It isn’t easy being green.

Back in mid-December, during the coronation ceremonies for the newly, if not duly elected Mayor, Hizzonor Schweitzer excitedly announced the launch of his Mayor’s theme, “Making A Difference” and the new website he had designed (Green) Brea 2012 (Link abandoned).

The home page boasted, “Welcome to the site for my Mayor’s theme this year. In Brea each new Mayor chooses a theme to highlight throughout his term.” The heart warming and oh so motivating text that followed has remained the only content on the site for seven months.

We were going to have events?

On the page labeled “Events” we saw only three listed, one of which wasn’t even really an event but some sort of carbon footprint calculator. Don’t waste your time clicking on it. The results are an endless loop of the same info and graphics, rehashed and no more informative than where you started.

The Links page provides a similarly unrewarding experience… a promise that we could check out the output from our new sole sourced solar arrays — via a live feed updated every 5 minutes. Sadly, we never even got an initial report, let alone a live feed. Hopefully, the panels will not become obsolete as quickly as the website did.

Comments? No. Contact? Also no.

Unlike most blogs, which invite two way dialog between the blogger and their followers, “Brea2012” failed to provide an opportunity for open conversation, the Contact page remains totally useless, the create a login function doesn’t function and the Search box must be purely a tease, it doesn’t function either.

I suppose that doesn’t matter since there is no real content on the entire site. How Beaumanesque.

The closing comments made are, “The site is totally funded by me. No city money or staff time will be involved. Richard Nixon once said, ‘What a strange creature man is that he fouls his own nest.’ Let’s do our part this year to stop fouling our own nest! Thank you for visiting.”

So there you have it, graphic proof of how one earns a reputation for being a strong starter and a non-finisher. Might have been a good idea to follow his own advice. I wonder how long before he calls his webmaster, assuming he still has one, to yank the embarrassment out of cyberspace?

Thankfully, this überfailure was not accomplished at city expense since the Mayor promised he was paying for it out of his own pocket. I guess, thanks to that pay cut and having to return the flex benefit bonus, he ran out of green.

It worked on mugs and t-shirts.

The Mayor’s theme wasn’t a complete bust, It probably looks really cool on the mugs and t-shirts that mayors pass out at community events. (I’ll bet the city did pay for those.)

While I can’t promise you, I’ll bet if you email the Mayor (dons@cityofbrea.net) and let him know how much having one of his mugs would mean to you, he would drop one in the mail.

Besides,  they’re a great way to commemorate his final term in office and the end of the Schweitzer dynasty.

kool-aid_640POSTSCRIPT: 09/20/12 – In recent weeks there have been a flurry of faux-green announcements and proclamations feigning success at the greening of Brea.

The Climate Registry (a loose partnership between Edison and the Energy Coalition) tossed Brea a bone with their “Cool Planet” award and inadvertently disclosed that our massive solar expense is only returning a $320,000 a year savings… far from what was projected to retire the millions spent. At that rate it will take 50 years to pay it off. Any bets on how long the technology remains state-of-the-art?

And then there’s the Mayor’s “One Ton Challenge” encouraging residents to sign up and save 167 pounds of carbon emissions a month. Many of the suggestions as to how to accomplish this are laughable. This, and the “Green Life Green Brea” (make that blue skies) proposal from the City Manager are all part of this faux-green image that Brea is trying to project.

C’mon… you can do better than this!  I hope the Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem and the City Manager find time to brainstorm this while on their taxpayer subsidized vacation to Korea and Japan.

Tilting At Windmills

If you missed the emergency meeting of the City Council at 11:30 Tuesday morning, you’re in the vast majority. The third floor conference room was virtually empty. Three residents, a handful of staff (hopefully on their lunch break with nothing better to do), the City Manager, the City Attorney, The City Clerk and four out of five Council members was about it.

What was so important?

Arguments for and against the two citizen supported initiatives on the November ballot had to be filed no later than 5:30 that evening. Mayor Schweitzer and Mayor Pro Tem Murdock called the meeting to seek Council approval on the arguments they had written opposing the “Brea Accountability Act” and the “Brea Open Governance Act” but oops… once again they had the cart before the horse.

The sharp eye of our City Clerk, Cheryl Balz, discovered that, before anything could be written, Council had to formerly delegate the task — which it had never done. City Attorney, Jim Markman, took blame for the oversight and Council set about fixing their blunder.

But first, Matters from the audience.

Up strode Mr. Glenn Vodhanel. Having somehow become the recipient of the rough drafts by Schweitzer and Murdock, he was justifiably livid… but calmly leveled over a dozen succinct questions at Council regarding the content of the drafts — none the least of which was to challenge the pointed attempt to use character assassination to attack the credibility of the measures. Obviously pointing the poison pen at Mr. Vodhanel, the drafts suggested him as the sole source of the challenge to the status quo and described his work as the “spiteful effort of a single individual.”

Really? Did they overlook the fact that several thousand registered Brea voters, almost as many as voted in the last election, felt these matters were worth consideration?

Really? They felt that this sort of childish retribution best represented Council’s position on these initiatives?

And, as Mr. Vodhanel returned to his seat, the only response was the Mayor’s angry retort, “Where did you get access to [private] counsel documents?” Mr. Vodhanel appropriately declined to answer.

The Mayor then made inquiry of the City Attorney on the matter and was reminded that he needed to conclude Matters from the Audience before asking questions. Oops again.

The only other person to speak, Keith Fullington, was quick to remind Council that what he had just witnessed more than justified considering the Open Governance Act.

Cleaning up their act.

To handle the necessary housekeeping, a motion was made by MPT Murdoch to delegate the writing of the arguments (and rebuttals if necessary). This was followed by a painfully long silence. With crossed fingers, I hoped the motion would fail due to lack of second.

Then Councilman Garcia muttered his second and the fireworks went off a day early.

Roy Moore, after getting clarification from Mr. Markman that delegating the task meant also giving up his right to review and approve the language, said that he was not at all comfortable with this approach. No other discussion followed and, as we’ve grown accustomed to seeing time and time again, Schweitzer, Murdock and Garcia lined up in favor of the motion and Roy Moore abstained. (Note: Councilman Simonoff was out of town on business and unable to attend. I can’t imagine he would have been any happier about this turn of events than was Councilman Moore.)

With most of the mess carefully swept under the rug, and with no further legal or compelling reason to even acknowledge that draft arguments had been written and circulated to Council the week prior (can you say Brown Act violation?), Mayor Schweitzer quickly adjourned the meeting and everyone scattered like rats leaving a sinking ship.

So, where do we go from here?

Within the next few days final arguments for and against the initiatives, as well as Mr. Markman’s “Impartial Analysis” of the measures will be posted on the city website. I’ve read these documents (I made specific request of the City Clerk to email them to me the moment they were part of the official public record) and you owe it to yourself to do the same.

Mr. Markman’s “impartial” analyses is loaded with the usual legalese and boilerplate language for which he is well known. He is quick to point out a couple of components as potentially not being legal, and clarifying why he felt they would be challenged should the measures pass in November. They’ll be challenged if for no other reason than the healthy legal fees that will be another windfall to his firm.

Here’s what I want you to do. Check the city website (if you have trouble, the City Clerk can be reached at (714) 990-7757), download and read all documents. C’mon, it will take the average reader less than twenty minutes to get through everything.

If it’s all clear to you and you find it easy to reach your own opinion on these matters, and I have no reason to think it wouldn’t be, vote.

Fewer than 25% of all registered Brea voters cast ballots in the last election. I know that you weren’t one of the slackers. Rock the vote in your neighborhood, will ya!

If you still have questions on these matters, talk to your friends and neighbors about it. Share what you know. Listen to what they have to say. I trust you’ll be able to reach a decision and I’m counting on you to vote on these initiatives in November.

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” ~ Generally attributed to Edmund Burke

Measure E – Follow The Money

Glancing over the “Committee for Brea Olinda Schools – Yes on Measure E” financial disclosure (FPPC Form 460) covering the period between January 1 to May 19, 2012 presents some very illuminating information.

Contributions received total $29,250 and expenditures total $18,212.37 with an ending balance of $11,037.63.

Perhaps there remain outstanding media bills for the heavy campaigning that occurred in the final weeks that will chew up the leftovers, otherwise I’m not sure where that money would end up. It’s pretty much a done deal now, isn’t it?

Who contributed, and why?

Only one contributor was reported from Brea, the PAC’s treasurer Terry Swindle, and one contributor from La Habra, Warren Kraft/La Habra Fence. Mr. Kraft is the retired and well respected Superintendent of La Habra City Schools and a long time supporter of BOUSD. Both Terry and Warren contributed $500 each (or 1% of the total).

The rest of the list reads like a who’s who of companies making a living off of school districts, their construction projects, their bond issues, etc. LPA Architects, Irvine ($5000) who built Brea H.S. and Caldwell Flores Winters, Inc., Emeryville ($7,500) school planners, financiers and bond election services and their CFO Khushroo Gheyara kicked in $250 personally. Illuminate Education, Irvine ($500), Stifel Nicolaus, St. Louis ($5000), BCA Architects, San Jose ($5000), Bernards Builders Management Services, Ontario ($5000).

What’s in it for them?

Seems obvious to me, greasing the wheels of progress to help a little struggling school district in Orange County get it’s hands on $54 million in fresh tax dollars with it’s tagalong $20 million plus from local developers. The ROI stood to be substantial for the winners, except they didn’t win.

So why absolutely zero support from Brea? From Brea parents? From Brea teachers? From all the good hearted active citizens who lent their names and faces to the Yes on Measure E campaign? Even they didn’t seem inclined to put their money where their mouths were.

Where did the money go?

Into an ill conceived, poorly executed and singularly unconvincing advertising campaign conducted predominantly by AMAC, Redondo Beach to the tune of $15,954.44 to date and $1000 to Andrew Todd (now there’s a familiar name) to produce their website. At least with Andrew, they shopped Brea. A quick look suggests that AMAC would do well to hire Andrew to bring their website out of the last century.

Complete with the look of a 1960’s stock photo campaign, this antiquated approach included huge postcards plastered with endorsees (most of whom admitted they hadn’t even read the proposal), brochures, email blasts and personal prerecorded pleadings in unsolicited phone calls from school principals.

And they lost. Beaten by the North Orange County Conservative Coalition who, if I’m to believe what I hear, spent well under the FPPC limitation of $1000 to sufficiently help influence public opinion, ensuring that Measure E went down in flames.

When the education of Brea’s children is more about raising the quality of their learning experience and less about lining the pockets of the special interests or getting out from under the mounting unfunded pension liability… when a full accounting by an independent third party sheds a little light on where the $27 million bond issue and additional $80 million in developer’s funds they got in 1999 were really spent… maybe a bond issue might stand half a chance.

Until then BOUSD, we’re not your personal ATM!