We would all prefer to write our own history. Certainly that version of what happened during whatever time is being discussed would be far more pleasing to us personally than what others might write. And that is pretty much what a City Council reorganization is all about. Those who are vacating their seats at the dais attempt to put the best possible spin on whatever it was they'd been doing for the last four years. Done in the hope that their intended audience will forget all the evidence to the contrary, and remember them more kindly than they might actually deserve.
But while that was the case for some departed City Councilmembers, there are those who do accomplish great things. It is still possible for an individual or two to make a difference here despite the great pressures put upon this community and its elected representatives to knuckle under to the moneyed special interests, coercive political machines and general rot that continue to drag California low.
We have had a few of those. Kurt Zimmerman would be one. Don Watts and MaryAnn MacGillivray would have to be added to that list as well. And to that sadly rather short roster of recent worthy Councilmembers we need to add Chris Koerber. His greatest accomplishment, twice defeating unfair utility taxes that were the highest in the state (and will be still for another year or so), stands tall amongst those of the conformist nonentities who served with him.
I thought I would post Chris Koerber's remarks from last night here. For someone who was only on the City Council for two years, he accomplished a lot. It needs to be remembered.
When I ran for Sierra Madre City Council in 2012 I made a promise that I would stand for Clarity, Community, and Economic Accountability.
I believe I kept my word. I did what I said I would do.
In the area of Clarity, I proposed the following ideas which the Council adopted.
- A formal succession policy for vacant City Council positions.
- A transparent application process for appointing new Commissioners. All applications are put now on-line for residents to review.
In the area of Community I was blessed to work with Sierra Madre parents, PUSD Board members and staff to finally, after a nearly 3 year long delay, get construction of Sierra Madre Middle School underway. I’d like to give former PUSD Board Member, Ramon Miramontes, a special thank you. His introduction of a Board resolution to commit to building Sierra Madre Middle School was integral to keeping the process moving. I’d also like to thank the members of the PUSD Board who voted 6 – 1 to approve the middle school. I called all School Board members prior to the vote. I really appreciate your support.
I also lobbied the PUSD Board during the vacancy appointment process for Sierra Madre to have a Board representative in 2013. Many thanks to Gretchen Vance and Dr. Mikala Rahn, both Sierra Madre residents, who applied. I’m happy to report that Mikala Rahn was appointed to the PUSD Board in 2013, a full two years before the scheduled redistricting election of 2015 would have done so!
I proposed a competitive review of the City Attorney. For the first time in over 7 years we conducted a competitive bidding process that resulted in a reduction of over $1,000.00 per month for the City’s Attorney base retainer charges.
Another matter of great concern was the City’s failure to effectively collect the money it was due, especially for paramedic billings. If a bill wasn’t paid in 60 days, no further collection effort was made. In my opinion, it’s wrong to raise taxes and/or fees to offset poor collection efforts.
I’m proud to report that we now have a formal collections process to make sure that those who owe money will have to pay.
Lastly, I’ve made it clear that we need to watch what we spend. Even the Mountain Views News has called me a “known fiscal conservative” (thanks, Susan!)
People don’t work to pay taxes.
We need to make sure we’re spending the taxpayers’ money in the most effective way before increasing taxes. (I don’t think we’re quite there yet.)
I’m proud to be part of the team that worked to defeat the 2012 proposed 20% UUT tax increase and also to defeat the recent Measure UUT with its proposed 25% tax increase. Since the 2012 tax hike defeat, we’ve saved the residents over 1 million dollars, while maintaining current staffing levels for police, fire and paramedics. We’ve also been able to keep the Library open the same numbers of hours each week. And, after all that, the City has had a small General Fund surplus left over.
Starting in 2015 through 2019, we will save the tax payers an estimated $4.5 million in Utility User Taxes. That’s money that you can keep or spend as you wish - and I’m sure some of it will be spent at our local businesses. As a matter of fact, you, the majority of the voters, also made Sierra Madre more business friendly starting in July, 2015. All the businesses in town, as well as our residents, will enjoy lower UUT costs.
I have been both humbled and honored to serve as your council member. Sierra Madre is a very special place with very special and very nice folks.
I’d like to close with a quote that I believe sums up my service to Sierra Madre residents. It is from T.S. Eliot:
“Keep true, never be ashamed of doing right, decide on what you think is right, and stick to it.”
May God bless America and may God bless Sierra Madre. Thank you.
Where are we going from here?
While there is always hope, an examination of the new majority faction of the City Council would indicate that we are not in the hands of the best people right now.
First and foremost we find ourselves with a Mayor whose intended audience will continue to be the county political machine that he hopes will reward him with a career in politics one day. The people he will be performing for are not from here. His dreams lay elsewhere.
Do not expect John Harabedian to put the best interests of the taxpayers of Sierra Madre first. Instead look for him to lead the charge to put the UUT back on the ballot for the third time, and sooner than you might think. For the Mayor Johnnies of this world governing is a form of fundraising, designed to enhance the welfare of those who help finance the political machines and special interests they so badly want to join.
Our new Mayor Pro Tem is an individual who got himself elected by promising to push back against regressive overtaxation such as double digit UUT rates. Once on the City Council he quickly changed sides, and with Measure UUT went on to actively campaign against everything he had advocated just two years previously. It's a wonder the fellow isn't too dizzy to stand up.
And then there is Gene Goss. The guy who saw nothing at all inappropriate about employing the campaign treasurer of the disgraced Calderon political machine (link). And even went on to make hilarious excuses for it. This from the Sierra Madre News.net website (link):
I have a professional campaign treasurer keeping my campaign’s books because of my concern for absolute accuracy in my public campaign financial statements. She’s doing a great job and is not in any way a political consultant.
You can't make this stuff up.