Guest Op-Ed by John Harabedian – Vote Yes on Measure UUT

Photo courtesy of John Harabedian, click to enlarge

Guest Opinion/Editorial Column by Council Member John Harabedian, posted 4/2/14

When deciding how to vote on Measure UUT on Tuesday, residents should be asking themselves one overarching question:  what type of city do I want to live in five or ten years from now?  The reason why I am voting Yes on Measure UUT is because I want to ensure that Sierra Madre will continue to be the safe and vibrant community that we live in today for years to come.

My “Yes” vote is directly informed by my experience as a long-time Sierra Madre resident.  Having grown up in Sierra Madre, I have a few vivid memories about my childhood.  One is always feeling safe within the City’s confines.  There was not a day in my life in which I felt vulnerable while riding my bike with friends, playing in Sierra Vista Park, or walking home from school.  The second memory is playing baseball at Heasley and Dapper fields for hours on end.  My weekends were consumed by playing sports, and the most enjoyable of those times was always spent on those fields.  The third is having a library right down the street from my house, where I knew the librarians by first name and would be consumed for hours in a vast array of books, magazines, and computer games.

I would say that my experience was typical of my friends in Sierra Madre and is shared by most children growing up here today.  But what I took for granted then, and appreciate now, is what made that idyllic experience possible.

I never realized that knowing police officers and firefighters by their first name, or continuously seeing those officers and firefighters around town, was a unique privilege not shared by most individuals in surrounding communities.  I have no doubt that my constant feeling of safety resulted from Sierra Madre having its own police and fire departments, both of whose presence were and still are constantly felt throughout town.  I also never realized that being able to play on a pristine baseball field in the City in which I lived was an experience that kids in many other communities did not enjoy, and was made possible only through Sierra Madre’s concerted devotion to providing various community services for our youth.  I also never realized that having a fully operational library down the street with staff members who lived in town was a unique thing.  Only when I grew older did I realize that community libraries, like the one in Sierra Madre, were only surviving in cities where they remained a priority, which required unwavering devotion from community leaders and volunteer groups alike.

Put simply, the cherished experience I had as a child in Sierra Madre did not happen by accident.  It was made possible by the hard work of our elected leaders and volunteers, and through the continued sacrifice of our residents to protect the City’s services.  As a council member today, I want to make sure that future generations in Sierra Madre are also able to have this same experience.

If Measure UUT fails, however, that will likely not be possible.  Sierra Madre will lose approximately $1 million in annual revenue from its $8 million General Fund.  The General Fund pays for services such as police, fire, paramedics, library, public works, and community services.  To put that loss into perspective, the City would have to eliminate both the library and its recreation department to shed $1 million in expenses.  Or, alternatively, outsource its police department, fire department or paramedic services.  In other words, if Measure UUT fails, it would have a drastic effect on this community, while only resulting in a very small savings for each household – on average $18.50 per month.

By voting Yes on Measure UUT, I am making the personal choice to spend that $18.50 per month to protect Sierra Madre.  To me, it is a small sacrifice to preserve the truly special place in which we live.  I would respectfully ask each resident to make the same choice.