Election 2018: Process Of Elimination.

election 2018I thought I would keep my Election 2018 choices to myself… but have found that to be impossible. Every voters choice this year is more critical than ever.

There are two candidates, one for Council and one for BOUSD School Board who have struck me as complete non-starters. In both cases it boils down to money though for distinctly different reasons. Let me share…

Bill Hall – Election 2018 Council Candidate

Bill Hall voted to slam Brea residents with $108 million in property tax increases in 2012 (bond value was $54 million) for Measure E. Bill Hall voted to spend $127,340 with Lew Edwards Group for bond consulting for Measure K in 2016. Bill Hall voted to crush Brea residents with $296 million in property tax increases. Couldn’t explain why BOUSD would only net half, $148 million from Measure K.

election 2018Even though he’s a part time volunteer, Bill Hall has received over $200,000 in compensation during his 12 years on the School Board yet consistently rejects transparency of School Board meetings for public’s home viewing at a minimal cost of $800 per meeting.

Bill Hall has repeatedly, for 12 years, demonstrated a willingness to burden Brea property owners with massive taxes. This is fiscally an extremely critical time in Brea. We don’t need a Council member willing to have a fire sale with valuable legacy properties or to tax residents to the brink of poverty.

Bill Hall only seems to respect the value of the dollar… when it’s destined for his wallet.

Bill Hall gave away millions to Hines.

Backed into a condition of critical underfunding following the failure of two bond measures to attract public support, the Board was bullied into selling off it’s greatest legacy asset, the former Brea Olinda High School site, in exchange for a quick infusion of cash.

The district ignored the probability of a higher return from a public bid process in exchange for the quick cash provided from a negotiated sale. They were sued for abandoning a public auction.

Fooled by the inaccuracy of an appraisal from an inexperienced Anaheim residential real estate broker, the district accepted a bid from Hines LLC of $25 million plus an additional non-refundable deposit of $1 million.

Hines subsequently had the property re-entitled for residential development and increased the property’s appraised value by $82 million. (Editor’s Note: My entitlement error has been corrected in the Comments by Mr. Manley. Please read his explanation.) Millions of dollars were left on the table by an over eager uninformed board bullied into submission by Bill Hall.

election 2018This fiscal rubbish has gone on far too long to be the product of incompetence.

It is unprecedented that several members of the BOUSD Board of Directors are actively opposing Bill Hall for City Council.

Keri Kropke: Election 2018 BOUSD School Board Candidate.

Candidates for public office who form a campaign committee and expect to spend over $2000 on their campaign must file a Form 460 Recipient Committee Campaign Statement.

Keri Kropke reported on her 09/27 filing that she has amassed a war chest of $38,400 in contributions!

Here is a copy you can look over for yourself.

The other candidates report: Joseph Covey – $4,545 contributed/$2,249 spent, Jo Aceves – $7,374 contributed/$3,592 spent and Steve Sewell has zero contributions, will not spend over $2000 and as a result, doesn’t have to file with the Registrar of Voters.

The unions are out in full force.

election 2018I hope you did look at Keri’s statement. $34,500 of her contributions include $5,000 from Democratic LA County Board of Supervisors, Mark Ridley-Thomas.

$29,500 came from various trade unions – IBEW, Unite Here (the folks who have carried out the downtown protests at Royce’s office), SC Pipe Trades, State Building & Construction Trades Council of California PAC, FTP Power LLC – Salt Lake City (largest private owner of operating solar assets in the United States) and other firms profiting from doing business with school districts.

This raised a red flag the size of Texas, so I called Keri to understand why so much union money for the two year remainder of a board seat. She was quick with answers and because I wasn’t sure I would characterize them here clearly and fairly enough, I invited her to prepare her own statement.

Keri states, “My platform addresses many goals that will improve educational and emotional outcomes for every student. After walking to 1,603 doors parents have made clear to me that they want vocational trade options so students have access to high paying middle class jobs.

I have worked hard to develop relationships with labor organizations and others that want to partner in this vision. Every donor supports me for my talent, leadership, and tenacity and I am proud to have earned their support. People that are invested in helping our students is a good thing.”

I also promised Keri that I would not belittle or dissect her statement. I’ll leave it to you readers to come to your own conclusions and move on to other areas of question or concern.

Nordstrom VISA to pay campaign expenses?

Schedule F – Pages 13-15 of the 460 report expenses paid via Keri’s Nordstrom VISA in the amount of $4,962 and Keri suggested her total expenses would easily top $15,000.

election 2018I don’t have credit cards, haven’t for almost 20 years. But I see the ads and know there are points or benefits for using these cards.

Why use the Nordstrom’s VISA instead of the debit card the campaign committee’s bank surely provided her? How will the $300 to $400+ in benefits find their way back into the campaign funds?

My concerns don’t stop there.

If Keri’s contributions top out at $40,000 through the balance of the campaign and she’s able to keep expenses capped at $15,000 – that will leave $25,000 sitting in the campaign account… for what?

I’ll do a Shirley MacLaine here and go out on a broken limb.

Christine Marick and Marty Simonoff have neither divulged any plans for 2020 but I’ll wager the balance in Keri’s account is probably pointed in that direction.

In a similar vein, I’ll risk my record for political divination. The other Carrie on the BOUSD Board is actively campaigning for Bill Hall – what’s the chance he’s promised to bring her onboard in 2020 if she helps him win in 2018?

Okay, conspiracy theory. But you’ll have to admit that logic is so much in my favor that I’m more likely to be right than wrong.

I’ll put it in plain English.

Candidates should be running to serve, not fill a seat. Any ass can fill a seat and I’ll dodge the urge to drop names.

Also, seeking public office isn’t the twelfth step in a program to overcome psychological deficits.

I said I wouldn’t… I changed my mind.

I said I’d keep my selections to myself, but 2018 elections are just too important to be diffident. Here are my choices… use your own powers of deduction and come up with your own list…

 

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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.

When Is A Law Not A Law?

Well, it seems a law isn’t a law unless City Attorney Markman decides to give it his blessing and Councilman Vargas likes it.

At the March 20 meeting of City Council, the Consent calendar item amending the City Manager’s employment contract triggered a strong public objection to the unsupported dismissal of Measure T, passed by a majority of Brea voters in 2012 and limiting Council and senior staff compensation.

The law matters.

A half dozen or so residents decided to address Council during Matters from the Audience.

Three folks, all admittedly candidates for Council this year, addressed a Consent item about park maintenance, the homeless situation in Brea and Senator Moorlach’s recent study that put Brea fiscally next to last in OC cities.

Measure T and the City Manager contract wasn’t on the radar of any candidate for Council. Thee red flags!

The other speakers all focused in on the law, the contract, the damned good reasons the law should be upheld and the contract pulled from the Consent calendar… subjected to public hearing.

Let’s talk about the initiative process.

The initiative process is a form of direct democracy. Citizens draft a “measure” which they then propose by petition; if the petition receives sufficient popular support, the measure is placed on the ballot and can be enacted into law by a direct vote of citizens.

Unless Measure T can be shown to be in conflict with Constitutional law, it is law in Brea and enforceable.

Again, I suggest that the law is the law. Write the contract accordingly. Through negotiation, Mr. Gallardo can agree to it’s stipulations or reject them. He may also challenge them in court.

So, what the hell happened?

Let’s start here then I’ll give you a rundown of events. The rule of law is the principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to being governed by decisions of individual government officials.

lawDuring the “Response to Public Inquiries” Mayor Parker, rather than pulling the City Manager Contract from the Consent calendar (Item 18) as had been requested by several residents, allowed the City Manager to defer to comments from the City Attorney.

First came a brief and mostly unintelligible description of the amendment to the City Manager Employment Contract Agreement, which had received substantial objections, mostly centering around the restrictions imposed by Measure T. Then Mr. Markman jumped into a rationalization of why the law approved by Brea voters in 2012 has been largely ignored.

“(The speakers) are blasting something that was done very carefully, in public… you will recall that when Measure T was adopted it was our obligation to analyze it because some parts of it we saw were obviously valid and had to be implemented… like the health benefits being deprived from the Council… some of the other provisions we didn’t think, for various reasons, were enforceable or valid…”

Let me stop you right there Mr. Markman. As you pointed out, Measure T was adopted. A majority of Brea voters passed Measure T with the intent that it become law. Not unlike when they voted to establish a paramedic service… and we know what a fiasco that has turned out to be.

Your obligation, Mr. Markman was to implement the wishes of the voters, NOT analyze it. Who is the “we” you mention that decided some “provisions we didn’t think… were enforceable or valid” – you and Tim O’Donnell?

Because another unnamed city has let a similar initiative languish without implementation is not a good reason why Brea should mirror the same groundless behavior. They, whoever that is, were wrong… ergo you were wrong.

Mr. Vodhanel, during “Matters,” clearly described the history of unsound counsel that cost Brea nearly a million dollars in unnecessary legal expenses… half of which ended up in the RGW coffers.

Any chance you’ll be giving that back?

I don’t care what “thoroughgoing presentation with PowerPoint” you gave Counsel in 2013. If it’s intent was to dismiss a law demanded by Brea voters it was just one more sample of unsound counsel.

I don’t care that you attempted and failed to “negotiated with Mr. Vodhanel directly to try to get some sort of compromise resolution.” Once Brea voters made their wishes known, the original proponent placing the measure on the ballot was no longer in the gunner’s seat… amending the law should be done in a manner that, again, gave Brea voters a voice.

Arguing on behalf of the amended contract.

Now Mr. Markman’s comments, having successfully dismissed any relevance of Measure T or the Brea voters who approved it, turned to yet another prattling of legalese, the sole purpose to rebuff the law and dismantle every objection to Mr. Gallardo’s amended contract.

At what point did the City Attorney’s job description add the responsibility of playing agent for the City Manager? Take your “show me the money” propaganda Mr. Markman and stick to your job description.

Vargas jumps in… puts both feet in his mouth.

lawCouncilman Vargas interrupted the normal flow of the meeting to interject comments relative to Item 18, without objection from Mayor Parker. Totally inappropriate.

With no motion on the floor to approve the Consent calendar or to pull Item 18 for individual consideration… this was little more that grandstanding.

“I would like to make a couple of additional comments on Item 18 without pulling it as I’m prepared to support this Consent calendar.” Vargas said. No objection from anyone on Council. Wimps. Are you really that susceptible to being bullied by someone you all know is in way over their head?

After claiming to be the biggest and most vocal proponent of Measures T and U, Councilman Vargas cites some piece of correspondence from an anonymous woman to allow him to springboard into putting his two cents in without challenge. Anonymous? Put this mystery letter into the public record so we can all see it. No need to redact anything… it’s anonymous!

First, he squashed the four mile limit claiming the city would have to spend large sums for moving expenses and the provision of a silent second. Whoa Mr. Vargas!

A silent second is a type of second mortgage loan that is part of a home sale transaction without the knowledge of the first lender. In most instances, silent second home financing is a form of fraud and thus highly illegal.

Right, wrong or otherwise… Councilman Vargas seems to have dismissed any possibility for further negotiation with the City Manager.

But wait… there’s more!

Councilman Vargas then addresses the limitations to the contract imposed by Measure T and Council’s amending the term from three to five years… which requires explanation, to be sure.

Vargas points out that the City Manager is waiving a 3.2% salary increase, driven by a provision in Measure T for an automatic adjustment of 10% higher than the next highest employee. “I never liked that provision… it was put in long ago and I don’t like it.”

Your use of the unilateral dismissal strikes me the same way,” it was put in long ago and I don’t like it.” Okay Mr. Vargas, you’ve used up all of your unilateral overrides and embarrassed this community enough. What you like or don’t like has no bearing on the law or it’s enforcement. What a preposterous idea.

If, one day, you decide you don’t like the speed limit on Birch Street will we be dodging your big red pickup? If you decide you don’t like laws prohibiting driving under the influence can we expect to see that big red pickup weaving in and out of traffic… putting lives at risk?

You may say that’s just silly… but your rejection of a law adopted by Brea voters on a whim is just as silly. Maybe even more so.

Badda-bing… badda-boom.

With that, Councilman Vargas moves to approve the entire Consent Calendar, someone mumbled a second (we’ll need to see the minutes to determine who it was), there was no additional discussion from any Council member and the whole list was approved – badda-bing… badda-boom.

If that weren’t enough, fast forward to Council Announcements and the only one to speak is Mayor Parker. Unwilling to quash the inappropriate remarks of Mr. Vargas earlier, he launches into his own remarks after the horse is well out of the barn.

Citing that Council is only capable of doing the great job they do because they’re able to hire the very best employees to support them. He continues suggesting it’s Brea’s ability to be salary competitive that brings us “competent and effective” staff we have.

How’s that been working for you Mayor Parker?

Mayor Parker concludes his four minute unsolicited, unnecessary and unwanted comments with an effusive back patting and rationalization session.

Please… don’t let me see his name on the ballot ever again. Not even for dog catcher.

 

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