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.

Brea Chamber Attacks Resident’s Request For Public Meeting.

ChamberChamber board member John Koos, relying entirely upon misinformation and paranoid speculation, lashed out at residents asking Council to hold a town hall style meeting to get public input on an Environmental Advisory Board (see request here).

Instead of contacting the residents to better understand the objectives behind their year long discussions with Council, the Brea Chamber jumped to the false conclusion that the advisory board would be another layer of codes and regulations adding to the overwhelming state and federal oversight already choking the business community.

Had the Chamber spent more than two minutes Googling for information totally unrelated to the topic at hand… had the Chamber not employed a Ready! Fire! Aim! strategy… had the Chamber made any attempt to approach the residents with their concerns… the unfortunate foot-in-mouth comments from Mr. Koos and subsequent embarrassment would likely have been avoided all together.

Who is really being served?

There are 11,000 active business licenses in Brea, 5,000 of which are Brea based. The Chamber boasts a membership of roughly 400 businesses of which, they’ve admitted, perhaps 80 face environmentally based regulations and state or federal agency oversight.

That is 1.6% of Brea based businesses, 0.6% of all business serving Brea. Remind me again who the Chamber represents?

Where there is risk there must be choice.

chamberNo one disputes that there are numerous and varied environmental risks at play in Brea every day. From which industries, in what measure and how great a threat is anyone’s guess. No one at city hall has been able to adequately quantify it.

On one side of the scale we have 80 businesses, on the other 40,000+ residents. Tell me, which way do you see the scale tipping?

Does the Chamber have a right to advocate for it’s members? Of course. Should the other 10,920 businesses have an opportunity to wade in on the matter? Of course. But I can think of 40,000+ reasons to maintain a practical balance when weighing opinions.

What is an Environmental Advisory Board?

After months of going back and forth with Mayor Simonoff, Mayor Pro Tem Marick, other Council members and City Manager Bill Gallardo clearly the advisory board was not going to be a policy making body. All concerned agreed that there are more than enough regulations already.

Though the residents group was launched a year and a half ago to investigate local concerns about fracking, their mission expanded to include all areas of environmental concern. Public health and safety and good stewardship of our air and water emerged to become the central issues.

The deeper the inquiry the more it was discovered how little Brea really understood regarding it’s rights and responsibilities under the laws already in existence. The Environmental Advisory Board was conceived as a think tank tapping Breans with deep experience in environmental sciences and practices.

One concept proposed is for a seven member board including one nominee offered by each councilmember and two At Large positions… one filled by a representative (oddly enough) of the Brea Chamber and the other a command staff officer of the Brea FD.

The residents group has expressed a strong, nonnegotiable objection to the board becoming a vigilante group targeting the oil and gas industry. Also, careful guidelines will be required to avoid appointment as political spoils and block any threat of mission creep as well.

A simple request, a town hall meeting.

As expressed in their formal request to Council, the group believes it is time to move the discussion beyond the persistent lobbying of a grassroots special interest group and to open it up to a community wide conversation. It is the only way to ensure that the majority’s view is the one addressed by Council in reaching a final decision.

The repeated suggestion that “staff has been instructed to get answers to Council questions,” given the lengthy report already provided to Council and the discussions that have followed, are clear indicators that some councilmembers are suffering from analysis paralysis.

The next step just isn’t that difficult or complicated, regardless of uninformed kneejerk reactions like that from the Brea Chamber.

Council should ask the City Manager to find an appropriate opportunity in the near future to schedule a public meeting… just like the one on the downtown parking structure and the upcoming Notice of Public Hearing on Water Rates (218 requirement) to discuss tiered water rates.

 

Old Guard Does Damage Control.

Speakers one, two, three at Matters from the Audience tonight, the Old Guard’s Lynn Daucher. Bev Perry and Glenn Parker went straight into damage control mode.  Having exposed themselves and their obsession to have everything done their way during the recent campaign season, their performance at the podium tonight struck me as a last ditched effort to establish some relevance.

Though they’re a day late and a dollar short, it was oddly reaffirming that they ripped Schweitzer, Murdock and O’Donnell new ones over the inappropriate and unacceptable junket they took to Korea and Japan.

You heard it here first folks.

As the first to publicly challenge Schweitzer, Murdock and O’Donnell for their arrogant misuse of public funds (September 20) to attend a Sister Cities folkloric event with a side trip to Japan for a little sushi (November 6), I’m somewhat heartened to think that this egregious violation of the public trust has even evoked the wrath of the Old Guard.

Daucher’s tongue lashing was given with the hopes that her own shady past was sufficiently ancient history, but it only took about two minutes following the meeting’s adjournment before a couple of sharp Brea residents sent me a link to an OCWeekly article from ’07.

It mentions allegations of Daucher “improperly charging California taxpayers for personal travel and then attempting to mask the expenditures.” Oops…

Can you say double standard?

Bev Perry, in her signature impromptu rambling style, once again extolled the virtues of how great things were in the ol’ days.  If I understood what she was suggesting, recent policy changes (i.e. since she left office) have undermined the Council’s ability to make consistently well considered decisions.

She challenged the travel expenditure, pointing out that, again in the good ol’ days, assuming such junkets could even get approved, all travel costs would have come through Sister City car washes or bake sales, better yet perhaps be covered by the Chamber of Commerce… not from the General Fund!

Hmmm… isn’t that what I was suggesting months ago?

Finally, Glenn Parker waded in telling Council that they need to set aside their personal differences and agendas and start conducting the city’s business like adults, carrying out the desires of their constituents.

Nobody believes Murdock is ready to take on the role as Mayor, we’ll see if the people’s will prevails.

Measure T received more votes than Marty Simonoff, underscoring the people’s desire to get serious about capping salaries and costs. We’ll see if O’Donnell and Markman mount a campaign to derail what “we the people” worked so hard to achieve.

Parker also harped upon how long it’s been since Brea conducted any legitimate community engagement or independent compensation analysis (not that funky ten city survey). According to Parker, it’s easily been over 20 years. Long overdue, wouldn’t you say?

And, as a postscript, Keith Fullington once again made a plea for a complete accounting of the costs of this Asian adventure. To date, O’Donnell’s salary and benefits have been conveniently excluded. Clearly not best practices one would find in the private sector.

Fullington promised to keep coming back until he got an answer, to which Mayor Schweitzer arrogantly replied, “See you at the next meeting Keith.”

Time for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.