Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Is There Anyone Here Who Believes That City Hall's Budget Outreach Meetings Aren't Really About A 3rd Attempt To Raise Utility User Taxes?

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"Following the recommendation in the staff's agenda report, the City Council added an ordinance to the municipal code that bans common sense in city government. The council's action formalizes a practice that has been followed almost since incorporation. 

Accordingly, the city will continue to maintain a bloated staff, and to pay salaries and provide benefits and pensions unmatched in the private sector. The city will also continue to pay at least double the going rate to consultants and to contractors for bond funded capital improvement projects.  

In keeping with the new ordinance, the council and staff will continue to coddle developers, encourage density bonus projects, and try to pack high density and mixed use development downtown. Further, the city will emphasize its disingenuous claim that such development significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions and slows climate change.

“Common sense has no place in city government,” said the staff report. “Inefficiency and misuse of public funds are city government’s intention, its raison d’être, so to speak. The ordinance that staff recommends for adoption by council codifies a longstanding tradition. It assures lunacy and weaves guaranteed misappropriation into the city fabric.” - Satire stolen from The Encinitas Guerrilla

And so, here we go once again. I know that there are some very nice people out there who believe City Hall's budget outreach meetings are not about attempting to raise Sierra Madre's Utility User Taxes for an unprecedented third time. I am also fairly certain that they'll get past this over time and recognize these meetings for what they appear to be, political campaign events.

I haven't been accused of being a very nice person as often as I'd hoped, but no matter. I am going to spell it out for you, anyway. City Hall's "budget outreach meetings" are most likely all about an attempt to raise UUTaxes for a 3rd time. Didn't former Mayor John Harabedian say as much in his "State of the City" address when he announced these events? Along with that Library parcel tax?

One shouldn't be naive, most of these folks are not all that interested in your opinions per se. They are instead looking for signs of confusion and doubt, which will later be presented as proof of a developing community consensus for higher utility taxes.

Instead of doing the heavy lifting of reorganizing its finances to reflect the twice voted will of Sierra Madre's taxpayers, City Hall has instead chosen to again try and ignore all such democratic niceties. Rather they are attempting to find a way to circumvent the kinds of budgets a 6% UUT would create for them.

Here is the inevitable city press release. As found on Bill Coburn's blog, of course.

The Sierra Madre City Council is seeking input on how to balance the City’s General Fund budget and City Council members will be visiting various community organizations, commissions and Board (sic) to listen to residents’ priorities on General Fund spending and look for ways to reduce costs or increase revenues.  The information gathered will be presented for additional input at a Town Hall Meeting on June 6th from 10am to noon at the Fire Station.

Residents are encouraged to participate in the meetings, and/or participate in an online webinar from home (or office) on Wednesday, May 27th at 7pm.  Suggestions by e-mail are also invited.  Send suggestions, register for the webinar, or find information on the community input meetings by emailing city@cityofserramadre.com, calling 355-7135 ext. 202 or visiting City Hall Monday thru Thursday 7:30am to 5:30pm.

As many will recall, this strategy was attempted during the last campaign to raise utility taxes as well. The idea being to take a tax roadshow to those organizations and special interests most threatened by a reduction in city revenues, scare the living bejeezus out of them, and then claim that the inevitable panicked reaction was actually a burning desire to, you got it partner, raise utility taxes.

It didn't work very well last time, either. But I must admit, they're being a bit slicker about it this time. Check out this apparently consultant created handout they're using this time. After all, you did pay for it, though I don't recall anybody asking your permission.


Kind of looks like a campaign flyer, doesn't it? Well, it should, because that is apparently what it is. And all of those outreach meetings? They certainly do appear like campaign events for an upcoming tax hike initiative.

As whoever the Encinitas Guerrilla might be so eloquently puts it (and I doubt he has even heard of Sierra Madre): "... the city will continue to maintain a bloated staff, and to pay salaries and provide benefits and pensions unmatched in the private sector. The city will also continue to pay at least double the going rate to consultants and to contractors for bond funded capital improvement projects."

So for the third time in six years will City Hall attempt to ignore a democratically determined verdict of the people and try one more time to raise utility taxes?

While I would certainly like to be proven wrong, all I can say is get ready. Because it now looks like it is going to happen.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

59 comments:

  1. Wow. pretty slick "kill them with colorful charts and lots of words" flyer that we citizens paid for. it's kind of like making the condemned tie the knot for the gallows noose.

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    1. How would you keep your hands from shaking?

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  2. How is the signature gathering going on the ABOLISH THE UUT petition? where will Earl be this weekend?

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    1. You can gather signatures as well, 5:23. Contact the Mod at sierramadretattler@gmail.com and he can point you in the right direction.

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    2. Abolishing the UUT is one extreme, the campaign to raise it is the other.

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    3. There will be three choices next April. You can vote to raise the UUT, or you can vote to get rid of it altogether. But if you vote 'no' on both, it stays at 6%.

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    4. Beware of the process!

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  3. The only UUT decision left now is 6% or 0%.

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  4. Cross My Heart and Hope To DieMay 5, 2015 at 6:39 AM

    In 2008, the then City Council asked We the People to vote "Yes" on the Utility User Tax (UUT) tax Increase with the promise to drop it to 8% on 7/1/2015 and to 6% on 7/1/2016.

    Promises need to be kept.

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  5. Gene Goss has been getting calls about this.

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    Replies
    1. Of course. I bet they agree with him, too.

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    2. His imaginary friends keep calling.

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    3. On their imaginary cell phones.

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  6. Dennis Lehane ("Mystic River" author) said "Stupid people don't know they're stupid." Goss proves this every other Tuesday evening.

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    1. Life is hard.
      It's harder if you're stupid.
      John Wayne

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    2. 9:24AM The city already does a lot of outsourcing. I believe the police don't do parking tickets, they outsource it. All the inspectors for building are also outsourced, I believe. The police outsource arresta, even though we do have a jail. There are probably more.

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  7. It's all Police, Fire and Administrative Overhead. Trim that, fewer bodies. Reduce pensions. Done.

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    Replies
    1. Outsourcing could save a lot of money as well.

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    2. Yes, but that would make financial sense. The city exists now to please unions, and that means picking pour pockets.

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  8. Maybe if Sierra Madre actually hired people who live here employee costs would not be so high. Residents would do it for the love of the place. Out of towners just want the bucks.

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    1. rather naïve.

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    2. Too bad the city will never even try it. We are paying people to refuse to hire us.

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  9. What's in that pie chart, "All Other Funds"? Almost as much as the total General Fund.

    I'd ask for a detailed breakdown and chart of accounts for that one.

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    Replies
    1. Stuff we're not supposed to know about.

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    2. The Funny Money Fund (FMF).

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    3. Impact fees from The Kensington? That money sure disappeared.

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    4. It is never enough.

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  10. Does anyone on the Tattler have any ideas for the city to raise revenue other than the UUT? The other cities who want to abolish their UUT have huge retail districts. We have none to speak of. You all keep saying to reduce employee cost, but where. Close the library? That will never happen. Outsource the police and fire? bids are out as we speak. The YMCA has taken over our taxpayer funded rec. center, Waterworks has our pool (at least they pay us a fair sum). We don't want any large development to put more property tax on the rolls, and we don't as you say want anyone working at city hall, then what? If, as it seams, we all want a full service city with police, fire, water company, then we have to pay for it.

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    1. Too many people working in city hall. Get some retired residents who have management experience to go through the departments and bring the city hall employees into the real world.

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    2. 10:37, your argument reminds me of the "what would you cut" crap the Yes on UUT tax hikers would say. This City has NEVER even looked at outsourcing the Paramedics. They are 100% paid staff from out-of-town. We pay a parcel tax to LA County for paramedics, let LA County handle that. LACo will outsource it and we'd have less employees, less medical and WAY LESS CalPERS Platinum Pension costs.

      Otherwise, it's "hello 8% UUT rate. Just like the rest of us, let PAID staff figure it out. If they can't, we can hire someone else.

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    3. Full Service City? That BS slogan came up from John Buchanan. He said "people want a full service city". I don't. I want a city that doesn't waste my hard-earned earnings on Platinum Pensions. I've lived in LASD patrol areas. They come when you call and handle thing's just as well.

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    4. Buchanan presented us with a lot of "Buffalo Bagels"

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    5. His prairies we're always filled with bison.

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    6. As far as the eye could see.

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    7. Did you know that the paramedics get paid minimum wage? As far as full service city is concerned, that is what they call a city that has its own fire, police, water, administration, street department. Buchanan didn't make it up, he isn't that smart. Why not just let the County take us over and not be Sierra Madre "Village of the Foothills" anymore? That would save a ton of money. The sheriff, fire, street and water will come from our property taxes. I'm sure LA County would love to have us, since our property is worth much more than some other cities on their roll. We could then forget about a City Council election, since we would be ruled by the LA County Supervisors. We'd only have a committee to liaison with the supervisors with not much say in what services we'd get. We are all tired of paying taxes, but we also have to use some common sense about it. All Caps man has a vested interest in this fight too, remember that.

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    8. Dat you, chicken little?

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    9. Paramedics get paid way more than mininmum, check the city wage scale. Step increases as time passes, medical insurance & CalPERS Platinum Pension eligibility. Give it a break.

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    10. Some of these people seem to think they can just make things up.

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    11. 4:45PM Are you kidding? Please reassure me. I think you feel good about yourself because you do a good job.

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    12. The paramedics got a pay raise about a year ago because the State raised the rate. Most of our paramedics are part timers who have full time jobs elsewhere so they do not get our city benefits.. It seems that some bloggers will say anything to prove their point even though they don't know what they are talking about.

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  11. That is an expensive little presentation the city bought.

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    1. The best paid consultants have nice presentation materials on file.

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    2. I wonder how much it cost and where it came from. Any way we can find out? PRA maybe?

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    3. I believe we can still be a small city with good services even if things are outsourced. The city has to come up with an additional $300,000 to CALPERS because people are living longer and that is our share this year. For those who love the library find a way to keep it open using some of your library committee as volunteers. I no longer donate my hard cover books to them as they put them in their sales. These are new books, read once, clean and good. They tell me they get more money for those at the sale so they can buy new books. That makes a lot of sense! The bids for the Sheriff should have been in a long time ago. I believe Elaine once again, dragged her feet in getting that timely.As far as the YMCA taking over the rec. center, well it has to save on Worker's Comp., salary, liability, etc. Frees City Staff to do more than planning senior junkets and fun things in the park. I don't mind paying taxes if there is an end to some of the expenses. What happens next year when raises are given out? We get taxed more? As for businesses in town-does city hall make it easy? Taylor's has a hug unused portion that could be used as it was before: a take out deli, nicely designed shops. That would be at least 3 more businesses. And no, large development is not the answer. I think we want the village to stay the village. There is a way to put more businesses in without building oversize eyesores. Just as there is a way to have the house you want without taking away from your neighbors. You must be one of those old CC supporters or one of their members. For myself, I'd like to keep Sierra Madre a small city with a transparent city government. As it is, the things you want to allow will lead us to bankruptcy.

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    4. Don't forget, every City employee is eligible for step increases (pay raises) just for time on the job. That's even when the CVity Mgr. says "we didn't give out raises". You see, Civil Service means auto pay raises, unlike the real world the rest of us live in.

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    5. Raises make city workers feel good about themselves. It is a form of positive affirmation.

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  12. Off topic, but it's the Tatt. Anyone know what channel 7 is doing in town? Just saw the van heading north on Baldwin.

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    1. In the past it would have been mud slides, but that is out. Here is my list:
      1) Drought
      2) Yellow Water
      3) New Sex Offender has turned up
      4) The Newsvan is lost.
      5) Bear or Mountain Lion

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    2. Johnny Harabedian probably called about the financial "disaster" that awaits Sierra Madre.

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    3. In the newsroom he is known as Duke Nukem.

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  13. In my business,before you even look at someone's budget ,you assess their demonstrated competence and credibility/reputation.Otherwise ,how can you believe their numbers and forecasts and plans?
    Once you concede that City of Sierra Madre management would score an "F" for competence & credibility, the situation is painfully clear.
    The less money we give them, the less damage they can do.And they have stuck us with a lot of damage for decades! Pensions,other benefits,crumbling infrastructure,belligerent City employees.
    Time for a New Deal for Sierra Madre?

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    1. Competence? hahahahahahahahahahahaha. This is government.

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    2. They're good at complaining.

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  14. I just got a spiffy personalized mailer from realtor Karen Juline, featuring my first name. Apparently homes in my neighborhood are valuable.

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    1. Can you email me a scan? sierramadretattler@gmail.com
      Thanks!

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    2. Wow, really 5:06? Who knew?

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  15. Juline is an Arcadia realtor.

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  16. 3:53, not so. SM hires paramedics on a part time bases. We are getting a real deal when it comes to the FD, it is being run very effectively, now the PD is a different story, a big difference there, give me the SD any day. And keep our FD, no one can do the job like we are getting from the FD at the price, no body.

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