Monday, June 15, 2015

Spinning Sierra Madre's 3rd Utility Tax Increase Initiative In Six Years

Sierra Madre: #1 Most Taxed? Again?
The City Hall spin machine is now in full tilt boogie mode as advocates for raising Sierra Madre's utility taxes to a state leading rate of 12% begin to make claims that are not exactly accurate. Or, for that matter, even true. But that is the nature of political spin. You try to make people believe that something not exactly real does have actual validity. Claiming that the 100 or so people who showed up at a city run tax increase forum held in a fire station somehow overturns the results of two popular elections would be an fine example.

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?

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

43 comments:

  1. City Hall and City Councils never want to tighten their belts in regards to expenses and make the hard choices. It is far easier to simply reach into the wallets of the taxpayers for more of their hard-earned dollars. As always, the money will never be enough because the city government will expand to meet whatever monies are thrown at it to feed the liviathon. So we will back in the same place again a few years from now. City Hall needs to live within their means just like the rest of us.

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    1. I remember when the "temporary" 6% UUT rate was going to be plenty. Hahahahahahahahahahaha.

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    2. if the original premise of the UUT was based on a complete fabrication and subsequent attempts included misleading information, why should I believe anything that's being told this time?

      I don't.

      I'll vote NO for the 3rd time.


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    3. Yep. If the city says it I just assume it's BS.

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  2. So let me get this straight. Increasing taxes is preserving Sierra Madre? Can somebody please get George Orwell on the phone, please?

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    1. I wonder what clever boy came up with that...

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    2. Sounds lawyerly.

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    3. I may have had some sympathy for a modest increase. But the dishonesty of the City promoting a tax increase ,using public facilities and City workers time to prepare it just sticks in my craw.
      If the have an honest, valid case then make it. And we'll listen.
      The lies . distortions and deception just raise a huge red flag about their proposal.

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    4. If the City doesn't admit this is all about paying bigger and bigger CalPERS contributions (pension & medical), then their case isn't valid.

      If they DO admit it's the pension and health costs, then the support for an UUT rate hike evaporates.

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  3. It's comforting to see Arcadia is at high end of the scale-8% for electricity, gas, and water. Readers of this blog know when they're getting hosed, it does not seem Arcadia residents care. When the city started recently taxing the water, it happened without warning. After seeing the salaries/pensions Arcadia pays just the cops, it easy to see why. What's more confusing is none of the residents have a clue. Kudos to all in Sierra Madre who aware of the city finances.

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  4. Gotta love the MVN lies / spin machine. When "ordinary citizens" walk into the meeting and say "we have a revenue problem" it's just the old Harabedian/ Moran/ Goss tax me talking points.

    Talk about astroturf. It sure as hell ain't grassroots.

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  5. I am done being texed. City hall can stick all UUT up there serwer pipes. City hall must reduce salaries andvbenifit!

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  6. So when Susan Henderson is talking about "a vast majority," she means 60 people? Or 5% of those who voted against the UUT in 2014? Just want to make certain I have this right.

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    1. Susan is back to making up facts and embellishing the story to fit her position, which is to protect her legal notices revenue

      such a transparent woman

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    2. From what I've heard the Preserve Sierra Madre people are not in the least bit impressed with Susan's misappropriation.

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  7. Less than 5%. Excuse me.

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  8. city hall has mortgaged all city sewer pipes. city hall will need to stick the UUT taxes somewhere else!

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  9. And the Tattler mod saw a few folks (that he will not out) as definitely not on the "let's raise the UUT" side of town. There would be no way for S. Henderson to have an accurate count to the number, pro or con. Remember the real number is in the privacy of the voting booth next April. There is time for a lot more lies and a lot more "ah ha" moments between now and then.

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    1. Susan's counting skills are right up there with her spelling.

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    2. So nonexistent.

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    3. Henderson relies on friends and employees to edit her work. I doubt she ever sees any final copy.

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    4. Does she give her employees health benefits or a retirement plan?

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  10. E-mail blast that went out from Preserve Sierra Madre this morning:

    Dear Supporters:
    Much has been accomplished in our efforts to control development in Sierra Madre. However, our friends to the east in the Arcadia Highlands are fighting the good fight to control their neighborhood under even greater odds. The Arcadia Highlands HOA is presently in a lawsuit with the City of Arcadia after the Arcadia City Council voted to overturn the HOA's rejection of two oversized 2-story homes that were to replace the existing 1-story homes. Evidently, the same demolition and replace with McMansion fever that resulted in about 150 homes demolished in Arcadia last year has no come to the Arcadia Highlands and the residents who live there are rising up to stop it.
    Please read the email below to understand the two issues that will be discussed tomorrow, Tuesday, June 16th at 7:00 pm at City Council Chambers located at 240 W. Huntington Drive in Arcadia. Preserve Sierra Madre will be there to support our neighbors in the Highlands. Barry and Judy Gold will not only be there but speaking to support efforts of residents to maintain control over their neighborhoods from the kinds of homes that destroy the existing neighbors' views, light, privacy and value. For anybody who needs transportation to that meeting, the Golds have graciously offered to give a ride to those people who wish to attend.
    For further information about what's happening in Arcadia, go to yesterday's Sierra Madre Tattler which had the following post:
    http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com/2015/06/arcadia-councilmember-john-wuo-plays.html

    Many people felt that Arcadia was lost to the forces of over-development but, as the old expression goes, news of the death of Arcadia has been greatly exaggerated. Right now, the residents of the Arcadia Highlands are fighting back to preserve the character of their neighborhood and they have our whole-hearted support.
    Steering Committee
    Preserve Sierra Madre

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    1. Oops. here is the rest:

      Neighbors,

      Next Tuesday, June 16 at 7:00 p.m., it is important to have each and everyone of you come to the City Council meeting and respectfully request City Council reconsider their hold on zoning code updates and exclusion of the Highlands from the historical survey.

      Let them know that the majority of their constituents wants reasonable restrictions on development. There is no “silent majority” that wants to have a big, oversized homes built next to them. Limitations on square footage does not equal “death” to our property values.

      I’ll see you Tuesday, June 16 at 7 p.m. to respectfully request our City Council reconsider their prior decision and make change happen.

      Attached is a flyer you can pass out to your neighbors in case they are not on my email list.

      David

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    2. Honest question - when you say that Arcadia was 'lost', what do you mean?

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    3. Ah yes, the real existential question is "Has Arcadia ever existed?"

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  11. We have to starve the beast. No matter how much more money the city gets it will always want more. We have to vote this down again.

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  12. Doesn't take much of an imagination to see that the newly hired "Planning Director" is actually a public relations guy, hired to push out good PR for Elaine's regime. Couldn't hire a consultant, didn't want to label the position Public Information Officer because of the adverse publiciy, so she just filled a title that basically had no real responsibility because Leticia is so competent. We can look forward to many more professionally confusing releases in the future.

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    Replies
    1. I haven't seen enough of his work to comment yet, but so far? He's a schmoozer.

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    2. I want someone from Sierra Madre this time. No more out of towners with agendas.

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  13. To prove that City Hall is indeed doing some belt tightening, the Council should have considered level one cuts across the board. To pick and choose especially after Elaine said in planning they had some built-in hours just in case the departments got busy, was a give-away that some departments are not serious about cutting spending. Administration is another department that should be cut. I am for an 8%, no sunset (because expenses will never go down and Sacramento will never keep its greedy hands out of our city accounts) and level one cuts across the board. A hiring freeze in the departments who cut personnel is also essential.

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    1. I wouldn't want to vote to make the UUT permanent. Also we voted twice for a 6% UUT. Out of principle we need to stick to that.

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    2. For the past couple of decades there has never been a time when city hall was not hiring and expanding.

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    3. Everything now is being drive by the SMPD and their union.

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    4. Actually, 11:14, last time the UUT was up for a vote even the Pasadena Star News endorsed a "NO" vote because, as they stated, the City of Sierra Madre needs to keep its promise to its citizens to let the UUT sunset to 6%.

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    5. We must hold their feet to the fire on this. It isn't the money, it's the principle.

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  14. City Hall is its own worst enemy.

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  15. You want ta see some one able to manage this ciy and cut expenses. Your man is Miike Alexander. He would work for no salary and no health benefits. Mile would be pay 10% of all expenses which were cut. Let's hire mike Alexander as our new city manager / city attorney.

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  16. More taxes are NOT preserving Sierra Madre. What they are preserving is a fine and dandy lifestyle for all of our employees doing the work of clerks and making way too much money for it.

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    Replies
    1. Yes. And $160,000 a year ticket writers in blue.

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  17. There is only one left on the council who seems somewhat hesitant about a UUT tax with a sunset. The others have all gone to the darkside. Salaries will go up next year and the year after. The UUT tax won't be enough. Past city councils locked us into CALPERS for another 5 years. The only way to get rid of it is bankruptcy. San Bernardino had to file because of the police department and they are still in a mess. I was at Saturday's meeting at the firehouse and Henderson has been smoking the happy pipe again. Goss and Harabedian had their minions on display as they did at the last council meeting. Instead of a real town hall they had this elaborate, corporate, sell-a-thon masking as tables. Let's not forget the number of city employees. No one was there to answer the hard questions that a true town hall meeting would have done. You need to take the time to look at all of your utility bills and add up what you pay in monthly UUT taxes. It doesn't seem huge until you figure out how manny citizens are paying these monthly amounts. And how is it spent? Look at the warrants for each city council meeting that they all pass with little or no questioning; over 3,000.00 for kevlar vests-really? more water meters then could possibly be used. It will make you sick. Do your research.

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  18. I know this might be a "clasp your pearls in disgust " idea ... How about metered parking?
    As we are all aware Sierra Madre has It's own enclave of bike enthusiasts ... It got me to thinking one early Saturday morning as I watched one of many brightly colored spandex clad cycling gods go to the back of his Range Rover open it and procure his two wheeled titanium tigress.
    As he was doing this I noticed him wave to other brightly colored spandex clad minions ...besides denoting to much information in regards to there brightly colored costumes it meant I was going to have to park two blocks away to get my morning Starbucks fix that would most likely take only ten minutes vs. the two to three hour iron man bike ride .
    Sierra Madre are you the only foothill city that hasn't figured out a way to charge the outside recreational users of trail heads and bike ways ?
    Check out the Claremont Loop to get an idea
    of how to manage the masses and make a little money .
    Let the pearl clasping begin!

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