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…

 

election 2018

Hines: A Tale Of Two Cities.

HinesIt was the worst of times… period. We’re fighting a war on two fronts and threatened with losing both. On one side Breans are going head-to-head with Hines Properties, a megacorp hell bent on building a hulking monstrosity on St. College north of Birch. On the other we have a runaway Planning department who seems to consider themselves above the law, repeatedly overreaching their authority.

Neither situation bodes well for the people of Brea. The fact that both are connected makes the threat exponentially larger. As the policy and procedural issues can only be addressed by City Council I’ll leave that for another blog and focus on the development issues that need to be solved by the Planning Commission.

Reining in Hines.

At their April meeting, under the less than subtle steering of Chairman McGrade, the Planning Commission ended up desperately trying to patch one small element of the Brea Place project and calling it done.

Commissioner Schlotterbeck made the observation that the project fell short, by about 20%, of complying with our 14 year old General Plan’s maximum density guideline. Next thing you know the much larger southern building and the hotel were tucked aside, seemingly approved and focus was turned to the northern building… Building B.

In a miraculous demonstration of redesigning-on-the-fly, the Hines architect made most of the fourth floor disappear and reduced the building’s density by almost 20%. That’s 22 apartments for those who nitpick numbers. Commissioner Schlotterbeck was quick to point out that the disappearing act also removed parking for 38 units, throwing the building into noncompliance with the 1.78 spaces per unit parking requirement.

Maximum vs. minimum standards.

So, the push seems to be to stay within maximum allowed density while meeting a minimum parking standard. Ok, I’ll say what you’re thinking. What the hell? This is like getting open heart surgery done on a low bid basis.

Why do these city planners think the best policy is to always operate at the fringes of acceptability? Why is building as close as possible to the maximum allowable density the best idea? Why are parking conditions always targeting the fewest number of spaces that might accommodate the demand?

How about building comfortably below the maximum density and designing a parking plan that would actually meet peak demand? What a novel damned idea.

Speaking of minimum standards.

While we’re on the subject, it’s this same unsupportable mentality that led to adopting an addendum to a 14 year old General Plan EIR as the best way to comply with CEQA. Again, operating at the very fringe.

Going with the addendum is the weakest, least defensible means of minimizing or mitigating environmental impact. Hell, the addendum claims there isn’t sufficient environmental impact to warrant doing a new EIR. Circular logic. Inexcusable.

Once again staff dances on the edge of rational choices. Why? To cut public comment out of the conversation? To fast track the project and save Hines the $1.5 million cost of an EIR so staff could extort it later to help defray the cost of some politician’s pipe dream or rock garden?

Drawing a line in the sand.

HinesHey… Commissioners, Planners and Mr. Ninty-Five Billion Dollar Out-of-town Developer… we’re putting you on notice. Nothing less than a blanket 20% reduction in density across the entire project is acceptable. Nada. Nothing.

And that’s the starting line… not the finish line. We still need to talk traffic, parking, building mass and setbacks, in lieu fees and retail that won’t cannibalize local business.

You walked out of the April meeting fist bumping and trading high fives. Listen carefully, you never count your money when sitting’ at the table, there’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

Markman & Flower

 

Poking Holes In Markman & Flower

Markman & FlowerOn April 13, the City Attorneys Markman & Flower released a memorandum attempting to refute some of the claims I have made on this blog.

What followed was eight pages of prickly language arguing against claims that were never made.

(1) that the City’s hiring of Kimley-Horn Associates was inconsistent with the legal requirements of CEQA. (2) that ICF proposed to prepare a subsequent or supplemental EIR to the 2003 General Plan EIR.

A cursory review of my previous blog will remind any careful reader that I did not make these claims, and I’m not sure why Markman & Flower think I did. I challenged the City’s hiring practices with regard to proposal and records retention processes as a whole, and ICF’s proposal explicitly stated that a subsequent/supplemental EIR or addendum were not the way to go to properly follow the CEQA process.

These facts didn’t stop Markman & Flower from furiously defending their irrelevant positions with disparaging language peppered with legal citations that did nothing to refute my original claims.

Markman & Flower’s opening statement, a blatant and unwarranted ad hominem attack against the character of those opposing the Hines project, underscores their complete failure with all allegations and arguments they made.

Further, Markman & Flower’s characterization of public comments and opinions regarding City Staff’s behavior as “spurious” and “reckless” are insulting, dismissive and unacceptable.

By continually saying things like “claims recently made on social media” they undertake to dehumanize us. We are real people after all, residents of this community who enjoy rights that allow for the free expression of our opinions.

We are not “social media.” We are taxpayers, citizens of Brea, and we do not appreciate any insinuation that our opinions are akin to “fake news.”

The eight pages of blustery, “Well, I never!” pearl-clutching arguments in the Markman & Flower memorandum are largely empty and don’t address the accusations we’ve made.

Markman & Flower may well have overstepped their authority by commenting outside establishing what they believe to be the legal standing of the city’s attempt to comply with CEQA. Their authority does not extend to commenting upon intent or purpose behind public comment, mine or from the general public. Jim… Stephen… if you feel compelled to publish snarky, baseless remarks like those in your memo to the City Manager… create a blog.

Memorandum misses the point.

Markman & Flower charge that we have made, “… unsupported claims… that the City Staffs decision to prepare an addendum to the 2003 General Plan Environmental Impact Report… violates the California Environmental Quality Act.

Obviously, Markman & Flower only skimmed “social media” and never read the (originally deleted, recently recovered) ICF proposal to reach this conclusion. It couldn’t be farther from the truth. I pointed out in my last blog post that while some things may be legal it does not follow that they are prudent.

Markman & FlowerICF’s proposal declared, “We understand that the City’s goal is to tier from the 2003 General Plan Final EIR and the 2005 Negative Declaration for the establishment of the Mixed-Use Zoning Districts to the extent feasible. However, the baseline conditions for the project-level analysis for the current environmental document will need to be existing conditions…, rather than the previously approved land use entitlements. Thus, we do not necessarily believe that tiering from these documents is the best option for CEQA compliance.” [emphasis added]

In what world does “not the best option for CEQA compliance” mean “violates CEQA” — it doesn’t. Markman & Flower, in their rush to discredit public opposition to the project and to fend off allegations of staff misconduct, seem to have accomplished neither.

Markman & Flower self destruct.

In response to Markman & Flower’s professionally myopic comment, “ICF is not a law firm equipped to offer legal opinions on CEQA.” I offer this, ICF employs legal staff well experienced in environmental law, and the proposal was developed and submitted by a principal with 22 years of experience in environmental consulting and CEQA documents.

The conclusions reached by ICF were provided at the request of City Staff. It is fair to assume that ICF was invited to submit their opinions because their expertise exceeded that available on City Staff.

If the City did not feel that ICF was equipped to offer legal opinions on CEQA, why was its proposal sought at all? Discarding ICF’s recommendations without first giving the Planning Commission an opportunity to offer their opinion is ludicrous.

Are Markman & Flower masters of disinformation?

Markman & Flower have little choice but to offer this to avoid any suggestion of treading upon our First Amendment rights, “Members of the public may rightly have strong opinions regarding the merits of the Project and are free to express those opinions through available means, including social media.” Then they immediately return to their ad hominem attack.

They next proffer, “Spurious [fraudulent for those without a thesaurus handy] claims of official misconduct are a different matter, however.” This assumes, without substantiation, that the public’s claims are fraudulent. Until proven otherwise, our claims remain protected speech.

Markman & Flower persist, offering another unconfirmed allegation, “There is no evidence to support claims of collusion or corruption by any City official and we can only conclude such claims are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the law, bad faith, or both.

Evidence has been provided, in abundance. If Markman & Flower had invested a fraction of the time “we the people” have put into digging up the truth, they would have avoided these sort of bogus statements.

Further, the blog’s headline “Corruption’s Partner Is Our Own Indifference.” is the only use of the word corruption in the entire piece. It is obviously a reproof to readers not to become indifferent… a call to end apathy. Nowhere was staff accused of corruption.

Never poke a tiger with a short stick.

Markman & FlowerIn recent years the voting, taxpaying public has paid closer and closer attention to how their community was being run and by whom. As the process of reviewing and approving the Hines project progressed, irregularities became apparent. Unfortunately, all attempts to get to the bottom of what appeared to be dodgy business was thwarted at every turn.

Documents were deleted, information requests turned up little or nothing. The City Council and Planning Commissioners were kept in the dark right along with the rest of us. Contrary to the disparaging criticisms peppering Markman & Flower’s eight page memorandum, all observations pointed to staff’s performance as questionable.

This behavior could be corruption, an indication of collusion or simply reflect a systemic case of incompetence.

Now what?

I’ve shared enough by now to make it clear that I believe the Planning Commission and all concerned can round file, toss out, jettison, dump, ditch or deep-six Markman & Flower’s memorandum and get back to weighing the facts.

Fact: Records were improperly disposed of. Solution: Correct loopholes that allowed these documents to be deleted without proper oversight and beg ICF to send another copy of their proposal so the record can be restored.

Fact: Important documents have been withheld from the Planning Commission. Solution: Make sure the missing documents are included in their information packet for the April meeting.

Fact: Whether deliberately or accidentally, the Planning Department has not conducted a transparent process with the Brea Place project. Solution: Start over and invite the Planning Commission and the citizens of Brea into the process and the commenting and collaboration opportunities such a process presents.

Markman & Flower