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

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.