Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Captain Obvious On Agenda Item #5 “FY 2014-2015 Budget: Direction Regarding General Fund Budget Reductions In Preparation For Utility User Tax Sunset.”

Credit: NPRI
(Mod: Frequent Tattler commenter Captain Obvious needs no explanatory introduction. Obviously. The Captain often speaks out on this blog about the very special economics of City Hall, a place where the everyday financial pressures of life somehow do not always apply, and the numbers sometimes just don't quite add up. At least in a traditional mathematical sense ... Come join in the fun as the Captain slices and dices city staff's quirky claims regarding the upcoming sunsetting of the UUT. A topic that will be presented at tonight's City Council meeting by the City Manager and other staff types as one of the greatest tragedies of our times. And yet, as Captain Obvious clearly demonstrates below, the numbers just do not justify all of that sobbing.)

The Captain enjoys a good intellectual read, sometimes. And other times, he’d prefer a good laugh. City Hall must be reading the Captain’s mind, ergo, the staff report from tonight’s (7/22) City Council meeting.

Yes, it’s the dreaded Agenda Item #5, titled “FY 2014-2015 Budget: Direction Regarding General Fund Budget Reductions In Preparation For Utility User Tax Sunset.”

If you need a good laugh, read the full staff report – all 10 pages. The Captain loved, yes, loved, Page 2 of 10: “General Fund Comparison of Revenues to Expenditures (in thousands) including Transfers In/Out."


The Captain won’t be attending the meeting this evening, but here are some good questions for lots of people to ask at Public Comment (feel free to have a number of people ask the same question – tell ‘em the Captain sent ya!) Please be sure to pass a copy of your questions to the City Clerk so they can go into the minutes.

Question 1: City revenues for FY (fiscal year) ending 6/30/2012 were $7.98 million. The current budget for FY ending 06/30/2015 (the year we’re in now) proposes $9.04 million. That’s a $1million dollar bump, or an average of 4.4% in increases in just 3 years.

Why did the revenues go up so much? Didn’t the UUT fail in 2012?

Question 2: City revenues for FY ending 6/30/2012 were $7.98 million. The City’s “doomsday” scenario for the FY ending 06/30/2017 (after the UUT rate sunsets to 6%) shows projected revenues at $ 8.56 million. This shows a $580,000 increase (over half a million dollars) or an average of 1.5% increase per year over those 5 years.

What increased services does the city provide now, or will provide in 2016, that it didn’t provide in 2012?

Question 3: In the July 17, 2014 edition of the Sierra Madre Weekly, City Manager Elaine Aguilar talks about an estimated $1 million less revenues after July 1, 2016 as the UUT sunset to 6%. Why didn’t she mention the expected $1 million increase in revenues from FY 2012 to FY 2014?


Question 4: The estimated Sierra Madre Police Department budget for FY ending 06/30/2014 was $ 3.504 million. The proposed FY ending 06/30/2015 shows a $3.906 million budget. That’s a $402,000 increase, or an 11.5% jump, and IN ONLY ONE YEAR! Why does it appear the City is building in a big pay raise for the police before negotiations have even gotten near the finish line?

A couple of bonus questions:

Question 5: Please explain how the City projected only about a 6.0% increase in property tax revenues for FY ending 06/30/2015 when at least 64 homes have sold in the last 90 days? That works out to about 240 for the entire year. These sales are not one time things - the increased taxes will continue year after year.

Question 6: Before we added paramedics in 2008, the City got along with a 6% UUT rate that applied to less types of utilities than we pay now. When was the last time (if ever) the City explored having the County provide paramedic services?

The Captain thinks the City’s answers to these questions should be transparent. With your help, we can get the clear answers we deserve.

Today's Pasadena Star News article on the development moratoriums

Mod: Is it just me, or are the three McMansion developers starting to sound just a little bit whiny? Today's Star News article, written by Zen Vuong and called, "Developers not bothered Sierra Madre’s water conservation measures" (link), gives us a bit of palaver from the folks in that corner. People who actually sound, well, kind of bothered.

Here is an example:

Cameron Thornton, spokesman for the Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, said the 20 acres of vacant land his ministry hopes to develop into single-family homes is at least three years away from breaking ground. The building moratorium could be extended for a maximum of two years. In fact, the organization has yet to start a property sale process.

“It doesn’t change our need to sell the land to raise funds, that’s for sure,” Thornton said. “We still have the need to care for our aging priests in America and abroad. Quite candidly, it doesn’t change anything. Our biggest hope is that the moratorium will allow the community to come together and have civil exchanges and have honest conversations.”

There you go. Apparently Cameron Thornton believes that the people of Sierra Madre have been uncivil and dishonest on this topic. Probably because so many haven't been seeing things quite his way.

So how civil would it be to subject this community to years of the dirt, noise and pollution of so massive a construction project, and just because the Passionists did not plan properly for the retirement of their people? And isn't that what Thornton does for a living? Retirement planning?

And honestly, how in the world can Cameron Thornton claim with a straight face that "the organization has yet to start a property sale process?"

Really, Cameron? Does New Urban West know?

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

129 comments:

  1. Captain Obvious shows us, again, that of you give government money they will spend it and continue to cry poor and demand more. The Obvious thing to do is not give the government our tax dollars in the first place!

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    Replies
    1. So how do you reduce utility taxes by 6% and still see the budgets go up?

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    2. I love the finances of this city. They always seem to find an extra $500,000 or $1,000,000 lying around every few years. Can you imagine how much $$ they'd have if they'd raised the UUT to 12% a few years back. Crikey.

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    3. It is kind of like an easter egg hunt.

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    4. Or a very long game of hide 'n seek.

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  2. New Urban West knows. They're probably whispering to Cameron what he's supposed to say.

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    Replies
    1. "Don't pay attention to the man behind the curtain."

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  3. Why does Mr. Thornton presume a zone change?
    He must know that no court in the land can force a council to change zoning, and yet he persist in assuming that will happen.

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    Replies
    1. He feels that if he wants it, he should get it.

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    2. Strip this of all the guilt trips the Camster lays on us and it's a stone cold land deal. Nothing more.

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    3. It would be interesting to find out why Cameron Thornton and Jerry Pierson are so motivated to sell this property. It would be nice if they would disclose how much money they stand to make if the sale of Mater Dolorosa goes forward. They keep talking about "aging" priests. In the past they said there were 63 of them. Howe many millions of dollars do they need for these priests? What happened to their recent campagin to raise 5 million dollars for their aging priests. According to their webiste, they were able to raise most if not all of that money. In other words, people willingly came to the table to help them out. Where did that money go? But if they needed 15 or 20 million dollars for the priests, why wasn't that the goal of the the campaign. The property managed to remain intact through I'm sure many financial ups and downs including the Great Depression and when there were alot more priests to care for. Why do these Priests need to cash in at the expense of what the community wants? Are Mr. Thorton and Mr Pierson banking on this sale to fund their own retirements? Are they putting in all of this time attending city council meetings and trying to have their "small group" meetings with various people for purely altruistic reasons or will they receive a windfall when the land sells? Lots of questions but very few answers.

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    4. At the July 8th City Council meeting when the moratoriums were passed, Cameron Thornton brought with him Father Higgens and Father Bruno. They sat through that meeting and listened to the community express their concerns about our water crisis and its link to devleopment. You'd think that as religious people, they would say to themselves, "Hey, maybe we ought to re-think things. The community doesn't seem to want it and we ought to consider the needs of the community before our own selfish needs." You'd think they'd have some second thoughts. Yet, these folks are nothing if not persistent. They don't care what the community or the neighbors want. They just want to cram that project down our throats whether we like it or not.

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    5. I read the Star News article that the Tattler refers to. My question is why does the Star News have to have an advertisement for the Mater Dolorsa Housing project within an otherwise balanced article. I'd like to ask the Tattler readers how often does a news article about a very divisive issue provide the cell phone number and website of one of the sides to the story. That's great to write an article about this story. But to give the cell phone number for Cameron Thornton and the website he wants readers to go to seems a bit inappropriate. This comes on the heels of the Star News running an article about the July 8th meeting in which they only quote from the anti-moratorium people and did not provide a quote from any of the scores of people who filled the council chambers to overflowing and spoke passionately in favor of the moratoriums.

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    6. I thought it was a pretty good article. It certainly gave Thornton enough rope to hang himself. Which he did.

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    7. The Star News is revealing that they are in favor of a housing project at Mater Dolorosa. The news reporter they have assigned to it Zen Vuong needs to remain objective and not be supplying phone numbers and websites for the pro-development crowd. In this same article, it would be like her supplying the cell phone number for attorney Richard McDonald so that people can contact his law firm. This is unheard of if you are just trying to objectively report the news.

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    8. The Star News should do an article on the Coalition to Preserve Mater Dolorosa and the grass roots campaign that has arisen against the project. Focus on that and throw a few crumbs or quotes to Mater Dolorosa too as a side note. Advertise the Coalition's website which for those who don't know is www.stopmonasteryhousingproject.com Shel Seagal of the Sierra Madre Weekly has been very fair in their coverage. The Mountain Views News had clearly the best coverage about the July 8th City Council meeting. For those who couldn't attend the meeting, the Mountain Views News managed to give an accurate and unbiased portrayal of the meeting. Keep an eye on the Star News in the future because they have a point of view and its coming across in their news stories rather than their editorials.

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    9. Laughable. Read the previous articles they wrote about Mater Dolorosa and the moratoriums and you can see that the Looney has been on every possible side of this issue. Including declaring that the Mater Dolorosa situation was a done deal and the houses were as good as built. No matter what the residents said. Something that was proven to be about as wrong as possible a couple of weeks later. The Looney caught up with reality because they had no choice. Plus what happened to the city's public notice for the building moratorium that was supposed to happen tonight? And why didn't the Looney fess up to their disastrous mistake in the city written puff piece they printed over the weekend? If this paper ever gets something right, it is because of dumb luck.

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  4. At 1:30pm, Monday 7/21. gallons of water were gushing down Michillinda blvd. (Sierra Madre side.) I went north looking for the cause...A couple of blocks north of Alergia there stood a Sierra Madre water employee next to an OPEN fire hydrant, water flowing at least 10 minutes, I had to go to work or would have recorded more footage. What is going on?

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    Replies
    1. It is the only way our water department knows to deal with yellow water. Think of Michillinda as a tributary of the Colorado River.

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    2. They are flushing the lines. You work to much..........

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  5. we pay alot for a single branch library, not to mention pensions

    how much would we save if we annexed into Pasdena?

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    Replies
    1. Sierra Madre is the home of the most expensive city employee health plans in California. Bring that into line and we can afford a library.

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  6. The cops are getting a raise? Really?

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    Replies
    1. Why else would the PD budget have that big of an increase?

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    2. So instead of the SMPD going away because Measure UUT didn't pass, they're getting a raise instead?

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    3. Actually, wasn't that the increase in costs due to the launched paramedic program?

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    4. No. The paramedics are part of the Fire Department, not the PD.

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    5. Gotta pay for those pensions!

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  7. Our tax money is primarily used to feather the nests of our cosseted City employees. Only when they are all sitting so pretty is anything spent on services and infrastructure.
    We need to change that order of priorities IMHO.

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    Replies
    1. You mean not everybody has a $37,800 health care plan?

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    2. Can I apply? I'll settle for a $24,000 health plan. That will save the city $1,000+ per month just for me. Please, please, please?

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    3. If the jobs at city hall were declared open and anyone could apply for them, the line of applicants would extend all the way to Michillinda.

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    4. There are good jobs posted on the city website,check it out.

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  8. DEAR CAPTAIN !

    GREAT ONGOING FUTURE TOPIC.....

    1) EFFECTIVE JANUARY 2014 - CITY HALL HAS BEEN RECEIVING "ALL" WATER FROM MWD FOR "FREE",

    2) CITY HALL "FAILED" TO PROVIDE TAXPAYERS WITH THE YEARLY WATER & SEWER "INCOME",

    3) CITY HALL "FAILED" TO PROVIDE TAXPAYERS WITH THE YEARLY WATER & SEWER EXPENSES!

    4) TRANSFERS "IN".... ONE CAN ONLY EXSPECT THAT THOSE TRANSFER IN... MUST BE THE "ILLEGAL COMMINGULED WATER & SEWER INCOME MONIES ...." which city hall states are only used for water and sewer expenses....

    5) WHY DID ELAINE FAIL TO PROVIDE AN ACCOUNTING AS TO THOSE "UN SPENT - MILLIONS OF DOLLARS" WHICH "SHOULD BE SITTING" IN THE WATER & SEWER CORPORATIONS CHECKING ACCOUNT? Did Elaine illegally spend those monies? and if so, that explains why the city's water & sewer infrastructure has not been repaired and why the city of Sierra Madre has no water available to pump? Lets force city hall to fix our city wells so we can have green grass just like Arcadia? Since city hall has no credit - Elaine's city employees can PERSONALLY SIGN / PERSONAL GUARENTEE" repayment of a bank loan required to repair the city's water wells for their paying water customers ..... ?

    6) WHEN ARE THE TAXPAYERS GOING TO GET THERE "WATER & SEWER FORENSIC AUDIT" - WHICH IS LONG OVER DUE?

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    Replies
    1. The passion. The power. The ALL CAPS!

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    2. Speak up. I can't hear you.

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    3. somebody is not well at 11:14

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    4. You rang?

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    5. All-caps police remain in full firs on the tattler.. They must get well paid too.

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    6. It is not so much the salaries as it is the benefits.

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    7. Where are the Taxpayers' Gold Healthplans?

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  9. ELAINE IS JUST LIKE THE FOX IN THE CHICKEN COUP!

    1) Elaine is being paid income from the General Fund,

    2) Elaine is being paid monies from the water & sewer enterprises,

    3) Elaine has run this city out of water!

    4) Do you think Elaine is entitled to a raise or a pink card?

    reply requested from all city council members who have the conscience to answer......

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    Replies
    1. Is this all caps again? Wow, Elaine has the power of God to be able to stop the rain and cause the City to run out of water? I didn't know that!

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  10. The Passionist Mater Dolorosa HAS A RIGHT! to develop and dispose of their property as they choose. If you Sierra Madreans want to control and dictate who can reside in your stupid little village then you need to privatize the city and collect monthly HOA dues from each of the residents. Stop complaining about everything. You want free but doint want to pay your fair share of utility taxes. Absolutely a bunch of morons living in that town. The Chinese are coming whether you like it or not.

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    Replies
    1. Actually homeowners have rights as well. Of course, you might not agree, but fortunately there are laws that hold folks like you at bay. And having to pay the highest utility taxes in the State of California is hardly anyone's fair share.

      Go comfort yourself with a nice donut.

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    2. Somebody call for the nurse.

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    3. Hey, dude...the Chinese are already here. They need to respect what is here. Don't want to be like the California money that went to Washington State, Oregon, Idaho....also, there are morons everywhere, even where you are standing.

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    4. No one has the right to develop as they like, thats why there are state mandates for building codes an general plans. Zoning laws trump property owners rights, the monastery is zoned institutional, so that means they can build housing there. I can drone on and give you a lesson on zoning if you like, since you seem to lack knowledge of the law.

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    5. Mr. Mc Donald?

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    6. Hey, just so you know this is an American blog. This is not China.

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  11. Wow, 1:22 sure careened all over on that one. Someone take her/him to Mother Moo, she needs an ice cream.

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    Replies
    1. Maybe he's ALL CAP's evil twin.

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  12. Replies
    1. Bien y Vd.?

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    2. All of this international bonhomie has me wanting a nice cup of Gevalia.

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    3. Speak English please; this is la city of Sierra Madre,en Los Angeles county,El state of California! lol

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  13. So, 1:22, I guess the reception isn't so spotty after all.

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    Replies
    1. "stupid little village"? I'm hurt.

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    2. Does that make us bad people?

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    3. This is why we can't have nice things.

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    4. at least he didn't call us "townies"

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  14. Not trying to take away from anything, but sound spending should not exceed CPI (inflation). However inflation has averaged 2% since 2010, so revenues increasing at 1.5% means the city is loosing money. Given that we need to cut spending.

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    Replies
    1. Gotta pay for the cost of those ever increasing Platinum Pensions!

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  15. Gene Goss: "It was my phone's fault!"

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  16. KGEM is freezing....

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  17. Noah wants small business to take advice from him. Tip #1: Keep your clothes on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Noah doesnt understand, he needs to go away

      his 15 minutes of fame are over and he's just a joke

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  18. Noah pants! On the rehab tour!

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  19. Noah will be speaking on the monkey business panel.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Noah thinks the city ought to do something to promote Halloween and bring in out of townies.

      maybe a block party would work?

      whatcha think Mr Lawyer?

      dude is a clown

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  20. Mr. Gold is eloquent.

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    Replies
    1. And thoughtful.

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    2. He speaks for the majority of Sierra Madre residents.

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  21. kgem off again.

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  22. I wish KGEM would freeze Inman.

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    Replies
    1. Your wish was granted.

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  23. So why are the state regulations on water usage all against individuals, and not industries such as development? Is it because individuals do not have lobbies bribing legislators to further their interests?

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    Replies
    1. Gotta grease Mr. Holden's palm or you will be paying fines.

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    2. He needs the money. He has offices to buy.

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  24. The City Council is discussing the anonymous "turn in your neighbor" hotline.

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  25. Deputized volunteers on patrol looking for water violators will be required to dress up as Water Wise Owl.

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  26. John Capoccia is worried about city hall being ignored on water restrictions. Can't see why he'd limit it to that. Elaine says that a mailer will go out next week. And an e-blast. Yeah, that'll do it.

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  27. KGEM is worthless. Wish the city could figure out something reliable.

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  28. Gene Goss is a consensus guy.

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    Replies
    1. Gene has at least three answers to every question. And then he asks a question.

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  29. Any objections/arguments from the developers and/or their attorneys?

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  30. The lady who showed up at the meeting should get the commission seat, as opposed to the guy who didn't show up.

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  31. Great remarks from Halcyon Koerber. And Pat Alcorn.

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  32. The other guy is Johnny's candidate. He won't bring up anything bothersome matters.

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    Replies
    1. Johnny's been trying to throw his bud Loera a bone since 2012.

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    2. Goss is so full of crap.

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    3. Or should I say Goss is full of BS?

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  33. Good for Mr. Alcorn. Commission appointments have evolved into a popularity contest.
    Clearly one applicant has unquestionably more experience than the other. Not a hard choice if you focus on the facts.

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  34. Gene Goss: "We have two fine candidates. I don't know either one of them."

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    Replies
    1. Johnny's gonna flip for Sheridan. Wet your finger & hold it up in the wind.

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    2. Notice the Council didn't formally vote to confirm Deb Sheridan? Mayor Johnny just avoided voting against his buddy Loera.

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    3. Goss is hopeless.

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  35. Argh kgem stopped in the middle of a resident speaking, and has now started playing the meeting from the beginning again! If anybody is there and online, please post what the vote was for the Community Serices Commissioner.

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    Replies
    1. 3 for Sheridan, Goss for Lew Air, and Johnny tap-danced around the issue like Mr. Bo Jangles.

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    2. I don't understand why there was any question at all - Sheridan had a wealth of experience, and the other applicant couldn't hold a candle to her.

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    3. That commission is comprised of intelligent and highly independent people who do not kowtow to city hall. Instead they do what they think is right for the community. For the people Gene Goss represents that is a bad thing. They want people who will do what the city manager tells them to.

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    4. If you look at the applications, the one who is no longer in the running is a retired physician, who has done community work. Dave Loera, who Goss is backing, because, "he played Little League here and has a newborn," must have contributed to his campaign. Why else would he back the least qualified of all the candidates?

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  36. Pool Boy is making me sleepy.

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  37. Gene Goss,
    The first thing to cut is the amount of talking you do!

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  38. Gene Goss is upset about the outsourcing of the pool. Of course, it became a guilt trip over the UUT sunset.

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  39. Oh my goodness. Please just shoot either Gene Goss or me now! He has absolutely no understanding of the entire situation. And of course he has to talk about how the city will lose money down the road because of the UUT tax decrease. guess he didn't read today's Tattler.

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    Replies
    1. Goss is a L.A. political machine hack. He wants more money for the unions in this city. But he'll claim it is for the pool.

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    2. Gene is a Buchanan clone.

      drones on and on and on and on

      Gene loves him some Gene

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  40. I think Goss and Harabedian are missing the main point. With Waterworks, we have a pool that is open, whereas if the city rant it would be closed. Can anyone say Detroit?

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    Replies
    1. Not only the pool remains open, but will have the necessary upgrades besides. The City could never save $80,000 in two years for pool repairs as they have, let alone be able to plan for future repairs. I think the people in Sierra Madre that want the pool to go back to a municipal pool are dreaming. It will never be a municipal pool again. Sierra Madre isn't the only city that has contracted out their pool, and one that I know of closed their pool and put in a mini system that acts like a sprinkler system with recycled water that the kids can run through. Glad Capoccia broached the subject of maybe asking for more rent in exchange for a 5 year contract. I think that is the best we can get.

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  41. Gene Goss,
    Please read my 6 questions in today's Tattler. You could learn a lot.

    Carry on.

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  42. Oh boy. Death by Powerpoint.

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  43. item 5, the budget, Assuming that there need to be cuts due to the UUT sunset is erroneous and presumptive. But, then what else should one expect from those who know only how to ask for more and more money, no matter what the true income is.

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    Replies
    1. When you're spending $30,000 plus a year for health plans, there might be problems.

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    2. Karin, Karin!! Tell us all about rising pension costs. (I won't hold my breath.)

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  44. So 15K is mandated each year for public announcements. That would be Susan Henderson

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    Replies
    1. Or announcements that just don't seem to get to the public.

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  45. Staffing costs. $72 bucks an hour to stand around with your hands in your pockets during the Wistaria Festival.

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    Replies
    1. I'm still tryinig to figure out how the city charged the Mt Wilson Trail Race over 200 hours of staff time for "pre-event planning"?

      especially when staff was already working

      this city needs to implode

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  46. Recouping costs. Paying staff to do their jobs twice. Once as taxes, once as fees.

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    Replies
    1. does the city charge each special event for staff time?

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  47. Five of the ten most expensive city employee health care plans are from Sierra Madre. including the most expensive of all, $37,000. That is for one year. Hearing these people plead poverty is bizarre.

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  48. I'm completely irate about the way Gene Goss addressed Rachelle and Denise about their remarks about the future budget and the way it can be changed without employee reduction. He clearly has an issue with women smarter than he is. Good for Rachelle for putting him in his place - very politely. I'm also worried that Capoccia has mentioned such drastic cuts as closing the library. If you want to see a public uprising, just try that one on for size.

    I think Delmar and Arizmendi are on the right track about reorganization of departments, and the fact that the projection of the deficit may not be as large as predicted. Combine the two and problem solved.

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  49. for all those that jumped on the Goss and Harabedian bandwagon with the water moratorium vote....well they're back

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