Tuesday, January 26, 2016

City Hall Will Spend Upwards Of $10,000 To Send Out "Nonpartisan" Utility Tax Increase Voter Information

"That is a very good question. Once we contract out 100% to LA Sheriff Dept., any and all suits about police would be handled by the LASD Attorneys. Less billable hours for City Attorney Highsmith and her crew." - Reader comment

The City of Sierra Madre, like most cities from anywhere in this great land, cannot spend taxpayer dollars advocating for or against candidates, issues, or especially ballot measures asking the voters to give them more of their money. It just is not done. However City Hall, which is staffed by persons whose continued employment may very well depend upon Measure UUT passing, will be preparing supposedly nonpartisan information that will be sent out to you the public. Information that, and without showing any preferences whatsoever (or so it is claimed), will inform the voters about this ballot initiative. Here is how this is explained in the appropriate staff report (link), prepared for tonight's City Council meeting.


Seems rather dicey, right? I mean, how can it be claimed that the very persons who would financially benefit from Measure UUT being approved by the voters will be able to send out information about a tax increase without showing at least a little bit of institutional bias? And wouldn't the mere act of sending out that material itself contain at least something of a pro-tax message? After all, it does come from a government agency. In this case the very one that pushed for this utility tax increase in the first place.

Trust me, Measure UUT was not an idea that the residents came up with. They had already expressed their opinions by voting down two similar utility tax increase measures in 2012 and 2014.

But those crafty City Hall types believe they found a way around this. They used the not ordinarily all that exalted UUT Oversight Committee as its nonpartisan judge and jury. Here is how that one was baked.


However, since the UUT Oversight Committee voted unanimously for utility taxes to go up, and I believe at one point actually claimed that a state leading 12% rate would be the most appropriate one (no city in all of California has so high a rate, just so you know), their nonpartisanship might also be called into question as well. At least by this blog.

But you know, and I know, how this really goes. It is a kabuki dance permitting the employees at City Hall to campaign for the utility tax increase they feel that they deserve, and do so on the public's dime. A legal gray area that they believe nobody will ever challenge, in a court or anywhere else.

Here is how much City Hall is spending for their "Schedule of Information Dissemination," designed to convince you to vote for Measure UUT.


$10,000 to hold a tax party at the Fire Station, plus send out postcards, mailers, social media campaigns and flyers. About as nonpartisan as a high school cheerleader, right? But the UUT Oversight Committee said it was OK, so there you go. How could anyone ever challenge that?

Tonight's City Council meeting starts at 6:30 PM. The "cops beating feet" agenda item alone should be more than enough to keep you amused and happy for hours.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

86 comments:

  1. I am trying to work up the stomach to attend tonight's meeting. I don't know whether I can stand to listen to the city council members or Aguilar. They really aren't that amusing. Also, I thought I read that there was a member of the UUT that voted agains the whole thing. I could be wrong. Will anyone other than the regulars attend the meeting? Does anyone in the whole 3 miles of Sierra Madre care enough? I guess we'll see by the large numbers fighting to get in? Will the police show up to argue their pathetic view point? Will I get ease drop on a policeman talking to a citizen outside, saying he would just retire if thins go south for the department. I know it was dark, but he really didn't look old enough to retire. How much time do you have to spend for benefits? Loyal bunch, our police!

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    1. I'm watching it online tonight. Don't know how much are going to be joining me, but don't forget us who watch these meetings on youtube and live streaming.

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  2. Once again, the tax paying citizen gets to pay for the noose that will hang him.

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  3. The City Knows BestJanuary 26, 2016 at 5:20 AM

    You people are, how shall I say this, idiots,

    Applying the council's logic this pro 66% tax increase campaign run by pro tax increase city employees under the supervision of our pro tax increase council - aka sponsors of the tax increases - will not cost the city $10,000. No, it will reduce city costs by $2,500.

    It's right there in black and white, with a line going through the second $2,500 post card, I wish they would have added a second post card line item so we could have saved $5,000!

    This sophisticated accounting methodology is how our "fact" driven city council can claim it has cut costs by $2 million when, in fact, general fund expenditures are up by $1.2 million over the last three fiscal years.

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    1. You can hear Mayor Capoccia now. "So do we need a second postcard, or should we save the $2,500?"

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    2. We saved $500,000 at my place. We recently proposed buying a Winnebago Ellipse Ultra but then, after about a week of serious discussions, decided against it. Now we just need to figure out how to spend all of that money!

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  4. Here are some facts to share with your friends and neighbors:

    1. Police services consume 47% of our general fund more than any other city in the valley

    2. This disproportionate police spend is a weed that crowds out spending on parks, the library and seniors. Our council excuse me, the sponsors of the 66% tax increase, is afraid to tackle this police spend.

    3. The council is preparing to hand the entire $1 million tax increase to the police union to "solve" the SMPD staffing "crisis." The union's council will make sure that overs.

    4. In three years the council will be asking for the 12% uut tax rate that the clown, I mean sheriff's proposal committee believed necessary to save our police department.

    The sheriff - like Gary Cooper in High Noon - Is prepared to solve all of these problems by providing 20% more patrol hours for 20% less money, therbye freeing up $800k a year to apply to civic improvements.

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    1. Great post Just the Facts!
      A group, maybe Preserve Sierra Madre shoudar do our own mailer.
      That should take care of any bull City Hall wants to throw at us....Voters listen to Barry Gold more than City Hall wonks.

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    2. Should Preserve Sierra Madre get involved in this fight, I'm taking my sign down. And didn't Barry advocate a 9% UUT?

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    3. I did advocate a 9% UUT and I wanted the extra money to be used for replacing the 7 miles of corroded water pipes and I wanted a sunset in 5 years to go back to 6%.

      Barry Gold

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    4. 7:03 I wasn't aware Preserve Sierra Madre was against the UUT? Are you making things up again? I thought they wanted to preserve Sierra Madre not destroy it.

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    5. The reason Sierra Madre needs to be preserved is the long line of bad city council members that ran it into the ground. Bart Doyle, John Buchanan, Doug Hayes, The Ostrich, No Show Joe, , Enid Joffe, Cray Walsh, Josh Moran, the list goes on and on. Nothing to do with utility taxes, more to do with basic humanity and community pride. Something none of the losers listed here ever possessed one speck of ...

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  5. The Koerbers don't live here anymore. Who is going to run the "NO on UUT" campaign? The Tattler alone is not enough.

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  6. "any and all suits about police would be handled by the LASD Attorneys. Less billable hours for City Attorney Highsmith and her crew". Now I'm not an authority on this stuff, but also, doesn't that mean Sierra Madre would pay for LASD to handle ALL their suits against them, if we switch to LASD? and they must have a lot more suits against them because they are considerably larger. Just saying, something to considered that hasn't been $$ quantified.

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    1. All part of the deal. Sierra Madre would no longer be vulnerable to lawsuits from the police officers who love us so much they're leaving.

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    2. That's included in the contract rates. When you pool together dozens of cities to pay legal, the rate is lower than paying the city attorney and the city's insurance to negotiate settlement. Way lower, too.

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    3. 6:21 You seem to be quoting an anonymous reader comment as fact,then you demean yourself by saying your not an authority then follow with a question? I don't think you have any idea what the reality may be. I assume you and the anonymous reader are one in the same and you are quoting yourself. You make a lot of assumptions based on nothing.

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  7. A general rule of thumb is, what ever the city manager and city council members harp on and cry about 'we need' or else is a good indicator they are all up to NO GOOD and have over spent their allowance. Trust your instincts and avoid bad advice from city government official's.

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  8. Something to think about. The proposed deal with Arcadia PD for $40,000 is a low number. Expect lots of overtime at $100 per hour rate. Especially for DUI cases that happen after 2am and can take several hours to process, transport the driver, tow a vehicle and prepare a police report.

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  9. I doubt that the City Council will move to bring the Sheriffs here. They lack the courage to do the right thing. Just like all the others.

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    1. The lack of funds to pay for a boutique police dept and to pay for Platinum Pensions will focus the City Council's attention.

      Having to spend prudently tends to help in that regard.

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    2. Both can be taken off the backs of the residents by hiring the LASD. Doing that would free up plenty of funding for things like the Library, water infrastructure, sidewalk repair and tree trimming. There is a solution. Let's see if the City Council has the courage to make it happen.

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  10. Dear Mod,

    There was one UUT Oversight/Revenue Committee member that did not support the Committee's recommendation to the city council to place a UUT Measure on the April ballot with a rate of up to 12%. That member was me.

    Respectfully,

    Barry Gold

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  11. Tinkering with the UUT isn't going to fix the problem - not for the pro nor the anti UUT sides. The problem is just too big for a simple fix by altering UUT rates up or down.
    imho ,the problem isn't a single issue like absurd Policing costs, ridiculous Librarian pay+benefits . These problems (like the water issue) are created by incompetent management,weak or biased oversight(CC are you listening?) and greedy City employees.How will any specific UUT rate solve that mess?
    Dickering about these problems one by one is divisive for the Community and will take for ever to 'solve' each and every issue. It is like trying to pick out the bad bits of a rotten-to-the-core apple.
    The system is rotten to the core.There is an incestuous 3-way between the City Manager, the City employees/police and the CC. They gratify each other with our tax dollars.There is no countervailing force of reason or fairness nor honesty.
    In short ,it is a Scam.
    You fix a Scam by breaking it and starting over.Not by tweaking a tax rate & squabbling among ourselves.
    This too will pass but it if the Electorate does not vote on a new, more equable system of govt., outside forces will force one on us.It is called BK.
    We are already insolvent. There is noting on the Balance Sheet to raid.So what is the plan forward from here Tattlers?

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    1. Vote no on Measure UUT and force the city to do all of the things that will make Sierra Madre solvent again.

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  12. I was looking at the San Marino website. What a joy! I know their tax base is bigger, etc. but they have managed to put a lot of money away. Makes you wonder.

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    1. San Marino Police are paid for by a property tax assessment, as well as the library. Something Sierra Madre should start planning now to go on the ballot in 2018 if everyone is so gung-ho about our own police. We would then not need a UUT.

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    2. Sure does make you wonder

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  13. If one of us tried to put together a brochure against the UUT it would cost. It would not be as glossy as the city's. Any suggestions on how to go about this?

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    1. I would wait until the city's mailed tax propaganda comes out and then do a flyer pointing out its errors and biases. Then challenge them on the spending of tax money on an illegal political mailing.

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    2. It must be delivered the day the absentee ballots arrive. The absentee ballots decide elections in this city.
      A good telephone tree is helpful too.

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  14. Will it tell the amount that is paid to CalPers?

    A citizens FACT needs to go out.

    What is the cost of Staff time?

    Remember it took 700 hrs of staff time for the Mt Wilson Trail Race.

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    1. Good point. There are no "charge back" costs in the staff report. Are they doing volunteer work on this because it is an important cause for them?

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    2. The city probably views it is an investment. They're hoping to see some handsome future financial gains.

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    3. City Hall is so full of crap.

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  15. So let's empty it out a bit?
    Try the minimalist City Govt they use in a couple of places in Silicon Valley ? Mentioned in Tattler recently

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  16. in all honesty, its rather sad that our PD and paramedics are so underpaid. (side note: have you guys seen our shiny new paramedic ambulance? that thing is beautiful) ...but yeah, i dont think SMPD is disloyal, i just think they are guys just trying to stay employed and saw the LASD writing on the wall.

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    1. Total SMPD comp packages of nearly $150,000 are underpaid? Wow. Can I have your job?

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    2. If city hall jobs were thrown open to the public the line of applicants would extend all the way to Pasadena.

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  17. I hope Heather Allen will be at the meeting and rake them over the coals.

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  18. 9:27 ..... It's a lot easier to save money when your police officers aren't shooting the public in the back. Those lawsuits cost money.

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  19. "Sierra Madre, where no one gets shot in the back between 6pm and 6am." Nice ring to it, no?

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  20. There must be some kid award tonight. Once they get their award the room will be empty. How typical of Sierra Madre.

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  21. The UUT over site committee purview is not to design and recommend the UUT propaganda.
    Their only charge is to review how the UUT money was spent.

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  22. Capoccia says he gets a lot of feedback and they want more. 7500.00 on table. Passed unanimously. Includes social media.

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    1. I wonder who those people are, who don't feel they have access to information. New to town? Need directions to the library, to peruse city records, or spend a little time in city hall?

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  23. $7,500.00 of our money used to advocate for the increased taxes city hall wants from us. Quite a hustle.

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  24. Can't wait to receive my four pages of propaganda.

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    1. People are not going to read four pages....it'll be lucky if they skim the first page. What a waste of money.

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    2. 7:23, the council as a whole bent over backwards to make sure you knew that it was NOT advocacy, just fact. Yep.

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    3. Sure. I believe them. No, really.

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  25. Important municipal code stuff up now.
    A lot of hard work has gone into this, so keep a good thought.

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  26. Hutt and the rest of the commissioners have considered the rights of the property owners and of the neighbors. A win-win approach. This is just the best planning commission in total that we've had in a long time.

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  27. Goss is congratulating the commission on the upgrades - but of course he's got concerns....
    1) define public view
    2) what kind of right is the neighbor getting about views
    3) what is an unreasonable noise level
    My money is on Hutt answering with great clarity.

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    1. He's carrying water for Bob the builder. Under the guise of the sanctity of American private property rights...of course to only one person.

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    2. Goss is an irritating man.

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    3. I think he's probably a nice man who has an unfortunate habit of lecturing pompously.

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  28. Now the revisions of R-1: Mr. Hutt is here. Mr. Hutt says the PC was unanimous on this. Cleaned up mistakes, so staff, city and builders know. Looked at many different city codes. PC spent a lot of time on this. He will take questions. Goss-congratulations on report but has concern-interviews with public view-what do you mean by that-what right does this neighbor get that violates new builder.view will be a judgement call-looking for things that are adverse-Goss-give mean example. Mr. Hutt does. A tall house blocks the view of mountains. You can have 2nd story, just don't block the view. Goss-several private views on any street how do you justify this on behalf of new builder. Goss obviously thinks they have the right to build what they want. Capoccia-block of mostly 2 stories, 1 house that isn't. The views are blocked. How do you work around this.

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    1. Hutt gave a great answer to that problem - yeah, the last house to go to a 2nd story gets to do that.

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  29. This is what it takes to protect a town from over-development.

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  30. Capoccia says well written there will be challenges and debate, people can appeal to CC. We have check and balances. Elaine is now officially called city hall bobble head,

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  31. Capoccia is making clear and positive summary remarks.

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    1. He is good on preservation, and I'm grateful.

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    2. He was also good on utility taxes. Then he got elected.

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  32. 2 positive public speakers & that's it! Wow. It's a big deal, and I don't understand why the development community isn't there with pitchforks. Go figure.

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  33. Goss is making a last ditch effort to argue that your neighbor has no rights compared to you. But he is going to agree.

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  34. Harabedian should just go ahead, vote yes, and stop the grandstanding. You can always tell a politician, huh?

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  35. Once reelected Harabedian will attempt to gut all of this.

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  36. woo-hoo!!!!
    Now a bunch of other cities should copy us.

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  37. "Full fee recovery." Translated: Your taxes no longer buy you anything.

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    1. But we will continue to increase your taxes at the same time.

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  38. EMS dispatch fee. 64,000 per year. Helps defray cost of calls that don't get transported. Elaine-fee 277.88? Not sure what she said. Harabedian-if you're on subscription don't have to pay. Delmar-how many calls do you get? About 200. Goss-modest relief to general fund-how much is general fund relief-helps with deficit problem. Elaine-yes. Arizmendi-how many subscribe? Chief:about 400. Barbara Klein-if you vote this in-will seniors have to give up a meal to pay for this. Should we go back to met or stay the same. Barry Gold-impose a fee-don't need to be transferred-staff presented charges for the emergency tech-these people whether transferring or sitting around watching TV-they get paid anyway. So charge the 71.00 fee for Vedugo. Harabedian-for the fee-push the 60.00 subscription. Okay with fee-also ramping up collections on various fees. Goss-agrees-get people to subscribe-Arizmendi-valid area to collect 100 % of cost-ample time to advise citizens to subscribe. Delmar-1st concern was cost-calls when people refuse to go to hospital. Calls not needed. Capoccia wants a waiver-Elaine says keeping track another level of work on very small fire dept. staff. Elaine says you can do the fee gradually by year; postcards to tell people about the subscription.

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  39. Why do we pay taxes? Capoccia says we are in debt and must recover costs. So, can I stop paying taxes if I call and ambulance and don't want to go-as long as I pay my 277.88?

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    1. You are now paying twice for many city services. First with your taxes, and then with fees. Hopefully the city will never figure out a third way to charge you for the same thing.

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  40. Boring stuff from Inman about signs for traffic. We actually paid an engineer to tell us where signs and crosswalks should be?

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    1. That would mean Bruce would actually have to make a decision and take responsibility for it. Bruce never does anything without getting some paid backup first.

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    2. Can't even put up a stop sign without hiring a consultant.

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    3. There are State and Federal laws and regulations about stop signs, honest. Bruce can't make that decision on his own even if he wanted to or was qualified to. Anyway, the council overruled the consultant and are willing to take the chance of a law suit because of the stop sign.

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  41. I hope these kids in here aren't policemen's kids. I don't have an agenda, so I don't know.

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  42. Kids are here with parents about needing signage on Mountain Trail. Students will now speak. From Sierra madre middle school. Kids almost got hit by cars.

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  43. What happened to the cop item?

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    1. Capoccia took the cop item off the agenda to give the Arcadia City Council a chance to vote on it first, being the good neighbor he is. And, by the way, did you hear that Arcadia has quit pumping from our basin for the time being? I wonder what is up with that? Think they had their feelings hurt that Sierra Madre has accused them of something dishonest?

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