Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Is the 500 Year Drought Enough for Sierra Madre to Embrace a Building Moratorium?

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The item of most interest to this blog on tonight's City Council meeting agenda deals with getting truly serious about water conservation. We've had water conservation edicts loudly proclaimed in the past, with penalties established that in the end were not enforced. So nothing happened.

If you go back to the City Council agenda of one year ago today you will see a topic quite similar to tonight's being discussed. But none of that worked. Sierra Madre is consuming more water than ever with no real signs of slowing down.

But maybe this evening the City Council will show that they have learned from their past failures and will do something that actually counts. The item we're talking about is the third on tonight's agenda, and it offers serious solutions to our water problems.

3. DISCUSSION – CONSIDERATION OF IMPLEMENTATION OF PHASE III WATER CONSERVATION, AND WATER CONSERVATION PENALTIES 

Phase III Water Conservation means a bunch of things, including a building moratorium. Which, unless you are blind and don't care to drink anything, makes perfect sense since there is no water left in this town. All we have these days is that atrociously overpriced piped-in SGVMWD stuff that kills fish and scours the rust off the inside of our antique pipes. Imagine what it could be doing to your pipes.

But there are bigger problems that we need to face. Such as what do we do when the SGVMWD also runs out of water? Who do we turn to then?

Mother Jones Magazine has published a quite sobering report about the drought here in California. They are claiming that it could be among the very worst ever in our recorded history, and they have the facts and figures to back their bold claim up. Here is a portion of that article (link).

California's Drought Could Be the Worst in 500 Years - Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency on Friday, citing a need for conservation efforts and a fingers-crossed message that he "hopes it will rain" soon during what looks like it will be the driest year on record in the history of California.

This is “perhaps the worst drought California has ever seen since records began being kept about 100 years ago,” Brown said at a news conference on Friday. "We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas."

He asked Californians to reduce their water consumption by 20 percent, adding that his request was "voluntary." Still, he urged residents to do what they can in terms of watching their water consumption. He noted that Angelenos are "doing better" than the rest of the state, but he asked everyone to stop taking such long showers and stop watering their lawns. The immediate forecast shows no rain in sight.

The proclamation is a public relations tool and a way to streamline the rules for water agencies to transfer extra water around the state. And it also gives Brown a little boost when asking for federal funding, which he stated he'd like.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated portions of 11 drought-ridden western and central states as primary disaster areas, including the three Bay Area counties of Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara. That means eligible farmers can qualify for low-interest emergency loans from the department. But that declaration did not include the entire state of California, just portions of it.

Specifically, the order mandates that the Department of Water Resources execute a statewide water conservation campaign to be publicized through the Saveourh20.org, drought conditions should be updated through the California Dept. of Food and Agriculture at cdfa.ca.gov/drought, and local urban supplies are ordered to implement their water shortage contingency plans, among other things.

California’s rivers and reservoirs, including the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, are below their record lows, according to the state's water managers. Manual and electronic readings record the snowpack’s statewide water content at about 20 percent of normal average for this time of year.

So I have to ask you this. Is the worst drought in 500 years enough to get waterless Sierra Madre the building moratorium it so desperately - and obviously - needs? If not, exactly when would that threshold be reached? What would trigger it? Armageddon? The Zombie Apocalypse? The Kardashians showing up at Vicious Dogs 2?

Of course, 4/5s of our City Council could very well show us tonight that they only care about the money they get from development impact fees, and even a 1,000 Year Drought wouldn't cause them to stand in the way of stacking and packing this place out. They have large and growing city pensions and benefits to fund.

And that could be symptomatic of the problems we're facing. For this city government right now, only money seems to count. And nothing is too important to sacrifice.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

92 comments:

  1. Just because the MWD says they have a 2 year supply of water doesn't mean Sierra Madre shouldn't ignore all the signs that we are running out of water. What happens in 2 years and it still doesn't rain enough to supply us and the rest of California and we have our city chock full of new development? We who have been conserving as if we would be fined, have been carrying those who say, "who cares, we are still going to water our lawns because we have the MWD now."

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  2. I guess if the city council does not declare a Phase III water emergency, then there is no condition under which they would declare a building moratorium. At least after tonight we will know what is really important to them.

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  3. First off, I think a big thank you is needed for those people responsible for getting us access to an alternative water supply.

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    1. Sure. Just don't drink it.

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    2. I think a big Shame on you is needed for all the people who allowed us to lose our water. Where was Bruce Inman 10 years ago? Why wasn't the war on lawns started a full decade ago? Why wasn't the quarter of a million dollars or more that was spent on the Downtown Specific Plan spent instead on a community drought preparation effort?

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    3. The SGVMWD hook up did achieve one very Sierra Madre solution. It allowed us to kick the can down the road two years.

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  4. The public employee union run political machine that is calling the shots at city hall now would not approve of a building moratorium. Case closed.

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    1. Right you are.Watch Elaine Aguilar rattle the sword tonight - "If you dare to put in a building moratorium, everyone will have to reduce by 30%, everyone, and that will never work"

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    2. Right. Sure. Ok Elaine.

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  5. I can't believe they're going to consider re-implementing the water penalties from a few months ago. I have scaled my usage back to the point that I literally couldn't use any less, and my last water bill was $179 for 14 units. My parents paid $161 for 92 units in Arcadia.

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    1. The fines were temporarily rescinded so the rate hike would pass. The rate hike passed, and now the fines are back. Did you send in your Prop 218 ballot?

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    2. Fool me once,fool me again!

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    3. Arcadia doesn't have any water bonds to pay off. Just sayin'.

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    4. That's impossible, 11:23. How'd they pay for their infrastructure? Everyone knows bonds are essential for maintaining municipal water companies.

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    5. Especially interest-only bonds - an integral part of effective water infrastructure maintenance.

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    6. Paying your bills in a financially responsible way is for townies.

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    7. Tax those damn townies.

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  6. Over at Mater Dolorosa, they want to cash in on their land with possibly one of the largest housing projects Sierra Madre has seen in decades. What kind of strain do you think that would add to our water shortage? That huge parcel of land also acts as a watershed and traps water from going into the sewer system and out to sea. The people over at city hall seem to have their heads in the sand about development. They want to reap the develpment fees and additional tax revenue to pay for their own pensions and benefits. They don't care if it exacerbates an existing emergency that affects all of the current residents of Sierra Madre. We need a city council that will represent the residents and plan ahead for this emergency and not make it worse for short-term gain. Continued development will destroy this town. The One Carter folks don't live in this town. I don't expect them to care. All they care about is building their McMansions, reaping their profit and letting us deal with the consequences. If we are stupid enough to allow all this, then we deserve what we get.

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    Replies
    1. we are getting what we deserve because of who we keep electing

      and we have the same type of candidates again

      we should only have 4 Councilmembers and when they deadlock 2/2 they should be locked into a room until they make a decision that is best for the city, not them personally and their supporters or those with the biggest mouths (the realtors)

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  7. Our city is selling us out to big money interests so they can enjoy posh health plans, benefits and pensions. That is what drives things in Sierra Madre now.

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  8. If the City Council was acting in the best interest of the residents they are supposed to serve they would declare a building moritorium immediately. How can that "temporary" emergency connection to the Metropolitan Water District, where we get our inferior and more expensive water, remain temporary when we continue to allow housing projects like One Carter and maybe some day over at Mater Dolorosa. This drought is serious and could last a long time. Why put all the current Sierra Madre residents' water needs at risk by allowing continued over-development. What's the goal: overcrowding, pollution, traffic, McMansions, Sierra Madre's first traffic light? I think I get it. Let's reduce our quality of life so that City Government has more money for inflated salaries and benefits for City Workers. I'd call that a bargain.

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    Replies
    1. And hello Kensington. That's a water hog if there ever was. Despite the "old people don't use water" spiel from the owner.

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  9. The City says that they have cut back on the city 's use of water, yet the grounds and fields are always green. We have cut back on water and our lawn is dead. The city was using way too much water so even if they have cut back they are able to maintain the lush lawns and fields. They need to cut back until their lawns and fields look like the dead lawns in town.

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    1. Yep. Dead lawn here too. And while it was hard to let it go, I now see how foolish it was to have it,
      So unfortunately, the parks have to let go of theirs.

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    2. I have native California weeds.

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  10. You still trust and believe ANYTHING these rogues have to say!

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    1. It has got to be what life was like in the old Soviet Union. The government says something and all the aware citizens scramble around to find out what the real meaning is.

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    2. Big government is our friend. Witness the EENER commission instead of a Tree Commission.

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    3. They speak with forked tongues !

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    4. "Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose." - Kris Kristofferson
      I guess that means we're free.

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  11. “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.”

    ― Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World

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  12. Great letter in the Pasadena Star News!

    No to extending Sierra Madre utility tax

    Here we go again. In next month’s Sierra Madre municipal election, we voters will be filling three empty council seats. Hardly earthshaking. But wait, there’s more! We again will be asked to increase our already high utility user tax. It was only two years ago that we said no to a similar request. The City Council and city staff just don’t seem to get it.

    In the two years since we voters told the city that it has to live within its means, the only major change has been to reduce the hours that City Hall is open for business. That is what they point to as cost-cutting. And still, they tell us that the taxes they collect are not enough.

    It is time for the city of Sierra Madre, and all its residents, to come to grips with the fact that this is no longer the 1930s (or even the 1960s). Back then, the costs and effort necessary to provide municipal services were far less than today. Back then, a town this size could afford to maintain 100 percent of the overhead for all those services. Times have changed, but the city’s mindset hasn’t. You couldn’t point to another city in this (or any adjoining) county with the same size and tax base that pulls the entire train on its own.

    The biggest favor the people of Sierra Madre can do for themselves is to again vote no on Measure UUT. This will finally force the council, all of whose members campaign as the one ready to “make those tough decisions,” to actually start making those tough decisions. Other than parks and recreation, and planning and building, the city’s services should be contracted out to those whose only business is providing those services — and whose overhead is spread among the many others they serve. The City Council is in fact the board of directors for a municipal corporation, and like the board of any such entity — public or private — they have a fiduciary duty to safeguard the fiscal interests of its constituent shareholders. Sierra Madre will never make prudent decisions as long as the tax spigot flows freely.

    — Don Handley, Sierra Madre

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    1. Great Letter!! "Making tough decisions"..." they have a fiduciary duty to safeguard the fiscal interest of its constituent shareholders". What a concept;it's Revolutionary! Thank you for reminding us for who we really are and not what we have come to accept as normal!

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    2. For Harabediqn, Walsh, Capoccia and Moran "making the tough decisions" means trying to suck more money out of the taxpayers.

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  13. LETS FACE IT!

    1) CITY HALL HAS FAILED TO REPAIR THE WATER INFRASTRUCTURE!

    2) CITY HALL HAS RAISED THE WATER RATES & CURT ZIMMERMAN SUED CITY HALL!

    3) CITY HALL HAS FAILED TO REPAIR THE WATER INFRASTRUCTURE!

    4) CITY HALL IS BROKE & KAREN REQUESTS MORE REVENUE - KAREN STATED THAT THE SIERRA MADRE RESIDENTS NEED TO PAY MORE MONEY FOR UTILITIES!

    KAREN FURTHER STATED THAT CITY HALL WANTS TO BORROW MORE LONG TERM DEBT - $20 MILLION MORE!

    > CITY HALL IS STRAPPING ITS RESIDENTS WITH MORE DEBT!

    5) CITY HALL RAISED THE WATER & SEWER RATES BY AN ADDITIONAL 61%

    6) MOODY STATES THAT CITY HALL has a JUNK BOND CREDIT RAITING!

    7) CITY HALL FURTHER STATES THAT THEY WILL SAVE MONEY!
    > CITY HALL STATES THEY HAVE NO MONEY TO REPAIR THE WATER & SEWER INFRASTRUCTURE!
    > CITY HALL STATES THAT SIERRA MADRE HAS NO WATER OF ITS OWN TO PUMP!

    8) CITY HALL ENTERED INTO AN AGREEMENT TO:
    > pay a city employee $40,000+/- health benefits
    > pay Elaine - the city manager - more money - by evidence of closed door session

    9) the question remains unanswered!

    when are the city residents going to get rid of all city management and hire qualified people to run this broken amassment park?

    NO MORE UTILITY USER TAXES!


    8. the question remains unanswered

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    1. Please stop the all caps and double space

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    2. CAP! CAP! ALL CAP!

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    3. Keep the caps. Please. They are cool and give yor posts character. Don't listen to those rude people repeatedly telling you what to do.

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  14. Hard to read all caps when he is shouting at us.

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    1. It is hard to be heard in a crowd.

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  15. Anybody seen the No on Measure UUT signs out there yet?

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    1. I wanna sign!

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    2. Reading the truth can be blinding to some!

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    3. Some folks gonna need their sunglasses.

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  16. If there is such a water shortage in Sierra Madre, why does the fire department still spray water at the 4rth of July parade. Even if it is just on the park grass?

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  17. We have a new deputy city clerk - if Shollenberger likes her, I know she must have a sharp mind and a strong sense of responsibility.

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    1. I agree! Mrs. Shollenberger is an excellent judge of character. But what's the name of the new deputy city clerk for those of us who are unable to view the City Council meeting?

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    2. I think Shollenberger introduced her as Terry Osborne, at any rate, a 30 year resident.

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    3. I just tried to check online, but the city documents are not loading.

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    4. Terri Owens. A big thanks to her for taking the job.

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  18. I hope the next council figures out how to turn off their microphones when they are clapping directly in front of them.
    And turns them on when they are speaking.

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  19. Inman the Incompetent is on.
    Things are looking good "We're back into the conservation mode."

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    Replies
    1. Ah, just in time to say we don't need the moratorium.....

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    2. Bruce is always there with the good news. One week we're running out of water, the next everything is fine and dandy. There is never a water shortage when there are development fees to be made.

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  20. Bruce has had a number of consultants come in and say that we're doing everything by the book. How much did that cost?

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  21. Capoccia was just asking Bruce Inman the ways we could save money by structuring projects.
    Bruce talked about the way things are usually done.
    He doesn't get it.
    We don't want usual.

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  22. Waive the fee for putting in grey water?
    But the staff would have to work!

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    1. The staff can't handle this, like so many other things. They would hire consultants, and anyone who wants to put in grey water systems has to pay for the consultants.
      Full service city, yeah, no.

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    2. Hiring consultants can be a full-time job, you know. But if you find a good one, and you hire him right away, then you can go home early. Or go shopping.

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  23. I'm glad the FD is out there inspecting, but find it odd that the paramedics are so unneeded for their work that they do inspections too.

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  24. Oh good, the FD just hired a new administrative assistant.
    More of the city cutting costs.

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    Replies
    1. $36,000 a year health care package perhaps?

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  25. Overtime for all!

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  26. Here we go with real water conservation.

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  27. MWD has enough water for 2 years. Ain't much.

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  28. Did Inman just say our water conservation is over 30%?

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    1. I don't know. I find listening to him to be a kind of aural shell game.

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    2. It depends on what Elaine told him last.

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  29. A building moratorium may not exceed a period of 2 years? Ok! Start now.

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    1. If we use the moratorium now we can't when the MWD runs out of water? Hooey.

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    2. I think the state will rewrite the rules when Southern California is out of water.

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  30. Make the lawns greener? No, let the lawns die, like the residents have to.

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  31. You have to prove "immediate threat and harm."
    Developers sure have a way with words.

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  32. They won't touch the building moratorium. There's a lot of good-natured chuckling going on.

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    1. They don't give a damn about anything but the money the city gets from development. Our town is being sold off piece by piece to fund pensions.

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  33. The Director of Public Works doesn't keep track of how much water we've used from the SGVWMD.

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    1. Must be those lost Friday hours.

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    2. Then how do we pay them, 7:53?

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    3. We bought the 4,000 acre feet. Inman does not know how much of the 4,000 we've used. Hasn't checked since December.

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  34. "2 years goes very quickly for anyone sitting on the council."
    2 years goes quickly for others as well, Mayor Walsh.

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  35. More developer lock on politicians. You can only have a moratorium once, for two years.

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    1. If Mother nature doesn't provide the water, developers can whine all they want. Won't matter.

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  36. Harabedian is a moron. if we allow institutional to have a cap, we will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. why should the citizens bear the burden of what a private school or the Kensington or a church uses? I say no to the whole thing!

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    1. Say there, isn't Harabedian a product of a private school connected to a church?

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    2. All special interests are sacred to Johnny.

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  37. Elaine says the number of high water commercial users is around "12 just to keep the numbers round". Since when is 12 a round number?

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  38. So Harabedian wants to raise UUT rates on one hand but then he wants the residents to take on more tax burden by supporting fees that should be paid by a business. ah, you poor residents, you get to pay for everything!

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    1. Johnny thinks we're his ATM.

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