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 Historical references and traditions are important to my life.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.