Our water bill in San Dimas last month was $88.78. Living on the side of a mountain I don't have a lawn, but I do have a pool. Our water company, Golden State Water, is privately owned. You might recall that during the last water rate increase "process" we were repeatedly told that private water companies are in league with big evil, and they will gouge you for as much money as they can possibly take, and more.
That has not been my experience. Water here costs less.
Fines for the use of too much water, or even the threat of them, have never been directed at me or anyone I know. Nobody wants to get inside my house to "inspect" it. Nor does anyone want to count my trees and bushes, or examine my property using some kind of flying Google function. All you are required to do here is pay your water bill on time.
San Dimas also uses the L.A. Sheriff's Department, and L.A. County Fire. When the next hill over was set on fire by some jackass arsonist last October, three helicopters and a flotilla of fire trucks showed up and had it out within two hours.
It was very impressive. Massive choppers flew about 50 feet over my house. The place shook. It was a remarkable show of force.
San Dimas is having an election next month, but it won't matter. There are no term limits here and people keep electing the same guys over and over again. Big old dudes they are too, conservative as all get out, and they run a town that has not gone into debt for decades. And they do it without a UUT.
The people here are mostly happy with their government, support the public schools, and don't see any reason to change anything.
It all seems so simple. But then again, maybe I just don't know enough about it. After all, it took me around five years to figure out Sierra Madre. I'll let you know if I find out anything different.
At last night's Sierra Madre City Council meeting I became aware of something I'd never realized before. Sierra Madre has its very own governmental atmosphere. It's like a bubble, and it is a very complex one. I know, I was caught up in it for years. And believed the entire time that this was how things had to be.
Unlike where I am typing this now, things are almost always extraordinarily complicated, and takes a lot of effort to figure out. And even then you practically need a Phd. to grasp it. Maybe I had to step away 20 or so miles east to understand this.
Last night's City Council discussions on the water shortages is a good example. Most people in Sierra Madre are doing what they are supposed to do about preserving water. They're not all perfect of course, but three quarters of the people living in The Foothill Village are doing it well enough.
And then there are the rest, a minority of folks who apparently are complete jerks about the water thing, and couldn't care less about a drought that is apparently the worst in recoded California history.
Now you would think that identifying these water hogs would be a simple matter. All you'd need to do is look at how much water they're using, briefly check out their situation, and if the amounts then appear to be ridiculous, go after them. How hard can it be?
But under the Sierra Madre bubble that would apparently be far too easy. Here is how Heather Allen described the following extraordinarily complex nonsense when she spoke from the podium last night.
Our water target numbers are extremely low. Our Summer number is 14 and our Winter number is 12. The problem began on June 7, 2013. Every water customer received a target number. We received 12 units. About six weeks later we received a second letter. Each water customer would now have two targets - one for Summer and one for Winter. We received 14 units for the summer and 12 for the winter.
We polled our neighbors. One neighbor (with approximately the same property size and number of people in their house) has been assigned 52 Summer units. A send neighbor (whose property is a little larger but with only one person in the house) had been assigned 40 Summer units.
We were assigned 14 Summer units.
We appealed on Sept 4, 2013. We turned in an application and attached a letter to it. We received a letter back from the City on October 16, 2013. The City awarded us one additional summer unit. The Winter number remained the same.
On August 11, 2014, City Hall sent another letter. This was in regards to the "Mandatory 30% Water Conservation Target." All water customers were assigned new numbers. I believe this is when the current City Council voted to require that the residents cut their usage back another 10%. We were assigned 14 units for the Summer.
Essentially, the city took back the one unit we gained through our appeal.
Why? Is this is how the City of Sierra Madre intends to get its water usage under control? By jacking around some very nice people over one unit of water? People who had already been using an extremely small amount of the stuff anyway, and deserved far better treatment? While others in town have lawns as green as a shamrock, and let the stuff just flow down the gutter?
Why the near pathological complexity? Perhaps that is just the culture of Sierra Madre's government. The reduction of everything to an extreme level of twitchy minuteness that is both maddening to those who are subjected to it, and in the end utterly futile as a way of preserving dwindling water supplies.
It isn't like that everywhere, you know. Step back some time and take a good look.
My advice? Just go after the big water wasters and be done with it. Leave everyone else alone. This is not rocket science.
It was not a very good night for City Staff
Two key moments that to me indicated the City Council was not very pleased with the hired help last night. The first is they pushed back implementing penalties for the over-usage of water. The reason for this being that, and after all of this time, City Hall has yet come up with any reliable criteria for deciding who exactly is using too much water in Sierra Madre, and who is not. Or even what that might be. You cannot tell with any real confidence right now. Things are all over the place.
Couple that with the sad fact that 71 water use appeal applications from residents had somehow been swept under the rug didn't help staff's case, either. This was so egregiously bad that Bruce Inman was forced to mail out a letter of apology to the affected residents before last night's meeting even took place.
The other big tell came from the quite surprising Gene Goss. Addressing City Manager Elaine Aguilar directly, and in no uncertain terms, he told her that the matter of those 71 ignored water appeal applications was unacceptable, and must never ever happen again. An unusually contrite Elaine meekly responded that it wouldn't.
It was an extraordinary moment. Elaine Aguilar, the once seemingly supreme voice of city government in Sierra Madre, was actually reprimanded in front of the entire city by an elected official. And over the complaints of a resident, no less.
I don't think I have ever seen anything quite like it in Sierra Madre before.