First the water rate hike. The City is going to send out Prop 218 ballots, and when (or should I say if) these are mailed back to City Hall by the ratepayers, the people who work there are going to count them with their own hands. The consultant idea was not received very well, and despite Mayor Walsh's deeply felt (though largely confused) reasons for wanting to do so, none of her four gentleman colleagues saw the point in shelling out $35,000 to hire somebody else to count mail-in water protest ballots.
Here is how we thought this would all turn out when we did our meeting predictions on Monday:
As you may recall, the City refused to mail out a Prop 218 water rate ballot in 2010, the last time they raised our water costs. Something that led to the sight of men and women as old as their late seventies going door to door with petitions, desperately trying to undo the effects of what was an act of planned and deliberate vote suppression. Only to see many of those ballots later thrown out by a Joe Mosca led City Council contemptuous of their efforts.
If you click here you'll be taken to this Agenda Report. It details how this water rate increase is to proceed towards enactment. And there you will also see that it calls for a City Hall mailing of a Prop 218 ballot, which would allow the ratepayers to vote on this water rate increase. It is quite a change from 2010 when Sierra Madre's residents were forced to fend for themselves.
Of course, this is only a staff generated meeting report, and there is a high likelihood that any Prop 218 water rate ballot mailing will be voted upon by the City Council.
I believe certain members of the City Council fear that the results of this vote will not go their way. I also have few doubts that three of them would have no misgivings whatsoever about trying to suppress the vote once again. And will if they feel they can get away with it.
I was right about the Prop 218 ballot being mailed out by the City. This is going to happen. Where I was wrong is in saying there might be some City Council opposition to that. There wasn't much. Apparently the ugly chaos surrounding the last Prop 218 process made an indelible impression on some well situated folks. And none of them want to see that happen again.
The City is going to do this one by the book. They will put Prop 218 protest ballots into the hands of the water ratepayers. If the voters send them back to City Hall it means they are opposed to the water rate hike. If they just toss them out then it means they are OK with being charged more for water.
Having the City mail these ballots out might sound like a good thing, or at least better than what happened to us last time. But there is a real problem, and here is how one commenter put it last night:
The problem is that most people will have no idea what these ballots are for, assume it is just more city BS, and toss them. Most wouldn't want the water rate increase, but they won't make the connection.
That is the problem with Prop 218, and the City knows it. Getting enough people to mail in ballots is very difficult. The City is counting on that. I have no doubt that the majority of people in this town are against paying more for water. But I also have some real misgivings that enough people will know they need to retrieve these ballots from whatever paperwork they get in the mail, fill them out and then send them in. A lot of educational work will need to be done by those opposing this water rate increase.
The second big issue last night was the UUT do-over vote. I have long said that those opposed to allowing our double digit utility taxes to sunset back to 6% would not be above hostage taking. And there were a lot of hostages taken last night. The Police Department, Library and Paramedics were all threatened with the same fate as the Lindbergh baby.
Just so you know. You either vote to approve the UUT extension at 10%, or the puppy gets it.
Here was my Monday morning prediction on how this one would turn out:
You need to look at this as a two step process. Tuesday evening the UUT-3 will react loudly to the long and woeful laundry list City Hall has put together. This list details all of the many things City Staff feels will suffer should the UUT not be renewed at its current State of California leading double digit rate.
Nancy, Josh and the MPT* will all proclaim themselves to be aghast that such things could happen, and will burn immense amounts of oxygen griping about how things could have gotten to so sorry a state. It is also at this time that the possibility of putting a do-over UUT extension measure on the ballot in April of 2014 will be brought up. It won't matter in the least that the residents here have already decided that the UUT should sunset back to 6%. Which they did, and by an overwhelming 60% vote.
Pretty much nailed that one.
Prepare yourself for some very long months of metaphorical hostage taking. City Hall is going to do everything it can to keep utility taxes as high as they are today, while at the same time also raising our water rates to new heights.
That is something you can count on.