|Sierra Madre: #1 Most Taxed? Again?|
As you can also see from the chart below, should utility taxes go to a 12% level in Sierra Madre they would be the highest in California. Literally "off the chart" as no other city in this state has utility user tax rates that high (source). A 12% UUT would also further add to the reputation for financial eccentricity this city has long enjoyed.
However, enough with the facts, let's get to the spin. When City Hall wants to get its message out, the place they usually turn to is The Mountain Views News. As Sierra Madre's adjudicated paper of record it does receive taxpayer money, and therefore should be required to represent all forms of public opinion. But that is not usually the case as this paper invariably comes down on the side of higher taxes and more development.
A perfect example of this sad condition is the following article, which can be found in the MVN's latest edition. Tendentiously titled "The Town Comes Out To Balance The Budget," it cranks out a number of PR talking points that can only be described as pure fantasy. You can only wonder who the responsible public relations firm might have been.
Did you catch that? Raising taxes is now Preserving Sierra Madre.
There are a couple of other obvious whoppers in this article, and I thought it might be important to take a minute and point out the major misinformation memes. The first being that this gathering, conducted by the city with the express purpose of justifying a third attempt to raise utility taxes in Sierra Madre, and to that very highest rate in the entire State of California, somehow overturns the results of both the 2012 and 2014 elections.
Two other things that are equally untrue. I was at this gathering and the number of folks there never came anywhere close to that 250 figure the MVN is claiming. See the above picture. And rather than little lost sheep returning to the tax-me fold, it was made up of largely the very same people that supported raising utility tax rates during those two previous election attempts.
This was much more of a tax supporter rally and money driven City Hall lobbying effort than any actual discussion about reforming downtown's failed financial strategies.
City employees, who made up a significant portion of this less than immense crowd, were more than eager to share their opinions on utility taxes with residents. Which makes perfect sense. It is their salaries that are at risk.
Anything along the lines of an authentic budget discussion would have included information on City Hall pay, benefits and retirement costs. Particularly the numbers from 2014, which the city has failed to release so far. All of which was conspicuously absent from any of the handouts and displays available at this gathering, and for some obvious reasons (link).
Here is how Sierra Madre's two failed UUT increase ballot initiatives fared at the polls. Both of these screen shots are taken from the City of Sierra Madre website. The first are the vote totals from 2012.
And here are 2014's UUT ballot results.
As far as I can tell, the United States of America remains a functioning democracy, and a vote of the people is still held in far greater regard than the opinions of a relatively modest group of tax supporters that came out to chat with city employees about budget matters at a meeting held in a fire station garage.
As I have been saying for months, there is little doubt that the City Council will vote to put a third UUT initiative in six years on the ballot for next April's election.
Despite the twice voted demands of the people of this town, City Hall officials apparently lack the nerve or understanding needed to successfully cope with what the taxpayers have twice told them they need to make do with. They seem to be far more concerned about the opinions of city employees than anything the residents might have to say through their twice cast votes.
If all the city can come up with in response is spin as content and veracity free as the kind we saw over the weekend in this city's adjudicated newspaper, then they will end up being laughed out of the voting booth all over again.
You'd think that experience would have taught them by now that the worst way to get money out of the pockets of people unwilling to cough it up is tell them tall tales.
A Sierra Madre art show you will want to check out
I received the following e-mail a week or so back, and I thought I'd share it with you here.
My name is Sarah Allegra. I am a fine art photographer who moved to Sierra Madre a few months ago and I have a show running at the Creative Arts Group gallery in downtown Sierra Madre from now until early August.
The show features images from my “DreamWorld” and “Enchanted Sleep” series. DreamWorld features the magical characters who inhabit the land we visit in sleep. And Enchanted Sleep portrays what life is like with myalgic encephalomyelitis (M.E.), a neurologic disease I have and am constantly trying to raise awareness about through my work.
Both series feature elaborate props and costumes which I make myself on a shoestring budget. Several of those props and costume pieces are featured in the Creative Artists Group show.
I will be having a formal opening reception at the gallery on Saturday, June 20th from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.
I thought this new show and my work might be of interest to you and your readers. Thank you for your time! - Sarah Allegra
Here are a couple of examples of Sarah's work.
Sarah tells me that the formal opening reception at the Creative Artists Group gallery is on Saturday, June 20th from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., and that is the way to go.
Maybe I'll see you there?