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.

25 thoughts on “League Of Women Voters Splits With Brea Chamber.

  1. What do you expect from Koos and Gallegos, not a surprise.

    I was on the West Covina Chamber Board and Ontario Board and NEVER did the board support a candidate.

    Maybe time to change the chamber board?

    • Ken… Those that keep an eye on local issues are probably not surprised… others ought to be, and angry as well.

      I don’t personally know every Brea Board member, but they all may just wake up and hold a vote of no confidence. That would work.

  2. One could do worse than to vote for the candidates NOT endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce.

    • Arthur… if that choice is the product an educated decision, I might be convinced to agree with you. I would be concerned that there might be yet another completely unworthy candidate lurking amongst those bypassed by the Chamber. After all, their standards were pretty shallow.

  3. Wow, talk about crossing the line! I believe this attempt by the Chamber, Koos, and Gallegos to be totally counterproductive to allow a level playing field for “all” the candidates. A disgraceful move on the part of the Chamber and everyone should know and complain.

  4. There are two totally separate issues that are wound together here; 1) Why would the Chamber suddenly change from a non partisan organization to a partisan body that would advocate to oust two sitting council members? And 2), How in the world could the Chamber reconcile supporting someone that states they are against any and all new taxes or fee increases BUT two years ago led the way for the largest proposed tax bond in Brea history, the poorly crafted and FAILED measure K, AND who led the charge to sell school property for a FRACTION of its value to Hines?

    Seriously, who would want someone that failed managing the school district to then be in charge of the entire city budget and assets? Or advocate for a councilperson that chooses to base their business in Anaheim over Brea?

    Thank you Rick for the wake up call.

    • Dwight… You have identified, as have those employed in Brea who’ve petitioned the Chamber to rescinding their endorsements, the question that launched my inquiry in the first place.

      Frankly, hearing the process described, reading the laughably amateur questionnaire and discovering that John Koos’s hand was deep into the cookie jar throughout the entire process (Heidi seems more a functionary than a organizational leader) – I was not surprised to learn of how far the Chamber had drifted from it’s core mission.

      Nothing on the questionnaire would have provided Bill Hall with the opportunity to offer a mea culpa and his unwillingness to ever assume part or all of the blame for anything would have prohibited him from doing so.

      It is my belief that Chamber leadership is so narrow focused upon business issues, likely many are not even Brea residents, that Measure K would never have been a blip on their radar.

      They were somehow early supporters of the Hines project in it’s original scope, endorsing it to the Planning Commission. This suggests that, as consultant to Hines, Koos had somehow convinced the Chamber Board to support the project.

      Once Koos was fired by Hines and a local citizens group had taken over negotiating with Hines… representing community interests, we never heard from the Chamber again.

      I suppose there are countless reasons Hall’s business is situated in Anaheim as opposed to the many equally suitable industrial opportunities in Brea. That might be a good question to put to him at the Candidates Forum.

  5. He has previously claimed “Brea is too expensive” to move his business. Wow! Don’t let a cheap soundbite settle that.

    Brea has large and small businesses based here and is similarly priced for R&D flex space building rents with Anaheim.

    We need people to lead Brea that are 100% about Brea, not 50%, or worse, just plain unworthy at all.

    • Dwight… so is that golden goose health plan he gets from the district.

      As I suggested, someone needs to ask Hall directly about this and his response should be made publically.

      We need people who are 100% about Brea… whose first response is not one linked to preserving their own odds at winning a seat on Council or leading the political popularity field.

  6. I would say you have a real talent with words.

    However, doesn’t this blog, as well as the petition being circulated by the DTBOA, constitute a negative campaign against certain City Council candidates? Taking a position, if you will…

    The recent move by Taps to lodge a complaint and subsequently back out of the Chamber seems to coincide with the recent furor over the election and the future development opportunities in the Central Core Plan region. Curious about the relationships in the DTBOA and the landlords that have varied interests.

    This smells of a naked attempt by you, Mr. Manly and the usual commenters on this blog and ND to continually stir a negative campaign against city staff, leaders and most importantly, private citizens that run counter to hidden agendas disguised as “public good”.

    These ad hoc attacks on private citizens, in particular, are cowardly, meritless and just plain bad manners. They wreak of desperation and more importantly manipulation of opinion by yourself and Mr Manley. You need only to aggregate the number of comments on the ND app to see the truth…any opposition to your opinion and Mr Manley’s “plans” are met with fierce rhetoric, attempts at deflection, sarcasm and disrespect.

    This blog entry, while somewhat informational, remains quite slanted and presents an exceptional lack of balance or tact. Seems poorly conceived….but well written I suppose.

    I know this won’t make the blog since since it is a dissent…but you decide.

    • Craig… You’ve made a career out of stalking and berating Dwight and me for some time now on Nextdoor. Now you bring your vacuous attacks to Brea Matters with the arrogant flair of someone with no facts, no thoughtful opinion and a need to strike others down in order to feel larger yourself. Psychologists have a name for that but I can’t be bothered Googling it at the moment.

      FYI – this piece came from learning that the Chamber, under the tight control of John Koos, violated decades of non-partisan policy and endorsed three candidates for Council… before the co-hosted Candidates Forum was held. Their long time associates in the event, the League of Women Voters, felt this was a conflict and severed the relationship.

      That was the right thing to do and… it was newsworthy.

      I’m more than willing to add your comments to the blog, to immortalize them in cyberspace forever. Regular readers will quickly see through the ignorant bravado and dismiss you for what you are, a petulant child desparately trying to be heard by the big folks.

      (You get one of these Craig… this is it.)

      • Who’s the private citizen? The school board member that was elected and sold out the school? Or the chamber chairman that was elected and sold out the members?

        And are you now so discombobulated and conflating that you think Rick and myself control the League of Women Voters? Seriously dude. Focus on the In&Out, you at least can sound half way expert on that.

      • Dwight… Maybe he will apply for the Planning Commission and we can all sleep better at night.

    • The pot calling the kettle black. Complaining that the author of the post on School Board Benefits on ND doesn’t know you, what do you know of the people that reply to Rick Clark’s blog? Why do you denigrate them or hold them in contempt when you don’t know them. What makes you better than anyone else? Are you a commissioner?

      • Sue… Thank you for speaking up and calling a spade a spade.

        Mr. Livingstone was given the courtesy of a single post here. Unlike the government which is Constitutionally prohibited from infringing upon free speech, this is my space. I make the rules and Mr. Livingston may read the blog but he will not soil it again.

        His comments on Nextdoor are unequivocally and universally hostile. Though his right to express himself remains intact, neither Nextdoor or I am obligated to assist him in spreading his poison.

        And yes, shocking as it may seem, he is appointed to the Parks, Recreation & Social Services Commission.

  7. It is illogical for the Brea Chamber of Commerce to name their choice of candidates and before a word is even said in a debate it is co-hosting. The Chamber has its own agenda and is a private organization, but it’s leaders think too highly of themselves to expect their choice will influence other voters.

    There is a lot at stake in this council election. Brea has many critical challenges including a budget that is forecast to have increasing year over year deficits that will wipe out its reserves, leaving residents with less services and higher taxes and fees, except for political election banners. We have key intersections in Brea at full capacity and near gridlock, and this is even before the Hines Project is even completed. Perhaps the idea is get candidates in office to sell Brea assets in a fire sale to obtain more commissions and profits.

    Make to find out the real issues, the candidates positions and vote. Don’t complain later or say you’re moving out of state. This is our town, and only we can take it back.

    • Tom… It’s not only illogical, it goes against the bylaws. I spoke with several who have held the Chairman’s position at some point during the last 20 years and they unanimously said the Chamber was non-partisan and endorsing candidates was totally inappropriate.

      You’re exactly right, this is a pivotal election and Brea voters need to study the candidates doubly hard. Brea’s legacy assets can be used to greater advantage than a quick sale for cash. Any candidate who says otherwise lacks all fiscal sense.

      Today’s Priorities.

      Pension reform and a real plan to retire unfunded pension debt, a much more transparent operating budget, an amended general plan that isn’t stuck in the last millennium but addresses the real housing issues facing Brean’s today, from age-in-place seniors to new families and young professionals.

  8. At Laurel school in 1973, in the summer of 2nd grade, before going into 3rd, my mom drove me to a trailer along the back alley to meet with a lady wanted to ask me a bunch of questions.

    After about an hour, we left, and my mom told me that was something called an IQ test, and they wanted me to be in MGM. It was in that class that Mrs Sprinkle taught us, by holding up an object, to not only see the side facing our eyes, but the opposite side, the underside, the top side, and even the middle.

    So Tom and Rick, the conclusion isn’t that it’s “illogical” what the Chamber did, rather it’s perfectly “logical” when you look at this from John Koos perspective.

    The real question now is “what perspective is the Chamber board looking at this from?”

    • Dwight… Appreciate the anecdote. Looking at any issue from all sides makes perfect sense. It means examining the good, the bad and the ugly… and there are some who find that almost impossible to do.

      There are members of the Chamber Board who are now, for the first time, looking at more than just the side presented to them by John Koos. I am encouraged by that.

  9. Craig – “Naked” “ad hoc” and “cowardly” all completely used for dramatic effect and saber rattling, but completely out of context, completely misused, and the words of a grasping for straws writer looking for a way to deflect once more.

    You continue to cite no specific facts and conflate multiple issues and wrap them up with personal attacks.

    The reasons Rick and myself so frequently reply to certain Nextdoor posts is to clarify and provide facts and truths. Speaking for myself, I will continue to use facts to address incorrect posts. And when you keep trying to paint me as some kind of greedy self motivated troll, remember clearly that Bill Hall TOOK from the school children over $100,000 while “volunteering” and John Koos was paid over $200,000 by Hines and the Madrona people to buy Chamber support and his “friends” on Council’s votes.

    In the case of Madrona, a sweet little private (illegal?) session with a current and former council members resulted in the infamous “list” of conditions to approve Madrona which was magically approved thanks to his then 3 cronies on council.
    Fortunately he is down to one and we should not let him even get back to two.

    He may try and get condos in the hills next. Ugh

  10. I saw a FB post that non-profits may be precluded from making endorsements; would that apply to the Chamber?

    • Boadicea… your question almost answers itself.

      The Brea Chamber of Commerce is a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization under the Internal Revenue Code, reserved for business leagues, chambers of commerce, boards of trade, or other similar organizations. Additional resources from the IRS: IRS Tax Information for Businesses.

      While there may be no legal restriction to a Chamber’s endorsing a candidate, it has long been the policy of Brea’s Chamber not to do so.

  11. For what it’s worth, the candidate’s forum ended up being sponsored by the League of Women Voters (of North Orange County) and the _city_ of Brea, rather than by the Chamber of Commerce. There must have been more activity behind the scenes….

    • Arthur… The event was hosted only by the League of Women Voters NOC, the Chamber, as reported, was dismissed from co-hosting. The City of Brea did not co-host anything.

      There was an inquiry and request regarding the “free speech zone” on the patio outside Council Chambers. With clarification and approval of the City Manager, a grassroots group mounting strong opposition to one candidate distributed materials as people arrived but left prior to the end of the forum.

      The Chamber’s Kool Aid and cookies gathering on the patio after the forum for the three candidates they endorse was not associated with or connected to the forum.

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