Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thievery or Smart Governance?

"Let's re-purpose the fruits of our crime!"
Last year when I was a member of the City of Fullerton's Water Rate Study Ad Hoc Committee I hoped to end the illegal water tax (done!).  I also hoped to take the money overcharged to rate payers from the General Fund and put it back in the Water Fund where it was intended to be spent.  This would help offset and suspend any immediate need to raise rates for infrastructure investment.  This seemed like the smart thing to do.

However, after many thoughtful discussions and meetings with community members, ratepayer advocates, and tax fighters I realized the error in keeping the money.  From an ethics point of view, it is wrong to keep something that was taken through deception.  It's also wrong to hang onto something that is not yours without the consent of the owner.  

In this case, the City took ratepayers' money and told them it was needed to fund the water system.  The City then raised water rates repeatedly while skimming 10% to cover rising pension costs and personnel benefits.  According to the City's own records 70% of the skimmed funds were spent on police and fire salaries and benefits.  About 10% covered other staff salaries and benefits with the remainder being spent on subsidizing other departments, like Parks & Recreation.  That's the simple but ugly truth.  

None of the skimmed funds were spent laying new pipelines, treating contaminated water, or building reservoirs.  

If your employee (think city council) had been overcharging your customers (think ratepayers) to prop up the employee's retirement benefits and pay for office supplies for their side business, wouldn't  you fire the employee (think recall election) and give your customers a refund equal to the amount which they were over charged?  What if...after getting caught the employee concocted a scheme to keep the money or at least most of it?  What if they were convinced that they could do more good with it than your customers could?  Would you really tell your employee to just hang on to the cash and use it more wisely?  Look at it this way, after discovering your child took a cookie out of the cookie jar without your permission, would you let them eat it or maybe give it to the dog?  Or would you make them put it back where they got it?

Opponents of the refund would like you to believe that a refund would drain the reserves and bankrupt the City.  While the burden would be great, this assumes that the City would not cut expenditures in other areas and would instead simply raid the reserves much like the previous administrations continuous raids of the Water Fund since 1970.  

A refund of $7,000,000 is not an insurmountable figure to overcome but it will require a change in the way we do business.  Also, let's consider how much money a "typical" ratepayer can expect to be refunded given that City staff had assumed that the refund was going to be $2,500,000 and not the full $7,000,000.  The difference is due to the "costs" which staff attempted to lay on the Water Fund but which the current council rejected.

Staff had calculated that a "typical" water ratepayer could expect a refund of around $45 per meter.  That figure assumes the refund is $2.5 million, not $7-million.  Ratepayers can expect to receive $120 to $170 each for their portion of the $7-million refund depending on how much they were actually over charged.

While I appreciate the notion of reinvesting the ill-gotten revenue, I believe the ratepayers should have a say in the matter.  Perhaps allowing them to opt out of receiving a refund is more appropriate.  I am open to considering how to manage the refund process but absolutely reject the notion that the City of Fullerton, the same agency that created this mess, should simply keep the money.  

Greg Sebourn

Orange County Bail Bonds

The Beauty of a Storm

The Beauty of a Storm
Orange County, Ca.

My Grandma - A Eulogy

LET'S TALK ABOUT 1914 FOR A MOMENT.



FOR STARTERS, GRANDMA WAS BORN TUESDAY, DECEMBER 22, 1914 IN HER FAMILY'S ATWOOD RANCH HOUSE.



IT IS WORTH NOTING THOSE ALSO BORN IN 1914:

JACK LALANNE

JOE DIMAGGIO

DANNY THOMAS



AND WHO DIED IN 1914:

JOHN MUIR, THE FAMOUS NATURALIST FOR WHICH NUMEROUS ROADS, PARKS, HOTELS, AND NATURE RESERVES ARE NAMED.



IT IS ALSO WORTH NOTING THAT IN 1914 WOODROW WILSON SIGNS MOTHER'S DAY PROCLAMATION AND BABE RUTH MAKES HIS MAJOR LEAGUE DEBUT WITH THE RED SOX. MOTHER'S DAY AND BASEBALL- TWO OF MY FAVORITES!! (PERHAPS HER NICKNAME "BABE" CAME FROM BABE RUTH???)



GRANDMA WAS BORN INTO A PERIOD OF TIME FILLED WITH TURMOIL. IN JUNE OF 1914 ARCHDUKE FRANZS FERDINAND WAS ASSASSINATED. WITHIN ONE MONTH WORLD WAR I RAGED ACROSS EUROPE. TWO DAYS AFTER HER BIRTH HOWEVER, GERMAN AND BRITISH TROOPS INTERRUPTED WWI TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS. (PERHAPS THEY PAUSE KNOWING THAT A GREAT WOMAN WAS BORNE) WORLD WAR I CONTINUED UNTIL THE TREATY OF VERSAILLES IN 1919.



ALTHOUGH SHE WAS ONLY 5 YEARS OLD, SHE SAW THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS CREATED AND THE 19TH AMENDMENT WAS APPROVED BY THE U.S. CONGRESS GUARANTEEING THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN TO VOTE.



SHE LIVED THROUGH MANY NOTABLE EVENTS. LIKE THE 1933 LONG BEACH EARTHQUAKE OR WHEN ATWOOD FLOODED ALONG WITH MOST OF ORANGE COUNTY IN 1938 AND THE FLOOD-WATERS CLAIMED MORE THAN 50 PEOPLE, 43 OF WHICH WERE FROM ATWOOD! ALL OF THIS DURING A TIME THAT WE READ ABOUT IN SCHOOL AND KNOWN AS "THE GREAT DEPRESSION". SOMEWHERE IN ALL OF THAT SHE FOUND THE LOVE OF HER LIFE, GRANDPA LEO, GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL, GOT MARRIED, AND HAD KIDS!



THEN THERE WAS WORLD WAR II. FROM PEARL HARBOR TO HIROSHIMA, GRANDMA WAS RAISING MY UNCLE BOB AND MOM ARLINE. WITH AIR-RAID SIRENS AND BLACKOUTS SHE WAS A WIFE AND MOTHER. WHAT A TIME TO RAISE CHILDREN! I BET GRANDMA'S PARENTS WERE ABEL TO TELL HER A THING OR TWO ABOUT RAISING KIDS IN WARTIME.



GRANDMA WAS THERE WHEN THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA HELD THEIR 3RD ANNUAL NATIONAL JAMBOREE IN 1953. SHE SAW AIRBASES OPEN IN '42 AND CLOSE IN '99. SHE WATCHED WALTER KNOTT START UP HIS BERRY FARM AND WALT DISNEY TURN ORANGE GROVES AND STRAWBERRY PATCHES INTO DISNEYLAND!



SHE SAW THE HORSE AND CARRIAGE FADE AWAY INTO HISTORY AND SPACE TRAVEL EXPLODE BEFORE HER WITH THE FIRST LUNAR LANDING. JUST IMAGINE HOW MUCH TECHNOLOGY HAS CHANGED OVER THE LAST 100 YEARS. FROM TUBE RECTIFIERS TO SUPERCONDUCTORS; FROM TRANS-ATLANTIC TELEGRAPH CABLES TO SATELLITE TV.



SHE SAW MORE IN HER 93 YEARS THAN MOST OF US WILL EVER READ ABOUT, LET ALONE LIVE THROUGH!



OF THOSE 93 YEARS IT IS MY HONOR TO HAVE BEEN HER GRANDSON FOR 35 OF THEM. SHE WAS MY MOTHER WHEN MOM HAD TO WORK. SHE WIPED MY NOSE AND PUT FOOD IN MY MOUTH. SHE LET ME PLAY WITH GRANDPA EVEN THOUGH SHE NEEDED HIM TO TAKE HER TO THE STORE. SHE WAS MY GRANDMA AND I WILL MISS HER IMMENSELY.



JUST LOOK AROUND THIS ROOM; SHE DID THIS. SHE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR BRINGING SO MANY GOOD PEOPLE INTO THIS WORLD AND TOGETHER TODAY. THIS IS HER LEGACY.



A Dedication To My Loving Wife, Stacey. Thank you for all you do for me!

Brad Paisley - I Thought I Loved You Then


I remember trying not to stare the night that I first met you
You had me mesmerized
3 weeks later in the front porch light taking 45 min to kiss you goodnight
I hadn’t told you yet but I thought I loved you then

Chorus
Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then.

I remember taking you back to right where I first met you
You were so surprised
There were people around
But I didn’t care I got down on one knee right there
And once again I thought I loved you then

Chorus
Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then.

I can just see you with a baby on the way
I can just see you when your hair is turning gray
What I can’t see is how I’m ever gonna love you more
But I’ve said that before.

Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Well look back some day at this moment that we’re in
And I'll look at you and say I thought I loved you then
And I thought I loved you then...

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