Or maybe this matter should be agendized for a future meeting because, outside of raising every rate, tax and fee known to man, or knuckling under to whatever pay and pension demands our city employee organizations wanted at the time, I cannot think of much that was actually accomplished.
Well, OK, we did run out of water. Certainly that is an achievement of sorts. Though like so many of the things that have gone south for this bunch, they will loudly proclaim it wasn't their fault. Nothing bad ever is. At least in their opinion. Which for them is the only one that counts.
Of course, at the last City Council meeting Mayor Walsh did attempt to rearrange the toilets on the Titanic, but even that effort went awash. A relief to those parents who take their young children to Memorial Park perhaps, but in no way did it help solve one of the most pressing problems facing Sierra Madre today. Where to store ping pong tables.
That was also one of the important matters discussed in this weekend's Mountain Views News. However, this near timely front page article wasn't completely shared with us as it was supposed to be continued on page 19. Only 18 pages were printed.
But I digress, as usual. Besides, one should never dwell on the past when the present can also be merry and bright. Or at least amusing. In a sardonic, real world sort of a way.
Tuesday evening's confab will be a relatively short one. There are only three items on the agenda, and one of those is the always perfunctory Consent Calendar. Apparently outside of finishing up the requirements for conducting a do-over screw the taxpayer ballot initiative (this time extending our state leading double digit Utility User Taxes by nearly a decade), the Mayor was not moved to put up much else for discussion.
1. CONSENT CALENDAR:
a) ADOPTION OF RESOLUTION No. 13-83 OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SIERRA MADRE APPROVING CERTAIN DEMANDS: As noted above, first up is the Consent Calendar, the place where all that money gets spent. This time around $401,553.44 flies out the door and into the pockets of several dozen companies and individuals. Yes, we certainly are doing our part to keep the economy going. It should also be noted that $316,467.51 of this will go to pay city employee salaries and benefits.
I am often curious to know what it is they do. Would it be possible for each of them to send me a list of their job duties?
Among the Warrant Register items there are a few interesting spends. $5,030.78 goes to the Mountain Views News. The staff report says it's for ordinance publishing, but sometimes I think Susan Henderson is actually being paid by the spelling error and misprint. If so, she obviously had a very successful month.
The City of Pasadena gets $786.00 for inmate housing. Perhaps we could save a couple of bucks if we simply locked our miscreants up in Council Chambers? Put the Mayor in there and you'd have an authentic "scared straight" experience. We also are sending $906.00 to the Gateway Cities Council of Governments for a study of the L.A. River. The last time I looked it was still flowing.
The League of California Cities gets $1,241.50 for their work shoving the agendas of the CAR and BIA down the throats of little cities like ours. The den of iniquity known as the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments gets $8,306.90 for doing nothing much beyond providing fatty buffets for chubby regional elected officials. We are also cutting our first check of $2,500 for membership dues in Bart Doyle's San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnerships combine. Again, for no useful purpose.
This city spends our cash like they're the ones printing it. Then they wonder why people get so upset when asked for more. Something that is done at practically every City Council meeting.
b) SECOND READING – ORDINANCE No. 1348 AMENDING CHAPTER 17.22 OF THE SIERRA MADRE MUNICIPAL CODE REGARDING SECOND UNITS: This little heffalump was created to help us deal with our RHNA number problem. What are RHNA numbers? Regional Housing Need Assessment numbers are assigned by SCAG as part of the (so-called) process of jamming more housing development into places that don't want it. Like Sierra Madre. Cooked up by an eminently corrupt one party political apparatus in Sacramento, it is supposed to provide inexpensive housing for the unfortunate, while also somehow helping to cut greenhouse gas emissions. All of which is a laughable lie. The houses invariably go on sale at market value, while the resulting dense pack of SCAG units quickly becomes a greenhouse gas hotspot.
The real problem here is the confiscation of local planning powers by Sacramento, done so the crooked elected officials there can peddle this extremely valuable perc to the development and real estate lobbies. Who in return shower them with campaign cash and date night tickets to Josh Groban concerts. Next time you see Chris Holden ask him how this all works. He is familiar with the process.
Anyway, by declaring granny flats full residences, we get to beat SCAG and Sacramento out of a few additional housing units. From that standpoint I'm fine with it. But then what do we do next?
c) RENEWED PROFESSIONAL SERVICES AGREEMENT FOR VIDEO PRODUCTION AND CABLE TELEVISION ACCESS SERVICES: This would be a renewal of our contract with Community Media of the Foothills for cable access, broadcasting City Council meetings, and other audio visual services. The cost of renewing is $30,939.16 a year, plus an additional 3%. The good news baked into this deal is that we can back out of it at any time. All we need to do is give CMF 30 days notice.
However, there is that matter of poor quality service. An example of this would be the frequent drop outs during on-line City Council meeting broadcasts. I have felt the sting of that one. It makes defending these guys extremely difficult as a lot of their work seems unreliable.
Yet, here is how Pat Alcorn answered those concerns on this blog Saturday:
I was on the committee for SMTV3 and there is no other media company that can touch in cost what Community Media does. They are honest, active, and do this work for several other cities as well. The equipment that keeps failing is not theirs, it belongs to the City.
That makes sense. I'm sure our AV equipment is as good as anything else we have. And yes, it is probably the best deal we can get. The only other affordable option would be having people actually go to City Council meetings rather than watching from home. Which could mean I won't be able to get my favorite seat when I wander in 15 minutes late.
Besides, I have learned not to argue with Pat.
d) NOTICE OF COMPLETION, FISCAL YEAR 2012-2013 STREET IMPROVEMENT PROJECT: City Hall had a little cash to fix some of the dilapidated streets here in Duckberg. $208,771 came from money raised through Proposition C sales tax money, another $573,606 from similar tax money unleashed by Measure R. Plus an additional $83,904 from something called Metro STPL. The total came to $866,281. If you live on a street that was refurbished, then you'll know about it. And if you don't? You probably know that, too.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼2. DISCUSSION –
NO. 13-82 REQUESTING THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES TO RENDER SPECIFIED SERVICES TO THE CITY OF SIERRA MADRE RELATING TO THE CONDUCT OF A GENERAL MUNICIPAL ELECTION TO BE HELD ON TUESDAY, APRIL 8, 2014
NO. 13-85 CALLING AND GIVING NOTICE OF THE HOLDING OF A GENERAL MUNICIPAL ELECTION TO BE HELD ON TUESDAY, APRIL 8, 2014, FOR THE ELECTION OF CERTAIN OFFICERS AS REQUIRED BY THE PROVISION OF THE LAWS OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA RELATING TO GENERAL LAW CITIES AND FOR THE SUBMISSION TO THE VOTERS AN ORDINANCE EXTENDING AND MODIFYING THE CITY’S UTILITY USERS TAX (UUT) AND ORDINANCE NO. 1349 AMENDING THE CITY’S UTILITY USERS TAX
NO. 13-86 AUTHORIZING CERTAIN COUNCIL MEMBERS TO SUBMIT ARGUMENTS REGARDING A MEASURE TO AMEND THE EXISTING UTILITY USERS’ TAX ORDINANCE TO EXTEND THE EXISTING RATE STRUCTURE, SUBJECT TO NEW SUNSET DATES, WHICH WILL BE ON THE BALLOT FOR THE APRIL 8, 2014, MUNICIPAL ELECTION AND DIRECTING AN IMPARTIAL ANALYSIS OF THE MEASURE BY THE CITY ATTORNEY
NO. 13-87 PROVIDING FOR THE FILING OF REBUTTAL ARGUMENTS FOR CITY MEASURES SUBMITTED AT MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼NO. 13-88 REGULATIONS CANDIDATES’ SUBMITTED TO THE VOTERS AT AN ELECTION TO BE HELD ON TUESDAY, APRIL 8, 2014 ADOPTING FOR STATEMENTS
In case you are not aware, there is a City Council election coming up next April. Three seats (and all for full 4 year terms this time) will be up for grabs, and you know there will be all of the usual excitement and hoopla such events invariably bring us here. Personally I am looking forward to it. Hopefully this year I won't have to replace my mailbox too many times.
However, there is also the matter of the Utility User Tax do-over vote that City Hall is forcing us to endure. As I am sure you are aware, we voted down the previous attempt to extend our current double digit utility tax rates in 2012, with over 60% saying they don't see the point in little Sierra Madre having to pay the highest utility taxes in California.
It is a dubious and embarrassing distinction, one made even worse when you consider that the #2 and #3 high utility tax losers are Bell and Compton.
There are reasons for this, of course. The nearly $20 million dollars in bond debt this city is carrying blows a considerable hole through the budget. Plus we have become like a lot of other burgs in Los Angeles County in that we are expected to pay our city government employees more than they are really worth, along with equally generous pensions and benefits. The expectation is that we need to support them for the rest of their lives. All this despite that fact that Sierra Madre is a teeny little town of less than 11,000 souls. Far less folks than is required to pull off so ambitious a level of commitment.
That is, unless we do things like pay the highest utility taxes in the state. Which we do and, should the do-over vote succeed, will continue doing so for at least the next decade or so. It is a miserable situation.
Even worse, we will also have to hear from the veracity challenged Josh Morans of this town that if we don't extend our highest in the state level of utility taxation, our Police, Fire and Paramedic Services will all be taken away from us. Which is not the truth. First of all, our Fire Department is largely made up of volunteers, so it would be absolutely insane to let that go away.
And as far as I am concerned the people of this town should be allowed to keep the Police Department and Paramedics for as long as they like. The persons working those jobs will just need to learn to do them for a little less money. And yes, that is possible. Ask people who work in the private sector.
Besides, didn't we have a Police Department back when our utility taxes were at 6%? And even when we didn't have any utility taxes at all? Of course we did. If these guys really do want to be here, then they'll have to work with us to make that possible.
What this is really all about is LA County municipal employee union politics. Moran, Walsh and the disappointing John Harabedian are all aligned with the County political machine, and are therefore obliged to do all they can to bring home the bacon for government employee organizations like the Police Officers Association. That is where the political machine gets its money, and if you want to remain a local pol in good standing with the big county bosses you'll need to work hard for city employee pay raises and pensions.
It is time to stop the madness. Again. No matter how many times we have to vote to do it.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼3. DISCUSSION – CONSIDERATION OF ALLOCATION OF GENERAL FUND RESERVES FOR CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS: The City finds itself with $870,761 in mad money to spend, and staff has its shopping list ready.
What they really should be doing with this dough is paying down some of that nearly $15 million in interest only driven 2003 Water Bond debt. But apparently they'd rather do things like give City Hall a $60,000 new coat of paint.
Hopefully in 2014 we will get a city government that we can be proud of. It would be quite a change.