|Did not wish to sign.|
Obviously City Hall is not in the least bit amused.
This is also something that flies entirely in the face of what the City Council is attempting to do. That being to raise the UUT to 10%, making Sierra Madre one of only a select few cities in California with double digit utility tax rates. Mayor John Capoccia, who began his political career in Sierra Madre as a UUT skeptic, somehow forget all about his campaign promises to oppose such unpleasantness once he got elected. John then went on to help boldly lead the charge for UUT increase ballot initiatives in both 2014 and, well, right around now.
But we've all grown used to these tales of Mayor Capoccia's utility tax flip-floppery. That is how it goes with politics and politicians, right? And many of us here do seem to have forgiven him. It's all part of being civil, I guess.
So yesterday Earl and his merry band of tax fighters were out canvassing over in Mayor Capoccia's neck of the woods, collecting signatures for that "No UUT" petition they've been working on with such a purposeful and selfless zeal.
We'll let Earl take the story from there.
"Saturday we were out walking the streets collecting NO UUT petition signatures. Sterling knocked on John Capoccia's door and, when the Mayor answered, asked him if he would care to sign. The reaction was not a good one. John said he thinks WE ARE, all of us, including your Tattler, a bunch of nuts. John was questioned on the head librarian's huge CalPERS pension, and John stated that if one gets one, then all future city employees are entitled to them. Evidently, John does not have any issues with the city being broke."
I have been called worse of course, and by much better folks. Some of the very best, actually. However, given the recent revelations about the size of Sierra Madre's massive and largely unreported employee pension obligations to CalPERS, which number in the many millions of dollars and could threaten this city's financial solvency in the not too distant future, his grumpiness did not seem very well informed.
You'd have hoped for a more refined and higher level of indignation. Then again, maybe he was upset because Earl and his petitioneering pals had just walked on his lawn. Or something.
You never really know.
So how is Earl's NO UUT petition effort going?
They do seem to be finding a fairly significant amount of people who are willing to sign. Since voter turnouts in Sierra Madre have dwindled to something between apathy and the population of the dark side of the moon, it doesn't take all of that many signatures to get an initiative on the ballot these days. Less than 300, actually.
Here are some numbers Earl has supplied The Tattler. These are as of December 10th.
I don't see how they can miss. Of course, there are various City of Sierra Madre and Los Angeles County governmental entities that might attempt to squash Earl's earnest efforts no matter how many signatures he comes up with. Attempting to take away tax money that city and county officials believe belongs to them by right is never an easy thing to do. Yes, they will get upset about it.
These government agencies have done it before, too. As those who have been following this story are certainly aware, this isn't the first petition Earl has had to carry through the cold hard streets of The Foothill Village. Last time the concerned officials shot him down for being one mere signature short. This after they'd thrown out a bunch.
I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens. But the thought of having a 10% UUT initiative on the ballot, and right next to one calling for the end of utility taxes altogether, is an intriguing one.
What if they tie? Do we then go to a 5% UUT?
Throw in the SMPD's "You Can't Fire Us!" ballot measure and things could get really interesting. Does anyone know how that petition effort is going? Anybody talking to the Buchanans these days?
Former Councilmember Don Watts on Sierra Madre's financial troubles
(Mod: Don wrote a great comment last night, and I thought I should highlight it here.)
It is obvious now as it was many years ago, that Sierra Madre as a "full" service city was not sustainable, regardless of the people's preference. We should have contracted out to the County for police services back then. (Something that would have been very unpopular at the time).
We would have had a County substation, and many of the local police would have been transitioned to the L.A. County Sheriffs. We would have had our legal liability greatly reduced, and retirement liability would have been manageable.
The notion of what a "full service city" is would have to change. The library could be a branch of the County Library system, with Sierra Madre volunteers and board ... zoning and planning services would be at the county offices.
It is a hard a pill to take, including for myself, but we need to reorganize and prioritize city services. Otherwise, we should consider bankruptcy court, where a judge will make those decisions for us.
Historically, many of these services were under County control, and that seemed to function fairly well. However, Sierra Madre's identity will stay unique, much like Altadena, we would still be able to retain much of the decision making power we have.
Good luck. I wish you all the best through the holiday season.