Tuesday, November 12, 2013

So What Is This Water Rate Increase About Anyway?

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There have been a lot of reasons given by the City as to why our water rates need to be increased. Infrastructure maintenance is one reason that is often cited, being able to maintain adequate overall services is another.

That more money is going out than coming in is a problem also brought up when this matter is discussed, and if additional funds are not raised then the city's water enterprise would have to go out of business and sold to a private operation. Cities who have been through that experience do not recommend our doing that.

Others will tell you that these water rate increases are a part of an overall City Hall fund raising scheme designed to cover increased employee pensions and benefits. An opinion that has become so prevalent in town that the City felt the need to issue the following denial on its Facebook page. This from a November 7 post there:

City water and sewer rates are not being increased so that employee salaries can be increased to “market” rates. Nor are the rates being increased to enhance employee benefits. Funding has not been included in the draft water and sewer rate study for any additional, new staffing. Additionally, water revenues cannot be used to pay for the salaries of non-water related staffing, and sewer revenues cannot be used to pay for the salaries of non-sewer related staffing.

But who knows? What is said in a "draft water and sewer rate study" and what ends up being officially approved city policy could be two very different things. This is a matter that is also somewhat contradicted on that same Facebook page in a list of possible consequences should water rates not go up.

Reduction in staffing and other cost savings measures will result in reduced customer service. Reduced customer service means slower response to water leaks, water main breaks, and customer requests. 

I guess this means that current water department employee salaries would need to continue to be paid or we would face reduced customer service. Just don't expect those salaries to go up anytime soon. Which is not the best news if you happen to work there.

However, according to an August 2nd article in the Pasadena Star News, Mayor Nancy Walsh believes that the most pressing matters are water bond covenants and credit ratings. Here is how she revealed that in a piece called "Sierra Madre expects to raise water rates once again" (link):

Mayor Nancy Walsh said Wednesday that residents can expect future water-rate increases to offset the city’s low credit rating.

Though a current study determining the effects of water rates is still under review, “no doubt there will be an increase” again, she said.

“We need to make sure we’re good on our bond covenant,” the mayor said.

When the rates were discussed in 2010, Walsh was a council member and advocated an initial rate increase of 15 percent, followed by 3 percent increases the next four years.

That proposal angered residents and the council ultimately approved 7.5 percent, Walsh said.

“I did not support the rate that was proposed, but I was outvoted,” she said of the 7.5 percent increase. “In the end, I had to vote for it. Any money helped.”

“Shortly after, our credit was downgraded,” Walsh said. “This is really talking about our credit. It’s our No. 1 priority.”

While the Mayor may claim that our credit rating is the #1 priority, City Staff cites other reasons for why water rates need to be raised. This from the same article:

The (previous) increases started on July 1, 2011, and run through fiscal year of 2015. Each fiscal year, water rates have increased 7.5 percent, except for the final fiscal year, where rates only will increase 7.2 percent.

“From a public works perspective, those increases were not adequate to cover ongoing costs,” Inman said. The increases have been “inadequate” to maintain and produce water systems and distribute water to city customers, and rate increases would help resolve that issue., Inman said.

“The amount of money that is set aside for future capital improvement projects directly affect the rates,” Aguilar said.

Reports from this year show an approximate $492,000 deficit. “We keep deferring maintenance because we can’t afford to get work done,” Inman said.

Hopefully the reasons for this water rate increase will all get figured out before we get too much farther down the line.

Do Condo Owners Get A Prop 218 ballot?

If you don't want a water rate hike, and you find all of the arguments being presented by City Hall to be unconvincing, you would most likely want to fill out a Prop 218 protest ballot and send it in to whoever is keeping track of such things. And if enough people agree with you and do the same, then the City will not be able to raise your water rates.

Who actually receives these ballots from the City? Those whose names are listed on the City's water bills. Per state law only actual water ratepayers are able to cast a Prop 218 protest vote against a water rate increase, and only they are to receive ballots.

But according to an aggrieved resident who called in yesterday, if you own a condominium here in town, chances are you won't receive a Prop 218 ballot whether you are a ratepayer or not. According to this person ballots will only be sent to the "Homeowners Association," who will then cast just that one single ballot on behalf of all the condominium owners in whatever complex they represent.

This no matter how many water ratepayers might live in that complex. Something that appears will disenfranchise a whole lot of water ratepayers.

Hardly seems fair.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com 

128 comments:

  1. Nancy only knows what Elaine tells her, but then I don't think she really understands what she's been told. The bond debt was discussed last time, and this time and she is the only one who believes the city will go into bankruptcy if we don't have a 15% water rate raise. I hope Capoccia and Koerber will be able to convince the puppies to have a reasonable plan that will help pay off the debt while putting something away for maintenance.

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    1. Nancy is also on record as saying she wants a 12% UUT. She wants to spare us no expense.

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    2. Walsh doesn't understand much about nuthin

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    3. She's all about "her Seniors".

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    4. You mean her peers, yeah?

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    5. Nah. The Seniors appear to be faster on the draw.

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    6. True, 12:49, but Walsh always refers to them as though they are separate from her - "the" seniors, instead of "We" seniors.

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    7. I'm waiting for Nancy to start talking about herself in the third person, ala Bob Dole.

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  2. Who knows what it's really about?

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    1. There are alot of excuses and babbling explanations but there is only one true reason

      That is the dishonesty and deceit of a previous Council (Mayor Doyle the building lobbyist) and that Council leadership has been at the forefront of pushing candidates who would just coverup the misappropriation of the orginal monies

      After we elected Doyle a lobbyist, we then elected two utility company lawyers, a construction company owner, a commercial banker and eventually leads us to the mind boggling election of a mortgage salesman

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    2. That does help to explain why every project the City engages in becomes a failure as well as an financial disaster for it's citizens!

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    3. Our fates were sealed when the Doyle backed bond debts were begun.

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    4. Bart's gamble was the DSP would make it work. It was a huge blunder.

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  3. One parcel, one vote is how it works. If the HOA determines they want to protest the vote, then they can send it in. I can, however, foresee a lot of 2/2 tie votes as several condo complexes consist of four units.

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    1. So if you are someone who both owns a condo and is a water ratepayer, you are a second class citizen when it comes to placing a Prop 218 ballot?

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  4. Yes, 7:18. But don't you feel good that the whole Prop 218 process claims to allow the citizen to have input?

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    1. It certainly helps me understand why the city might be embracing it.

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    2. I would be much more comfortable with a straight up vote. Like with the UUT.

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  5. So condo owners pay the bill for water, but don't get the right to protest a rate hike?

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    1. Sounds like the fix is in.

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    2. 7:49...The" Fix" and Sierra Madre are one and the same.

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    3. same old same old with the city

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    4. and the city will count their inability to vote as an endorsement for raising water taxes - such a sham

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    5. if this is accurate about condo owners not being given a vote it reeks of fraud and deceit once again by the city

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    6. It looks very bad.

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    7. So what else is new!

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  6. After years of mismanagement and fraud, the residents of this beleaguered community are slowly becoming aware that something isn't working for them.No kidding!Maybe bankruptcy would be a blessing since nothing else seems to work.Maybe it's time to"Clear the Decks" and save whatever is left...

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    1. it was about 12 years ago I was at a neighbor's house and I made the prediction that Sierra Madre was headed toward bankruptcy - just a hunch but the complete BS that I was hearing up at Mary's Market by a "Mayor" and I thought if this is the best we got - we are doomed.

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  7. pretty simple, we just contract out the PD to the Sheriff's and keep a skeleton staff for code enforcement and save the city the costly ligitation that is constant with our PD

    I don't buy Inman's arguement because he was the dude that lied to us a few years back when he was showing us rusty pipes and claiming the city was on the verge of becoming a 3 mile wide sinkhole

    I would imagine we do need maintenance but the city has lied to us over and over and over and glossed over the misgivings of previous city managers and councils and now we are being handed another tax increase doomsday scenerio

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  8. If you call this a beleagured community you don't know what one is. Bankruptcy is what we don't need to do !

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  9. I live in a condo. I also get my own water bill. Since I don't get an individual vote, I shouldn't have to pay my individual water bill.

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    1. Did you get a yellow card? If not, then call the city and request they change the listing on the records to your name and address. The city is getting requests several times a day.

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  10. The city's parcels should not count in the total number of parcels.

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  11. I looked at the Los Angeles County Assessor web page. Memorial Park and City Hall are actually 7 parcels.
    Condo owners can't vote and the city gets extra votes. This process is messed up.

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    1. The city doesn't get extra "votes". Why would they send in a protest letter? People are confusing the "ballot" designation for a protest. Your "ballot" is a legal protest to a water and sewer rate raise. There are no yes votes involved. If 51% of the rate payers send in a protest, then the hike will not go through.

      We almost made it last time, but we were carrying petitions worded in such a way that each signature was counted. It will be harder now with ballots because people don't understand the concept of the 218 process and will tend not to send in a ballot.

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    2. Of course our local mafia is counting on that!

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  12. We can mutter about the details,the lies and incompetence endlessly. That may be cathartic but it will not solve the problem of corrupt/inept City employees or a weak Council.
    In the end BK is the solution.The only question is when (not if) and if it is planned or just a final bungled crisis.
    IMHO ,the sooner we get on with this solution the better.

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    1. Agreed 12:21.

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

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  13. We will not and should use BK it is are debt no matter how it got there and we should pay it

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    Replies
    1. Rather the City than the individual home owner!

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  14. 12.29 I agree with your distaste for BK morally.But economically it is the only way out IMHO. Even with a huge increase in taxpayers(How??) for Sierra Madre, the numbers just do not work to both pay off the debt and funding an ever increasing City budget for pensions/benefits and empire-building.

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  15. What I think the water rate issue is about : "Calderon Removed from All Committees, Temporarily." (OC Politics Blog, CBS local, et. al.) What's notable is the way Steinberg and everybody else is tip-toeing around Calderon, even now. Calderon knows where a lot of water pipes are buried, and it's a good bet some of them are right here in our little village.

    Sierra Madre may be only a small pawn in the bigger political game going on right now, but it would be foolish to think we're not on the game board at all. All the other stuff is just scripted soap opera to keep us locals busy and to create civic fatigue among citizens. Development, construction, density, water--all that is part of the Big Plan. Which is not decided by voters.

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  16. 7 parcel numbers at the city hall and memorial park--what about the fire department and police station (included in the count? But how many water meters. And if the city would (which I doubt) send in a protest letter, who is the owner/rate payer at that parcel site? Boggles the mind!

    Years ago, canyon lots were merged to pay only one sewer fee and yet there are still some areas in the canyon where there are several side-by-side parcels with separate parcel numbers, under one ownership, BUT with only one water meter. Who really is going to figure this out so the protest letters are sent out correctly and therefore possibly, just possibly sent back as a protest (or not) correctly,

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  17. That's what the little crooked yellow postcards were for, to figure out who can sign a protest letter.

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    1. What if you are entitled to cast a protest vote, but you didn't get a card? Is that an invisible notification?

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  18. Please come down tonight and comment on the water rate hikes as well as the UUT. Nancy will miss you if you don't show!

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  19. Yes. It's important for the community to show up in council chambers tonight. I plan to attend. I hope to see lots of you there. Nothing quite like watching the council live and in person.

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  20. THE CITY HALL IS BREAKING THE PROPERTY OWNERS BACK...

    EVEN IF THE ...

    1) UUT TAX RATE was increased to 25%

    2) WATER RATE was increased to 200%

    3) SEWER RATE was increased to 400%

    Its still not enough money...

    All the city monies are commingled...

    Think of it this way... you put apples and oranges in a blender... Elaine Aguliar can not even separate the produce now. It even gets worse, Just think if Elaine throws in a banana..

    Elaine can not separate the apples

    Elaine can not separate the oranges

    and Elaine further can not separate the banana's!

    The city has (1) checking account and all city income "MONIES" are commingled!

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    1. why do you still feal the need to doublespace

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    2. THE PROPERTY OWNERS ARE DEALING WITH A BUNCH OF YOYOS!

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  21. Nancy gave one of the weirdest Councilmember reports ever.

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    1. Cute babies as lobsters in pots - something the town needs to hear.

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    2. Gave me a sick chill.

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  22. "very interesting"... Thanks Nancy

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  23. We have a consent calendar, but never a dissent calendar. Seems one sided.

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  24. The Mariposa property is going from 5 condos to 7 condos. A little denser here, a little denser there, and what do you get. Dense.

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    Replies
    1. It had no condos just very run down old houses

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  25. Mur-sol wins...better start brushing up on my Madarin

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  26. Sewer, water and Prop 218. A large item says the City Mangler.

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  27. City Manager is rushing, rushing....
    I'm not sure I can make it through this one.

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    Replies
    1. We're being lulled to sleep by the Habeebster.

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    2. Habeeber is remarkably unriveting.

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    3. Can we vote now?

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    4. Habibi means sweetheart.

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    5. Sweetheart wears the same suit everytime he shows up here. Maybe it is his lucky one.

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  28. Habib, come on down!

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  29. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.........

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  30. Ooooooooo buckets

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  31. Uh oh, a 4th tier! Where we fine people for using too much imported water. You know, to keep our wells from running dry.

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  32. Nancy is intently focused on the PowerPoint presentation.

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  33. Would it kill them to just say what they mean?

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    1. If the consultant boiled it all down to a couple of simple equations it wouldn't be worth $30,000. I think he is being paid by the graph.

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  34. "Less than 19% revenue adjustment" huh?

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    Replies
    1. I think it's the Moran Theory of Latteisms - here's the rate increase and how slight it will be for most residents.

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    2. The consultant is attempting to bring this in just under the average water users threshold of pain.

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    3. Good point 8:01. He's earning his keep.

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  35. The P-Point won't go up on the city's website until after the City Council approves the rate hike? Why is that, so the folks at home can't follow along?

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  36. The MPT* is expounding upon blended water and rate adjustments. Sharp as a knife that one.

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  37. I'm voting no because they have bored me to death.

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  38. E Waldo Ward rocks. Agricultural rate, you bet. Thank you for reading that letter Mr. Capoccia.

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  39. Here's Aguilar making it not work.

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  40. Elaine doesn't care about the oldest existing business in this town. She doesn't live here.

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    Replies
    1. Do you think she goes to city council meetings in her town?

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  41. You could make it work if you wanted to.

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  42. All of you watching at home are missing the marvelously funny facial expressions of Mayor Walsh! I don't think she understands any of this monetary discussion.

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    Replies
    1. She's not alone.....and I mean me. I wish we could just skip to the meaningful speech and skip all the posturing.

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  43. Johnny Process doesn't want to burden a future city council.

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    Replies
    1. Team player he is. Dancing the right steps to move up.

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  44. Sticker shock indeed. Why do we have to be so generous?

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  45. Koerber is making a good pitch - so support the rate increase. But are they going to put the UUT aside?

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  46. Harabedian just said that if this doesn't pass, then we're in a really bad way. Wait, aren't we in a really bad way now?
    And am I supposed to believe that we'll get our own good water system back, with all the new development going on?

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    Replies
    1. Johnny... is a renter,,,

      Johnny you need to buy a house and bitch about the water and sewer rates just like the rest of the enemies which you are creating!

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  47. Josh is comparing water rates to other things again. A loaf of bread, a gallon of gas. Dare we say .... latte'?

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  48. "Every dollar made by the water department goes back into the water department."
    Why was it called the cash cow?

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    Replies
    1. THE CITY HAS BEEN STEALING THE WATER & SEWER SERVICE AND spending water and sewer income for buying non related products!

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  49. Koerber just said it would be unfair to ask us to do the rate hile, and then a UUT increase. What does that mean?

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    1. He is grudgingly supporting the water rate increase. He will oppose the UUT extension. That is my guess.

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    2. If he wants me to support the water rate hike, he'll have to lead the council to forget about the UUT.

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  50. Why are they laughing?

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    Replies
    1. Because none of them are on a strict enough budget to feel the difficulty these hikes will bring.

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  51. Josh trotted out his speech on price comparisons....

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    Replies
    1. The fellow needs some new material.

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    2. He should compare the price of water to beer.

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  52. Keep it as low as we can live with and keep it solvent.
    Amen Capoccia.

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  53. The theme of the evening seems to be "undoing the damage of Joe Mosca."

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  54. So The mayor and the MPT* got pushed into a consensus agreement with the other three council members. boo hoo.

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    Replies
    1. It must have been a painful moment for them.

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  55. Aguilar figures we will be punished so much from the tiers that they won't need the trifling fines anymore.

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    Replies
    1. I think she was cooing.

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    2. Its just another way to "SCREW" property owner out of his money!

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  56. Moran thinks a wetter winter is coming?
    Guess he doesn't follow climate news much.

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  57. A good faith effort? That's the name of my dead lawn.

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  58. Green lawns are on the way back.

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  59. It is Prop 218 time.

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

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  61. The Prop 218 ballot will comer wrapped in a tree's worth of propaganda.

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  62. I think this was a poor choice. just watch, water consumption is going to skyrocket as folk try to bring back their dead lawns. And of course, we will be staying on MWD water.

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    Replies
    1. Everything is OK now. Why do they have to raise water rates?

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    2. I for one have got 2/3 of my landscaping gone - it's all dead and I won't be bringing it back. I can't afford to at these prices.

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  63. Here is my question. Why did the city refuse to send out a Prop 218 ballot in 2010, but they are doing it this time?

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  64. Is a Prop 218 ballot only legitimate if it is produced by the city?

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    Replies
    1. That's a question for a lawyer.

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  65. Where is the Sierra Madre city council agenda, November 12, 2013 posted on line at, link address please.

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