Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Last Night's City Council Meeting: Raises For Everybody?

Would you trade in a Maybach health care plan for a $40,000 raise?

I suppose the City Hall types could have come right out and said that a lot of employees there could be getting some extremely large raises, but that would have probably been too easy. Nothing quite that clear ever makes it out of the Puzzle Palace. So instead we got a jargon rich ("compaction," "market value") sales pitch designed to make people believe that a lot of money is going to be saved. Oh, and that things are going to be organized a little better as well.

Why? Because the embarrassingly huge health care plan costs that were first revealed on this blog courtesy of TransparentCalifornia.com are going to be mercifully cut. That this little city was shelling out for health care plans costing upwards of $37,000 a year is beyond absurd. No other government agency in California has been doing such a thing. That this City did so while also wailing about how broke they were, and how badly they needed too raise our utility taxes to the previously unheard of level of 12%, is just unconscionable.

I don't expect we'll ever get an explanation for these shenanigans. Much less an apology for so aggressive and obvious fibbing, either. Quite the opposite, actually. It is my guess that there are those in this City who, given the chance, would do it all over again. UUT 3 might be just around the corner.
 
I have often wondered what the health care plan the Obama family receives might cost. I think it's quite possible that it is pretty much in line with the $37,800 health care plan our Water Superintendent over at the pump house currently receives.  Perhaps the highest costing government employee plan of its kind in California, and possibly even the entire country.

So anyway, while some health care cost cuts are being made, and that is a step in the right direction, just take a look at some of the the raises they might soon be handing out as well. These can all be found in the City Council Staff Report (click here). But let me warn those of you with weak hearts, reading the following numbers might not be right for you.


The City Manager's salary could increase by a little less than $40,000. The cost of Elaine Aguilar's health care plan would decrease by around $9,000. That would be a $31,000 pick up for our most senior City Hall official.


Bruce Inman's salary could increase from $107,724 to $134, 532. Quite a nice jump. Bruce's health care plan costs would decline from $26,250 a year to $18,000. Advantage Bruce. I am sure some of the spectacular success Bruce has experienced running the Water Department had a lot to do with it.


Chief Larry Giannone is hopefully coming out of his most recent bad patch, and he really did work the room most of last night. You know, just to show everyone just how on top of his game he is. And because there are no hard feelings, let's give Chiefy a $33,000 raise. Even though many cities would have summarily fired him for what happened last week, and justifiably so, at least he means well.

Here are a few more raises:


The rationale for all of this is that the management team of the Foothill Village must be brought to within 15% of what they would be paid if they worked for a city like Pasadena. That is, if they could be hired there. Even though their supposed equivalents in that city manage approximately 10 times the number of employees, along with exponentially larger amounts of budget and responsibility.

To put it in hotel terms, it is like comparing the General Manager of the Chateau Marmount in Hollywood to a guy who runs a Holiday Inn Express on Foothill Boulevard.

There is a silver lining to all of this. If the resolution put together by Denise Delmar and Rachelle Arizmendi passes, the health care plans get cut and the raises detailed above do not happen. With the exception of the Police and Fire Chiefs. If it does not pass, then anything is possible. The library ploy from former Mayor Rob Stockley last night was just the first salvo in the reaction to this effort. That old bloody shirt is now out of the safe and being waved around in the usual wild way.

And please remember this. These were raises called for by the previous City Council. We're talking about our ongoing Nancy Walsh hangover.

It is a very elaborate dance going on right now. How do you get the City Manager under control, and how do you hold off the old guard? You take away their money. This one is not going to be easy, or readily apparent at first. And the demagoguery of Stockley last night (all stuff we have heard before, btw) is a good indication of where exactly the opposition is coming from. Get ready for a long and bumpy ride. You're watching how government in this town gets changed, and for the good.

Here's the disconnect. On the one hand we're being told by City Hall we will be facing some very hard choices in two years because of the soon to sunset UUT, on the other massive raises could be doled out so we can keep up with the neighbors. Oh the cognitive dissonance.

Gene Goss, for whatever reason, nailed it. The people of Sierra Madre voted down UUT increases twice in two years because they wanted to see cuts. The taxpayers did this because they do not see the logic in paying the highest utility tax rates in California for services that do not matter to them.

Why doesn't City Hall want to understand that?

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

64 comments:

  1. this is the old bait and switch. Look, we're lowering health care cost! Don't look over here, we're giving our staff huge raises! net effect, the citizen still gets the shaft. BTW, is Danny officially the Planning and Community Preservation manager? When did that happen? And if he is, he's neglecting to do a large part of his job.

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    1. A bit of an oxymoron for sure. I don't see how changing the name means much when the basic function remains the same.

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    2. Changing Danny's title is actually a very good thing. It sets a different tone with the developers when your title is not the "Director of Development Services" in a town that is very concerned about over-development. The previous title implies that the developers will get caviar and slippers as they go about ruining our town with over-development. The new title will also remind Danny that he is paid by the taxpayers and needs to implement the will of the residents of Sierra Madre and not the will of developers.

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    3. I agree 6:03. The name of the department never should have been developer servicing - that was a Bart Doyle idea.

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    4. WHO came up with the amounts of the increases? It like letting the fox guard the hen house.

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  2. That's always been right out of the public employee union playbook. If you try to take something away in one place, they make up for it in another place. There are alot of moving parts in salary negotiations with the public employee unions. If they don't get it on the front end with a higher existing salary, they try to get it on the back end with an increased pension.or with better heatlh benefits. Most city councils are simply overmatched in any negotiations with the public employee unions. Often times the city council wants to "keep the peace" during their tenure in office so they cave into the unions. All the bad consequences from such a decision usually manifest themselves long after the present city council is out of office. That's how so many cities have been driven to the brink of bankruptcy. The tactic of trying to tie their levels of compensaton to what other cities pay their employees is another common tactic of the public employee unions. If another city plays fast and loose with the taxpayers money by paying their employees extravagant salaries like the City of Bell, then all the neighboring cities point to a city like Bell as the new "going rate". That's how public employee salaries keep leapfrogging ahead. I see no relevance to what the City of Pasadena pays its employees. In fact, I read an article about how upwards of 70% of the entire city of Pasadena's budget goes towards employeee compensation. That leaves less than 30% for all the other expenses of the city. Why in the world do we want to emulate the City of Pasadena in that regard? Who says Sierra Madre's salaries have to be within 15% of what Pasadena pays their employees? That is completely irrelevant. The only thing that's relevant is whether or not Sierra Madre's budget allows for salary increases and whether a particular emplloyee is going a really outstanding job to justify any kind of an increase. Buy the book "Plunder: How Public Employee Unions are raiding treasuries, controlling our lives and bankrupting the nation" by Steven Greenhut if you really want to understand the publems with the public employee unions. Every city's unions follows the same playbook. That's how salaries have taken a meteoric rise and services to residents have taken a dive.

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    1. The public employees should have been barred from being able to collectively bargain. That was the first mistake. Can you imagine if the military was allowed to unionize? The same principle is at place with the people we depend upon to perform vital services to the public. It should never have been allowed to happen. Guess who was the governor who first allowed it in California in 1973? Our very own, Jerry Brown. Thanks Jerry.

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    2. SM needs to annex into Pasadena and turn the Council into a HOA

      that's all it is anyway and all we want it to be anyway - so much wasted time and yahoo's who want to be Mayor in the parade

      let's not forget that we almost elected Noah Green who actually broke down in tears at a debate and said he really really really wanted to be elected to something desperately - a life long ambition of his

      and he's another lawyer

      yawn - lawyers are a waste of time cept when you need them and then so many aren't very good

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  3. This is PENSION SPIKING done in the name of "wage compaction." The City Manager, Fire Chief & Police Chief are all within 5 years of retirement. Increasing the wage scale will give the citizens of Sierra Madre a chance to pay a boatload more $$ to CalPERS every year to cover the increased pension these 3 alone will cost.

    Don't worry, though. The UUT will be raised to protect "services."

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  4. Did the City Council actually vote for the salary increase? If so, where were Delmar and Arizmendi on this? I'd be very surprised if they would agree to that.

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    1. My question too. I read the article as saying that it hasn't happened yet.

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    2. It has not. Last night was just the opening round to what is going to be a long fight.

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    3. in this economy good help is hard to find

      or is it hard to find good help in city hall?

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  5. If these pay hikes go through we need to act to eliminate the utility tax.

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    1. It is probably the only way to get the city to stop spending.

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    2. If these go through we need to close city hall, fire every last employee, and start over again.

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  6. Sierra Madre has morphed into the City of Bell!
    At least those residents fought back!!!
    Why aren't we?

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    1. put a dress on Rizzo and who would he resemble?

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  7. I added a paragraph at around 7:30. About 5 up from the bottom. It begins, "There is a silver lining to all this." I missed an important detail.

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  8. Mr. Moderator: a bit confused. If the ordinance passes they cut the benefits but the raises don't go through? Did I read that correctly?

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    1. Yep. It is a very elaborate dance going on right now. How do you get the City Manager under control, and how do you hold of the old guard. This one is not going to be easy, or readily apparent at first. And the demagoguery of Stockley last night (all stuff we have seen before, btw) is a good indication of where exactly that opposition is coming from. Get ready for a long and bumpy ride. You're watching the way government gets done in this town get changed.

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    2. Rob us blind Stockley is still trying to recover his "investment" loses from the passage of Measure V, you remember that...the one that stopped our downtown into turning into Pasadena? The people's measure that was opposed by the Bart Doyle dirts and financed by the Building Industry, the California Realtors Association and a major Political Party that runs the State of California.

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    3. remember, Rob is a commercial banker - I think he should butt out of city business cause when he was on the Council he voted for all types of development and pandered to developers and it's a conflict of interest and I certainly don't consider him an intellectual heavyweight to make city decisions - especially when his bank profits from his decisions

      he caved and wimped out on One Carter and we are still dealing with that - it certainly didn't help the city than another Council member is/was a utility company lawyer

      He tried to stop Measure V and despite it passing, "he" thinks it's bad for the city and that's just his opinion and that's fine but stop badgering us Rob with enlightening us with doomsday library cockamamie stories

      and if the library closes, so be it

      but we all know that we can simply turn our "city" library into a branch of a larger more efficient system

      what I hear is a lot of BS about keeping Sierra Madre quaint and small town but those proclaiming that want to dismantle the city or change it

      all I know is Rob was on board with SCAG and that worthless agency wants to double SM's population density

      NO

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  9. Why is the staff in this little city, this little mostly placid city, being made rich? When did paper pushing and jargon learning become so profitable?

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    1. it's almost a ponzi scheme

      it's almost a ponzi scheme

      it is a ponzi scheme

      especially the obscene pension plans - the public sector pensions need to be changed both retroactively and going forward



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  10. When will the council vote on this extortion by city staff?

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  11. Don't fret just yet... City Hall produced the Cadillac of proposals knowling full well that it wouldn't pass. Instead they have left plenty of room for negotiating, thinking folks would be placated if the City downgraded their demands 50% (see, we're very reasonable) to get what they figure would be reasonable increases. Unlike the thinking at City Hall, most residents are thinking zero increases!

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  12. Mr. Moderator: I must be the only one still confused. Where in the ordinance does it say the raises won't go through if passed? Why did Elaine seem to want the ordinance passed? What does the library have to do with it? I am just not getting this at all.

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  13. Be sure and abide the sign at LA SALE HIGH SCHOOL posted at the school parking lot at the school. "DO NOT USE THE PARKING LOT TO DROP OFF / PICK UP STUDENTS USE THE PUBLIC STREETS". They figured this out a long time ago; move the mess to the streets.

    Interesting that the City posted the STOP SIGN mid the hill on Baldwin to retard speed ahead of Downtown. Yet nothing has been done using the same logic to interupt the speed on the: ...... Grandview Speedway......Canyon 500.......Mountain Trail Downhill . Put the town speed limit back to 25 mph where it used to be and really really stick it to the SPEEDERS. Rediculous thinking was used to promote the 30 mph by the then Police Chief who spoke eloquently at a City Council meeting; "the police can enforce a 30mph limit if it is posted for all streets rather than a mixture of 25 / 30 mph" . We are on the side of a mountain and you guessed it....Speeed Rules. Watch out below!!

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  14. Mr. Mod: as I see it, the ordinance will take away some benefits but give it back in raises. As far as the library, they seem to be upset that they were demoted and not really taken into consideration for the ordinance. I see it as a switch and bait. Take on one hand console in the other.

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  15. Has there ever been a comparison with salaries in other towns of our size?
    Not likely, huh?

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    1. Compare it to Lake Arrowhead.

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    2. Can't find Lake Arrowhead on Transparent California.

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    3. the SMPD compares themselves to the LAPD, Pasadena and Arcadia

      that's like a rec league softball player comparing himself to the LA Dodgers

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  16. Aren't these people supposed to be allowed to make a living? What is the big deal? If the same functions were being done in the private sector how much do you think they would be compensated? Probably A LOT more than they are making here. Do you REALLY think these folks are getting rich? In today's economy? Really? Why don't you find out for yourselves what it takes to maintain a municipal entity, what it takes to actually BE a town. Look into the rules and regulations of what it takes.

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    1. Should we take up a collection for them?

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    2. You must work for the city. I have researched it. The private sector uses it's own money not mine. If these people want private sector jobs, they're free to try and find one. I have a choice to support or not support a private entity with my dollars. I should have mor of a choice here. The city is top heavy. It doesn't work as it does in the private sector. They don't get fired for malfeasance . At least not generally. Realistically, the unions are the reson most cities are growing broke. Can you afford to pay higher taxes? I can't. I'm taxed to death by state, county, city, etc. as their salaries grow I see less maintenance in the city. I see them doing less and contracting out more. If any of these people could get a job somewhere else they would have. It is about the money.

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    3. "These People" are thieves, and liars. "These People" have been ruining Sierra Madre for years, let's not give them a raise for it.

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    4. Everyone talks about services. Outside of the possibility of someday needing one of the emergency services, or things like water and sewers, I can't think of a sIngle one I'd ever use. Maybe resident taxpayers should ask for a line item veto?

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    5. City of Bell, people. It's happening right under your noses.

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  17. It is so sad to think that there are people who would exploit the library for narrow political gain.

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  18. Let's just make the farce of our city government complete and hire AWest as Community Sex Offender Relocation Advisor to the Chief. ..

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  19. sorry I missed last night's meeting. Just what did Rob Stockly say?

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    1. He claimed that this is all a conspiracy to close the Library. Pretty much the same old same old. He's been flogging that dead horse for years.

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  20. What you have to keep in mind is that 4 "Director" positions have been eliminated in this plan, even though there is a salary scale for them. Library, Finance, Human Resources and Community Service no longer will have director positions (community service director was eliminated a couple of years ago) and the library, HR, and finance will be eliminated should the current proposal go through. These positions will all be downgraded to Manager positions with the exception of the library. The current library director will remain as a director until there is a need to fill that position. It will then revert to the classification of City Librarian.

    What the folks who are defending the change in the library don't understand is, the library and community services are the least important departments of a city. Should all the dire predictions of the UUT defenders come true (which I don't think it will), the library and community services will be the first to go. A city needs safety, public works, and finance but can run without the library. Heck, push come to shove, they could even contract out the safety, and public works. We are already as of last night, contracting out our finance dept.

    It is, to me, a huge insult to compare the City of Sierra Madre to Bell. We have elected some very capable and intelligent council persons, who are doing their best to overcome a very difficult situation. Our City Clerk is beyond reproach. All of the material is there for you to see and Crawford makes it even easier for you by pulling out some of the most important facts Please quit implying that our city government is crooked and those who run it are criminals who are hiding their illegal gains to make themselves rich. Now, so much for finger wagging, but I couldn't help myself.

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  21. To the person that can't think of a single service they use "outside of gas and water..." wanting a line item veto, I would go one even further: your neighbors that enjoy things like trash pick-up/gas/electricity (not city services but commerically provided utilities) and water/sewer (a city utility) might just veto your ever getting these things.

    Just because you don't swim, jog down the street, join friends for tennis, pick nick under a tree in the city park, borrow a library book/CD/DVD, sit on a sidewalk at a cafe with a surface that doesn't get power washed often enough, cross at the crosswalk with the giant stop sign with kids on their way to and from the middle school to the elementary school, watch a goofy hometown 4th of July parade, find pride in the SM Rose Float, among dozens of other things, doesn't mean as you sit by, waiting until one day you might need emergency services, that the stuff small cities are made of, make your commute to work and "home" while polishing your career star worth the return.

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    1. I think services are important. The problem many seem to have is the high cost the city asks for them. Is a "pick nick" really worth 12% utility taxes?

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    2. Maybe a picnic is not important to you to pay taxes, but combine all the other services, and you might see the benefit. Of course 12% is way too high, but half of that is just about right. Lets be real about this. The city workers have to support a family too.

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  22. I just love it when a reponse that would otherwise be informative uses the misspelling of an auto check to focus on an otherwise brilliant statement. Piddle on you! It is the utility tax that is the problem not the services!

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    1. Never feel ashamed about a spelling error. Wear it as a badge of honor. Besides, I know Nick. I'd pick him, too.

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  23. I happily seldom use the library but like that we have one. Seems that it is a good idea for a literate society.

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    1. A good book store is more valuable, I think. I support Vromans.

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    2. Drive to Vromans. Buy a book. Drive to Sierra Madre Library. Check out a book. Both are good choices in a literate society.

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    3. walk to the SM Library - don't drive there

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  24. O.k. No library. Drive to the west Pasadena branch. No swimming pool. Drive to Arcadia high school for their summer swim program. No parks department (what is it called these days?). Drive back to Pasadena or Arcadia or swing on over to Monrovia. For sure we could out source our sewer department to Arcadia. They are downhill from us.

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    1. Properly managed we could have all of those things. But giving out $37,000 health care plans to pipe jockeys is not proper management. The city has been mismanaged, and until they get their act together they can kiss my tookus.

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    2. SM could keep it's library and most of the staff by simply joining the Pasadena Library system and having a SM branch.

      It's sort of lame brain to try to compete and run a single branch library just for kicks and cause it's "cool" and part of a "full service" city


      we pay almost $ 200,000 in salary and benefits to the head and assistant librarian ++++ pensions

      I'm okay with our branch just being a part of Pasadena

      the social elite of SM just crack me up - wouldn't get the time of day in Santa Monica but lookee here, I'm a big shot in Sierra Madre

      big deal

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  25. Every city who used Lackie Dammeier McGill for representation should remember it the next time their police MOU is up for negotiation. They knowingly and willfully engaged a law firm that is now being charge with violating RICO and ERISA, overbilling their clients and harassing elected officials! Make them pay and make them give it all back!

    Dieter Dammeier is going to look wonderful in an orange jumpsuit living behind bars. He deserves no sympathy.

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  26. I love it when the services and activities that the Ciry Mgrs & Staff aren doing are applauded! Good Vibes! But to equate those performances to the rediculous salaries and benefites for justification is just short of rediculous. They are just doing their jobs! They would never make it in the private sector. FOR SURE!

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  27. That's right 4:26, the law firm you reference is the worst of th worst. To gain leverage in their negotiations with the City of San Gabriel, the law firm accused the city of "Bell-like corruption" only because the city didn't give in to the police union's demands. If our police "association" - nice term for a union employed those guys to get their way, that's reprehensible. They were some really bad actors. Keep in mind our police union is made up of the members of our police force. They have been tainted by that association. All the public employee unions have ripped the taxpayers off for years and they all have inflated salaires, benefits and pensions in comparison to what you find in the private sector. I say, no increases anywhere for the next five years. Let them take a walk but no one will. You'd have a line down the street of prospects for any job in the city, police or fire, Why, because its become such a gravy train.

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  28. Is Rob Stockly still whining the same old tune..?..wa wa waaaaaa....we gonna close da library - blah blah blah

    jeez Rob, get a new line - we stopped believing you a while back

    and if the library closes, certainly we could annex into Pasadena

    and save a lot of money

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