Now you might think that by having already voted and rejected an extension of our double digit UUT we had seen the end of it. The voters had spoken and given their verdict. Meaning that the government, having been told what it must do by the ultimate authority, were left with no choice but to obey. After all, isn't the will of the people the final word in a democracy?
Apparently this isn't the case. Not at all happy about the prospect of losing a million or so dollars in pension and benefit enhancing utility tax revenue, the City of Sierra Madre decided to ignore the verdict of the voters and instead place another initiative on the ballot, one that asks pretty much the same question as last time. That being, should Sierra Madre's utility taxes stay at the very highest levels in California.
In other words, City Hall has called for a do-over vote, and it will take place in just a few short months.
And now there is word that this might not be our only do-over tax vote of 2014. The County of Los Angeles, still smarting over the defeat of Measure J in 2012, is also looking to hold a do-over vote of their own, and possibly as early as this coming November. Done in hopes of extending a half cent increase in county sales taxes into near perpetuity so that Metro can continue producing such widely reviled boondoggles as the 710 Tunnel. Among some other things.
Here is how the Los Angeles Times describes it (link):
L.A. County transit officials plan to put sales tax measure on ballot - Transportation officials in Los Angeles County plan to offer a ballot measure next fall or in 2016 that would raise the county's sales tax by half a cent or extend the life of Measure R, the levy voters approved in 2008.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and multiple advocacy groups say more transportation money would help expand the region's fledgling rail network, improve complementary service on bus lines, and speed construction and repairs on rail lines and highways.
"We need to have a system that works for us," said Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Assn. of Governments. "We need to maintain it, to bring it up to par, to expand it."
Metro staff officials say the ballot measure would either create a new tax that would raise the overall rate in Los Angeles County to 9.5% or extend Measure R's half-cent levy beyond its 2039 expiration date.
Similar proposals have found success in the past: Taxes approved in 1980 and 1990 paid for many of the county's carpool lanes and the first three modern rail lines. Measure R will partially fund a dozen rail projects, doubling the number of Metro train stations.
Last year, a proposal to extend Measure R failed by about 2 percentage points, in part because coastal Los Angeles County cities did not support it, a Times analysis showed. Some elected officials from those areas had complained that the city of Los Angeles received the lion's share of Measure R projects
It would seem that in our part of the world voter rejections of tax initiatives have to be done over and over again since no local government really feels the need to heed the decisions of the people. Instead they just keep putting the same tax measures on the ballot until they get a result that they like. No matter how many times they have to do it.
All of which adds a certain level of sad irony to the claim of former Soviet central planner (link) and now SCAG leading suit Hasan Ikhrata that "we need to have a system that works for us."
We do have a system that works for us, and it is called democracy.
Unfortunately, we also have local government officials who refuse to recognize that, and have come to believe they can just ignore voter decisions they don't agree with. Especially when it comes to squeezing all of the money they want out the taxpayers.
Sadly, this category includes 80% of Sierra Madre's current City Council.
The New York Times declares Patch dead
Judging by the striking lack of reader involvement, it appears that our very own Sierra Madre Patch is not being read very much these days. Not surprising when you consider that all they seem capable of posting lately is the ubiquitous Police Blotter, advice on things like how to cook things like rhubarb, and the Top 10 most popular names for cats.
All of which should be moot shortly because, after squandering something like $300 million dollars on their ill-conceived "hyperlocal news" scheme, AOL is about to finally face up to reality and pull the plug on Patch.
This from the New York Times (link):
AOL Chief’s White Whale Finally Slips His Grasp - Tim Armstrong, the chief executive of AOL, is finally winding down Patch, a network of local news sites that he helped invent and that AOL bought after he took over.
At a conference in Manhattan last week, Mr. Armstrong suggested that Patch’s future could include forming partnerships with other companies, an acknowledgment that AOL could not continue to go it alone in what has been a futile attempt to guide Patch to profitability. He called it, somewhat hilariously, “an asset with optionality.” There may be a few options for Patch, but none come close to the original vision for the site.
The hunt to own the lucrative local advertising market, Mr. Armstrong’s white whale, is over. But Patch did not go quietly — hundreds of people lost their jobs over the last six months — and neither will Mr. Armstrong.
“Patch has more digital traffic than a lot of traditional players have,” he said in a phone call on Friday, still defending his pet project. “The long-term vision was clear: If you get the consumer, can you get the revenue? And we have a whole bunch of Patches where the answer is yes. But we rolled it out on a national basis and we’ve had to adjust based on the investor commitments that we have made.”
Mr. Armstrong came close to betting the company and his future on Patch, but in the end, his survival instincts and shareholder pressure compelled him to let the white whale swim away.