(7/20/10) Editorial – What Are The Real Numbers? Who Cares? I Do, NOW

(7/20/10) What Are The Real Numbers?  Who Cares?  I Do, NOW – Editorial

This editorial is the opinion of Bill Coburn, publisher of Sierra Madre News Net and 15 year Sierra Madre resident.  It is not intended to reflect the views of any other person or entity with whom I am associated

Last Tuesday night at City Hall, City Clerk Nancy Shollenberger announced at the beginning of the meeting that she had 1829 letters of protest against the City’s proposed water rate increase.  When the Council was discussing the water rate agenda item, she updated everyone that she had received 112 protest letters during the meeting.  I understood that when discussion of that agenda item closed, that was the end of when protest letters were to be accepted, so it was my understanding that 1941 protest letters had been received, and that those signatures were to be verified by the City Clerk and by City staff.

Then the City Clerk issued a press release, see below.  That release had different numbers.  So I sent Ms. Shollenberger an e-mail, asking her: :”…at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, you stated that there were 1829 protest letters at the beginning of the meeting, and that you received 112 during the meeting, which made a total of 1941 protest letters, which you stated at the time had not yet been verified.  Yet your press release says that there are actually 1898 protest letters and 151 rejections.  That means 2,049 protest letters.  Can you account for this discrepancy in the numbers?”

I have now received her response: “I will check with the volunteers that did the vetting of signatures.  I trusted their final report.  I have 1959 protest letters.”  (emphasis mine)

The Mayor has already stated that whether there were enough protest letters to meet the legal requirements or not, the City has heard the protest and the water rate increase as proposed is dead.    In other words, at this point, the count is just a formality that crosses the Ts and dots the Is.  Interesting information for some, but more or less meaningless, since the decision has already been made to scuttle the increase.  We all know that the people have spoken and the City has to back down.  What SHOULD be foremost on everybody’s minds now is how we move forward, how we get more money into the water department to pay for the aging system, build up the reserves and satisfy our obligations to the bond holder in a way that is acceptable to the people of the town of Sierra Madre.

But we have a little hitch in the gitalong, having to do with inconsistencies in the numbers being provided by the office of the City Clerk, which leads to other questions.  What I can’t figure out is this.  Why are there now THREE different numbers?  Which is it?  1941 from Tuesday night?  1898/2049 from Friday’s press release?  1959 from today’s e-mail? Why didn’t the City Clerk notice that the numbers were different and ask the volunteers without me having to ask about it? Why does she have to ask the volunteers, instead of knowing the answer before the question is asked?  And why does her press release never mention the number 1959, yet her e-mail to me says that’s what she has today?

Why are we getting a final report from volunteers and NOT from the City Clerk, who is the person actually charged with issuing the report?  She herself calls it THEIR final report.  Why are volunteers doing the vetting of signatures instead of  the City Clerk?   The City Clerk has claimed ownership of this process, not allowing the originals to be left with the City Manager because “the people” wanted the originals left with her.  Yet she apparently  felt no responsibility to the people to check the numbers that were provided to her by a group of volunteers, and compare them to her own numbers from Tuesday night.