Sunday, July 1, 2018

Prop 218: The City's Puzzling Reluctance To Discuss The Water Department's Dirty Past

You really should be.
"This is a Democracy. You are the reason we are here. You elected cowards and people with poor judgement to make decisions and they hired cowardly city managers with poor judgement. You chose poor representatives who made poor decisions. That's life. Saying we need a Salem Witch Trial to decided who made the crops fail and the cows give sour milk accomplishes nothing because everyone will say they did the right thing based on what they knew at the time. This isn't 1660. These pipes are going to get fixed now or later. The only question is are we going to do it in an orderly and responsible way or after a catastrophic failure." - A commenter yesterday

The person who left that comment yesterday rather obsessively posted variations on his witchy-poo theme over a dozen times. Which raises some questions. Why is this topic that important to him? Why did he feel it was necessary to try and drown out the opinions of everybody else?

Personally I don't think anyone is saying don't fix Sierra Madre's water infrastructure. Or that they are unwilling to kick in some cash to do so. Well, OK, except maybe for the Tea Party guys. Most people recognize the problem and know a bill is on the way.

It is just that for this once maybe the water ratepayers should be told the truth about how things got this bad, and who exactly was responsible for allowing things to get this way.

The city wants the money? Fine. Just tell everyone why things got this crazy first. Fair enough? The truth won't cost them a dime. Some people might be embarrassed, but should they really be allowed to escape all responsibility for their bad faith management and grievous abuse of the community's trust?

In the big boy world people have to take a little responsibility for their stupid mistakes. Especially when those mistakes have cost perfectly innocent people millions.

The obsessed commenter's real concern is probably just that. Stupid mistakes were made by certain City Councilmembers in the past, and have cost the water department millions of dollars in bad debt. But he doesn't think you should know anything about it. Just pay the ever increasing bill and shut up.

Here is an example. Below is a report on debt administration that was run in 2013 regarding the city's bizarre payment schedule for a series of water bonds that had been issued by City Hall a decade earlier. This report was put together by Eliane Aguilar, the previous City Manager. It is a lot more information on the topic than we have received from the current one, despite his reputation for practicing an elevated form of transparency.


Notice the payments from the year 2004 to 2020? Those are interest only payments. That comes to $5,306,979.00 in your money that did not need to be spent, and could have been used for other things. Like pipes. Most of that 5 million was sent to various bond holders and banks back east because a certain City Council in 2003/2004 had obligated itself to water bond debt it could not afford to pay for.

Just in case you are wondering how a $6,750,000 water bond was somehow turned into $14,925,486 dollars in water department debt.

Within the last year or so the current City Manager refinanced this debt and has saved you some money. But that was only after you had paid millions in interest only payments for 15 years on a water bond the city obligated you to, but had no idea how they would pay for it.

In exchange you got a couple of water tanks. Which, in retrospect, should have been made out of platinum.

Our obsessed commenter does have a point. Sierra Madre's badly decayed water infrastructure does need to be fixed, and the bill will have to be paid. And yes, that will come out of your hide. Whether you like it or not.

But don't you think you are owed an explanation first? A real one?

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

66 comments:

  1. I wasn’t here 14 years ago so I don’t know who was on the CC. I do believe they should be held accountable for their actions. I realize I am going to pay to repair the infrastructure. I just want to know that the money I pay will go to fix the pipes. I’d also like to know what bunch got us involved in CalPERS (never know how to spell ? That). Another costly screw up. I want to know why cities (most of them( who have been affected by CalPERS can’t band together and request to be let out of this contract. Again, I don’t mind paying for employees retirement, but not at this crazy cost. Two very costly programs for us to deal with. Just as citizens should be held accountable for any utility over use, so should these people. So Mr. Mod. Name their names. Tell us what this old CC is doing today. Are they still around? Are they still meddling? If this group was just stupid or corrupt, it was long before Trump so we can’t blame it on him. So let’s place the blame and get it over with. And while your at it figure out a way to make citizens care enough about what goes on here, get them to care about voting.

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  2. the explanation is elected representatives didn't raise water rates high enough in the past 30 years to responsibly replace underground pipes at the rate they should have been replaced.

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    1. They actually did. And had the city's water department not been put into such deep bond debt there would have been adequate money to fix infrastructure.

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    2. That’s totally false. The. Bond debt was spent on infrastructure and rates should have been raised to cover the debt and the replacements. If rates had been high enough to establish a proper reserve there would have been no need to borrow would there. There is no way to hold any dead or out of office politician “responsible”. Do you want to place them in stocks in the public square and throw tomatoes at them? That won’t get $35 million in pipes replaced.

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    3. Not understanding the debt situation, there was no politicaL will in the community to support raising rates to cover both adequate bond debt service and infrastructure repair. That is why it is bad for the city administrators to hide things. Bond debt had to be paid. Infrastructure could be delayed. We are now suffering the consequences of a lack of transparency.

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  3. There you go again ass-uming mr. moderator that the Tea Party guys dont want to fix anything.
    You should ask yourself why you wrote this blog this AM.
    "Tea Party guys" want to fix things, THEY just want to understand ; just like a forensic audit would have answered so many questions, and having the Water Department histories understood as to how did we get here, so that they are not repeated, is what concerned citizens do.
    Sierra Madre has a history of repeating.

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    Replies
    1. Why aren't you calling for an investigation?

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  4. We need to be spending $1.5 million a year just to replace (not maintain) underground pipes. Water revenue is $4.5 million a year. We need $1.5 million more. $1.5 million divided by $4.5 million is 33%, so rates need to rise 33%. That is what needs to happen to preserve Sierra Madre. So let's just be serious about it and accept the fact that for decades rates were too low (because of stupid kook council members and poor city manager leadership) and it is time to fix the problem to protect our home values.

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    1. Which city council members were kooks in your opinion? Joe Mosca? John Buchanan? Does that $1.5 million include water bond payments? Which have always come before infrastructure payments? Be more specific, please.

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    2. what does it matter what their names are? how does that replace $35 million in pipes? the water bond payments are obviously already provided for in the current rates because the bond payments are being made. are you obtuse? We need to raise rates 33% to start a 25 year program of repiping the town.

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    3. This is the last time you'll be able to say this. It is about the 15th time you have said the same thing. Please, move on.

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  5. Yes, blogger 7:26, throwing tomatoes at the culprits locked in irons in the town square is just the "feel good"solution, a town shaming for the past bad management and council members that helped us arrive at the crossroads of today.
    In Theatre as in life, a player improves their craft thorough the audience or peers response.
    Additionally it would make for a great Fourth of July fundraiser in Memorial Park; funds collected to be used to repair the aging infrastructure.
    Which should hae been done on a continual on going basis over all these many years, especially during the time when the Water Department had enough cash to over hull the entire system twice.

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    Replies
    1. Knowing the truth would be nice.

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    2. 4th of July Fundraiser? : The Mod’s already got that photo. Like the game Clue......Bruce in the park with the rusty pipe. Ps. That was on the 4 of July, don’t know the year, bet the Mod does!

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  6. I agree with 8:06 - name names of who got us into this mess. As I recall it was our worst City Council - John Buchanan, Joe Mosca, Enid Joffe, Bart Doyle. MaryAnn MacGillivary was the one voice of reason, always outvoted. Sort of like the mess we are in nationally now.

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    1. Buchanan almost had a cow when Kurt Zimmerman called for an investigation.

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    2. The reason why water infrastructure is in bad shape is corruption. The 2003 water bonds were issued to pay for water infrastructure related to the DSP. Then when the DSP was dumped by the voters through Measure V the geniuses couldn't generate the money needed to pay for the water bonds. So they had to fall back on interest only payments that came right out of water enterprise funds. Which gobbled up millions that should have gone into never performed water infrastructure repairs. Why the FBI didn't swoop in on these sh** birds is a mystery to me.

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    3. that is false. the 2003 water bonds were not issued to pay for water infrastructure related to the DSP. That's an ignorant lie. And even if it were true it was the VOTERS that stopped the DSP so they are responsible for the consequences of doing so.

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    4. Oh dear. A frantic apologist.

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    5. It is always the fault of the victims in 9:27's overheated imagination.

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    6. 9:27, the DSP would have destroyed the town.

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    7. One voice of reason ... like the mess we're in nationally 8:15?

      There are some voices of reason in Congress, like Schiff, but if you're saying there's a voice of reason within the administration, you're wrong. The administration is composed entirely of dim-witted piranhas.

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    8. Yes, 12:06, that is what I meant. I wish Adam Schiff would run for President. What a wonderful change that would be. I'm thinking of getting the bumper sticker "Any functioning adult for President 2020!"

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  7. The dirty secret is hidden in the next logical question. Why did the 2003 City Council put the city into crazy debt for a couple of water tanks? The answer is the Downtown Specific Plan, which a few city pols had an actual personal financial stake in. This was Sierra Madre corruption on steroids, and the real reason why they don't want anybody talking about it.

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    Replies
    1. lie and irrelevant

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    2. Sure. So why did the city make interest only payments on water bonds for 15 years that have cost the ratepayers millions? They love banks and want to help them out?

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    3. 8:18, unfortunately true. And entirely relevant.

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  8. So true 8:18am.
    Anyone ask questions of whom were the LLC investor's of the old hospital, which is now the (?)Keninston.
    Why was there a hard push to build a retirement home in the middle of the business district?

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  9. The Dirts are still among us.

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  10. Bart Doyle was the councilperson that gave the definition of just who constitutes a family.
    The LGBTQ community continues to blame Maryann MacGillivary.

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    Replies
    1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oo9f7KS6qlk

      Doyle doing the very thing he later blamed MacGillivray for.

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    2. Bart is the village hypocrite.

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  11. 9:27am would you be the person in charge making the hideous revisions in and around the town triangle?

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  12. The Council of Doug Hayes and company is the readon Sierra Madre has CalPERS.

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  13. There is no "city" that is "reluctant" to do anything. Sierra Madre government is owned and run by Sierra Madre residents and controlled by voters through their representatives and those voters are responsible for any governmental failures.

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    Replies
    1. Right. Blame the victims, makes excuses for the wrongdoers.

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  14. Councilman Rob Stockly asked for a study of the CalPERS form of retirement before the council voted on change, he was the only descending vote.
    Those Councilmember's choose not to look into what was best for the town, we are all paying for their lack of insight and complete misunderstanding of finances.

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    1. Stockly was one of the strongest supporters of Galletly, so while he may have made the right choices about CalPers, he sure made the wrong choice about developers.

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    2. Rob Stockley, really? Actually had a thought as to what might be good for Sierra Madre? The same Rob Stockley who said the City Clerk was way overpaid? $250 a month is far too much!

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  15. That's a great and irrelevant history lesson. How does it solve the problem?

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    Replies
    1. Knowing the truth makes it easier for people to support the costly remedy.

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  16. My recollection on the water infrastructure fiasco was that long before the water tank replacements on Grove and at Mt. Wilson Trail were declared likely to fail (when the CC of Bart Doyle went after Federal funding and the huge debt on the borrowed money) the city never charged the real cost of water delivered. It was kept artificially low by then CC under the direction of City Administrator, Jim McRae. AND, you have heard it said that the water dept was the cash cow for other city spending. It is a wonder we are not in a worse situation but it is worse enough.

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  17. My recollection on the water infrastructure fiasco was that long before the water tank replacements on Grove and at Mt. Wilson Trail were declared likely to fail (when the CC of Bart Doyle went after Federal funding and the huge debt on the borrowed money) the city never charged the real cost of water delivered. It was kept artificially low by then CC under the direction of City Administrator, Jim McRae. AND, you have heard it said that the water dept was the cash cow for other city spending. It is a wonder we are not in a worse situation but it is worse enough.

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    1. I remember hearing that there was a permeable boundary between the water funds and the general fund.

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  18. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/national/wp/2018/06/30/feature/are-you-alone-now-after-raid-immigrant-families-are-separated-in-the-american-heartland/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.ede6fc130f54&wpisrc=nl_most&wpmm=1

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  19. 7:42 says "Tea Party guys" want to fix things, THEY just want to understand...."

    Tea Partiers want to understanding things!

    It's a good thing I wasn't having my brie and chardonnay when I read that, for surely the explosive laughter it provoked would have caused me to choke--in an elitist way of course!

    Thanks for the laugh!

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  20. 10:27 you think CalPERS was a good decision? Which city department employs you?

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  21. 11:08 and 11:45, both true.
    Sierra Madre had the best spring water in all of the San Gabriel Valley.
    Sam Simpson did a great job guiding the department and virtually no leaking pipes.
    The front office had three women running the entire business of the town.
    Water was free flowing the parking curbs were built high matching the water run off and the settlement basins were full.
    Now what happened after the title of City Administrator was replaced by City Manager, herein lies the puzzle.

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  22. Despite many decades of concerted efforts by craven billionaires, their purchased politicians and media outlets, and the dim-witted, fearful, and red meat loving GOP base to denigrate public employees, the facts are:

    [J]obs in the public sector require
    much more education on average than those in
    the private sector. Employees in state and local
    sectors are twice as likely as their private sector
    counterparts to have a college or advanced degree.

    Wages and salaries of state and local employees are
    lower than those for private sector workers with
    comparable earnings determinants (e.g., education).
    State employees typically earn 11 percent less; local
    workers earn 12 percent less.

    [T]he earnings for state and
    local employees have generally declined relative to
    comparable private sector employees.

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  23. Name the culprits and rather than pillory them they can take many many turns in the dunking booth on 4th of ugly. I’d pay bucks to do that. Sure it would only be a drop in the bucket toward the bonds (no pun intended) but some of my angst would be satisfied!

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    1. A light hearted approach to deal with $5 million dollars squandered and endless rate hikes. How awesome is that.

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  24. Ohhh, i cant stop laughing. 1:22pm thanks for levity on elites and the reasons they try to come up with for their lack of work ethics.

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    1. Public employees are elites?

      The elites are the craven billionaires and their ilk (think Koch bros, Murdoch, Adehlson, Mercer, Your Dear Leader), but you don't believe they are because you worship them.

      And if it weren't for all those taxes, reguh-lations, public employee salaries, and public pensions, you'd be one of them by now, right?

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  25. Replace the rusty water pipes on a as needed time table.
    Replace the current leaky water pipes caused from the expensive chemicals dumped into them for"clean water".
    Invest into building back the reserves.
    There is no reason to replace all pipes in town at a 33% rate inrease within 5 years.
    The same "talk" about saving the library is trending with this council.

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  26. Sounds like a bad case of "valley fever" to me, after you all get through throwing spitballs back at one another the 'debt' is getting stronger and out of control. So who is going to bite the bullet and make a serious attempt at fix Sierra Madre's city debt crises? Or are you all going to go down with the ship while pointing fingers at one another? You choice.

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  27. 10:07am Actually it was Councilmember Doug Hayes.
    The first unofficial meeting was conducted out of his home garage with representatives of the CALPERS system.
    He then introduced the plan to council and they passed the plan 4 to 1.

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  28. Socialism 2:36pm has never worked.

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    1. I'm not sure there's a good long term prognosis for capitalism either.

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    2. Except Social[ism] Security, Medicare, Military, Police, Paramedics, Fire, Interstate Highway System, Bridges, Roads, Tunnels, Public Transportation, Ports, Airports, Water & Power Infrastructure, Dams, Reservoirs, National Parks, Monuments, Preserves, Public Education, NHS, CDC, Courts and Legal System, Public Hospitals, Telecommunications (Radio/TV/Phone/Internet), etc.

      I could go on, but it wouldn't change 3:38's views because a capitalist like him doesn't use any of those relics of socialism.

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    3. Socialism works great in Europe

      Highest quality of life and happiness

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  29. Sure there is. For example, if the Sierra Madre water department was privatly run we would not find ourselves in the mess we are in.
    From the mess that has been created it has been operating as more of a Socialist run department, lack of incentives in getting a job done, inaccurate figures on finances, never ending lists of problems.
    We can all agree, government does not have the most efficiently run programs.
    And then the employees are rewarded with more pay!

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    Replies
    1. That’s not socialism

      That’s what happens with utility monopolies.

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  30. You do not want to have a private water company run ours. Claremont sold to a private company a few years ago and are now trying to buy it back at an exhorbitant price.

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  31. Wrong doers will be delt with after the ship stops (taking on water) and is re-floated again under new management.

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  32. Socialism doesnt work. Look at cuba.. look at Venezuela. Total disaster.

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  33. Sorry I'm late for the party here. Just wanted to mention the recent hike in Monrovia's water rates, that was enacted after an incredibly disingenuous offer from the city to residents to quash it by sending in a notice of opposition. We could vote "no," in other words. If "no" voters were competing with "yes" voters, "no" would have won, of course. But they weren't, because all non-voters were deemed to have voted "yes." How was this choice announced? On an glossy 4x8 insert that came in the envelope that carried the water bill, because city personnel know that after priming residents for years with unimportant announcements in that format, no one would even read the thing, much less act on it. If they had instead sent out a letter in its own envelope with a ballot on a postcard that required a check-mark, a signature, a stamp and the act of mailing it...oh, excuse me. My crack pipe has gone out and I must light it again.

    There was a need to raise rates because water was going to become more expensive, or already had, or something. Oliver Chi, cith manager, gave a rapid-fire speech in which numbers were flying faster than I could take notes while the video played on Youtube. I assume at least some of what he said was false, based on everything he's ever said.

    The water rate hike came on the heels of a very recent one in 2015, in which the rate was hiked to raise money for something other than the purchase storage, or delivery of water. It had nothing to do with water, as I recall. (I don't actually recall it. I probably voted for it by not readying a glossy slip of paper in my water bill, though. I found it on the city's web site, so my recollection is of what was written on the web site, not what actually happened.)

    The new increase therefore sits on top of a cash grab that residents stupidly allowed in 2015, just as we stupidly allowed this recent one. And it's massive, rising year by year for a few years until a typical user of water can expect their water bill to nearly double, going from 40.84/month to $77.80, an increase of 90%.

    "For the typical single-family residential customer, the monthly water bill will increase by $16.87, effective March
    8, 2018, for a total monthly cost of $57.71. Additionally, if approved, the City’s water rates would continue to
    increase at the beginning of each year through January 1, 2022. At that time, it is estimated that the typical
    residential bill will be $77.70/month, which is $36.86/month more than what residents are paying today."
    https://www.cityofmonrovia.org/home/showdocument?id=11854

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