Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Library, Police, Taxes and Lead In the Water

-
I got a chance to watch much of last night's City Council meeting. Not a lot of surprises. I was impressed by the passion of the Library's supporters. There are many different ways to preserve this community, and not all of them have to do with houses. I am not sure that those who want to keep Sierra Madre's homes in-line with what has traditionally been here, and folks who want to keep a locally controlled Library, are really on different pages. The instincts are similar. Library and Preserve Sierra Madre signs should be displayed together.

Like I said, the need to keep Sierra Madre free of McMansions and the need to keep a Library here are not all that antithetical to one another. There are many ways of defining preservation. The real problem is money. The Sierra Madre Police Department has made itself extremely expensive to maintain, and will only continue to up take increasing amounts of the limited funding available to a small community of only 11,000 people. Something will have to give.

In order to keep the SMPD here, and pay for things the many costly things its members feel they deserve (such as CalPERS), it will need to continue taking up huge amounts of the General Fund budget.

And this is no matter what the UUT rate might be after April's election. Even a 10% UUT, should it pass, would not be enough to maintain all of the city's services. Something that was noted several times at last night's City Council meeting. The choice now being the Sierra Madre Police Department, or pretty much everything else. Including the Library.

Here's an interesting exchange from the comments yesterday.



Here is a pie chart of General Fund expenditures from the most recent City of Sierra Madre budget. You can link to the whole report here.


It seems obvious where the lion's share of the money is going. What remains to be seen is will people recognize that the SMPD is now too expensive for  a small limited tax base community to financially maintain. And that balancing the budget without getting rid of a lot of other things first would be impossible. 

Including the Library. Which under the Level 3 reductions discussed later in the evening would stand to lose $381,000. Pretty devastating.

But apparently the city's budgetary pie chart is not quite as accurate as it should be. This from a sharp-eyed reader.

So which would you rather keep? That is pretty much what it all comes down to. Because something is going to have to go.

Lead in the water

Dr. Baribeau didn't have any satisfactory answers about this apparently new issue. Or anything else for that matter. Something Mayor Capoccia pointed out. Doctor B. blamed the lack of ready city reports and data for her to ponder. Something that sounded like a dodge since those were the kinds of things many had hoped she would produce. 

When asked by the Mayor if she would show as much initial optimism when chasing her next gig, she replied probably not. But isn't that what consultants do? Promise the moon and deliver far less?

But then the discussion last night on water didn't provide very much in the way of useful information. I guess we can kiss that $50,000 good bye and just wait for the rains to come. Hopefully significant rains. There never really was any other solution.


This month's fix du jour to the city's water problems is apparently spreading SGVMWD water, which will then somehow percolate down into the city's aquifers. How much of that water will actually get to where it is supposed to go seemed to be anybody's guess. The ground is pretty dry right now. 

So why do it? I don't really know. Will it work, or is it just one more ineffective solution that will result in nothing more than more wasted time?

 One additional upshot of this being a return to using water from the Sierra Madre's own wells. Even when it is dust cleansed percolated SGVMWD water. After all, things were fine before MWD water was brought in. This also means the city would then return to putting chlorine back in the water, which is something that should trigger some memories.

The water will clear up some day, but apparently nobody knows when. In the end it probably depends on whether or not the rain consultant El Nino gets the job done. It has always been about the lack of rain. Along with the decrepit state of the pipes, which apparently will cost $40 million to replace. There never was a magic bullet, and the city was probably foolish to have hired Dr. Baribeau in the first place.

They should have known that the solutions she offered when trying to win herself a $50,000 gig here sounded too good to be true. And far too easy. In the end the magic elixirs didn't work.

The matter of additional money for Dr. Baribeau became embarrassing when City Manager Aguilar could not recall some of the information from the original contract, and then suggested a recess so she could dig it out. Bruce Inman then stated that there were only 3 meetings promised in that document, and she attended far more than that. Especially with City Staff. Thus the $7,000 debt.

The City Attorney is looking at the contract, and the fate of Dr. Baribeau's extra money will need to be decided at a future meeting. Her report was received and filed.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

67 comments:

  1. Triage. Bring in the Sheriffs, save the Library and some other things as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If we do that, the UUT sun setting to 6% will still bring in enough money to run our city.

      Delete
    2. I agree. The real priority here for at least some on the City Council is political. They want the money for big employee salaries and pensions. That is where the real power in town is. Has been for years. Unless the residents wake up to that nothing is going to change.

      Delete
  2. Support the 20/20 ProposalNovember 25, 2015 at 6:39 AM

    That police pie piece is waaay bigger than it would be if we accepted the sheriff's offer to provide 20% more patrol hours for 20% less money. Let's take back that slice and give it to the library, boys and girls sports, and senior services.

    Talk to your council people! They are lacking in courage, but are really nice!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I lost my remaining patience for the SMPD and would like to see them replaced.

      They became a scary inept PD when the didn't fire the officer who shot an unarmed man in the back and then subsequently promoted him



      Delete
    2. I was shot by SMPD for sleeping in my carNovember 25, 2015 at 3:53 PM

      Q: Where were you shot?

      A: In the butt-ocks.

      Delete
  3. 59% of the General Fund goes to safety services.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. and for what?

      I'm not satisfied so I'm voting NO on the UUT

      no amount of PR spin from city hall will convince me to change my mind

      Delete
  4. Support the 20/20 proposalNovember 25, 2015 at 7:12 AM

    The city pie chart is wrong. The 15/16 police expenditure as stated at page 11 of 78 is $3.9 M against total general fund expenditures of $8.3 M. In America that is 47% - not 41%. It stays at 47% for 16/17.

    Maybe it would help our budget situation if someone on staff could do arithmetic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course. They're too busy for accuracy.

      Delete
    2. Does this 47% include the cost of the Cal Pers pensions? How much of the city budget goes to cover just that?

      Delete
    3. they went to the Susan Henderson's School Of Fact Checking

      close enough, print it

      or make it up

      Delete
    4. I think the city uses Common Core math.

      Delete
  5. The FIRE department is NOT leaving. Even if the Sheriff's come, the P. D. goes, the Fire Dept stays! Please stop using the Fire Dept as a scare tactic!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. Only the Library can be used for that.

      Delete
    2. How true, and they have been saying that for years! Funny how when the outsource word was mentioned, a way to keep the library going suddenly was discovered. Imagine that...hmmm?

      Delete
    3. The strangest things just suddenly pop up. Lead in the water for an example.

      Delete
    4. That was weird last night.

      Delete
    5. frantic tactics like during Measure V when we were being warned that a "big box retailer" was moving into SM and destroy the city

      a simple call to that retailer and they confirmed that they were never looking at SM

      still the same group spreading the same BS

      Delete
  6. Looks like the seniors still have to bail out the kids, tax the elderly, reduce safety services but keep that library open for all the out of town kids. We know there are not enough kids in a town of only 11,000 to justify a library that pays the librarian $157,000 a year. Looks like the users of the library are not too smart as they insist on I want, I want, me, me me, screw the rest of the town, IGM.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the libraries everywhere are on their way out. Obviously they are institutions that have become obsolete, except as places to offer computers to those who need them.
      That said, it's okay to me to keep a quaint little old thing like that going - because it is not taking the majority of the tax money. That distinction belongs to the police, and we continue this frivolous, wasteful behavior year after year.

      Delete
    2. you think it's bad now, a few years ago John Buchanan was working behind the scenes and trying to double the size of the library, I guess to get a wing named after him. He used the original UUT push to seek funds for a new library building.

      I was willing to name a urinal after him

      Delete
    3. As long as Buchanan's picture was inside it.

      Delete
  7. The reason the Fire Department is not leaving is because it's a bare bones operation. PD gets what it wants and the FD works with minimum everything. Who saves the most lives, you got it, the FD, who spends the most money you got it the PD. What I can't figure out is why they not only kept the cop who shot the guy in the back but ended up promoting him. Oh, and how much did the victim get paid off??? $$$$$$ We sure have a great administration in this town, a laughing stock of the valley that I use to say with pride that I lived in Sierra Madre.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Fire Department should contract out to Cal Fire. You would get better trained fire personnel, better equipment and a huge cost savings not having to pay the CALPERS. Pismo Beach has done it for years and are quite happy.

      http://santamariatimes.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/pismo-renews-contract-with-cal-fire/article_212d8bba-7e54-11e2-aab1-001a4bcf887a.html

      The only reason not to do it, would be if you are worried some of the nepotism based hires would not be able to cut it at Cal Fire

      Delete
    2. Agreed.
      So much of this sentimentality and bias about the FD ,Library, heasley Field comes from people who are ignorant of the financial situation.Notice how they never acknowledge the dire situation we are in,nor propose any alternative.They just want their sacred cow protected - at the expense of everyone else.Not very civic minded.

      Delete
  8. Sierra Madre will have good water again one day, when the climate changes, and we stop being connected to the bad stuff?
    But for now we have lead, discoloration and heaven knows what else. Is that the situation?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Going back to our own water will not do much good. The water pipes are now ruined. They have to be replaced before our own water will be good.

      Delete
    2. MWD water was a $40 million dollar mistake.

      Delete
    3. We keep citing "lead" but nobody has an exact concentration to offer,nor any info on how localized the lead may be within the city.
      So are the lead levels above any specific safety limit yet?

      Delete
    4. The problem with lead, is there is no safe limit. Any amount of lead at all is a problem. Per the CDC: "No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. And effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected." So if there is lead in our water, in any amount, that is a very big and very scary problem.

      Delete
  9. Maybe city staff should look into contracting out fire services to Cal Fire, they get the fat CALPERS pensions too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pay any county taxes lately? Property taxes perhaps? Then you are already paying for them.

      Delete
    2. Then why pay twice to have a city run fire department? Why not cut the safety budget expense by more than 50% of what it is now to support other services and programs?

      Delete
    3. One word answer- Sentimentality.
      FD is just another sacred cow that we pay twice for. Once to the County and then again to the City. And we elected people time and again to make that foolish choice for us.
      The [problem is not the budget,SMPD,the FD -it is the CC ! They approve the funding.

      Delete
    4. If we didn't have the FD who'd serve us beer during the 4th of July?

      Delete
    5. Actually, it's been the moms and dads of all the Little League Baseball teams who have been manning the beer garden for several years now.

      Delete
    6. I always has a problem with Little League serving beer. Something about the example to the children, etc, etc.

      Delete
    7. Age discrimination.

      Delete
  10. The $800,000 dollar savings on the surface more will follow since NOT all expenses are shown to the public for SMPD along with CalPER savings will be a start in repairing or keeping pace with water pipe leaks throughout Sierra Madre.

    ReplyDelete
  11. 8:00am, Sierra Madre Fire Department has done a fantastic job with the money they are given, and cheaper than any where else. This town has its priorities mixed up, Sheriff for the PD and better support from city hall for the FD. You wonder why city hall never mentions the FD is because they know they are getting a deal. SMFD is run well and has never shot anybody. The Paramedics are being paid minimum wages of something like $10.50 hr. any cops being paid that little, doubt it. We should have the FD running the PD. City hall has not done right by the tax payers, it's a sad situation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very nice but you missed the part about us paying twice for the service - see comments above.

      Delete
    2. You can't have it both ways - If you are going to cut one branch of public safety, you should cut the other one as well. Paramedics are NOT being paid minimum wage, and if employed by the city, they are part of the CALPERS system.

      Greedy firemen will be more than ready to start asking for more money once there is more available once the PD is outsourced. Want the library? Want the pipes fixed? Want the fields fixed up? Want a senior center? Etc..

      The simple fact of the matter is CalFire personnel are better trained, more qualified and are able to provide a higher level of service to the community. This includes up to date disaster planning and direct access to a vast amount of resources and equipment available at the state level. The unfortunate reality is many fire department personnel are relatives of other fire members and/or city employees. Its a cake job, and if forced to meet the higher standards of training required by the state, many would not be able to keep up. For the ones that do, there would be even more pay available to them.

      CalFire would be a win-win for the city just as much as the Sheriff. More service, more highly trained personnel, better equipment - with no future CALPERS fees or employee overhead. Once you gut public safety, insurance rates for the city also drop, as public safety (Police and Fire) have the highest average workers compensation claim rates. Heck, they will even leave the city logos on the trucks!

      Delete
    3. I disagree about your assessment of our Fire Department. Also CalFire is not cheap.

      Delete
    4. It's still cheaper than having your own fire department, and having to pay the pension expenses of the fire department employees who are paid to sleep, wash trucks and do the occasional business fire inspection. You assert the fire department saves more lives, however usually it is the Police department who arrives on critical medical care calls first, and are usually the ones who provide the initial critical care. When was the last "3 Alarm fire"? Probably only in a pot of chili made down at the fire house.

      I'm just saying if you're going to support a cut to Public Safety, do it across the board. You can bet your bottom dollar if the budget for police services go down, the other departments will be more than happy to find a desperate need for the new available money in the general fund.

      There are reasons many cities are going to Cal Fire, just as there are many reasons cities across the state are moving to become Sheriffs Department contract cities. The largest being the almighty dollar. If the city asked for a similar proposal from Cal Fire, the overall long term costs would be lower.

      Yes Cal Fire is not cheap, but neither is the Sheriff.

      Delete
  12. The Sheriffs are a done deal. Watch.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Dr. B had a contract. If she wanted to get paid for her fruitful extra sessions, she should have had a change order or addendum to the contract. No change no $$$. This is a volunteer city.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank God Nancy "I put you in and I can take you out" Walsh is gone so we volunteers can get back to saving the City thousands, or we'd be in even more financial trouble.

      Delete
    2. I miss Josh. OK, maybe that's the beer talking. Maybe I don't miss him.

      Delete
  14. Choosing the Sheriffs would be the logical and prudent decision, but I don't believe they will do that.
    Last night, the C.C. passed the Police Recruit item costing $37,000 ...one recruit per fiscal year. Didn't the Mayor wish he could have another recruit? $$$$$ So why are we talking police recruits when the Sheriffs Dept. is the money saving way to go?
    Has the C.C. already decided on selecting the Police?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Utter BS.

      We are paying overtime to a few officers so they can pad their CalPERS numbers and we have some with part time.

      The vote for a recruit might just be symbolic but it makes zero business sense unless it's going to do away with overtime

      won't happen - we are getting screwed over by the public sector pension system which has zero accountability and zero check and balances

      Delete
  15. We must have the dumbest city council in the entire state, just ask the city manager!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I agree. Sheriff's are a done deal but not until we get the " Buchanan" tearing of the hair and moaning, that will be mimicked by Harabedian, Goss, and Cappoccia.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lack of $$ will expedite the LASD decision. Just watch.

      Delete
  17. Flim flam Inman should be fired. The whole leaky pipes boondoggle was on his watch. The $50,000 spent on Dr. B is a joke!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The city council at the time she was hired wanted an easy solution. Compared to what really needed to be done $50k was cheap. Dr B played them like a fiddle. Last night happened so the CC could save some face.

      Delete
  18. Here is how I see it:
    The state is coming down on S.M. because we have not cut our water usage enough. City Hall knows the main culprit is the old infrastructure/leaky pipes. They are terrified of huge fines and no money. Intervention solution,....start using our water and hope that action cuts down on further corrosion of the pipes until they can start replacing with new pipes. Remember City Hall always takes care of themselves first, not the residents.

    ReplyDelete
  19. 8:15,
    I do not believe that libraries are on their way out. They are part of Agenda 21 and will serve a designated purpose in the future. The goal of many cities is to build a new library. Didn't Monrovia build a new library recently? If they are on their way out, why invest in a new costly structure? The same with Sierra Madre. How badly did they want to construct a new library? When time allows, you might want to Google , Agenda 21 libraries and see the future plans for city libraries. I think you will be very surprised!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lbraries are over except as places to get online.
      Or are you not faimiliar with the ability to access anything ever written on the internet?

      Delete
    2. Agreed. Curious if our library contains a single book that I couldn't download from my phone in under 30 seconds. Children's events like story time are valuable, but the surrounding Pasadena libraries run circles around ours for that. We're paying for people's nostalgia, plain and simple.

      Delete
    3. Oh my, what would Ray Bradbury say? You don't have to burn books, just Delete, Delete, them!

      Delete
    4. Or put them out in the Library back parking lot.

      Delete
    5. I am finding it very interesting to watch the transformation - a beloved, honored and honorable institution resisting its end. I am an ardent, lifelong fan of libraries, but think it's beyond foolish to not recognize how they are the unintended debris of the latest revolution in human knowledge.

      Delete
    6. 3:46, our library, as sweet as it is, could never have handled the amount of the written word that the smallest, clumsiest, and cheapest of our electronic devices can handle.

      Delete
    7. If you believe that Agenda 21 hasn't come to your community (library) yet, you'll think twice after you read this:

      Google: library Agenda 21

      Click the link "thecommunitariantrap.blogspot.com"

      Delete
    8. You are ok to download books provided the grid doesn't go down. Takes 3 years to make another one.....comes from China, I'm sure they will build us another one. Ha! One good sunflare or EMP (electromagnetic pulse) and we have a serious problem. Remember the Carrington incident in the late 1800's. Better make a hardcopy of your favorite books.

      Delete
  20. If you notice the Budget Pie 41% listed as costing for SMPD this of course is not the correct numbers at all more like 50% is the real cost.

    ReplyDelete