League Of Women Voters Splits With Brea Chamber.

Last Friday, September 21, the League of Women Voters informed all candidates for City Council, “It has come to the League’s attention that the Chamber of Commerce has endorsed several City Council candidates. Since the League is a nonpartisan organization who never endorses candidates, we are no longer co-hosting the forum with the Chamber.”

Kudos to the League for continuing to take the high road. Epic fail on the part of the Chamber, endorsing three candidates gave the remaining four every right to boycott the forum. Thankfully, I doubt any would.

What is the Chamber’s job?

The general view of Brea’s Chamber of Commerce is that they advocate on behalf of local businesses, not political candidates.

They review and take a position on legislation, from city to county to state, either endorsing or opposing it based on whether it favors local business.

Michael Becher, long time Chamber board member, reflected as he completed his term as Chairman, “We want to continue to advocate for businesses and we need to stay focused on the issues facing businesses. I would encourage John Koos, [incoming Chairman] to continue to lead us with an eye of businesses and to continually encourage us as a board to focus on how we can better serve the businesses in Brea.” (OCR – 12/30/13)

What is CalChamber’s position on this?

In defining it’s policies of advocacy, the California Chamber of Commerce (of which Brea is a member) says on it’s website, “Working together, the CalChamber and local chambers of commerce are a solid force as advocates for business-friendly policies and helping California businesses comply with complex laws and regulations.” That’s it. Not a word about endorsing candidates.

As it’s known, CalChamber, the state organization, positions themselves as a non-partisan group advocating for or against legislation but never taking a position on behalf of any political candidates. It’s in their Bylaws.

So who, exactly, is endorsing who?

A gang of several board members, dubbed the “Legislative Action Committee” and apparently handpicked by Chairman Koos and Chamber CEO Heidi Gallegos, reviewed and “graded” questionnaires from the candidates. Want to see the questionnaire, click here.

Note – Repeated attempts to identify members of the Legislative Action Committee produced no responses from Chamber leaders. All things considered, maybe that info is not so relevant anyway.

Of the 17 questions, only 4 remotely connect with business interests:

  • What is your position on residential and/or commercial development in Brea?
  • Under what circumstances would you vote for an increase of taxes/fees in Brea?
  • How would your election further the goals and objectives of the Brea Chamber of Commerce?
  • What would you do to maintain or improve Brea’s business friendly environment?

The other 13 questions, from website address and campaign budget to who is your campaign manager/consultant seem more designed to provide intel for a counter-campaign than clarify the candidates position on Brea Business issues.

The Legislative Action Committee also has a 14 page statement of policy guidelines, duties and responsibilities (click here for a copy) that makes no reference to anything remotely sounding like endorsing candidates. Nothing. Nada.

chamberThis Committee sent their “findings” to the Executive Board, run by Koos and Gallegos, who added their approval… as did the full 22 member Board run by Koos and Gallegos.

The redundancy is obvious. These 22 people released the Chamber’s “Endorsed Candidate’s” list – never taking it to the general membership for any sort of consensus.

Endorsements from the Brea Chamber are construed by the general public, however, to carry the weight of the entire organization. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Businesses and workers circulate petition against endorsement.

Downtown businesses and their employees are circulating this petition:

Dear Brea Chamber of Commerce: I work in the Brea Downtown. I object to the Chamber’s endorsement of any candidates for any elected municipal office. Further, my livelihood will be negatively affected if Bill Hall is elected to City Council. His opposition to Council’s wise investment in the new parking structure and his advocacy to sell it and make it “pay to park” could cost me my job and/or business. Please rescind your endorsement ASAP.

Well, now it’s gotten pretty personal. Not only is the objection to making any endorsement quite clear, one in particular they find threatening to business in general and their jobs in particular.

Hall, as a member of the BOUSD Board of Directors, helped orchestrate the private sale of the Brea Place property to Hines for a fraction of it’s true worth, also advocates the sale of legacy city properties for the sake of making a quick buck. Today it’s the Super Block One parking structures… tomorrow what? The Embassy Suites? Birch Hills Golf Course?

Taps owner, Chris Snyder, along with Moe Orr from the Yard House and Dan Kleinberg from the Improv, delivered several hundred petitions to the Chamber Board at their meeting this morning (09/26).

Chris voiced his opinion thus, “We have restaurants in five different Southern California cities, and I believe it is in the best interest of any Chamber of Commerce to remain neutral during any election cycle as it pertains to elected officials. The reasoning for this is quite simple, The Chamber of Commerce should be the stewards of ‘connecting business with opportunity’ not connecting businesses with political candidates.”

The belief that the Chamber is way out of line endorsing candidates, at any level, seems to be universally accepted.

So, let’s sum this up.

Under the control and leadership of John Koos and Heidi Gallegos, the Chambers Officers and Directors were convinced to endorse three out of seven candidates running for Brea City Council.

The selection was based upon a questionnaire that provided little or no meaningful understanding of any candidate’s views and opinions about the future of Brea’s business community.

This list of endorsees was released to the public in advance of the traditional Candidate’s Forum – leading the League of Women Voters to sever their relationship with the Chamber as a co-host of the event.

At the time of this writing, the city is still planning to allow the Chamber to have a punch and cookies meet-and-greet outside Council Chambers.

And the winner is…

Hopefully good ol’ Brea, but ultimately, the ball is in your court on that one.

Attend or watch the Candidate’s Forum or go to one of the many neighborhood meet-and-greets. Listen to what the candidates are saying and if something sounds a little familiar… a little clichéd… scratch that name off your list.

I’ve scratched off four names and eagerly await my absentee ballot to land in my mailbox. The likelihood I’ll announce my choices on Brea Matters is zero.

My hope is that every reader does their own homework and makes an educated vote rather than succumbing to the more typical personality contest we’ve witnessed in recent years.

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.