we assume that some outside non-governmental party -- say, contractors -- have paid for this poll and independently figured out how much your property will get dunned? Or did the pro-rain tax branch of the gummint, which already had these figures, just hand 'em over to their pollsters? Occam's razor tells me that the flood control district/public works/some interested governmental body, with access to exactly how much they were planning to dun me, has their hands in this poll, if not commissioned it outright. And they did it with our money. I want 'em to admit that they're using taxpayer dollars to persuade taxpayers to be taxed some more.

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  15. From Citywatch:

    As a result of preliminary polling results that indicated that two-thirds of the voters would not approve the Storm Water Tax, the County decided to conduct a “stealth” election where the County’s 2.2 million parcel owners would vote by mail, no doubt leading to mass confusion and the suppression of the vote.

    Conveniently, the mail-in ballot scheme that was approved by Supervisors Yaroslavsky, Molina, and Ridley-Thomas will only require approval by 50% of the voters.

    The deck is also stacked in favor of the Flood Control District because parcels owned by governmental entities such as LAUSD, the Department of Water and Power, and the City of Los Angeles are also allowed to vote because their parcels will be required to pay the parcel fee.

    While the LAUSD and the Long Beach Unified Board of Education have registered their objections since they will be slammed for $4.8 million and $700,000, respectively, there is well founded speculation that the Flood Control District will work with school officials to ease the impact of the parcel taxes.

    And here we thought election tampering and bribery were against the law.

    http://citywatchla.com/lead-stories-hidden/4360-the-300-million-stealth-storm-water-tax-is-just-the-beginning

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    1. Did the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors vote to move forward with the election? I know it is before them today, but haven't heard on the vote.

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    2. Thanks for posting that, SST. These are very crooked people.

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    3. When the ballots are mailed, there needs to be a grassroots email campaign to VOTE NO. Eamils need to be sent to everyone you know and ask them to forward the email one. In a very short time and at no cost the message can be spread.

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  16. Everyday you drive your car you are polluting the stormwater run off from Sierra Madre and elsewhere. It is guck that is a by-product of the breaks, the tires, all the moving parts. And we pollute in many other ways, too. Ordinary people use the beaches not just the lux homeoweners living near-by. No one wants to be taxed without knowing that the money is being used for good causes. Plant trees and hold the stormwater on your property, make a case that you do not deserve to have this parcel tax (if it passes) apply to you. Catch the rainwater in barrels (I know someone in Sierra Madre that waters with rain collected in dozens of barrels). There are non-profit groups out there monitoring stormwater run-off into the LA river from unregulated recycling centers in the backyards of the economically disadvantaged areas of LA. Row hard. No whinning.

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    1. And we already pay a wide range of taxes/fees associated with the activities you speak of. Gas taxes, road tolls, excise taxes, sewer fees...well you get the idea.

      10% of the proposed tax will go directly to the Los Angeles Public Works Dept for "administration", 40% will go back to the respective cities to use for "related" activities and 50% will go to a block of 9 newly created agencies which will be comprised of officials which we DO NOT GET TO ELECT! Pollution may be bad, but this nonsensical response is far worse.

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    2. Let's all listen to Caroline Brown! The gal who took control of our mountains and helpped give it to the Santa Monica Mts Conservancy. Let's not forget her pushing of the yac building down our thourts with good buddy Bart Doyle on her team.

      I am sure she has no dog in the race!

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    3. People who have disposable income don't worry as much about additional taxes as people who don't have disposable income.

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    4. 11:46 - play nice. Caroline is a friend of mine, though we differ at times on some things. She has the unenviable task of justifying sound environmental science in the face of the bad odor coming from the City Hall Greensploitation crowd. Not an easy job.

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    5. There is no provision in the proposed tax that would allow affected property owners to "make a case" that they don't "deserve" to pay the tax.
      Regardless of the steps you take to mitigate any rain run off, you will pay the tax....and it will automatically go up each and every year with NO sunset. It is probable that each owner will be paying 200-300% of the starting assessment within 20 years.

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  17. Your site attacks people all the time , yet a mild reply to Caroline's post brings about a play nice because she is your friend

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    1. Not sure you got the memo. It is no whining Tuesday.

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    2. Yeah what's up with you picking and choosing what people can say? oh that's right, it is your blog - nevermind.

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    3. Disagree that the poster at 11:46 the first was "mild." In fact, looks like it may have been you, 12:15.

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    4. Ah c'mon, 12:23. The Tattler is the only place in town where you'll hear more than one point of view.

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    5. Must be Steve. Nobody whines quite like that.

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  18. Whoever posted (Anonymous 11:46) that I pushed the YAC down our throats with the help of Bart Doyle is so misinformed I don't know where to start with the list of corrections, but I'll try:

    The Sierra Madre Mountain Conservancy received a $3.1 million grant for open space acquisition (I will send Crawford our brocheur) and he can link it for those land acquisitions. Mayor Bart Doyle, City Administrator Tammy Gates and Community Services Director Michelle Keith and the City Council went to the County Supervisors and applied to redirect the remaining funds towards the expansion of the YAC over conservancy objections!

    We had an outstanding open space acquisition underway.

    Also, we applied for a $20,000 grant from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy for a study of 1 Carter as how the Hillside Ordinance should be applied for the lots above the viewline. This grant for further study was not received as the city council voted to give the 1 Carter project more lots than should have been allowed.

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    1. Tattlers - The Clean Water Clean Beaches item is being debated right now by Board of Supervisors. go to LA County Board of Supervisors and you can watch the live feed.

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  19. I've worked with Caroline Brown on several local elections and local issues since the early 1990's.
    What she just posted is true.
    One of the worst insults someone can post on this board, in my opinion is to link an individual with Bart Doyle.
    Several people in this town are linked with Doyle, but Caroline Brown is not one of them, never has been, nor is she now.

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    1. It is a troll with some intimate knowledge of the goings on in this town. Not just now, but back in time as well. Not too many of those around.

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    2. An aggrieved downtown investor, perhaps.

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    3. There are only a handful of aggrieved individuals who 1) remember the details of this unscrupulous coup and 2) have an intense dislike of Caroline Brown. Turns out they're all DIRTS! You can bet one of them is behind this slanderous statement trying to defame Caroline. Caroline and Diane have very publicly signed their names and taken ownership of their statements. How about you, 11:46 am? Want to come out from behind the camoflage pseudonym of Anonymous and let us know who YOU are? I thought not...

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    4. I think it would be agreat idea whenever some one on this Blog calles out any person by name that they should have to use their name and not be Anonymous.

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    5. I think that anyone on this blog who complains about anonymous posting should be forced to use their name when doing so.

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    6. I did not complain about Anonymous postings what i said if you use someone's name in the post (especially in a negative or hostle mano)r you should have the courage to use yours

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    7. The point is, the point.
      So somebody posts some nasty misinformation that's just a personal dig, and really has no point other than petty vindictiveness (see 11:46).
      On the other hand, if I post that Susan Henderson is a con, there's lots of factual history to back up the remark. Just ask any of the defenseless seniors she has had "loans" from if they ever got their money back. Or ask her maid if she ever received the $700 Henderson stiffed her on.
      Or if I post that John Buchanan was not a good leader because he made the residents of this town suffer through hour after hour of unnecessary pontifications and rationalizations, and made decisions that ended up as badly as concerned citizens warned him they would. That can be easily verified by looking at old council tapes.
      The points are the motivations for the remarks - not the other way around.

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  20. Ok, here's my idea. Instead of building homes at one carter we make it into a huge percolation area to clean our water. We can do the same with the middle school site on N. Canon. FIXED!

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    1. Good try 1:29 but those many lots on the Carter hillsides will increase storm water pollution, not decrease it. The MacMansions will need mighty strong controls on both critters and plants to keep their yards pretty, and that will be done with herbicides and pesticides.

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    2. Stormwater Stew, the deluxe version.

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  21. There was an article recently in the WSJ (I think)noting that there is a plan to take the LA River back to a "soft" base. In other words, get rid of the concrete that is currently there and take it back to a more natural state. This is not part of the clean water, clean beaches tax. It is a separate project. If they do this, the water should percolate and purify, just as this clean water, clean beaches plan wants to do. Let's skip this tax and dredge up the concrete.

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    1. That sounds like a very good idea!
      If possible we should push for this to happen.

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    2. We'll need a study first....

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    3. I like this idea. But yea, we will need some sort of study as far as flooding etc.

      One thing I would like is for them to develop the LA River in some areas. They could put shops and restaurants right on the water and fix it up to look nice.

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  22. Someone please explain to me how there is no money to fix the streets, no money to fix the sidewalks, no money to plant trees yet the City can have at least 8 public works guys moving the driveway to the City yards for the MWD pipeline connection?

    I just don't get it. They also re landscaped the area where all of the oleanders had died.

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  23. Sounds like a good project to me

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  24. Sounds like a good project to me that area needed alittle clean up.

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  25. Thank you 12:51 pm. Truth always wins over trickery, which is prevalent in what comes out of the majoriety of city halls across California. That particular group of people in Sierra Madre, were out to advance their careers, and were not out to preserve Sierra Madre hillsides. They advanced their own adgenda and did so, over the objections of many of this town's citizens. It is critical to stay informed. Particularly within the next few years and issues coming up to a vote.

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    1. This town is full of trickery. Unicorn/dirt trickery (for use of a better word ending in ery)

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  26. The Board of Supervisors today voted to hold off for 60 days to "rework" the "rain water issue" Hundreds went to the hearing today to protest, mostly government officials, school districts, etc. Only 4% of the mail in protest ballots have been returned, surprise, surprise. One man said "God gave us rain, and you guys have found a way to tax it."

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    1. Personally, I would have preferred it if the Board simply approved going ahead with the election. I have little doubt that it would have failed and then it would have become a dead item.

      Now, the supporters are going to tweak it to gain the support of schools and other government property owners making the election outcome much closer and difficult. Remember the law requires every property be assessed, but does not require that they actually collect the fee.

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    2. No, the mail-in election would only need 50% vote to pass. We want it to go on a regular election ballot so it would need 2/3 vote to pass. If the mail-in looks like the protest mailer, people would throw it away like they did the potest. Sneaky, sneaky government. And,are you serious, 6:41 that they would assess but not collect the fee? What planet did you come from?

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    3. Earth last time I checked, but the damn planet often seems populated with alien life.

      My point was, and is, that I hear the County may be doing damage control with various school districts/government owned property agencies by implying that they while their properties would be assessed, the County will take no action to collect if the fees go unpaid.

      You do understand that the proposed election would be based on weighted balloting and that only affected property owners would be able to cast a vote.....a huge benefit for those opposing this nonsense.

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  27. Hi everyone. I'm a small rental property owner. Basically we rent out SFH and duplexes to people in LA county. I'm kind of on the fence about this one.

    Our beaches and the LA county waters that surround them are really in need of repair. They are what differentiates Los Angeles from places like Riverside or San Bernardino county. If we keep them clean now I think

    So I think something needs to be done, but I'm not sure if this measure is the clearest path towards it.

    I've come to the conclusion that $54-80 per property is not that much. It comes out to about a dollar a week. Either way these fees will probably trickle down to our renters and we will raise the rents a little bit to cover these new expenses.

    What I am concerned about is the few details that are available about this measure. I'm all for new open spaces and if they can get a streamline system in place. I just have doubts on who will be accountable and if they can continue raising this fee/"tax"

    If anyone knows of more unbiased information outside of the http://www.lacountycleanwater.org/ sponsored website please let me know

    Concerned property owner

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