|Tattler cat eating the tweeting|
NEW! We will be live tweeting the City Council's decisions at Tuesday's Council Meeting. Follow the action @CitySierraMadre #SierraMadreCC #mySierraMadre.
Now we here at The Tattler have been "live blogging" City Council meetings for a few years now, and with some success I might add. So is the City taking our fine idea and adapting it to their Twitter feed? Live tweeting? Hmm, that sure does sound familiar. Of course, City Hall doesn't read The Tattler so that couldn't possibly be the case. Though I have heard that others read it for them.
Besides, there are probably only around 3 people in town who both follow City Council meetings in Sierra Madre and tweet about it. Live or otherwise. But whatever the derivative case might be, we welcome any kind of participation in the affairs of this town. We will just have to make like a cat and incorporate some of that "live tweeting" as we live blog tonight's meeting. Little blue feathers and all. And it starts right here at 6:30PM.
That is, of course, if you can't make it there in person.
There are some undoubtedly fascinating topics on the agenda for tonight's City Council meeting. The Sewer Cleaning Machine is one of them, the somewhat similar approval of the Strategic Plan another. Then there is the all important appointment to the Metro San Gabriel Valley Service Council. Mayor Harabedian apparently serves in this role now, and is desirous of continuing to do so.
And there is a precedent for this. Joe Mosca served a couple of terms as the City's special go to meetings Metro minder (which he did, tho' rarely), and it is considered advantageous for aspiring young politicians with an eye on bigger things to maintain that position for as long as they possibly can.
Besides, somebody needs to try and make the trains run on time.
The cash spending portion of the meeting is always a highlight for us here at The Tattler. To me the numbers often seem remarkably high, yet those tasked with approving these spends always do so with an insouciance that puzzles me. Tonight will be no different, I'm sure.
$572,956.70 will fly out the door to meet the city's many "certain demands," and while that figure would be more than enough to pay off the mortgage on most homes (even here in pricey Sierra Madre), it is actually a relatively modest amount of money for City Hall to offload.
Among the items contributing to this mighty spend is $4,210 to Axontech for keeping the City's apparently very expensive computers running (they should switch to Apple products), $33,500 for the Community Forest Management Plan (apparently it really does grow on trees), $39,632 goes to the improperly identified Colantuono & Levin for legally keeping the townies at bay, and $12,240 is for the snoops at Wildan.
Oh, and a $100 campaign sign bond refund check will go to the two ladies who ran the Yes On UUT committee. It's nice to see they're getting a little something back.
However, to my mind the real excitement tonight lies with the item titled, "Midyear Budget Update FY 2013-2015 Biennial Budget; Third Quarter Financials for the Period Ending March 31, 2014; and Budget Direction to Staff Regarding Reduction in Utility User Tax Revenue (link)."
This one kinda rocks our world because it reveals a lot of the financial anguish City Staff is facing as they struggle to deal with the cruel indifference shown by the voters of this community in turning down Measure UUT. Which, as you are likely aware if you are reading stuff as abstruse as this, was their second attempt at raising utility taxes here in a very short period of time.
But what really intrigues me, jaundiced though motivated observer that I am, is the almost passive-aggressive approach City Staff is taking here. It reads like an appeal to the City Council to do something about the great injustice that has been visited upon them by the residents, but without ever actually saying what it is that they want.
As per the usual, a list of precisely worded options is offered to our elected officials for them to choose from. In this case it is a lucky 7 menu. Check this out.
Staff is seeking direction regarding the current and FYE 2015 budgets, and also regarding any actions regarding the projected deficits in FYE 2016 and beyond. There are a number of alternatives.
1. The Council could choose authorize the adjustments summarized in this staff report for FYE 2014 and FYE 2015, and designate any portion of the General Fund reserves balance, including the projected surplus from FYE 2014 resulting from one time resources as summarized on page 4. This option could provide the Council with opportunities to balance FYE 2016. However, FYE 2017 projected deficit of $1.2 million will need to be addressed. Staff would need direction on the timing to address the projected FYE 2017 deficit.
2. The Council could direct staff to place this item on the next City Council agenda for further discussion. Tonight’s discussion could be considered an “introduction” and additional time could be provided for the Council to independently review this matter so that detailed direction could be provided at the next meeting.
3. The City Council could direct staff to return with a department by department presentation of the FYE 2015 budget. (Given the timing, the current fiscal year’s budget ends in approximately 45 days, so it may be more productive to start with the FYE 2015.)
4. The City Council could direct staff to return with proposed options to begin reducing expenditures FYE 2015, with the goal of “leveling out” the budget reductions over three fiscal years; for example a $400,000 General Fund expenditure reduction in FYE 2015, 2016 and 2017 (or a $1.2 million reduction over three fiscal years.)
5. The City Council could direct staff to return with information regarding reducing or contracting out specific programs or services; such as public safety. Public safety is mentioned, because of the previous correlation between the 2008 UUT revenue increase and 2008 Measure UA.
6. The City Council could direct that General Fund revenue estimates be revised. The Council could provide policy direction that staff’s revenue estimates are too conservative. This could be combined with corresponding expenditure reductions to achieve a balance budget in future years.
7. Any other option the City Council directs.
So what is City Staff really asking for here? What is the one thing they really hope the City Council will agree to do without ever actually saying what that might be?
Put Measure UUT back on the ballot for the November election, of course. Let's call it Alternative #8. Trust me, even though it is not among the items listed above, this is the one option that will loom largest tonight. The veritable elephant in the room that no one will see, at least at first.
Trust me. It might not happen tonight, but that is where this conversation will be going before too much more time passes. How else are they going to be able to pay for things like $36,000 a year health care plans? And do you really see Mayor Harabedian and Mayor Pro Tem Capoccia making the cuts necessary for City Hall to exist in a brave new 6% UUT world?
Get ready for round three.