Envision Brea Needs Public Input.

Next Tuesday, May 5, the City Council agenda includes a Consent Calendar item to approve a Public Service Agreement (contract) with MIG, Inc. for (up to) $185,000 to launch Envision Brea, a long range planning project.

MIG’s original proposal, presented to Council during their Study Session last January 20, fell quite short of meeting Council expectations… most notably in the areas of Council authority/direction and public engagement. Comments made by myself during Matters From The Audience and revoiced by Marick, Hupp and Vargas, helped lead to a request for a citizen steering committee. Council directed staff and MIG to give it another shot.

A couple of weeks ago, at the Study Session on April 21, MIG ran Plan B up the flagpole. Once again Council broke out in spirited debate. It was clear that the revised plan was more to their liking, many questions remained and the PSA was, once again, not approved. Though discussion had been wide ranging and lingering concerns about public engagement persisted, no clear instructions were voiced to staff.

When I saw the Consent Calendar item to approve the contract I went a little ballistic.

Stop abusing the Consent Calendar.

Envision Brea matters.In recent years dozens of citizens have publicly and loudly objected to the sneaking of large expense items through the approval process without public comment by burying them in the Consent Calendar.

A Consent Calendar lumps numerous “uncontroversial” items together to be passed with a single vote.

Supposedly designed to save time, the Consent Calendar should be renamed Without Consent Calendar as it blocks the public’s ability to wade in on important matters.

I’ve lobbied heavily over the last couple of days for Council to pull this item and to openly discuss it during general session. While this pressure, and that from other citizens with the same objections, seems to have had good effect… I’ll believe it when I see it.

Talk first, spend later.

Include Brea's YouthCouncil members have loudly and consistently tooted the horn for transparency and public engagement since reorganizing last December.

Their most vocal concerns about the current MIG proposal center around it’s lack of engagement opportunities focused upon Brea’s younger population. I share their concerns.

Failure to make Envision Brea relevant to our Gen X, Y and Millennial population, to such an extent that they feel their contribution will be meaningful and contribute in real ways to the final product, guarantees failure of Envision Brea.

I and others have also lobbied for Council to hold a special session… as they recently did on the downtown parking structure, to allow the public to help frame the scope of Envision Brea.

If public engagement is so important, how about doing it instead of talking about it.

How you can help.

You don’t usually get involved in this stuff. You certainly don’t get up at public meetings and unload in five minute sound bites. But this is starting to hit close to home. You have some thoughts about how the city should handle your money. You agree that excluding the public, that dismissing your input or reducing it to giving them a stamp of approval, is unacceptable.

Send an email. Email the Mayor and entire Council or focus in on the Council member with whom you feel the greatest compatibility. Add your thoughts and concerns to the growing chorus of public opinion.

Take a stand. Make a difference. Contact A Council Member.

Make Brea Matters your soapbox too.

Consent Calendar hides.Adding your comment to this and future posts on Brea Matters kicks the conversation into fifth gear. You add both third party credibility and often expanded understanding of the issues being discussed. And you encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same.

Make some noise today. Encourage Council to pull the Envision Brea item from the Consent Calendar. Tell them to take their discussion downstairs and into public view. Demand an opportunity to wade in on Envision Brea before committing our money to a PSA contract, not after… when the opportunity for us to help mold the project’s scope and purpose is gone. Ask them to post the MIG proposal on the city’s website so you can dig into the details.

It’s your community. It’s your future. It’s time to assume the leadership and control you deserve.

 

A Public Response.

Well, it’s time I offered a public response to the folks wondering if I’d been run out of town by our new bloviating blogger. Hardly. His vacuous attempts to wade in on issues without the benefit of a single provable fact have only served to boost readership of Brea Matters.

wading-inYes, there are numerous topics that are high on my interest list… and most involve spending serious coin, setting precedents that may prove harmful in the future, will create greater traffic hassles than we now endure or barely give lip service to the promises of greater transparency and engagement.

Simply put, I have refrained from wading in for good reason. Having been appointed to the Planning Commission I must weigh each issue based upon whether it, or some aspect of it, might find it’s way onto the Commission’s agenda.

My job as a Commissioner is to review and understand every item with an open mind, my opinions set aside in favor of case-by-case judgments made without bias.

Thankfully, I am working with four other Commissioners and a professional staff having deep histories and broad experience in public planning and an excellent grasp of the laws, regulations, ordinances, guidelines and standards that apply.

What about Citizen Clark?

roy-mooreI am taking a page from Roy Moore’s playbook. For sixteen years he successfully chronicled every issue, large or small, in his bi-monthly newsletter BreaNet.

When issues heated up he solicited opinion from the friends and neighbors he faithfully served. He trusted the public and they trusted him.

When issues were formally discussed, BreaNet filled in the gaps in action minutes giving us the details we needed to better understand what was happening down at city hall.

And when the votes were cast, Roy Moore provided a clear analysis of the final results.

What better mentor than Roy Moore?

Roy MooreI can think of none.

I shared my draft of this post with Roy this afternoon. He was kind enough to put down the Sunday paper and share his thoughts on how I will best serve Brea with this blog.

I’m doubly encouraged that he’s considering guest blogging here as a way of continuing his service to Brea. I’m eager to hear his stand on matters like unfunded pension liabilities, proper use of the 560 Fund and whether Brea ought to be paying some outsiders $180 thousand bucks to tell us how to plan for the next decade or two.

I have no doubt Roy will keep a close eye on me and will be quick to take me to task should I need it. So… that’s it for today.

And make no mistake, “I’ll be back.”

 

Municipal Elections Are A Circus.

With roughly half of Brea’s voters using absentee ballots, likely the die was cast for this election weeks ago. Typically, once the first results are released Tuesday evening, there are rarely any surprises. Some slight incremental differences are inevitable, but the leading candidates when you go to bed have generally won the election when you wake up.

A muddy, bloody campaign.

Past elections, going back at least a decade, have all had their nasty edge to them. Even non-partisan races, like City Council or School Board, will polarize voters to some extent. When issues precipitate differences of opinion, majority rule seems to resolve matters and fences are mended after the election.

The last few elections have been quite different. Widely opposing opinions have been fueled more by personality conflicts than management or policy issues. Even with testy ballot measures like the school bond or Measures T and U, arguments might have been heated but they weren’t slanderous or absent any basis in fact.

An interesting anomaly this election was the appearance of a Facebook page: Reject Negative Politics In Brea. They plateaued around 130 ‘likes’ and were obviously from the pro Murdock camp.

All went well, I suppose, until they were challenged a little and out came their claws. Blatantly false statements were made, names were called. It seems free speech applies only to that which is in synch with your opinions.

Can’t we all just get along?

Apparently not. And I will be the first to admit that my reaction to how some have conducted themselves in office has been intense.

There have been obvious back room deals that smacked of Brown Act violations, we’ve witnessed them and allowed them to fade from memory. There have been indications that some Council members lack any sort of ethical or moral compass, misusing public funds for unnecessary foreign travel, retroactive votes to cover up procedural blunders, and a perpetual disregard for public opinion.

How can this sort of behavior not tick you off? These arrogant, self-aggrandizing narcissists, these wannabe career politicians, have turned what should have been an intellectual endeavor into an emotionally charged popularity contest. Is that how we should elect leaders? Are elections reduced to selecting the lesser of all evils?

Separating the wheat from the chaff.

First, let’s ban all campaign signage. From candidates, PACs, activists, fans and friends and political parties. They’ve become little more than visual blight contaminating our community for months. Instead of relying on signs to remind people of who you are, try doing something worth remembering.

Next, put a cap on campaign expenditures. Ron Garcia spent around $40,000 to narrowly win a second term. For what? What has he really accomplished over the last four years? What was in it for him worthy that expense?

Roy Moore spent half that to win four elections! Four! Why are this year’s candidates pouring small fortunes into their campaigns?

Hats off by the way to Brea’s Firefighter’s Association and Police Officer’s Association who focused their bankrolls and energy back into the community via public service instead of backing candidates who, after getting elected, never did squat for them anyway.

Put a lid on spending.

Cap expenditures at $7,500 and pray the balance will trickle it’s way into the numerous local charities that desperately need the support.

Seventy-five hundred bucks is enough to cover one postcard mailer and a fairly robust social media effort. We can ‘like’ whomever we wish and our mailboxes would not be stuffed with electioneering crap we neither need nor want.

Limiting candidates to one mailer would restrict space enough to focus text on what’s true… eliminating the unsupportable litany of accomplishments and endless list of political endorsements from officials whose judgement is suspect to begin with.

Pretty simple solution I think. No signs or banners. None. Zip. Nada. One mailer, period. Oh yeah, no buttons, book bags, ball caps, candy bars, koozies or trinkets and trash.

Campaign face-to-face.

Candidate forums, neighborhood meet-n-greets and weekend walks… take it to the people. Engage with the public you hope to serve. Attend all the Council meetings you can, but stay away from that podium. That’s our place to address Council, not your soapbox to show off.

When invited to a public forum or neighborhood meeting, show up!

If you don’t care enough to connect with your constituents before the election, we’ll assume you would just phone it in after elected. Epic fail. Why waste your time and ours running in the first place?

So, what’s left?

Are you registered to vote? Do you give a rip or are you just soaking up this great place to live, work and play with little interest in why it even exists in the first place? Brea didn’t suddenly appear at the entrance to the canyon like some Emerald City.

A lot of pretty dedicated folks, many coming from Brea’s business community (the ones being chastised today for contributing to campaigns), built this place through hard work and personal sacrifice.

Somewhere along the way Brea slipped off the rails.

If you’re relying on Council and City Staff to put things back on track… you may be in for a rude awakening. They don’t share the same vision, get along with each other or have any interest in how you think this place ought to run.

It’s up to you to reboot things. That’s what gave impetus to the idea of Clean Sweep. Your votes are the broom. If you don’t vote, don’t complain later.

Operation Clean Sweep