|What, me worry?|
That is the downside to the "live blogging" thing I do at City Council meetings. I am so busy reading and clearing comments that I miss some of the interesting things that are going on. Like the names of people who are speaking from the public podium that I don't already know. And when you consider that we had more than 200 comments by the end of Tuesday evening's slam shebang, it does put a bit of a strain on my peripatetic attention span.
Zen titles her article "Sierra Madre puts a stop to development amid fear of running out of water," and you can link to it here. I could just rip the whole thing and post it on my blog, but that would be wrong in a lot of ways. There is also a great slide show of pictures on the Star News website from that meeting as well. You will see people there you know I'm sure. Even yourself if you were in the house.
I've linked to that here. The picture of Mayor Harabedian above is just one of those shots. But do go and check all of this out. Web traffic is money for sites like that. Support local news journalism because we need it more than most people know. Plus it also helps to show that covering the affairs of our little town is worth the bother.
Here are a couple of passages from Zen's article that I thought we might discuss.
Despite legal protests from developers’ lawyers and expert advice to keep water conservation voluntary, the City Council delivered a triple whammy this week to anyone seeking to develop property in Sierra Madre.
About 125 people came to a Tuesday night City Council meeting, and about 30 of them sat or stood in an overflow area. Councilman Gene Goss said he didn’t think the council would deal with anything more serious than this topic during his tenure.
“It’s not that they’re anti-development or pro-development, but if they hear that they’re being asked to make major sacrifices like cutting down their water use ... they get upset when they don’t see everyone having to make those sacrifices,” Goss said. “This to me is about equity pure and simple.”
I don't buy the idea that concerning ourselves with a huge disjointed swathe of largely unwanted McMansion development extending from Michillinda to Santa Anita is a politically incorrect thing that needs to be downplayed to protect the sensitive. Nor is the suggestion that people are basically acting from self interest alone necessarily accurate, either. There is that, of course. But I would also like to believe the people of this town are a little bigger than that.
Water shortages and other inconvenient effects of the worst drought in California history can only be made worse by building large blocks of 6,000 square foot hogans with enough bathrooms in them to efficiently relieve a football team. I don't see how you really can decouple the two issues. They are one in the same.
That might offend some concerned lawyers and local Bob the Builder types, but there you go. Water use matters. Sustainability matters, too. And creating an even greater demand by building ominous looking water hog housing that will rely on our local water company, which is essentially waterless, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
In three unanimous decisions, the council voted to move the city to Stage III water conservation (30 percent) as well as to enact two moratoriums for issuing building permits, for approving construction that would require new water service connections and for adding any water hookups. All three decisions went into effect Tuesday.
Those outcomes didn’t seem certain after a June 24 City Council meeting.
This is a very interesting point. In comments found on this blog some noted that all of the City Councilmembers had arrived at a cheery outcome as one, and that they all need to be congratulated on their selfless concern for both the community and we the people who happily crowded into that room.
But the reality is it took a lot of time and hard work on the residents' part to convince at least two (perhaps three) Councilmembers to do the right thing. And left to their druthers they might have done something not quite so agreeable.
To support this contention, here is a revealing passage from the Star News article that covered the June 24 meeting (link). Note the difference in tone.
City Councilman Gene Goss said the public shouldn’t put water discoloration, water conservation and anti-development sentiment into the same box.
“We have to be very careful about trying to mix these issues just from a good, solid, clear public policy perspective,” he said. “I think it’s obvious that we the citizens have let the ball drop. We have not conserved enough water.”
Goss and Mayor John Harabedian said Phase III would prevent new water hookups, which is also what a more highly regulated no building moratorium would do. Capoccia said he’s OK with just enacting Phase III as long as the Council self-imposes discipline that a building moratorium would have done.
Blaming the residents, or citing Phase III financial penalties as a "best practices" solution to our water woes, were not things that were heard at Tuesday's meeting. And it took an army of the people to make those gentlemen to see the light. You have to wonder why it took so much work to get certain of our elected officials to embrace the truth.
And quite frankly, should it have been this hard? What were they concerned about that kept them from getting it right the first time?
Here is another passage from Zen's article today that we can discuss if you like.
Resident Allen Graves said the best way to get a round of applause in Sierra Madre is to oppose development.
“No one has given us a hint about how much money we’re going to lose,” Graves said.
This rather cynical canard showed up in the comments here yesterday as well. I found myself wondering if perhaps Mr. Graves himself had come here to visit with us.
Look here pal, this money we are supposedly going to lose has never existed. It would come from building houses that are at this moment only a gleam in Adele Chang's eye. This isn't about existing home repair permits or fees from building a new room for junior. It is about building brand spanking new water hog McMansions in the midst of the worst drought in recorded history.
At the meeting Mr. Graves went on to rhetorically ask how many employees might have to lose their jobs due to the loss of this money. But since this money doesn't exist yet, and has never existed throughout the history of Sierra Madre or anything else, how is anyone going to lose their job over it? It has never been in anybody's budget.
This is an air bear of an argument.
I found Mr. Graves to be a bit disingenuous. And just in case you are wondering, Mr. Graves is a Pasadena lawyer. He'll help you sue your dumb boss if such is your desire. Here is something you can find on the web:
Maybe I should call him and sue The Tattler for back pay. Here is one more passage before I clock out of the blog office suite.
Frank Nicholas, an attorney representing CETT Corporation, the owner of the Stonegate property development, argued the council did not have the proper grounds to declare a water shortage emergency. He delivered a letter written by his colleague, Richard McDonald.
“There are a number of potentially significant environmental impacts associated with enacting any of the moratoria proposals which require an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act),” McDonald wrote. “First, there is the fire danger created when vacant properties cannot obtain water hookups. Second, there is the fire danger in the existing developed properties potentially converting to brown fields with increased dry and dead vegetation.”
This is the dude that caused so much guffawing when he tried to convince those assembled Tuesday that there is no water shortage. And just to show you that the humor kept a-coming, consider this. Those vacant properties that are purportedly a fire danger because they "cannot obtain water hookups" have never had water hookups before. Not in the entire history of the Planet Earth. Yet somehow they have survived.
And let me ask you this, did the Garden of Eden have water hookups? Outside of the tears of angels? Hard to believe these guys get paid some pretty good money for making stuff like this nonsense up.
Oh snap, I guess I should probably include this one as well.
Although Phase III should include penalties, the City Council rescinded water conservation penalties in November 2013 because imported water from the San Gabriel Valley MWD loosened rust from old pipes and caused some residents to have odorous, yellow-orange water spewing from their pipes.
Water fines will not return until November, when the council will likely revisit the issue and consider the state of Sierra Madre’s water quality.
Even if fines are implemented again, the city won’t tack on a Utility User Tax to it, City Manager Elaine Aguilar said.
Have their ever been utility taxes on penalties or fines before? Do we pay utility taxes on parking tickets and library fines? And here is a frightening thought. Are utility taxes ever assessed on utility taxes? Creating a kind of eternal tax coil of dunning that none of us will ever live to escape?
Now I am worried, too.