Unilateral What?

Unilateral dismissal, and it’s been a scrofulous canker festering within the Brea Municipal Code for 25 years.

A majority of Council members turned city hall into a complete circus last night. The only ones interested in honestly addressing the real issues on this matter were Mayor Hupp and City Attorney Jim Markman.

If you have the stomach to watch this travesty go to THIS LINK to view the streaming video. Warning: this item is 40+ minutes in length and the results are zero.

Can’t tell the players without a program.

Hupp.

unilateralAs soon as the item was opened for discussion Mayor Hupp identified the key issue, the unilateral dismissal provision within the municipal code… pointing out that removing it and editing the Council Code of Conduct to little more than a reprise of the amendment to the municipal code would solve 99% of the issues at hand.

From there, as I am about to clarify, everything went to hell in a hand basket. Mayor Hupp’s thoughtful and unchallengeable identification of the real issue and a relatively simple means of addressing it got lost in a blizzard of disconnected hyperbole rooted more in opinion than fact.

Parker.

unilateralMPT Parker, as is becoming all too common, became bogged down in his own rhetoric and, after the City Attorney poked holes in his “solution,” Parker became withdrawn and contributed little of value.

Once again I was surprised that MPT Parker made no mention of being amongst the Council members unanimously approving unilateral dismissal in 1992, along with Mayor Bernie Dunlap and Council members Nelson, Perry and Wiser.

Marick.

unilateralCouncil member Marick, as she has done on many occasions, tried to sabotage any meaningful progress by layering on additional demands beyond what was called for on the agenda or in the staff report.

Though she admitted several times, “I know this isn’t on the agenda…” she persisted to insist the topic be broadened and brought back later.

She pulled the same garbage when she and then Mayor Murdock blindsided Council with a list of ridiculous extra demands upon the Madrona development.

Also, when the Central Park Brea development CFD was on the agenda for approval she voiced a shared concern with Council members Moore and Simonoff about double taxation and the lack of a sunset clause to cover assets with fixed costs.

Only when City Attorney Markman assured her that a full review of all CFD’s and Maintenance & Lighting Districts (M&LD) could be conducted anytime Council chose did she vote to approve the CFD, allowing the project to move forward.

Nothing has happened since on either matter. “Revisiting the issue at a later date” has become a euphemism for sweeping things under the rug.

Simonoff.

unilateralCouncil member Simonoff’s only contribution was to challenge Council member Marick’s obvious deflection. After 20+ years on Council and 5 years working with Ms. Marick, I would have thought he realized what his interjection would cause.

Each time he challenged Ms. Marick she emphatically doubled down on her objections. Seriously, Council member Simonoff should abandon the countless “cityspeak” cliché’s that have become his go to phrases when he has nothing of significance to offer.

By the way Mr. Simonoff, your challenge that employing the unilateral dismissal has only happened once in Brea’s 100 year history is quite a stretch since it wasn’t part of the municipal code until 1992. That’s 25 years Mr. Simonoff.

The manner in which Council member Vargas employed it, however, will likely remain a blemish on Brea history for 100 years.

Lets just say that Council member Simonoff could have played a much more material role in reaching a workable conclusion if he would set aside his perpetual concern with how he’s being perceived by others.

Vargas.

unilateralIt was Council member Vargas’ unprecedented use of the unilateral dismissal provision in the BMC on September 26, 2016 that triggered this year long process. It’s not surprising he sat, sulked and rolled his eyes as everyone else offered their two cents.

Finally, when Mayor Hupp made a motion to eliminate the unilateral dismissal from the BMC, he seconded the motion… not because he really supported the idea but because he though it might soften the blow using it will have if he runs for a third term

He withdrew his second later when he realized what it was. What a surprise that, like a petulant child, he decided to take his ball and go home – letting the motion die for lack of a second.

He punctuated his withdrawal by slinging angry accusations at fellow Council members for wasting time and expense on a meaningless matter.

Markman.

mad as hellOkay… time for me to eat a little crow.

For as harsh as I’ve been towards City Attorney Markman, he along with Mayor Hupp, were the only two who clearly understood the real issues and were focused on finding the most sensible and effective solutions to resolve them.

Mr. Markman did mention, “The municipal code is a without cause at will removal by a majority of Council or the person who appoints” – au contraire Mr. Markman… by the person who nominates. Appointments are ratified by a Council majority.

No single member of Council has more authority than their peers anywhere else in the BMC. All are members in equal standing. The unilateral dismissal creates an unjustifiable advantage to one member.

Markman also drove home the rational for eliminating any attempt to fix the problem by editing the Code of Conduct. He pointed out that it provided for dismissal done for cause, a real slippery slope.

He also pointed out, “It’s (the Code of Conduct) overridden by a code section (BMC) that says something else.”

Bingo.

The Code of Conduct has been a smokescreen from the moment I brought it’s contradicting language to the City Manager’s attention – five months after raising the issues with the BMC.

The Code of Conduct is a policy statement subject to modification at any time, in a study session, beyond the scrutiny of most Breans and is not law.

Let me say that again. The Council Code of Conduct is NOT law! The Brea Municipal Code IS law and overrides all lesser documents.

Thank you Mr. Markman for attempting to nudge this unruly body towards an honest assessment of the real issues.

Well, now what?

Thanks to Council member Marick’s diversionary tactics and Council’s inability to muster itself into some unified approach to a matter that’s been on or near the table since last December… it’s fallen into the black hole of “let’s circle back to this later.”

What a total crock.

Final thoughts.

Everyone kept harping about how important it is to protect Commissioners and Committee members from the possibility of any public embarrassment… why it’s important to make their execution swift, silent and out of the public view.

Thanks to the horribly inept unilateral dismissal conducted by Council member Vargas last year and the protracted process I’ve had to wrestle with ever since to seek some sort of reasonable solution… my “execution” has been anything but swift, silent or out of the public view.

Nice job folks. Quit fooling yourself and get about the business of governing instead of playing at local politics.

 

Brea Downtown Parking Structure.

Empty ParkingNot since the Madrona Project and the Drought Tolerant Rock Garden has there been a more divisive and misunderstood topic than building a parking structure on Superblock 1. It may all come to a head at last on June 16th when Council wades through the latest staff report and recommendations.

If the recent record setting discussion on Nextdoor (130 comments) is any indication, Breans have had little to consider but rumor and speculation. That’s about to change. On Tuesday evening the full staff report was posted on the city’s website. Tough to find, but I’ve downloaded it and you can get it here.

A Little History.

At their special meeting in April, Council reached consensus that it’s time to build the parking structure. With over a decade of meetings, closed door discussions, faltering negotiations, false starts and the loss of redevelopment funds designed to pay for it… Council finally drew a line in the sand.

With full agreement that the parking structure must provide a minimum of 300 additional spaces beyond those within the building’s footprint and setting a not-to-exceed limit on cost to build at $9 million bucks – Council ask staff to come back to them with answers to these three simple questions:

  • What parking structure design will best meet the public’s need?
  • How much will it cost to build?
  • Where will the funds come from to pay for it?

Sounds simple, right?

When you read the staff report you’ll likely be as shocked as I was.

Buried within the 50+ pages of cityspeak, hidden agendas, a blizzard of numbers that would boggle the mind of John Nash must be some answers. If you can find any, please post a comment here and share them with the rest of us.

If you came away with more questions than answers, I know I did, I hope you will step up and share them with Council on the 16th.

The only conclusion I am able to state with any certainty is this; somehow Council needs to back away from the politics and focus on building a sensible and affordable parking structure that serves the people first.

There is a lot more riding on this than simply solving a decade old problem.

Somewhere between $30 and $40 million dollars of private investment hinges upon Council making a prudent and expedient decision. Click here for a condensed presentation of what some of that investment would be.

New Improv

A novel idea?

From day one Council’s mantra has been, “Parking in downtown Brea will always be free.”

Free ParkingThe most contentious element in the equation has always centered around funding. The greatest objections have always been against spending General and 560 Funds.

The probability of ever getting our hands on even a fraction of the redevelopment money, millions, pilfered by the state remains uncertain.

Who besides me would be okay with paying a buck or two to use the new parking structure? Seriously, it’s cheaper than valet, faster than walking from Parking Structure 1. I’d even pay a couple of bucks a month on my water bill for a resident’s annual pass.

Okay… it’s just a thought.

Parting comment.

When you email Council or, better yet speak during Matters From The Audience, try to avoid hunting for the guilty parties, getting mired down in petty politics and making ad hominem attacks. This does not move the discussion forward, serves no useful purpose and will not advance any cause that benefits the community.

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

Addendum: June 15

Ask Council to be bold enough to ask the hard questions and demand truthful answers.

It would seem prudent (at least to me and several thousand of my closest friends and neighbors), considering all the facts that have emerged in recent days, that Council should: issue an RFP not-to-exceed $9 million for Option 2: purely parking, a trash facility suitable to supporting the food and beverage business and police annex.

No housing. No commercial. Simply the parking structure we’ve needed for many years.

Cost should be managed as follows:

  • $3.7 million from returned RDA
  • $1.5 million balance of Valencia Drive fund
  • $300 thousand from Gas Lamp Square

This remaining balance of $3.5 million Council may choose between funding with reserves or a bond. It will easily be REPAID via valet and cell tower revenue and the incremental increase in sales tax.

Net cost to city/tax payers is ZERO. How’s that for a parking structure plan?

 

State College Controversy Grows.

Last week’s public meeting regarding the State College controversy has stimulated a significant amount of chatter, comment and email. Jim Grosse, former Brea Planning Commissioner, whose home is contiguous to the State College properties, attended the meeting and was motivated to correspond with Council. With permission, I reprint it here.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Honorable Mayor and City Council,

JimG_400This memo concerns the proposed “State College Slope Enhancements” and the use of CFDs. I attended the meeting on June 23, but am an unaffected homeowner. I appreciate the attendance at the meeting by staff, Eric Nicoll and Bill Bowlus. At least one council member should have attended.

There was a lot at stake for the 44 homeowners. It was explained that Option 3 was out of the question. However it was the only one that really solved the problem in a permanent fashion. Options #1 & #2 are merely band-aids. Option #2 suggested a patchwork of replacement fences. This fact was not going to be disclosed until I brought it up. Thus rewarding those with poor conditions while those with fences in good repair paying the same increased assessment. What happens the next time those folks replace their fences?

With an overlay in place will they have to bear that cost? The overlay voted for in 2005 on the 28 homes south of State College has only resulted in four conforming fences in over nine years. Problem not solved.

These suggested options will never get a 2/3’s vote. Two things were achieved; we wasted $24K on the consultant and insulted these neighbors with the suggested tax increase, in all 3 options. Option #1 – $52K, Option 2 – $170K, Option #3 – $466K. Option #3 includes another 28 homeowners which I understand will pay an equal share for a six foot fence as a neighbor with 25 foot wall. Correct?

At least four of our council members are homeowners and three own multiple properties. Would you think this something acceptable to you? These homes are valued at $500K to $700K. In the end the benefit to the home’s value is about $10K, until you consider disclosing a CFD in the above stated numbers. It might even lower value and salability.

These options should have never been placed on the table. State College needs fixing. It would be a community benefit. But it should be paid by the community as a whole or find a funding source. Any council member claiming to be a “fiscal conservative” or ran on a platform of “not raising taxes” should rethink the position. For a couple of you this is an election year.

Question? On the presentation handout there is a stated General Fund Responsibility of $14,500. The Resident Cost for Maintenance is $324, or for 44 properties is $14,256 per year. Is this the same money or co-payment so to speak?

Question? Can we define “Financing Cost?” An additional cost to the homeowner?

Question? Is there a accounting function that assures the resident this is not an income stream?  Apples to apples?

The bigger issue is CFDs as a policy. What’s next? It could be in your backyard. The recent Madrona decision there was a comment “Let the buyer beware”. That is okay as long as it is disclosed in bold print and explained. But what we are asking of the folks on Buttonwood and Candlewood is just not fair. Think about two categories, the first time buyer, struggling to make that monthly payment or the senior folks who are on a fixed income.

As a planning commissioner who voted on “Central Park Village” we certified the project and the EIR just to let the developer get started with the project. Commissioner John Koos and I insisted the council look at the suggested CFD. Although the EIR stated there was no need for additional public safety funds, it was the ramification for the CFD.

I appreciate your service and understand the fine line in decision making. Double taxation and taxes not placed in equity is not right. I welcome your response.

Best Regards,

Jim Grosse

We want answers and we want them delivered publicly.

Jim Grosse has raised at least a dozen or more key questions that demand an answer prior to Council coming to any conclusion regarding the State College corridor. It should start with having the “summary memorandum” prepared as a formal staff report, presented during the main Council meeting held in chambers.

Reviewing this in study session is a blatant rejection of reasonable transparency in government.

The public should not be limited to commenting during matters from the audience, but should be afforded the opportunity of a formal public hearing. The precedents that could possibly be set here are wide ranging and likely to impact the entire community, not just the 44 homeowners selected as the target du jour.

Grass roots mail/email campaign?

Ray Ribal wondered, in his comment on “State College Slopes Need A Facelift” would a mail/email campaign have any effect? I’m not inclined to believe so, but would love nothing more than to be proven wrong.

Lets all keep a sharp eye on this and, as necessary, be prepared to hold Council accountable for maintaining open communications with us and for promoting greater transparency in government.