Saturday, February 9, 2013

Moving New Product: How the City Wants to Sell You Water and UUT Rate Increases

Begging for Bieber
Sierra Madre's somewhat archaic City Hall is always open to finding new ways of communicating its Number 1 priority, which is getting their hands on more of our money. In order to fund the salaries, pensions, health care requirements and whatever else it needs for itself and our white elephant Police Department, increasing the cash flow is always the paramount concern. And yet, as we saw with their recent efforts to raise water rates and extend the Utility User Tax, doing this has never been more difficult than it is today. They got their previous water rate hike, but it took a near civil war to do it. And, as we are all happily aware, the UUT was utterly demolished at the polls with well over 60% of Sierra Madre's participating residents voting against extending what are currently the highest utility tax rates in the State of California.

So how is City Hall going to reach a large portion of the community and properly market their ever increasing money needs effectively? I believe that they are played out on the whole "water walk" concept due to the low turnouts last time. That plus the fact that they ended up preaching mostly to the already converted. I think Gene Goss attended a few of them. And while they will take John Harabedian's lead and attempt to hold the Police Department hostage to keep the UUT at its current record setting pace, that alone cannot be entirely relied upon. The City has never been one to put all of its guilt trip eggs into one basket. And let's face it, when presented with the choice of a likely 12% utility tax rate and keeping the SMPD, those voting could easily decide that the City is just crying wolf again and go with protecting their pocketbooks. 

It really is quite the dilemma for the City. Couple all of this with the fact that the traditional ways of communicating their cash cravings to the populace have all but gone away. The Mountain View News no longer has any anywhere near the impact or respect it used to have, Bill Coburn's site doesn't post much more than fluffy press releases these days, and The Patch is in the process of converting itself into a remotely run Group On knock off. If you think about it, the only truly active hard news source in Sierra Madre these days is the one you are reading now. And for whatever reasons, the City never takes its tax marketing initiatives to us.

However, when it comes to increasing their cash intake along with gulling us into digging deeper into our pockets to make it happen, City Hall is always game. And as we will see at Tuesday evening's meeting, they do have some new marketing product offerings to discuss with the City Council. For me this is right there in my professional wheelhouse. In my line of work I use the Internet all the time to market music, artists, and whatever accompanying messages and related product ploys are necessary to increase cash flow in a business where the great green river isn't quite as full as it used to be. Most of the actual on-line work is done by brilliant kids back in the New York office, but most often the overall concepts on the projects I work are mine. 

Agenda Item #4 on the City Council meeting agenda for Tuesday evening is simply called "Community Budget Survey." And in order to reach Sierra Madre's (perhaps non-existent) "silent majority" (is anyone really silent about taxes in Sierra Madre?), City Hall is going full bore into the Internet marketing game. It really is kind of cute in a way. I doubt it will work, and certainly we at The Tattler will do our very best to make certain it doesn't, but there it is. Here is the "executive summary" from the informative Staff Report:

One of the City Council's objectives under the three-year goal of "Maintain financial stability and sustainability" is to "develop, distribute, analyze and present to the City Council the results of a Community Budget Survey, including spending and revenue options." This staff report will outline multiple options for conducting this survey, with varying degrees of cost and functionality. Staff requests the two Council Members join a subcommittee with staff to develop the Community Budget Survey.

In case you don't grok City-Speak, "spending and revenue options" means rate increases. And by having two City Council Members join with City Staff in crafting what is basically a community outreach effort designed to sell these rate increases to an indifferent or perhaps even hostile populace, it will then bear the sanction of elected officials as well. Obviously the help doesn't believe that they can sell this thing all on their own.

City Staff has selected 4 finalists among the thousands of on-line marketing options out there for its effort to sell water and utility rate increases. Here is a list of them, along with brief descriptions of what exactly they do, as supplied by City Staff in its Agenda Report. I have also provided links to these on-line marketing services so that you can better prepare yourself for what is likely to come in the next few months. Oh, and check out the Internet marketing jargon. It is priceless.

EngagingPlans (click here): Urban Interactive Studio developed EngagingPlans which combines vast out-of-the-box functionality with flexible customization options, facilitating broad-scale outreach and participation by guiding people seamlessly between offline, online and mobile experience ... $1,000 to set up and $75/month thereafter. (Mod: There is also a "budget simulator" option from this outfit listed in the Staff Report. That costs $5,000.)

MindMixer (click here): MindMixer is an online platform utilized to gather ideas, review and respond to feedback, and to find solutions all in one place. Ideas submitted to the customized website receive feedback from those in the online community, who also can "second" ideas that they particularly like ... 
Onboarding (Mod: love that word) $1,000 one time fee, $500 per month. (Note: Monrovia has a MindMixer site, click here to onboard.)

Vocus (click here): Vocus Inc. is a provider of cloud marketing software that helps organizations reach people across social networks, online and through media. Vocus provides an integrated suite (Mod: Love it! Integrated suite!) that combines social marketing, search marketing, email marketing and publicity into a comprehensive solution to help businesses attract, engage and retain customers. Vocus partners with iContact, the service the City currently uses for eBlasts. The Vocus platform is an overall marketing platform for the City. It includes functions to get more visitors to the website, utilize Facebook to a much greater extend (sic), get found on search engines, generate publicity and buzz for the City and its businesses, and to target messages on the various social media platforms ... Vocus cost (sic) $2,247 for 12-months.

Zwoor (click here): Zwoor provides an online survey tool. Zwoor includes customized questions, the inclusion of a logo or picture, and can work offline or online. The Zwoor Survey mobile app works on iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tables, Kindle Fires, or a website browser. However, the Zwoor product does not have the capability for the community to see or comment on each other's ideas or opinions ... Depending on the package selected, Zwoor cost (sic) $200 for up to 5,000 submissions or $600 for 20,000 submissions.

So there you are. Join with the City and step boldly forward into the year 2008. Of course, in the end what drives these beauties is appealing content and product. And I am not quite certain that water and utility rate increases qualify as just that. No matter what platform you hire.

And look, if they were really smart they'd start a blog and update it daily with interesting articles that highlight and promote the City's efforts in whatever it is they think that they're doing. Obviously water and utility rate increases are not the kinds of things that appear all that sexy on the Internet, and that is where the true challenges lie. Besides, I honestly don't think they're quite capable of operating at that level. 

Of course, for $200,000 a year, combined with a long term contract that includes a full time assistant and benefits, along with a new car, I could do this work for them. But somehow I don't see the City going for that.

http://sierrammadretattler.blogspot.com

51 comments:

  1. My vote is that they'll go with the most expensive option... you could be in line JC.

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  2. Didn't check in yesterday but as an aside to Calvo, he is listed on the State's registered sex offenders list for Sierra Madre along with a couple of others. These things should come as no surprise to folks who pay attention.

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    1. It can be done. Which raises questions about why Matheson was given a pass.

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    2. What good is paying attention when the worst offenders aren't charged, thus aren't on the list?

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    3. But he's not listed on the Megan's Law site.

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    4. I am convinced that there are people in Sierra Madre who shielded Matheson from the law. In the process they showed a certain community that Sierra Madre is a safe haven for child pornography consumers.

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    5. I dont know what Megan Law listing your viewing but the one California has issued shows no sign of Calvo being listed. ONly two are listed. A Watson thats in violation of his parole and that kid on Sturtevant. Calvo now in prison new address is probably San Quinten not Sierra Madre.

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  3. At least the Monrovia site puts the options out there for citizens to respond to which services must be cut due to flat or declining revenue listed from several sources. Nothing about any tax increases. Novel idea...

    http://www.planmonrovia.org/abouttheproject

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    1. But would people actually want those things cut? If you don't understand finance or the actual consequences to your pocketbook it is very easy to say you support such things. That is the purpose of these sites. To sell something. it gives the appearance of public support for what the city offers. It justifies tax increases.

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    2. well said 7:55. You win today's Emperor has no clothes" award.

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    3. Folks around here would most likely go for the equivalent of the reduction of 500 police officers in the City of LA, which if course is the justification for one of the highest sales tax rates in California.

      latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2013/02/villaraigosa-backs-sales-tax-hike.html

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    4. Of course there is nothing about tax increases on the Monrovia site. They are there to sell you services. It's like buying a new car. They only talk price after the test drive and the free chrome wheels offer has been discussed.

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  4. If the City had any legitimate arguments to make, they could post them right here on The Tattler. Their only hope is fluff and subterfuge; they can't handle the truth.

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    1. City: "We need to raise the UUT so that we can be first in something in the state."

      DIRTS: (Wild cheering).

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    2. great platform!

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  5. Onboard this, bureacratic dweebs!

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    1. Sierra Madre Definition: Download - someone who drinks often at the Buc.

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  6. I see no evidence that any of these online marketing options are carbon neutral. I believe I am seeing cracks in young Harabedian's green tie.

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  7. The city shouldn't spend one damn penny on this! Get a group of smart residents to make a survey, walk it door to door, and there you go. Only cost, paper and ink. Pens. Even have the volunteers tabulate the results so the staff won't have to lift a finger. We all know how tired they are.
    How are we ever to take them seriously when they insist on spending money in these wasteful ways?

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    1. Right. Being to check off a box saying I like the dog park is going to make me want to pay higher utility taxes. Exactly how stupid are we supposed to be? Does it require drugs to get there?

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    2. Here's a good survey question:
      Would you be in favor of hiring the LA County Sheriff to provide the same level of protection that the city has now, at a savings of 1.5 million dollars a year?
      Yes or No

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    3. Yes! Do these surveys let you vote more than once? I have an entire weekend and I could vote on this one until the cows come home.

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    4. That is a good survey question, 9:20. But city staff, with Harabedian's guidance, will put it like
      Are you willing to endanger your family's well being by abolishing the time-honored Sierra Madre Police Dept., and contracting with the risky and undependable Sheriffs?

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  8. I received a paper flyer, in color no less, for the City of Sierra Madre Annual Whale Watching Excursion. For a mere $31 you can be trapped first on a charter bus, then on a boat, with an assortment of like minded Sierra Madreans. Talk about good times.

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    1. I received a postcard inviting me to attend the Mayor's 2013 State of the City Address. Which I found to be odd phrasing since the mayor didn't deliver the 2012 one. However, I will be going. I intend to be loud and uncivil on Feb 19.

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    2. Whale watching on Baldwin, or is this at the settling ponds?

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    3. Then just don't go , I am sure there are a lot of people who will have a good time on a whale watching trip

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    4. Taxpayers AnonymousFebruary 9, 2013 at 9:28 AM

      I believe this ride begins on Baldwin and goes to Long Beach. Five hours of fun. Hey, I got that State of the City Address. That will be the bitchfest where he justifies the new taxes...... and his sporty beard ..... and his Budweiser sipper hat..... and hey, will someone keep an eye on him and make sure he gets back on the bus in Long Beach?

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    5. Misanthropy, while not an evil thing in itself, hardly makes you a friend of mine.

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    6. Good point, 9:28. Mayor Moran will already be in Long Beach to greet the whale watching bus when it arrives! Just make sure your younger daughters are wearing a burka.

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    7. Taxpayers Anonymous I'll have you know that Budweiser sipper hats are in no way dignified for the likes of a mayor. Mr. Moran now has a portable spigot and he just plugs in at the local watering hole.
      http://www.amazon.com/Portable-Keg-Dispensing-System-Cartridges/dp/B008MZG3JC

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    8. You mean to tell me Moran's given up beer bonging? I think he could bring a new level of decorum to such experiences. Mardi Gras is fast approaching, where will he be.....in quiet Sierra Madre, or partying at the beach?

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    9. 930, are you suggesting this trip will be filled with other misanthroposters, or will they be misanthroposeurs?

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    10. 9:51 - isn't CO2 a greenhouse gas?

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    11. allowances and variances are always provided for the special ones

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  9. Good night!Haven't we experienced enough swindle and fraud from this bunch to allow this baloney to go forward! We may be unable to push back our tax increases on Federal or State levels but we can stop this chicanery on the local level.It's our money,lets take charge for a change and stop being a sucker!

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  10. just woke up. goodness me, i love sunday mornings!

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    1. Darn. And here I got all dressed for work.

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    2. H(ey), what happened to Saturnday?

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    3. it was a long sleep!

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  11. Mind Mixer proudly proclaims:
    61,733 Comments

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  12. It's kind of odd that insane people seem to be running the Sierra Madre local government, schemes to shake out more money or strip more money from residents are so far out there and grabbing at straws.

    City Hall dictators will spend a dollar to collect a dime!

    Let the hounds lose, this will be the new battle cry from city hall.

    P.S. you ain't seen nothing yet!

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  13. Does anyone think that City Hall will ever believe that it is getting enough of the taxpayer's hard earned dough? Thy are always asking for more.

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  14. The General Plan Committee had the community survey on line and it did not cost one penny.

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    1. The City needs to be able to control the survey in order to get the results they want. The conclusion has to be that the residents are happy with the services the city provides, and therefore they are willing to pay higher rates in order to continue receiving them.

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  15. If the City hired qualified people, staff could handle this survey. Instead they promote people without the skills or background necessary to do the job. You can start as part time and eventually run the place.

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    1. it doesn't hurt if you can bounce a quarter into a shot glass at the right time

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  16. New Looney Views News is out, and they got rid of one of their looniest sections! The columns are gone. No Hail the plagiarist, no Rich, no middle aged white guys arguing over what they saw on the cable news channels last week, none of that. There isn't even a contributors list anymore. Front page is that FBI press release about Calvo the Tattler discussed yesterday. Our adjudicated weekly newspaper has now gone from fairly useless to completely useless.

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  17. Well, I don't know. Susan has a letter to the editor in there from her son, Fred.

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    1. I saw that! He takes a stance against supporting any future bond measures from the PUSD. I hope that kind of wild talk doesn't offend the ladies at the Womans Club.

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  18. once the city and a handful of Councilmembers made it a pattern to lie to us and spin complete fabrications what do they expect?

    the only way for this city to fix the problems about complete public mistrust is to fire the city manager, the public works director, hire a new legal firm and never let John Buchanan, Bart Doyle and the rest of the shysters like Josh Moran have anything to do with the city ever again

    the day that John Buchanan leaves the city won't be soon enough

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