Wednesday, October 1, 2014

When Will The Hostage Taking End And City Hall Get Around To Doing Its Job?

It's getting old, Chicken Little
For three of our five Councilmembers last night it was still a combination of Chicken Little panic attacks and hostage taking time. You would have hoped they'd have gotten past all that by now and started acting like adults. The Police Department, the Library, whatever it was they wanted to threaten you with at that moment, these were the dire consequences being waved in your face. Terrible things are going to happen, beloved services are going away, and it is all your fault.

Yes, you the voter who did not approve either of the last two UUT Measures, are now going to have to face your punishment. And I'm telling you, the Mayor, the Mayor Pro Tem, and the Fredo Corleone of this City Council, Gene Goss, they're going make you suffer the consequences for no longer wishing to pay the highest utility taxes in California.

Apparently it was bad dog night at Sierra Madre's City Council, and you truly deserved that whack on the snout with a rolled up newspaper.

But is it really the fault of the residents of Sierra Madre? Are they the guilty party here, the one that deserves a thousand lashes with a wet noodle as administered by a red-faced, shirtless and sweating Eugene Goss? Was that additional money you had been paying in utility taxes all for naught, and now you must suffer the consequences for daring to say that you've finally paid enough?

Look at it this way. City Hall has known since 2008 that our 10% utility taxes, the highest in the state, were going to sunset some day. The City had nearly eight years to get ready for this moment. So did they cut anything of real consequence in preparation for this moment? Were any costs reduced in order to ready Sierra Madre's government agency for a time when the gravy train might end and the funny money stop rolling in?

When asked that question last night, City Manager Elaine Aguilar's first and practically only response was to claim that they had rerouted the Roundabout. You know, that little box of a bus that hardly anyone uses? And which is still around, by the way?

Of course, it was also Elaine Aguilar who told us during the run-up to the last two UUT Measures that expenses at City Hall had been "cut to the bone." This at a time when $36,000 health care plans (also some of the highest in California) were being doled out to anyone who looked like they might not be happy with their job.

Let me ask you this. If you went to your boss and told him/her that you were unhappy with your job and might decide to leave, do you think you would get a $36,000 a year health plan? Along with an apology perhaps? I kind of doubt it.

Here is why hostage taking is so incredibly stupid. When Gene Goss says something along the lines of, "We'll be forced to get rid of our Police Department," does anybody really think that we are not going to have a Police Department? I doubt it. We are still going to have Police, and we are still going to have to find the money to pay them. No matter what happens.

Here is another point. Whose fault is it that we are now coming upon the final sunsetting of the 10% UUT completely unprepared? A extremely high UUT rate that, by the way, was always supposed to be only temporary. Who decided not to prepare us for something that was always known, and likely to happen?

Well, previous City Councils, of course. Who just kept spending as if this day would never arrive.

But who is the one person who was there the entire time? And didn't once bring this inevitability up? Even though it was her job to do so? The City Manager. Never did she suggest to any City Council that the UUT could sunset someday, and they'd better get ready for it by cutting back their spending. You know, because people just might get tired of paying sky high state leading utility taxes?

Elaine was at the helm of the Leakin' Lena the entire time, and did nothing to prepare for any of this.

It is always much easier to blame the residents. And it is also a mark of ineptitude to assume that you can keep spending like tomorrow will never come because you'll always be able to convince the poor dumb taxpayers to give you more money. Without once making any truly meaningful preparations for a time when that money could dry up.

Which it now has, and per the vote of those same taxpayers. Twice.

Once 3/5s of this City Council gets beyond its juvenile "Give us your money or we'll kill this Library" phase, they'll need do some real work. And once that (hopefully) happens they're going to need to adjust health care benefits, pension contributions, expenses and salaries.

They are also going to have to reorganize the way City Hall does its job. Because that is a business model we can no longer afford to throw our money at. Even if we wanted to. This isn't Los Angeles, we're a small town of less than 11,000 people. Time to start acting like it.

And the City Council is also going to have to look at and evaluate each and every employee currently working for this City. Are they worth the money they're being paid? Are they producing something of real value that makes keeping them around worth the taxpayer's while?

You know, the was it gets done in the private sector when a company finds itself running short of money.

But that will take hard work and courage. Some City Councilmembers apparently are not there yet.

Tomorrow Evening's Planning Commission Meeting

We've been dealing with Sierra Madre's budget woes this past couple of days. But now we need to get back to something equally ominous. CETT, along with their litigious lawyer and fabulous architect, are still hard at work attempting to construct LULU McMansions at One Carter.

You're going to need to be there. We'll have an article about this up tomorrow.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

59 comments:

  1. The most important point made last night was the one brought up by Arizmendi towards the end of the meeting. she noted that a full 74% of the city's budget goes to pay employees. that's outrageous and unsustainable. Rachelle and Denise are right: first fix the allocation of employee work, time, and value provided. If things like outsourcing or modernizing the water bill collection, then do it. I agree, too, with Denise. The people have spoken twice now that they do not want the UUT to increase, so the city staff and council have been negligent in their duty to actually begin to work toward this. instead they choose to co tine to cry poor, just like they did again last night. At 74% of the budget, ou fix the employees allocations and lower that number and you will be well on the road to living well within the lower UUT.

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    1. Its common knowledge that cities that are paying their employees above 70% of their total budget are getting into financial trouble. That number must be 60% or less. The interesting fact that some other expert has noted is that as government employee salaires and benefits have gone up, our services have gone down. Its a zero sum game. The more money that goes towards our public employees, the less money is available for senior centers, infrastructure improvement and all the other things in a city's budget. If Arizimendi is accurate that 74% of our budget goes to pay employees, then 26% is all that is left over for everything else. The problem is not more taxes. The problem is reining in the employee salaries.

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    2. we have a moronic business model at city hall

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    3. close the library - prove to us that it's not a shell game

      didn't think so

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  2. I don't think Elaine Aguilar, or former Counmcilmembers like John Buchanan and Joe Mosca, ever believed a UUT measure would lose. Their entire strategy, which Elaine has carried on, was based on a docile voting public that would do what they are told to do, including voting themselves more taxes when the city asked. It doesn't work that way anymore.

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    1. don't forget that the city and that Council sent out misinformation and outright lies regarding the UUT to the public

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  3. I attended the very first task force meeting at the beginning of the UUT saga and listenend to the strategy that was outlined by the City Manager, delivered by Bruce Inmann in the "staff report:" You are not to look for way to cut spending. You are to look for ways to increase revenues. I told my husband when I got home. He said: the volunteers for that committee should have gotten up and walked out!

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    1. I was on the UUT Oversight Committee once. A lot of the stuff we asked Elaine for was deemed "not relevant" for our purview. Instead we got printouts that showed the purchase of things fire boots and police gear. The experience left me wondering about a lot of things. After that I never quite believed anything I heard from the city.

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    2. The bottom line is that our city is being mismanaged and it has been for a long time. Don't blame this Council or past ones - they usually have a day job too. We have people at City Hall who get paid alot of money to run our city. Someone should be fired for malfeasance.

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    3. That someone is Elaine!

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    4. Why stop with Elaine!

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    5. Elaine and Bruce need to go away.

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  4. When the ship is sinking because the pumps can't keep up with the leaks, does Captain Elaine try to repair the leaks? No, she orders more pumps!

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  5. Is it just me, or did Eugenius Goss seem a little grouchy last night. Were we keeping him up late?

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    1. It's those damn facts. Gene hates facts. Gene hates making hard decisions even more.

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    2. Everybody loves the library. People told Gene that when he was out going from door to door during the campaign last spring. Did you know that Gene went from door to door? Yes, he did. Thankfully he mentions that at every meeting. We need to be reminded of that.

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    3. Did anyone there note the looks on the faces of Denise and Rachelle when Gene said regarding the reorg, I will never vote for pay raises. That is why he won't discuss the reorg. He just doesn't get it. What a dummy. He also took a snipe at Denise when he said, she must have gone to different homes than he did because all he got was positive, while she was citing the negative things people had to say. Well, I walked with Denise at times, and Goss had been there first. We heard lots more than they must have said to him.

      They will never close the library or contract it out, that is a hallow threat. And Sierra Madre doesn't want the Sheriff Dept. Pasadena and Arcadia didn't want us. The other cities didn't bother to make a case.

      The only recourse is to reorganize, cross training some of the employees, and reducing benefits. Period.

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    4. Goss wants us to believe that he went door to door to every household in SM?

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  6. Elaine Aguilar's mismanagement of Sierra Madre is criminal. It is a clear case of abuse of power, and misappropriation of funds. LA County prosecutors have their work cut out for them, but with Bell, and Cudahy in the recent past I'm sure Elaine's methods were not too far astray from the established methods of fleecing a city for you, and your friends.

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    1. she fleeced the Mt Wilson Trail Race and the 4th of July parade with invoices for bogus staff time

      she claimed the city spent over 200 hours of staff time in meetings pre planning the event.

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    2. why do city employees bill for their time? they are getting paid and the parade and race are city functions. 200 hours? the race and parade are the same every year.

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    3. It is double dipping. Yhey're already getting paid once with their salary. This is a de facto tax on non profit civic organizations.

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    4. the city billed through community services - it's amazing that the Trail Race Director paid the invoice over $ 18,000

      its not just double dipping - it's fraud

      I was told that the Mt Wilson Trail Race raised funds for year round trail maintenance and it's not true



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    5. http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com/2014/06/community-services-commission-meeting.html

      somewhere on this blog there is coverage on the city charging the 4th of July parade for staff hours but I couldn't find it

      I hope this catches fire for next year or I'd like to see the city refund the money back to the Trail Race

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  7. During the campaign when Gene was going door to door and I spoke with him, he confessed in a moment of candor that he really doesn't understand budgets. No Kidding! So his solution, I guess, is to rely on City Staff to tell him the truth and to bluster his way through. God save us all.

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    1. Doesn't understand budgets? Oh dear. He's the male Nancy Walsh.

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    2. I don't think he can take anybody out, either.

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    3. What's Gene-O's opinion towards getting more storage for the Seniors? That was Nancy's main accomplishment during her 4 years. Oh, wait. She didn't get that accomplished, either.

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    4. I think he likes the windows.

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    5. can he dance?

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  8. If expenese have been cut to the bone, the it's time to amputate before the patient dies.

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  9. It happened on our watch, or non-watch. All of this could have been stopped but for our apathy. Stop it now. Demand answers as ms. Arizmendi and ms del mar did last night. Mr. Goss is not worthy of mention. He came to my door and when I asked about high salaries , mr. Union man said he wasn't sure he could do anything about that. Again mr. Capoccia gave more rhetoric. He was on the council that didn't prepare for this. He also comes off a bit of a mysoginist. Mr. Harabedian runs a good meeting. He gives everyone a fair chance to speak. I don't think he will be a problem. Until then I will support his direction on the city manager. I see nothing nefarious yet. As for elaine? She needs to go. She was not happy last night.

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    1. Elaine seemed a little brisk at times. Especially when certain Councilmembers presented her with information she found inconvenient.

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    2. Elaine likes to be the person in control. She doesn't share responsibility well.

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    3. Goss wouldn't had been elected had we had a viable 3rd alternative

      Buchanan and Walsh both endorsed Goss

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  10. THE HORN IS BACK
    It will be tested at 2PM today.
    The old code was 2 blasts mountain fire,1 blast city fire. Anything more was nuclear attack!!
    Now I will have something to set my watch by other the 12:03 Monastery bells

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    1. I hear that thing is REALLY LOUD!!!

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    2. the horn is such as stupid idea - George Maurer made this his agenda and it's his pet project

      last time the horn was in operation, a visitor at Bean Town dropped her coffee on herself and I wish she'd had sued the city cause the horn isn't necessary in today's world

      try living near it - it's not as charming as old timer George makes it out to be

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    3. Humm spilt coffee or nuclear annihilation? I wanna know seconds before I'm incinerated. The horn was here long before beanstown.

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    4. It is very loud. I hope the paramedics are going to be ready.

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    5. I for one love the horn. It is old time Sierra Madre. When we moved here in 1963 the horn went off every day at noon. I was downtown the first time I heard it, and thought then it was charming then , and I think so now. Not as loud as you think.

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    6. Drat, waited outside to hear the horn but -- nothing. Did it go off?

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    7. 1:55 do you live a block away?

      I'd like to share this nostalgic relic with the entire city - I think we ought to add a horn in the Canyon and a few more scattered around the city

      it's not charming - it's obnoxious and has no real function cept for the old foggies

      and I'm an old foggie myself

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  11. Hopefully the 'horn blower" position can be filled by present staff or a volunteer.

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    1. Staff involvement is necessary. Their work hours will be recouped from the Emergency and Public Service Radio Station at $84 an hour.

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    2. I just received a horn alert from City Hall on my phone (email)

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    3. I didn't hear the horn???It was the highlight of my day It's 2:04 I don't feel protected...............

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    4. It must have. My yard is littered with dead parrots.

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    5. Wasted money and efforts, are the norm in Sierra Madre, go blow your own horn why don't you? Let's not pay for this stupid idea with tax money please!

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  12. I just heard a little toot not the HORN of my childhood

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  13. Elaine will hire a consultant to monitor the horn

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  14. The horn sounds like a duck fart on a muggy day.

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    1. It is a politically correct horn. Safe and secure, yet protecting you from life's evils as well. Kind of like the 4th of July parade these days.

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  15. Alright, let's see if you can appreciate what the horn can do for us today and why it is useful even if you don't like the sound.

    A few years ago I was at a meeting of the Southern California Society of American Foresters chapter meeting in Montecito. We did a tour of all the burn damage from the Tea Fire. This fire was named for the Tea House on an abandonded hillside estate where students would party. Some party goer started a fire that burned down homes, wildlife habitat and watershed and nearly burned out a group of students sheltering in place at a private school that had little warning of the impending path of this fire. This fire practically ran all the way down to Hyw 101 in Santa Barbara to the mission. It was massive.

    The fire personal running the meeting said they were in the process of putting the old civil defense fire horn back in place. I announced that Sierra Madre had been working to do the same. So, folks, this is not some old foggy idea but basic civil disaster principals that are based on pre-cell phone, pre-social meet-up media, etc., that will work when you are not going to get a cell tower response here, there or anywhere.

    Don't get on the cell phone and ask "Did you feel the earthquake? Where is the bear? Is there a fire evacuation called for my area?" LIsten for the emergency horn--3 blasts means disaster--and dial 1630 on your AM radio. You may not have an AM radio in your car, and in that case you need to stock up with a hand crank AM radio and keep it in your Emergency Evacuation Kit Bag.

    Being prepared is your own responsibility. Afterward, if you are so inclinded, you can help your neighbor. Have enough water for your family for 8-10 days--1 gal per person per day. For drinking. Forget about brusing your teeth for a while. Then have some extra water to give away when asked. This is a major effort and most of the town is not prepared!
    You can start now.

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  16. well Caroline can change my mind

    as long as the horn isn't tested daily like it was last time it was operational

    use it only when an emergency and it can have a place

    still an old foggy thingamagig

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  17. These tests have been a long time in the making. Like every piece of emergency equipment it needs to be tested and fine tuned so that it is reliable and everyone knows what it is for. Today's tests are getting us closer to having one of the best community alerting systems any where. Disaster Preparedness is a subject that many people don't like to think about because it is down right scary for them, it's scary for all of us. The Emergency Radio Station 1630 on the AM dial will be bringing us vital information during the most difficult of times in the community. There is no need to risk injury to a family member because they had to run to city hall to get instructions. Sierra Madre will have the Police & Fire Departments plus our CERT teams working in the community helping and gathering information. This information will be useful for all of our safety. Today was a success if it saves just one life.

    Thank you Caroline for all you have done in the community, we need more of you.

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    1. If there's a disaster so devastating that it knocks out every form of communication but an archaic horn, rest assured I won't be looking to city hall for help. But it's a cute horn.

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    2. If it's bad enough the horn is being used, I'll wanna be BFFs with my prepper neighbors!

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  18. How can we stop the blasted horn from blasting in our neighborhood??? We already have several warning systems in place that have worked well for years, with NO problems. These systems do not intrude on our daily lives. The City Manager and City Mayor will not help. Only obsolete systems need to be tested everyday. This obsolete systems costs us taxpayers money, annoys residences, causes injury, and opens our city up to lawsuits. If those hungry for olden days insist, at least put the horrible thing back on the fire house, as it once was.

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