|To view last night's City Council meeting click here.|
The video from last night's City Council meeting has been posted above for your viewing pleasure and enlightenment. For the record, the last time a City Council video was posted to the City of Sierra Madre website it was for the meeting held on December 13 of 2016. Meaning that you don't always get what you're paying for.
Two takeaways from last night's meeting. Both having to do with the same strangely content-free language the City Council likes to use these days.
The first example being City Hall is not going to raise your water rates, instead they are going to conduct a "Water Utility Rate Study." Don't get me wrong here, they are going to raise your water rates, but it will never be put quite that way. Rather this is going to be a cost adjustment based on a study conducted by an expert consultant paid upwards of $75,000 to create. Which the city will then take as an unquestionable justification to charge you even more for your water.
But just don't call it a water rate hike. The people you voted into office obviously do not want anyone saying something quite that crass. It could spook the herd and even interfere with a needed revenue flow increase. Rather it is to be referred to as "an adjustment based on actual hard costs."
Let's be honest, what they are saying here is also very much a sales pitch. But one that very few people will recognize as such, which is why it will probably be effective.
The other takeaway comes from the hiring of Gabriel Engeland to take the place of Elaine Aguilar as City Manager of Sierra Madre. Who, by the way, was pushed out. Which is why the City Council is praising her so much now.
I am pretty sure Gabe (as he was referred to last night) could very well be a fine fellow who will do a remarkable job. There is no evidence to the contrary, or at least not yet. And they did lock him into a five year contract that, at today's prices, makes him something of a bargain. City Managers in this part of the world start at over a quarter million dollars a pop, and with far better benefits than this dude is going to get.
That they had to go all the way to the dusty south end of Colorado to find him is telling. Gabe is the happy product of a far less expensive municipal labor market.
However, rather than tell us very much about this new City Manager last night, the City Council instead chose to talk about how well they all worked together when making this choice, how enjoyable the process became for them, and generally what a fine job they did when selecting this guy. I'm sure they're relieved the whole thing is over, and obviously this wasn't an easy job. It could have been a disaster, after all.
But what about Gabriel Engeland? Do you, the Sierra Madre taxpayer, really know anything about this guy yet? Did you hear much last night that made you feel this was a wise choice? The City Attorney did note that he balanced the budget of Trinidad, Colorado. Apparently that's something not done there in a very long time. A local miracle of sorts for that little town of 9,000 or so souls.
But did anyone actually tell you how this was done? Here is a portion of an article that ran in a Colorado newspaper last year titled "Marijuana tax revenue keeps on growing" (link).
In a memo to the Mayor and City Council members, City Manager Gabe Engeland provided an updated look at marijuana-licensed locations and what the current legalized marijuana map looks like in Trinidad.
“Trinidad currently has approved 16 locations for Marijuana, with nine of these approved locations open and operational,” Engeland wrote. “15 of the 16 approved locations include some type of ‘retail’ component in the license. In addition to this, the Planning and Zoning Variance Commission has either approved, or will have before them shortly, another 32 locations seeking to operate a marijuana business. In total, the number of locations in Trinidad which could seek formal Marijuana licensing from the City Council will be 48.
“From a very high level, the projections and estimates staff had provided to Council in the third quarter of last year appear to be holding true. As an industry, marijuana sales are averaging between $1 million to $1.2 million per month, meaning the City is collecting, roughly, $100,000-$120,000 per month in sales tax revenue. Staff still believes, over the summer months this year, the sales will increase to somewhere between $1.3 million to $1.6 million, where they will peak, prior to settling at around the $1.1 million mark as the median number for 2016.”
Do I think this a terrible thing? No, of course not. A city has got to do what a city's got to do, and after all the stuff is legal in Colorado. As it now is in California, may I add. I personally think smoking pot turns people into idiots, but folks have the right to do as they please. Even give themselves an herbal lobotomy. None of that is my business.
But if public officials here are going to brag about Sierra Madre's new City Manager having balanced the budget of his previous city, shouldn't they also share how it was actually done?
Instead they talked about themselves and how they feel. Which is definitely a part of the fine art of saying nothing.