Council Meeting Triggers Rant.

Like a growing number of folks I watched last night’s Council meeting from the comfort of my easy chair. As I watched I slid ever closer to the edge of my seat and the comments I was barking at the TV got louder and louder. Okay, forewarned is forearmed. This is a rant and you can bail out now and we’ll still be friends.

What is Council really approving?

Council is elected to make decisions in the best interest of those they serve… the ones who voted for them and those that didn’t. So why do so many issues become so politicized?

Why doesn’t staff provide all the pros and cons, including verified factual information, allowing Council to come to their own conclusions? Why do I constantly hear, “I move to approve, as presented…” – and boom! Another rubber stamp on the status quo.

council rubberstamp

Between the medical marijuana zoning ordinance and the rather contentious conclusion to jacking up our tiered water rates, I’ve never heard so much convoluted legalese and city speak tossed about. And why?

To herd Council down a trail leading to an unedited approval of staff’s grand plan.

When is the law not the law?

When it doesn’t suit the desired results sought by Planning and the City Attorney. Case in point, the medical marijuana matter was concluded based, in part, on 65 year old unsubstantiated Reefer Madness propaganda masquerading as fact.

Worse yet, though clearly pointed out by Council member Vargas, the vote for final approval included approving language stating Council verified and attested that the “facts” in the ordinance are true and correct!

Either remove the un-vetted opinion from the “Recitals” or delete the statement putting Council on the hook as validating the true and factual nature of statements. They have no means of proving anything.

“NOW, THEREFORE, the City Council of the City of Brea ordains as follows: The City Council find that the facts set forth in the Recitals, Part A, of this Ordinance are true and correct.”

One or the other has to go or it is arguable that Council is lying. I don’t care which part is nuked, just pick one and delete it… now and forever.

Also, what is all this nonsense about interim vs. permanent ordinances? Clearly, according to one City Attorney, the only real difference is an interim ordinance is a short term solution and the other is permanent (subject to amendments, remember).

The conflicting opinion is that a permanent ordinance is more defensible because it is created based upon fact and not upon urgent circumstance. Fact? Really? Go back and read my last point.

How did this get through the Planning Commission?

By the slimmest of margins following a passionate plea from the public, lengthy discussion of purpose and process by three Commissioners (two Commissioners didn’t join the discussion) and a series of three separate motions.

But did Council have the Commission’s minutes in their information packet? No. Were Commissioners contacted by Council to discuss the issues? Not that I’m aware of.

Council was told by the City Attorney that having the Planning Commission minutes would be unhelpful, offering only a bare minimum of information. Further he recommended Council listen to the streaming audio recording of the Planning Commission meeting as a better resource.

If the Commission’s minutes are unhelpful, why do them?

Council and Planning Commission minutes are created to provide a meaningful account of the business conducted – they are the official public record of the meeting. Years from now, anyone should be able to access and review these minutes and should be able to reconstruct a reasonable account of what transpired.

I have been attempting to drive this point home for two years, with two City Clerks, two City Managers and three Council members.

Action minutes, for Council and Planning Commission, where city policy and law are created, fall miserably short of fulfilling their purpose as written public record.

Don’t use the excuse that we have streaming video we can refer to, who the hell does that? Provide a reasonable summary in writing. That’s really not too much to ask. If the summary leaves me with additional questions I can turn to the video for details, but let it be my choice.

Back on topic.

Having listened to the streaming audio file for the January 26 Planning Commission meeting, it is abundantly clear that the audio quality is intermittent at best with much content being unintelligible.

I’m told this is attributable to two things. One – Commission members need additional instruction on how to properly use the new equipment, and two – as is common practice with Council meetings, Communications Department staff should be present to monitor recording quality.

Okay, so the Planning Commission audio file is virtually useless to Council.

Last night’s rush to judgment ran roughshod over common sense for the sake of kicking the can down the road and clearing the agenda. In the future I wish Council would leave the politics out and make a more concerted effort to get it right the first time. Its damn poor policy to keep falling back on the excuse that it’s easy to amend stuff later should circumstances change.

Really, when has that ever happened?

Again, case in point, since the Central Park Village Brea project was approved, has Council revisited the CFD and Mello-Roos issues that were swept under the rug? No.

How many other open ended issues have disappeared into the fog of history? We can’t even go back and review past minutes to answer that question. Per City Attorney Markman, “The law only requires action minutes and record of the vote.”

What about the spirit of the law Mr. Markman? What will it take to shift “transparency” from being a campaign buzzword to how this city conducts it’s business? What will it take to institute a level of accountability into how this city conducts it’s business that will help Breans to begin to trust local government again?

One final thought.

When a motion dies for lack of a second it’s a slap in the face to the one making the motion. I’ll refrain from suggesting what epithet accompanies the assault, but you might as well raise middle fingers in unison as you sit there mute.

Roy Moore once said that he often seconded motions with which he was in opposition if for no other reason than to demonstrate respect for his peers and afford them the opportunity to have their ideas discussed. Amen Roy.

For all Council’s continued yammering about respect and professional courtesy, letting a motion die for lack of a second belays all that. It is unconscionable. It is unacceptable.

council rubberstamp

Brea First — of the people, for the people and by the people.

My prime objective, from day one, has been to encourage my friends and neighbors to pay more attention to what goes on at the Civic Center and to make the best use of their vote as possible. I’m pleased to share with you the launch of a new grassroots group, Brea First. Their Director, Chris Gaarder has been kind enough to provide this background.

Brea FirstIntroducing Brea First

By Chris Gaarder, Director

Last Thursday, January 28, Brea First hosted our first public meeting, on “Developing Brea: From Oil to Commercial Success.” We believe it is important to look to the city’s past if we hope to build a better future.

Brea FirstOur speakers, former Mayor Carrey Nelson and Olinda Oil Museum docent Jack Smith, shared valuable insights on how Brea became the city it is today. Brea FirstWe heard fascinating anecdotes from the early oil days to the more recent redevelopment efforts that created much of the city we see today.

That was then, this is now.

While it is tempting to say the past is the past, decisions made 10 or 100 years ago have effects that ripple into the Brea of today and the Brea of our children’s future. Brea First will continue to explore Brea’s history in our upcoming meetings, and we hope to put a special focus on the city’s future.

Our plan is to host a monthly public event providing Breans with information and analyses of our past, present and future, from local and outside experts.

All too often, critical issues of local government do not get the attention they deserve. In the coming months and years, Brea First will work at the grassroots level, putting the welfare of the people of Brea first, by shedding light on the matters having the greatest effect upon our daily lives.

By promoting a better understanding of how Brea’s government works today, the people of Brea can help create a better tomorrow.

Counting our blessings.

Brea contributes a tremendous amount of good to those living in the city and beyond, including strong schools, a vibrant business scene, a high quality of life, and strong bonds among the diverse communities within the city.

There remains, however, longstanding issues poorly addressed and still unresolved. Breans voice continuing concerns over transparency, accountability and the proper role of government.

Our most serious problem: unfunded pension liabilities.

The unfunded public pension liabilities owed to the City of Brea’s past and current employees are particularly troubling. According to Pension Tracker, Brea has the second worst unfunded public pension liability per household ($20,113 in 2013) of any city in Orange County.

That puts Brea among the worst five percent of cities for unfunded pension liabilities per household in all of California. The reality is, left unresolved, Brea could face the crippling of vital services or even bankruptcy. Residents, including city workers and retirees, could be hurt by these looming liabilities.

Bad news, good news.

As bad as the unfunded liability may be, there are a variety of other serious issues facing the city. The good news is, as Brea First brings an array of issues to the fore, we can find workable solutions to the challenges facing Brea.

MTG1_overview

Become part of Brea’s Solution.

Plan to hear our February meeting announced in the coming week. Stay connected by visiting our Facebook Page and Website where you can sign up for our email list.

Brea First is a bright light on the horizon.

Brea’s politics has often been contentious in recent years. We all know it. While important change swept through city hall in 2014, serious issues remain.

I have great expectations for Brea First, confidence in the leadership and am hopeful to see it’s ranks grow at an exponential rate. I hope you feel the same encouragement I feel and make an effort to get involved.