Brea Envisions Needs Midcourse Correction.

Brea EnvisionsCompared to the 121 pieces posted to Brea Matters over 5 years, this has been the most difficult blog to write. Here’s why. I do not want to diminish or dismiss the contribution of those volunteering as Brea Envisions Steering Committee members or Ambassadors.

One of Brea’s great strengths, for decades, has been a consistent outpouring of volunteerism. Brea Envisions is only the most recent beneficiary. Brea schools have long benefitted from the hard work and largesse of PTAs. Youth sports have thrived thanks, in large part, to the generosity of the community.

Around 1996 then Mayor Glenn Parker launched the Mayor’s Annual Youth Award helping to instill the spirit of volunteerism into countless young Breans. Brea’s faith based community and service organizations have touched every aspect of life in Brea.

Where did the problem start?

With the best of intentions, Council launched Brea Envisions with the stipulation that no current or former elected or appointed officials could be on the Steering Committee. This was designed to prohibit the committee from being peppered with the same old faces (Old Guard) in an effort to overcome the legacy of manipulation that has blemished every effort at public engagement in recent history.

They forgot one thing, creating a means of continued oversight. Beyond the occasional self aggrandizing updates they’ve been given, Council has no real clue how leadership has evolved. Convinced to not select a Chair, the Brea Envisions Steering Committee essentially handed staff the keys.

Supported by their very expensive consultant MIG and their subcontractors, staff has taken over, concocting a long range planning project hardly touched by the very people they’re hired to serve.

What was my first clue?

Brea EnvisionsA sparse, poorly conceived social media effort and a cookie cutter website that was difficult to navigate and barely mobile friendly. Then I heard about this all purpose hashtag, #breaenvisions, that would be the linchpin tying everything together and triggering a viral response.

Newsflash: going viral is not a strategy, it’s a phenomenon. Jimmy Fallon’s Thursday Tweets create so much traffic they become trending topics because Fallon has 38.4 million followers and his staff understands how to engage their fans. City of Brea has 4,800+ followers interested in traffic updates and Amber alerts. Do the math.

The Brea Envisions website, an app/template from consultant subcontractor Crowdbrite copyrighted in 2015, is an off-the-rack one-size-fits-all “engagement” tool sold to city after city. As I said, it is far from user friendly on mobile devices and almost impossible to determine if or when any new content is added.

Did you take the survey? Did you know there is a new survey now and you can take it too? I didn’t think so.

A third of the survey questions ask for narrative input. Yeah, you have to type sentences and stuff. Someone explain to me how this anecdotal input will be translated to quantifiable data. Plus, as of this writing, only 60 folks have taken the survey. Many questions are phrased, “What are your three favorite…” which leaves zero room for constructive criticism.

This overly Saccharin Pollyanna approach has been the hallmark of that bogus old City Manager Survey that Council used to justify giving Tim O’Donnell raise after raise.

Brea Envisions: Trust but verify.

Brea EnvisionsI checked in with a couple of Brea Envisions committee members, off the record. As promised, they’ll remain anonymous… but they shared that they couldn’t remember the committee having any influence in originating anything relating to the website or social media.

Since Steering Committee meetings are, by law, open to the public and anyone may attend, which Council confirmed during their Study Session the night prior, I decided that sitting in on one was the next logical step.

Brea EnvisionsLast Wednesday evening I went to the third floor conference room, picked an unobtrusive seat to ensure my presence wouldn’t have any impact on the meeting. I stood, for a brief moment, and took a photo with my phone, then sat quietly for the rest of the meeting.

As the meeting started, a quick head count showed that attending were 11 committee members and 8 city staff members. The meeting was run and dominated by staff who easily filled 80% of the airtime. Most of their rambling presentation seemed designed to convince committee members how amazingly well staff was succeeding every step of the way. Near the end of the meeting the committee did interject a few comments. I’ll get to that in a moment.

Brea EnvisionsA detailed “Social Media Promotion Schedule” was shared which consisted of posting on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram twice a week. (Not one of those accounts is for Brea Envisions!)

Yup, a whole six posts a week! The plan is anchored on the assumption that all followers will “like” and share every item with their entire network. The plan will go viral!

Brea EnvisionsBusiness entities relying on social media for their company or personal brand, employ management apps (Hootsuite, IFTTT, TweetDeck etc.) and often post 50, 100, 200+ posts a day across a half dozen social media platforms. Do the math.

They also rely upon advanced analytics which allow them to know precisely how they’re influencing the market. I heard nothing of the sort shared with the committee.

Committee input mostly rebuffed.

When staff was challenged about there not being a dedicated Brea Envisions Facebook page, the answer was, “We decided that it would be potentially too confusing.”

Whoa. Wasn’t that the committee’s job? Doesn’t the Brea PD have their own site for recruiting? What about the Curtis Theater and Brea Gallery?

The heart of marketing, and that’s what this is folks, is built upon differentiation. Burying Brea Envisions in the city’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages is completely backwards. Don’t even get me started on their ridiculous use of Periscope to live stream video of the Ambassador training session. They got 2 viewers.

Committee comments were either greeted with rebuttal or the standard city speak, “We’ll look into that.” which often means waiting long enough that the comment is forgotten.

Time for Council to reassert itself.

There is much more of the racetrack still ahead of us than behind. If Council can find a way to take a more hands-on role in overseeing Brea Envisions without interfering with it being a project by the people, the interest, expertise, energy and enthusiasm of the volunteers will not be squandered.

Otherwise, Brea Envisions will join the ranks of so many other workshops, public discussions and charrettes that tapped the public only for validation and not direction.

Brea Envisions

 

From Koreagate To Surrogate.

At the encouragement of many, and the insistence of some, I’m compelled to dig deeper into this surrogate issue I’ve raised.

My position is that some candidates for council have been hand selected by a small number of former and current local elected officials and are being groomed to carry on the interests and opinions of these political factions.

These successors, substitutes, I prefer to call them surrogates, are part of campaign strategies designed to either preserve or overturn the current balance of power. I’m not going to stop now and name names. Most Brea Matters readers are already quite aware of who the players are.

Operation Clean Sweep

cleansweepCouncil member Moore’s suggestion is that the dysfunction infecting City Council can only be eliminated by voting a clean sweep, disallowing all incumbents from being reelected. I agree completely, but carry the suggestion one step further. If all that occurs is to change the faces without changing the dynamics, what will have been accomplished?

Nothing. The dysfunction remains.

The shift in power from one faction to another is not an acceptable objective. Operation Clean Sweep must shift the power back into the hands of the people. Elected officials need to learn that they are in the position they are to do the people’s bidding, not to carry out some myopic self-centered egotistical personal agenda.

The Puppet Masters.

PinocchioOne thing I will say about these puppet masters and their surrogates is that they do have considered opinions. They have invested their time and energy to study the community, to visualize ways to make Brea better.

Well so have I, a great deal more time and energy than some who think they belong in public office, and we disagree.

My dog in this fight.

HoundListen, my opinion on any given issue is but one voice amongst thousands. I am comfortable living with the majority rule. If most people want to paint a major intersection turquoise… fine.

I’ve been labeled a policy wonk, and rightfully so. I am far more concerned about the decision making process than I am about the final decision.

Well, Koreagate, Free Speech and Fracking aside.

There is no wiggle room there for me. Schweitzer, Murdock and O’Donnell need to pay back the misappropriated funds, Council and staff need to stop impeding the people’s ability to make their opinions known and they all need to wake up to the reality of what’s really happening right in our fracking back yard.

“Hearing the oil and gas interests say they don’t know about the serious health implications of fracking next to homes, schools, and hospitals is like hearing the piano player at the cathouse saying he doesn’t know what’s going on upstairs.” – Nick Passanante, Coloradoans for Safe and Clean Energy.

If it looks like a duck…

Rubber duckWalks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s a duck, dammit. Quit pretending it’s a bald eagle. The surrogates can whine and moan and call me unfair all they want.

We need to start seeing them on the campaign trail without their handlers lurking in the shadows. We need to hear something besides another chorus of Brea the Beautiful.

Until these surrogates have that break-away moment, pulling free of the petty little political factions that recruited them, launched and financed their campaigns… their status remains pretty clear.

Make up your own mind.

checksStart looking into this for yourself now, before your voter’s pamphlet and absentee ballot have been sitting on the kitchen table for weeks. Talk to your friends and neighbors. Find a candidate or two you can put your trust into, put their yard signs out in plain view. Give them ten bucks and wish them well.

When their opposition floods your mailbox with the inevitable mudslinging, backstabbing lies and innuendos… they call them hit pieces, recognize them for what they are and toss them in the trash where they belong.

But whatever you do, don’t start marking your ballot having no idea who the candidates really are, what they really stand for and where their allegiances lie.

Do your part and Operation Clean Sweep will begin building a better Brea.

 

It’s All Up Hill From Here.

On December 18, 2012, the Brea City Council reorganized in what has been described to me as everything from damned embarrassing to downright illegal. My post “A Dark Day In Brea History” and my reorganization wrap-ups “An Elephant In The Room – Part 1” and “An Elephant In The Room – Part 2” summarize the events and the issues facing Brea’s still dysfunctional Council.

I’m not alone here, others agree.

A sufficient number of Breans who witnessed the reorganization, as it unfolded live, or via replay from either Brea’s website or Time-Warner public access, felt strongly that the sequence of comments and events that put Ron Garcia in the Mayor’s seat and named Brett Murdock Mayor Pro Tem, clearly point towards collusion amongst some of the key players prior to the meeting.

I gave things a month for the dust to settle, hoping one of the “Old Guard” who stormed out of council chambers that night or some other angry citizen would take the facts to the Orange County District Attorney’s office seeking an investigation into possible Brown Act violations. Seeing none, I was left with little choice but to do it myself.

Here is an abbreviated version of what I submitted for consideration:

  • Mayor Pro Tem Murdock used “formal motion” as opposed to “informal nomination” procedure to name Ron Garcia for Mayor. A clear attempt to block other nominations.
  • Use of “informal nomination” procedure has been standard, for Council Commissions and Committees in Brea for decades. The process does not require a second and allows for multiple nominees.
  • By turning from traditional nominating to the process of making a motion, Murdock and Garcia appear to have essentially used Robert’s Rules of Order to strangle the Council and intentionally limit their options.
  • Roy Moore, upon attempting to nominate Marty Simonoff, was instructed by City Attorney James Markman that he was out of order. This was incorrect.
  • To be accurate (and unbiased?), City Attorney James Markman should have instructed Roy Moore that he merely needed to make a substitute motion to add his nominee.
  • In Roy Moore’s BreaNet #639, he confirmed the City Attorney’s error. Both Moore and Simonoff acknowledge chastising Markman following the meeting, Markman admitted his error.
  • Ron Garcia used the same tactic to nominate Brett Murdock as Mayor Pro Tem for a second consecutive term, stating, “I would like to re-nominate… ummm… make a motion that Brett serve as Mayor Pro Tem which would give Brett Mayor… to serve as the Mayor in his 4 year term.”
  • Ron Garcia’s motion seemed to preemptively also make Brett Murdock Mayor in 2014, the year he runs for reelection. This can’t be legal.
  • Prior to the council meeting, council member Simonoff was approached by City Manager Tim O’Donnell who inquired whether he would be open to a quid pro quo making Marty Mayor and Brett Mayor Pro Tem. Marty informed Mr. O’Donnell that he “didn’t do quid pro quo” and terminated the conversation.
  • The sequence of events and dialog, as described, suggest that there may have been collusion between Ron Garcia, Brett Murdock, James Markman, Tim O’Donnell and possibly Christine Marick.

rackauckas_aWill the OCDA respond or blow me off?

Several have told me that getting a conviction on a Brown Act violation is virtually impossible, that even getting an investigation launched is extremely difficult. If I let this sort of pessimism rule my thinking, I’d give up before I even got started. Fat chance.

I hope that Mr. Rackauckas disproves this notion and assigns a Deputy DA to seriously investigate this matter.

I believe there is an endemic culture of secrecy and collusion in Brea city hall, and an arrogant disregard for the provisions of the Brown Act.

If I’m right, this ought not be allowed to continue one more minute and those who participated should be recalled or terminated.

elephant2