Last night the very sad denizens of Palos Verdes Estates swarmed the city council chambers to mourn the effects of their poverty, general brokedness, poor planning, and stinginess. The meeting lasted close to three hours, but my evening was spent much more productively, at Telo, chasing the winning breakaway of Evens S., Colin C., and Shon S.
This evening I got around to watching snatches of the meeting video that is posted online here. It was fascinating because it showed that even in broke-ass towns like PVE, democracy works. And it works with a vengeance.
Ostensibly the council was meeting to figure out how to fill the gaping $4M hole created by the recent vote on Measure D, which, and I’m paraphrasing, was proposed like this: “Are you too cheap to pay for a fire department and EMS? It’s gonna cost you $977 dollars a year.”
The community resoundingly voted “Hell yes we are!” which magically created a budget crater big enough to drive a Range Grazer through. And since no one was really about to eliminate the fire and EMS services, it meant that the council would now have to find “other” places to economize, a fancy euphemism for “eliminate the private security detail a/k/a PVE Police Department that accounts for 54% of the city budget and contract cop services out to LA Sheriff’s Department like everyone else with a brain.”
The problem with that was stomach-churningly obvious, though–it meant that Chief Jeff Kepley, a renowned expert in selectively enforcing laws, and the 39 other PVEPD employees would be out of a job. Any citizen who thought they might show up at this council meeting and applaud the city for finally defunding its private security force soon noticed that almost the entire police department was attending in mufti. Probably not a great place to say, “Fire ’em, one and all!”
Since I only watched part of it, the best line I saw was when Chief Kepley noted that part of the problem with excessive overtime at the department was related to the “difficulty” of hiring permanent positions because, as he delicately put it, other communities “paid more” and working in PVE had “conditions” that some applicants did not prefer, in other words, the residents in PVE treat the police like shit.
You know, the little things that make you love your job–being held in contempt by the people whose leased Maseratis you protect and whose Mexican gardeners you arrest.
There were other gems as well, especially Mayor King and Lame Duck Councilman Goodhart anxiously inquiring about Rancho Palos Verdes and displaying spleen-bursting jealousy about the fact that RPV wasn’t in the same boat they were, that is, broke. But the best part was the speech by the Tax Dude, the only person at the whole meeting who talked about facts with less spin than a beginning ballerina.
You see, PVE’s tax problem began a long time ago, when it had its own fire department. In 1978, the conservative and greedy voters of California got together and passed Proposition 13, which capped property taxes at one percent. So far so good. The fake rich denizens of PVE were able to hold onto a few more bucks while foisting the cost of running an actual community back onto the county and state. Everyone celebrated with a few more lines of cheap coke, a tawdry affair, and a prayer that their worthless children would quit beating up strangers at the surf break.
But after Prop. 13 passed, the voters realized that no one had bothered to work out how the taxes would be apportioned under this new system. In other words, for each dollar taxed, which taxing entity would get how much? The solution was AB 8, which said that taxing entities would get their share of the tax in the same proportion as they got it before Prop. 13 was passed. Back to the future, so to speak.
Well, okay. Except shortly after that, PVE disbanded its fire department, which was an independent taxing entity. And since you couldn’t create a new taxing entity and glom onto the property taxes due to Prop. 13, the clever folks in PVE were without a fire department and without a way to pay for a new one through city revenue. So they contracted with the LA County Fire Department and voted on a separate parcel tax to pay for it.
Until this year, when they didn’t. In other words, they wanted to have their defibrillator and use it, too.
Tax Dude’s basic message, and hats off to his professionalism, was this: “You greedy, broke-ass idiots really fucked yourselves. Even the apartment dwellers in RPV were smart enough to figure this out. Time to either give the Kepstone Kops their pink slip or fire up the tax ovens again. And here’s my invoice, net 30.”
You never saw a sadder looking bunch of broke people in ugly suits unless you’ve spent time at a cut-rate funeral parlor. And when Chief Kepley explained that a huge chunk of his overtime costs were from the Stop Sign Virginity Protection Program, I couldn’t help but laugh thinking that he’ll be blaming the city’s woes on the biker gangsters up until the day they board up the jail and auction off the used uniforms.
I hope they have one that will fit Garret Unno. He could mount it on his wall as a trophy for inadvertently bringing down the PVE PD.
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