PASADENA — More than 1,000 angry homeowners, many demanding the firing of City Manager Donald McIntyre and the recall of the Board of City Directors, turned out for two protest hearings last week against a proposed special assessment district.
Audiences at Tuesday's and Wednesday's hearings disrupted proceedings several times with shouts of "Fire the bum!" directed at McIntyre, and "Recall! Recall!" to city directors.
Hostilities were fueled during the second hearing when community activist Idella Clarke read a letter from tax crusader Howard Jarvis that urged residents to "band together against the taking of the rights they voted themselves under Proposition 13. The time for the people of Pasadena to fight back is now."
Homeowners have deluged City Hall with protest letters and phone calls since notices of the planned assessment district were mailed two weeks ago. The district would levy annual fees ranging from $60.11 to $96.67 for an average single-family home over a 10-year period to pay for $17 million worth of repairs to sidewalks, curbs, gutters and street lights.
Criticism of Timing
Property owners claim that the assessment violates Proposition 13 and have accused city officials of trying to "ram it down our throats" at the last minute.
Most of the hostilities were directed at McIntyre for presenting the assessment district plan to city directors, who approved it earlier this year. City officials have said that the district stems from the recommendations of a citizens advisory committee that identified $55 million in needed improvements to public facilities. Those improvements had been deferred by the city over several years because of lack of funding.
McIntyre told Tuesday's audience of more than 600 that financing sidewalk and street light repairs through the assessment district was one of several "bold steps that always accompany taking action on financial problems."
City Director Rick Cole apologized for not warning property owners sooner. "I think we bungled it," he told the crowd.
Won't Buy 'Apologies'
The audience was not appeased.
"Mr. Cole contritely says 'we're sorry, we're sorry,' " said resident Jim Morgan. "Well, I don't want to hear his apologies. I want to see this put on the ballot."
Morgan's comments were echoed throughout Tuesday's two-hour hearing and again Wednesday evening in a 3 1/2-hour session at Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Accompanied by rousing applause, speaker after speaker demanded that the assessment district be placed before voters as a ballot measure and that Pasadena's government be disbanded.
Residents also complained that the notices of their proposed yearly fees were inaccurate.
An independent consultant, hired by the city at a cost of $93,000, formulated a basis for charging property owners that is commensurate with the benefit received by the repair work.
Points of Criticism
Ostensibly, a property owner would be charged a higher assessment if his land abutted a road needing street light repairs. Many residents complained that they were being included in the higher rate despite the fact that they have no street lights. Others complained that they are being charged for repairs to curbs, gutters and sidewalks although they live on private roads that have none.
"I feel this is like the Boston Tea Party," said A. P. Haertel. "But at least they got tea for their tax. I don't have any sidewalks to get taxed for. I've been trying for 22 years to get a curb put in so that when the street sweepers come, they don't push the rubbish up into our front yards."
A handful of speakers who supported the board's action were shouted down by the audience.
The Rev. David Scott, who defended McIntrye and chastised the crowd for "trying to castrate a man who's doing the job and who's been doing the job," became embroiled in a shouting match with Wednesday's audience and was booed from the podium.
C. M. Zimney urged property owners to "recall those who are not responsive to our humble demands" and to do away with Pasadena's non-elected city manager position. "I'd like to have the prerogative of voting the bastards out in four years," he shouted Wednesday.
A third hearing on the assessment district is scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m. in Civic Auditorium. Under municipal law, the district can be stopped if protest letters representing a majority of the city's 33,600 land parcels are received by the end of the hearings.
The city has received 4,207 such letters representing 7.65% of the assessable land parcels. City directors must decide the issue by July 2 in order to meet the Los Angeles County assessor's deadline for computing next year's property tax bills.
The assessment district is one of the 'bold steps that . . . accompany action on financial problems.'