|Things are tough all over|
When is the last time you saw actual news in the Mountain Views News? Or on SierraMadreNews.net? Just about all that is being published these days are City Hall press releases, regurgitated verbatim like they are received wisdom from a place on high. Kind of lazy of them in my opinion. Covering the news around here becomes a more unique and lonely job every day. Nobody wants to put in the work anymore.
So here is what we have for you this Christmas Eve. John Harabedian, John Capoccia and Bill Tice have all drawn papers to run in the City Council race. This election, which takes place next April, is already over. Nobody else will run this year.
Bill Tice will enjoy the biggest vote totals of his political career as some residents cast protest ballots for him over the utility tax issue. He'll still lose of course, but not by quite as much as usual.
Even if there were candidates willing to take on incumbents John Harabedian and John Capoccia, it wouldn't have been easy. Both would be very hard to beat because of their support for the building/water moratorium. I am not sure if this was by design or it just happened that way, but by supporting preservation in Sierra Madre they effectively guaranteed their re-election. This while also neatly splitting the utility tax increase and slow growth development issues.
Until now those who successfully opposed UUT ballot initiatives could count on the support of slow growth advocates because they shared a common enemy. The tax hike devotees of the past (Nancy Walsh, John Buchanan, Josh Moran and Joe Mosca) were also big development advocates.
We no longer have a situation like that. Instead UUT increase supporters on the City Council and slow growth advocates are on the same page in regards to mansionization. Effectively dividing what had lately been a particularly potent political coalition in town.
This has a couple of unfortunate consequences. The first being that nobody feels particularly compelled to run against the incumbents. The city has already been saved from mansionization, so that issue has been taken off the table. Or so a lot of folks are pleased enough to believe.
Personally I suspect this might have been a calculated "divide and conquer" strategy on the Two Johns part, and once they are safely reelected their minds might change on the development issue. There is a lot of money in development impact fees for this city, and these two Councilmembers, both of whom supported the last two successive UUT increase measures, might be thought of as having an interest in money.
And you do know that both are capable of "changing their minds," right? As an example, just look at Capoccia and his artful flip on the UUT issue.
In order to be effective a potential challenger would have needed to start campaigning at the beginning of December. It would have taken at least $15,000 to get traction, and this insurgent campaign would still have needed to hope Capoccia ran a poor campaign.
Another effect of the lack of any City Council challengers is to shift all the big interest away from the City Council race and place it all on the ballot initiatives. That is where the real action will be in April.
If the incumbents run unopposed (Eagle Bill does not count except as a protest vote) Harabedian and Capoccia will then be able to use their campaign war chests to help push for the UUT increase. Thus achieving the real priority at City Hall, continuing to bleed the city dry in order to fund Sierra Madre's massive CalPERS exposure.
If the UUT is raised per a decision of the voters, City Hall will then try and limp along with the Police Department and run up even more massive pension debt. If the UUT is not raised they will be forced to go with the Sheriff's Department.
Only after that bleeding has been stopped should the voters even begin to think about raising any of their taxes. And then only to repair the water infrastructure problems caused by years of incredibly poor city decision making. Or perhaps even outright corruption.
Remember, if the City Council goes with the LASD they would do so without the decades of pension debt overhang that could eventually drive this city into bankruptcy court.
Here is how it would need to be done.
Step 1: No on the UUT increase measure. No on that abhorrent and destructive Cop measure.
Step 2: Go with the LASD and use the $800,000 in savings to help balance the city's budget.
Step 3: If the voters should then decide to raise taxes in order to pay down debt and make desperately needed infrastructure improvements, they will be able to do so in full confidence that the money will not be siphoned off to fund retirement costs for an ineffective and very expensive boutique police department.
One this small city of 11,000 can no longer afford.
Ironically, passing a UUT measure in April could eventually put Sierra Madre into worse financial shape than it is now. An approved 10% UUT would allow the City Council to take the politically expedient path of hanging on to the Sierra Madre Police Department, effectively jacking up the city's toxic CalPERS debt exposure to levels that could cripple Sierra Madre in just a few short years.
So will the voters pass a 10% UUT in April? Probably. The lack of any real City Council race will allow high utility tax loving city employee unions and their two candidates to use all of their money to support the UUT increase measure.
I'm not sure enough people are going to figure that out.