Sunday, July 2, 2017

Well ... Duh!

Mod: We here at the Sierra Madre Tattler have been talking about Sierra Madre's quite massive debt problems for what, over five years now? Over and over again, and without any acknowledgement whatsoever from City Hall, or any local media.

However, there has now been a sudden change in all of that rhythm. Apparently this debt problem has become so acute that the City of Sierra Madre, in the guise of its new City Manager Gabe England, has now actually issued a communique 'fessing up to what has been going on in the Foothill Village for about the last 15 years or so.

Sierra Madre, because of its extreme amounts of Water Bond and CalPERS debt, is literally awash in red ink. We are talking about $10s of millions of dollars worth of debt. Debt that the taxpayers of Sierra Madre will be expected to cover, and apparently soon. And if they don't? Well, I'll leave that to your imagination. It won't be pretty.

Here's a problem with this sudden message change. Engeland's communique was issued this Friday. A time when most Sierra Madrean's minds were on their plans for the four day 4th of July weekend, and not the city's financial woes. Do you really think this timing was just a coincidence?

There is a somewhat airbrushed version that appears in this weekend's Mountain Views News. Airbrushed in that it only deals with the most general part of the City Manager's revelations, leaving some of the more unpleasant aspects on the cutting room floor. After years of helping the city suppress just this kind of news, the MVN must be finding all of this sudden transparency to be quite uncomfortable.


I'm not going to post much more about this until July 5th, which is when people will be back from their July 4th break. This is probably one of the most serious problems Sierra Madre will ever deal with, and for City Hall to suddenly reveal that it has a massive debt problem when most everyone was off enjoying their summer break is, well, interesting timing.

Let me leave you with these thoughts. That massive debt problem existed when you were being asked to vote for Measure UUT more than a year or so back. And you were specifically told that this utility tax increase was absolutely necessary, and it was about saving the Library. You were also told it was about the Huck Finn Fishing Derby, the Mount Wilson Trail Race, and the Senior Center. You were told a lot of questionable things, yet never the truth.

What you were not told is what the utility tax increase the residents voted for was really about. It was about Sierra Madre's debt problems. Water Bonds and CalPERS debt problems. Things the city at that time refused to acknowledge. The only place you were told about that was on this blog.

The YES On UUT fibbers spent a lot of money bashing us for that. They even put out a widely distributed postcard smearing this blog. Which is kind of flattering if you think about it. Look at it as a gold medal for truth-telling.

But now the city is kind of admitting that this really was about Sierra Madre's massive debt issues after all. The new City Manager has been given that job, and maybe he actually should be given some credit for committing an act of attempted transparency. After all, nobody at City Hall ever dared even hint at this level of truth during the lead up to the last three utility tax votes.

But Engeland is only telling you half of the story. If that. Wouldn't you like to know who was responsible for Sierra Madre's acute fiscal crisis? And still is? Or how they got the city into this mess in the first place? Don't you think you have a right to know these sorts of things?

This story is about so much more than just its numbers. We'll be back on July 5th with more.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

50 comments:

  1. Let me be the first to comment. I voted NO on the UUT extension to 10% forever. I spoke with two of my friends in town who I know supported it and whose main interest is the sucking sound that is one of the sacred cows in town, The Library. They admited that 10% was not even close to raising the money needed to meet the debt that has been amassing for years over the deferred payment of the water bond. Other operational costs for this city on the skids, well now, that is something else. Nothing smells much worse than a city heading to bankruptcy except a city that doesn't know it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The city needs to tell the whole truth. Just limiting it to the numbers is not enough. The water bond debt and those infamous interest only payments are directly tied to the failed DSP. Sierra Madre's CalPERS debt, which is killing this city, was approved by which City Council? Anybody know? Was it a pay off to city employee unions for political support? They're about to ask the taxpayers for more money. They will need to tell the truth, and the whole truth, to get it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The CC during the time of Enid Joffee.

      Delete
  3. All this debt the city has accumulated is acknowledged as past; poor planning and decesion making.
    My opinion is that due to a lack of leadership and qualified individuals in key positions, along with a dwindling number of resresident's being vigilant in "keeping" city hall responsible to the citizens; We all are now in this mess.
    CalPERS, majority of cities bought into the Sacramento/Union spiral into bankruptcy retirement deal.
    It would have taken a city council, all in agreement, to ask for further study of the employees retirement package and strong leadership in management and city accounting.
    Can't blame them now, they all saw the wisdom of the gravy train, and the council just wanted to "help" the poor underpaid staff. Staff were underpaid, but the CalIPERs package should have been voted into further discussion; most of those past council members are no longer in town.
    The setups for the payment planning on the bond debths have been well known for years and years.
    Falling on deaf ears when brought up by citizens.
    Once the city did away with volunteers and the residents became "busy" with their daily lives; council members that were put into decision-making roles rolled forward; some being more favourable to their cronies that voted them in.
    This City Manager is the type of management the city should have had; from the beginning.
    Now that the "old guards" of the residents of the city have moved on; the residents "holding" the "bag of debt", are responcible for getting involved and yes; making time to keep in check "your" neighbors that "you" voted to serve as watchdogs of city business.
    They has always been deaf ears at city hall, a strong and united voice from the public, is the necessary check and balance.
    Choices were made; time to begin the cleanup of business.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not sure when we changed from City Administrator to City Manager. Is this a deck chair issue?

      Delete
  4. So once again Sierra Madre citizens are going to have to carry the ball a little farther to make a difference even though they were putting their shoulder against the stone to push and those in city hall were laughing and adding more of a debt load with mismanagement methods. In conclusion we have this to always remember; Figure lie and liars figure this coming from past city council members' and department heads from the past 15 years, I got my retirement funds to retire on you go find your own.

    ReplyDelete
  5. No amnesty for Aguilar

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This all predated Aguilar.

      Delete
    2. She worked to suppress this story to protect the people who hired her. The people who hired her are the responsible parties.

      Delete
    3. No dole for Doyle

      Delete
  6. The City of Sierra Madre will be fortunate if it doesn't get hit with a massive lawsuit. If there is any connection between city officials and the dishonest Yes On UUT campaign, it is game over. Oh, wait. Remember the postcard with all five city council members faces on it? Whoops!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh ya, now I remember, it was the 5 emoji's.

      Delete
  7. Are they using the fire department as human shields?

    ReplyDelete
  8. This is what Kurt Zimmerman was referring to when he called for a forensic audit. It is still needed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. the only real attorney we've ever had as a Council member and immensely more qualified than our own City Attorney

      Delete
  9. Time to re arrange how the Library is set up and the money that is required in that budget.
    Example:Mommy and me story time could be held over at the senior center in the park.
    An overview of all departments and possibly "remakes" in what was changed from past management, could find further savings.
    Maybe volunteers would be welcomed back to City Hall.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is not about the Library. Anymore than it is about tree trimming or washing city owned vehicles. This is about CalPERS and water bond debt. The biggest question now should be were laws broken.

      Delete
    2. Trump troll doesn't understand how govt works

      Delete
    3. Trump troll is living way in the past. He has no idea how much things have changed.

      Delete
    4. Gee, mommies reading stories to their children! What an idea.
      Seniors planning their own trips and programs! Imagine that.
      No breakfast and dinners to honor volunteers and employees? There is a thought.
      City Hall runnning their own Strategic Planning sessions instead of a paid consultant. $4000 a meeting...whoppee.

      Just saying

      Delete
  10. There is a big tax increase coming. Given the state of our infrastructure and the city's dire financial situation (because of overspending and questionable choices, but that will be swept under the rug), the powers that be will likely be able to convince enough voters to pass it.

    There are two questions: 1) how big, and 2) what type of tax. My preferences are: 1) as small as necessary, and 2) a bond for infrastructure and refinancing water debt. Number 1 is obvious. As for number 2, an infrastructure bond would require a 2/3rds vote, so it would likely be keep as small as necessary to improve chances of success. It would be paid for by an increase in ad valorem property taxes, so more valuable properties would pay more than smaller ones. It could only be used for listed projects, and once paid off the tax would automatically go away.

    Compare that to the most common tax rumor -- a parcel tax. Under a parcel tax, everyone would pay the same amount, whether they're an old-timer in a small bungalow or a recent McMansion owner. The tax would be a blank check to the city to use/abuse as they see fit, and would go on forever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Took the words right out of my mouth.....PARCEL TAX, a sneaky way around Prop 13.

      Delete
  11. To change the subject, but just as dire to Sierra Madreans' well-being...did you see the latest Trump tweet of him taking down a CNN representative wrestling style? This guy is truly nuts, and Congress has got to do something about it before we are all blown up! Of course, the Republicans blame the newscasters/journalists for not focusing on "real news." Doesn't he sleep - he is too busy tweeting at 3 am.

    ReplyDelete
  12. 9:03am. You must be new to town.
    What pre dated the last unqualified City Manager was a town run by volunteers and approximately three women.
    The city was on budget, no bonds owed, those three women ran city business like a swiss timepiece.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The city leaders at the time said processes need to be modernized. They were, and then things went to hell in a handbasket.

      Delete
    2. I've always said that we need less men and zero lawyers on the Council and never ever any PR reps on loan from a utility company

      or a construction company owner or a real estate mortgage salesperson

      you know, those that have an obvious conflict of interest

      Delete
  13. 9:24am. Try to make a differance in bailouts that will be necessary to keep this city strong.
    The time is now; due to the past poor mismanagement received from the prior city manager; that this city needs to make realistic decisions and reorganize.
    CalPERS is here to stay; thank your Governor.
    The water bond debts are old news and require immediate action.
    What laws were broken? The law of "we all lead busy lives"?
    The public is welcome to the City Council podium; being heard and receiving a responce or having a follow up agendized item, is another matter.
    The decorum of running a meeting has also changed.
    There needs to be more public involvement; Maybe now "the public" will take notice and make time in their busy lives to reassure themselves, their vote counted for that council member representing the voters that put them there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Except when the public gets lied to with fake canpaign promises

      Like you did

      Delete
    2. With Measure UUT it was done mostly with mailings. The creations of a Republican political operative out of Pasadena.

      Delete
    3. A Republican was working for a tax hike?

      Delete
    4. as long as CalPERS is in force, I vote against anything and everything

      it's a ponzi scheme defrauding taxpayers

      just remember that Nancy Walsh is sitting on her rear end at taxpayer expense like she "earned" it

      Delete
  14. What laws were broken? That is why we need a forensic audit. This town has changed, there are a lot of new people living here. The priority should no longer be covering the butts of a few largely forgotten old men.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I think this is why Gabe was hired. To get Sierra Madre through some very difficult times. It is all coming to a head now.

    ReplyDelete
  16. It is always a matter of thinking you have voted nice, responsible neighbors to lead your City as Councilmembers. Then you are off leading your busy life, polishing the career star and raiging a family, etc. You don't get involved in city business (politics) until your ox is gored.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The dirty secret is city staff often runs the city council rather than the other way around. They prepare the documents and data and spoon feed it to the elected ones. Since the City Council only bothers to read what staff puts before them, they see everything thru the eyes of their employees.

      Delete
  17. From my observations, this new city manager is the right person at a time when this city really requires leadership.
    I believe the council will learn a thing or two.
    Hopefully this town will avoid bankruptcy; the hiring of this manager is the best chance Sierra Madre has.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. + what's he got to lose?

      he's not beholden to the Buchanan shills and hopefully doesn't care about the Stockley posse - he can look at previous Councilmembers as being part of the problem

      Delete
    2. Yet nothing gets said.

      Delete
  18. BK is the only effective solution. If you want to pay all this debt, the financial burden on current Residents would be outrageous.The current Residents were not the beneficiaries of the waste. The City Employees and Police were and are the primary beneficiaries.Dump them all !

    ReplyDelete
  19. Rescind the current UUT; maybe in 2018.
    Bond rating that the city currently holds? Not looking that good for a second bond application.
    Parcel tax; won't pass.
    Further reductions and savings negoated by council? A MUST
    Show good faith from past misdeeds and the residents just may continue giving support for a town struggling from past very poor management.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Trump is insane.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. what was the first clue?

      Delete
    2. His mouth opened and words came out. Crazy words.

      Delete
  21. The majority of voters voted for the UUT. You're fantasizing it will never happen. There are no past misdeeds. The residents do support our town. You are in a very small minority of citizens here,just like Trump supporters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually the UUT was defeated two out of the last three elections. But in the last election the voters were told that passing the UUT would take care of all the city's problems. Now the City Manager has just told them that is not true. People might love this town, but they do not enjoy being lied to. You have no idea how they might react.

      Delete
    2. 4:49, the majority of the residents know nothing about the city's political struggles.

      Delete
  22. Ah, you are in the majoriety of voters that said; "if I like my doctor, I get to keep him/her right?
    You are right, if "you" hear lies long enough and repeated often, you begin to believe the brain wash.
    Say, are "you" the resident that sent out all those UUT mailers?
    No? OK, are you are part of the LLC Downtown DSP failure association?
    The residents give support when there is a clear indication that "we" have not been hoodwinked.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trump troll needs to change his diaper

      Delete
  23. Keep Calm and Carry On, what else is there to do? All the voters are just a bunch of lab rats being used by Sierra Madre City Hall for their amusement and pleasures of not being able to see or hear the truth about any matter before the city council. We in city hall will tell you the truth and tell you what to vote for and nothing more is needed from you lame brained voters - we in city hall are in control.

    ReplyDelete
  24. The Pods are back in town
    Beware of mind control " you "lame brained voters"; don't fall asleep.

    ReplyDelete