Monday, April 27, 2015

What Exactly Are Community Budget Outreach Meetings?

 -
They can also be called Community Input Meetings, and some are coming soon. But what exactly are they? I mean, what are they really? From conversations I had over the weekend they appear to be an attempt by the City Council to break out of the City Hall bubble in order to get a read on what the residents of Sierra Madre think about the big issues facing their town. With the first topic being, of course, money. That plus the approaching time when there may not be enough of it to sustain Sierra Madre City Hall in the manner to which it has grown accustomed.

Now we here at The Tattler have expressed our concern that this is the beginning of yet another attempt to get the UUT back on the ballot. For an unprecedented third time, let me add. With the intent being to allow the residents to know about the many terrible things that will happen if they don't knuckle under and raise utility taxes to, let's say, 8%. Or two ticks above and beyond the 6% rate the residents approved at the polls. Twice.

But I have been told that this is not necessarily the case. The City Council really does fear that a third attempt to raise utility taxes would not be very well received by the residents, and they don't really want to have to risk that. Instead they want to find out what people really do think about all of this, and then move on from there.

So I have suspended my disbelief for the moment. Here is what I took away from those conversations.

The Outreach Program is supposed to be a way for Sierra Madre's elected officials to have a dialogue with residents and business owners outside of City Council and various commission meetings. One goal is to have a series of meetings on one topic every quarter. The idea is for City Council members to go to various community and civic meetings to discuss a selected topic. There would also be a large Town Hall meeting, and an online meeting for people with computer access who can’t get to any of these meetings.

The first topic is, quite naturally, the General Fund. As we are all aware, the expenses for FY16 and FY17 will be far greater than revenues. There are several reasons for this. The General Fund has taken on extra expenses over the last few years with the National Pollution Elimination Discharge System (NPDES), Workers Compensation Liability Payments, Calpers, increased police salaries and benefits, the Paramedic program, and additional Fire Department personnel, a large portion of whom are now actually being paid. In case you didn't know. Apparently they have volunteered to get paid.

The General Fund has also lost significant revenue with the loss of the CRA, along with the UUT sunsetting back to its original 6%.

The community meetings with various groups, plus the Town Hall and online meetings, are an opportunity for residents to tell their elected officials not so much what to “cut,” but what programs they want to keep. Along with ideas for revenue, either through a parcel tax, the dreaded increased UUT, or raising fee costs. Or even out of the box, charge a fee for the fire volunteers who are getting their training here in Sierra Madre before moving on. Or perhaps a car wash and a big bake sale.  

City Hall probably needs to stop accusing people of getting the city into this situation, which we heard a lot of at last Thursday's special City Council meeting on the budget. It didn't happen overnight and they should have seen this coming. And, from City Hall's perspective, wouldn't a 6% UUT be better than a 0% one?

As much as some would like to use the reserves to balance the budget for those two years, it would only be passing the buck on to another City Council. The City needs to now be very realistic and live within its means. This is not as simple as raising the UUT or eliminating the Library, or contracting out the Police Department. It could take a combination of eliminating expenses (which means some services and personnel cuts) and increase of revenue of some sort.

That is, if you would go for it.

For the people who are not part of the Community Foundation, Rotary Club and Kiwanis, the big Town Hall on May 9 is very important to attend. They say they want to hear what you have to say.

So please, do let them hear it. Here is the schedule from the City Manager Report.


Preserve Sierra Madre's Letter to the City Council

(Mod: Things got a little rough two weeks ago, with Mayor Harabedian and Councilman Goss making some rather gothic accusations of paranoia and fear on the part of the residents. We will have more on that tomorrow. However, the City Council's two seat mansionization minority expressed some fears of their own. Preserve Sierra Madre has decided to take the opportunity to allay some of those fears. Here is what they had to say.)

Dear Mayor and City Council Members:

On behalf of the Preserve Sierra Madre coalition, we just wanted to reiterate our support for all of the Planning Commission's recommendations to improve the Municipal Code.

We also wanted to address a few of the issues that came up at the last City Council meeting.

1. We don't think there is anything wrong with 2-story homes. As was pointed out, there are many 2-story homes in Sierra Madre. We are talking about changes to what exists right now by either a developer tearing down an existing home and building a new, usually 2-story home or an existing owner of a 1-story home that wants to add a second story.

All we are saying is that because the 2nd story has the most chance to impact on the neighbors' views, light, privacy and value, the burden should be on the party making the change to show that it will not adversely impact on the neighbors.  That is the purpose of going through the CUP.  Keep in mind that the existing owners chose their home and paid a certain price because it might have certain attributes like views, natural light coming through the windows or privacy.

In the whole scheme of things related to building a new 2-story home or adding a 2-story, the cost and delay from a CUP is not to much to ask to make sure that its done in a manner that is compatible with the existing neighborhood and the least impactful on the neighbors.  It doesn't mean they can't do it.  The mandatory CUP for 2nd stories is simply an acknowledgement that there needs to be a reasonable balance between the property rights of an owner who wants to change things and the property rights of the neighbors who don't want to see someone else's dream home become their nightmare.

2. We don't think such a CUP process will lead to fighting amongst the neighbors. If the project is a good one and minimizes the impact on the neighbors, the owner building the 2nd story should not have any concerns.  If it will have a significant impact, then give the neighbors a chance to discuss that in an open forum.  If you really want to see fighting amongst the neighbors, let a project just get rammed down the neighbor's throat with no input from them.  It seems to us that would lead to a far worse breach amongst the neighbors.

3. Finally, squeezing down the floor area limits is something that cities are increasingly recognizing as a solution to the mansionization that is occurring all over the San Gabriel Valley and elsewhere. We have always had limits and always will.  The discussion really is about where to put the ceiling. Given what we see happening in other cities and what we are starting to see in Sierra Madre, it seems reasonable to try to get out in front of this issue by lowering those ceilings.

We would respectfully suggest that the Planning Commission's recommendations be approved without modification.  If we run into some issues or complaints down the road, we can all re-visit the issue.  We suspect, however, that rather than receive complaints, you will instead receive the accolades from grateful Sierra Madre residents who see these provisions as a big step forward in preserving our village in the foothills.

Thank you for all your hard work and efforts on behalf of our community.

Steering Committee
Preserve Sierra Madre

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

55 comments:

  1. doesn't appear, from the schedule you have posted, that out going Mayor Harabedian will be attending any of these community forums. This dog and pony (and totally useless) process is right up Johnny's alley. How come he won't be there to hear the people speak? Is it because now that he has "mayor" to add to his resume, it's time for him to move on?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Will Elaine be at each of these meetings to monitor what the council members are saying? Delmar and Arizmendi won election because they opposed raising the UUT. have they, too, like Capoccia, now "evolved" in their opinions? Here's my input: Spend less money.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here's my put - stop the lawsuits
      If we loose just one we are in the toilet.

      Delete
    2. Speaking of toilets, stop the BS.

      Delete
    3. 8:58 You are so right

      Delete
    4. Loose. Like your logic.

      Delete
    5. City Staff will be at these meetings. Like try and keep them out.

      Delete
    6. make sure it's a low-flush toilet at least

      Delete
  3. Sounds like the community is going to have to tell its hard of hearing government that it wants its previous two votes followed.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Preserve Sierra Madre sounds awfully reasonable in their letter unlike some of the comments at that last City Council meeting by Mayor Harabedian and Councilman Goss. I don't know what got into those two.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder what names they will call us this time.

      Delete
  5. 3rd times a charm.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Ok. So the city kept spending by making new financial obligations to employees and other things, and now it needs more money. And in their eyes it's the fault of those who won't give it to them? That is interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I too wonder about Harabedian's lack of presence at any of the forums. Hmm. Please attend the City Council meeting on Tuesday - 6:30 pm. Harabedian and Goss commented two weeks ago that it was just the few people who always show up, always speak, and that we are paranoid. Please show them that there are so many others who care and who are watching what they do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you are not paranoid about John and Gene's latest swerves then you might need to check your pulse.

      Delete
    2. There's some delusional thinking going on alright, but it's not from the residents...

      Delete
  8. Please do not forget that property owners have rights also. By city hall comments, city hall has taken away our property owners rights. Our city hall process is turning into a dictatorship.CITY HALL needs to clean up its own mess, and quit creating new messes. These new messes are linning our city attorneys pockets! Do we the residents what this to continue to happen? Its our choice...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is Not going to stop until the City Manager is replaced along with the law firm

      Delete
    2. 9:01 - No matter how much you'd like to see that happen, it won't, so we have to do what we are able - plead our case before City Council. Goss certainly looks more and more foolish with each passing City Council meeting.

      Delete
  9. Preserve Sierra Madre
    I am good with the CUP for the second story. BUT the process should be free. There should be No fee charged!
    But the Townie, that includes me, should be put on notice. We are asking for lawsuits that we cannot afford - period. Who will pay for that. I'm not thinking it's going to be the Preserve Sierra Madre group. Just saying, your heart is in the right place, but it is going to cost the taxpayers BIG

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The city is insured for this kind of thing. Good news, we don't have to be surrender monkeys.

      Delete
    2. The City is Self insured, we will be the Surrender Monkeys

      Delete
    3. 9:06
      That is not true. That would be considered spreading false information.
      Sierra Madre Does Not have insurance - We are self insured. We the Taxpayers are the insurance

      Delete
    4. It is you who is speading false information. All cities are insured against lawsuits. It is ridiculous of you to even attempt this BS.

      Delete
    5. So is that John and Gene's next ploy? We'll be sued? Is it 2004 all over again?

      Delete
    6. The General Plan states clearly our goals of keeping Sierra Madre the way it is. If the laws reflect that, it would be hard to sue. On what basis? 8:56AM on what basis do you think there would be any suit?

      Delete
    7. 8:56 is attempting to scare people. Fortunately everyone has seen that nonsense before. Kind of nostaligic in a way.

      Delete
    8. You can't get sued for asking people to have a dialogue with their neighbors.

      Delete
    9. 8:56 - If it is in the zoning, how could they sue? Actually, anyone can sue - how can they win?

      Delete
    10. @9:46. Has the General Plan been approved yet?

      Delete
    11. 5:54, the existing General Plan has the same goals. It just hasn't been taken seriously.

      Delete
    12. The existing General Plan has vague and weaselly language. That is why the update needs to be passed.

      Delete
  10. the outreach meetings are nothing more than an attempt to get all the local organizations behind the new UUT by saying we are going to close the library. So what if we did.

    ReplyDelete
  11. The City's regular pleas for more money remind me of the equally regular pleas from PBS, Chabad, and St. Jude's. At least those three are honest and open about the good work they do. Not so much Elaine and prophets of doom, gloom and the demise of the library.

    ReplyDelete
  12. No venue is listed for the forum on the 9th. Could it be that after tomorrow night the YMCA will have taken the rec center over lock, stock, and barrel?

    ReplyDelete
  13. People really can build whatever they want. Ya want the Taj Mahal? Ok, get lots of land and money and have at it. But don't think you're going to put it on a normal sized lot.

    ReplyDelete
  14. A city government that refuses to protect the interests of its citizens is worthless.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Tomorrow night’s council meeting will be very short. There is only one agenda item, the Consent Calendar. 1b on the Consent Calendar is the building code changes Harabedian and Goss opposed at the April 14th council meeting. All five of the consent items are voted on together unless a council member asks to have one discussed separately. It took three hours to discuss the code changes last time. I do not think they want to go through that again.

    The council will want to get through this quickly. They are going to honor and thank the outgoing Mayor and Mayor Pro-Tem for the great job they did, and welcome the new Mayor and Mayor Pro-Tem. Then refreshments. So the meeting will be very short. Please come early so you do not miss the Consent Calendar vote.

    If 1b is voted on with the other four consent items a council member can approve the items with an exception on any item they do not support.

    The more people in the room for this very short Consent Calendar vote, the better. It is not necessary to speak. Just your presents will be important since Goss and Harabedian do not believe anyone other than the few regulars care about preservation. Bring a friend; they might enjoy the cake and cookies.

    If you can’t attend, a short e-mail in support for the codes changes to the council members would be most valuable.

    By the way, I will not applaud for those who speak in support of the code changes, nor will I boo those who oppose them. Some of the council members believe this wastes time and is inappropriate. I want them to support the changes not to be annoyed by cheering.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a huge victory for the people of Sierra Madre. Cheering is appropriate.

      Delete
    2. At least we won't have to stay late.

      Delete
    3. I say let Harabedian and Goss eat cake! I'll go home early. I may applaud depending, but 12:09 makes a valid point. Not sure how it wastes anymore time than the council does.

      Delete
    4. Yes Cheering is appropriate after they pass the ordinance, if they do, but maybe not during the public comment portion of the meeting.

      Delete
    5. If you're sweet to City Hall they'll think they can get away with it. Nice residents finish last.

      Delete
    6. Nasty residents don't finish at all.

      Delete
    7. Do the names Josh and Nancy ring a bell?

      Delete
  16. Yes, I guess it has something to do with acting with the consent of the governed - that he government is supposed to work for the people, not for itself.

    ReplyDelete
  17. John Harabedian became Mayor Pro Tem out of order. Can we get Rachelle chosen over Goss? She is obviously far better qualified.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't it John Capoccia's turn to be mayor? He was elected the same time as Harabedian and Goss was just elected last year.

      Delete
    2. Capoccia becomes Mayor. Goss becomes Mayor Pro Tem because he got more votes than Denise or Rachelle. It is a custom here, one that was broken in 2013 by the current Mayor.

      Delete
    3. The rules don't apply when you're Johnny Harabedian.

      Delete
    4. Capoccia will be called upon to deliver the UUT increase that will be on the ballot in April of 2016. This will pretty much be the theme of his year as Mayor. Ironic considering he was elected as a tax reformer.

      Delete
  18. The reason Harabedian and Goss are so ignorant about the many, many problems that second story additions or new builds have caused for neighbors is because they are both really inexperienced in Sierra Madre politics. Their participation has only been recent, and not varied.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They can remember who called them most recently. At which time Gene will remark that he has heard from "a lot of people."

      Delete
  19. Don't get in the way of the simple succession of mayor, pro-tem, who had the most votes, etc. It is a mute point except to get everybodies knickers in a twist over some pretty small stuff. Just slip the Goss into PT place and let the ladies rule along as they have with the addition of one other who wants to appear smart from time to time.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Don't exactly remember the year, but it was when the city set up a committee of very capable people to work on ideas for getting more money for the city, resulting in the UUT. At the first meeting directions were given to them by Bruce Inmann telling them not to spend any time on finding ways to cut spending, to just look for funding increases. I came home and told my husband and he said the committee should have stood up and walked out.

    ReplyDelete