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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.