|Listen up, you.|
Sierra Madre, that little Foothill Village nestled against the Angeles National Monument (not to be confused with a National Park or Forest), has its share of problems, just like any other place. And like many cities in California these days, it struggles with money. How much can it tax people, what fee rates should it charge, and who in particular should be the big beneficiary of such citizen largesse.
In this case that would be the Police Department, which gloms up a full 40 percent of the General Fund all by itself. Let the strongest municipal employee union win.
In recent years the residents of Sierra Madre voted twice to hack utility taxes back to 6 percent. This from a theoretically California leading rate of 12 percent. The city’s citizen imposed tax cut was backed into existence in both 2012 and 2014, accomplished by rejecting City Hall generated ballot initiatives designed to extend jumbo taxes into a distant future few will ever live to see.
Now the time has come to actually make this new tax reality work, which means reducing city employee headcount and eliminating services. Nobody, of course, wants to do that, and in a series of community input budget meetings the citizens stated pretty much that.
The City Council, who should have been doing all this dirty work themselves and artfully sloughed it off on the residents instead, are happily interpreting it to mean people want a third ballot initiative to raise utility taxes. Something they are more than willing to oblige.
Of course, when this new initiative goes up for a vote next April, higher utility taxes will be rejected for the third time. Because while nobody wants to fire employees or cut services, nobody wants to pay high taxes, either. Which is when this starts all over again.
However, that is not what most people are talking about in Sierra Madre. Not by a long shot.
What they are concerned about is an extremely loud old air raid siren. One that was around many years ago, but only recently revived. It has now been spiritually merged with an emergency 2 watt AM radio station, one designed to inform residents of their odds of surviving should the end times arrive. Be it in the form of an earthquake, fire, or a spirit infestation from One Carter.
The idea is that when this bellicose horn blows residents will then rush to their AM radio sets and listen for emergency instructions. Or at least a verification of what is going down. Imagine the horror many younger residents will experience when they cannot find it on Spotify or Beats.
There is controversy, of course, and because of this horn’s great age, it must be tested every day. It is extremely loud, and some younger residents are unhappy. It turns sleeping babies into crying babies, causes dogs to whimper, and seems entirely unnecessary.
Many older longtime residents love it. They are reminded of their youth when the old horn blows, and see it as living proof that something from their salad days is still getting it done. They’re going to save the town some day.
Questions are being asked. Doesn’t “testing” this howling horn daily take away some of its emergency alert impact? If the community is hearing it often, what would make any additional blast stand out from all of the others? Most people would assume it is only another test, just like the other 365 a year. It cries “wolf!” too often.
Also, a horn that requires daily testing because of its storied antiquity might not be the best way to let folks know that they are doomed and need to make some quick peace with the Creator. It raises dependability issues. A modern horn would only need to be tested once a week, thereby retaining a true emergency novelty.
Modern siren technology would include both a battery option and solar power capacity. Things that would make it far more efficient in a power outage. The horn from days gone by requires a generator to work in an emergency.
If all civilization is crumbling about our ears, who is going to get in their car to drive downtown and crank that generator up? And what if that key person was hit on the head by a falling 2 by 4?
I’ll let you know if I find out.