Excessive water users in Sierra Madre face stiffer penalties (Pasadena Star News - link): The city council voted Tuesday to increase the penalty rate starting in July for water customers who exceed their monthly goals. The vote came just a day after Governor Jerry Brown announced a new set of water mandates Monday and emphasized the continuing threat from the drought on the state.
As part of continuing water conservation, the council asked city staffers last month to focus on pushing a trio of measures to achieve their goals. In addition to the stiffer overuse penalties, staff will reach out to the city’s top water users who have exceeded their conservation targets and renew the city’s water conservation campaign. The new penalty rate for excess water use will be $10.72 per billing unit, an increase of 64 cents over the previous penalty.
Customers are on four different rate tiers and the new penalty is double the Tier 4 rate, the highest. The penalty will apply to customers who exceed their goal regardless of their original rate tier.
Though the number of customers exceeding their conservation goals has been reduced, the last two billing cycles for February and March show there were still more than 1,000 customers who exceeded their conservations limits by at least 1 unit. There were 41 who exceeded their goal by 50 or more units, and 11 customers who exceeded their goal by 100 or more units.
Though the increase could bring in more than $80,000 for the city’s water fund revenue, staff noted that they hoped the measure would encourage conservation.
(Mod: Of course they noted it. This goes without saying. You might wonder why they even felt they needed to put that out there.)
SEC vs. USFIA GemCoins trial scheduled for January 2017 (Behind MLM - link): Following a Joint Report filed by the SEC, USFIA and Steve Chen, a trial date has been scheduled for January 10th, 2017. Note that this is the SEC civil action against USFIA and Chen, with details of criminal proceedings yet to surface.
The Joint Report was filed on April 11th and is a run down of what we can expect in the lead up to the scheduled January 2017 trial.
Here’s what we’ve learned; The SEC and Chen disagree on discovery scheduling. The SEC wants to get discovery over by November 18th, 2016. Steve Chen wants discovery completed in “phases”, ‘with discovery of Chen conducted last‘.
The SEC objects to Chen’s proposal on the grounds Chen’s testimony ‘might well point to the need to take other or further discovery’.
Chen’s position is that, given the wide breadth of the allegations in this case, and the conflicting interests raised by the matters addressed in the Motion to Stay, a November 2016 discovery cut-off is not realistic. If Chen had his way, discovery would stretch well into 2017 with a trial likely to take place towards the end of the year.
Steve Chen still thinks USFIA’s amber is worth something. Despite the Receiver establishing that USFIA’s amber reserves had “limited intrinsic value“, Chen has requested that the receiver preserve all amber or gem stones seized from USFIA. Why Chen wants the amber preserved was not disclosed.
I suspect Chen might want to trot out a friend third-party to re-value the amber, which will invariable conclude it to be infact the most valuable resource in the known galaxy. The defense that follows will probably be “See, we gave investors something of great value!”
(Mod: GemCoins are backed by an amber mine with intrinsic value. I guess. No news yet if former Arcadia Mayor Johnny "GemCoins" Wuo is expected to testify at any trial, but wouldn't you want to be there when he does?)
Objections to Encinitas Library renaming (San Diego Reader - link): Steve Mizel, a wealthy investor and a philanthropist, wants to have the name of the Encinitas Library changed to honor his wife. He’s offered $2 million to the city to change the library’s name to the “Pat Mizel Encinitas Library.”
As city staff and the Mizels are negotiating a memorandum of understanding, former mayor Sheila Cameron and others have a problem with that. Cameron spoke out at the May 11 meeting of the city council.
Cameron says the issue was originally brought up late in the evening at a council meeting in January, when few members of the public were in the audience. Councilman Tony Kranz reminded the audience that the item was on the agenda and properly noticed.
“We spent $20 million to build the ‘Encinitas Library.’ Now we want to give that away for just 10 percent?” she asked the council.
The state-of-the-art library was built on the Cornish Drive site in 2008, overlooking downtown with a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean, in a hotly contested election to determine its location. Cameron believes since residents voted for the library, they should have the right to vote on the name change.
(Mod: How much do you think the city would get if it sold the naming rights to the Sierra Madre Library? Or any other city building for that matter? How about the Bart Doyle City Hall? Or the John Buchanan Spreading Grounds? Oughta be a few bucks in that. If not, maybe this could be done as a lottery? $10 bucks a ticket. I can see it now. The Eric Maundry Police Station. That certainly does have a nice ring to it.)
Obama making bid to diversify wealthy neighborhoods (The Hill - link): The Obama administration is moving forward with regulations designed to help diversify America’s wealthier neighborhoods, drawing fire from critics who decry the proposal as executive overreach in search of an “unrealistic utopia.”
A final Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rule due out this month is aimed at ending decades of deep-rooted segregation around the country.
The regulations would use grant money as an incentive for communities to build affordable housing in more affluent areas while also taking steps to upgrade poorer areas with better schools, parks, libraries, grocery stores and transportation routes as part of a gentrification of those communities.
“HUD is working with communities across the country to fulfill the promise of equal opportunity for all,” a HUD spokeswoman said. “The proposed policy seeks to break down barriers to access to opportunity in communities supported by HUD funds.”
(Mod: Think of it, HUD would then take over all of Sierra Madre's planning functions and zoning laws. Sober Houses for everyone!)
Pasadena’s finances could run into the red by next year (Pasadena Star News - link): Pasadena’s interim City Manager Steve Mermell painted a grim picture Monday when he warned the city could run into a deficit within the next two years.
The city’s estimates Pasadena’s revenues will come up short by about $6 million in 2018 fiscal year, according to Mermell’s report.
“Our costs have started to rise again at a rate that exceeds our revenues.” Mermell said. “The gap between the two is in effect where we would draw on the fund balance if we don’t do something to stem this widening gap.”
Pasadena effectively holds about $42 million in reserves, but increased operating costs will burn through that quickly in the next five years if the city doesn’t change course. By 2021, the city could run into the red by as much as $21 million, Mermell said.
The city will take a big hit to its revenues when beauty-products giant Avon shutters its distribution center in Pasadena next year. Mermell said the company is one of the city’s highest sales tax generators.
Avon announced plans to close the center in 2013, but Pasadena delayed the decision through an agreement to share some of the tax revenue. But now Avon notified the city recently of plans for a shut down by this time next year.
“I would say that the loss is significant,” Mermell said. Rising compensation for workers and CalPERs costs will contribute to the potential fiscal gap.
(Mod: I don't see this as being too much of a problem. Pasadena would only have to hire Martin Truitt to send out a blizzard of postcards telling the nincompoop voters that taxes need to be raised to save the Rose Parade.)
California’s $400 billion debt worries analysts (San Francisco Chronicle - link): California has come a long way to dig itself out of budget deficits, but the state remains on shaky ground due to nearly $400 billion in unfunded liabilities and debt from public pensions, retiree health care and bonds, financial analysts say.
“Yes, the state’s budget is balanced if you are looking at what they are required to spend cash on this year, but not when you look at their expenses,” said Gabe Petek, a credit analyst with Standard & Poor’s.
The high debt and unfunded liabilities have resulted in the state’s rating lagging behind other states, Petek says. California saw its bond rating rise last year from A+ to AA-, the highest level the state has had in 14 years. Good bond ratings are a sign of a strong budget and financial management and allow states to pay lower interest rates when selling bonds.
“Compared to other states, though, California has one of the lower ratings,” Petek said.
And the reason is clear, he said. It’s California’s debt and liabilities that are concerning financial analysts, particularly the state’s rapidly growing unfunded retiree health care costs, which grew more than 80 percent over the past decade. California has promised $74 billion more in health and dental benefits to current and retired state workers than the state has put aside.
(Mod: You can easily tell who the retired government employees are in California. They're the ones with nice teeth and driving Winnebagos.)
Ralphs store in Arcadia closing its doors (Pasadena Star News - link): A Ralphs store in the Rancho Santa Anita Shopping Center is shuttering its doors next week, and it looks like an Asian supermarket could take its place. Store Manager Mark Stalcup said the store will close its doors for good on May 20 at 6 p.m.
The closure of this store follows a series of Ralphs closures in the San Gabriel Valley in the last few years, including stores in Arcadia, Glendora and Duarte that had been underperforming for years.
The mid-sized store, at 1101 W. Huntington Dr., employs about 80 to 100 employees, who have all been placed in existing stores, Stalcup said. He said there won’t be any layoffs due to the closure, noting that Ralphs is currently in hiring mode. The company announced earlier this week that it intends to hire 400 people across Southern California, and is holding hiring events at all of its stores on Saturday.
“We have a wide variety of part-time positions that we need to fill in every Ralphs store in Southern California,’ Kendra Doyel, vice president of corporate affairs, said in a statement. “Positions are available to friendly and engaging people in most every department including front end, deli, meat, bakery and grocery.”
(Mod: And here I was hoping for a .99c Only store.)
Senator Bob Huff says 'YES' to 710 Tunnel! (some idiotic site - link)
(Mod: This jerk is running for Antonovich's seat on the LA Board of Supervisors - link. Your karma will sink to that of sewer lice if you vote for this guy.)