Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participant(s).
Last night we heard the City Council advocates for what would be a state leading 12% UUT proclaim that there was a tremendous outpouring of support for their utility tax position. Evidenced by a gathering of residents held last June at the Sierra Madre Fire Station. With many there in attendance apparently confessing their previous anti-tax sins to Father Gene Goss, and swearing that they would never ever do it again.
And somehow this strange comedy we're describing here is supposed to not only invalidate the results of two official UUT elections, but now also justify a third.
Which is nonsense. I was at this event and it was the same old pro-tax Civility Party crowd that always shows up when asked to do so. With Brother John Buchanan himself there to shake each and every hand. All 75 of them.
Here is a picture of that gathering. As you can see, it wasn't a very well-attended event.
Yet this rather modest confab, held in a garage and heavily populated with city employees, is now somehow supposed to overturn the results of two legitimate elections where many hundreds of people cast ballots against utility tax increases. Twice. No matter what scary scenarios had been created by the usual suspects.
Like I said, the tactic is called astroturfing. A contrived and carefully controlled scenario meant to convince the gullible there is actual popular support for something that, in reality, is mostly backed by 3 City Councilmembers, City Staff, and the municipal employee unions.
Especially the cop union, which heavily supported John Harabedian's campaign for City Council. To the point of even breaking applicable California election laws by appearing on a political postcard in uniform.
In a democracy elections count. The people of Sierra Madre twice voted to lower their utility taxes to 6%. Compared to that an event bum rushed by several dozen folks from the big tax crowd, happy they could yet again push for UUT rate increases, is utterly irrelevant.
The three people on the City Council peddling this absurd nonsense should be ashamed of themselves.
Comedy of Errors: How Sierra Madre Failed to Hit its Latest State Mandated Water Conservation Number
Here is an interesting succession of emails (etc.) that eventually led to the truth about why Sierra Madre failed to hit its water conservation goal earlier this summer. First off here is the current notice on the City of Sierra Madre website. It blames you, of course. City Hall is never wrong, except when it is. Which is often, though they never admit to it.
Well, OK. And maybe City Hall could do better as well. Maybe a whole lot better, as you will soon see. Here is an email from a resident that asked what I thought was a pretty insightful question.
"On the city's website they state that we did not meet our water saving requirement. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page (Mod: see below), Sierra Madre is listed as one of the cities that didn't file a report. So how does the city know this?"
Very good point. Here is what City Hall's inability to file its water reduction mandate numbers on time looks like on the state water report (link).
If you follow the link above you can see how all of those other cities are doing. Apparently much better than that conservation number Sierra Madre failed to turn in on time.
Wild, right? So the City of Sierra Madre failed to submit its water use state mandate number when it was supposed to do so. Could that be because they knew it would cause trouble them a lot of trouble with Sacramento? I asked one Councilmember that question, who then assured me that while City Hall did do the report, somehow someone failed to send it in on time. And yes, the city did come up short with its water conservation goal.
However, our perceptive and Solomonic Sierra Madre resident wasn't about to stop there. Keenly aware of that large rash of recent water main and pipe leaks in town, she then fired off the following email to Public Works Director Bruce Inman.
Mr. Inman: Do all of those water leaks count against us in our conservation numbers with the state?
Here is Bruce Inman's answer:
So there you have it. The failure to meet the state's water use conservation mandate number might not be your fault after all. Despite all of the gratuitous finger pointing on the City of Sierra Madre website.
So here is my question. When should the city start fining itself?