|Mayor Pro Tem* Process Fatigue|
But as anyone can see, a mighty struggle with Morpheus took place in seat #2. You can only wonder at the steely will it must have taken to vanquish so relentless a foe.
Hopefully everybody got some rest, because tonight's City Council meeting promises to be a lengthy one filled with many difficult topics. I know I did. The blessings of a 3 day Memorial Day Weekend gave me the opportunity to write this week's City Council meeting preview at a leisurely pace. That extra time really did make a world of difference to me.
The meeting begins as it always does with the secret session. This is where our City Attorney (known to some wags as the "Belle of Barstow" for obscure reasons), meets in private with the City Council to discuss items of a sensitive legal nature. Usually this involves lawsuits emanating from the Sierra Madre Police Department, and tonight is no different. This is an outfit that wants us to know just how much they care about Sierra Madre, and do so by suing us over and over again. Somehow they apparently believe will get them another raise and increased benefits from the grateful taxpayers. Here is what the Staff Report says:
CONFERENCE WITH LEGAL COUNSEL
Anticipated Litigation Pursuant to California Government Code Section 54956.9b(3)(C). A point has been reached where, in the opinion of the City Council/Agency pm the advice of its legal counsel, based on the below-described existing facts and circumstances, there is a significant exposure to litigation against the City Council/Agency. Receipt of Claim pursuant to Tort Claims Act or other written communication from Sierra Madre Police Officer’s Association threatening litigation (copy available for public inspection in the City Manager’s Office).
Personally I think the SMPOA has lost its mind, and all they're doing here is digging their own occupational grave. How the SMPOA is going to convince taxpayers that they have their needs in mind while repeatedly suing them is beyond me. I'm not certain postcards with pictures of teddy bears dressed up like policemen is going to do it this time. A NO vote on the UUT do-over ballot initiative in April of 2014 would be a fine way of showing your feelings on this matter.
Periodically the City Manager has a job review from the people she works for. Since that isn't us we won't be allowed to witness this event, either. Here is the notice:
PERSONNEL Pursuant to Calif. Government Code Section 54957 Public Employee Performance Evaluation Title: City Manager
After these delicate matters are concluded the Wizard of Oz's curtain flies open and vast hordes of civic minded residents will flood (or pour) into the room. Apt metaphors since the following Public Hearing notice is also announced for this evening on the City of Sierra Madre website:
Due to low water levels in the aquifer that Sierra Madre draws all of its water from, the City Council will hold a Public Hearing on May 28, 2013 at 6:30 pm. At this time, the Council will discuss increased mandatory water conservation measures.
We will see if these "increased mandatory water conservation measures" will be backed up by actual water use restrictions, or if this becomes just another City Hall money stream (sorry) enhancement effort in the form of penalties and fines for as yet to be determined over-usage. The many lush lawns of Sierra Madre hang in the balance.
Having planted a rather wild looking patch of drought resistant California native plants and cacti in my front yard I hope to be on the sidelines for this one. Not that I expect to be immune from fines and penalties, mind you. Especially if my suspicions are confirmed and this turns out to be more about fund raising than water usage.
After all of the above is accomplished the usual meeting rituals will be conducted so that the evening's juju is in line with the desires of the overseeing government Gods. It is only then that the money changing can commence.
1 - Consent Calendar
a) RESOLUTION NO. 13-36 APPROVING CERTAIN DEMANDS: This evening's spend comes to $693,957.68. A sum that wouldn't have been quite so large had it not included $145,687.50 for something involving a Mira Monte Reservoir Replacement. There is also a $60,890 hit for services performed by the General Pump Company, bringing the total Water Division spend this evening to over $200,000. Sierra Madre's water company, for all intents and purposes insolvent due to its massive water bond debt load, now relies upon City Hall and the taxpayers to cover many of its bills these days.
This is, of course, the actual reason for the next wave (sorry) of water rate increases. It is also the part where you are expected to happily, and without any complaint whatsoever, further cover the costs of bad city investments out of your own pocket. Done without the City ever acknowledging that the actual reason for this awful financial crisis, along with the resulting rot in our water infrastructure, is because they behaved irresponsibly a few years back.
b) REJECTION OF CONSTRUCTION BIDS FOR FISCAL YEAR 2012-2013 STREET REHABILITATION AND DIRECTION TO RE-BID THE PROJECT WITH REDUCED SCOPE: A number of streets are up for repaving, but the companies that bid on this work couldn't submit anything that fits within the City's budget. While there are other options available to the City Council (such as either raising the budget by $30,000 or lopping a few streets off the paving list), the likely result here is City Staff will be instructed to go out and try to find someone who can get the job done for what we can actually pay.
c) APPOINTMENT TO THE UTILITY USERS TAX OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Back in 2008, when the general public here was suckered into raising utility taxes to some of the highest rates in California, one of the scraps thrown our way was that a yearly conclave of the common man would gather to gaze upon the books to make certain the City is spending this additional dough appropriately. I was on this committee once and I can tell you it is a pretty ridiculous exercise. The money gets spent as the City sees fit, and since it is City Hall that supplies all the data to this committee for its compliance checks, the prophecy is always a self-fulfilling one. Anyway, one member of UUTOC fled screaming into the National Forest for some reason or another, and a replacement needs to be chosen. Tonight that deed will get done.
2 - PUBLIC HEARING – CONSIDERATION OF RESOLUTION NO. 13-27 TO ADOPT THE 2008-2014 HOUSING ELEMENT, INCLUDING GENERAL PLAN AMENDMENTS TO ADOPT A NEW RH1 LAND USE CATEGORY AND TO CHANGE THE LAND USE DESIGNATION OF PROPERTIES LOCATED AT 271 AND 293 MARIPOSA AVENUE FROM RH TO RH1; AND CONSIDERATION OF ORDINANCE NO. 1337 TO ADD CHAPTER 17.29 ENTITLED “R-3 H MULITIPLE FAMILY RESIDENTIAL HIGH DENSITY” TO THE MUNICIPAL CODE AND AMEND THE ZONING MAP; AND CONSIDERATION OF RESOLUTION NO. 13-28 TO REZONE PROPERTIES LOCATED AT 271 AND 293 MARIPOSA AVENUE FROM R-3 TO R3H - There can be little doubt that the majority persuasion on this City Council is deep into the tank for development and real estate interests. They are basically under the thumb of these people, with the only remaining question being what is in it for them.
What these (very) special interests demand more than anything else is the ability to build high density housing wherever they see fit. Tonight they are looking for a big breakthrough in their struggle to turn Sierra Madre into Duarte Adjacent with the creation of something called "R-3 H Multiple Family Residential High Density." Something that basically allows them to pack out small infill lots with massive amounts of new housing. How this can be considered a "sustainable best practice" during the City's current water crisis might be a reality based question, but then look at the damned fools we're working with here.
There is also a bunch of poppycock in the Staff Report about RHNA numbers and that $50,000 piece of cookie cutter consultancy our Sacramento compliant housing cutout Karen Warner cooked up, but that was all a canard to baffle the suckers. The majority of the City Council will vote for this because the special interest folks they answer to demand it. Most Sierra Madre residents have long opposed anything like this, but since when do their opinions ever really count? They're just here for taxing purposes.
3 - PUBLIC HEARING - SECOND READING AND ADOPTION OF ORDINANCE NO. 1338 AMENDING CHAPTER 13.24 OF THE SIERRA MADRE MUNICIPAL CODE PERTAINING TO WATER CONSERVATION, CONSIDERATION OF URGENCY ORDINANCE NO. 1338U PERTAINING TO WATER CONSERVATION, AND CONSIDERATION OF RESOLUTION NO. 13-12, A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL ADOPTING MANDATORY WATER CONSERVATION MEASURES TO BE IMPLEMENTED BY SIERRA MADRE RESIDENTS AND BUSINESSES - When most towns wish to keep their residents from using more water than is available, they just tell them what it is they can no longer do. Banning things like lawn watering, hosing down cement walkways or washing your car being some of the more commonly used restrictions. But this being Sierra Madre, where increasing City Hall revenue is always the #1 consideration, here the method used will be billable financial penalties. The inference being that you may use too much water of you like, but you'll pay more for doing so.
The City does list the option of practically shutting off water to residents that refuse to comply, but will it actually be used? Except possibly in the most extreme cases, never. The lawsuit considerations alone would seem to preclude it from ever happening. If you assume that this one is more about money than water, you'll probably be right.
4 - PUBLIC HEARING – RESOLUTION NO. 13-29: A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL AND THE SUCCESSOR AGENCY OF THE FORMER COMMUNITY REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY ADOPTING THE BIENNIAL BUDGET FOR FISCAL YEARS 2013-2014 AND 2014-2015 AND APPROPRIATING THE AMOUNTS BUDGETED RESOLUTION NO. 13-34: A RESOLUTION APPROVING THE STATEMENT OF INVESTMENT POLICY FOR FISCAL YEAR 2013-2014. PFA RESOLUTION NO. 67: A RESOLUTION OF THE PUBLIC FINANCING AUTHORITY OF THE CITY OF SIERRA MADRE ADOPTIN THE BIENNIAL BUDGET FOR FISCAL YEARS 2013- 2014 AND 2014-2015 AND APPROPRIATING THE AMOUNTS BUDGETED. RESOLUTION NO. 13-37: A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL REDUCING THE SERVICE HOURS AT CITY HALL AND THE COMMUNITY RECREATION CENTER OFFICE - Shorter version: You'll be paying more and getting less. What we should be doing is paying less and getting less. I don't see that as being a problem. Somehow I think we will all survive quite nicely with less City Hall in our lives. Plus that way we'll get to pocket the change.
5 - DISCUSSION – CONSIDERATION OF RESOLUTION NO. 13-31 IN SUPPORT OF SENATE BILL 135 (PADILLA), LEGISLATION THAT WOULD CREATE A STATEWIDE EARTHQUAKE EARLY WARNING SYSTEM - CALTECH has worked up something that will give the people of California a :30 second warning on the next big earthquake. State Senator Alex Padilla is looking for about $80 million dollars to make this happen, and is asking cities like Sierra Madre to declare their support. The technology may be shaky, but otherwise why not?
6 - DISCUSSION – DISUSSION (sic) OF GOALS, RESPONSIBILITIES, AND NAME OF A NEW COMMISSION CONSISITING (sic) OF COMBINED TREE ADVISORY COMMISSION AND GREEM (sic) COMMITTEE - It is important to note that the City is pushing this thing forward without really knowing what it is the new Commission will actually do. Or at least coming up with a plausible reason for it happening. You'd think that if this was so important the need would be obvious. Which it is not, despite all of the resources squandered on this mess. Nor have they even figured out what to call it yet, though we recommend the Bureaucracy Sustainability Commission. B.S. for short.
The reason as I see it is the development/real estate crowd controlling City Hall needs a dependable ally in their fight to get SB 375 up and running in this town. You know, the state law that claims building high density mixed-use condo development will somehow save the world from global warming? As ridiculous as that sounds, it has been a cornerstone of the Green Committee's loopy deliberations up until now.
7 - DISCUSSION – CONSIDERATION OF THE PREPARATION OF A PREFERENTIAL PARKING POLICY - This one has to do with people leaving their vehicles parked on the streets for extended periods of time. What it will end up as is yet more permits for the City to sell. It seems that everything being done downtown these days is all about getting more money for City Hall. Yet one more consequence of Sierra Madre's insane water bond debt and the inability of this city to deal with it. Except to ask for more money, of course.
8 - DISCUSSION – CONSIDERATION OF ORDINANCE NO. 1339 AMENDING CHAPTER 9.36 OF THE SIERRA MADRE MUNICIPAL CODE PERTAINING TO ALARMS - If your alarm goes off and City of Sierra Madre emergency services answer the call, and it turns out that there was no good reason for sounding it in the first place, then you will be fined. Another way of raising more money for the Government Services Flea Market at 282 W. Sierra Madre Boulevard.
9 - DISCUSSION – STRATEGIC PLAN UPDATE FROM APRIL 4, 2013 RETREAT - Somewhere there is someone who cares about this. But since it was put at the very bottom of the City Council's agenda for tonight's meeting, it must be nobody that counts.