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.

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Uncovering The Simple Truth.

It should have been a simple records request. It could have been a simple records request. It turned out to be anything but.

Here’s the backstory.

green_mugAbout a year ago, not long after he created the “Green Brea 2012” website, ex-Mayor Schweitzer launched his “One Ton Challenge” to encourage Breans to reduce their annual carbon footprint by a metric ton. Seeing a pattern developing, I decided to give it a year, then check back to see how much was accomplished.

As you would expect, the website and Mayor were retired at the same time. The website, which offered nothing of value when launched, was never changed, not one pixel, then Schweitzer pulled the plug a few weeks ago. Time will tell if Schweitzer’s legacy is one of equally unproductive wing flapping.

Getting answers ought to be easy.

On January 14 I filed a simple CPRA (California Public Records Act) request seeking documentation of the number of participants and reduction(s) in carbon footprints achieved in the Mayor’s One Ton Challenge.

Sounds pretty basic, right?

On January 24, the absolute last day the City Clerk could respond without violating CPRA guidelines, I was told, “… due to unusual circumstances, an extension of the statutory 10-day determination period is reasonably necessary for the proper processing of your request.  Specifically, there is a need to search for, collect and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of records pertaining to your request.

pubrec_200Are you kidding? Unusual circumstances? What circumstances? Voluminous amount of records? It turns out that was a baldfaced lie, there were no voluminous records. I don’t believe they found anything because they didn’t look very hard, if at all.

I might speculate that, having come up with zip, they figured it could take at least another ten days to fabricate something.

I reminded Ms. Balz that participants registered through the city’s website and were to report their results in order to receive the Mayor’s recognition. I also reminded her that Cindie Ryan’s Marketing Department, responsible for the website, should easily be able to provide the data requested.

After all, if the esteemed ex-Mayor and others can brag again and again about what great successes they’re having, wouldn’t it stand to reason that someone prepared a report detailing the program’s accomplishments? Apparently not.

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…

duck1It could be a cheap imitation of a duck!

The City Clerk’s next response, received in less than 24 hours (not 10 days later after culling through mythical voluminous records) included five documents, obviously from Cindie Ryan in the Marketing Department, all from the early concept development and promotion of the program… none of which included a single thing fulfilling my request.

It’s like Ms. Balz asked Ms. Ryan if she had anything and Ms. Ryan sent the only stuff she saved, assuming it had to answered my inquiry. I can imagine what happened next.

Without looking at the documents (a quick glance was all that was required to verify they were worthless), Ms. Balz attached them to an email, clicked send and thought, “Maybe now he’ll shut up and get off my back,”

No such luck. I wrote back, encouraging Ms. Balz to press on to find documents that actually satisfied my inquiry. At the end of the day she responded, sending me copies of the only three application forms received… yeah, you read that right… only three. I’ll get back to the One Ton Challenge in a minute.

This is why we needed Measure U!

Measure U, amongst other things, was designed to reinforce citizen’s rights ensuring that speedy access to public records is not thwarted by public officials or employees.

The more city hall plays their semantical games claiming requests are either too broad or too narrow in scope resulting in the production of thousands of records… or none; the more city hall routinely gives itself extensions because they were on holiday or because they encountered voluminous records that actually didn’t exist; the more city hall stacks the deck against inquiring citizens, likely violating CPRA guidelines in the process, and discourages citizens from exercising their rights… the more we need to support citizen initiatives like Measure U.

We passed Measure T, now it seems that the City Attorney is about to start lobbying for amendments and maybe even legal challenge to see how much of the citizen’s desires can be rendered impotent. You’ll not want to miss the next Council meeting for that dog and pony show.

Back to the One Ton Challenge.

Three, remember? Only three signups. Brace yourself, this would be funny a la SNL Weekend Update if it wasn’t so incredibly sad.

  • The three lone “applications” included two City of Brea employees and the wife of a City of Brea employee. Yes, they all live in Brea. No, there isn’t what anyone would consider a legitimate “private” citizen amongst them. They represent roughly 0.000075% of the population.
  • Collectively, per the documents they provided, only one of the three reached the 1 ton goal, the other two fell short. In fact, extended to the full year savings, three people collectively only saved as much as the goal for two people.
  • coolplanetEven though the Challenge only reached a tiny fraction of the population and they missed the mark by 33%, the “Climate Registry” saw fit to honor Brea with their Cool Planet Award citing the One ton Challenge as one of the contributing factors. I wonder what they were told about the program’s success?
  • The Mayor’s challenge was designed without the ability to audit progress or quantify the results, which suggests to me that no one planned on following up, reporting results accurately or that they even felt the program had any chance of succeeding.

solar_money_300Add this together with the bogus green theme and website, the questionable productivity of the new power generating turbines up at the Alpha Olinda landfill and the sketchy unverified data coming from the massively expensive Solar Project put in on a sole bid contract by Chevron Energy… and what do you get?

Greenwashing!

Greenwashing is a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s aims and policies are environmentally friendly. Whether to increase profits or gain political support, greenwashing is used to manipulate popular opinion to support otherwise questionable aims.

smokestacks_225The term is generally used when significantly more money or time has been spent advertising being green rather than spending resources on environmentally sound practices. Example, every one of the solar panels installed all over the city produced a larger carbon footprint being created than it is saving through operation.

Put down the Kool-aid!

koolaid-man_150A growing number of you (Brea Matters readership is up almost 300% since the election, thank you very much) are getting sick and tired of the nonsense and dysfunction that runs through almost everything said or done down at city hall. Yours calls and emails remind me daily that you’re not buying the old party line any more.

Good! Now if we can just, somehow, muddle through the next two years, maybe we can put on Council people with real vision, proven experience, no personal agenda or high-falootin’ political aspirations.

It might mean you have to turn off the tv, skip Taco Tuesday once or twice a month and screw up the courage to come down to city hall and speak your piece. C’mon… this is your town for cryin’ out loud… is that really too much to ask?

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Postscript.

If you’re picking up on the possibility that I might be a bit angry about all of this, you’re right. What part of doing their job don’t they understand?

If you think I’m stretching the truth anywhere in this, please feel free to contact your favorite City Council member. They were openly copied every step of the way. Even if they retreat into that ultra-safe politically correct cityspeak, they will still be able to verify that my account of the events is honest and accurate in every word.

This willful arrogant disrespect for the people of Brea and the continued efforts to block progress in the move towards more engaged, more transparent, more ethical, more fiscally responsible government is without explanation or excuse.

The longer Brea voters allow this deviant behavior to continue, the more presumptive and deeply entrenched the subculture becomes. If this is the legacy of neglect we’re passing along to the next generation, God help them. The consequences will be blamed on no one but us… the folks who decided it was okay to let the idiots to run the asylum.

PS: I have a lot more, I mean a lot more, city staffer’s reading this blog than signed up for the Mayor’s One Ton Challenge. It cracks me up every time I think about it.