Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Little Yellow Prop 218 Protest Postcard In Your Mail

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If you are the officially registered rate paying water company customer in your home, then yesterday you were likely the specifically addressed lucky recipient of a little yellow postcard from the City of Sierra Madre. On mine the printing was a little off center, with the body of type leaning a bit to the right and pointing ever-so-slightly downward.

This little message didn't come from the water company, or the Water Division, either. Which I personally found disappointing. What would have been aesthetically pleasing is if it had, and it was printed on a card that was colored rusty pipe red. Or something of a similarly interesting hue. Historical references and traditions are important to my life. They give depth and nuanced meaning where often little can be found.

In case you don't number amongst the so-anointed, and therefore will not be permitted to vote on a possible nearly 60% water rate increase (and a near 100% sewer rate bump), here is what this card had to say:

The City Council is considering initiating a Proposition 218 written protest process. The City of Sierra Madre will mail notices to all water and sewer customers within the City's service area at least 45 days before the City Council can consider implementing new water and/or sewer rates. This postcard has been addressed to the City's utility bill customers on file where the Proposition 218 written protest ballot will be mailed.

Please take a moment to make sure the City's water billing information is accurate by looking at your City's water/sewer bill to make sure the Proposition 218 ballot is mailed in the name of the property owner, or the tenant responsible for actually paying the water/sewer bill. If any corrections are needed, please contact City Hall Utility Billing during open hours 11:00 am to 5:30 pm Monday through Thursday, (626) 355-7135.

And then, in smaller letters that also pointed downward and to the right, if only slightly, the following was said:

This postcard has been mailed to the person(s) responsible for the City's water and/or sewer bill. Please notify City Hall by November 30 if a change is required. This information will be used to verify the Proposition 218 written protest ballots.

Quite a lot of information here. And, as always, we have some observations and questions. I hope I have more than 3 minutes to type them. Please don't call Nancy's three minute man.

First of all, this is certainly different than the way the City went about the previous couple of water rate increases. The last time this "process" was unleashed upon the slumbering populace here your legal right to shoot down a water rate increase through Proposition 218 was treated like a dirty secret. This was during the grim depths of the Mayor Joe Mosca era, that now vanished fellow who was never particularly interested in hearing from the likes of you. Especially when it came to you not wanting to give him more of your cash.

As a result of this government enabled act of vote suppression a small group of brave and principled individuals had to roam this community with petitions and clipboards asking for signatures. Miraculously, almost 2,000 were collected, which was far more than what was needed to defeat the water rate increase that year.

However, given that this all took place during a particularly dark era for individual rights in this community, hundreds of signatures were thrown out by City Hall. And thus the wishes of the community were cruelly thwarted.

Where is Joe, anyway?

Apparently the memory of that unhappy debacle remains deeply embedded in the minds of those who run our town these days, and judging by yesterday's informative if uniquely printed postcard they seem determined to make certain that the appropriate people are given all of the opportunities possible to cast a Prop 218 vote on the upcoming water rate increase. On the surface this does appear to be quite a turnaround for this town.

Of course, the City doesn't really want you to cast a Prop 218 vote on the water and sewer rate increases. There is only one vote possible under Proposition 218, and that is a "No" vote. If you agree that water rates should go up, all you have to do is throw your ballot in the trash.

Not voting at all means that you want to pay more for water. What Prop 218 allows is a protest vote, and nobody I know has ever protested something like this by saying "Yes." Unless they were being sarcastic.

The City is gambling, of course. And as is always the case, they want more money, and badly. Make no mistake about it.

What they are rolling the dice on here is that the generally ill-informed populace of our quirky murky town won't have a clue about what they need to do in order to avoid shelling out more dough for water, and that when the City's Prop 218 ballot does finally arrive at their homes it will simple get dropped in the trash with the rest of the junk mail. An act that will then get tallied up downtown as a big "Yes!" vote for increasing water and sewer rates.

This indicates to me that the City believes its efforts at being transparent and informative about how to protest this water rate increase will actually end up delivering far fewer signed protests than that handful of doughty residents did with their petitions and clipboards a few years back. The idea being that the results will be better for them if they control this rather than, perhaps, the likes of you.

I think the City has finally figured it out. Either that or the consultant is just smarter this time.

Plus the City would then be able to claim that they did everything they possibly could to help inform the water ratepayers here of their right to protest these water cost increases. Something that will also allow them to say that there is a community wide consensus for raising water rates after only 400 protests are turned in.

There is always the politics, you know. That supposed consensus meme could then be trotted out for the upcoming do-over UUT vote. It would all roll together nicely.

It is an interesting challenge for those who enjoy such things.

You want to see something really cool?

Currently up on the Huffington Post there is an article titled "John Shear, 92-Year-Old Man, Meets The Little Girl He Saved At A Racetrack 2 Years Ago." There is an ABC News video as well. You can check it all out by clicking here.

This is a little of what The Huffy has to say:

Two years ago, when a racehorse at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., broke free from his handler and bolted for the gate, a 90-year-old man named John Shear threw his body over a 5-year-old girl who was in the animal's path.

"You cannot stop and think, 'Should I or shouldn't I?'" Shear, a former jockey, told ESPN's E:60. "There's a 5-year-old girl. I'm 90 years old. She hasn't had a life. I've had a life. You've gotta save that life."

Shear suffered several fractures, including one in his pelvis, the Daily Racing Forum reported. He spent seven weeks in the hospital but recovered -- a feat his son accredited to a healthy diet and vigorous exercise regimen.

Now, more than two years later, Shear was able to reunite with the little girl he saved.

Today, Roxy Key is 8 years old, and Shear drove to the ballet studio where she was about to perform.

ESPN caught the reunion on camera.

“I kept saying to myself, 'Is that Roxy? Where is she?' I was on pins and needles waiting to see her," Shear said. "And when I finally see her come out and dance, it felt so exhilarating. I can hardly explain. I felt so emotional in my heart."

You have to love that guy.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

53 comments:

  1. Mr Shear is the kind of person that we all hope we can be in a time of snap decisions and action. An ordinary guy that did an extraordinary thing; a true hero.

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    1. True indeed, 6:06. We all like to think we'd make the brave decision, but you never know what will happen when it's real.

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  2. One early observation: the fine print at the bottom of the postcard states "person(s)" but only one person per water service bill paying or the owner of the property where the water service is delivered can vote/protest NO by sending in a NO protesting the water rate increase. Not persons. So we get sloppy already and open up the opportunity for NO/protest votes being thrown out.

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    1. The mailer the city will send out with the Prop 218 ballot is likely to be filled with legally parsed obfuscations. It is what they do.

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    2. The bill could be a joint account you are just looking for something to complain about

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    3. C'mon. What's a 60% water rate increase? Absolutely nothing, right Steve?

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    4. I think Steve has a joint account, and he withdraws from it every day.

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    5. Huh? So if more than one person is listed on the account, they both don't have to sign? Or are they really required to, but the city can throw out the "No" vote if only one signs? I hate that it has come to this, but I don't trust either the city staff or the city council to be honest.

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    6. One vote per account. No word if you don't agree with your spouse whether the City will let you cast 1/2 of a "No" vote.

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  3. That ABC News segment about John Shear is extraordinary. It brought tears to my eyes.

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    1. Agreed, 6:38. We're lucky to know him.

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  4. What everyone needs to remember is the last water rate increase went through on a legal call made by the city atty. It was not because the people wanted it. This is why the Tax Me 3 voted to keep Colantuono and Levin. To protect them from the people they supposedly serve.

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  5. This city deals in deceit and deception. City hall is so use to doing this that it is no big deal for them to even send it out in a mailer. They do want everyone to just ignore it like another piece of advertisement. They count on people being in a hurry and thinking their getting just some advertisement that they will ignore.

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    1. I almost tossed it.

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    2. I haven't got one yet. Are they being mailed out in separate batches?

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    3. Are you a rate payer? Here is the Catch 22. They claim they are sending these out to verify that they are going to the right people. But isn;t it possible that some of those right people are not in their data bank?

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  6. John Shear is my kind of man, a man like every male should wish to be like.
    May Mr. Shear be blessed every day.

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  7. In lieu of sending out a voting mailer card they instead send out propaganda to support their worthless views, isn't that like pouring more money down the drain?.

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    1. I think they see it as an investment. It also shows that they are very worried.

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  8. Thanks for the nice comments on John Shear. He just got back from Las Vegas last night, hasn't even seen the ABC clip.....I'll show it to him on this blog. He was surprised to hear from us that this clip went all over the US Canada, Australia, and had tens of thousands of comments, Monday night. It even made the DailyMailUK the next day in London. Not too many British media sources covered John's story, even in 2011. I guess they don't like to cover ex-patriots that escaped from London, and became proud and legal US. citizens, as John did in 1964.

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    1. John needs to write a book about his life. It is an extraordinary one and I think there are millions of people who would want to know all about it.

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  9. These are truly wonderful ideas in regarding blogging. You have touched on some good things here.

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    1. Love the preposition tells.

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    2. Friends from afar, with Google translators. Either that or Yoda is with us.

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  10. The first notice of the upcoming Prop 218 vote for an increase in the Water Tax and Utility Tax arrived in yesterday's mail. If this is the Citys effort to inform the residents of the tax and response needed to register a no vote, it leaves a gaping hole in the process.

    Among the official narrative and message is a line at the end of the first paragraph is this, "This postcard has been addressed to the City's utility bill customers of file where the Proposition 218 written protest ballot willl be mailed. No effort is made to inform the resident that they "the resident" will need to return the protest ballot to be counted as a NO VOTE, or if th resident fails to file the written protest it will be counted as a "YES VOTE".

    I think this is the same gobbledygook that was passed off as "informiing the residents" last time.

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  11. Ready to inform the publicNovember 7, 2013 at 9:04 AM

    That postcard was pitiful.

    It should have been a letter in a 12 point type.

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    1. Nothing wrong with a postcard - it's cheaper, and we want to save money. The problem is what is written on it.

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    2. It was yellow. Lacked courage.

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    3. Red would have been better.

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  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  13. You know how they'll get people to throw out their ballot? Put a picture of Mayor Walsh on the front of the mailer.

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  14. Two Dead Candidates Win Majority Of Votes In Washington State

    Headline on Huff Post.....these are the same Washington State voters who voted down ballot Int. to require labeling of GMOs. The people who water GMO's growing, our food mind you have to wear chemical protection suits and masks, but these idiots in Washington vote down a requirement just to label the stuff.. This is what voters have come down to........

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  15. To the comment at 7:06 a.m. that the "person(s)" referred to in the postcard could be referring to a joint account...

    ahem! only ONE vote per water service meter/billing account!

    What is a joint account? Joint ownership of property maybe...still only ONE vote per water serve meter/billing account! A joint account on a meter is a moot point!

    There are two people at our address that jointly own this property but there is only one water meter/water bill/account # so there is only one vote NO! coming from the address/meter. The name on the water bill or only one of the two names on the APN for this address.

    Double check this with the city.

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    1. The city loves to confuse people. They think we are incapable of understanding what it is they do, and use it to get our money.

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    2. A joint bank account some need both to sign or either ,therefor it is person or persons on the bill it is nothing to do with votes , all get one vote but may need more than one signature

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  16. Everybody see the latest eblast? This caught my attention:
    "The Community Services Department would like to thank the Sierra Madre Kiwanis Club and Sierra Madre Chamber for assisting with this year’s event."
    The city will be run properly when that is reversed, and the volunteers thank Community Services for their assistance.

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    1. Amen to that, 1:24! Why aren't all the party things handled exclusively by volunteers anyway? We need to pay someone, provide them with benefits no one gets in the business world anymore, to plan a party?

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    2. The cities Facebook page is in full swing. Eblast on water and sewer rates. Their take on the possible outcome if they are unable to raise rates. What did they do with all of the money from the past rate hike? Of course they aren't touching that one with a ten foot leaky pipe. They are going to look for more money to borrow, no doubt about it. More lies, lies, lies .....

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    3. Yes! People of Sierra Madre, take back your town!

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    4. So far no "likes" on the city's facebook page for their goofy water rate increase arguments. Though an Eric Maundry has commented.

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  17. From the City's facebook page. Notice there is nothing about water bonds.

    Q: What happens if the proposed sewer rate increase is not approved?

    A: Quite simply, the City’s ability to maintain its sewer system in safe working condition will be jeopardized. Once Sewer Fund reserves are depleted, operating costs will have to be reduced. This will be possible only through staffing reductions. Sewer cleaning and inspection frequencies will decrease, with a corresponding increase in the risk of sewer overflows. Absent adequate sewer maintenance staff, it would be possible to contract for annual sewer cleaning and inspection. However, emergency response times could increase greatly if the City was to rely upon a contractor for this service. Longer response times would cause the impact of sewer spills to increase, along with cleanup costs and the risk of State enforcement action.

    All public sewer overflows must be reported to the State Water Quality Control Board. The Board can issue fines to public agencies for sewage spills, particularly when the Board finds that inadequate sewer maintenance or delayed/insufficient response were contributors to an overflow, or a factor that increased the impact of an overflow. Fines of $27,500 per day or greater may be assessed by the Board. In some instances fines have exceeded $1,000,000. In fact, such fines have been imposed on local agencies. For example, one San Gabriel Valley City Council recently agreed to pay $225,000 in fines, with another $675,000 due if that city does not complete $11,000,000 in sewer repairs/replacements within the next five years. That city will be undergoing the sewer rate increase process in order to cover the cost of the sewer improvements.

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    1. Leaky sewer pipes? Is Bruce Inman going to carry one of those around now?

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    2. No mention of the past bonds...However, the future may bring more....
      • Without proper reserves or revenue streams, Sierra Madre will not have funding for the local match required to apply for possible Federal funding and other possible grant funding. The ability to participate in joint water projects, such as those being done with the County, Arcadia and Watermaster, could also be hampered. Missed opportunities to obtain grant funding and participate in joint projects shifts the cost burden for joint water projects to Sierra Madre rate payers.
      • Without proper revenue to cover operational expenses, which include the City’s bond covenants, the City’s Water Fund credit and bond rating could further deteriorate. In September 2011 Moody’s investor service downgraded the City’s Water Enterprise bond to an A3 rating from an A1 rating. The rationale for the downgrade was insufficient debt service coverage levels and slow implementation of increased rates.
      • If extreme financial distress were to result, such that expenses continue to exceed revenues after all the reserves have been exhausted, the Water Department might have to be sold. If sold to a private water company, there is no Proposition 218 process to increase water rates of private companies. If the water utility is sold, it would be very difficult to re-purchase the water operation.

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    3. Right. We (eventually) heard all that last time as well. But riddle me this, Phantom of the Bonds. How on earth did you guys turn a $6 million dollar bond sale into $15 million in debt? And then extend the misery out into the 2030s? How do we know you won't simply use an improved bond rating to do it all over again like that jackass Moran wants to do? If instead of barking like a junkyard dog you leveled with the people a little, you wouldn't have such a difficult time making your case.

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    4. Now there is a tautology. If we use our Prop 218 rights and turn down the water rate increase, we could lose our Prop 218 rights. Hokey smokes!

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    5. Using leaking sewage as a scare tactic is a pretty crappy strategy. Kinda stinks if you ask me.

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  18. sorry City Manager, your leadership along with the Councils just lied to us originally from the start and so I start with the premise that whatever the city sends out is either misleading or in fact, just another lie

    the only way to rid the stank of the past is to elect a new regime and hire a new city manager

    before it was our pipes were a fixin to explode and now it's leaking sewage, same old scare tactics that in based in a bed of lies

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    1. I think the City Manager tried to kill Neil the Pig because she was envious of his credibility.

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  19. I object to the city's position that we have to give city staff more money, or there will be no alternatives except the ones articulated above. There are always alternatives. Let's start by downsizing city staff by one-third.

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    1. I agree. I see no reason why I should pay the highest UUT taxes in the state so I can support city staff for the rest of their lives. I already have children.

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  20. I look at it this way. The fewer people work at city hall, the less damage they can do.

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  21. It's time to look at the problem solving method of "contracting all the help in city hall etc."

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