Monday, February 22, 2016

Is A 66% Utility Tax Increase Really Necessary To Protect Sierra Madre?


It is an interesting if not exactly honest strategy. Support Measure UUT in order to help City Hall protect Sierra Madre. Never mind that the efforts to actually get that done in Sierra Madre, from the Canyon Zoning Committee to updating the General Plan to the organization Preserve Sierra Madre, were led by residents and not an at times actively hostile City Hall.

Apparently we are now expected to believe that folks like City Manager Aguilar and Director Inman are the key players in protecting this town from such unhappy things as mansionization and a resulting property value decline. Not the likes of you.

So who exactly was it that delayed the completion of the new General Plan for almost 5 years? Or helped enable the environmental catastrophe at One Carter? Apparently today loving Sierra Madre requires that you have an extremely feeble memory.

Did I also use the phrase "not exactly honest?" The word cynical would probably apply here as well.

They have a website, of course. They always do. You can access it by clicking here. There isn't a whole lot to be found, however. How could there be? And most of the documents they do have are recycled materials first prepared months ago by City Hall. It is pretty much the same redacted nonsense found on the city's website.

But there is this moment of Orwellian excess:


Yes, the problems have both already started and gotten worse. They were also well under way when the UUT was at 10%, and have been for years. And when the UUT was at 10% nothing was done to stop things such as the severe degradation of Sierra Madre's water infrastructure. Even though they had nearly a decade of double digit utility taxes and repeated water rate increases to do so.

So how is restoring Sierra Madre's utility taxes to 10% going to solve problems that were not addressed when the UUT was at 10%, as it was for all those years? The answer is this twice voter rejected tax hike would have precious little to do with any of that. Measure UUT is a 66% tax increase designed to help deal with employee compensation issues such as this city's many millions of dollars in CalPERS debt exposure. Not fix the pipes.

In other words, it is an effort to financially reward the very city employees that helped lead us to these unfortunate impasses in the first place. The same apparatus that worked to delay the completion of the General Plan for years, and enabled One Carter and the Downtown Specific Plan, is now apparently supposed to be considered essential to preserving this town.

I was going to ask why Measure UUT proponents can't bring themselves to tell the truth. But then again, how can they? It is far too unpleasant, and nobody would ever vote for it.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

87 comments:

  1. Really? Since when has a strong central government ever increased property values?

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    1. Just because a central government is expensive does not mean it is strong.

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    2. Did somebody hire a PR firm to run the Yes On UUT campaign? Inquiring minds want to know.

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    3. A strong central government in Venezuela couldn't even make sure there was enough toilet paper in the stores.

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  2. Are Nancy Walsh and Susan Henderson leading the effort to pass Measure UUT this time as well? Is there any indication of who is saying for this campaign website?

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    1. I believe by law they would need to give some indication of site ownership. There is nothing there indicating campaign law compliance. It could be an illegal site.

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    2. I have heard the Yes On UUT campaign is being run by Martin Truitt. Can this be true? Isn't he from Pasadena?

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    3. Really? I guess Pasadena politics got boring for him

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    4. are we the least bit surprised that the information coming from the City or out so-called leaders is misleading?

      remember, the original UUT push was based on misinformation and the 2nd attempt the city sent out information it knew was slanted and misleading

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    5. Is there an indication of site ownership for the no on the UUT?

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    6. Is there any indication that Martin Truitt is behind the SierraMadreUSA.com site? (laughs)

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    7. Obviously there is a behind involved somewhere.

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  3. Nancy and Susan are not smart enough to create a web site.

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  4. Excellent article today JC.

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  5. Who is PAYING ?????? City Hall is spending our tax dollars to get more tax dollars out of us. No more taxes Please,

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  6. Residents keep saying NO NO twice now and they still keep on, feel like rape to me.

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    1. You have obviously never been raped 5:58

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    2. 7:26
      Financially Raped
      If you have lived in Sierra Madre in the last 10 years, you have been Financially RAPED!

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    3. This is a metaphor free zone.

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    4. It is metaphor free like pigs with wings. Or something.

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  7. Oh dear. The theme color of the Yes On Measure UUT campaign is Wistaria purple. Heaven help us.

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  8. It's deja vu all over again.

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    1. That old joke is so worn out

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    2. So am I. That is why I am voting NO on Measure UUT.

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  9. In every city, the budget problem always comes down to excessive salaries, benefits and pensions for the public employees particularly police and fire. Let me give you an example of the problem with the UUT and any increase in taxes. Yesterday's Star News had an article titled: "Former Montebello Fire Chief Dies at 90". I don't want to dishonor this man by mentioning his name. Reading the article he was undoubtedly a fine man, served in World War II, did good things, and was by all accounts an able Fire chief. So this is not about him and he did nothing wrong here. But here's the rub. He joined the fire department in 1950 and retired after his customary 30 years of service in December of 1979. I'm sure his pension was less in 1979 then it is today but let's use today's salaries and assume that his pension is about $250,000 per year. So from 1979 until 2016, the taxpayers were paying him $250,000 every year during his 36 years in retirement. Now keep in mind that the city of Montebello also had to hire a new fire chief who they also pay at least $250,000 per year. So now that position costs the taxpayers about $500,000 per year. Now, as is pretty common amongst our public employees, even they realize that retiring after only 30 years is too young to retire, they take a second job. Reading his obituary, this former fire chief did the normal thing and didn't retire but had two more jobs during his "retirement" from the fire department. So in this hypothetical, the person would make a pension of $250,000, probably cost of living increases each year, probably full medical benefits and then earns a decent salary on top of that. Not too shabby I'd say. Here's one solution. These guys should not be able to "retire" after only 30 years. I don't want to see him working the front lines fighting fires, but maybe he can do an administrative job within the fire department so that the taxpayers get something in return for their $250,000 or more per year. Tell me if that doesn't make sense. On the other hand, all of us stooges, can keep paying higher taxes, a higher UUT and retire at 70 or 75 to pay for all this. This is why I vote no on every tax. Even a seemingly worthy tax simply frees up more money so our public servants can "retire" at often the ripe old age of 50, take another job to supplement that pension and live the good life on the taxpayer's dime. Enough is enough.

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    1. @7:05 according to this your figures are a bit off;
      Fireman Salary in Montebello, California
      "The average yearly salary for Fireman in Montebello, California is $31,271. If you are just beginning to work a new job as a Fireman in Montebello, California, you could earn a starting pay rate of $25,753 annually. As is true for most jobs and careers, you can expect your hourly pay rate or salary to increase as you gain experience and the longer you are employed with the same employer. In Montebello you could potentially make an average income of around $36,790 after several years on the job with increased wages. When pursuing your career of choice, you should compare salaries of similar professions and factor in variables such as health benefits and potential for raises and promotions over time".
      Granted this does not include overtime and probably not benefits,so add maybe $15,000. for benefits and it's not anyway close to your extravagant claims. Also at 65 a Montebello firefighter switches from private insurance to Medicare saving the cost of health insurance to the public.
      http://salarygenius.com/ca/montebello/salary/fireman-salary

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    2. A UUT increase has already been rejected by the voters twice. This is nothing new. Also ask yourself why the SMPD are quitting in droves. Is it because they really care about this town? Some people are living in a fantasy world.

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    3. 7:49, you are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts. Look at the pay of police officers in Sierra Madre and elsewhere. The average patrolman makes over $100,000. Certainly a Chief of Police or Chief of the Fire Department makes $200K or more. I think you need to visit the Transparent California website if you think that employee salaries, benefits and pensions are not a problem. In almost every city 70% or more of the total revenues goes towards employee compensation. That leaves 30% or less for all other services - road repairs, senior services etc... Out of that 70% or more that goes towards employee compensation, usually 40% or more is consumed by the police and fire. If the point of your response is that our public servants are under paid, then you suffer from a mental hernia that probably can't be fixed by anything that I could say. More likely, you are a public employee yourself. Most people are on to you now and don't buy the lies any more. If you look at all the Municipal bankruptcies that are occurring, I can assure you its not caused by spending too much money on infrastructure repairs.

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    4. Everyone needs to read the bible relating to this issue which explains the playbook used by the public employee unions to get ever higher compensation which has been proven to now far exceed anything found in the private sector:
      The book can be ordered at Amazon and its called "Plunder: How Public Employee Unions are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation" by Steven Greenhut. If you want to work harder and retire later at 70 or 75 so that our "public servants" can retire at 50 with 90% of their pensions, cost of living increases and great medical benefits, then this book may not be for you.

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    5. Yes, this "public servants" are busy killing the goose with the golden eggs. If they keep in this trajectory of increasing pensions etc. it will ultimately collapse. And it will not be pretty. Best to deal with it now, while we still can.

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  10. It is time to rewrite the pension contracts, easy fix. Keep repeating the same thing over and over isn't going to get contracts re written. Take action now so that new police don't have the same contract. OH, and get a new city manager.

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    1. Things are repeated over and over in hopes that the government we pay for will respond. It doesn't. Rather it hires PR firms and feeds us a lot of propaganda. All of which is intended to help[ fund things as they are, and with absolutely no change whatsoever.

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    2. It Starts with the Firing of the City Manager. Without the removal of the City Manager the bloat will only continue. Our City Manager is the Sole, number one issue and problem with our city. However, the lack of City Council leadership is very concerning. How can Elaine Aguilar, still have a job! I do Not understand!

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  11. UUT money will NOT be used to fix infrastructure.

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    1. No, it will go to pay for bad employee compensation deals that the city refuses to discuss with us.

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    2. UUT money will be used to keep paying CalPERS pensions

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    3. Measure UUT is meant to help the city pay for labor negotiated contracts. The most expensive is CalPERS, but there are other things as well. Complete sellout out of resident interests. It is a small town and cannot pay at that level.

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  12. For the "price of a few sticks of gum" we can protect our property values. I'm sending gum to the city. Chew on that!

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    1. Ask the pro-UUT people:
      "What % UUT would be required to ensure the City never has to ask for another increase?"
      Let us know what they say?
      A truthful answer is : no clue but way more than 30%.
      At some stage (hopefully before BK) an adult needs to take control of this childish overspending.If they don't , BK Court will. Then tell me about Property Values.And yes, City Pensions will take a 'haircut' after BK .

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    2. A parcel tax for infrastructure follows in 2018. Measure UUT is all about honoring union contracts that city hall was insane to sign.

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  13. 8:14AM Clever. But what exactly does that mean? Are you saying the small amount of the UUT tax will protect our property values? How? This UUT will not go to the things that are needed in this city, In a year they will be asking for more and still nothing of interest to the citizens will be done. Throwing good money at a losing deal is poor management. No money=having to face the hard cold facts and learn to live within our means.

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  14. At the last Arcadia city council meeting the President of the Arcadia Police Officers Association spoke out about how new hires, since 2011, have had to pay for their own retirements. The way he presented it sounded like any issues with pensions have been solved. While his presentation was stunning, it was his attack on the measures author that left me speechless. With the exorbitant salaries, it's not surprising their dances will get extreme as they sing for their supper.

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  15. The issue is favorably framedFebruary 22, 2016 at 10:42 AM

    Well, I spent the last 47 seconds perusing the Pro UUT website.

    The entire home page is about the police department and the sheriff. there are virtually no hard budget facts to be found anywhere on any page.

    that tells me they have no bullets in their guns (I apologize for using a metaphor). this election is about the police department pure and simple. spending on the police department is like a weed crowding out public spending on infrastructure, the library, parks and seniors.

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    1. if there was a bullet in their guns they'd shoot you in the back

      good ole Officer Dead Eye Amos, he'll be the butt of jokes forever except he almost killed a person and he's a police officer with superior training except he freaked out and shot a guy

      and then gets promoted

      only in SM

      bring the Sheriff's full time

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  16. We need a city contract committee to evaluate contracts and make suggestions on saving money. People are living longer there for should work longer. When they retire the city contract should end with no further costs to the city. Unless that is done, 11,000 of us will still be paying more than most every city around. This is a simple fix for an outsider, not someone working at city hall.

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    1. Trash contract is an evergreen 25 year contract. Evergreen means that the 25 years start over every year. Never ends.

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    2. Isn't Harabedian related to the trash company? Gee, let me rephrase that...Doesn't Harabedian have ties to the trash company. Was he on CC when the contract was renewed? Did he recuse himself?

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  17. 10:54,,,, how about the lawyers, that's who the committee needs on the board so it's looked at from the legal side. Not the city attorney making the decisions. The city lawyers are who got us into this mess.

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  18. City Attorney sleeps in the same bed as the City Manager.
    What is happening with the One Carter, 33 million dollar lawsuit?
    That loss alone will BK the City. Great Management.

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    1. Court date coming up.

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    2. Truth can be spun on either side of the aisle.

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    3. I believe Harabedian said their suit would not progress or something to that effect.

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    4. I think Harabedian said their suit is not wrinkle free.

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  19. The City is practicing their lawyering skills on the Hildreths ? To muscle-up for One Carter? Or just to bully and get one win.

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    1. Now the SMPD are cutting costs(??) and sticking it to us. I quote:
      "** Please be advised that this will serve as the last Police Blotter posting until further notice. **
      The last Blotter mentions two burglaries that have been refereed to the Detectives Bureau. In other words, they never bothered solving any of these crimes so why bother reporting them?
      SIERRA MADRE POLICE DEPARTMENT
      POLICE DEPARTMENT BLOTTER
      SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 7th through SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 14th

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    2. What exactly do our detectives do?

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    3. SMPD doesn't have a detective bureau. LASD has way more detectives than Sierra Madre would ever need.

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    4. one day our Detective Berry was investigating petty vandalism as a major crime wave and then next he was writing parking tickets

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    5. What a hero. The sandwich, I mean.

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  20. I went on the Yes on UUT Facebook page and made a comment. It was deleted.

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    1. Martin Truitt deletes posts he doesn't like. This is typical of him. He doesn't want a conversation, he wants to create the impression that everyone agrees with him. He will likely block you as well.

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    2. Martin does tend to hate it when the facts don't support his ideology. Then the ad hominem attacks tend to start. Watch out, Mr. Mod!

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    3. Blaming the blog is a Sierra Madre election ritual.

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    4. Talk about killing the messenger

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    5. Martin Truitt is an ego maniac and a control freak. Of course he will delete anything contrary to what he believes. Martin is also supposed to be a Republican, so why is he in favor of a stronger central government?

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    6. Or higher taxes?

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    7. Truitt is like Trump, he supports whatever benefits Truitt.

      Depends which way the wind is blowing.

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    8. Moderator,
      Do you think Truitt will ask Rachelle Arizmendi to vote against the Sheriff contract Tuesday night? If he's the guy that's setting up Yes On UUT, that means he supports SMPD. He was Rachelle's campaign manager. SMPD can't protect us 24 hours a day, too many SMPD cops quit.

      Rachelle, if you're reading this, please vote "YES" on Tuesday night. Help keep our village safe!

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    9. who's Martin Truitt?

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    10. He is a right winger. He reaches out with his right wing to grab any check that comes his way.

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  21. Martin Truitt will say anything and spend any amount $ to get his person / cause elected. We shall see just how far into his sales pitch Arizmendi is or does she do all her own thinking?

    By the time I get home you people are all done for the day.

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    1. Two points 7:09. I am kinda disappointed this blog kinda 'turns off' after noon. Also I don't think the mod is much different than the impression of Truitt. Maybe it's just recent history, and I am new to this site, but I've had a few comments of mine deleted/censored for innocuous reasons. This website can seen like an echo chamber after a while, which is kind of a shame because it really is a great site and a great community.

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    2. Can you supply examples of posts that you submitted that you believe were not cleared? The only reasons I wouldn't clear something is because of language or repetition. As you repeated below, 99% do get through.

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  22. This town needs a city government enema .

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  23. Another comment, if this gets past 'approval'. Why regulate comments on this site. I'm sure 99% of comments get through, but if everyone really wants to make a difference in this city and or change hearts/minds having a regulated and regimented comment section doesn't really help. i know the argument is, if you don't like it don't read it and go elsewhere, but this kind of policing is pretty darn ridiculous.

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    1. If 99% percent get through, then how is this a regulated and regimented comment section? Again, I only delete for language or repetition. So please, provide me with examples of posts that you think were unfairly deleted.

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    2. Mod, I do appreciate the discussion, candor, and your response. As many have posted before, this is a part of my daily to-do list. I wish reading the insights and opinions of the the blog and commenters would be a more common enterprise in our fine city. Honestly, if it was, most of the problems would be solved.

      Nonetheless, and not to be partisan, I had and continue to have an issue with an approval process before posting, but it is your blog and I respect that.

      I think we readers need to actively engage in this city more than we do. Yet, I believe the anonymity of this forum does not help. (Yes I am a hypocrite by following in the common practice in the past).

      Nonetheless, I continue to take issue with the seeming echo chamber this venue can and has provided. I think this city needs to change, and now, but I don't know how, especially if we can't get this info out to most of SM.

      For full disclosure, I was one of the Anon posters who hedged earlier about running for office in this forum, and I am gratified that Mr. Gold has decided to run for a write-in campaign.

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    3. (Crickets continue to chirp)

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    4. Whatever you say, dawg.

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    5. I wonder when Eric is going to write his own blog. Lots more work than complaining about a moderated blog. I guess he doesn't get out much.

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  24. Meeting is beginning complete with a home made sign saying,"Thank you Sierra Madre City Council." Not sure what whoever made the sign is thanking them for.

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  25. Closed session completed Elaine's evaluation. After the meeting they will hold a contract meeting in closed session. Minutes approved. Goss-wine tasting-compliment them, fantastic job. Went to little league opener. Amazing event. Community service committee doing a great job. Delmar-congrats to wine tasting. Arizmendi-went to wine tasting-little league-kid played star spangled banner on guitar. Capoccia-reflected AQMD guy. Public comment not on agenda? Dr. Gary rap kin-compliment the CC for steps taken by CC of night PD patrol. Was a super at a school for 20 yrs. voting for sheriff full time. Need the savings and because they are having trouble hiring. Don't use the library as a wedge to get the UUT passes. C. Stanford-lives in another city that has sheriff. He loves the. He's from temple city. Read where some policemen were stopped by the state because the school they went to didn't qualify them correctly. Didn't get her name-against the sheriff. We have 22 officers. She says 2 sheriff's won't do it. Limited personnel. Emmet McGuire-2 issue regarding sheriff-1. Asking for night coverage he supports. 2. Close PD-doesn't agree. He's also for the UUT. Misunderstanding about facts. He says savings were minimal. I personally have never seen him before. Public comment closed.

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  26. Exchange of transportation funds-if not returned-limited work on major thorough fairs. Cal trains administered. Comments on consent calendar-no one. Elaine is pleased to present annual finance report CAFR-ending June 30, 2015; 3 sections,financial statement is in the financial section. DUH!. 2 sections-government wide-long term financial picture. Fund financial statement-this is how we budget-focus on funds-gov't short term . This lady does not know how to use a laser light. We came under budget-1/2 mill. Main diff. In PD-OPEB funding-did not pay this fiscal year-liability is there-city didn't pay. Back payment to parking citations to the county-not paid. Last minute grants awarded.

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  27. I am the only one who didn't understand the city lady, Medina(?). Everyone loves her. I guess she came Ina's a newbie so it was a difficult job.

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  28. All CC touting UUT.

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  29. Barry Gold is speaking. Write in candidate for CC. Wants sheriff 24-7 based at our PD. Do it now. Jill McGuire-if we were to permanently take sheriff we would be closing the SMPD. Said we weren't going to save that much with sheriff.

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  30. Capoccia admonishes the man from temple city says the previous lady is wrong. The sheriff is great and will work out of the PD. The CC. -Capoccia-this is not the issue being discussed. So the CC made no correction about the sheriff not using our PD.

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