Final Thoughts For 2017.

In the summer of 2011, then City Manager Tim O’Donnell told me that his favorite definition of leadership was, “Leadership is disappointing your constituents in increments they can absorb.” The implication was heinous and has proven to be the underlying rationale of countless decisions made by Council over the seven years I’ve written this blog. Here are a few of the most obvious:

  • Raising Council’s stipend and flex benefits.
  • Burying key decisions and large capital expenditures in the Consent Calendar.
  • Commission and Committee appointees are predominantly political payback.
  • Now defunct Redevelopment Agency created over $200 million in bond debt, most building or refurbishing city property for which there is no property tax which pays off the bond debt.
  • Brett Murdock tacitly appointed to lead opposition to The Brea Open Governance Act and The Brea Accountability Act. Murdock failed to disclose his leadership of the Breans Against Measures T & U PAC and was fined $2,000 by the FPPC.
  • City Clerk, under direction from City Manager and City Attorney violates election law resulting in litigation that was lost on appeal and cost taxpayers almost $1 million dollars.
  • Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem and City Manager take an ill-advised two week junket to Korea and Japan, sticking Brea taxpayers with the bill (Koreagate).
  • Mount a weak attempt to retain the Police Services contract with Yorba Linda.
  • Reorganize Brea FD rather than seriously entertaining the possibility that contracting out the services could save Brea taxpayers a bundle.
  • “Green Brea 2012” was a disaster but continues to be touted by city propagandists as a success. “Greenwashing” at it’s finest.
  • Staff recommends Council pay annual pension obligation at less than 100%, adding to the mounting debt. Brea had a surplus of $21.9 million in 2001, what happened?
  • 560 Fund (OC Landfill) earmarked to mitigate the traffic, noise, road damage and provide other “community benefits” is tapped twice to pay for the solar project – several million dollars. Remember, the one that would pay for itself.
  • Create Landscape, Lighting & Maintenance Districts (LL&MD) and Community Facilities Districts (CFD) to dodge Prop 13 and generate uncapped revenue. Promises made to “revisit” these for possible double taxation and to add sunset clauses has never found it’s way to the agenda.
  • Implement and repeat use of tiered water rates as a means of social engineering (deemed illegal in Capistrano Taxpayers Association, Inc. v. City of San Juan Capistrano – 2015).
  • Cal Domestic. Need I say more? If the FPPC, State DOJ and/or OCDA would get off their asses maybe we would finally get to the truth.
  • The perpetual appearance of collusion, backroom dealings and Brown Act violations every time Council reorganizes – never challenged, never proven but always questioned.
  • Madrona. Self-explanatory.
  • A “Civic & Cultural Center Demonstration Garden” proposed as a means of defraying costs of routine maintenance of Civic Center parking structure. Resoundingly rejected by residents.
  • City budget deemed to be balanced for the last 17 years yet Pension and OPEB debt soars to over $100 million.
  • Brea Envisions. Self-explanatory.
  • Originally proposed in January 1999, the just completed downtown parking structure could have been built for $5 million dollars with Redevelopment money without disruption to existing businesses.
  • Apprised of Constitutional due process issues buried within the Brea Municipal Code, triggered by the unilateral dismissal provision in Section 2.16.050, Council dawdles for 16 months without resolution. Will show up on agenda again soon.
  • $73,069,750 spent since 1977 for a “mobile intensive care” Paramedic Program appears to be nothing more than a subsidy for the Brea FD. (This will likely add fuel to the fiscal fires in 2018 as the truth becomes known.)

How the hell does this happen?

It’s become increasingly clear, as I read dozens upon dozens of staff reports that, more often than not, we’re getting only a fraction of the truth. Having reached the conclusion that Council, Commission and Committee members and the voting public in general lack the vision and intelligence to manage their community — staff has gradually hijacked all authority.

At best, only one or two senior city staff actually live in Brea. They have no local roots, no family history, no personal investment or emotional ties to the community. They are here to achieve their personal professional best, as dictated purely by academia and tweaked in a never ending array of seminars and symposiums. That their “product” ever actually benefits Brea is purely serendipitous.

They are here to put in their time, to receive salary and benefits well beyond that offered for comparable work in the private sector and to retire with six figure pensions.

From time to time they make mistakes, we all do. These blunders are the product of bad judgment, ignorance or inattention. These gaffes are committed with our money and are often magnitudes greater than the day-to-day mistakes we make.

Our city’s cancerous corporate culture.

To preserve their lucrative but fragile existence they are inclined to cover up the truth rather than admitting to failure. A corporate culture develops around them that renders them incapable of providing the whole truth. Staff seems to operate in a perpetual state of circling the wagons.

It is an endemic condition that can only be overcome by stripping them of the authority they have stolen and return it to those we elected to do the job in the first place.

And here’s the problem. As this bureaucratic shadow management culture has grown, their influence and power have as well and this creates a vacuum that eventually sucks in our elected representatives and blinds them to their complicity in the improprieties going on right under their noses.

Where do we take our city from here?

Revive “Clean Sweep” and put strong willed candidates into office who will not bow to the corporate mentality infesting those managing city business.

Candidates must give you a true sense of trust and confidence that accountability and transparency are not simply campaign rhetoric, that they will set aside any and all personal agendas (and bloated egos) – keeping a single focus upon what truly serves the people of Brea. Otherwise, they have not earned your vote.

city culture

Moore On The Downtown Parking Structure.

Roy MooreYesterday, Roy Moore, weighed in on the downtown parking structure and unfunded pension liabilities… tying them together in a most sensible way. With permission, here is the heart of Roy’s message.

BreaNet, Issue #708

If I may, I would like to comment on the proposed parking structure to be built behind the Tower Building on Super Block A. In January 1999 the City Council approved construction of the buildings on Super Blocks A and B. At that time I argued for a parking structure.

We could have built it for five million dollars with Redevelopment money without disruption to existing businesses. The Tower Building would not have been empty for nine years. I still support such a parking structure. The Council has approved the concept but still is struggling with how to pay for it. It is apparent that tapping city reserves will be necessary.

I would submit that before this decision is made the City Council first formulate how to fund Brea’s unfunded liabilities. This most likely would have to look to these same reserves for a possible solution. This is no small problem. CalPERS currently reports that as of June 30, 2013 Brea’s unfunded liabilities are $108 million.

Although much has been done in recent years requiring city employees to contribute toward their maximum to cover their pensions it does not appear that this will totally solve the problem over the next 25 years.

Here is my recommendation for a possible solution.  Brea’s landfill is an asset that I believe will generate revenues until at least 2040. The determinant on when to close the landfill is the height of the “trash mountain”.

There are two reserve funds as a result of the landfill.

The Capital Mitigation Improvement Fund (560 Fund) currently has a balance of $5.16 million. This fund was created by the $10.5 million payment from the Orange County Waste Management for the eight year extension of the landfill. I believe there will be at least two more extensions.

The original amount has already been reduced by 50% to make improvements to Valencia Avenue (valid use of funds), pay two solar bond payments (supposed to be paid from electricity savings) and the Birch Street medians.

The second landfill fund is the Community and Economic Development Fund (140 Fund) which currently has a balance of $3.48 million and results from revenues received for out-of-county trash deposits in our landfill at $1.50/ton. This amounts to in excess of one million dollars a year.

I recommend placing a large percentage (at least 50%) of these two funds (current balances and future growth) into a special unfunded liabilities account to earn interest and be used to periodically pay down our unfunded liabilities.

So what does this leave to fund a new parking structure?

Assume a structure for parking only, no affordable housing and a not-to-exceed cost of $9.0 million: 560 Fund – $2.5 million, 140 Fund – $1.2 million, 110 Fund (General Fund) – $3.0 million, Redevelopment funds – $3.8 million.

This adds up to a healthy $10.5 million.

Note: the redevelopment funds may not be available and depends upon the State Legislature approval of Governor Brown’s trailer bill. Using long term financing could make up the shortage using the annual growth in the 140 Fund to make the payments.

The bottom line is that it is possible to put in place a plan to cover our unfunded liabilities and also provide a new parking structure in the Downtown. How the financing is structured and whether any of the funds are a loan to the Downtown is up to Council.

For what it is worth that is my two cents on the subject. – Roy Moore

Moore on MadronaAs always, thanks Roy.

Council Tackles Parking Again.

Mini_Pano

As expected, Matters From The Audience was dominated by folks addressing Council about the downtown parking structure. Opinions varied. All but one speaker contributed civil, thoughtful, meaningful comments. Everyone seemed to agree a structure was needed, however opinions were divided on which design made the most sense to them.

The solo speaker who ignored the real subject, ranted to Council about his disdain for one Brea businessman citing an email exchange that he either misread completely or manufactured the most bitter inaccurate interpretation possible. Read about my take on this misguided antagonist here: He’s No Friend Of Brea.

What did the real Brean’s have to say?

Comments and email received by Council predominantly favored building a parking structure but were equally divided about how to best fund the project. Some had no problem using general fund money, others strongly objected. There were even a couple of compassionate comments pointing out other projects or services they felt were more important than parking.

Also, several comments expressed excitement about the proposed new Improv entertainment and dining complex, recognizing how it would greatly contribute to revitalizing downtown.

Frankly, between the presentation of the Mayor’s Student Achievement Awards and the overall quality and tone of those commenting last night, I came away with a renewed appreciation for the people of Brea.

I was additionally pleased to see several genuinely new, younger faces. Brea needs to recruit strong, youthful leadership, to fill future elected, appointed and voluntary positions within Brea’s municipal government. This New Guard is an essential component of tomorrow’s leadership and our best guarantee of a bright future for Brea.

Counsel’s deliberations.

Rather than trying to summarize the he said and she said of the lengthy Council debate, I asked one of the new young speakers to give us his take on the meeting. Thanks to Jason Kraft for the following…

“At the June 16th Brea City Council meeting, the council agreed that a parking structure with at least 300 new spaces is needed behind the Tower building to provide critical infrastructure for the expansion and redevelopment of businesses on that block. The open questions are how to fund it and whether to include housing and office space in the parking structure.

The council did not make any final decisions at the meeting, but they are proceeding with a request for bids to build a parking-only structure. The council also requested more detailed information from the developer of the “Parking Plus” plan, which includes office space on the top floor and 40 affordable housing apartments within the parking structure.”

The clock is ticking.

Staff indicated that the RFP process might take as much as 90 days, mostly driven by the complexity of the process for the “Parking Plus” option. Likely, figures could be available sooner than 90 days for the “Parking Only” option.

The Improv did say that synchronous opening of their complex and the structure isn’t necessary, but we all can guess that it needs to be reasonably close.

The “Parking Plus” option, it was pointed out, wouldn’t be able to apply for tax benefits until next March with a one year processing period being typical. Add another 2+ years to complete the project and the ribbon cutting wouldn’t likely happen until mid-2019.

I would be more than a little concerned that the total time required to complete any “Parking Plus” option would sufficiently conflict with the Improv’s timetable and cost Brea the project.

I trust staff and Council will weigh these and the soft cost issues carefully, that the immediacy of Brea’s ROI will be clearly understood and that we’ll finally reach closure on this prolonged matter.

Another resident speaks.

I’ll let these few words from Brea resident Tom Dunlap, whose position reflects the majority of communications reaching me, to provide the closing thoughts.

“As long as Brea is prudent with the spending and it does not dip too heavily into the General Fund reserves I am in full support of this project going through. We have a golden opportunity to create something very special downtown and I would hate to see this slip through the city’s fingers and end up with a deteriorating downtown.”