2016 In Review.

2016Brea bans ganjapreneurs.

2016 started off with a continuation of the medical cannabis debate, pitting the “Reefer Madness” crowd against those recognizing the rapidly increasing credibility of the medicinal values of cannabis.

This was triggered by a flaw in the language of Prop 215 which threw communities from Crescent City to Calexico into a frenzy to preserve local control.

Brea successfully prohibited cannabis dispensaries in 2008-09 but the passage of Prop 215 added another wrinkle… cultivation.

Tossing the matter to the Planning Commission, Council sought to block all cultivation through a land use amendment of the zoning code.

Today the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation is no closer to being operative than it was a year ago, the passage of Prop 64 Marijuana Legalization Initiative further muddied the waters and the Federal government still classifies pot as a Schedule 1 drug.

Look for the cannabis debate to light up again in the first quarter as the “Reefer Madness” crowd seeks to keep a tight rein on cultivation and sales in Brea.

2016Brea First becomes part of the solution.

Founded by a grassroots group of longstanding Brea residents and facilitated by Director Chris Gaarder, Brea First hosted several public events down at the Brea Museum.

Created to provide Breans with information on and analyses of important local issues, with input from local and outside experts, Brea First subscribes to the notion that is it better to be informed than merely opinionated.

At the top of the list of hot topics was Brea’s unfunded pension liability but other issues emerged as well, like term limits and the school bond issue. Look to Brea First to continue their mission into 2017.

2016Brea Envisions launches, stumbles and takes a nose dive.

Initiated by Council with the best of intentions, Brea Envisions was to set a new high water mark for public engagement.

Taking a hands-off approach, Council passed the project to the Planning Department to establish a citizen’s committee to create, oversee and report opinions of Breans on a wide variety of topics.

A steering committee was established but without leadership, facilitation was closely held by Planning staff instead. A commercially developed generic website template became the Envisions gateway to the public, supported by a medley of misused social media accounts.

A less than successful survey gleaned from a handful of folks willing to take the time to wade through it, less than 800 responded. Fewer still completed the entire survey.

The raw data produced was extremely difficult to interpret and required substantial speculation to form comprehensible results.

A second volley of a half dozen additional mini-surveys, created using a web based app called Survey Monkey, produced almost zero response.

Phase three? A phone survey. Is about to be launched to validate their findings. What findings? Where is even an interim report to help guide the process?

Brea Envisions is already over three months behind schedule, the odds that a final report will truly reflect Breans’ opinions is virtually nil and Council continues to take a hands-off approach.

2016Vargas seeks to put term limits on the ballot.

A discussion more academic than urgent turned ugly when Council member Vargas broke his promise to Council and independently embarked on an effort to gather signatures for his own term limits initiative.

The effort seemed more designed as an attempt to thwart Council member Simonoff’s run for a sixth term than than it was to give voice to voter concerns.

The threat of a possible incursion by an out-of-town PAC, Council member Vargas’s audacity to ignore public input and his callous blindside of fellow Council members cost him serious political capital and likely foreshadowed another clean sweep in 2018.

Council held a public hearing on June 7 and all hell broke loose. Folks lined up at the podium to vent their feelings, most opposing term limits. Council hashed out their various positions, with more than a little shouting and finger pointing, and eventually hit an impasse.

Thankfully the “Vargas Initiative” fell well short of obtaining the required number of signatures. Council member Vargas learned the meaning of an extinction level event and came face-to-face with his failure as a consensus builder and a man of the people.

20162016 election, winners and losers.

As if the national election weren’t contentious enough, the BOUSD Measure K pitted friend against friend, neighbor against neighbor and candidate against candidate.

Seeking an unprecedented $148,000,000 ($300,000,000 with vigorish) with an initiative that lacked any public input and failed to define how the money would be spent, it was doomed from the start.

An independent PAC solicited, received and spent nearly $75,000 in an attempt to push Measure K into the win column, then it was discovered that most of the money came from companies that would substantially benefit from Measure K winning.

Meanwhile, a handful of residents seeing through the smokescreen, reached into their own pockets to shed a little light on the truth. None came close to legal spending limits yet they prevailed at the ballot box.

Paul Ruiz, winning by a landslide, joined the BOUSD Board… clearly a mandate from Brea voters. Gail Lyons and Kevin Hobby retained their seats while Rod Todd was finally vanquished.

At least he was until Joe Rollino dropped the bombshell that he was resigning and the reorganized board relied on little more than cronyism to let Todd finish Rollino’s term.

Adding insult to injury, the board snubbed new member Ruiz, refusing to second his nomination of Jason Kraft… clearly the most qualified applicant to fill the vacancy.

What will 2017 hold?

The reorganized Council, with Cecilia Hupp moving up as Mayor and Glenn Parker as MPT, will be facing an interesting array of potentially contentious issues in the coming year.

Of course there is the matter of shoring up our city limits against the onslaught of ganjapreneurs and rogue developers, greedy pensioners and presumptuous public servants.

Then there’s that long awaited Centennial year celebration that seems to lack funding, focus and public fervor. With events promised as early as February still in the early planning stage I wonder just how memorable this Centennial celebration will actually be?

Nevertheless, Happy New Year.

Putting The Unified Back Into BOUSD.

BOUSD put Measure K on the ballot and all hell broke loose.

Proponents launched “Yes On Measure K” flooding neighborhoods and public thoroughfares with signs, mailboxes with oversized postcards, inserting themselves into our dinner hours with unsolicited robocalls. They hung out on street corners distracting traffic waving signs and passing out flyers, advocated boycotting downtown businesses with ill conceived letters accusing a local developer of buying elected officials and interfering in local politics and created a Facebook page where anyone with opposing views, contrary to the spirit of the first amendment, was blocked.

Opponents launched “No On Measure K” and prominently hung four giant banners and flooded public thoroughfares with signs, attended back-to-school nights and walked neighborhoods handing out flyers, hung out on street corners distracting traffic waving signs and passing out flyers and created a Facebook page challenging every message coming from the opposition.

A self-righteous bunch reactivated their “Reject Negative Politics In Brea” Facebook page and proceeded to attack every No on K sign, banner, flyer or attempt to get their message out. Their pro-K bias was blatant. They continued this masked propaganda until a couple of unattributed third party signs showed up that were truly negative politics. Only then did they suspend activity.

The BOUSD Board of Directors, especially the incumbents running for reelection, were notably silent though state law allows them to support the bond measure on their own time. Neither the Board or district staff conducted or participated in any public forum debating Measure K.

Both sides took to Nextdoor with posts about Measure K that became inflamed with personal attacks, unfounded allegations and unsupported assertions. Comments were repeatedly tagged for review when, as it turned out, the only offense was often the expression of an opposing opinion. Once friendly cyber-neighborhoods sharing coyote sightings, lost puppy alerts and selling used furniture, became bloody battlegrounds pitting neighbor against neighbor.

The “Yes On Measure K” Facebook page has now become “Take Brea Back” and the “No On K” page is now “Brea Watchdogs” – could they be any more divisive?

fb_savebreaTake Brea back from who? From that nasty ol’ developer hell bent on becoming the King of Brea? Exactly how does that benefit our kids or the BOUSD? (Ed Update: 11/29: The facelift continues, suggesting the group is formed “to provide information about local issues, concerns, elections and government activities that affect quality of life in the City of Brea.” – They have extended their ban prohibiting me from posting on their page.

fb_watchdogWatchdogs? Watching who? Watching what? I thought you promised to become part of the solution should Measure K fail to pass. Exactly how does perpetuating an adversarial stance benefit our kids or the BOUSD? (Ed Update: 11/29: Not to be outdone, the “Watchpuppies” group also claims to be an informational resource about local issues, particularly BOUSD. Like their nemesis Take Brea Back, they have also prohibited me from posting on their page.

Yesterday Joe Rollino resigned from the Board. Why? He already announced he would not be seeking reelection in 2018. Did he finish remodeling that beach house earlier than expected? Is there any chance Bill Hall might take the easy way out too?

Would Rod Todd dare apply to fill the vacancy after failing to get reelected? If Jason Kraft and Joseph Covey both apply to fill the vacancy, who does the Board select… the candidate with the most votes? What if a new name gets tossed into the ring?

On par with unfunded pension liabilities, putting the “unified” back into BOUSD is the top priority. Not how many apartments should Hines be entitled to build. Not how to rein in the loose canon on city Council. Not term limits, tiered water rates, parking citations on trash day, where to put a porkchop on a country road, Brea Envisions struggle for relevance or how to preserve those damned hills everyone is so up in arms about.

Its the preservation of Brea’s most valuable assets. Our kids and the BOUSD.

unified BOUSD

 

BOUSD Puts $148 Million Dollar Bond On November Ballot!

BOUSD Board met last Monday evening and once again I’m turning to a Brea resident with special insight into the district, Connie Lanzisera. Connie has monitored the BOUSD for many years, holding them accountable on a wide variety of issues… mostly linked to money. The Board attempted to very quietly hustle a bond issue onto November’s ballot and almost got away with it. Here’s the backstory from Connie.

BOUSDI would like to thank the many Brea residents that attended the BOUSD Board meeting Monday night voicing their opinion on a possible $148 million dollar bond. Even though the outcome did not turn out as many had hoped, it was good to see the public become involved in the discussion.

For many hoping to at least delay the bond issue for a couple of years, the BOUSD Board’s decision to put it on the November 8th ballot appeared to have been decided before the meeting began.

Unfortunately, the School Board chose not to listen to Brea taxpayers who had legitimate complaints about, amongst many things, the lack of transparency thus far in this process.

Strong opposition voiced.

Every person opposing the bond measure told the board they would support a bond IF and only IF the District was truthful, transparent, and thorough in explaining how the $148 million dollars would be spent.

It seems both prudent and reasonable to ask for a detailed list of projects and costs the District wants to spend. However, the District has provided only a vague list in their attempt to define the scope of work to be performed.

They want the taxpayer to cough up $148 million dollars without any prior oversight from Brea residents… no questions asked.

BOUSDBOUSD – History repeats itself.

This mimics the Board’s strategy in 1999 when they duped voters into approving a $27 million dollar bond for which there has never been an adequate independent audit. We are still paying for it even though the money was spent many years ago.

In 2012 the Board tried to slip another $54 million dollar bond initiative onto the ballot but voters were smarter and the measure failed… much to the embarrassment of both district staff and the Board who assumed the measure would easily pass.

This year, attempting to gather public input, phone surveys were conducted on a very limited basis. Less than 300 taxpayers were contacted at a cost of $127,340 (those phone calls cost $425 each).

The consultant confirmed they called from a list of voters who had voted in the last two presidential elections because they had a high probability of voting this November. They called the week after their huge sob story postcard landed in Brea mailboxes. This is playing a numbers game, nothing else.

How many surveyed were homeowners or renters like you and me who will eventually be stuck paying the bill? Hardly a projectable sample.

Marketing vs. Engagement.

The District, rather than legitimately seeking public support, is relying on buzzwords tested by the financial interests in the bond industry. Rather than conducting broadly announced public hearings where community opinions might become part of the public record, the matter slipped onto last week’s agenda like a thief in the night.

Had sharp eyes not spotted the attempt to sneak the resolution through, there would have been little or no opposition expressed. A handful of teachers and PTA parents would have congratulated the Board for their forward thinking.

BOUSDBOUSD – A pattern of deception.

If the School District begins this process deceiving the community and trying to mask their intent, how can we expect them to be transparent and truthful when it comes to spending our money? Their flagrant disregard for truth is obvious.

The Board couldn’t (or wouldn’t) answer questions to how the $148 million dollars would be spent. Their answers, turning to those tested buzzwords, were generic phrases like fixing leaky roofs, upgrade wireless infrastructure, energy efficiencies and environmental upgrades and reinforce eroding hillsides.

This will raise the quality of education how?

Board member excuses ring hollow.

BOUSDBoard members spoke of their good stewardship and management of district assets, bragged about their success “saving” the district during tough financial times and took issue with comments from the audience to the contrary.

BOUSDBottom line, this is the Board that, in spite of millions of dollars in bond revenue and millions in profits from the sale of properties, has allowed our schools to deteriorate into a completely deplorable and unacceptable state of disrepair.

Our children and parents deserve better… so do those of us whose property taxes will take a big jump for another 30 years. The plan is not sufficiently clear or adequately detailed. The public has been disregarded.

The only reasonable choice is to vote no on the BOUSD school bond measure in November.

BOUSD