Friday, April 8, 2016

Is Democracy Dead In Sierra Madre?

Every once in a while someone leaves a comment on this blog that gives me much to think about. Not that a lot of the comments people leave on this blog are not thought provoking and important, because many of them truly are. But sometimes something shows up that really makes an impression on me. This was one of those:

The voters said twice that they do not want a 10% utility tax. The city's response was to hire an outside political consultant and raise $30,000 to push a third vote through. We elected three candidates that claimed they were against raising utility taxes as well, all of whom flipped. So can we now say that democracy in Sierra Madre is dead?

Good, right? Of course, city government officials didn't directly hire an outside political consultant, or raise $30,000 to fund the campaign he has organized. Though they do apparently like chat with him on a regular basis.

But elected officials certainly have helped move things along. And the city did directly send out related taxpayer funded informational literature that, while identified as being non-partisan, was actually anything but that. Here is how "Sheriff Contracting Proposal CommitteeDon Handley put this a few days ago in his letter to the Pasadena Star News (link):

The City of Sierra Madre, through its taxpayer-funded literature, has created near hysteria regarding the fate of city services if a 67 percent increase in the Utility User Tax (UUT) does not get voter approval.

There are several things that residents don’t understand. One is that even with the UUT increase, the city’s projected budget deficit will only be covered for one year. During the second and subsequent years, the city budget will once again have deficits if nothing changes in the way the city provides services. In other words, a permanent tax increase for a temporary solution. Another thing residents don’t realize is that the information about contracting police services, appearing on the front page of the city’s informational brochure, has been radically distorted.

The numbers reflected on the brochure in no way resemble the figures presented last fall to the committee I served on that reviewed contract proposals from the Sheriff’s Department. Residents don’t realize these things because none of them attended the review committee meetings when the hard numbers were examined.

In other words, City Hall just cooked up some "radically distorted" nonsense that served its purposes, had the City Attorney declare everything is hunky dory, and then spent your tax money to print and mail it all out. Why? Because the city employees who did the deed need that additional revenue to fund their personal retirement accounts.

Here is another thought-provoking comment that hit this site yesterday.

I have only recently moved to California and I am flabbergasted by the influence that government employees (police and firefighters) are seeking in this election. I have never seen something like this before.

It is clearly not ethical. My question is: Is it legal? Are there any laws that specifically address what I thought is common for all government employees, i.e.; to be neutral and not use government positions for personal gain. Or have they just found a legal loophole by creating these associations?

Yes, there is always the possibility that corruption was involved.

Yesterday many Sierra Madre residents received the following cynical and deeply dishonest oversized postcard in their mail. It was created on the assumption that you are an idiot, and was paid for from campaign accounts that have received thousands of dollars from city employee organizations, elected officials and their political allies.


Trust me, the real issue here is not "Halloween," "Baby Rhyme Time" or the "4th of July." Which I believe is actually a Federal holiday based on sadly unrelated historic events, and certainly not anything this local government should be given credit for having made happen. And wasn't Huck Finn written by Mark Twain, not Community Services?

Rather it is about $9 million dollars in destructive unfunded CalPERS pension debt that the city ran up without telling anybody they were doing it. And while our current elected officials might not have been directly responsible for this financial disaster, they are now complicit through their actions, silence and willingness to run up even more of this potentially city killing debt.

In a lot of ways the Measure UUT debacle is an attempt to undo the results of five elections. That being the two times the voters turned down city initiated ballot measures raising utility taxes, and their vote for the three City Councilmembers who pledged to oppose raising that very thing.

All funded by as much as $30 thousands dollars, much of it contributed by people who will personally profit - for decades - by the passage of Measure UUT.

So I have to ask you this. Is democracy dead in Sierra Madre?

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

52 comments:

  1. Baby Rhyme Time. Is that where Amy Putnam and Nancy Walsh get together to figure out their campaign expenses?

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    1. No. I think that is Barks & Books.

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    2. Weed abatement.

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  2. This post card is misleading indeed! The UUT tax was sold to the public as funding for public safety services, but, because earmarked money must pass by a larger percentage of votes, the city opted to take the easier road for passage and so all UUT monies must go into the General Fund. However, in their tempt to mollify the public they also set up the ridiculous and useless UUT Review Committee comprised of citizens who are to examine the numbers each year to confirm that General Fund (and thus UUT) monies were spent in public safety. What a sham.
    The monies from this 66% tax increase will go into the General Fund and will be spent to fund the CalPers monster that is devouring this town. And that's it. All those items listed on this postcard are just a distraction. I also believe that the city does not provide any funding for the July 4 activities or the Trail Race, or the Concerts in the Park, or Halloween. Volunteer groups handle all of this. So, you're right Mod. This card is a perfect example of the picture you had a couple of days ago with the hand in the blackboard writing 1/2 truth + 1/2 truth = lie.

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    1. The author of that postcard wouldn't know about Halloween or July 4th in Sierra Madre. He comes from Pasadena.

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    2. On the other side of the Michillinda curtain

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    3. Many in Pasadena believe they invented parades.

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  3. The sad thing is I believe some of the people both presenting and receiving this postcard and similar material are so simple-minded as to believe it. It's like there is a fog in peoples minds that confuses them and restricts them from understanding what is happening here. I think more people would chose what I also believe is the right thing to do (decide "No") if the subject weren't confusing, with so many opinions and moving parts. It's simple of course, but often doesn't appear that way.

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    1. It is an appeal to the simplest emotions. Anyone with the ability to reason through why Measure UUT is a boondoggle for the same municipal employee that sue us all the time will not vote for it. Unfortunately there are a lot of infantile voters in Sierra Madre, and the contemptuous author of this card knows it. That is who he is targeting with this rubbish.

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    2. it's also sad that these are our neighbors that we elect who end up lying to us

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  4. I am so tired of having to reach into my pocket and bail out the mess created by overly extravagant salaries, benefits and pensions for our "public servants". Just keep in mind that the unions will not stop until every public employee is making $200,000 per year and gets to retire at the age of 40 with 100% of their last salary for the rest of their lives. The fact that we all will then be retiring at the age of 90 (if we live that long) to pay for all this doesn't matter to them. It is up to us to say no! The City needs to live within its means. And the bitter irony in all this is that we are funding our own demise. We pay the public servants more and more money which means they can contribute more and more dues to the union which means the union has more and more money to spend on campaigns to increase every tax that comes down the road. We need to get off this cycle and end it here and now. Vote No on the UUT and tell 20 people to do likewise. Get the word out!

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  5. the campaign is not radically distorted

    it's a flat out lie

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    1. Obviously the campaign consultant from Pasadena thinks Sierra Madreans are brain dead.

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    2. It will be very sad if he is proven right.

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  6. Christmas is also cancelled

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    1. That's it! Voting against Measure UUT is part of the war on Christmas! Quick, get the postcard ready!

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  7. I'm going to vote yes on the UUT. I think it is beneath Elaine to be driving a Mercedes. For someone of her statue it should be a Rolls Royce.

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    1. Totally, dude. Bentley, bare minimum.

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    2. Maybach. With a hot tub.

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    3. The latest postcard is a pack of lies. The City DOES NOT PAY FOR THE FOLLOWING. The services and events are paid for by donations, grants, and sponsorship.
      Senior health screenings---volunteers
      Community Rec Center is run by YMCA
      Huck Finn--Civic groups and donations. The city milks the event for money by padding their hours. City provides location.
      Mount Wilson Trail Race. Donations and volunteers and civic groups.
      4th of July. Same as Mt Wilson Trail Race.
      Summer Fun in the Park. Local agencies and companies provide this for free.
      Concerts in the Park...donations
      Movies in the Parks... Donations
      Library Activities listed are all provided by the Friends of the Library, grants, and donations.
      If the city were telling the truth, the UUT advisement currently is ONLY to be used for POLICE and none of the nonsense they are claiming.

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    4. Let's not forget the Kensington who donated to the publication ot the UUT card as well as to the Fourth of July events, summer concerts in the park, and what ever else the City Manager would like. Seems like the Kensington is covering all bases that please City Hall. Yes they do provide donations for Community events, but most of those events are controlled by a hand selected committees. When the committees run the show, the residents lose their voice in the community event. Should the Kensington be donating to the yes on UUT fund?

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    5. don't forget that the city has billed the Mt Wilson Trail Race for 700 staff hours pre-event for planning

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  8. Whatever anybody does, don't vote for John Harabedian. He's a lackey for the unions and will be representing us all in any negotiations with the unions. Wouldn't that make you feel better knowing he'll be fighting for us and holding the line o salaries and pensions. What a joke. He is positioning himself to run for higher office and needs to plug into the political machine in California which means ingratiating himself with the unions. Sierra Madre is just a stepping stone in his ambitions.

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  9. Can anyone give me one instance in any city in the state or in the country for that matter where any public employee union has ever advocated against a tax. I can assure you that you won't find one example in the last 20 years anywhere in the United States. What does that tell you?

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  10. When scraping the bottom of the barrel for excuses and justifiable reason's sane people need to vote for a UUT TAX increase by insane folks from the YES camp, if you don't pass this measure your religious freedoms are at risk? This is just another step down the expensive road of insanity that the YES camp is paving with outside interest monies etc. Have a nice day.

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  11. Congratulations, Pasadena resident and Yes Campaign Manager Martin Truitt! You made a post card that shows EVERYTHING the City pays out of the General Fund. Property taxes and sales taxes provide for the same thing.

    Wow, you're a regular Einstein.

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    1. Property tax and sales taxes are not enough to provide for the services listed.

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    2. Ok, 3:03 aka dumb butt, ALL of it goes into the General Fund. Or is that wrong as well?

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  12. On yesterday's graph showing the donation to UUT slush fund from the police union, there were 2 citizens names on it also. What do you know both city employees, Steve Herdoff from the fire department and Toni Buckner from the library. Both donating to keep the big money bennies coming in. Hope more people put connection together.

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    1. There was also a contribution from another Sierra Madre public employee union. Isn't that special?

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    2. You need to invest money to make money.

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    3. The unions only want to wet their beaks!

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    4. I think they're looking to dive in completely.

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    5. and both of them have a lavish pension so who's surprised they are just protecting their own selfish interests

      you'd think a librarian would want the facts to be correct?

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  13. This is so horrifying
    Please vote NO
    Please write in BARRY GOLD
    Make Sierra Madre solvent again.

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  14. Perfect cartoon, Mod. Thanks. Depressing, but clear.

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    1. Thanks. It really does capture the whole "people enthusiastically voting against their own interests" idea, right?

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  15. If you haven't voted yet, if you're voting for Barry Gold, MAKE SURE THE BUBBLE IS COLORED IN. THE VOTE WON'T COUNT IF YOU DON'T DO THAT!!!!!!

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  16. More dreck:

    " The Board of the Sierra Madre Historical Preservation Society has endorsed the passage of Measure UUT because of the impact its defeat would have on the preservation of our 2 historic sites: Lizzie's Trail Inn and the Richardson House, and because of the inability of the city to support historic preservation in light of the million dollar deficit facing the city. We urge you to vote Yes on Measure UUT on Tuesday."

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    1. Right. Like they're going to see a dime of it. CalPERS is a black hole, and it is swallowing up Planet Sierra Madre.

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    2. They seem to be able to support whatever they want. Have your society get those volunteers ready to paint and repair. I'm all for supporting historical buildings but not when the city doesn't care. Ask me for a donation that I will willingly give to you directly.

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    3. Ask the Historical Society how much the city supported historical preservation when the UUt was 10%. I'm betting not much.

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  17. Do not forget about Earl Richie's initiative. The purpose of it was to abolish the UUT. It was presented to the City Council for approval, but they stalled it. That is why it is not on this Tuesday's ballot!

    Is democracy dead in Sierra Madre? You bet it is!

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    1. Interesting timing, tho. By 2018 anyone with more than half an IQ point will have figured out what a pack of lies MUUT was. The voters might be cranky.

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  18. Let's review. Martin Truitt worked very hard to defeat Measure CC which would have raised taxes in Pasadena. Martin lives in Pasadena. now he is working to help raise taxes by 66% in Sierra Madre. Taxes that he will not have to pay. Gotta love those principles.......

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    1. Funny how that works. He didn't want to pay approx. $75 a year parcel tax for 5 years but he wants us to pay 66% more UUT FOREVER.

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    2. As I understand it, Truitt is against helping kids but for supporting a failed SMPD and its pensions. Actions speak louder than words.

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  19. Help mayor Pinnocchio find his nadsApril 8, 2016 at 3:18 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  20. I don't know if democracy is dead in Sierra Madre,but yellow "journalism" is alive and well.

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    1. True. That is why I stopped reading the Mountain Views News.

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    2. How do you think Hearst built that castle?

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    3. My copy of mountain views news is definitely yellow. Thanks to my dog

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