But are the kinds of things soothsayers get asked really all that difficult? "Will I ever find true love?" people ask. "Will I ever win the Lottery?" You just tell folks they will because isn't that all they really want to hear? That the unlikely can happen, and will for them? Then you pocket their $150 and shoo them out the door. There's one born every minute, why not get your share? So is that scenario all so different from what we heard last night at City Hall?
Here is what we said yesterday on the blog while doing a little bit of a preview report about last night's Sierra Madre State of the City Address:
It is good that this yearly event is being held at City Hall this year, and at an hour accessible to the working man and woman. Traditionally this has been the time and place for the person running the government of the City of Sierra Madre to speak with great solemnity about the City's finances, and then darkly warn of the consequences should the residents not cough up some additional tax revenue.
I guess we'll have to wait and see if that storied tradition holds.
It did hold, of course. We all knew it would. The sight of John Harabedian, the Ivy League and Stanford Law educated young man of remarkable intellectual breadth and power (or so the Mayor Pro Tem reverently informed us), dutifully slogging down the same road apple strewn donkey path originally carved out for him by the likes of John Buchanan, Josh Moran and Nancy Walsh, was certainly an interesting one.
All of which does go to show, L.A. County machine politics can make an ass jack out of even the most properly turned out gentleman. It really is quite a leveler.
One prescient commenter had this to say yesterday:
So anyway, Mayor Harabedian wants to put the UUT back on the ballot again. And he said it with a very solemn and serious face. Which makes me think he must have been studying old John Buchanan tapes. And being the famed devotee of "the process" he proclaims himself to be, there will of course be a series of community meetings held so that he and many other fine dignitaries can learn exactly how you feel about it all.
Now you'd think that the two most recent city elections, where voters twice turned down utility tax increases, would have made what everybody thinks about them crystal clear. But perhaps Mayor Harabedian, a man given to reasoned subtlety, didn't think that was nuanced enough.
After this series of public meetings on utility taxes, which are sure to be as poorly attended as the community meetings held during the previous two failed UUT raising efforts, our elected officials will then do what they had intended to do all along. Put a utility tax increase back on the ballot for the third time in six years.
Like I said, nobody will ever see that one coming.
Mayor Harabedian then threw out what he probably believed was a major concession. He said that this latest onset of the every two year utility tax itch didn't necessarily have to be 10%. It could instead be 8%, or maybe 9%. But wouldn't that still be a substantial 25% plus tax increase?
Didn't the people of Sierra Madre vote twice to reduce utility taxes to 6%? In both 2012 and 2014? Yes, they did. So why is Mayor Harabedian going to attempt to raise taxes for a third time?
In my opinion the answer to that is political ambition. The City of Sierra Madre can easily survive on a 6% utility tax, but its union employees may not get the raises and posh new pension packages they believe we owe them. And if Mayor Harabedian is going to go anywhere politically in this one party government union dominated county and state, he needs to deliver on a tax increase. How else will this city ever be able to dole out big raises, solid gold pensions and benefits like so many others already do?
Or then? Goodbye Assemblyman John Harabedian. The Mayor might believe he is destined for greater things, but you're the one who will have to pay the price. If the Mayor doesn't earn for the unions by getting a tax hike, the machine Democrats will kick him to the curb. Just like they did with Joe Mosca.
Equating what he wants with the kinds of things Preserve Sierra Madre has been working for was quite an interesting turn as well, I think. Has Mayor Harabedian now put a price tag on his cooperation with those residents who want to protect this town from overdevelopment and mansionization? Was he threatening to pull that support if he doesn't get his way on a utility tax increase? Was this a hostage taking? Could we have even called it intimidation?
There was also the matter of a parcel tax for the Library. Quite an idea, though no actual price tag was suggested last night. But let me ask you a question. Wouldn't this be the same as putting the Library itself on the ballot? Are the Library's supporters completely certain that they want to do that? Are they willing to consider the consequences of this should it lose? That perhaps the residents don't really care all that much? Pretty signs with hearts and all that?
Or, as Clint might have put it, "Do they feel lucky? Well, do they?"
One more thought before I wrap this puppy up. The Teapac people want to put an initiative on the ballot that will do away with Sierra Madre's utility taxes altogether. A zero percent UUT. While at the same exact time Mayor Harabedian could put an initiative on the ballot that will raise the UUT from that 6% you voted for twice to either 8% or 9%.
Now I suspect this will be presented as an either/or thing. You either vote with Teapac, or you vote with Mayor Harabedian. With the choice being either no utility taxes, or utility taxes increased to as much as 9%. Which, by the way, is far above the state average.
But think about it. Isn't there another option? A third way?
There is. You could vote NO on both the Teapac and Harabedian utility tax measures. Then the UUT stays at the 6% you voted for in 2012 and 2014.
My guess is neither side has thought that one through yet.