Thursday, July 17, 2014

Answers You've Been Waiting For The Tattler To Get You

An eating process pie chart
Mod: Over the past few weeks there have been some questions that nobody here ever bothered to answer. Sometimes out of forgetfulness, other times out of indifference. But mostly because the correct answer either just didn't exist yet, or nobody knew it. But today we have the answers to three of the biggest questions recently asked by Tattler readers. Important questions that deserved answers when they were asked, but just weren't available at the time. Now they have been found, and boy oh boy we just can't wait to share them with you. You ready?

1) When will the "Mountain Views News Special City Council Building Moratorium Meeting" take place? 

Mod: You know that the City Council's final deliberations on the Building Moratorium had to be pushed back by a few weeks because the legally required Public Notice newspaper ad was somehow "lost" by dotty Mountain Views News publisher Harriet Susan Henderson Poole Carter.

So what is the date for this make-up meeting? One where the City Council will have to make special time in their vacation schedules so it can happen? For that information we turn to Barry Gold, who got us a big payoff this week with his timely e-mail to Mayor Harabedian. Here is Barry's e-mail, along with the reply he received:

From: Barry Gold

Sent: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 11:25 PM
To: John Harabedian
Cc: Rachelle Arizmendi; Gene Goss; John Capoccia; Denise Delmar; Elaine Aguilar
Subject: Building Moratorium Extension

Dear Mayor Harabedian,

I heard that the building moratorium may not be extended beyond the initial 45 days period because the required notice was not published in the Mountain View News in a timely manner. Many residents are understandably concerned and would like to know the status of this matter.

Could you please let the community know whether or not a vote on the building moratorium extension will take place on July 22 at the council meeting.

Maybe you could use the City's web site to bring us all up-to-date.

Thank you, Barry Gold

From: Elaine Aguilar
To: Barry Gold
Sent: Wed, Jul 16, 2014 9:45 am
Subject: RE: Building Moratorium Extension

Hello Mr. Gold

Mayor Harabedian asked me to reply to your email on his behalf (and on the behalf of the Council) – to let you know what staff is doing to notify the public of this situation.  Your information is correct, the Mountain Views News did not print the public hearing notice in Saturday’s newspaper, so the Council cannot take any action on July 22nd. I have checked with the City Council to determine a new date when the matter can be considered.  The entire City Council is available for a meeting on Tuesday, August 12th. So the Council will be meeting on Tuesday, August 12th at 6:30 pm in the Council Chambers to consider extending the moratorium.  The urgency ordinance (Ordinance 1357U) that was approved at the July 8th City Council meeting is in full force and effect until August 22nd.   Please know that this publishing error does not in any way impact the other two actions the City Council took on July 8th  (approval of Urgency Ordinance 1356U and Resolution 14-58.)

To notify the public, we will be including this updated information in this week’s E-Blast, in this week’s City Manager’s report, and by posting the information on the City’s website; in addition to the regular posting of the agenda on the City’s website at least 72 hours in advance of the meeting.  Lastly – there will be a notice in the City’s adjudicated newspaper (the Mountain Views News), as required by law.

Please let me know if I can answer any additional questions you may have, or if I can provide any assistance in the future.

Sincerely, Elaine Aguilar, City Manager

Mod: So there you go. This MVN inspired "special meeting" will take place on August 12th. Thanks to the Mountain Views News there will be an August City Council meeting after all. Plus look at it this way, now the Building Moratorium will get its very own moment in the sun. A great opportunity for residents to focus on just how destructive developments such as Mater Dolorosa, One Carter and (as someone posting on this blog happily called it) Stonehenge, would be here. Especially during the worst drought in recorded history.

For the record there has been no statement yet from Susan Henderson explaining how exactly this rather momentous boner occurred. Should that ever happen, and we're not holding our breathe, we will post it here.

2) When will the 2013 City of Sierra Madre Employee Compensation numbers finally be made available? 

Mod: We have been posting some of the truly troublesome numbers provided to us by TransparentCalifornia.com detailing just how bizarrely high City of Sierra Madre employee health care plan costs are. Which, in case you are not aware, at over $30,000 per for certain specially chosen employees, are some of the highest in the state of California. If not the highest of all. These numbers are all based on the most recent data made available by the City of Sierra Madre, and are from 2012.

You can link to this information directly by clicking here.

That 2012 date has been problematic for some, however. One individual, who seemed particularly irked by our forthcomingness about this City's insane health plan compensation spending, left the following tart comment here last week:


I don't know how having squandered hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on Cadillac city employee health care compensation plans in 2012 can somehow be justified by what City Hall did in 2013. Why the year this disaster occurred makes things any better escapes me. And how would this individual have known that the 2013 numbers are lower since our local government agency has not made them available to anybody yet? Including Sacramento?

That is, unless "anonymous" is a city employee himself. One having privileged knowledge to information nobody else has seen yet. Always a possibility.

But again, how could the 2012 numbers be inaccurate or misleading? They are the numbers for 2012, after all. As supplied to the State Controller's office by City hall as is required by California law. Suddenly 2012 doesn't matter anymore?

So I asked our friends at TransparentCalifornia.com to try and find out when exactly the 2013 numbers would become available. Just to keep everyone happy. They made an inquiry to City Hall and received the following reply:

I wanted to let you know that I am in receipt of your request, but we have not yet compiled the data you are asking for the State Controller and therefore do not have a report to send you at this time. I believe the deadline to submit the State Controller’s report is in mid-August. Once we have submitted the report, I will send a copy to you as well.

So there you go. Most cities in California are on this exact same reporting schedule, and ours is no different. The law is the law. This also means that the 2012 numbers we have been posting here are the most up-to-date and accurate possible.

Trust me, as soon as those 2013 health care plan numbers are made available this August we will be more than happy to post them here.

One question though. The mysterious fellow who left the above blog comment claims that those as yet unknown 2013 numbers will be lower. So does this mean the City Council has been cutting the costs of city employee health coverage? And if so, wouldn't that have had to happen during a City Council meeting? Do you recall any such thing ever going down? I don't.

Here is another interesting fact, also based on those same 2012 numbers. The City of Sierra Madre has a total of 53 full-time government workers that are costing us, when pensions and everything else is factored in, a cool $5,450,000 million a year. Divide that cost amongst the 5,888 residents of Sierra Madre who are classified as employed, and it comes to $925 a year per taxpaying resident.

You're most certainly welcome.

3) How many signatures will the people who want to do away with the UUT altogether have to get in order to put this question on the ballot this November? 

Mod: This question had come up more than once, and nobody seemed to know the answer. Or if they did they didn't care to share it with us here.

To get that information we turned to a Pasadena Star News article titled "Arcadia City Council rejects petition to repeal utility tax." To read the entire thing click here.

A notice to circulate a petition was submitted last week in Sierra Madre. The group needs about 100 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Earl Richey, a proponent in Sierra Madre, said the city needs to be more responsible in its handling of its finances. “The city wants more revenue to give it more borrowing power, which will put us in even more debt,” Richey said.

This spring, Sierra Madre voters defeated a measure that would keep the utility tax at 10 percent through 2020. By rejecting the measure, the tax will decrease to 6 percent by July 2016.

City Manager Elaine Aguilar said the city will collect $2.4 million in UUT revenue this year or, 27 percent of the city’s total revenue. “For a reduction of that amount of money it is not possible to take a little from here and a little from there,” she said. “It would mean completely changing the way the city provides services.”

That 100 signatures figure is a surprisingly low one. If true, and why wouldn't it be, what this tells me is the fate of the remaining 6% of our Utility User Taxes (UUT) will most certainly be in the hands of the voters this November.

My advice to City Hall is to be a bit more proactive about getting its spending under control. You know, things such as those crazy $30,000 plus per year employee health care plans have simply got to go.

Because if the City won't do it, we now have the necessary tool to do the job for them.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

63 comments:

  1. "E-Blast"
    A ridiculous non-word made up by marketing people who think the term "e-mail" is inadequate to describe the explosive excitement of their mass e-mails.

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    1. Sounds purposeful.

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    2. Wow, I'm impressed

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    3. It would be more appropriate if they E-Blasted a proposed Ordinance about water-cheaters being sent to "Water School"
      http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-California/2014/07/17/Water-School-Opens-in-Santa-Cruz-Erases-Fines-for-Overuse

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    4. Is that a boarding school? So to speak?

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    5. Re-education school. To get your mind right about water.

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  2. So who is picking up the cost of this additional meeting? All the additional staff time, lights, A/C, KGEM, etc? My guess is that it's not Susan.

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    1. When it comes to picking up the tab, Susan has alligator arms.

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  3. "Here is another interesting fact, also based on those same 2012 numbers. The City of Sierra Madre has a total of 53 full-time government workers that are costing us, when pensions and everything else is factored in, a cool $5,450,000 million a year. Divide that cost amongst the 5,888 residents of Sierra Madre who are classified as employed, and it comes to $925 a year per taxpaying resident."

    Thank you for the services, staff!

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    1. Elaine said regarding stopping the UUT:
      “For a reduction of that amount of money it is not possible to take a little from here and a little from there,” she said. “It would mean completely changing the way the city provides services.”
      GREAT ! That is exactly what we need.

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    2. Provide services in a more cost effective manner? Whoa.

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  4. the number of signatures required is based on a percentage of voters in the city that voted in the last gubernatorial election. So, 100 or so signatures is certainly in the realm of reality. go get'em!

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    1. Where do I sign? I want to be on of The Hundred.

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  5. So political. Drag it out, see how committed the citizens are or aren't. I mean we have vacations and things to do, also. Do they hope we won't fill the room? We can't let that happen! We must be at all the meetings for the next few months.

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  6. Perhaps Earl's petition has lower limits than Measure V. After the Measure V petition was published with the required signatures, by law they had to get a minimum of 10% of the registered voters. Earl's petition is going to require about a 1000 valid signatures of registered voters in order to qualify for an election.

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    1. Have another sip of the Tax-Me Kool-Aid. 100-150 signatures.

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    2. I like the idea of putting questions about important city issues on the ballot. With the requirement being 100 or 150, we could get really creative!

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    3. I want a chance to vote on the 6% "base" UUT. The voters never go to vote on that, it was imposed by City Council "back when" it was supposed to be temporary. Hah.

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    4. The first part of the UUT was never voted on by the taxpayers? Really?

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    5. Really. Then again, I'm sure City Hall is fine with us thinking we got to vote on the first 6%...

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  7. This new August meeting works well for the developers. They have more time to prepare their legal arguments, a lot of people will be out of town. Funny how things happen sometimes. I know the politically correct thing here is to blame it all on incompetence and simple stupidity. But damn.

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  8. Aguliar didnt answer. The 2013 numbers are not due to the controller until later but they exist already and are available to any members of the public that want to go to city hall and ask for them.

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    1. So you are suggesting that the city was lying?

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    2. Just fibbing a little bit? Maybe Waybe?

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    3. I love this topic. It always brings out the city's union shills.

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    4. Watch out for that tree!

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  9. Found this interesting, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics "The average cost for health insurance benefits was $2.36 per hour worked in private industry (7.9 percent of total compensation) in March 2014." There are 2080 hours in a year, that makes private industry paying out an average of $5,000 per employee.

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    1. Hmmm. $5,000. That is $32,800 less than Sierra Madre's water master. Quite a difference!

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  10. Will the moratorium freeze permits already pulled?

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    1. Building, yes. That is why the delayed meeting is so problematic. It is the one the developers hate the most.

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    2. Probably not.

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    3. If there are all ready water meters there is no moratorium, we will go to a two day a week only watering soon example odd st numbers mon - thurs , even tues fri , part of wed meeting

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    4. If you know of a way to build a house without a permit, please share that information here.

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    5. It does not affect anything that allready has a meter ,

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    6. Also all the new rules that have to do with the states new mandate (which were recieved yesterday) will have to be added to the water info

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  11. As usual, the Tattler quickly gets important news to its readers, thank you!

    The City has now posted this on their Facebook page:

    City Council Consideration to Extend the Interim Moratorium

    On July 8, 2014, the City Council adopted Ordinance No. 1357U, establishing an Interim Moratorium Ordinance Pursuant to Government Code Section 65858 on the issuance of all building permits and any discretionary approvals for construction of new development requiring new water service connections. The interim ordinance was an urgency ordinance, making it effective immediately. The Interim Ordinance 1357U will expire on August 22, 2014, unless the City Council takes action to extend the moratorium before it expires.

    Originally, the City Council’s consideration of extending the interim ordinance was scheduled for the July 22nd meeting, but the public hearing notice was not printed in the locally adjudicated newspaper (the Mountain Views News) as required by law. This means that the City Council cannot consider extending the ordinance at the next Council meeting, instead the City Council will meet on Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at 6:30 pm, in the City Hall Council Chambers, to consider extending the moratorium for an additional 22 months and 15 days (until July 5, 2016).

    The delay in the City Council considering the extension of Ordinance 1357U, has no impact on the applicability of the interim ordinance. Urgency Ordinance 1357U remains in full force and effect until August 22, 2014. Additionally, the other two related actions the City Council approved on July 8th, are not impacted by the rescheduling of the public hearing. Resolution 14-58 declaring Phase III Water Conservation and declaring a moratorium on new water service connections, along with Urgency Ordinance 1356U, declaring the existence of a water shortage emergency and imposing a moratorium on the issuance of new water service connections, do not need to be extended, as they remain in effect until modified or rescinded by formal action of the City Council.

    A fact sheet is being prepared to provide answers to the various questions we have received about Ordinance 1357U, Ordinance 1356U and Resolution 14-58. The fact sheet should be available on the City’s website by Monday, July 21st.

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    1. The City's mention of the Mountain Views News is surprisingly nonjudgemental. Is it possible that the fault might lie with City Hall?

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    2. Susan would have to do a lot worse than this for City Hall to call her out. She is protected there.

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    3. anybody know what the contract is we pay for the paper to print legal notices?

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  12. Why don't we get a skeleton crew of FT employees and the utilize more PT employees to reduce healthcare and pension costs. If they want healthcare they can go work at starbucks where they charge $3.00 for a $.30 cup o'coffee.

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    1. Is Obama Care an option? Or is that just for people who don't work for government.

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  13. I think Council Member Delmar is working on the pension problem with Cox and Aguilar. . Why not give her a chance to see what she can do before we all go off half-cocked about our ideas and plans?

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    1. The reason why City Hall is working on the "pension problem" is because of all of the exposure it has gotten here. It is a real concern in town. It is embarrassing that what we spend on employee health care plans is so ridiculously out of line with what the rest of the world pays. I am sorry 12:54, but I believe your request here that people shut up about this topic is because you don't want to see the change that is coming. Here we talk about whatever we like. Even when you don't approve.

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    2. You need to get approval from Elaine first.

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    3. Denise is doing a great job with the plan.

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    4. The Platinum Pensions and Gold Health Plans are the major reason the city expenses "keep going up 3% each year" as Director Schnaider said. Keep paying, nothing to see here!

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    5. Denise did a great job with the moratoriums too, 1:30. But without the residents standing behind her nothing would have happened. Same thing with Sierra Madre's benefits disgrace.

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    6. Not asking you to shut up about it, I just asking that you give her a chance to work it out, then stand behind her when the time comes for our input.

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    7. 04, did you get up on the wrong side of the bed this morning or what? Pretty testy aren't you? I think everyone has a right to post their opinion, don't you?

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    8. Then why are you complaining about someone else who is posting here?

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    9. 3:00 - I think I got lost somewhere between your assumptions. What does Denise Delmar have to do with people talking politics on a blog? And what does that have to do with pension reform in Sierra Madre?

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    10. One of Denise's campaign promises was to look into the benefits programs of city employees. All I'm trying to say is, oh never mind. I guess you have your mind made up so who am I to even blog here.

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    11. I think you need to attend some "make sense therapy" classes.

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  14. the city ought to do away with the "employer contributions" to the pension plans, the "employer" is us the taxpayers

    at my job, my employer doesn't match or triple or quadruple contributions like the public sector does

    my kids will be paying ex-cop Abernathy (he's just an example) for another 20 years (assuming good health etc) and my grandkids will be paying Elaine's pension

    it's an absurdly obscene pension system


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    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    2. Why do so many Civility Party types have issues?

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    3. Maybe we should rename it the Uncivil Party. Josh could drop the F-bomb before we cut the cake.

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  15. sure Elaine, go ahead and cut "here and there" and if you don't touch the pension or health plans see how that goes over with us

    we need to elect a series of Councils that are there for us, not for the employee unions

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  16. The adjudicated rag or Mt View News is contracted by the city to print legal notices. So i wonder if the city has withheld payment to the rag or is this a representation of what taxpayers can expect?

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  17. I lool forward to "how the city will completely change the way the city provides services". I look forward to the city being a home town community or village.

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  18. Can anyone tell me why Cable T.V. channel 3 has not played the City Council meeting of July 8th. Thank you again Tattler for your insight and coverage of the City meetings. Thank you for the standards you represent and for the responsible way you provide information available on the Internet and for your quality and accuracy.

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