Friday, November 24, 2017

The Ballot Measure Repealing Sierra Madre's Utility User Tax Emerges from Limbo


Now here's a little excitement for the kids. Well, actually there could be a lot of reasons for excitement at next Tuesday's action packed City Council meeting. The above came from a Staff Report in part curated for this particular topic. The link is here. There is some interesting reading to be found if you like. Or not, it's up to you.

A little back story for those catching up with today's subject. About two short years ago Brother Earl Richey and the merry men and merry women of the California Tax Limitation Committee (AKA TeaPAC) got enough signatures together to put a total repeal of all utility taxes in Sierra Madre on the ballot. Some were not overjoyed by this event.

As an example, there was a not completely accurate Pasadena Star News article that emerged on the topic in March of 2016. It was titled "Who is behind an initiative to repeal utility taxes throughout the San Gabriel Valley?" Here is a portion (link).


This ballot initiative to entirely do away with utility taxes in Sierra Madre was designed to go before the voters in April of 2016, not 2018. The then City Council happily realized they had the option of deciding exactly when this would go on the ballot, and pushed it back as far as they legally could. Which is why it is now a part of Sierra Madre's next city election tilt in 2018.

Similar utility tax repeal efforts have already been voted on in other cities (Arcadia and South Pasadena come to mind), and were summarily crushed at the polls. The results weren't even close. Politically this has been a disaster for TeaPAC, and I am wondering how they're going to handle Sierra Madre's orphaned version next April.

The problem as I see it is taking away Sierra Madre's UUT in its entirety probably would put the Foothill Village into receivership. So heavy is Sierra Madre's debt load due to its tragically conceived CalPERS and water bond debacles (even with refinancing), the place would likely go belly up should all utility taxes be taken away.

The town could even end up in the hands of vampiric Los Angeles County, and good luck preserving anything then. To use John Capoccia's argument. Proving once again that even a broken clock is right a couple of times a day.

High utility taxes in Sierra Madre are a consequence of past bad financial management, and you the taxpayer are now being forced to clean up the mess. Unfortunately, the consequences of not doing so would likely be worse. Not a very pretty situation by any accounting.

As it stands right now I couldn't get behind TeaPAC's "No UUT" ballot measure. It is disruptive and destructive, and obviously we are seeing enough of that sort of thing in our country lately. This is Trumpism, and it must be stopped wherever possible.

However, there is a caveat to all of this joy. In the April of 2016 election there were several rather dishonest arguments put forward by some of this city's finest citizens in defense of Measure UUT. Egged on by an ambitious and extraordinarily cynical Republican Pasadena political consultant, this effort to raise utility taxes to their current lofty levels was sold as necessary to do things like (believe it or not), hang on to Sierra Madre's Library.

An irony today since many of those exact same people are now telling folks that the property the Library currently sits upon must be sold in order to save it. I don't recall any of those numerous Yes On UUT postcards saying the Library must be torn down to preserve it. Do you?

Besides, just how many times must this damsel in distress be rescued before she actually is saved?

So here is my take. If the leading lights of this city would just admit that 2016's Measure UUT wasn't about saving Baby Rhyme Time, or the Huck Finn Fishing Derby, or even the Wistaria Vine, but was actually about all of that CalPERS and bond debt they feared having to own up to, then I'm good.

And hopefully you will be as well. Otherwise, there is the option of a protest vote.

Time to come clean, City Council.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

50 comments:

  1. There you go, interjection of your own spin on UUT and TeaPAC.
    Have you even bothered to speak with Earl Richey? Don't go making up stuff, you will be in the same position of, trust your inept City Council to tell you the truth category.

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    1. "Have you even bothered to speak with Earl Richey?"

      More times than you would ever know.

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  2. I, for one, will welcome our new alien overlords after this ballot measure fails. Hello, Los Angeles!

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    1. Yes, many developers would love to see Sierra Madre's city government collapse. Welcome to Arcadia adjacent.

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    2. I doubt TeaPAC gives a damn about preservation. I am sure they are wholeheartedly on the side of the so-called "property owner rights" lunatics.

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    3. Imagine those nut jobs thinking they own the property they paid for. Clearly you should rule all you survey, because you know best.

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    4. You only care about developer property rights, and not those who actually live here.

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    5. I guess we have a confirmation. Developers = TeaPAC = Property Rights

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    6. And how did you come to that insightful conclusion? Let me guess, the voices in your head.
      Why is everybody a developer in your head.
      And point of fact, without developers there would be no homes. Your home was not built by fun loving Ewoks, foraging for berries. No cities no communities and yes no Sierra Madre without developers. Regulations dictating what can and can’t be built is logical. Assuming every construction project is an Afront to your way of life is asinine.
      Another point of fact, the reason Sierra Madre will eventually go bankrupt, is because people like you insist on stopping every project in this town. Running a business or city gets more expensive by the day. You can’t just say we are Sierra Madre so we dont need to pay what others are paying. We don’t have to pay the pensions others are paying. We don’t have to make difficult decisions such as no longer funding a library. These are reality, and you either do away with services or you find a way to pay for them. You can’t have both. We desperately need some growth in this town. I know that is anathema to this group, but grow, increase taxes or die. Just increasing taxes will also cause death.
      I suggest compelling the good people of this town to make the library a non profit run by volunteers for starters.

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    7. See what happens when you walk on his lawn?

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  3. I wonder what the new City Manager is thinking at 5 p.m. each day as he austensibly leaves his office: what have I gotten myself into? This is not the city that was advertized when they interviewed me for this job. Egads!

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    1. I noticed that Gabe is up for a "City Manager performance evaluation" in private session before Tuesday's CC meet begins. Too much transparency for some councilpersons perhaps? I wonder what is up with that? Towards the end of her regime Elaine used to get called in for those a lot.
      http://cityofsierramadre.com/UserFiles/Servers/Server_212309/File/Special%20Meeting%20Agenda%2011-28-2017.pdf

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    2. I don't think there is anything that can prepare a government official for Sierra Madre.

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    3. Yes, and he is doing a far superior job to his many predecessors. Some one of our readers has the whole run down on this going back beyond the recall of two CC members who were in fact open space/hillside preservationists. A third CC resigned as he was about to move out of town to retirement anyway. One of those recalled, Jan Maddox, would be very happy to know that her husband, John, donated 40 acres of their hillside property to the Sierra Madre Mountain Conservancy in her name. You need good balance when things are changing right under your feet or you fall down, go boom. It is a wonder Sierra Madre has not gone boom, or bust. Flying by the seat of your pants is another cliché that comes to mind.

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  4. Asking the city council to own up to the real reason they pushed for the UUT tax will accomplish nothing. Asking the city council to do something about Calpers now that what accomplish something.

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    1. True, it would. But there is nothing they can do about CalPERS. At least without incurring massive fines backed up by the full might of Sacramento.

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    2. Maybe they can't do anything about those currently on Calpers but they can do something about future hires

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  5. Looks like it's time to tighten the cities $$$ budget.

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  6. Which Came First, gruntle or disgruntle?
    The verb disgruntle, which has been around since 1682, means "to make ill-humored or discontented." The prefix dis- often means "to do the opposite of," so people might naturally assume that if there is a disgruntle, there must have first been a gruntle with exactly the opposite meaning. But dis- doesn't always work that way; in some rare cases it functions instead as an intensifier. Disgruntle developed from this intensifying sense of dis- plus gruntle, an old word (now used only in British dialect) meaning "to grumble." In the 1920s, a writer humorously used gruntle to mean "to make happy"—in other words, as an antonym of disgruntle. The use caught on. At first gruntle was used only in humorous ways, but people eventually began to use it seriously as well.

    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gruntle

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  7. Some people in Sierra Madre understand where the town stands financially, the majoriety do not.
    Example: fortunately the Fire Department was reorganized to be streamlined and to also meet state standards.
    If you watched that meeting, the supporters of expansion of the department came out in droves; all of them receiving CalPERs. None were concerned about the affordability of keeping a Fire Department in town, never entered into conversation.
    It was mentioned that a more millennium residency with deeper pockets are replacing the less that affluent long time residents.

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  8. Does anyone know when the water moratorium is over?

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    1. Right after April's election.

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    2. When the water in the aquifer Rises to 500 feet. About 2 years from now with normal rainfall.

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  9. The stockmarket is continuing to climb, not bad for this country.
    So with your argument, if a city is run into the dirt; very little community input questing the bad management decisions; the answers are to agree with those bad decisions and support them by pouring in more of your tax money?

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    1. Only 50 of the country plays the stock market. It’s been climbing for a good long while since Bush screwed it. Be wary that a correction is to come

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  10. 7:21am. You ment to say hello Pasadena; the schools here are in that district.
    Arcadia is affluent; Sierra Madre, not so much!

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  11. 8:48am TeaPAC? The Preserve Sierra Madre group doesn't understand preservation!
    Time to step back from the caffeine.

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    1. I think people do understand their property values, and how what you advocate is not their friend.

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    2. What’s your beef with Preserve?

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  12. The timing was off, it could have been sooner; but the new City Manager is impressive in how he has been tackling and unraveling the mess that prior management and councils created by not being fiscally responsible.

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  13. The business district of this town is virtually non existent, the General Funds have been drained.
    The UUT was never intended to support City Hall; it will be interesting to see which way the vote will go.
    There is no cap on what is necessary to run the town; will the UUT continue to increase yearly inorder to meet those needs?
    Is this information something that Realtors will have to disclose to future newbies?
    So many questions; so little time.

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    1. SM is fortunate that people care enough to limit the McMansios that have ruined Arcadia. Without the continuing flow of money thanks to all the tear downs and new homes bringing massive property taxes due to reassessments, Arcadia would be in world of hurt. In meantime, many city govt officials continue to enjoy the free ride with their +300k salaries. Something has got to give.

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    2. Arcadia has plenty of money forom the mall, race track, car dealer

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    3. 9:17A There are some nice shops and businesses in town. Do you support them? If not, where do you go? There are way too many realtors in town. It would be nice if there were a few more small businesses instead. The UUT will continue and probably increase. The pipes wil sort of get fixed, maybe. The city employees under CalPers will continue to get their over inflated benefits, so the city will ALWAYS be in debt. They say nothing can be done about CalPers. Maybe so. But I feel if enough people screamed and yelled and started a campaign to change it, well at least we would have tried. Instead we lie down, given in and whine.

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    4. True 10:26, but a guck google search shows 2015 Arcadia property tax income of $11.5M or 30% of total income. So a huge chunk relies on all the homes being rebuilt and reassessed, not to mention the various developers who continue to ruin the city (same ones who pay Chandler and Puppet Tay for their votes).

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  14. A few individuals have contributed to preserve the Mountain Conservancy with their land donations, and it is most fortunate, that the Council voted against entering into National Parks agreement; the amount of money being used for massive trash clean up from park visitors would have wiped Sierra Madre out.

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  15. 8:52 states: "The stockmarket is continuing to climb, not bad for this country."

    I don't know if he's shilling for Trump's false claim that Trump is responsible for the rise in the stock market, which is just a continuation of the Obama rise not yet ruined by the GOP. Or is he shilling for Trump's false claims that the rising stock market is the same as increases in GDP or the crazed Trump notion that the market rise is the same as a decrease in the deficit or national debt?

    I do know that Harry Markowitz, who posited modern portfolio theory, said in his Nobel acceptance speech:

    “There are three major ways in which portfolio theory differs from the theory of the firm and the theory of the consumer which I was taught. First, it is concerned with investors rather than manufacturing firms or consumers. Second, it is concerned with economic agents who act under uncertainty. Third, it is a theory which can be used to direct practice, at least by large (usually institutional) investors with sufficient computer and database resources. The fact that it deals with investors rather than producers or consumers needs no further comment.”

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    1. Fair.org:

      "First and most importantly, the stock market is not the economy. The stock market has fluctuations all the time that have nothing to do with the real economy. The most famous was the 1987 crash, which did not correspond to any real-world bad event that anyone could identify.

      Even over longer periods, there is no direct correlation between the stock market and GDP. In the decade of the 1970s, the stock market lost more than 40 percent of its value in real terms; in the decade of the 1980s it more than doubled. GDP growth averaged 3.3 percent from 1980 to 1990, compared to 3.2 percent from 1970 to 1980."

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  16. Like I said; the country is not in a stalemate, as it has been.
    Funny enough, pushed by Sacramento neighborhood planning movement, people are now being told to leave the suburbs and buy into large collective expensive but poorly constructed condos next to mass transit systems.

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    1. You mean like the ones they wanted to build downtown in Sierra Madre in 2007?

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    2. Sierra Madre is not close enough to the trains. Go up the Central Valley where the train to nowhere is planned. Lots of condos and apartment all along the line. Look at the condos in Pasadena. The state seems to want to herd us into some kind of mass housing. So much for rights.

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    3. Area near the apartments in Pasadena is bustling. Feels like a proper city

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    4. Breathe deeply that fine 210 Freeway air.

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  17. Are Sierra Madre citizens being told pay a UUT tax increase with additional parcel taxes in the future?

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  18. You mean like the Kensington palace that are expensive condos; yet they are not condos?
    How much business tax does the town receive from that deal along with the 5-10 less required parking spaces gifted to the new resident build out?

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    1. The Kensington appears to be a nicely run establishment. Yes it is pricey. They give a lot back to the community and their building inside and out is really lovely. So much better than the old boarded-up building that it replaced.

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    2. They're pulling a ton of money through that place. It's the price of doing business.

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  19. Tell me why the Library Board of Trustees want to build when the town is going broke?
    Why do the Friends of the Library feel that the children; not from Sierra Madre, should have a new building Mon.-Fri.?

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  20. 4:08pm. Yes, a nicely run establishment that had no business being built in the business district!
    The establishment should kick in a few bucks, they lack proper parking and don't contribute to the General Fund in the way of paying a business tax on that property.
    Have you ever thought that a very nice businesses like a Taylor's Market could have been built on that location.

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    1. Taylor’s is lame. That place needs a makeover

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