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

Asbestos Issue May Only Be A Smokescreen.

asbestos_1

Is the asbestos issue shaking up the city?

Eager to hear the details of the earthquake damage and asbestos exposure at two Brea schools, parents, students and teachers of Fanning Elementary School convinced reporters to show up at the BOUSD “emergency” meeting on April 23 but it was all for naught. Skip Rowland’s explanation was bereft of any information that clarified the extent of damage or comforted those concerned.

skip_asbestosAt the school board meeting of May 5th Skip shared a 10 page powerpoint presentation, “BOUSD Damage Update” from the March 28-29 earthquakes. It is a blizzard of disconnected facts and figures, thrown together the Friday before the meeting giving board members no time to digest or challenge it’s contents.

Stuck with more questions than answers, I posed five simple questions to Skip via email. He answered quickly, but his answers left a lot to be desired and begged for rebuttal. Here are the questions, answers and my rebuttals. I’m using this public forum to encourage others with strong opinions to weigh in. Skip, you’re more than welcome to post your comments as well.

Q: Is the district uninsured against earthquake damage?

A: The District does not carry earthquake insurance.

Why, in a historically seismic area, would the district take such monumental risk? The minor recent quake caused minimal damage but caused, according to the district, almost $3 million in necessary repairs.

What might be the financial threat of a major quake? Why wouldn’t the district want to guard itself against such an inevitability? It’s incomprehensible.

Q: Why is there no reserve for asbestos removal/mitigation?

A: Reductions in State funding over the past seven years have depleted all but required operational reserves.  Developer Fees are expressly restricted from being used for asbestos abatement.

Reductions in State funding did not make withdrawals from district reserves or prevent the district from exercising good management practices by maintaining reserves.

How long has the district known of it’s vulnerability to this sort of expense and why haven’t steps been taken to be better prepared? Why is the district running to City Council crying poverty and begging for a handout?

Skip, developer’s fees are irrelevant. Why would you even bring them up? Adding to the smokescreen perhaps?

Q: Will the district be required to obtain multiple bids for asbestos mitigation and renovation of Fanning?

A: Emergency approvals allow the District to proceed with contracts without the formal bid process.  Wherever and whenever practical, the District is receiving competitive quotes from known and respected contractors and selecting the lowest cost, most dependable contractors.

Oh please, what emergency? The quakes were on March 28/29. The first “emergency” meeting held by the district was April 23. Almost another month has passed with little or nothing accomplished beyond a feeble attempt to weave into the project elective construction under the guise of earthquake and asbestos mitigation.

No one has successfully explained the connection between the structural repairs, the asbestos removal and the unwarranted interior remodeling that’s simply all about facelift and little else.

Obtuse references have been made to AB 300 (October 1999) and the ensuing addition of Section 17317 to the California Education Code. Neither mention asbestos, both deal in great detail with seismic/structural issues, a statewide assessment of K-12 facilities to estimate potential cost liabilities.

Wherever and whenever practical? It is always preferred, always practical, always appropriate to seek competitive bids on projects of this magnitude. Please drop the bureaucratic rhetoric and do what is right.

You can start by being more forthcoming regarding exactly how much earthquake damage really occurred. Are you replacing carpets because of a massive water leak, a dusting of asbestos throughout the facility or are you just circumventing your loss on Measure E? Will you provide a detailed breakdown of the scope of work for the “PLUS” stuff you mention in your report? The stuff that has nothing to do with asbestos or the earthquake.

Q: Why doesn’t the district consider razing Fanning and selling the property?

A: The long range enrollment projections for the District indicate a need for six elementary schools.  Razing Fanning and selling the Fanning site would require significant realignment of school attendance boundaries and construction of new facilities at numerous locations to accommodate elementary student enrollment that would be far in excess of the costs to repair and reopen Fanning.

Long range enrollment projections? Can you be more specific? Need for six elementary schools – at what rate of utilization? Realigning boundaries is administrative work, for which you and your staff are well paid. Just do it.

Construction of new facilities or is it more like moving a few portable classrooms around? Could you possibly be any more nebulous?

And what percentage of Brea’s elementary schools are currently underutilized? You were able to quickly and easily move Fanning students, teachers and administrators into Laurel School. How many empty classrooms did you have over there?

Pulling the wool over Council’s eyes.

Council, with an emergency item on a non-emergency matter, without a staff report or even a copy of Skip’s notorious report was railroaded into tapping the 560 Fund for a million bucks. Have they paid back the solar energy loan yet? This misuse of the 560 Fund has to stop.

In about fifteen minutes, much less than they spent arguing about Sister City travel budgets, Council was goaded into loaning BOUSD half of what they hoped to spend on Fanning. No one offered any idea what the scope of work might be, whats required or whats really elective surgery.

Legally, BOUSD must pay the $1 million back within 12 months. Gotcha. What are the terms? What are the payments? Are they charging minimal interest to cover administrative expenses?

For the first time in a long time we witnessed an unanimous decision by Council with little discussion or typical squabbling. I’m concerned that this is due, in large part, to Council’s total lack of information on the matter.

Council was fooled into believing there was an emergency, that little kids would be irreparably damaged in the process, that they needed to rush to judgement and fork out a million bucks without a shred of documentation.

Sorry, but this sounds to me like a big boondoggle (noun: a public project of questionable merit that typically involves political patronage) and BOUSD has just made wags out of the entire Brea City Council.

 

Other People’s Money.

Brea isn’t the first or only California city whose voters are shaking off their apathetic past, establishing sunshine ordinances and retaking control of their local government. Unlike Brea, some have not reached the level of success they had hoped to achieve.

“In an astonishing display of arrogance, Murrieta’s City Council has again thumbed its nose at taxpayers by ignoring a cap on public pay. In 2010, more than two-thirds of Murrieta voters passed Measure E, which capped the total compensation of top administrators at 2.5 times the median family or household income in the city.”

via North County Times, Dan McSwain – December 1, 2012.

Our Measure T, by virtue of Council’s passing Resolution 2012-071 tonight, is now law. Markman has already lined himself up to discuss the implications of Measure T at the Council meeting slated for January 15.

The meeting better be downstairs where all of Brea can be privy to what is said.