Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Is The UUT Going Back On The Ballot For A Third Time?

Round and around we go.
Those two elections where the voters said NO to increasing utility taxes was apparently not enough. Now we are looking at a third attempt at raising those very same taxes. How so? Perhaps the city is far more fearful of its own employees than it is the people who will actually have to cough up all of that additional money?

Personally I believe that the pair of utility tax defeats at the ballot box suffered by the widely discredited Buchanan/Moran/Walsh crowd in 2012 and 2014 should have been more than enough. And knowing that a 6% utility tax rate was twice the will of the people, the current City Council should be making the cuts necessary to live within a budget created by that most democratic of processes, elections.

Two of them to be exact.

But the world can be a complex place, and things never seem to be quite that simple. And the mechanism put into place, innocently or not, is the community input (but not outreach) meetings that have been taking place. With the big enchilada of these meetings happening at the firehouse on June 6th.

There a relatively small group of people will be able to overturn the results of two elections and thousands of votes by simply stating that they want all of the services they have now to remain the same. Which will then be interpreted by the all too eager tax faction on the City Council to mean that the people must therefore want a utility tax hike.

Look, none of this is pretty. Cutbacks mean that people will be fired. Lives disrupted. And nobody wants to do that, or at least be perceived as doing that, all by themselves. Rather it must be presented as a community tragedy involving a lot of unnamed people, where nobody but fate is at fault.

The psychology at work here is that while nobody wants to be an uncivil staff firing ax wielding mean person, they also don't want to have to pay any more taxes. So at that June 6th meetings people will likely say they don't want departmental cutbacks. Then, when they go to then polls to vote on raising utility taxes next April, they will say NO.

Because who in their right mind would ever want to go back to paying some of the highest utility taxes in California?

Most people want the events provided to them by Community Services. They also want their Library. But they also want to keep their own Police Department, their own Paramedics and their own Fire Department. Despite the fact that in some cases the services provided by outside agencies would be superior to what the homegrown versions can provide. Plus more than save enough money to rescue the many other things that people want, like the Library.

The entire cost of the Paramedics, which is $700,000, could be saved if we went to Los Angeles County and told them that they need to provide EMS services for us. That is at no cost. They are required to do so by law. Did you know that?

The situation with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department is also intriguing. For $450,000 less we could partner with a massive public safety organization that comes complete with helicopters, SWAT teams, battle tanks (in case the terrorists are holed up in Mother Moos), search and rescue dogs, all of the tough stuff that Sierra Madre never had before. And they would even hire any of our cops that could meet their physical and cognitive requirements.

Sierra Madre could also outsource the Library, save $150,000, and see most of the folks working there now rehired and still in place. Nothing important would change. The city would lose the Library Board of Directors, but somehow I believe the world would go on.

But many in this community apparently believe that in order to maintain Sierra Madre as it has always been, the quaint foothill village, it must have all three of those services as they are now, with no changes.

This is a widely held perception, but it is not reality based. It is also illogical and incredibly expensive. However, should the 60 (or 100 or 200) people who show up at the firehouse on June 6th somehow embrace the outsourcing of these three services, the City of Sierra Madre would save $1.3 million dollars and have more money, and be able to provide more services, than ever before.

But, sad to say, there are a lot of people who just can't seem to handle that level of logic. Something that the more demagogic and cynical political elements in this community will attempt to exploit for all they can get.

Look at it this another way. Let's say the 60 (or 100 or 200) people who show up at the Firehouse on 6/6 proclaim that they would lose their cotton picking minds should the Police Department be outsourced. So then why not cut the SMPD's budget a little? If hiring the Sheriffs would save the city $450,000, then why not cut the SMPD $450,000? Mission accomplished. Police budget met and SMPD rescued from the scrapheap of history.

The SMPD is getting nearly $4 million now, which is a full 40% of the city's General Fund. The purpose of this exercise is to cut the city's budgets, not change the color of anybody's uniforms. They should be more than able to get by on $3.5 million. And in the process save themselves and so many of those other things people value.

This is how ridiculous putting the UUT back on the ballot for a third time gets. In 2012 the voters said NO to a 12% UUTax. In 2014 they said NO to a 10% UUTax. In 2016 they will say NO to an 8% UUTax. Which means that in 2018 a 6% UUTax is sequentially all that is left to do. Or exactly what the people voted for in 2012, 2014 and 2016.

Could things ever get any crazier?

Well, yes they can. Here is what the ballot could look like next April. The Teapac group headed by Earl Richey will have a measure on the ballot that will do away with the UUTax altogether. Zero percent. At the exact same time the Harabedian/Goss/Municipal Union claque will have UUTax increase on the ballot, probably at 8%.

All of which will be pitched to the voters here as the greatest tax war of all times. A true battle for the heart and soul of Sierra Madre.

Think of the hyperbole and wild accusations that will be flying then. You'll need a helmet with a full face plexiglass spit shield just to keep all the stuff they're flinging at each other out of your eyes.

But you do know that there would also be a third option as well, right? If next April you were to vote NO on both the very conservative Teapac measure, and very liberal HG-MU measure, the UUTax would stay at the 6% you voted for two times.

Meaning there really is a middle, and moderate, road. Which I think is where most people will prefer to be on this one.

Fun, right? Personally, I don't have a problem getting rid of the UUTax altogether, I just don't think it will ever pass. I also believe the tax increase crowd will try to portray that 0% UUT measure as something extreme and dangerous in order to make their initiative more appealing. Politically that could work. Better to just save the 6% UUTax the voters approved twice.

Councilmembers Arizmendi and Delmar, along with Mayor Capoccia, were willing to go forward with the cuts to make a 6% UUTax work, but apparently wanted to wait and hear what those who show up to the June 6th meeting have to say first.

Councilmember Harabedian, who favors a UUT initiative without any input from the residents, is also is willing to go forward with the cuts, but with the proviso that everything return to where it is now should the tax increase go through. My take is he hopes these cutbacks will make people more willing to increase their utility taxes at the polls. As always, Johnny Politics is working the odds.

Gene Goss? Our one dinosaur 2012 John Buchanan throwback. No cuts, tax increase initiatives now. Including "alternative ideas" such as a parcel tax.

Where we are at.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

89 comments:

  1. City hall spending is out of control. We the people of sierra madre need to take money away from city hall. City hall has promised and it is time that city hall must reduce spending. $40,000 health car packages must go and city hall must reduce its 100+ full time city employee staff. The June 6th meeting is just more Hot Air. City hall has failed to run this city and has continued to commingle and misaproperiate the residents hard earned dollars. City hall has even failed to provide us with the bare requirements "WATER". There must be change and the residents will be allowed to vote

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    Replies
    1. I disagree that it's more hot air. Go & tell them you are for significant cuts to the health benefits.

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    2. Those $37K health care were cut back last year to around the $18 to $20K range. Still very high, but no longer the California state record.

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    3. I wish someone would give me $ 18-20,000 for my own Platinum Health Plan. Tax-free, of course, just like City employees.

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  2. Cut 20 city employees ($80k x 20 -$1.6 million). Reajust all city employee health benifits to $100 - $400:a month. That's a savings of ($35k x 60 - $2.1 million dollars yr) ADD UP THE WARRANTS, city hall spends $24 M illon dollars a year, not $10 as stated. Let's become a "real city' and quit rapping the city residents who feed us!

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    Replies
    1. Excellent ideas! I'd vote for you.

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    2. For me, I will always vote NO on this because it all started with this same City Manager and the Council (Buchanan/Mosca) lying to us and causing a fake commotion about our infrastructure collapsing so they could push though taxes and development projects

      then this same group and then later with Moran/Walsh/Buchanan (notice the common thread) they along with the city manager sent out purposely worded misinformation about the UUT

      so, I don't care why they want the money and if they had have a business bone in their body they'd first work on the obvious budget concerns, the pension plan, health plan and the SMPD gutting our budgets

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  3. You cannot fight crying and emotional tirades and fearmongering with logic. it will never work. the women at the library and the various civic organizations are very good at pulling the heart strings and appealing to the "we've always done it this way" crowd. You need to appeal to the hearts to win the NO vote.

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    1. This April, "Just Vote NO." Twice.

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    2. Great campaign slogan!
      So all together, we will have a quadruple vote.

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    3. we didn't always do it this way - it started "this" way with the Doyle/Stockley/Buchanan Council

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  4. Harabedian and Goss have no ideas. They might as well be Josh and Nancy.

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    1. they are - except Josh and Nancy sort of knew they were full of cow methane - Goss and Harabedian actually believe their own nonsense

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  5. We need to bring salaries, benefits and pensions under control. The unfunded liabilities is what has bankrupted so many cities. Does anyone know what our uinfunded liabilities are? The most important improvement we can make as a city is to go from the defined benefit pension plans which allow city council members to reward the unions that support their elections by givng extravagant pensions that don't have to be accounted for in the yearly budget to the defined contribution pension system that does have to be accounted for in the yearly budget. That would insure that the future pensions we promise to city employees are affordable and reasonable and have some basis in reality. Does anyone on the City Council have the moral fortitude to make that commonsense change? Almost no one in the private sector has defined benefit pension plans any more. They make no sense. With the stroke of a pen, you could solve most city's financial problems by doing so and also eliminate the way the public employee unions have corrupted the electoral process by effectively bribing govenment offiicials by supporting their elections in exchange for acquiescing to union demands at the bargaining table.

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    Replies
    1. 6:50, please send an email of your comments to the council members.

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    2. Fire the police department

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    3. 6:50, you mean like in the real world?

      if SM was run as a business in the private sector, another company would buy SM and dismantle the pension plan, bring the health benefits align with the industry and then make it profitable or sustaining

      Government just shuffles paper and will use 1,000 words when 20 will do.

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  6. I think a 10% UUT is proper.Did I mention I'm exempt?

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    Replies
    1. If I was exempt, I'd vote for 15%. No skin in the game!!

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    2. you are prolly for blowing the horn daily too, since you prolly live in a house that's farthest away and you can't hear it!

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    3. Yes, the horn. By all means, the central topic of the city. Keep focusing on it, so people don't spend time and energy on the critical budget.

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    4. I don't know about you, but I can hold two thoughts at the same time. Despite the noise.

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    5. Damn, that horn's loud! What were you saying?

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    6. If someone's house is too far from the horn to clearly hear it the horn should be louder. Back in the good old days you could hear it in Temple City!

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    7. That's nice.

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  7. I think Harabedian is stealing the community input process. He, Moran and that ilk are going to stack the June 6 meeting. It isn't like the General Plan outreach. This is hard nosed union politics. Johnny Politics is going hardass. He wants to show the LA County political establishment just how good he really is.

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    Replies
    1. Hope all the people who post on the Tattler show up, and bring their friends and neighbors.

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    2. Johnny the Former MayorMay 27, 2015 at 8:21 AM

      Hey, the name is Johnny Process, not Johnny Politics.

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    3. His married name is Johnny Process-Politics. He is married to Politics.

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    4. Or JPP for short.

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  8. Maybe it's time we consider prudent development of the Monastery? That may solve most of our money worries, only affect a few families,add to property values of the neighbors,and it's going to happen eventually anyhows'

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    1. 8:33, bite your tongue, and spend some time in thoughtful reflection.
      We are not making new land.

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    2. Prudent development. Now there's an oxymoron. Kind of like honest politician. No development impact fee bribes here, thank you.

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    3. "only affect a few families"...so to hell with them, huh? Quite a community spirit you have there, 8:33. It wouldn't affect "a few families." It would affect the whole town and be an irreplaceable loss.

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    4. Good morning Mr. Pearson. Or Father somebody. Or could it be Mr. Thatcher?
      Maybe someone from Chicago?

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    5. Not allowing development of the unused land at the Monastery would be "a defeat for humanity"

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    6. Years of construction noise, dust and chaos. All so that a "few people" can have a pleasant retirement. Forget it. Not going to happen.

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    7. 8:52 - must be a non-local yokel.

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    8. The city would blow through those development fees like a "Valley Girl" at the Mall!

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    9. Yes, let's sell the birthright. Sounds like a plan.

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    10. The monies from the monastery will not all go to the retirement fund. They will be using most of those funds to support their "mission" in India.

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    11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    12. I wonder what their "MISSION" is in India?

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  9. I think that the city needs to live within its means. The taxpayers have voted and spoken. The City Manager needs to do the job that she was hired to do. However, our City Manager is not qualified for the position. The City Council needs to do the hard job. Fire the City Manager! Hire a City Manager that can do the job and get our Village back in order. The Input Meetings are a joke, a smoke screen. The decisions have already been decided, the taxpayers are just the means to the end of money for pensions and benefits.
    Until we have a Qualified City Manager that does the job they were hired to do, the taxpayers will be asked to vote for a UUT every two years until it passes. Enough is enough!!!

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    1. we need to stop hiring city managers and staff that are looking to springboard their career from SM - that's why we get the wrong people doing the wrong projects and pushing us against the brink of financial disaster so he or she can pad his or her resume

      there are plenty of qualified candidates in their twilight of their careers and would be happy with SM - not a city manager that is trying to move on and up

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  10. We just have to vote this tax increase down again and make the city deal with the over spending. We will have to deal with the BS of no more 4th of july parade and the end of the huck finn fishing derby.

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    1. The PD needs to cough up. Get that budget under control and everything else will follow.

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    2. You better watch it. SMPD will staff up and send THREE police cars to each traffic stop.

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  11. Beware the vote splitting Earl Richey 0% tax proposal. Every vote for it diminishes the vote for 6%. Much as I like his 0% it is just a wasted vote that may siphon off enough of the "6%" vote to cause it to fail at the ballot box.
    The real alternative is BK. Why? Because City Hall and some weak/malevolent Council Members refuse to acknowledge the will of the electorate and the needs of the City. So it is 6% now or BK fairly soon.You choose.The City finances are a Ponzi scheme.

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  12. Why can't volunteers do the 4th of July and Huck Finn? Don't they do most of the work anyway? I'm sure the locals will contribute to the cost. Why does the city have to be involved? Someone out there can answer these questions. It's not a hard deal to arrange one senior excursion a month. The Parade has been going on for years. The format is set. Same with Huck Finn. As a community, can't we rise to the occasion?

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    1. They're revenue sources for the city. By horning in they can lay claim to the revenue these events raise to cover the "costs of staff time."

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    2. At the Huck Finn Fishing Derby they wet their beak.

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    3. I agree wholeheartedly 9:19, but community service ain't where the big problem is.
      It's the police.
      Trim the police department, reduce pensions and health benefits, and no more financial troubles. The city can live within its means.

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    4. The events can be run by volunteers, and there is no reason to stack the expense column by adding in hundreds of hours for planning by the city employees. However, they have to be sponsored by the city in order to get insurance, which is a big deal these days. (in the olden days, there was no worry about that). The insurance would be prohibitive for the event committees to cover.

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    5. It may be argued that it's time for the Huck Finn fishing derby to go away, anyway.

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    6. how much was the city paid for the Mt Wilson Trail Race ?

      me, I think the residents of Allegria should pay for the police overtime and security that the rest of the city is paying for a Halloween block party - it's gotten out of hand.

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  13. I've worked as a non-contracted state employee for Mt.Sac when I was there the brand new Founders Hall was open and ready for business ... Did you there's a very nice apartment above Founders Hall for the Big Head ?
    While I worked there the Big Head preferred staying at a hotel he didn't like staying on campus.
    When you go beneath Founders Hall you'll find a catering kitchen with granite countertops and other amenities that aren't practical when it comes to institutional/commercial kitchens.
    In the court yard of Founders Hall there's a lovely BBQ station .
    From there I went to the main kitchen to see where my job as a temporary Sous Chef would be centered ... My first plan of action was where is the equipment inventory ?
    The list was provided and 3/4 of the equipment was unaccounted for and no one knew where it went ... What was accounted for was broken ,sub standard,and not useable.
    From there I wanted to see information in regards to what kind of events the school put on and the budgets for such affairs ... What I found to be really interesting was a catering company getting payments and using Mt.Sac equipment ... Low and behold the former chefs I was brought in to cover for because they wanted to retire opened a catering company with the same name on billings ...interesting ?
    What I also found interesting was the former chefs usedthe kitchen and kitchen staff at Mt.Sac to help prepare food for their private
    catering jobs.
    I brought this information to my superiors attention she states there was nothing we could do and not worth the time because a private company was going to contracted to take over the kitchen ... Really ?
    They had a huge budget along with federal funding why didn't anyone care ?
    I threw out thousands of dollars worth of food because sanitation and food safety laws ... The more I questioned accountability and honesty the harder my job became .
    Basically once these people are hired and sign their union contracts they're set for life the only things they understand is spend everything in a budget because if you have any leftover it's taken away and deny once provided services .
    Good luck people .

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  14. Goss is "Our one dinosaur 2012 John Buchanan throwback." Complete with pomposity and undeserved pride in his intellect.

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    Replies
    1. you got that right

      self absorbed

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    2. Gene Goss hopes he will be seen as making tough, realistic decisions in spite of what many in the community might believe. The actual popular perception is that he is a city employee union pushover.

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    3. I still believe that Long Beach Junior College Political Science Professor Goss is just playing politician as if the Council is some kind of experiment so he can get career jollies

      otherwise he'd come prepared and have something to contribute instead of grandiose statements of opinion, no substance, unsubstantiated decisions and unsupported facts - sort of winging it

      you know? it's the kind of work that would get you a grade of D- in Junior College

      his first attempt at election he came in dead last but built up name recognition so next election he was familiar something out of the Buchanan SoCal Edision local marketing playbook

      the position has gone to his head and the echo must be giving him headaches

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  15. Those of you who think that a 8 percent tax would be prohibitive forget that Sierra Madre has no industry or retail businesses to speak of. If you think you can enjoy living in Sierra Madre without paying for it you are delusional. You say we can live on a mere 6% tax but forget that tax was voted on before Jerry Brown decided to keep most of the money coming from property taxes so he could boast of having a balanced budget. In addition to that, there are so many unfunded mandates from the State that Sierra Madre doesn't have a chance to make up any difference with the monies we get back . It seems that the desire to not paying taxes overrides the logic of what it takes to run a city. With cuts, lay-offs and good planning, the city could make it with an 8% tax.

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    1. How many lattes is an 8% UUT?

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    2. Bull crap. If it wasn't for the rising cost of the Platinum Pensions and Golden Health Plans, SM could make it on 6%. Hope I didn't make your head explode.

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    3. Inconvenient truth, 11.57 - The Sierra Madre voters NEVER got to vote on the base 6% Utility Users Tax. That was imposed by the City Council "temporarily". Like all taxes, spending increases and "temporary" taxes become permanent.

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    4. I hate coffee.

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  16. The Grammar Lady says delete the extra apostrophe in: "fearful of it's own employees."

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    1. Grammar saves lives.

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    2. The correction has been made. Thank you for your dedication to grammar.

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    3. You're welcome. Remember she is always watching!

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  17. This is the nuts and bolts, clear and simple. Finally. Either pay taxes or cut expenses. And the expenses to be cut are paramedics, library administration, and outsourcing the police.

    However, I don't understand:

    1) The paramedic program costs 700k a year, but we are told cutting it completely saves only 250k a year. So where is that 700k actually going? If we are a million over, this alone gets us 70% of the way there.
    2) The UUT originally went up for the paramedic program and police raises. Outsourcing the police has the potential of saving a full million. In addition, so many calls are noise complaints, gripes, bear chasing. Why not pay a security guard company (without retirement at 55 and outsized pensions), to do these sort of things, and why not have (as Crawford said) the benefits of an outside companies huge resources for the heavy hitting things?

    3) The library services are wonderful and don't really need to be cut, but Crawford makes a good point that our one-person library shouldn't need the heavy administration of other communities. Why not outsource the high-level administration and keep the local staff doing the great things they do?

    I really wonder if lower staff members were able to say who above them is unnecesarry and cheaper ways the job could be done, we'd see a whole different budget process.

    If there's another election in April, I wish the choice was to vote yes for the UUT or vote to outsource the police and paramedics and library administration. But we're probably going to see close the library and get rid of paramedics or vote for the UUT.

    And there's the rub. I bet some people don't care about the library, some don't care about the police, and some don't care about the paramedics. And each of those factions would be happy to pay the tax to make sure their pet doesn't get cut. The UUT was voted down 1372 to 1296. With real cuts, I'm betting at least 80 people will switch sides.

    I also think if the UUT comes up for a vote it should be 8% until 2020, when the bonds retire, then goes to 6%.

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  18. Mr. Mod: I'm told by a council member that there is a charge for ambulance service from L. A. County. Can you tell me where this info can be found?

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    1. Obviously somebody didn't read their staff report. Was it Gene?

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    2. Elaine Aguilar also discussed it last night, Patrick. You might want to review the meeting video.

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  19. 2:49, shame on you, may you be forgiven.

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  20. UMM ok but there is no 2:49?

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    1. I deleted it. I was in meetings all day today at work and didn't catch it during some wholesale break time comment clearing. It isn't something I would have let go had I not been distracted with the real job. My apologies.

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  21. The facts and figures were so far off regarding the Paramedics it was suspicious. We are only paying our paramedics $10 an hour. NO way can anyone match that price, I don't know why the city manager would not correct that cost comparison unless she is selling us something. Selling us a UUT package.

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  22. And, there is another reason to "cut" the City Manager........."why the city manager would not correct that cost comparison"...... Elaine needs to go.
    About the library. Is anyone aware of the illiteracy rate in our country? How many children use the library and what is the long term cost of not having a librarian?

    For one thing children need a librarian to help them out as few children really know the dewey decimil system, OK if they attend private schools or parent involved public schools, but because there is very little reading and few parents knew the DD system, finding information is difficult.

    With the new Common Core, children must ALL master research with EVIDENCE, which is not all found on Google, and must be able to know scholarly periodicals. Few schools are able to afford many of these periodicals, which MSL's are able to help with........kinda a big approach to better critical thinking skills.

    The library is not just a building with books and a few people who use a computer to check us out. They are mostly higher educated people whom can assist in an education which is sorely lacking in American culture.

    Just thinking of cutting any part of a library should chill all of us to the bone. We should be cutting services which volunteers can adequately and joyfully fulfill, and letting people go who have proven they are NOT working for the best interests of Sierra Madre residents both now and in the future.

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    1. Well said 7:38 pm! You bring up several fine points for keeping the library open.

      Thank you.

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    2. 7:38, your impassioned plea is thoughtful, but you don't seem to understand the degree of the technological revolution. All the scholarly research is online. There is far more evidence available to students online than there is in any physical library in the world. Are you aware of Project Gutenberg, with its 49,000 free ebooks? And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
      It's a real misunderstanding to think that students are not well served online. They have access to much more. So I disagree with 8:15, and think that you haven't presented any valid arguments.

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  23. The British are coming!!!! The British are coming. Paul Revier could not have said itvan y better!!! City hall Must Cut Expensive or the residents will cut expensive for them!!!!

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  24. The city manager does not care about the library. She only cares about how much money she is being paid!!!

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  25. Actually 7:38 is correct. while there are several fabulous sites online, we still need children to belong to book clubs, to hold a book, to dog tag a book and to learn to pick out several books with friends collaborating in a classroom discussion. Oh, that's already happening in schools with well stocked libraries.

    just think about it: Lawyers and Physicians are just 2 groups who spend a lot of money on books to attend school. There's a computer in everyone's hands, and a backpack on everyone's back.

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    1. What?
      There is nothing about reading a book online that forbids children being in a book club or forming friendships. People still collaborate and discuss. Schools with "well stocked libraries" are actually schools with wifi and available devices.
      Lawyers and physicians are studying their texts on their ipads like everyone else. What has that got to do with the discussion?
      I am not in favor of getting rid of the library - but recognize that it is becomming obsolete. If you want to say you like it because you like it, okay. But the reasons you've put forth are false.

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  26. The city manager's job is to lead the city fiscally in the right direction. I think she is leading it into bankruptcy. Revenues
    need to grow and expenses need to be kept in check. Is that happening? Some tough questions need to be asked about
    her ability to lead the city with an eye to helping businesses succeed . Fiscal soundness should be the buzz word.
    Smart growth both residentially and commercially. If Revenues do not grow you cannot have your services.
    Think logically .. The city
    needs sales taxes to grow in order for the citizens to have their fire and police protection.

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  27. The city manger is growing Expenses, not income. She just hired Three more fully time employees for a cost of $00,000. What the heck is she thinking?

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