Paramedic Tax Is A Hoax.

Your property tax dollars, approved by ballot initiative 40 years ago “for the specific purpose of establishing and maintaining a mobile intensive care program known as Paramedics within the area of the City of Brea” have been diverted through the Redevelopment Agency/Successor Agency since 1978.

Every Council resolution creating or renewing the Paramedic Program special property tax, for 40 years, incorporated exactly that language. Not a single member of the Brea City Council (save possibly one) had a clue regarding the magnitude of their blunder – the product of a purposeful deception by members of senior staff.

Sounds a hell of a lot like a slush fund to me.

Based upon documents gathered through the California Public Records Act (CPRA), from both the City of Brea and the Orange County Auditor-Controller’s office, it is fair to assume that every City Manager and Finance Director, at minimum, was aware of the fiscal hoax perpetrated upon Council and an unsuspecting public for 40 years.

How much are we talking about?

Over $50 million of your tax dollars. Supposedly, thanks to some obscure directive in State law, these funds have been funneled through the RDA since 1978. Roughly 40% was spent on administrative costs, debt retirement and other expenses – none of which had diddly to do with a paramedic service.

When the state dissolved Redevelopment Agencies in 2011, things didn’t get much better. In fact, they got worse. Originally we did get our hands on 100% of the tax revenues collected.

In 2011 that was cut almost in half – 55% was paid to the Successor Agency letting them do whatever they wished with it. The remaining 45% went into the Brea Redevelopment Trust where the county followed state directions to pay off residual debts of the RDA.

How much longer will we be paying off RDA debt?

Total debt for the Successor Agency is $196 million. A payment plan has been submitted to the state’s Department of Finance, upon which we will be making payments until 2036. That’s 60 years to retire the debts created by the Redevelopment Agency.

The issue in a nut shell.

The people of Brea clearly expressed what we were willing to be taxed for. There was a legitimate attempt in the beginning, by well intentioned members of Council, to fulfill the people’s wishes.

Underneath it all, the covert diversion of tax revenue has continued, virtually unabated, for 40 years.

The good news.

Facts by the ton, discoveries that would light up the eye of Julian Assange, have been dug out of the archives and studied by a “team” including myself, 2 members of Council and 3 long time community leaders.

The details of decades of staff reports, resolutions, budgets, county tax records are being poured over and the revelations emerging out of the data paint a clear picture of the atrocious irresponsibility that ran amok… without restraint, for 40 years.

The gorilla is being drug into the light and the right people, the people we elected to oversee city business, are back in charge.

Undoubtedly more will be learned in the near future. We may be called back into the voting booth to help rescind a failed tax and approve a remedy that will provide us with the sort of paramedic services we thought we were getting 40 years ago.

Stay Tuned.

We’re a long way from knowing the complete truth and from digging ourselves out of a hole 40 years in the making.

tax

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

Measure K: Mailers & Robocalls Again.

Mailers and robocalls continue unabated and, for Measure K supporters, they will be their undoing. Let’s start with the latest robocall from another political fossil.

lynndaucher_400“This is Former Assemblywoman Lynn Daucher calling about Measure K. Don’t be misled by the anti public school message from the downtown developers special interests and the No on K campaign. Measure K is a smart investment in our kids, our community and our property values. Don’t be fooled. Measure K is a fiscally responsible plan with accountability and oversight.”

Emphasis on former.

While Lynn’s history might be credible in many ways, it is just that, history. Like Punxsutawney John Beauman and the ephemeral Bev Perry, propagandists drag these vestiges of 20th century small town politics out and parade them around hoping their reputations might lend credibility to highly dubious issues.

More a liability than an asset, when was the last time Lynn Daucher regularly attended local school board meetings or weighed in on something other than reelecting Hall or Rollino?

Like the anonymous “parents” promoting boycotts, the robocall tries to tie “downtown developers” to a rejection of everything that might benefit the education and development of Brea’s youth.

girl-1_sqHow ignorant and unbelievable. Name one individual who can claim to be a fraction of the philanthropist that Dwight Manley has been for years and continues to be in spite of being constantly denigrated by halfwits.

Measure K is a fool’s investment offering nothing to our kids, our community or our property values. Measure K is fiscally irresponsible and lacks meaningful accountability.

Now, the latest mailer.

Proponents of Measure K need to be reminded that repeating their lies does not somehow make them true. As many have already clearly pointed out the Oversight Committee doesn’t even give passable lip service to the idea of accountability.

back-bAs one commenter on Nextdoor posted, “I just received a “Vote Yes on K” [mailer]. If I only read this, I would have to vote for K. It states, ‘Measure K has strict fiscal accountability rules required by California State Law!’. It sounds terrific. I am a CPA. I have been a CFO for not-for-profit corporations for most of my career. The notion of being able to spend $148 million with only an oversight committee after-the-fact reviewing the expenditures to confirm that they were spent for ‘facility improvement’ is not even close to ‘strict fiscal accountability.’ This piece didn’t ‘lie,’ but it sure stretched the definition of accountability to its breaking point.”

A comprehensive list?

Again with the harping about detailed lists developed by “Architectural and Construction Management firms” – you mean like Cal K-12 and Pinnacle Design Group who are on record donating $35,000 to the “Yes” PAC? Does anyone not see the ulterior motives?

jasons_map

Monday night, October 24, the BOUSD Board approved payment of $9,780 to the very same Pinnacle Design Group for designing an interior dividing wall in a portable classroom. According to the Facility Improvement Needs Lists, portables need to be replaced. That’s $10k to design a wall, not even to build it, in a temporary structure slated for removal.

General funds must support instructional programs?

pipe_300When Measure K proponents say that general funds must support instructional programs they fail to mention that these funds also pay staff and teacher salaries, excessive health benefits to Board members and, sad to say, underfund pensions. They “skip” right over mentioning the $21,000,000 surplus that could be legally tapped to handle priority projects like those severely corroded pipes they’ve been whining about that caused a leak in the Arovista server room.

We can’t afford to wait until 2018.

Who’s crystal ball are they using when they predict dramatically increasing interest rates in the coming years? They suggest this will cause project costs to soar.

Oh please, these are the same years when 3 of the 4 tranches would be released. Wouldn’t they be subject to the same prohibitive interest rates? They can’t have their cake and eat it too.

This last minute mailer is total hogwash.

front-bThe ink was already dry on these flyers and the donors money was burning a hole in their pockets. The logical next step was… go to the post office. It’s this logic that has contributed to the current situation and it has been exercised by the same small band of people.

Shame on the 24 local notables, most of whom have shown little interest in solving the district’s financial woes in recent years. They seem to have no objection to grabbing few minutes of faded glory at the expense of out-of-town donors.

Dig deeper into the details.

As we’ve gratefully come to expect, Jason Kraft has meticulously gathered together details on everything I’ve spent the last 17 paragraphs ranting and snarking about. You can read Jason’s commentaries here –

“Don’t Believe The Lies” Part 1

“Don’t Believe The Lies” Part 2

“Don’t Believe The Lies” Part 3

“Don’t Believe The Lies” Part 4

Additional analysis will be linked here when they become available.

Vote No