Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mayor Nancy Walsh: Fighting for Sierra Madre at this year's League of California Cities Conference

Ask a League representative for details
In case you are not aware, today kicks off this year's League of California Cities Conference in Sacramento. Our Mayor Nancy Walsh, along with an unidentified number of City of Sierra Madre officials (unidentified probably because the cost of sending them to this event has been a source of no small controversy in the recent past), are by now happily jetting off to the state capitol to participate in this yearly rite of advocacy and bonhomie, conducted for local officials by people who love them. Or, more likely, want something. And they always want something. Why else would they be throwing this shindig?

This conference is a key opportunity for many powerful statewide confabulations to sink their talons into tax money empowered local elected officials and get them to work in their interest. You know, rather than the interests of those folks back home who paid for all that airfare? And you do know that these very special interests will have come prepared to get exactly what it is they want. This has all been carefully planned for months. Think of it as a shark tank at the aquarium, with a feeding time that stretches over three days.

Another critter-centric metaphor would be "lambs to the slaughter." Do feel free to take your pick.

Of course, the Leaguers don't come right out and actually say any of that, and most local elected  officials such as our Mayor Walsh probably believe that they are going there to do good by their constituents, all while networking with key government and private sector players over a couple of drinks. Just somebody please try and keep the Buxton people away from her.

Here is how The League describes this event:

Join hundreds of city officials at the League’s 2013 Annual Conference & Expo for educational sessions and speakers that will provide innovative ideas to better serve your city and residents. Visit the Expo Hall to find state-of-the-art products and cost-saving services and explore the League Partner Speaker Theater.

The Expo will showcase nearly 230 exhibitors, including more than 50 first-time exhibitors. Make time to meet the vendors and learn how your city can benefit from their products, services and resources. The Expo Grand Opening, held in conjunction with the Host City Reception, is slated to run from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 18. The Expo will be open on Thursday, Sept. 19, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

A Grand Prize will be given away during this year’s conference. Your city could win a language-interpretation system ($4,000 value), provided compliments of SmartCitiesPrevail.org. These systems are typically used for city council meetings. The drawing will be held Friday, Sept. 20, during the Annual Business Meeting, which begins at noon. Be sure to look for entry details inside the Expo Hall entrance. You must be present at the Annual Business Meeting to win.

A language interpretation system would be very useful here in Sierra Madre. It could be used to help clear up what exactly our City officials mean when they mouth such terms as "process," "local strategic partnerships," "paradigm," "sustainability" and "best practices."

As an example: "The process involves the creation of a new sustainable paradigm where best practices will help assure a lasting viability for all interested local strategic partnerships." It would take quite a miraculous piece of machinery indeed to make any sense of that one.

The big issue is, as usual, how to get more taxes out of the citizenry. It is always a key League of California Cities priority, and this conference is where they bring their latest strategies for separating the citizenry from even more tax money to the attention of the attendees. Here is this year's biggest bouncing baby (link):

Local Government: Special Taxes: Voter Approval Lowers the vote threshold for a local agency to levy, increase, or extend any special tax from 2/3 to 55%.

The California Constitution states that taxes levied by local governments are either general taxes, subject to majority approval of its voters, or special taxes, subject to 2/3 vote (Article XIII C).  Proposition 13 (1978) required a 2/3 vote of each house of the Legislature for state tax increases, and 2/3 vote of local voters for local special taxes.  Proposition 62 (1986) prohibited local agencies from imposing general taxes without majority approval of local voters, and a 2/3 vote for special taxes.  Proposition 218 (1996) extended those vote thresholds to charter cities, and limited local agencies' powers to levy new assessments, fees, and taxes. Local agencies generally propose to increase taxes by adopting an ordinance or a resolution at a public hearing. The Constitution further bars school districts from imposing general taxes, but allows school districts, community college districts, and  county offices of education to issue bonded indebtedness for school facilities with 55% percent approval (Proposition 39, 2000).

Senate Constitutional Amendment 11 lowers the vote threshold for local agencies imposing, extending, or increasing any special tax from 2/3 to 55%.  The measure also makes conforming changes to the Constitution.

Do you recall last year's Measure J? It would have raised sales taxes in Los Angeles County had it received 2/3s of the vote. Fortunately it did not (Measure J failed by a mere 0.6%), with the result being that organizations like Metro were denied the extra funding they felt they needed to help bring forward such unfortunate projects as the godforsaken 710 Tunnel.

The statewide powers that operate the League of California Cities are never happy about taxpayers having control over how much in taxes they will pay, and this matter will be put before the voting representatives of cities like ours at this conference. How do you think Sierra Madre Mayor Nancy Walsh will be voting? Will she cast a ballot to make it easier to raise our taxes on a state, county and local level?

This should be a fairly easy matter for Nancy. Here is the link to how the League of California Cities would prefer her to vote. In the face of so estimable a level of persuasion whatever we might actually want probably won't matter. I'm not sure she ever even asked.

There is also Proposition 26, which thwarts the ability of the State of California to tax at a level they are comfortable with. It passed in 2010 (link), but apparently some people there are still pretty chapped about it. What this has to do with the interests of a so-called league of cities is anyone's guess, but that is hardly the point. Here is how the dummy sheet reads for this one (link):

Much effort has been expended trying to explain and analyze the purpose and effect of Proposition 26, the so-called “Stop Hidden Taxes Initiative.” Wading into the morass of municipal finance is a daunting task even for the expert, and Prop. 26 adds another layer of complexity to an already complicated area. This article provides the non-expert with tools to gain a working knowledge of Prop. 26.

Prop. 26’s genesis occurred in 1997 with the California Supreme Court’s decision in Sinclair Paint v. State Board of Equalization.1 In this case, Sinclair Paint challenged a state fee imposed on companies that utilized lead to manufacture paint and other products. The fee was used to fund various state programs to address the impact of lead exposure on children. Sinclair Paint argued that this was not a fee but rather a tax, because Sinclair Paint did not benefit from any of the programs funded by the fee.

Why is this distinction important? A fee may be adopted by the Legislature with a simple majority vote. A tax, on the other hand, requires a two-thirds vote of both houses for approval.

How will Nancy handle this issue when she is asked to express her opinion on the matter? The League will recommend to her how she should feel about Prop 26, and she will likely agree when called upon to do so. My guess is she will comply with their wishes and express concern.

Another topic that the League of California Cities frets over every year is how to pack more high density SCAG Housing (or ABAG Housing if you live up north) into cities where people not only don't want the stuff, but fight to oppose it in any way that they possibly can. Including not supporting the levying of higher taxes to help fund these purportedly planet forward imperatives. So how will Sierra Madre Mayor Nancy Walsh deal with this one (link)? Here is what the League has to say:

Urban Infrastructure Funding Is Problematic

Compact development in existing urban areas requires an analysis of the existing parcel and the quality of the services that will be needed, whether it’s more sewer capacity, fire trucks that can make multi-story rescues, modern stormwater systems that can meet new federal requirements or improved schools to keep families from seeking higher performing school districts (as measured by test scores).

When cities approve development in "greenfields" (undeveloped land), much of the cost of infrastructure is captured through development fees because the new infrastructure will serve only the new development. The fees therefore meet the proportionality requirement of the Takings Clause of the federal and state constitutions, which in essence says you can charge fees only in proportion to the development’s impact. Likewise, Mello Roos financing districts can be created to cover the ongoing cost of providing services for schools, parks and other improvements.

This natural proportionality does not exist in urbanized areas. Any new infrastructure must serve old and new residents alike. But the proportionality requirement limits the amount that cities can charge developers --- new development can pay only its fair share. Cities are specifically prohibited from charging fees on new development to fix deficiencies in existing infrastructure (see California Government Code section 66001g).

Thus, cities must turn to other revenue sources. But they encounter another constitutional limitation: the two-thirds voting requirements of Props. 13 and 218 on property taxes and assessments.

In short, to fund the infrastructure needed to make infill work, local governments must get two-thirds of the existing residents within an urbanized area to approve a new assessment or tax in order to approve a project that will, in effect, create more density and traffic in their neighborhoods.

There really is all an awful lot to have to think about when you go to a League of California Cities conference. Fortunately there will be plenty of the buffets and social occasions needed to help take some of that pressure off.

Perhaps the key to having a good time at a League of California Cities Conference is to just cast your votes as you have been told, and then head on out to the nearest lobby bar just as quickly as possible?

If so, then we are certainly sending the right people. Besides, isn't that really why most elected local officials go there?

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

66 comments:

  1. I do hope our city wins the grand prize of the language interpretation software. we can use it to translate all that "government speak" from that list you published a few days earlier into everyday common language. of course, I think the general meaning, when properly interpreted, of all gov't speak is, if the gov't has spoken it, it means the citizen is screwed.

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    Replies
    1. I'd like to see the language interpretation software used to translate the voters' emphatic NO into something the City Council and senior staff can understand! In my language NO means NO, not an opportunity to bring the issue back for another vote next year!

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    2. The League machine translates NO into YES. YES gets translated as a very Josh-like ABSOLUTELY!

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    3. The 64% NO vote on the UUT extension was translated as "That was fun, let's do it again!"

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    4. the PROPERTY OWNERS OF Sierra Madre NEED TO abolish THE UUT IN ITS ENTIRETY!

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    5. We could sell the interpreter to Arcadia.

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    6. Maybe we could bundle it with a couple of other things.

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    7. I have heard some of the old timers say they were promised that the first UUT was only a temporary measure.

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    8. The world is only temporary. And eventually the universe will collapse in upon itself, so it is temporary as well. That is the kind of temporary they meant for Sierra Madre's UUT taxes.

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  2. Not to worry about our esteemed Mayor, she campaigned to keep big development at bay (or at least that was stated in the Star News article prior to her election. Wait - didn't she also say she wanted to end the bickering and wasn't she part of the Civility Party? She hasn't been very civil lately, perhaps she'll also decide that stack and pack is a good idea after all.

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    1. We need to keep track of her League votes. Chances are they will be in direct contradiction to her campaign promises.

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    2. Mayor Walsh has been rude to a truly shocking degree.
      Such disrespectful and venomous speech has no place in the public arena.

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  3. The only thing our city council should be networking on at this point in time is the truth about safe drinking water and how to make it available without destroying the environment. Can that actually be done?

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    1. Ah 6:59, you make me long for a city government that functions.

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  4. If we have stack and pack then the seniors will have more wall space on which to place their lovely water colors of fruits and flowers that they created at The Kensington "public art project" school. I'm certain Nancy is all in favor of this.

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    1. Is the Kensington going to offer an art school? Is this more of the Walshian effort to bring in outsiders to compete with local businesses?

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  5. "Make time to meet the vendors and learn how your city can benefit from their products, services and resources." It's a sales gg.

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    Replies
    1. Be certain you visit the taser booth.

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    2. Just a euphemism for "meet the consultants" that our City Manager and Mayor Mean are so anxious to employ using our tax dollars

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    3. It is a shopping trip, like a trip to Macy's.

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    4. The vendors at League conventions must really miss the CRA. That must have been like a store gift card for gullible city officials.

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    5. A schmooze fest. Imagine all the flattery involved.

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  6. I for one am grateful to the League for spitting it out like this:

    In short, to fund the infrastructure needed to make infill work, local governments must get two-thirds of the existing residents within an urbanized area to approve a new assessment or tax in order to approve a project that will, in effect, create more density and traffic in their neighborhoods.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, but they think that 2/3s thing is bad. Personally I think it should be 9/10s.

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    2. I think the State should let people pay if they want to support the item.
      Kind of a cafeteria tax menu.

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    3. Wish they'd do that with my cable bill. Only pay for the channels you view.

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    4. Yes! I want a tax line item veto!

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    5. I agree with 8:10. They know they are trying to get people to decrease their own quality of life, and they aren't worried about saying it. That's ominous. Previously didn't they try to dance around that part more?

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  7. The League of California Cities & Conference that follow and meetings are nothing but a scam to waste cities tax dollars, something like when the heads of the MOB would gather to divide up city and proceeds for themselves unlike the RICO act.

    Just how much more richer and productive could your city be with out wasting thousands of dollars for special people to gather in secret to conspire against the democratic system of each city.

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  8. Those mean taxpayers! They won't give the government more money!!

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    Replies
    1. Not happily paying more in taxes is uncivil. People are just so over that!

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  9. How much does this cost?
    So 24/7 access to the internet where anyone can learn about everything ever created by human beings, and then conference for free on skype, is not sufficient for these bozos?
    On second thought, it's probably better not to know the dollar amount of being humiliated by having a representative like Mayor Walsh.

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  10. Why does anyone from staff go? You sure they do?

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    1. Elaine Aguilar always goes.

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    2. Will there be a dinner with Colantuono and Levin again this year? Michael "No More Tiers" Colantuono practically owns the League of California Cities, you know.

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    3. Sure they'll be a dinner! Gotta pay back for C&L not getting fired.

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    4. Maybe our City Attorney can sit with her friends from Alameda.

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    5. Will Barstow be in the house?

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    6. The Sierra Madre contingent will be allowed to order anything on the menu they like.

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    7. More importantly, anything from the bar!

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    8. Call a cab for that group in the corner, please.

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    9. Good jokes, but no no no. Damn it, if anyone is spending more than $5 on dinner they should damn well pay for it themselves. If I had been asked, no one from Sierra Madre would have wasted this time and money.

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    10. A five dollar dinner is a good way to practice portion control. A salad and a bread stick, please.

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  11. What I know about the League is that John Buchanan loved it, and Michael Colantuono did too. They both probably still do.

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    1. I'm sure. Both of them hate small independent cities.

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    2. of course the slimy lawyers would love it

      they get to talk and schmooze and convince themselves that they are important

      it was a bad omen when we elected a lawyer from SoCal Edison - Buchanan did very little expect blather on about his superior intellect and push development to benefit his employer

      a waste of time

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  12. Been to a few of these government conventions. The circus barkers selling you a chance to win a teddy bear are not as good as the salesmen at these shows. You know Sierra Madre is going to get sucked in to buying something we don't want. Oh no, and Mayor Walsh is buying. Hope we don"t have to send a plane to rescue her again. Such an embarrassment to our city.

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    1. That is how we ended up with that "Buxton Market Demand" thing. They saw Nancy coming a mile away. $30,000 on the CRA credit card by the time they gone done.

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  13. When is Nancy's term up? and when is it time to explore options for a new city administrator ?

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    1. Nancy's in her 2nd term. Unfortunately we the people have no options to explore as far as a new City Manager is concerned. The CM serves at the pleasure of the City Council.

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    2. Nancy is in her first term. She will have to run again in April if she wants to continue her abusive reign.

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    3. Nancy's in her first term. It only seems like longer.

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    4. I hope she is not spending too much of our money up in Sacramento. BTW - Did she take her three minute man with her? I can't imagine he'd want to miss that.

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  14. hey, I'm here at the EENER meeting. Three folks in the audience, 6 members present, 4 absent. Most of the agenga seems to be dealing with trees. Remind me why we need an EENER commission.

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    1. They're experts. We're just not sure what kind yet.

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    2. Are they wearing their sustainability suits?

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    3. "We don't need no stinking Tree Commission!"
      ~ Josh "I'm green" Moran

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    4. 4 absent? Are they EEnies or Tree people?

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    5. Mean Green Moran (green as in $$$... real estate green). Development Water Green... Texas Tea... You all come back now......

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  15. There are no council liaisons present.

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    1. Maybe they are in Sacramento with Mayor Mean.

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  16. Is the lady that wears that bad smelling patchouli perfume there? She is on the green committee. She could pass as the mayors little sister.

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    1. I have a theory about Patchouli oil users - they don't have a good sense of smell. Not joking, I really think they don't realize how strong the oil is, or how it permeates so many cubic feet of every space the wearer enters. I don't think they can smell it.

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    2. "Well, she can dance a Cajun rhythm. Jump like a willys in four wheel drive.
      She's a summer love for spring, fall, and winter. She can make happy any man alive."
      - The Grateful Dead

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  17. Walsh was lost in the first paragraph of the mission statement. Where it read "to serve..."

    Walsh has it backwards in her own mind. We the people serve her, not her as an elected official.

    Walsh's summary of the conference, "it was good"

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