Monday, January 27, 2014

Last Chance?

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"A necessary step in any gentrification process is to make people believe that the constant incremental increases in the costs of city services are insignificant." - Reader comment

It has been my experience that most people prefer to be told what to do. Those who question local governmental authority are more often than not a minority, and often the cause of some stress to those who'd rather quietly submit to the City's endless requests for things such as more money. Apparently that is somehow preferable to thinking these things through. Even when the need for more tax or rate revenue was caused by financial malfeasance, or even plain old incompetence. Which could very well be the case with the water rate increases being demanded in Sierra Madre.

Trust me, the people who are orchestrating the attempt to suppress Sierra Madre's Prop 218 protest vote against a massive 61% water rate increase get this. Take the headline in this week's Mountain Views News, our weekly adjudicated newspaper that sadly serves as little more than an extension of our city government. "A Reasonable Discussion On Sierra Madre's Water Situation."

And what does this paper believe a "reasonable discussion" might be? Yet another article expressing the shopworn opinions of Sierra Madre's City Manager, Elaine Aguilar. Who apparently, and in the absence of any effective leadership from our current Mayor or most other elected officials, is currently the face of governmental authority in town.

This would be the third such article by my count. Most of the Mountain Views News's coverage of the water rate increase here has consisted of quotes and interviews with Elaine Aguilar. A woman who, without even living here, appears to hold considerable power in this community.

It is also important to note that throughout the six month buildup to these rather draconian rate increases not one single person opposing them was ever interviewed or quoted in this paper. An unfortunate situation when you consider that the MVN owes its marginal existence to the publication of City of Sierra Madre legal notices, which are funded by the taxpayer dollars of ALL the residents in town.

This particular article is built around issues raised by a Sierra Madre resident named Eric Olson. Eric sent these topics and questions in an email to each of the members of the City Council. Who, I assume, then all passed them on to the City Manager. Which makes sense in a way. As we have already said, in that building Elaine wears the crown.

Eric's e-mailed remarks and questions can be seen on the SierraMadreNews.net website, which you may access by clicking here. The MVN article that cites them, alongside the City Manager's comments, can be found here.

Please note that in this article's introduction the paper's publisher, H. Susan Henderson, credits the need for raising water rates in Sierra Madre to the lack of rain. Something that is not exactly true.

What I find particularly significant in this article are not the remarks from the City Manger, which we have seen in previous MVN reports. Rather a couple of issues that Eric Olson raised, but were passed over entirely. Especially this item:

No one wants their water bill to go up. On the other hand, everyone knows that the covenants we gave in connection with our water bonds are hopelessly in default and it is no surprise that our municipal credit rating stinks.  We need to get our credit back.

Why did the City Manager avoid this particular item while commenting on almost all of the others? Perhaps it is for the same reason this topic has been ducked by City Hall over the last six months. That being it is the mismanagement of the repayments on the 2003 bonds that has helped drive our Water Department so deeply into the red.

By making interest only payments on this City's 2003 water bonds, an initial $6 million dollars in debt then ballooned to nearly $15 million. And only by raising water rates can the significant financial damage this disastrous mismanagement caused be remedied.

Why this issue has for all intents and purposes been dodged by City Hall is problematic. That the City should be asking for a lot more money from its residents for water, and without completely leveling with them about this extremely significant matter, is not the way things are supposed to be done.

My suspicion is that the reason why our local government agency has been hedging on this one is to protect the reputations of the City's deeply entrenched old boy's network. A group of aging past politicians who still exercise significant influence at City Hall. Their role in causing this financial crisis having been completely whitewashed by both City Hall and the weekly newspaper it controls.

We are now at crunch time in the Prop 218 water rate increase protest. And while victory over this latest big cash grab by the City is within reach, it is a long reach. By my rough estimate we are still somewhere between 500 and 600 ballots short of sending this deceptive mess back to the City Council for another look.

If the protest prevails, hopefully we will then finally get an accounting regarding the activities of the good old boys responsible, and find out why they thought making a decade and a half of interest only payments on millions of dollars in bond debt was such a brilliant idea, or ever used the money to fix the pipes.

You have just today and tomorrow to fill out your Prop 218 ballot and get it in to City Hall.

Do it. Don't be a sucker.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

48 comments:

  1. Yeah, even with a big last minute push it looks like the rate hikes are going through - with about one third of the customers protesting. That's a good portion. And I agree with a point the Mod made earlier, that when those big bills roll in, the chance of the UUT being approved is dead.

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    1. I hope that's true, 9:43. You can never underestimate the lack of interest the residents of Sierra Madre have in the politics of the town.

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    2. YOUR WRONG... ALL CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS & CITY STAFF HAVE SOLD THE RESIDENTS DOWN THE ROAD!

      THEY HAVE FAILED TO FIX THE PROBLEM!

      THEY HAVE FAILED TO PROVIDE A SOLUTION!

      ALL THEY WANT IS MORE OF YOUR MONEY!

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    3. You're wrong, 10:40 am. The problem is you don't like the solution they have proposed. You're inane all caps bombastic double spaced posts do little to help the cause. Voters can voice their opinion of the City's proposal to "fix the problem" by sending in their ballot. If fewer than the required 50% vote "no" then more than 50% are okay with the proposed solution. It may not satisfy everyone but it's the process.

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    4. 10:23, ballots not returned mean bupkis.
      People here are waaaaaay too oblivious to think that no response means agreement. It just means no response.

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    5. i could be wrong, but i doubt the outcome will in any way be influenced by the use of upper versus lower case letters.

      plus, I LOVE ALL CAPS GUY!

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  2. Councilman Koerber has a lot to do with this turnout, or lack thereof.
    He asked the citizens to approve this and vote against the UUT.
    He is well respected, especially about finances.

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    Replies
    1. Koerber dropping out was a blow to this town. All the grubby local real estate hustlers must have thought they died and went to heaven.

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    2. It seems to me that there are people who really want to preserve Sierra Madre on the commissions, not just say it. Some. And they make a huge difference, along with the few residents who back them up.

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  3. Too bad the first bills will not arrive until after the election. The Council was suppose to start the rates in Feb. and now it is March. This tactical change will help the UUT pass.

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    Replies
    1. If the water & sewer hikes pass, and the UUT passes, it really will get rid of the economic diversity in town. Especially when McMansion dreamers pop in with the big bucks to buy them out.

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  4. "Henderson" will never write anything that displeases city hall. She makes her living from the legal notices portion of that paper. If she lost the city hook, she'd lose the right to publish those.

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    1. Did the city ever verify her publication numbers?

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    2. Why would they? She serves them well as their chief propagandist. Helps them in their endless search for more money.

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    3. Verify her publication numbers? Why? Henderson pays a printer to publish X number of copies, which she then distributes in stacks free for the taking. She could pay the printer to publish tens of thousands of copies and take them directly to the landfill. What good are publication numbers? She knows it; the City knows it. She doesn't make much off Sierra Madre's legal notices - it's the three pages of teeny tiny legal inserts from hundreds of other sources that butter her bread. As long as Susan prints, the money comes in. Doesn't matter if her readership is low, if you paper your birdcage, if she doesn't pay her "contributors" or her "housekeeper", or if you personally don't like her. The Mountain View News is literally the golden goose.

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    4. Right you re 10:35, but the reason she can take all those profitable legal notices is because the paper is the city 'adjudicated' one. She loses that status, she loses the only thing that makes the paper worth it to her.

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  5. Does city hall have any credibility these days?

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  6. Time to vote: vote for the correct issue and vote often.

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  7. Fresno Taxpayers Object to Misleading Petition Title and Summary

    A group of Fresno taxpayers hoping to overturn the city’s recent water rate hike has filed a formal complaint accusing the city attorney of issuing a biased and misleading title and summary for their referendum.

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  8. The less money we give the city, the nicer and more helpful they will be. Let's make them nice!

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  9. Please ban the all caps , double space guy

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  10. Would you go to the market and agree to pay more for food you could not eat? Of course not. It is the same with the water. Why would I agree to pay more for something that is unfit to consume? The City Council and staff say the water is ok. Well, I will gladly bring them water from my faucet for the water pitchers Tuesday night.

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    Replies
    1. Then you will have to pay more money for an improved city utility filtration system or pay for private water (bottled water service).

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    2. I believe City Council is already drinking tap water but if it will make you feel better.

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    3. Why should I have to buy bottled water or pay for an expensive filtration system? The city water should be drinkable. The city water should be clear, as in no orange stuff floating in it. My bath water should not be orange.

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    4. I think city hall has discovered that if you put yellow kool aid in our tap water it turns clear.

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    5. It's your pipes, not the water. I have new copper plumbing and zero discoloration, ever.

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    6. What about the pipes before the water gets to your copper pipes?

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  11. You do consume it , yard- tolite- shower- washingmachine -dish washer -ect

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    1. The really, really expensive smart water meters that were installed a couple of years ago, the ones that were going to save the Water Department a ton of money? Remember those? I heard that they operated on a system similar to cell phones. Cell phones don't work in Sierra Madre, right? How come the City would purchase a system that didn't, couldn't and never will work right? Now we're paying for a new, really, really expensive new system to replace the practically brand new system that never worked.

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    2. Maybe you should get a new cellphone or different carrier , mine works fine in Sierra Madre

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    3. So does mine. Isn't technology wonderful?

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  12. Do we have a new Ballot count yet

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    Replies
    1. Around 3 o'clock.

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    2. Come down to City Hall at 9:00 tomorrow morning to watch the opening of the ballots. There will be monitors there to make sure they are correctly counted.

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  13. THE RESIDENTS OF SIERRA MADRE

    SHOULD FILE A "CLASS ACTION LAW SUIT"

    AGAINST THE CITY OF SIERRA MADRE!

    THE BROWN / YELLOW WATER IS RUNNING THE COLOR OF OUR CLOTHES!

    this should be discussed on the Sierra Madre Tattler

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  14. We should file a class action suit against you for all the yelling at us
    and we should discuss the polite way to post on the tattler

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    Replies
    1. hoooray for ALL CAPS GUY and his common man's approach to city issues. yes, he uses upper case letters. but so what? his content is always right on.

      by this standard he is waaaay ahead of city luminaries such as the mayor, the guy who sells old people reverse mortages, and that guy who works for sce who almost single handedly gave us one carter - way to go on the legacy front BIG RED JOHN!

      so, i promise you this. if ALL CAPS GUY runs for council i will donate $100 to the VICTORY ALL CAPITALS FUND. this donation will, of course, be the kiss of death just as it was for mr. tattler and dear maryanne.





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    2. Whuzzup, dude?

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  15. These colors don't run!

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  16. All of the calling for the water protest and only pick up 40 ballots . I think somebody has been lying to ones making the calls

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    Replies
    1. Nah. The calls were made during the weekend. Hit the mail today. Plenty of excitement tomorrow!

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    2. I the ballots hit the mail today there is a 50/50 chance they will not be delivered tomorrow

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  17. I agree with 2:46 and 4:01: I LOVE the all caps guy. Let's call him Cap'n Keyboard. And who can blame him for being frustrated when residents had a chance to stand up for themselves but did not. I guess it's just as hard to get people to mail an envelope as it is to get them to vote. Makes it easy for the IIC to prevail. Well, all the best, Cap'n. Wish there were a whole lot more like you. You don't give up without a fight.

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    1. All caps guy is rude for yelling at us. Don't even read him anymore.

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