Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What If There Were No Utility Taxes At All?

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Over the last couple of years I've become a big believer in limited government. I wasn't always that way, as some of my more conservative friends often enjoy reminding me. But having lived through the Downtown Specific Plan debacle, and been closely involved with the campaign to enact Measure V, I have witnessed what happens when City government works against the interests of the people whose tax money sustains it.

One of the most effective ways to put runaway local government on a leash is to restrict its funding. After all, and as one poster here has put it more than once, without our tax money City Hall is just another small group of people with unimportant opinions. It is our money that pays for their lawyers, staff, consultants, planners, benefits, Diet Pepsi and whatever else they require to impose upon the rest of us their unpopular and oftentimes ruinous beliefs about what Sierra Madre should become.

And their version of reality invariably seems to have something to do with promoting over-development. Even now, at a time when Sierra Madre's water wells have run dry and we have been forced to import tainted water, and at exorbitant prices, City Hall appears to be hard at work pushing along the biggest development boom in the history of this town. I call it the McMansion Archipelago, and it stretches from Stone House to One Carter to Mater Dolorosa. From Santa Anita Boulevard to Michillinda Boulevard.

That this potential destruction of our community is being enabled with our own hard-earned cash is infuriating. As Kurt Zimmerman used to put it, we are being forced to pay for the bullet that they'll use to shoot us. It is not democracy, and it is not what people here want. It is the tyranny of big outside money enabled by a complicit City Staff that doesn't seem to give a damn about this community. And why should they? Most of them don't even live here.

Ask yourself this. Do you support resident control over important things like the planning of our community? Then why would you willingly give your money to people who are trying to take that very thing away?

Is the solution to starve them out? If we take away that utility tax money will their power dissipate, along with their ability to enable the McMansion Archipelago? I personally believe so. There is just too much at stake. Expecting the situation to change when we just keep doing the same things being a variation on Einstein's definition of insanity.

Which is why I find the following description of the UUT situation in Arcadia particularly intriguing.

California Tax Revolt: Voters Put Tax Repeal on 2015 Ballot: May 29, 2014 by Susan Swift (link) −   Fed up with out-of-control government and rising taxes, Californians have turned to the state’s initiative process.  Residents of the City of Arcadia recently gathered enough signatures to qualify a local initiative to repeal the city’s User Utility Tax (“UUT”).  Arcadia’s UUT generates over $7 million dollars annually, or just under 10% of the city’s budget for fiscal year 2014-2015.

The measure will come before the Arcadia City Council on June 3rd for action.  Under state law, the council must either adopt the measure without modification or place it on the next city ballot, which will likely be in 2015.

The UUT is a local tax on most utilities including water, power, gas, cable, cell phone, satellite dishes and telephone services.  As utilities increase their rates for these services, the city’s UUT tax also increases, providing a hidden, built-in boost to the city’s general fund.  This hidden tax occurs automatically, without approval from voters or city council. 

Citizens in four California cities, Arcadia, South Pasadena, Pasadena and Glendale, formed local Tax Limitation Committees to repeal their respective UUTs with the help of TeaPAC and the California Tax Limitation Committee (“CTLC“).  CTLC is a political action committee formed by concerned individuals, business owners and professionals to inform the public about the impact of taxes.  Committees are also forming in Sierra Madre, San Marino, Riverside, and the City of Los Angeles.  

Others will follow soon.  

I can't wait to see how this Arcadia situation works out. I also know that this utility tax abolition initiative movement will be quite controversial in certain quarters here. Both because of who is behind it and what exactly the various parties hope to achieve.

Which is more than fine with me. It is a powder keg of an issue. We here at The Tattler enjoy that sort of thing.

And there is one thing for certain. This conversation needs to take place. Because Sierra Madre is next on the No UUT hit list.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot

92 comments:

  1. Amen to this latest post. Our local, state and national governments have become too complex. There are too many lobbyists working for their own narrow interests. There are too many politicians who are willing to use the taxpayer's money as their own political slush fund to pay back those interest groups who helped to elect them and to keep themselves in office. Once the public employees were allowed to unionize, there became too many government employees whose only purpose seems to be to transfer as much revenue as possible from the taxpayers to the government so that more monies are available to increase their already lavish salaires, benefits and pensions. Because these problems are so ubiquitous and too many people are working at cross-purposes with the people they are supposed to serve, the only way to control it is to simply limit the availability of cash they have available to inflict the damage on the people they were elected or hired to serve.

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    1. true and we in SM keep electing those types - we elected a building industry lobbyist, utility company lawyers, commerical banker, mortgage salesman and we get skewered by them

      they protected ridiculous pension plans cause the city manager and key staff did what they wanted them to do in return for the favors - it was absurd when John Buchanan was secretly trying to build a new library in his honor and publically stating the city had serious finanical issues

      if we stop electing lawyers we'll be better off

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  2. Reducing the availablity of cash is the simpliest and most effective way of reducing the power of the politicians, special interest groups and government employees. There is no other way.

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    1. It makes them much more responsive to the needs of the residents. It would also restore control to the people who provide the money needed to keep government going.

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  3. Regarding this over-development trend, even if we didn't have a water shortage, Sierra Madre residents want to preserve this town and not see it turn into Arcadia. And yet with an acute water shortage to boot, you have in the pipeline more development than ever before. You have the monstrosity over at the Kensington, One Carter, Stonehouse, Mater Dolorosa, lot splits, McMansions. You name it and its hard to even believe that the residents have to rise up and fight like hell to beat all this back because the people we elected and the people whose salaries we pay at City Hall not only won't do it on our behalf, but they are actively promoting the very opposite of what the residents want.

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    1. Yes. Our taxes are being spent against us.

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    2. the water crisis applies only to residents, not developers

      our Council needs to reverse the "cause we can" water rate that the last Council gave to businesses while scolding us on conservation

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  4. One of the problems in all of this is a serious one. When faced with $ shortage city hall will cut the services we want the most. Look what the city did to our water. We need some serious support to expose and cut expenses. Needless amounts of costs need to be removed. I hope were on the right road now with this new council, they have been handed a lot of problems. If they can all work for the voters maybe we can preserve the peaceful community we all live here for.

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  5. The most important part of Susan Swift's article is when she notes the hidden tax increase capability of the UUT tax. If your Electric bill is $100.00 and the UUT is 10%, you will pay $110.00. If you use the same amount of electricity, and SCE increases the rate by 5%, your bill is now $105.00 and your UUT tax is $10.50. You now pay $115.50 for the same amount of electricity, however, the city received $.50 more in taxes from you without having to lift a finger. Doesn't sound like much, just a latte or two, but multiply that by 12 months and by each bill paying resident in town, and the city nets a nice chunk of money. And the beauty of it to the city is that they didn't have to do a thing to receive the additional income. It is indeed a hidden tax.

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  6. While I don't believe the UUT should be abolished altogether, I do like the idea of linking development to this issue. Approve bad developments like Mater Dolorosa and One Carter and I will vote to do away with the UUT. That is not a threat, it is a promise.

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  7. What I get from the Arcadia action is the process of an Initiative.
    If this council does not put a building moratorium in place, we should get an initiative going, and force it on the ballot.

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    1. Agree
      Until we have clean water again to drink and are not on rationing?
      Not as much as gazebo should be built on any proper, public or private in this town.
      ZERO

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  8. It's like spitting into the wind.

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  9. I am all in favor of holding the remaining UUT hostage to development. It is the one language City Hall can understand. Approve Mater Dolorosa, change the zoning, buh bye UUT.

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  10. No UUT is effective and simple. But it does not go far enough. Out City has demonstrated selfish irresponsibility with our tax money. Before this goes even further we need a simple ,effective way to block their profligacy. We need action -not just complaints and sarcasm.
    What can we do to support any Council Member who proposes :
    1. no new water meters
    2. no more UUT ?

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  11. As Ive stated many times before, Sierra Madre is not a private community. Unfortunately we cant continue to live in the 1950's. Times and needs change. Development and building happens. If you all hate development so much then stop shopping at the stores below. Grow your own food. Raise livestock. Dig a well and use kerosene lanterns. I hate to see MD develop their land too but its THEIR land. Sierra Madreans need to get a clue its not their private community. If so then they should not complain on how much it cost to run it. Establish an HOA

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    1. Who controls our city planning then? Is it Sacramento? Do we sit passively by as a central state planning appartus destroys our community? Is that all you have to offer here?

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    2. SM Council is basically a HOA

      and MD is not zoned for residental development and the city does not have to change the zoning

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    3. I remember when the voters controlled Sacramento. And there was two party government. And when we were free.

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    4. 9:09 makes a very easy argument by presenting a false premise. S/he attributes to the slow growth side an opposition of all development, and that is not true. Slow growth does not equal no growth.

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  12. This state is controlled by Democrats who outnumber Republicans by 2.6 million votes. There are 7,692,670 Democrats and only 5,036,610 Republicans. These lunatics will be able to repeal the UUT only in communities like Arcadia where Republicans are not at such a disadvantage. The loss of the UUT tax revenue will harm local governement services and property values in these communities and cause Republicans to leave. So this is really a plan to harm Republican communities only (the article doesn't mention that these Tea Party bunglers failed to get the signatures necessary for Pasadena, South Pasadena and Glendale and their initiative was rejected).

    In politics people often do not consider the consequences of their actions. The UUT repeal will happen only in Republican communities (it will fail in Arcadia) and harm only those communities. Democrat communities will be untouched. In addition, the press attention that these idiots are seeking will allow the Democrats to begin their campaign to repeal Prop 13.

    So this effort has failed and will continue to fail in most places. And like the people who vote for Tim Donnelly (who will drastically harm all other Republican candidates on the ballot and forever alienate Latino voters) they will simply harm Republicans and Republican communities and interests and give the Democrats the propaganda they need to repeal Prop 13.

    Because getting rid of Prop 13 gives the Dems more money to buy more political support and will lower home values and that benefits Democrat constituents.

    So you go ahead and burn it all down on principle. Your enemies, who vastly outnumber you, will build their kingdom on your ashes.

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    1. I am a Democrat and I support the repeal of the UUT if (and only if) McMansion development continues to be pushed by the city. Also, your name calling offends me.

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    2. A Pox on both Parties!!!!

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    3. 9:12, you appear to have so much anger.

      You seem to forget a majority Democrat community (Sierra Madre) killed 2 UUT increases and carried for Tim Donnelly in 2010 for 59th Assembly District.

      "Facts are to a Liberal as Kryptonite is to Superman." ~ Larry Elder

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    4. "Lunatics"? Wow, are you a clinically licensed therapist or just a hater?

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    5. Hilarious that someone thinks the Republicans vs Democrats argument has any validity here.

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    6. 9:12 forgot about the Michillinda curtain.

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    7. No slow growth? No utility taxes. Your choice, City Hall.

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    8. Build their kingdom on your ashes? Jeez, can't tell what's more impressive; your poetic writing skills or the level of your hatred.

      This is not the usual troll.

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    9. 9:51 Sierra Madre is not a "majority Democrat community". Democrats are only 38% of registered voters in Sierra Madre.

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    10. 10:11, fact is there's more registered Dems than GOP. And they voted for Donnelly. Don't you hate when that happens?

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    11. actually they didn't. In 2010 in Sierra Madre Republicans were 3,032 of registered voters and decline to states were 1,448. Democrats were only 2,943. So there were not more Dems than GOP.

      Donnelly received 2,559 votes and his non-opponent (a sacrificial lamb that Donnelly outspent 2-1) received 2,378 votes. Statewide Democratic candidates Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom, Debra Bowen, John Chiang, Bill Lockyear all received more votes in Sierra Madre in that same election than Donnelly did.

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    12. There is an interesting article in today's PSN by Thomas Elias dealing with the Democrat situation. He notes that now that the vote has changed to the top two vote getters advancing to the final election, the Dems have split into those beholden to the labor unions and those beholden to big business. Interesting, that.

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    13. Q: 11:01 you know what they call 2010 Republican candidates like Donnelly?

      A: Assemblyman

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  13. You're like a peasant that doesn't have the ability or courage to cut the head off the dragon but gosh darn it you can sneak up and cut off the tip of the tail of the dragon while it is sleeping. Go ahead and do it. See what happens when you wake up the dragon.

    If you think that the majority of Sierra Madre voters are willing to sacrifice public safety and their own home values in order to block Mater Dolorosa you are sadly mistaken. 85% of the population has never even been in that neighborhood and doesn't care. Anyone who supports a full repeal of the UUT is someone who wants to hurt each and every family in Sierra Madre. And I guarantee you that they will be personally portrayed in that way. Personally. By name.

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    1. Ooohh. Threats!

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    2. 9:41 - how's that Measure UUT working out for you?

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    3. A full repeal of the UUT wouldn't hurt my family. Don't forget, it's not the government's money.

      A full repeal of the UUT would allow residents to spend more of their own money as they see fit. What a concept.

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    4. That's fine. You want to enjoy the benefits brought about by people contributing to the common good but you don't want to contribute to the common good yourself. You are a freeloader. We understand that.

      So will the voters.

      I actually like a full repeal UUT campaign because it will not only lose but anyone associated with it forever disqualifies themselves from office as a kook who isn't interested in the common good. It's a great tool to cull the herd.

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    5. How did you come up with that 85% number - besides wishful thinking.

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    6. Common good? Marxist alert.

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    7. Here you go, 10:03, a little history lesson:
      "History calls those men the greatest who have ennobled themselves by working for the common good; experience acclaims as happiest the man who has made the greatest number of people happy."

      Karl Marx, Letter to His Father (1837)
      (Marx is commonly known as the Father of Communism)

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    8. "The aim of every political Constitution, is or ought to be first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust."

      James Madison, Federalist #57

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    9. Bess of HardwickJune 3, 2014 at 11:12 AM

      9:12 / 9:41 speaks truth and wisdom. Any fool who attempts to completely abolish the UUT in Sierra Madre, and threaten our way of life here, should be publically humiliated and placed in stocks for all townfolk to see in Kersting Court.

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    10. Threats of torture and cruelty aside, why do you not believe that the McMansion explosion at One Carter, Stonehouse and Mater Dolorosa would be a threat to our way of life here?

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    11. I absolutely oppose McMansion development and I would never allow rezoning at Mater Dolorosa that did not have the support of the surrounding neighborhood.

      But people under pressure often seek out the wrong allies. These burn it all down Tea Partiers do not belong in Sierra Madre and they want to take advantage of any type of local turmoil. If you want to protect against McMansions then you have an election in 2016. But cutting off your UUT nose to spite your local government face is stupid.

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    12. Bess of HardwickJune 3, 2014 at 11:29 AM

      Try to stay on topic, 11:21. I am speaking wholly about the UUT.

      If you want to talk about development and disrespect for private property rights, then prepare yourself for a public lashing, and I get to dress you in the costume of my choice.

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    13. 2016 will be too late. And how many City Council candidates once elected don't keep their word? Money is the only language city hall speaks. It is the only thing that will work. If the city does not put a building moratorium in place, then they will drive a lot of people into the arms of Teapac.

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    14. Bess is weird. Must be a slow day at Berkshire Hathoway.

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    15. What you people do not understand is that YOU are the government. YOU are responsible for getting into the arena and fighting to win elections. That is how the system is designed. If you stand outside the election process and whine and stomp your feet you lose. You people couldn't even elect one decent anti-development candidate in 2012 that you trust and you will pay for that unless you fix the problem in 2016.

      Arizmendi and supposedly Delmar will never vote for McMansions at Mater Dolorosa. Gene Goss already said he opposes only "unreasonable" development and he came in first place. If you do not replace Cappocia or Harabedian so that a 3 vote majority can defeat McMansions then you get McMansions because YOU LOST THE 2012 ELECTION. So wake up. There is the battlefield. Get on it. You are like primitive Aztec villagers dancing around in feathers putting on an aggression display while you wave your obsedian studded sticks. Hear that sound? It's steel coming out of the scabbard and the clank of armored horseman preparing to ride in and cut u down like wheat.

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    16. Only a fool puts their complete trust in politicians. No slow growth, no utility taxes. Take away their money and they'll beg for forgiveness.

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    17. Bess is a guy posing as a dominatrix.

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    18. Bess is also 9:12 and 9:41.

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    19. Maybe it's Migwell.

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    20. On line female impersonation is also known as digital drag.

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    21. Mayor of RealvilleJune 3, 2014 at 4:17 PM

      I like how when the trolls are losing the argument they start saying "tea party". Work harder at the debate, come on i know you can do it.

      Save the ad hominem attacks for your cocktail parties.

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    22. Mayor of RealvilleJune 3, 2014 at 4:22 PM

      When posters are talking about the common good, it means they want to spend YOUR money, not their own.

      Same thing applies when you hear "fair share".

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    23. Professor Goss, save us.

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    24. He hasn't found the middle of the road yet. It is all so very confusing.

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    25. Sorry 9:41 am but you're sounding like a peevish former City Council candidate who didn't make the cut.

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    26. A Pheasant by any other NameJune 4, 2014 at 7:02 PM

      A Peasant? How dare you!

      I resemble that remark, 9:41, but you have to run slightly afoul

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  14. That's right. Because when you threaten people with a political campaign to repeal the UUT unless you get your way on development did you think it wouldn't have consequences? Its just some fun thing to do right? It's not like in politics there are actually reactions to actions, right? Go ahead. Get in the arena with a plan to repeal the UUT because you don't have the support you want from the public and elected officials. Guess what happens next? You get smashed. Because the majority doesn't agree that Sierra Madre should be starved on principle.

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    1. Isn't it astonishing that the UUT originally was never mean to be permanent? That city hall lived within its means so well, no UUT was needed for the great majority of time of the town's existence?
      Starved - hardly that.

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    2. Yes, sure 9:52 (who seems to be 9:12 as well).

      The elected officials who told us that if the UUT hike failed (it did, for the 2nd time in 2 tears), that we'd have no $$. Then at the last Council meeting, Dir. Karin says there's $500,000 left over this year and taht they knew that in January. So did the City lie to the voters? You decide.

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    3. The consequences of over-development are far worse than what 9:52 is worried about.

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    4. Citizens tend to take a dim view towards using tax dollars to oblige special interest.Officials take oaths to serve the interest of the public they represent.Paving the remaining Foothills in an area subject to droughts and limited water makes absolutely no sense unless there is a great deal to be gained for a limited few.

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  15. Measure UUT wasn't a vote on a full repeal was it. Do you actually think that if the pro Measure UUT people had adequately campaigned it still would have lost'?

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    1. Do you actually think if the No crowd had knocked on doors like 2012 that it would have passed? The tax hike would have lost by 10%, again.

      But please, have another sip of that Kool-Aid.

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    2. Actually, the Yes on UUT folks campaigned hard. they had the full support of Susan Henderson and her newspaper and they did a mailer and a piece that they had hand delivered to every house in town. (By a company that does not have a license to do so in our village, I might add.) They also had a city council of 4 and a city staff of everyone out with the whisper campaign fearmongering about public safety and closed libraries. And they still lost. I agree with 10:25. If the NO on UUT group had knocked on doors, this measure would have lost by the same 60/40 that it lost by last time.

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    3. Measure UUT won at the polls on election day.

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    4. An alternate reality has left a post.

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    5. 2:00 is a tribute to the wonders of medical herbs and may be posting from Denver.

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    6. They still don't have the certified final election results up on the city's website. 2:00 goes there everyday to see if Noah Pants has closed the gap.

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  16. What's the problem, 9:52? If the UUT is repealed, you won't get your gold-plated City medical and pension plans? Where are the pensions and medical for the voters that pay the freight?

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  17. WOW, I believe this is a move I can support. Yes, let's push to repeal the UUT altogether...it's a bloomin' revolution, indeed!!!

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  18. Why give tax money to employees that refuse to listen to you? Take back Sierra Madre!!

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  19. Is the library still open?

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  20. 11:12 AM, What is wrong with trying to preserve one of the smallest towns around? We can barely support the population we have now, how are we going to support more? The answer is hire more city workers, pd, fd, and raise taxes, who wants that? We have the power to have the town we want, we just need those sitting at home to take notice from their busy jobs and vote for the town and not the development of city and higher density. Look at the facts and get serious.

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  21. No water?
    No development!!!!!!!
    Simple. Go up to city council podium
    Everyone can get up and speak those 5 words.

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    Replies
    1. I only count 4 words... May I suggest interjecting the F bomb just before development?

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    2. Simple maybe the 5th word. No need for the f bomb!

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  22. Sierra Madre seems to be in direct violation: The city appears to be a direct violation of the California Constitution. Section 3 of Article 13C states that “the initiative power shall not be prohibited or otherwise limited in matters of reducing or repealing any local tax, assessment, fee or charges.

    What higher authority do you need?

    It's written into the California constitution.

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    1. Thank you for reminding us that the Citizens still have a weapon to use against the trickery and cunning of their elected officials in their rush to push Special Interest agendas!

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    2. Don't forget the right to Recall! This will not look good on the resume of an ambitious council person who may be looking for a career in Public Service.Ouch!

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    3. Any councilmember who votes to rezone Mater Dolorosa will face a recall.

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  23. 1:03 is right - put it on your calendar - Tuesday, June 17, 6:30 pm - City Council. Go to the podium - No water, no development! There is strength in numbers.

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    1. City Council meetings are held on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month, Steve. June 17 is the thrid Tuesday of the month and there is no meeting that evening.

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    2. In which case Steve is free to speak as long as he wants that night.

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    3. He'll also be able to go into closed session. A really rare opportunity for any private citizen.

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  24. Dear friends, most everyone who posts arguments here comes round to the same conclusion: development leads to McMansions. Arcadia is an example of McMansionizaton. Sierra Madre doesn't want to be Arcadia. Until it comes time to discuss schools, that is. How is it that it's such a good idea to secede from PUSD and annex to Arcadia Unified?

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    1. Because Arcadia has better schools.

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