Monday, June 10, 2013

Tomorrow Evening's City Council Meeting Could Be An Exciting One - Here Is Our Preview

Of course
Unless I am completely wrong (it has happened once or twice) Tuesday evening's City Council meeting could be not only quite interesting, but filled with unhappy residents as well. To use Elaine Aguilar's memorable phrase from a recent City Manager's Report, "... the good news is the word is getting out - but the bad news is the calls we've received are primarily from individuals who are not pleased about the need to conserve water." I personally believe that people do understand the need to conserve water, but just aren't all that impressed with the City Manager's methods for doing so.

Elaine's observation here was posted to the city's website on May 30. From all that I have been hearing the list of not especially pleased individuals has grown markedly. It could very well be quite a crowd by now. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Also, and as an aside, have you ever noticed that when the citizens agree with Elaine, she calls them "the community?" But when they don't it's "individuals?" I know that I have been an individual for quite some time now and it is not as bad as you might think. I rather enjoy myself, actually. You just need to remember that worrying about what people think is usually an oxymoron.

The meeting kicks off with the secret session where the City Council discusses matters regarding lawsuits and personnel issues. Tonight we have one of each. Oh, to be a fly on the wall!

CONFERENCE WITH LABOR NEGOTIATOR - Pursuant to Calif. Government Code Section 54957.6 City Negotiator to attend Closed Session: Teresa Highsmith, City Attorney Unrepresented Employee: Elaine Aguilar, City Manager - Elaine recently received her job evaluation from the City Council, and they probably gave her a good one. I suspect she has most of the City Council believing they'd be little lost lambs without her, so they keep re-upping her to the detriment of the rest of us. My guess is Tuesday they'll be talking about giving her a raise. Given her recent fibbing about our Moody's water bond rating, along with the growing controversy over her poorly conceived schemes for fining water consumers, she really deserves little more than to be shown the door. But I am certain Nancy, Josh and Johnny Process will give her whatever she wants. A reward for her allowing them to be lazy and self-involved.

CONFERENCE WITH LEGAL COUNSEL - Pursuant to Calif. Government Code Section 54956.9(d)(4) The City Council finds based on advice from legal counsel, that discussion in open session will prejudice the position of the local agency in the litigation. Initiation of Litigation: Number of potential cases - One (1). According to this link what the relevant chunk of the Cali-Code says for 54956.9(d) is: A statement made by a person in an open and public meeting threatening litigation on a specific matter within the responsibility of the legislative body. Looks like somebody has been shaking City Hall's tree. I wonder who it might be?

CONSENT CALENDAR: Following the traditional rituals and mysteries that properly cleanse the air of evil spirits and allow wisdom to flow freely from the brows of our elected officials, next in view is the Consent Calendar. Which, as you know, always kicks off with the spending of the gold.

a) RESOLUTION NO. 13-39 APPROVING CERTAIN DEMANDS: This evening's Lucky Lucre recipients will find themselves on the receiving end of a whopping $656,771.55. About half of this is payroll however, with another quarter of a million big ones going to pay for that hook-up with the Metropolitan Water District. You know, in case of emergencies. $16,490 was spent on resurfacing the tennis courts, another $10,000 went to keep the dial-a-ride buses rolling, and $837 went to the Looney Views News for some reason or other. Perhaps for printing the City's press releases untouched as if they are the received word of God? Apparently you can get a lot out of The Looney for relatively small change.

b) AUTHORIZATION OF AGREEMENT TO NEGOTIATE EXCLUSIVELY WITH HERITAGE HOUSING PARTNERS REGARDING 186 W. HIGHLAND: This little piece of humbug involves a state mandated notion that we are obliged to create housing for the po' folk. You and I might have busted our humps to get here, but we are somehow obliged by the corrupt one party oligarchs in Sacramento to recreate right here in Sierra Madre what we worked so hard to get away from. If I wanted to live next to "Workforce Housing" I would have stayed in Lomita. This involves a company that turns old eyesores like the City owned white elephant "Old Church" at 186 W. Highland into multiple unit low income condo complexes. Even if we are running out of water. At least they aren't going to try and turn it into homeless housing. Not that you won't find that on the City's wish list as well. Trust me, it is still there.

c) GENERAL PLAN UPDATE AND PROPOSED CONTRACT AMENDMENT WITH THE PLANNING CENTER/DC&E TO COMPLETE DRAFT GENERAL PLAN DOCUMENT: This is that wily Elaine Aguilar attempting to shove some SB 375 corporatist nonsense into our General Plan. And doing so in the name of the General Plan Update Steering Committee, which had nothing to do with it, and wouldn't have agreed to this garbage at gunpoint. City Hall is never above hostage taking, you know. Of course this sad mess will require a consultant, with the cost to us being $30,000. This in a City that claims it needs to increase every fee and rate on its menu in order to make ends meet. And what is the goal here? To reduce Sierra Madre's greenhouse gas output. Which, outside of taking everyone's cars away, is simply an unworkable pursuit. Not that I am against walking once in a while. I'd just prefer to see other people doing it first. Starting with the Green Committee, followed by the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem* and then City Staff.

d) SECOND READING OF ORDINANCE NO. 1337: ADDING CHAPTER 17.29 ENTITLED “R-3 H MULTIPLE FAMILY RESIDENTIAL HIGH DENSITY” TO THE SIERRA MADRE MUNICIPAL CODE AND AMEND THE ZONING MAP: While you and I are being threatened with fines or even having our water turned off due to the water crisis, City Hall has been hard at work creating things like this item. Something that would entitle developers to build high density 20 units per infill acre condo complexes. Which, of course, would require a whole lot more water to run. Perhaps whatever they are calling the Green Committee these days would like to do a water "sustainability study" about this? Like they'd ever do it. To me this is a sign that our City government has fallen prey to bureaucratic schizophrenia and needs to be prescribed some sort of powerful medication. Hopefully one that makes them sleep. They're less apt to screw things up that way.

2) PUBLIC HEARING – 2013-2014 ASSESSMENT DISTRICTS – ENGINEER’S REPORT AND RESOLUTION OF CONFIRMATION NO. 13-38: Yet another initiative by the City to exact additional dough from those unfortunate enough to be within their area of their control. This paid for "Assessment District Study" involves the cost of lighting, landscaping and parking in what are generally business districts. The City might be concerned about the parlous state of businesses here in town, but that hardly means they still won't be asking for more of their dough. Yet another situation where people who pay taxes in this city are then being dunned into paying them twice.

3) PUBLIC HEARING - ORDINANCE NO. 1335 – MUNICIPAL CODE TEXT AMENDMENT 12-01: AMENDING CHAPTER 5.56 (BATHS AND MASSAGE ESTABLISHMENTS), AND CHAPTER 17.36 (COMMERCIAL ZONE) OF THE SIERRA MADRE MUNICIPAL CODE TO CONFORM TO STATE REQUIREMENTS: From what I can see this appears to be a humane solution to what could have been an awful problem. The state shoved its usual draconian presence into the health massage trade, and our laws here were not in compliance with their wishes. Should the City have enforced state laws as is, the effect on certain longtime Sierra Madre businesspeople could have been catastrophic. What this hopes to accomplish is "grandfather" in these businesses, thus sparing them absurd costs and restrictions that could have put them out of business.

4) DISCUSSION – CONSIDERATION OF ORDINANCE NO. 1339 AMENDING CHAPTER 9.36 OF THE SIERRA MADRE MUNICIPAL CODE PERTAINING TO ALARMS: You pay taxes for public safety services, so you'd think that when an alarm goes off at your house the cost of the that response would be covered. But City Staff decided to propose an "alarm fee" anyway, one that would purportedly cover the cost of an emergency response. Fortunately the City Council said no to what was essentially another downtown money grab, but also requested a possible way of fining those whose alarms go off without any real emergency taking place. As it is with water, inappropriate behavior will be punished.

5) DISCUSSION – CITY WATER AND SEWER UTILITY PAYMENT PROCESS: At the last City Council meeting John Capoccia asked City Staff to explain exactly how it pays for the water used in its operations. The suspicion of some in town has been that the city has long been taking advantage of its control over the Water Department and using the stuff without paying for it. The staff report on this can be found by clicking here. It includes what appear to be records of payments. I'll let you run with it should you so choose. I certainly have some problems with how water gets done here in town, but this one was never on my list.

6) DISCUSSION – PUBLIC FACILITIES IMPACT FEES: APPROACH AND UPDATE FEE IMPACT STUDY: This involves giving Willdan $28,656 to conduct a study to determine whether the City should base its development impact fees on a per square foot, per bedroom or per unit basis. The Planning Commission had given their recommendation on this, but I guess somebody had a problem with it. Currently the city figures its development impact fees on a per unit basis. However, if we do go to a per square foot basis, that would give those who wish to build starter castles here a pause to reflect. The bigger the house, the more money you pay. That sounds like the way to go to me. However, I do not understand why we have to pay someone $28,656 to make it happen.

7) DISCUSSION – PUBLIC SAFETY MASTER PLAN - SURVEY: The fact that this item is placed last on the agenda seems rather unfortunate to me. It is as if someone is trying to hide it. This is an attempt by Mayor Pro Tem* Harabedian to spend around $25,000 with some consultant to initiate a survey that would determine how people feel about the Sierra Madre Police Department and the job it does. There are many in town that feel the SMPD is an expensive white elephant whose job could be performed more efficiently and at a better cost if we contracted with another agency. The purpose of this survey is to establish that people here do like the SMPD, plain and simple. And since most residents have no idea what the issues are, it would probably achieve its end. This survey would also help to create an argument for the taxpayers to reverse their decision on the UUT extension, and instead vote to keep it going at a California leading rate of 10% for another 5 years. The lion's share of UUT moneys go to the Police. In the end this is really little more than a pol repaying a lawsuit happy public employee union for its support in an election. Johnny hopes to advance to an exciting career in state politics someday, and in his party that dream is often enabled by kissing the ring of unions like the SMPOA. Destructive L.A. County politics at its truly worst.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

68 comments:

  1. Sierra Madre residents and tax payer's as for what will take place before, during and after Tuesday night's city council meeting is sure fired result.

    Bend over, grab your check-book or credit card and begin (once again) to pay for the city manager's and city council mistakes.

    Who by the way have always disregarded input as tot he outcome of proposed projects they have jumped behind and championed, they always backfire.

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  2. We are falling into what city hall has predicted. There plan was started long ago when liar, traitor Joe Mosca first voted to hook up SM to the MWD pipeline running down Grand View. Their think tank, the building and real estate industry, had it all planned out. Tell us were running out of water and we will fear the loss and high cost of water and be ever so happy to turn on MWD water because we now have an emergency, you watch as some one will suggest that as a solution to solving our emergency. We will have all the water we need and the city will get all the profit, every one will be happy. They are leading us like lambs to the slaughter.

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  3. The city's consistent dishonesty is appalling. Very little turns out to be true.

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  4. Problem with water usage/billing in Sierra Madre: bi-monthly pay period and nearly one month lag in time when you get your bill. How are you really going to monitor how you use water on a daily/weekly/monthly basis and make any concrete changes?

    Most people overwater their exterior and could save water (and more importantly their own hard-earned money) and here is a start. Turn it all off and take a carefull look to see what starts to fade and water that only. Keep watching and work to cut back til you achieve a balance. We do live in a desert and most cities have to import water. Sierra Madre had managed to get by with our own water. What will happen if our shares in the east Raymond basin (shared with Arcadia that has imported water sources) really, really, really dries up?

    Sierra Madre elementary school had a group of volunteer parents that did a project of drought-tollerant plantings and asked about what to do with non-native trees. The district would not let them remove existing non-native trees healthy, living trees. A suggestion was given to not water them, and if they were established without needing water they would survive. If they did not survive, remove them then.

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    1. Excuse me 8:12 The planting project was financed by The San Gabriel Municipal Water District using our tax dollars. A few volunteers may have helped with the planting. It was very stupid on the volunteers part to choose plants that may not have survived. They should have done better research. But then it wasn't their money they were wasting.

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    2. 8:12 Another problem with the city is the number of days in a billing cycle vary from month to month.

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    3. Since anyone with a brain will not use their full allotment during the winter months unless they have a very low number, the annual cut back is actually about a 30% reduction that is being forced. 50% cut back in the summer months.

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    4. By winter newly increased water rates will be in place. The gains the city made during the summer season through penalties will continue with increased water rates in the winter. Trust me, it has all been taken into account.

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    5. Certainly does seem to be all planned out. However, if the residents stop the water rate increase with Prop 218, and the City can't collect winter water fines at the previous rate, whatever will they do?

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    6. Better read you meter today because the city read your meter last week. Unless you have the current number you will have no idea how much water you have use.

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  5. It is very hurtful to always be in conflict and that is what is seems to be...always in conflict over one thing or another. It is no wonder that many people do not participate in city government. That is what they count on---you not participating. But these issues are of profound important to all of us.

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    1. Civic engagement is a responsibility. Like most duties it is hard work. This town is fortunate to have so many good people who are willing to shoulder that burden.

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    2. Interesting to read the outrage but the City continues to march on with its agenda!As the saying goes "Talk is cheap"!If you want change,it will come at a cost.It all comes down to how much are to going to give to reverse these outrages.Perhaps most will simply give up fold and pay or bail out and move to a friendlier town.I think this is what the City wants you to do..either way it will be win win for them!

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  6. It's bad enough that our city lies to us about everything, they cheat us at every chance they get.
    However, what about the city wanting to make sure builders get to build houses up at the One Carter property? They are going to dupe unsuspecting people into purchasing those homes, not disclosing that those homes will be built on an ANCIENT INDIAN BURIAL GROUND, sacred land to these native people, who are still around.
    I sure would not want to even visit that property.
    It's a fire, flood, earthquake trap and it's very bad luck for anyone who tries to approve, build, sell or live up there. Very, very bad luck.

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    1. Are these disclosed to potential buyers? NO

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    2. 1,000 gallons of water per day in a five bedroom MacMansion.
      One thousand. Per day!

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    3. A knowledge of the local traditions can be quite scary to certain to certain folks...

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    4. I love our local traditions. They add magic to the place.

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  7. I'll believe 186 Highland will be "workforce" housing when I see it. and even if it starts out that way, how long do you think that would last?

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    1. Goodbye workforce housing, hello Old Church Estates.

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    2. Condos De Spirit

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    3. There is a very simple solution.

      NO BUILDING OF ANY KIND WHILE THERE IS A WATER SHORTAGE.

      If you don't order that, City Council members and City Staff....well then our only conclusion can be you are all CROOKS AND BUMS AND NEED TO LEAVE YOUR POSITIONS.

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    4. 9:55, I understand the frustration, but! There is a compromise that works.
      A moratorium on permitting new water meter connections! Building can continue, as long as the water meter connection is already in existence.
      Nifty, yes?

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    5. Hijinx at Highland

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  8. Tattler, one idea about the public facility impact fee -
    Sierra Madreans for the most part don't want starter castles here, there and everywhere, agreed?
    I think one way to dampen builders enthusiasm for the behemoths is an impact fee based on square footage.
    Given what we're learning about the Carter mansion water usage, it makes sense.
    Don't know why it's necessary to hire anyone to say that, but I do think it will be a help if that's the measure.

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    1. That is a great point. I missed that one. I am going to rewrite that point in the post a little. Thank you.

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  9. 11:19 misread the statement about what would not survive...it was not the new drought tolerant choices but the old established non-native trees.

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  10. You know what many of our city staff spend their time doing?
    Downloading various bits of information from the interweb, and then passing them out to commissions, councils, committees. and consultants.

    Why they have to hire Wildan to do another fee impact study on this obviously more accurate method (sq. ft) is a mystery.
    Maybe so they'll have even more time to be able to do online searches for stuff?

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    1. The consultants have done a good job of downloading info. themselves. Why else would we get Kersting Alley instead of Kersting Ct. and Orangewood as the boundary of Sierra Madre? Also some very weird "undeveloped" lots below Sierra Madre Blvd. that are in the middle of a street and likewise unbuildable lots in the canyon they thought should be considered as buildable.

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    2. The Police survey was a compromise to hiring a consultant. Just watch, after the survey, they won't be able to make heads or tails over it and have to hire a consultant. Look what they did with the GPU Committee. The Consultant lowered their price to include volunteers but all along knew they would have to be called in. The City Manager so wanted a consultant, and so it happened.

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  11. The new 20 unit per acre high density development - is that what will end up at 186 Highland?

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  12. Here's the safety survey:

    1) Do you want to be safe?
    2) Do you want to get rid of our local police department and be in danger?

    Where do I send my bill?

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    1. That is pretty much it. Maybe the survey will also come with pictures of teddy bears dressed in police uniforms.

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  13. Anybody know why the helicopter is circling town?

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    1. Can't be a mudslide, so it must be a bear.

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    2. The police have their shotguns in hand and the street blocked off.

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    3. Ah yes. The Wildlife Management choice to terrify the animal to increase the danger level ten fold.

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    4. Is an interpreter present? Yogi or Smokey?

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    5. C'mon, it's Sierra Madre. They sent Booboo.

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    6. It's only a picanic basket, Mr. Ranger, Sir!

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    7. A lot of the bears think of Booboo as being a kind of sellout.

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  14. What color is the helicopter? Black/white...police. Green/yellow...sheriffs. There was an injured hiker taken from Chantry an hour ago and I heard the helicopter just as the LA Co. Fire paramedic, private ambulance co (that transported the young man) , USFS truck and a fire engine (LA Co?) all were on the scene. Nice day to be out on the trail...his pals carried him up to the parking lot.

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  15. There is a bear in a tree at Montecito and Mt Trail. Never call the police regarding wildlife. The TV channels monitor the police scanners. The helicopters show up in force. If you see wildlife that may cause a danger to your family or neighbors call the neighbors and stay inside, bring your animals inside, too.

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    1. So true. Have you ever noticed that all TV local news cares about are mudslides, windstorms and critters? So much happens here that gets completely ignored. Put a bear in a tree though and they'll send out the airforce, army and marines. No wonder government is so corrupt. The "news" people are looking for bears instead.

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    2. Right you are 12:57.

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    3. Absolutely, there was a mother bear and her cubs asleep in someone's yard in the canyon. The people there didn't call the police or anyone else..they just watched them from a distance.
      They would never have called the police. Those bears aren't going to hurt anyone, if they are left alone.

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  16. 12:57, you are so right! On the plus side, though, it's an opportunity for a real-life safety survey! No need to spend money on a consultant. Here's the deal: if the bear is safely relocated alive and well, LE gets 10 points. If not, they lose 100 points and will be replaced by contracted professionals.

    Very simple. Pass/Fail on the safety survey. Any questions, ask the bears.

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    1. that big old bear was called Elaine

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  17. ...breaking down containment now, helicopters in air for nearly 3 hours to get their "story" at the expense of the bear's and neighborhood's tranquility. Bear tranquilized (Cal Fish and Wildlife) and taken away for relocation. Stopping first for media, as the truck backs out, to let them get their photo.

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    1. Three hours of fuel used for what.

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    2. For the Eyewitless News crowd a bear in a tree story is the equivalent of Watergate.

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  18. Doesn't it seem that staff's true, sole purpose is to continually prune their work load?
    In my long work experience, I never had a job where, if I complained about having too much to do, I would keep the job.

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    1. It is code for, "We have a lot of development projects to work on." Why else do you think the shut down the front counter until 11am?

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    2. 3:54, Yes! And the lower the position, the more it is emphasized that you're replaceable, and if you don't want to do the work, let someone else have the job.

      City hall in this town has a whole different dynamic going on. I think the more you complain the more you advance! And they have endless meetings about how they have no time.

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    3. I'll bet they think they're victims.

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    4. They told the council that they had to do their paperwork but the residents kept interrupting them. The new city hall hours are to reign in the pesky residents and give staff the peace and quiet they need to prepare documents for consultants.

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    5. "Certain individuals" take up a lot of their time.

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  19. I do not mean to be disrespectful, but neither the work nor the hours that city government employees have are demanding. There is one exception - the finance department needs to be run by someone with a mania for accuracy, and of course it's productive if managers have managerial skills. But the majority of the work required is very basic.

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    1. The City of Sierra Madre staff reports to managers who report to the City Administrator who reports to the City Council. If you have a problem with the staff, complain to the City Council. Otherwise the staff does what they are told/asked to do by their managers and the City Administrator. No amount of complaining about them to The Tattler will change a thing.

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    2. So you know with certainty 5:04 that no one on the council reads the Tattler?

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    3. They all do.

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    4. The Director of Finance frequently has the numbers WRONG. She has based financial projections on absurd interest projections and has also made whopper mistakes on the financials. These errors have been pointed out during public comment. She should be replaced.

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    5. Be careful what you wish for. She is just following orders from her boss - Aguilar and she is the best we can get for Sierra Madre. Replace Aguilar, not the Director of Finance.

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    6. I agree. Don't blame the help for the actions of a bad boss.

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  20. I figured my water bill and the 20% reduction and came up with a number XX.8 but when I got my letter from the city my allotment was rounded down to XX.0 so I am losing 8/10th of a unit of water and that is 598 gallons of water!

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  21. Too bad the city could not see a way to generously round up to the next full unit.

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  22. Speak at City Council tomorrow night. Remember that is 598 gallon time 6.
    You have been ______ed and did not even get kissed.

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  23. Too bad we don't all show up tomorrow night not having showered or changed into fresh washed duds.

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