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‘SIDE SHOW’ AT ARTESIA CITY COUNCIL MEETING AFTER LOCAL PAPER PUBLISHES ERROR RIDDEN ARTICLE

Artesia-water-tower

By Rico Dizon

 

The Artesia City Council has been known for holding marathon meetings that last so long that sometimes a “side show” takes center stage instead of pressing items that regularly appear before the five member governing body.

This past week’s meeting was no exception.

Recently the Artesia City Council voted to send to voters a special ballot measure that specifically deals with a proposed Utility User’s Tax that will now be appearing before voters on the upcoming November 4 General Election.

During the decision on the ballot measure that would lower a proposed 5% Utility Users Tax to 4.9%, a lone speaker from the public unexpectedly amused the audience, council members and staff with his comments about the entire situation.

Stephen Eckles, a lifelong resident of Artesia, addressed the city leaders by saying “I am a neighbor of Sally Flowers and Tony Lima,” as he gestured toward the directions of council member and Artesia mayor, respectively.

Eckles continued to cite names of previous council members whom he grew up with them while scanning their pictures lined up on the chamber wall.  He said, “These are the people who instilled what Artesia is all about.  I am proud to be part of Artesia but when I heard about the Utility User’s Tax, I have to calm down.”

Then he casually trained his eyes back to the city council and addressing them, “Are you nuts? Are you nuts?  I read that we have a balanced budget of $7. 2 million and we even have a surplus. So why tax the residents more?”

Eckles then turned his attention to Councilman Victor Manalo when he said that he was quoted in another local bi-weekly publication as saying, “we need a consistent source of funds and the UUT will raise some $41 million.” To which Council Member Victor Manalo blurted in disbelief, “$41 million, and geez?”

In the foreground, City Manager William Rawlings was vigorously shaking his head.

At this point, Manalo asked Eckles where he got his numbers and the latter promptly replied, “From a local bi-weekly publication”

Eckles continued, “I also gathered that 54% of the city revenues come from property and sales taxes. “Why not just increase the sales tax? Why look at the pockets of residents. Maybe you can contribute 5% of your salaries to the city. Artesians for Artesia.”

Manalo quickly clarified, “we don’t have property tax in Artesia” to which the Eckles responded, “I apologize for the wrong numbers, you might have been misquoted (in the bi-weekly newspaper).”

Nobody from the city council and staff seem to take the name calling seriously except maybe Mayor Pro Tem Miguel Canales who asked Eckles, “So, do you still think we are nuts? If seeing to it that the city streets and parks in Artesia are well maintained and that the other basic services to residents are rendered with no interruption is considered nuts then I am nuts.” Eckles momentarily calmed down, “I appreciate your being able to control the people of Artesia but unlike Mayor Lima, he cannot control the residents and is making a lot of ordinances like parking fees, parking permits that are burdens to the people. “This is not Cerritos.”

Before going back to discussion, Manalo chided, “We should be saving the city about $125 if we contribute 5% of our salaries as city council members to everybody’s chuckle.

In a more serious note, Manalo said, “As I have mentioned before, we lack consistency of revenues, we over rely on sales tax. “Our city manager said we are low taxed. “We need to diversify if only to avoid cutting back on city services as we are still in state of fiscal emergency.” Mayor Lima said, “In my eight years as a council member of Artesia, I recall the year when we had a $10 million budget. It is now 2014 and we have a $7.5 million budget. The proceeds from the UUT will not be substantial, not after two to three years. “So, if we want future comfort in Artesia and a more stabilized economy in the city, it is a real necessity to place the proposed UUT into the ballots this coming November.”

 

During the meeting, it was explained by the ad-hoc committee that this year’s utility users tax will have a broader base that will include solid waste disposal , use of video services via satellite and internet, cellular phones and other new telecommunication devices introduced and used today. Council Member Ali Taj voiced out his sentiments, “I can see a great and urgent need to educate the residents regarding the repercussions of the new UUT measure before November to avoid gross misinformation.”

 

 

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