Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Last Night's City Council Meeting Really Was Special

Water use remains a big concern
I guess that is why it took place outside of the normal "every other Tuesday" order for City Council meetings.  The reason for this being there really is a whole lot that needs to be done. Very little of it easy.

Like I said earlier this week, newly minted Mayor John Capoccia has taken the reigns of the City of Sierra Madre during some very interesting times. Which isn't necessarily a good thing. The ancient Chinese malediction, "May you live in interesting times," does come to mind. The underlying suggestion being that such times can also bring much disorder and trouble along with them. Things that are always interesting, but you'd be much happier viewing them from a safe distance.

For a blog writer that seemed incredibly convinced yesterday that we are on the verge of seeing yet a third campaign to put a utility tax increase initiative on the ballot, I couldn't find much evidence of that going on last night. There have been three community outreach meetings held to date, and as far as I can tell there has been no actual mad rush of residents demanding that everyone pay more taxes in order to rescue the city from a horrible fate.

Rather the takeaway so far has been that the city should just learn to live within its financial means like the rest of us. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

There is also the way these outreach meetings have been conducted. City Hall's presentation at these confabs has now been cut to a bare bones 10 minutes. Basic information is laid out with the rest of the time devoted to hearing what the residents have to say. Nobody is just talking at them now.

Which, when you think about it, is not the way meetings with residents usually go in this town. No officials, elected or otherwise, are trying to tell people how things are, and that they'd better knuckle under or go home. Instead they're listening.

There was no real City Council tax hyping going on at last night's meeting, either. Why is that? I think there could be a new consensus developing at City Hall. Our elected officials seem to be coming to grips with the notion that raising UUTaxes a couple of points isn't going to make much of a difference.

Spending has steadily increased over the last five or so years to the point where it really cannot be financially sustained anymore. That often kicked can has finally hit the wall. The Fire Department isn't really volunteer anymore, they're getting paid. The Paramedics are still getting by on the same voodoo budgeting they've always lived off. The Police have gotten their raises and benefit boosts, though they don't seem to think it has been enough. Pension costs just keep growing.

Public safety costs are today closing in on 60% of the General Fund. Where does it stop?

Raising utility taxes 2% won't get it done. This is quite a serious new addition to the political vocabulary around here. There really is no other option than deep spending cuts along with laying off some staff. Unless you can figure out some way of convincing the residents of Sierra Madre that a 15% UUTax is a fun way to go, then there is not a whole lot more anyone can do.

It is no longer a question of whether making deep cuts is necessary, rather it is where and when they will happen. That is a question being asked at the outreach meetings.

Water

There was a lot of discussion about water and exactly how Sierra Madre is going to deal with those draconian new state water mandates. City Staff came prepared with some interesting suggestions, most of them very expensive. But none more so than Bruce Inman's idea of spending $1.5 million dollars to purchase radio meters that would alert the city to who is using too much water and needs to be fined.

The City Council was not that impressed with this idea and passed. The cost seemed high.

The question of who exactly is going to monitor resident water use and deal with lush lawned offenders in the brave new Jerry Brown world was discussed for a while. With the City Manager suggesting that she be authorized to hire a person to do this work. Current City Staff being way too busy with other more important things to handle such a burden themselves.

This suggestion quickly joined Bruce Inman's $1.5 million dollar electronic snooping solution in the circular file. Apparently staff has yet to come to grips with the idea that budgets aren't endless, and the "this is how we always did it before" mentality no longer flies here.

If you ever want to consider just how this city got into its current financial dilemma, this would be it. We have a City Staff that just doesn't want to deal with the fact that you can't just keep raising the cost of doing business here and stay fiscally afloat.

A couple of residents that I had never seen there before chastised the city for not getting its act together on water use monitoring. Jerry Brown's $10,000 a day fines for not cutting water use here 32% seemed like an important consideration to them.

Which, of course, it is.

Their solution? Have Sierra Madre resident volunteers do the job. Something that City Manager Aguilar scoffed at. Apparently you need specialized training to recognize that a yard is being watered too much or at the wrong times, or that the stuff running down the gutter and into a storm sewer is, you got it, water.

The City Council, on the other hand, thought this was a good idea. Apparently they are willing to put their trust in volunteer residents, whereas City Staff would prefer to continue its expensive habit of hiring out-of-towners, and for all possible jobs.

Another interesting moment came when Bruce Inman was asked by the City Council when all of this Sacramento water fine infamy was actually going to come down. His reply? "We don't really know that yet." Substitute City Attorney for the evening, Matthew T. Summers (link), somehow did have that information and supplied the correct answers for Bruce.

A surprise guest at the Outreach Meetings?

Jerry Pearson of Passionist Monastery development fame. His message being that if the city were to allow him and Cameron Thornton to build those 50 or so 3,999 square foot houses, there would be a huge financial windfall in development impact fees for everyone to enjoy. When asked where the water would come from, he claimed that this brace of biggish bungalows would be "water net neutral."

We have heard that one before from Jerry and the Camster, but neither has yet to explain how you do such a thing in a reality based way. Unless, of course, it is to be accomplished through the power of prayer.

New meme: The Sierra Madre "Silent Majority"

Of course, they are silent so nobody can hear what they are saying. Or if they are saying anything at all. You just can't tell yet. Apparently they are the ones who are responsible for all of those emails and phone calls to Councilman Goss. The exact identity of whom he has chosen to remain silent about.

Maybe it is the Sierra Madre Watchman. Or those wild and crazy guys from the Canyon. Gents who have never been celebrated for their silence in the past.

Hopefully they'll speak up soon.

The Letter

Here is how we discussed this matter yesterday in our meeting preview:

The other water item on tomorrow's Special Meeting agenda deals with the apparently escalating water war with Arcadia. Always a topic that excites us here at The Tattler. This time we're talking about a draft letter to the Raymond Basin Management Board about Arcadia hogging up a lot of the water it is supposed to be sharing.

Apparently all of those 5 bathroom modern family houses they been slapping up there are having a seriously large effect on Peacockville's ballooning water needs.

It is good some stuff. You can link to that and more by clicking here.

The City Council approved that letter last evening and soon it will be on its way to that Raymond Basin Water Management Board.

We can't wait to hear their reply.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

81 comments:

  1. Bruce likes the $1.5 million dollar radio meter idea because it would allow him to monitor resident water use without having to ever leave his desk.

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    1. Let Bruce stay at his desk. Get a couple of happy-to-volunteer residents involved, and the efficiancy will go way, way up.

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    2. You know, we could take that $1.5 million bucks, hire a new city manager and director of public works, and still have more than a million bucks left over for a pony park.

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    3. In all such matters the question that brings all the nonsense to a halt is "What would John Hutt do?"
      Exactly ! We need a City Manager with common sense, competence and the sincere interests of this fair City at heart.

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    4. we need to stop hiring city managers and electing Councils that select city managers based on their commitment to development and those trying to gain experience at our expense and detriment to the character of the city such as following SCAG agendas instead of what we want and voted in with Measure V and saying NO twice on the UUT rate hike request by the City Manager and pro development Councils.

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    5. Bruce and Meter salesman are under the table

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  2. So Jerry Pearson and Cam Thornton are rearing their heads again trying to push the biggest housing project Sierra Madre has seen in decades. They are going to "rescue" Sierra Madre from its budget problems with the money from the development impact fees but ruin the city in the process with more water consumers, more traffic, more pollution, turn Sunnyside and one other street into a highway, displace the wildlife - need we go on.
    But give these developers a little credit for trying to tell us how their 50 new over-sized houses will result in "zero net water use". What that means is that they will offset the water use from the 50 new houses by contributing towards conservation measures throughout the city. The only problem with that idea is that when you implement conservation measures, its supposed to save water and not just result in breaking even. So if the drought gets worse and we need to save additonal water, we've already used the conservation measures and have no where else to go to save water.....but we do have 50 more water meters and who knows how many people using more water.

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    1. Can someone answer for me me why Jerry Pearson, who lives in Arcadia, is so motivated to stick this big housing project into Sierra Madre so that Sierra Madre starts to look more like his hometown. He's been attending meetings for years trying to push this project along with Cameron Thorton. Now, do you think its possible he has some kind of financial interest in this project going through or is he doing this just for altruistic reasons. It would be nice when Mr. Pearson gets up there and starts talking to know that.

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    2. Maybe Jerry is doing some of the legwork because Robert Ho isn't available.

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    3. How can you build 50 big houses and not use more water?

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    4. The "zero net water use" is a sham. We have to take conservation measures anyway. Regardless of who pays for them, the developer or the city, you don't want the saving of water offset by the water used by a 40-50 unit housing project.

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    5. Jerry is doing this work as a service to the church.

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    6. Anytime you hear "water net neutral" you know you're dealing with a liar.

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    7. Maybe they'll be using paper water.

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    8. God help us, 7:42.

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    9. I understand 7:42 that Jerry Pearson is doing this work "as a service to the church". I'd just like to know if he's getting paid for it or has any financial interest whatsoever. The reason I ask that is that he's awfully motivated to stick Sierra Madre with the kinds of projects that you see in his hometown of Arcadia. Based on the people I talk to who know Mater Dolorosa, who have taken retreats there, who have seen the abundance of wildlife that graces the grounds, who enjoy the peace and solitude of a place that has somehow maanged to remain intact since the Passionists bought it in 1924, you just have to ask yourself how he can summon so much motivation to sell off that property. I heard from a reliable source that when they broke the news to the staff over at Mater Dolorosa that the property was going to be sold, the people were crestfallen. That would be the normal reaction of the people who know that property better than anyone. Jerry Pearson knows that property too and what it means to people, yet he is energetically trying his best to sell it off to a developer. Its very unusual if you ask me. But when alot of money is at stake, nothing surprises me any more. Quite frankly, I don't know how he sleeps at night.

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    10. simple rule for city hall

      existing residents first

      existing city business first as it pertains to existing residents

      potential residents and out of town based developers last

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  3. Let's put what Jerry Pearson wants to do in language that everyone can understand. He is saying that they will basically pay the City and the residents of Sierra Madre money if we agree to put aside our preservation efforts for this project of theirs. I don't think Sierra Madre will sell out like that. Its really a form of bribery.

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    1. In California that is what development impact fees are. A way to put a lot of money into the pockets of those who will approve your development project. Corrupt? Of course.

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    2. I think Jerry Pearson must have Sierra Madre confused with the Arcadia, the city where he lives, because in Arcadia, the City Council is for sale to the highest bidder. We also have to be careful about Ctiy Staff who usually don't live in the city and are always looking for revenue sources to enable increases to their salaries and benefits. That's the challenge for us. What to you think the new Director of Planning and Community Preservation wants to have on his resume when he eventually goes looking for a higher paid job as they all do - that he managed to preserve Sierra Madre from predatory development or that he spearheaded one of the largest housing projects Sierra Madre has ever had. That's what we're up against. The City Staff usually have a vested interest in unrestrained development like you see in Arcadia. If you then combine that impetus with a City Council, the majority of which were elected with the special interest money from developers like Mur-Sol, the Grohs and the Bowdens and wa la. The town gets sold out very quickly and Sierra Madre transforms into Arcadia.

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    3. It called bribery. They bribe you to ruin the very town where you live. If money is the sole motivation than I guess everything is for sale. Its sad and tragic but a sign of the times.

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  4. You keep putting up links, and they don't work.

    That letter is insane. Basically our well is operating at just what it will take to keep our equipment viable when the water comes back. At a certain level we won't even be able to do that. Arcadia is required to reduce pumping to some 2000 acre feet, they've reduced it to around 1000, but the water table is going done anyway. The law does not automatically force Arcadia to reduce pumping to just whatever it needs to keep its pumps operational, which is what we are asking the Raymond Basin to do. Emergency stop of all pumping out of our aquifer. Arcadia to pump out of the other aquifers it has access to.

    This is insane. No, rise in levels over the winter with reduced pumping???

    The lowered pumping levels are supposed to be sustainable. Insanity.

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    1. The links work for me. Reboot!!

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    2. Have you paid your Tattler subscription fee, 7:28?

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    3. Arcadia has to reduce their pumping, period. The Anoakia well production has to go against Arcadia's E Raymond Basin allotment. ARC needs to dial it back. Damn water rustlers.

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    4. I get a "Sorry I was unable to complete your request 'age.

      The only thing that can reduce the water level is pumping (unless I am mistaken, and tree roots go down that low?) The only one pumping is Arcadia. Unless there is some reason, like the trees, for the water to be disappearing the only one in this section of the basin is Arcadia. Therefore, Arcadia's point that their well does not pump out of our aquifer is moot, and a study would not need to be made to figure out if they have an impact. They are the only one pumping.

      I wish I understood the old agreements better. It seems insane that the old agreements would allow the aquifer to be drawn down below what our wells can operate at.

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  5. If that guy in the picture could make his head spin around he could find work as a sprinkler.

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    1. Does he have the necessary permits?

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  6. Surprisingly positive take, Tattler. Kind of refreshing.

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  7. I hope Matthew T Summers gives us a discounted hourly rate. He hasn't been out of law school for 4 years and doesn't appear to be shaving, yet.

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  8. Why is it Michael Colantuono only hires redheads?

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    1. Not accurate, 8:02.

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    2. Hello dear, How are you today? I feel like communicating with you, my name Adjamila Compaore, my pleasure with the respect due to cultivate a healthy friendship with you. I have a great interest in making new friends, my hobbies are reading, traveling, swimming and dancing. I will send you my picture in your next reply and here is my email contact for you to see who you are writing. I like you to contact me back, so I'll give you a full explanation of myself, and the reasons and the goals you contacted. Do not hesitate to write me back OK.
      Sincerely, Adjamila Compaore

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    3. Sorry, Adjamila, the Mod is taken. The good ones always are.

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    4. Adjamila, I said not on this blog, we play that on another blog

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    5. Adjamila was the runner up for the Director of Planning and Community Preservation gig. She is trying to network.

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  9. So our head water guy needed to hire backup just to answer an elementary question?

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    1. Not for the first time.

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  10. the Monastery has their own water most of it is in the north west corner on the property beyond the olive tree groves maybe they think that will supply the houses

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    1. They can't legally pump it. Keep it quiet.....

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    2. Maybe we should all dig our own wells.

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    3. All the water ultimately comes from the same source. Why can't I have my own well. Those priests up there seem a bit selfish. They want to take water out of the basin and they want to sell off that beautiful property to pay for the retirement costs for a few score of priests. No wonder religion is in trouble in America and they are losing their flock. What about the vow of poverty. What about setting an example for others? I guess after the worldwide pedofile scandal, they have lost their moral compass and lost any understanding of their mission. As Mater Dolorosa goes, so goes the Priesthood and so goes the Catholic Church.

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    4. why don't the Priests join Calpers?

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    5. CalPERS is a pretty sweet deal.

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  11. The Crawford house is being torn down. :( To be replaced by a gate house for the monestary project?

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    1. Not mine. I sold it. From what I've heard the new place will be about 500 sq. feet larger. Not what anyone would call a big lot.

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    2. Will there be a commemorative plaque noting the Founding of The Tattler?

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    3. Has the Sierra Madre Historical Preservation Society been alerted?

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    4. Isn't the Tattler house subject to the demolition ordinance? They should have to get an historical assessment done to verify the history that happened in the house by John Crawford and the Tattler. There should be a plaque and should be designated an historical monument.

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    5. Nope 9:59. It's not old enough. You can thank Harabedian for fighting the dating of the houses included in the moratorium.

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    6. He hates the architecture of the Eisenhower/New Frontier era.

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    7. Homes built during post-war Conservative Democrat or Republican presidencies are at risk. What about Cuban cigars?

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    8. All The Way With LBJ

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    9. Where are my bongos?

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    10. Should at least get an assessment from the hysterical society.

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    11. If it isn't a horseshoe nail or half-petrified donkey scat they're not interested.

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    12. 9:59......that's pretty funny, you a comedy writer? cuz' you're killin' me, good stuff!

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    13. Mod, you sound relieved to be out of that little house of yours. Got a bigger place over there in San Dimas for the same bucks, I bet. Plus a decent school district.

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  12. Repeat after me:
    More water customers will use less water
    Development is good, preservation is bad

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    1. that would be funny except that was the exact arguement from some construction Mom & Pop developer out of Duarte tried to explain to us that by adding more houses our water consumption would actually go down because the new houses won't have bathrooms or showers or pools

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  13. Maybe the monastery development will be using holy water

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    1. 9:28, why do you hate Catholics?

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    2. Not true. But I do have a problem with animists.

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    3. So you say.

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    4. No one hates Catholics, Just pointing out the hypocracy of the priests up their at the Monastery who want to sell off the property to fund their retirements. We don't hate Catholics because we point out the horrible things the some (not all) priests have done around the world which has irreparably damaged the faith well beyond just the Catholic faith. Some of these priests have lost their way. Mater Dolorosa has lost its way too. Sorry but its true.

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    5. Once Mater Delorosa teemed with Catholic familes on mini-personal retreats. On many an evening I - a St. Rita parishoner- personally prayed at the eucharistic window behind the alter at the chapel. No more. The brothers locked the place up and surrounded it with "no worship allowed" signs so that they could avoid easment claims in advance or their developmet plans. They should reverse that decision, but they won't. They want the cash.

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    6. There has got to be a better way for these Priests to retire than force us to endure the years of construction, noise and dust the building of 50 houses will cause. It is one hell of an imposition.

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    7. And after the first 50 are built there will still be room for 100 more.

      No one has though of that yet.

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    8. Think of all the extra water we'll save!

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    9. Keep the moratorium - give 'em a taste of purgatory

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  14. Mod, the UUT tax increase is coming. The council & staff or just waiting for the right time to spring it on us.

    They figure after services are cut way back (not wages) they think we will beg them to raise taxes

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    1. Well, yeah. I put the odds right now at 60 - 40 UUT3 happens. A lot of people should show up at those meetings and tell whomever from the city is there that they don't want their utility taxes raised. Respect the vote. Or two votes. I think it will have a big affect on what happens later down the road. I am sure the Sierra Madre municipal employee unions are freaking the heck out this morning. Like I said, interesting times. My guess is behind the scenes it is a war.

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  15. Whatever happened to that "Vow of Poverty " issue ?

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  16. When it comes to city government I'd like to know how we the people that PAY their salaries can take them seriously ?
    Imagine if our public servants had access to a publicly funded trust like L.A.'s DWP ...I wonder how our over burdened civil "warriors " would misappropriate them ?
    I'd love to see this city audited and I'd like to find out if we might have some issues in regards to nepotism and private outside contractors ... For whatever reason it seems nepotism Is huge problem in small city governments I'd like to be assured that Sierra Madre's government is above the fray or standard operating procedures practiced in other towns around us .
    Another question I have is who was the genius that thought it was a good idea to replace city trees that died or were destroyed in that horrible wind storm a couple of years ago with young oak trees that are now dead or dying ?
    Drought and young tree's not a great idea city government ... It's a repayable loss right ?
    Another great Chinese saying is " The fish stinks from it's head " and I believe the stink in this city is beyond rancid.

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  17. besides conversation of a natural resource as a reason, why should I conserve water or worry about the city budget woes and how it's managed? Fine me and I sue you back with the argument that while the city continues to run a massive budget geared to mismanagement of operations but a maximum pension plan that is unfathomable in the private sector?

    Here's the beauty of the pension budget for our grandchildren, they'll be paying for our current's City Manager's retirement plan from now until 2045

    I'm all for saving water but why not fix the biggest ailment to the budget first before deciding the City gets to fine us or the state when if they'd just fix the pension plan and require the public employee to be in the same retirement plans as the rest of us

    because the rest of us are paying for it

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    1. Do you mean conservation? Conversation about natural resources, we do already.

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    2. yep, there are no conversations with City Hall - just us being told why we are wrong, what we are doing wrong and how wrong we are

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    3. That is why they refuse to hire anyone from Sierra Madre for city jobs. They're just so much smarter than us.

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    4. I am stunned that you don't see the vibrancy in this.

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    5. I am visioning it now.

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