Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Letter You Will Receive With Your Water Bill Next Week

A confused water customer.
Assuming that you live in a part of Sierra Madre receiving a water bill next week, I thought it would be a fine service to the community to give everyone a look at the letter that will accompany it. A sneak preview courtesy of The Tattler. It is dated March 2nd, but I'll just put it out there anyway. What the heck.

As you know, this whole water overuse financial penalty mess has been immensely confusing for many people, and even the most sophisticated observers of this city's affairs have found the entire episode to be a little bit baffling. Which I guess explains the purpose of the following letter from our currently waterless Water Department. I am pretty certain they think this note is really clear and all, and that once you and everyone else gets a look at it things will seem all hunky dory again. People will stop complaining about being fined, or having City Hall recommended hired inspectors visit you at home to snoop around the place, and move on to happier issues.

This letter even comes with that always expected and important pat on the head for a job well done. Something many in town find essential in any communication they receive from the city. Most everybody wants to be good, and would feel inadequate if they were told that they are not.

So here is that letter. Having read through this it does seem fairly clear and to the point. There is just one critical matter that apparently gets passed over entirely. More on that in a minute.


Good enough, I suppose. So what is it that does not get discussed in this letter? That would be how exactly the Water Department arrived at your personal water reduction goal, and why your number is so different from your neighbor's number.

The devil is in the details, as they say. Can anyone here explain how the assigning of individual water reduction goals actually works?

Oh heck, it might not matter anyway

The way you are charged for the use of water is based on a tiered water rate system. And according to a lawsuit brought about by a group of residents in San Juan Capistrano, tiered rates could be in violation of voter approved Proposition 218. Their lawsuit has already made it past the first level of judicial review, and now the 4th District Court of Appeals is about to weigh in with their decision. The results could be dramatic.

Here is how they describe it in today's edition of the Daily Republic (link):

Orange County case challenges legality of tiered water rates A lawsuit in an Orange County city could change the way customers California-wide pay for water.

The suit alleges San Juan Capistrano’s tiered water-rate structure violates state law, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

Under tiered systems, the more water a customer uses, the higher the rate. It’s a strategy water districts employ to encourage conservation.

A group of taxpayers argue the tiered structure violates Proposition 218, a 1996 state law that prohibits agencies from charging customers more than the “cost of service” provided.

A lower court decided in their favor, and an appeals court is expected to rule soon.

The residents argue that San Juan Capistrano charged arbitrary fees — especially in the highest tiers. The city’s 2010 rate schedule charged customers $2.47 per unit — 748 gallons — of water in the first tier and up to $9.05 per unit in the fourth, the newspaper said.

The city charged customers who used the most water more than the actual cost to deliver it, plaintiffs said.

“People were getting nailed,” said John Perry, a 79-year-old resident who helped create the taxpayer group. “They were having $500 or $600 water bills on Tier 2 and Tier 3. There were horror stories.”

At least two-thirds of California’s water providers, including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, use some form of the tiered rates that are at issue in the lawsuit, consultants and water lawyers said.

A 2014 study at the University of California, Riverside, estimated that tiered rate structures similar to the one used in San Juan Capistrano reduce water use over time by up to 15 percent.

A state superior court judge declared the city’s rate structure invalid in 2013. The city has flattened its tiers and tied charges more directly to water costs while it awaits a decision by the state’s 4th District Court of Appeal.

If the appellate court publishes an opinion upholding the previous ruling, many Californians could see changes to their bills either immediately, or during their water agency’s next rate-making cycle, lawyers said. Agencies could flatten their tiers, adopt uniform rates or simply wait to see if they get sued, they said.

That could prove interesting.

For the record, we did cover this story a little back in August of 2013 when it all began. Check out who San Juan Capistrano hired to defend their legally at-risk tiered water billing system. None other than Michael Colantuono himself (link).

I swear, that dude is everywhere!

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

44 comments:

  1. Can't we just join someone else's water company?

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    1. My questions would be since Sierra Madre's water company technically has no water, is it really a water company? Maybe it is more of a third party distribution system. So yes, maybe it would be best to go direct with a water company that has water and cut out the middleman.

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    2. Sierra Madre has no water because Arcadia draws from the same source and has been profligate with its water use i.e. McMansion development.

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    3. You can't blame it all on Arcadia. Did they tell us to take out a $6 million dollar bond and make interest only payments on it? No. Our water company was run into the ground by mismanagement for decades.

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    4. Arcadia dug deeper wells.

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    5. And the Public Works Director of the City of Sierra Madre ,Bruce Inman, could not manage to shut the sluice gate to divert water from the Wash onto our Settlling Grounds. And they find no time to tell us if they have since remembered to do that.
      We are shooting ourselves in both feet.

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  2. So why didn't the City fire Colantuno in 2012 and hire that law firm with the water expert attorney? I believe the water expert had like 40 years of experience?

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    1. Money. Nobody can enable revenue producing shenanigans like good old Michael.

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    2. That's why Bart and Johnny Green love him!

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    3. The Bart-Buchanan Cabal. Who is it they endorsed for the Board of Ed again?

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    4. Sierra Madre isn't the only place those people make money off of bonds.

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    5. And speaking of money ,why hasn't the Council already passed approval of fines on the biggest 100 water hogs in Sierra Madre - they are very well known ?
      1.The pay a lot of money into the City of Sierra Madre Benefits pool- oops Water Dept..
      2.The City of Sierra Madre is one of the worst offenders!

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  3. Hire best, best & Krieger!

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    1. Arcadia's law firm that worked for Arcadia to keep stealing Sierra Madre water? Right.

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    2. I hear that Arcadia's city manager has embargoed all conversation with anyone working for Sierra Madre. The threat is termination.

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  4. A word of advice...based on experience and research. The government can NOT come into your house without a search warrant. It is against the Constitution of the United States of America!!! Under the direction of Elaine Aguilar, we are just asking for an additional lawsuit. She is taking away our Constitutional rights and she is personally going to bankrupt our City if we continue to allow her to dictate our fate.
    I am a firm believer in cowboy justice. I would rather see her tarred and feathered and run out of town, before giving up our Constitutional rights.
    I told this story a few days ago, but perhaps some of you missed it, as I posted in the evening. Do you want the following to happen to you?
    The City of Sierra Madre is on a quest to increase their property tax base. Once they are in your house, they may cite water violation, hoarding, any violation they can come up with. If you are a hoarder (the majority of hoarders are older people), the perfect scenario as a ploy, is to bring the water department/code enforcement officer to your door. At this point they have carte blanche to find any type of code infraction. They are extremely creative and have no problem lying to achieve their goal. The City will then file a lawsuit/Complaint citing that your property is a "Public Nuisance". This is a very vague term that the City uses to blanket all code violations.
    After the Complaint has been filed, the next step is to con you into thinking that they are there to help you. This help is in the form of a "Receiver". The Receiver, has a close working relationship with the City Attorney, and derives the majority of his income from this relationship. He is brought in to "abate" the public nuisance on your personal property. In order to “abate” whatever the City deemed a violation (as I mentioned, they are very creative), the Receiver takes out loans and places liens on your property.
    Ultimately the Receiver’s fees add up quickly at $500 per hour. Although you asked for help, because they conned you into believing that they were there to help you, you now have no way to pay the Receiver fees or the liens that have been placed on your property. When you can’t pay, they file a Motion for payment. The Court then has no choice but to force you to sell your home in order to cover these expenses. Your property was most likely paid off. And now you are on the street. The City is happy because the new Owner pays a higher property tax and Elaine is happy because City pensions are being funded .
    Trust me, this is a ploy. Do not! I repeat, do not allow government into your house. Especially Sierra Madre government! They cannot be trusted!!!

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    1. Big Brother is keeping an eye on you! This is almost Oweilian.

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    2. Orwellian, too.

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    3. This was posted late yesterday so was perhaps missed by many Tattlers. It is rather prescient?
      "Why force through an Ordinance mandating submission to 'search & seizure'? It is a 4th Amendment right to be free of this harassment and would soon attract the attention of Lawyers eager to take on an easy-win case against the City. why do this to ourselves?
      Nobody- not even the Council , understands the Ordinance because it changes so often and is so contradictory. This leaves us wide open to another legal challenge based on "the rule of lenity" U.S. vs Santos. It means that if the law & punishment are unclear, the law is unenforceable. And our proposed Ordinance will be an endless make-work contract for our alleged City Attorney Ms.Highsmith vs every Constitutional/Property Rights activist .
      This is madness. "

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    4. 7:55 and 10:28. The language quoted below is from yesterday's post re the relevant ordinance. If the quoted language is correct, it seems to address 4th Amendment concerns.

      1.18.050 - Authority to inspect.

      ….

      All inspection, entries, examinations and surveys shall be performed reasonably and in accordance with law. If an owner or occupant or property or his or her agent refuses to consent to entry and inspection, an enforcement officer may seek an administrative inspection warrant pursuant to law.

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    5. There are two other aspects to this:
      1. Coercion -if you 'decline' the Peeping Tom 'offer' ,your Request for a review of your Allowance is automatically denied.Silently you are logged as"something to hide?' and probably a tattler.
      2. Not one of the Council has taken up this Search & Seizure issue. If it is illegal,why does every Council Member give it tacit support? Surely they are not waiting for a briefing from City Attornet Highsmith ?

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    6. There are numerous federal, state, county, and local laws granting government authorities the right to enter private property to investigate violations of law, but all are circumscribed by the 4th Amendment and other constitutional and statutory provisions, including those that recognize due process rights.

      So how many times in the past have the various federal, state, county, and local governmental authorities used those numerous laws to invade your castle in violation of your constitutional and other rights?

      If you are generally law abiding, the answer is likely "zero." Odds are, then, your past experience will be your prologue.

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    7. "If you are generally law abiding, the answer is likely "zero." Odds are, then, your past experience will be your prologue."
      Apparently not if you are a Sierra Madre homeowner appealing a stupidly low allocation.
      That is the whole point of this conversation.
      Aguilar is using the foolish EENRC Recomendation # 2 "Proposed Amendments to SMMC 13.24 Jan 27 ,2015 to get access to your home .No access=no adjustment of water allocation.

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    8. Sorry sport, probable cause is all that is needed, try to keep up.

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    9. Wow! Tinfoil hats available at Arnolds, may want to get a few extra, sounds like you use the hell out of them!

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    10. The good news is that for the owners of a lot of our older homes most of the SMPD won't be able to fit through the door.

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    11. "Probable Cause" applies to crime, not to breach of a City Ordinance.

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    12. Sorry 1:48 et al. Read the ordinance. It states a warrant will be needed if the owner/occupant refuses to consent. So a judge will have to sign off on it. Your constitutional rights in action! Meanwhile, there's no need to keep the shades drawn.

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    13. The city is going to get a warrant from a judge to get into peoples homes to check water pipes? Now THAT is scary!

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    14. 12:39 It is Not zero. It is happening now to law abiding citizens!!! Talk to the Hildreths 187 East Montecito, Sierra Madre CA. I am sure their take is very different.

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    15. An event that can happen by definition has a non-zero probability of happening, 4:03. But I'm not sure the example you cite is a good one. It's before a court, so constitutional rights should be protected. If not, the appeals court is available. That's how our system works. We'll see what the judge/jury decide on that one.

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  5. Michael Colantuono runs a law form that specializes in helping cities extract as much money as possible from their residents. That is why the establishment here refused to fire his firm in favor of a more resident oriented law firm.

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  6. A little paranoid 7:55 I am glad I don't live in your skin

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    1. Beats playing dominoes at the Hart Park House.

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  7. Here is why it is so hard to keep tract of your water usage: our last bill was for a "60 day period" but the listed dates of service was for 57 days. The service period date is on a certain date, the bill comes to you 2 weeks later, one half of the city billed one month, the other half of the city another month, the rain or heat that would alter your "conservative" landscape watering is for BOTH sides of the city and there is no way to account for this. Now add to the comings and goings of an average southern California household, when and where are you supposed to have a good handle on your daily water usage. I figured our household of 3 adults used way under our conservation target for the last billing period 54 gallons of water per day per person. This is practically inhumane and unhygienic. Will the Kinsinginton be able to meet a conservation goal/per resident/per employee?

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  8. Looks like old Horse's Ass Henderson has endorsed Lush Larry for what she calls the "The Pasadena Unified School District 6 Trustee." If DUI Torres goes down in flames it will be the 4th election in a row where her candidate has lost.

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    1. Actually it is 5 losses in a row for Hendog.
      2012 - Henderson endorsed Braudrick. Koerber won.
      2012 - Henderson endorsed UUT 1. It lost.
      2014 - Henderson endorsed Noah Green. Delmar won.
      2014 - Henderson endorsed UUT 2. It lost.
      2014 - Henderson endorsed Bloodbath Tanaka. McDnnell won.
      2015 - Henderson endorses Torres.
      If I was Larry I'd beg her to take it back.

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    2. I can't wait until we get to say 6 in a row.

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    1. Is that you, Spock?

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    2. You forget that this includes East Pasadena in the voting district. They don't read the Mt. View News, so it might change the voting pattern. My fingers are crossed that Sandi wins, but I don't dance on Susan's grave yet.

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    3. Board of Ed elections are an extremely low turnout affairs. It is all about getting your people out to vote. I am not sure Torres' arrest and conviction for drunk driving is going to inspire that much enthusiasm.

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  10. I have no problem with tiered rate structures.

    On the one hand I find it hugely problematic that it's so difficult to make rate changes to protect the supply so we all continue to have water. On the other hand, the rate changes we have are an example of how stupid government can be. Tiers should be based on how many people the water is for and how large the lot is. If one half acre lot with 20 people on it uses 50 units, and the other lot uses 15, then one is going to pay huge fines while the other doesn't, and it's likelier to be the one doing the most conserving.

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  11. Totally agree 10:27. If the targets were meaningful in the way you describe above I think the city would enjoy enormous buy-in.

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