Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Agenda Item #6: Salaries, Benefits and City Hall Hours

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As we have pointed out before, the Health Care Plans of certain City of Sierra Madre employees are way out of line with what is to be found in any of other city in this country. The chart to the left illustrates just how out of whack these costs actually are.

The justification for this is the salaries of Sierra Madre employees have traditionally been lower than those of some of the surrounding communities, and giving employees very expensive health care benefits somehow makes it all better. This being done in the name of retaining people who would otherwise be hard to replace. The fear being that Sierra Madre has been functioning as a training academy, and that once employees are up to speed off they go to cities willing to pay them higher salaries.

I am not certain that this has been the case, though certainly a few have left over the years. But at least on an anecdotal level it would appear that this city has had a fairly stable employee base.

Below is a summary of what this item hopes to achieve. It is important to remember that many of the salary considerations here were done at the request of the previous City Council.


So here are what I see as being the good parts of it. City Hall hours are going back to something that is actually useful to the working men and women of this community. Rather than 11AM, the doors to the Puzzle Palace will now fly open to the taxpayers and those wishing to do business here at 7:30 AM, and will remain open until 5:30pm, Monday though Thursday. Planning and Public Works counters will be open 7:30am to 2:30pm. This is being accomplished without increasing current staff hours, so at least in that regard there are no additional costs to the taxpayers.

Another happy aspect of this proposal is health care costs are being pulled back from among the highest cost levels found anywhere to being merely posh. I am not sure too many living in this city have $18,000 a year health care plans, but perhaps some do. However, when compared to the $29,601 average top ten employee health plans we have seen up until now in Sierra Madre, it is a bit of an improvement. And honestly, I don't think that anyone downtown is going to miss having their teeth cleaned because of this change.

It would appear that Sierra Madre's infamous "highest in the state" designations for both utility taxes and health care plans are both about to disappear. Quite a change if you think about it, and one that I never thought we'd see here. It could be that City Hall is finally emerging from some of the strange and medieval financial practices of its troubled past to join a world where things are done a little more sanely.  

Where I think some fiscally concerned people are going to have a problem is with the increased costs for employee salaries. The impression here being that while things are taken away on the one hand, they're more than restored on the other. 

Here is the point of view from one keen observer of Sierra Madre's financial affairs:

The proposal said it would cost $348,000; which confused me initially. I thought this would save money as it proposed to reduce the cost of health benefits. As I read further, I saw that the cost increase was due to the proposed increase in salaries above and beyond any cost savings the lower health benefits would provide.

That is an important point. The City's justification for these salary increases is that they need to bring employee salaries here to within 15% of our larger and financially more prominent neighbors. And although that 15% "below market value" figure will also function as a cap, it is still being done in the name of (using that by now famous phrase), "Attracting, Developing, and Retaining Quality Staff.”

Even though most of this city's employees do seem to stick around anyway. Perhaps it is the relatively low impact ambiance of the place that does it?

But are those by now well-worn City Hall claims valid? Are they based on a sound methodology? Perhaps not. Do read on.

The other point our observer makes pertains to the justification used by the City for raising employee salaries to within 15% of our larger and more fiscally impactful neighbors. What is questioned here is the validity of comparing management responsibilities in relatively small Sierra Madre, to those in far larger places with far more complex jobs and responsibilities. Like Pasadena.

Another thing that stood out was the low number of full time employees, as compared to the rest of the cities being compared to, which the study erroneously refers to as the “market.” A market for a job is one in which the positions are similar in more than just geography. Ie the market for a mid-level manager tasked with overseeing X employees is one in which we are comparing similar jobs that require similar responsibilities. No private sector comparison would consider a manager tasked with overseeing 88 employees as in the same market as a manger tasked with overseeing 2,007 employees, but this study does just that by treating the cities of Pasadena and Sierra Madre as if they are equivalent members of the same “market.”

The average city in this “market” has an approximately 500% greater population (58,889) and 500% more full time govt employees (388) than Sierra Madre (pop. 11,021 FTE 88)

So the question that one might want to ask, is it really a fair comparison to compare the salaries for employees in a managerial role, to those in a similar role with 5x the amount of employees under their charge? Said differently, would a managerial position tasked with overseeing 100 people be equivalent to one that is tasked with overseeing 500 people?

Put another way, a management position in Sierra Madre is just a far smaller job than what you'll find in Pasadena. So is it really fair to compare any two jobs here as if they are equal? Just because the two cities happen to be next to each other? And on top of that then tying salaries to it?

This is, in my sometimes humble opinion, one of the bigger topics to appear on the City Council's agenda in a while. Right up there with the building moratorium. You need to check it out.

Of course, this discussion has been stuck at the very end of a long meeting schedule, so who knows if they will actually get to it.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

111 comments:

  1. So...Elaine was caught misappropriating funds into benefits to the likes that have never been seen in California, and to cover it up she shifted the money directly into salaries?
    WOW!

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    1. Looks that way 5:04.

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    2. on this blog it was reported that Elaine via Community Services invoiced and collected $ 18,000 (for the city) from the Mt Wilson Trail Race for over 200 staff hours for pre-event planning and meetings. 200 hours? for an annual same old same old race?

      I just don't trust her and she is in charge of bilking the city with the most incompetent and lavish benefit employee plan

      What really stinks is that residents for years to come will be paying for a obnoxious pension plan crammed down the taxpayer's throat by public employment unions and city managers who have no real accountability to anyone on a daily basis


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  2. I am disgusted at the thought of raises for the city employees. In the past year my hours have been cut on my job and all raises were frozen. It's an employer's world at present. You want a job, take what's offered or quit. There is no need to sweeten the offer with more money. There are plenty of candidates waiting to get a job.

    The Mod is correct. Don't compare Sierra Madre to the work load at Pasadena.
    We need to clean house at City Hall. A reality check is needed.

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    1. If more city hall jobs were open, there would be eager people lined up for a block, trying to get one, and grateful for it.

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  3. I would think that one of the major benefits of working in Sierra Madre would be that the town has a slower pace. I don't see how you would suffer the same kinds of job pressure that you would in a big city. That was always the justification for the lower salaries here. In my opinion all that malarkey about retaining quality employees (etc) is just a negotiating tool for better benefits and salaries. Sad to see that it continues to work.

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    1. Compare what any of our city employees have to do with what city employees in Compton have to do. That would be an interesting comparison.

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    2. None of the city employees anywhere do much, just put in their time and retire. They have no pressure to produce anything usefull.

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

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    4. We're all full of something, 11:51. But you need a to find a better word than that one. Have you considered using "hoot?"

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    5. Speaking in absolutes... have you considered mierda?

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    6. Baloney is a good word. Or, if it is sophistication you seek, balogna.

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  4. Time for another taxpayers revolt, a Prop 13 for the excessive pay and benefits for "Government workers", which is an oxymoron

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  5. Someday soon, (I hope), the taxpayers will rise up (Like the French Revolution) and put an end to this madness

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  6. I don't see that City Employees have any pressure no mater how big the city is. They don't have to show a profit, don't have to worry about money, don't take care of the infrastructure, just add another fee or tax. Then they retire at 55 or so with a huge retirement pay, get another Government job and just laugh all the way to the bank.

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    1. Exactly right 8:02
      They are laughing all the way to the bank. All at the taxpayer's expense!

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    2. Cut off the money and that will improve staff's focus.

      Give them a raise and then we have to raise the UUT. See how this works?

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    3. Done in the name of "saving services."

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  7. Enough is enough! The council meeting needs to be filled with our wrath. Have your dinner, come later so you don't have to wait. However, a filled audience will help them realize our intentions maybe they'll hurry it along.

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  8. Thanks to the Internet, and Blogs like this people are finding out what a rip-off the public employees and their unions are.
    Soon the retirement payments will consume all of the taxes, then What? The whole system is a scam on the people who pay taxes

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    1. when unions lost their control of industry they shifted to the easiest scam available, public agencies - nobody is accountable, self serving agendas and unions just sue non stop

      our PD union turned out to be corrupt and our "detectives" didn't notice - hmmmmm I wonder why?

      who benefited?

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  9. $18,000? $18,000 is a reasonable health plan? That is crazy.

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  10. I have a very good health plan, and the city cap is 225% more than mine. I don't understand.

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  11. Posh. Good word.

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  12. Let me guess. The pay increase was Nancy Walsh's idea.

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    1. that and getting rid of the bathroom at Memorial Park and turning the bathroom space into Senior Center storage

      brilliant just brilliant

      she was such a comedic change of pace

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    2. The guy with the broom and the trash can is not laughing. It has been quite a bit of work for him cleaning up all that mess.

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  13. Maybe it is time to vote out the rest of the UUT. Then maybe they will listen.

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  14. Is this the city of Bell ?
    Sorry people until this city understands the word TRANSPARENCY we the tax payers will never see accountability ... Rizzoesque financial ideology is the standard not the norm .

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  15. Is Robert Rizzo giving financial advise from prison ?

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  16. When was the last city audit by an outside source? Is it time to ask for one?

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    1. The last audit and the 3 before that were done by an outside firm. Before that, they had an outside firm (at MaryAnn's request) get caught up on the audits that hadn't been done for a few years. They are now caught up and even won an award by the State. Audits are not the problem. I wonder if any of you actually read a newspaper or watch the news. Cities all over the Country are having financial problems. All of you who are accountants and are accusing the city staff of wrong doing, please step up and make your charges. Elaine might be a witch but she is not a criminal.

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    2. I would be satisfied with a public apology for past financial abuses. The health care plans would be a good starting point.

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    3. It starts with the city manager. She calls the shots. Where can you find these audits? What did they show? I'm sure all of us are aware that cities all over are having trouble! Duh! That's why we're here. You wanna keep your jobs in this economy? Play fair, lower your perks. There are many capable, jobless people that are qualified and most probably do the job for less just to be working. What isn't said is that these employees don't pay into FICA. They don't have to rely on Medicare. They don't pay into SDI. What are there benefits? I'll bet more than I get from Medicare. No one said Elaine was a criminal. Just a little self-serving perhaps. If we had access to the warrants being paid, or cash flow coming in, it would help allay some of these fears. If they're on the website, they are buried. I don't owe Elaine anymore than I get, with a better degree and equal training. Believe, when there's a job opening somewhere that any city will seriously consider her talents, she will be gone. Didn't I hear a rumor that she's already looked?

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    4. no, Elaine is not a criminal but she is not a "little" self serving

      she is "a lot" self serving - so that's the problem - she put her perks and benefits ahead of the job - took care of herself without any oversight

      that kind of "management" gets you fired in the real world

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  17. What seems to escape the discussion, is the role of the City Manager. Would that position description contain: trainer, establishing standards of performance, hands on where needed...hands off when not needed, leader, set short and long term goals, communicator, planner and evaluator of performance among others?

    What this job description requires is an athlete at least in mind if not in body. Sierra Madre should be a great place to aquire skill in one or two positions and then a move up to to a larger city. Once the reputation is established the City Manager needs to be recognized as a great triaine and developer of new employees, with advancement to a larger responsibility the goal. Retention might play a role but the recognition that Sierra Madre is a stepping stone to a better job with higher salary and benefits is a better goal. I remember a highly touted Corporate Wag addressing me as well as 500 of my peers and superiors with the admonition, " as I look out over the audiance I see 50% (250) executives that should not be retained but encouraged to move on "now".

    How does Elaine manage? Is her focus on her customers (the city taxpayer)? Is service the goal and the byword at City Hall or is it on salary and benefits? If it is the latter we have a big problem. Does she answer to the City Council or does the City Council do her bidding. Who on the Council raises hell and places her on performance review? She clearly has made her job one to be envied if a "status quo" or even "regression" is tollerated and not challenge by the City Couincil. In Sierra Madre the tail is waging the dog.

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    1. Elaine is a micro manager who has to oversee everything that goes on in City Hall. She doesn't trust her staff to do the right thing if she hasn't looked over their shoulders first. This realignment might be a good thing, since she will not have the control she now has. Yes, she does what the Council asks of her, but she is the one advising them in the first place. And, if and when she decides to move on, we will have someone who has the experience (Elisa) to step up. I'm guessing the staff loves the new alignment.

      As for the salaries and benefits, thanks to Denise and Rachelle for their negotiations to lower and cap the medical benefits. The raises are due to the fact the State has raised minimum wage and, I'm not a HR person, but I think that must have something to do with the salary adjustments..

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    2. Good post 12:41, but I really don't understand why we are always having to pay the staff more and more for less and less.

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    3. You'll have to talk to Jerry Brown and the Democrats for that answer.

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    4. Um, my credulity has just snapped. The minimum wage? Really? Really really? The minimum wage pays $60,000 a year now? I find that hard to believe.

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    5. Duh! Like everyone in the City gets minimum wage?

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  18. why does SM need a Director of Developer Services?

    worst position ever in SM and should be done away

    that worthless position as probably started by Bart Doyle (former Mayor and building industry lobbyist) and continues with majority developer prone Councils we keep electing

    no more lawyers on the Council - they've screwed up just about everything, with the exception of Kurt Zimmerman, who was a real courtroom attorney

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  19. Not sure who was mayor at the time that the city went after Sally Ann Mallen and hauled in Ann MacIntosh from the west side to be the Development Services Director. It used to be called the building department. They tried to get rid of the only really good building inspector, Steve Pock, at that time, too.

    It was a messy transition between Jim MacRay, Shawn Joyce and John Davidson (all City Managers who are elsewhere now, MacRay gone from administration, Joyce down in Orange County nd Davidson in the Siracha discussions in Irwindale). Then Tammy Gates (on to Yorba Linda where she was let go for some minor scandal) and another John (forgotten his name).

    There was a interim City Manager, Don Hopper, from Monrovia, who showed up at least three times. He was here when they looked for the replacement when Elaine was hired. She did not even apply and the first paper cut resulted in no candidates so Hopper when to Glendale and told Elaine she should consider applying.

    What a farce!

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  20. John Gillison. Remember his name just as I hit "publish."

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  21. During his years in local government, John Gillison has worked in a Finance Department as a Management Analyst, in a Community Development Department as a Management Analyst, and in the City Manager’s Office in three different communities, including as an Administrative Intern, Principal Management Analyst, Deputy City Manager and City Manager. He has experience in business license, planning and building and safety, redevelopment, parking permits, information services, geographic information services and human resources. Along the way he has also acquired a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a Minor in Criminal Justice, and a Master of Public Administration, both from California State University Fullerton. John also has a Juris Doctorate from Western State University College of Law and is a Licensed California Attorney.

    http://www.cityofrc.us/cityhall/manager/cm/default.asp

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    1. Yup. And he never practiced law. And where is he now and what is he doing?

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    2. Did he pass the bar? And I am not talking about the Buc.

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  22. Do I read this correct, item 6 on the discussion for tonight is giving the city manager a $50,000 raise???? Police chief a $50,000 raise, etc. etc. Have I read that correctly??? Whats with that?

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  23. http://docs.cityofsierramadre.com/tylercm/eagleweb/viewAttachment.jsp?docName=6___Resolutions_14_63_and_14_64&id=DOC182S9.A0&parent=DOC182S9

    City manager $197,498

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  24. Our city clerk has to fight for accuracy. 10 pages omitted. Elaine resists adding the missing pages: "That won't be recommended at this point in time"

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    1. Aguilar seems very quick to anger tonight.

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    2. Maybe she read the Tattler before the meeting.

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    3. Elaine feels she is entitled to her $50,000 raise. It upsets her when people disagree.

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  25. First time I have really disagreed with Council member Arizmendi. There was no satisfactory information/explanation on the "Awest matter." There was a hustle to placate people.
    That guy is protected. The kids are not.

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  26. Of course the back to school night was well attended. Duh. People are terrified because a horrible criminal has been wandering around without any warning for seven months.

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    1. Settle down 6:45. Don't you know that it is all being taken care of?
      Nothing to worry about....

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    2. Many donuts were consumed in the investigation of this crime.

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  27. I put both Stockly and Inman on mute. A person can tolerate only so much.

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  28. Regarding outrageously expensive health care premiums - people who are classified as obese have to pay a lot more than others.

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  29. Bruce gets a big raise tonight. Why? Is failure the way to financial success in Sierra Madre.

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    1. An award for running the water department into the ground.

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    2. He found gold in our water system.

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  30. The police department registered Awest in February. February. And our police decided not to tell the community.

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  31. Mayor Harabedian has misappropriated Shemp's hairstyle.
    http://theblackmaria.org/2014/03/21/the-painful-solo-work-of-shemp-howard/

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  32. Chief Giannone is an ass.

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    1. "Only 3" sex offenders, says the chief. Only 3! 3 is 3 too many.

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    2. Chief doesn't count Matheson.
      Matheson brings it to 4 - plus however many more we don't know about yet.

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  33. So Jessica's law is not enforced.
    I guess it's an optional kind of thing.

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    1. The chief keeps insisting that Awests probation is better than Jessica's Law.

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    2. That's because the Chief did nothing for 7 months. He is now taking credit for the work of others.

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  34. 23 conditions to Awest's probation, but don't worry, the captain is sure he'll be obedient.

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    1. He'll be on a supposedly strict probation for the rest of his life, but he's not 'high risk' for repeat offense. Cognitive dissonance anyone?

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  35. How can the chief claim that there have been no incidents since this sex offender came to town?
    We all know that these sick people have multiple victims, and are not capable of rehabilitation.
    Just because the police haven't busted someone doesn't mean everything is A-ok.

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  36. Stop thanking the chief for doing his job - late and sloppy!

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    1. Chief Fatso is doing damage control. He is pathetic and useless. What is equally aggravating is NO City Councilmember, with the exception of Gene Goss of all people, called him out on his miserable failure.

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  37. The city is covering its ass. Disgraceful.

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  38. Harabedian is right-on in pushing for closing the loophole that allowed this guy to be here.

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    1. If he comes through with that, we will all be very grateful to him.

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  39. Huh. Even the City Council and City Manager ignores the EENERS. Except, of course, when they're paying them lip service.

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    1. Finally the EENERs have a task!

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    2. Manager Aguilar was snippy again. The tree item certainly wasn't hidden, she huffed.

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    3. Elaine flat out forgot about the EENERS. Her hypocrisy was revealed. Give her a raise.

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  40. Chief Giannone is getting a lot of camera time tonight. Wonder why.

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    1. Singing for his supper.

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  41. Enough with the animals already!

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    1. I enjoyed the animal /weapon include exclude diatribe ... If for some reason the animal issue comes up again will the sound guys play Sarah McLachlan in the background and project images of racoons,mice,possums,bears and humans falling out drunk from The Buckaneer planning on going hunting ?

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  42. It seems more time is being spent on the nice animals than the Awestruck animal.

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  43. Will we see the Chief anytime soon on bike patrol or as a customer at the pool? He loves him some donuts!

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    1. The Chief is a desk jockey. That is why he likes the idea of cameras everywhere. He can sit in his office and watch TV all day.

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  44. $50,000 bucks for a water expert and 3 months later we are ready to do "pilot testing." This will never end.

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  45. Dr. Berry Bow's video hook up is making strange UFO noises. Is she on the planet tonight?

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  46. Bruce says he will continue to flush.

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  47. Time for the big raises. Woo hoo! Money for everybody!

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  48. The city council lady recognizes that we have some very expensive health care plans. And where did we hear about that first. Oh we can't tell anybody that!

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  49. Elaine is tap dancing as fast as a big girl can. Go Elaine! $50,000!!!

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  50. They're changing the name of development services to community planning and preservation! Hilarious!

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    1. We get an Orwellian name change, they get huge raises. What? You're not good with that?

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  51. I get it. Raise salaries, and then in two years when the sunset kicks in tell the residents we're going broke and need to increase the UUT!

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    1. You all still don't get it. Salary compaction is the buzz word of the day, and because of the stupid Sacramento and union drive to raise minimum wage, the other wages have to be raised to compensate. When the sunset kicks in, there will be no increase in the UUT, the City will now be in line to combine the library and community services into one small department, the finance-- used to be director-- will now be an accountant, and there will be serious talk about contracting out for our police and fire. If you think that Sierra Madre will still be the same cozy community you once knew, think again. We will be controlled by the County and have virtually no voice in our government. If that is what you want, fine. Otherwise wake up and live with the 6% UUT, have our basic Safety, Finance, and Public Works departments and be happy. I for one vote for the 6%.

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  52. Tea Party! Come back! All is forgiven!!

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  53. Who leads the city council? Elaine? I'm not getting how any of this is good for the city.

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  54. Help! Gene Goss is making sense to me.

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  55. It is a $390,000 increase. It is not a net zero. Why are our cops getting a raise?

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  56. There you go. Rising property values are due to the library. Phap.

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  57. Is Toni Buckner's 3 minutes up yet?

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  58. Thank God for Barry Gold. The one guy in the room who isn't afraid to bring the elephant out into the open.

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  59. Notice Elaine hasn't addressed mr. Gold.

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  60. Kudos to mr. Goss!

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  61. Watching the City Council meeting was like watching an episode of The Simpsons ...Chief Wiggum was in the house !
    In regards to the hunting and what can and can't be hunted and the kinds of weapons that can be used was rear end nummingly annoying ... Instead of including and excluding vermin how about talking about an issue I find important and needs to be addressed .
    1. The Barristas at Starbucks need a raise before our city employees ...September roles around and Kersting Court is invaded by obnoxious Tweens and Sub- Tweens riding around on their skate boards,scooters ,and bikes ...Signs are posted ...Hunting ladies take note that signs don't work if there is no one around to enforce the verbage .
    In regards to the Barristas getting raises its because they babysit these brats and take a lot of garbage from a majority of them ... What I find really annoying is the Mommy Mini Van set that uses Kerting Court as the school drop off and pick up zone and decide to have mommy meetings in the middle of the street and get preturbed because I ask them to move there meeting to the sidewalk ... I bet if a couple of Sierra Madre's finest got out of their police cars and walked amongst the little terrorists we might get some order ...Chief Wiggum doing a little walking around town will make Mrs. Obama proud .

    2. In regards to city employee raises and re-naming departments I believe using the Robert Rizzo Master Plan isn't a good idea.

    3. Poster idea for city employee workrooms and offices ....

    GIVE TRANSPARANCY A CHANCE

    TRANSPERANCY FOR HOPE AND CHANGE

    RIZZONOMICS ...NOT GOOD FOR US OR THE COMMUNITY .

    just my observations and opinions .

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