January 12, 2008 Meeting Summary


E-mail reminder.   Susan and Laura phoned their contact lists.


Susan brought freshly baked tea flavored cake.


9 members


Agenda Items:

  • Ice Rink project status
  • Water shortage
    • voluntary restrictions
    • reporting abuses
    • 2006 usage basis if/when mandatory restrictions
  • Utility Users Tax ballot measure
  • Burglaries in south-east Pasadena
  • Carjacking at church on Sierra Madre Villa Ave.
  • Pasadena Marathon date set
  • Digital TV transition converter program
  • Association annual election planning
  • anything else attendees wish to discuss

The meeting began about 11:25 am

  • Ice Rink project status
    • There isn’t actually any design doc or developed landscape plan for Avocado Ave. This is as we thought prior to being told otherwise at the District 4 meeting at the end of November.  City planner still says they plan to provide a landscape screen along Avocado.  Says will work with us to select a planting scheme once they finalize ice rink construction plans.
    • Ice rink construction bids were received on 12/28/07.  Best bid exceeds the budget by about $5 million.  (Considering the construction budget was only about $12 million, that is a huge amount.)
    • Planner expects they will have figured out their options for going forward by the end of this month.
    • We can only speculate until then.  The city, specifically the Civic Center expansion project, has already sunk a lot of money into this proposed location and design on the basis of moving the current rink out of the ballroom prior to the expiration of the ice rink operator’s lease in 2011.   Instead of just buying the operator out, the City Council decided to try to build a new better ice rink facility.  All along it has been promised that funding would come from future revenues, not out of taxpayer pockets, and the existing budget was based on projections of those revenues.
  • Water shortage
    • Should now be seeing PWP flyers and ads
    • In December the City Council approved a first level of emergency consisting of publicity and voluntary restrictions on water use.
      • Do not hose down or wash sidewalks, walkways, driveways, parking areas or other paved surfaces.
      • Do not clean, fill, or maintain levels in decorative fountains, ponds, lakes, and similar structures unless such structure is equipped with a water recycling system.
      • Do not serve drinking water, unless at the express request of a customer, in all restaurants, hotels, cafes, cafeterias, or other public places where food is sold, served or offered for sale.
      • Promptly repair all leaks from indoor and outdoor plumbing fixtures, including but not limited to sprinkler systems.
      • Do not allow water to run off landscape areas into adjoining streets, sidewalks, parking lots or alleys.
      • Do not allow water to run off into adjoining streets, sidewalks, parking lots or alleys while washing vehicles.
      • Do not water landscape more often than once every 3 days.
      • Do not landscape water between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
      • Do not fill or refill a swimming pool.
    • PWP web site specific to the water shortage:
    • Could go to mandatory restrictions/penalties as early as February or March, especially depending on what the MWD (Metropolitan Water District) does in terms of restricting/rationing supplies.
    • Historically we get 60% of our water from MWD and 40% from underground here.  But because of the low rain the past couple of years, the city is already taking as much as it can from underground, and might have to cut back.  MWD is in a bind because of the many years drought affecting the Colorado River supplies, the couple years of low snow pack in the Sierra, and new restrictions imposed by a judge on pumping water south because of the “Delta Smelt” a tiny endangered fish that gets sucked into the pumps.
    • 2006 is the usage basis if/when restrictions become mandatory.  (Though it is possible that if MWD uses a different basis the city might also.)  Currently the voluntary goal is to save 10% vs. monthly usage in 2006.  Graphs on the city web site of city wide usage show that this only began to be achieved late in December.  Because usage really is heavily dependent on rainfall patterns comparison against a particular year can be really tricky.  At the beginning of 2006 we had heavy rainfall (the year the parade was rained on), and a good spread of average total rain through April so landscape watering was not needed.  (2004-2005 was the record high breaking rain season.)
    • The city web site has a form for reporting water waste, or can call the Pasadena Water Shortage Hotline at (626) 744-8888.  At least while the restrictions are voluntary, the city will send a “conservation reminder”.
    • We had a discussion at the meeting of some of the things we do or have done in past droughts to save water.  Collecting water in a bucket while waiting for warm water to get to the faucet is a common technique.
  • Utility Users Tax ballot measure
    • The February 5, 2008 election for nominating party presidential candidates and some California ballot measures also has a Pasadena municipal measure (D.) regarding the telephone utility tax.
    • Voters should by now have received a special “Supplemental Sample Ballot” from the City which contains the measure details and official arguments for and against.
    • The official story on the measure is that it just makes sure that existing city telephone tax revenues are protected.  The current ordinance refers to federal regulation definitions which the federal government might soon change in a way that would prevent the city from continuing to charge the tax.  The idea was to write the definitions into the city ordinance so that the city would continue to get its tax revenue regardless of federal changes, and to insure newer telephone technologies such as cell phones, satellite phones, WAN (wide area network) phones, and VoIP (voice over internet protocol) are taxed.
    • This measure is controversial because:
      • The City Council declared an emergency to get it on the ballot for this election vs the June or November election.   It is not and was not at all clear that the situation is/was so urgent.  Foreseeing the possibility of a change in the federal regulations quite some time ago the city has already accumulated a substantial reserve fund specifically to buffer it in case of a loss of that revenue until a new ordinance could be enacted.
      • The measure language is written so broadly that in addition to telephone services it could also cover internet service or virtually any service transacted via the internet if the current federal ban on such taxes is allowed to sunset or is removed.
      • The activist who wrote the opposition argument for the ballot overstated the potential impact, the city sued, and a judge did require removal of some of the opposition’s original statement.
    • Under pressure from City Staff to quickly declare an emergency and approve the ballot language to get it on the February ballot, the City Council really didn’t do the due diligence it should have done. After city staff insisted that in spite of the wording it did not apply to the internet and that the federal government could pull the rug out from under the existing ordinance as early as this month, the council went along with the staff recommendation instead of taking a little more time to do it right.
    • Subsequently the City Council approved a new ordinance that says that the new language does not apply to internet service and the city cannot tax internet service without a vote of the public.  However, “internet service” is not well defined, so this measure might protect the fee paid to a service provider for basic connectivity but still allow taxes on any services conducted via the internet, such as e-mail.
    • During the court arguments regarding the ballot arguments, a consultant the city used to write the ballot measure language stated outright that it was indeed intended to provide for taxing the internet.
    • Pro arguments include:
      • The city does indeed rely upon the current telephone tax for general fund revenues, which among other things are used for police, fire, paramedics, park maintenance, etc.  A loss of such income beyond the accumulated reserve could have significant impact on services.
      • Nearly everyone is already used to paying this tax and wouldn’t pay any more unless the federal ban on taxes goes away.  Those in favor say it is highly unlikely congress will allow the ban to expire.
      • Given the public record of intent, if the city were to start taxing internet services, there would be a good case for a lawsuit to stop it.
      • If this measure is defeated, and the current ordinance is subsequently undermined by federal regulation changes or changing technology, the city will either have to cut spending or spend money again to try to change the ordinance or raise taxes some other way.
    • Opposing arguments include:
      • Never liked the tax and would like to see it undermined anyway.
      • Think the city wastes its revenues or already has plenty of money and can easily do without this tax.  (Opposition gadfly has been claiming city has hundreds of millions of dollars sitting around it could use.  Not clear to what he is referring, but the city should be building up and investing funds for some of its future obligations such as pensions.)
      • Do not trust the City Staff and want the ordinance to clearly say what they claim it does.
      • Resent the way City Council and city staff handled this and want to send them a message to do their homework and do it right.
  • Burglaries in south-east Pasadena
    • In the past six months there has been a rash of burglaries in south-east Pasadena, defined as south of Colorado Blvd and east of Lake Ave.   Generally relatively wealthy neighborhoods.
    • This doesn’t include our area, but reportedly there have also been burglaries outside of that area that appear to be by the same perpetrators.
    • Typically they occur between 3 and 7 am.
    • In some cases windows are broken to access clearly visible items, in other cases entry has been via unlocked doors or windows.
    • Pasadena PD is encouraging reporting of any suspicious activity and keeping all doors and windows locked while gone or sleeping.
    • A surveillance picture was shown on t.v. news and printed in the paper.  (Subsequently, somebody was arrested based on suspicious activity in the neighborhood, but whether that person is really the perpetrator and/or the only one is yet to be determined.)
  • Carjacking at church on Sierra Madre Villa Ave.
    • In mid-December, think it was a Friday, there was an early morning (around 6:15 am) carjacking & kidnapping that occurred in the parking lot of Church of the Foothills on Sierra Madre Villa.  A lady who was arriving for work there was the victim. It was committed by at least 4 males who apparently had followed her, and got out of their car and grabbed her as she was getting out of her SUV.   She was taken by some of the suspects with her SUV and then released somewhere east of here (might have been Irwindale).  She was reportedly not physically harmed.  They kept the SUV and stripped it and it was left somewhere south of there.  Apparently it had had fancy wheels on it.
    • Have not heard of any arrests in the case.  If you saw anything that morning and haven’t already talked to the police, call them.  Reminder that even though we are a generally safe neighborhood, we need to stay aware of our surroundings and give some thought to potential responses to suspicious situations.
  • Pasadena Marathon date set
  • Digital TV transition converter program
    • This subject was brought up a couple months ago.
    • As of February 17 2009, the current analog TV broadcasts will end.  If you don’t have a digital or HD television or have your T.V. hooked to cable or satellite, then your t.v. will stop receiving.
      More info about digital television and the conversion can be found at https://www.fcc.gov/digital-television
    • You will be able to buy converter boxes that receive the new digital signals and convert them to analog so your old TV will still work.  Non-fancy versions of these boxes are expected to cost $50 to $70.
    • Each household can request up to two $40 coupons from the government to pay toward a converter box.  Each coupon can only be used toward one box.
    • Can apply for a coupon now via the web site or by calling the Coupon Program 24-hour hotline 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009).
    • The converter boxes are not available from any vendors yet.  The government is now projecting the end of February or March for availability.
    • Coupons will expire 90 days after being issued and will not be replaced if lost, stolen or expired.
    • It appears from the FAQ page that the government will delay issuing the coupons until the converter boxes start to actually be available.  Coupon supply is limited to 22.5 million for all households and then another 11.25 million only to households with no cable or satellite service.
    • Coupons can only be used toward a limited list of basic converter boxes.   Boxes combined with other features such as a DVD player aren’t eligible.
  • Association annual election planning
    • It is coming up to time, March, for our annual election of officers again.
    • Which means we need to:
      • Decide how we will hold voting.  Should it only be in person?  Or should we allow absentee voting and if so, what are the rules (how to identify eligibility and avoid multiple votes, who would manage the ballot box and internet votes)?   Concern with absentee voting is necessity for voter to identify self on ballot.  Even though current elections are hardly contested so it doesn’t matter much, it would set a precedent for future elections.
        Seems we decided for now to just do in person voting again this year.
      • Set the election date or, if absentee voting, the time period.
        Plan to do voting at March meeting.
      • Get volunteers/nominations for each position: President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer.
        Nobody volunteered or nominated at the meeting.   President will continue to serve unless someone else steps up.   Secretary position is already unfilled this year.  Await decisions by current Vice-President and Treasurer whether they are willing to continue service.
      • Distribute flyers (or yearly newsletter) to the neighborhood to publicize the election.
        Expect to produce new newsletter for distribution in late February.  Update those not attending meetings, on the e-mail list, or visiting the web-site.
  • anything else attendees wish to discuss
    • First arrivals to the meeting room found a man who had managed to reserve the room in our time block due to a schedule book-keeping error by the librarian.  This guy had no attendees to his “meeting”.  Gave him a few minutes to talk.  It turned out he was a lousy salesman for some kind of air cleaning device.   Fortunately he sensed the lack of interest and we didn’t have to explicitly tell him to go away.   In later talking to the librarian, learned that the library meeting room schedule has been overrun lately by people scheduling meetings with what appear to be informative topics but for the purpose of trying to sell stuff, especially “multi-level marketing schemes”.  Often they will schedule several dates with big plans, then not show up after a poor response to the first one.    Library administration is looking into how to better deal with this situation.

Next meeting is February 9, 2008.

Adjourned around (forgot to write it down)