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.

city culture

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

Marick Mea Culpa.

Marick in jail.Even with it’s twisted pretzel logic, MPT Marick’s mea culpa following “Matters” last Tuesday confirmed a pattern of Murdock supporters intimidating Brea businesspeople to remove opposition’s signs and their practice of late night sign vandalizing across the city.

Citing content as the issue, that it was slanderous and in poor taste, Marick completely overlooked the accuracy of much of their content, which eliminates the slander charge, and the sign maker’s right to express their opinion unencumbered by subjective judgment.

Murdock in jail.Combine what we now know about Marick with Murdock’s 2010 campaign founded on empty rhetoric leading to four years of no promises kept and nothing of note accomplished…

and his 2012 clandestine opposition to Measures T and U which resulted in a $2,000 fine from the FPPC for election law violation… and you get quintessential dirty politics.

Murdock and Marick must harbor pretty low opinions of the people they serve.

We see you!Do they think we don’t see through the asinine answers they give to serious questions, the preposterous claims of major accomplishments they pile on their political resumes?

Do they think their whimpering and whining will mask the fact that they, at minimum, have as much mud on their hands as they claim fouls the hands of their opposition?

Mr. Murdock, Mrs. Marick… that sound you hear isn’t fracking in our hillsides, the shrinking of our pension liabilities or cactus growing in the Civic Center Garden. It’s the chip, chip, chip of the epitaphs being chiseled into your political headstones.

Operation Clean Sweep