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 Committee" Don 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?