Dear Mr. Vargas…

This morning an email showed up in my inbox from a good friend and neighbor to Councilman Vargas. All of Council was copied. It echoed rising sentiments following the last Council meeting (read my summary here).

All things considered, I thought it only reasonable to add this to the public discussion before the next Council meeting on Tuesday.

June 18, 2016

Dear Mr. Vargas –

Hearing about term limits, I took the time to familiarize myself with the issue by reading Brea Matters and then viewed the hour long council discussion, which presented two very opposing views.

Confused, I asked others, what was the impetus for the filing? I thought we as a community were finally satisfied with our city council members.

The response from several sources was that you have a personal vendetta against Marty.

I am abhorred that you would drag the residents of Brea through an initiative that will be very difficult to overturn to satisfy a personal agenda.

In the last election, we as a community rid the incumbent simply by voting and through grass root efforts. Do you believe it’s satisfactory that Brea ‘start over’ every eight years? Glenn Parker’s stats prove that people leave on their own or by votes, which is the why it’s called an ‘election.’

Your campaign promises to me personally, and to the community, was to engage with us. You’ve now compromised your commitment to us by filing for a ballot initiative with no regard to the residents’ opinions on the proposal.

Steve, this is from your website: stevevargas.com.

term limits“For over a decade politicians have been promising us a more transparent government, but we’ve yet to see it. As your Council person, my number one objective will be to help ensure that every resident and voter is afforded a real opportunity to make your feelings known to Council.

Your input should always play a key role in Council decisions. This is your home.

Bottom line, a government that listens to its constituents, that demonstrates the ability to work as a team, that keeps the budget balanced and the city safe, is all any of us could wish for. Together, we can make a better Brea.”

This is classical bait and switch politics, and I am disappointed that you’ve become one of ‘them.’

I implore you to do the right thing and withdraw your submission.

Susan Fujioka

Twain_1

 

Term Limits – Yes Or No?

NOPARKING-1Term limits restricting the number of successive terms of office that may be served by elected officials has always been a controversial issue.

Brea has never had term limits and I, along with a growing number of others apparently, believe it’s time to put it to a vote.

The almost perpetual reelection of career politicians prevents the rise of new voices in government. By instituting term limits, the problems of the status quo can be solved, and more responsible, accountable candidates and Council members may arise.

Here are arguments in favor of term limits that, IMHO, make a lot of sense to me.

Term limits restore rotation in office and government by the people.

It is unfortunate that politics has become an accepted career path. It is better that participation in government be brief. Term limits will put an end to municipal politics becoming a cushy “lifetime” job, making elected service more a limited leave of absence from a productive career in the private sector.

Without term limits, the temptation to remain in office for decades keeps people seeking reelection long after they have accomplished all the legislative good of which they are capable. It does not take long for legislators to become more occupied with their relationships with each other and with lobbyists, than with their constituents. They pass their “use by” date.

Local government works best when it functions as a citizen council, in which people who pursue careers other than politics enter office for a brief time to do their community service, and then leave to reenter society as private citizens. The typical agenda of today’s career politicians is only to build their own power and influence base ahead of representing the people they were elected to serve.

Term limits make for better elections and empower new leaders and ideas.

Incumbency provides a huge electoral advantage. Sitting politicians, unlike poor Mr. Murdock, almost always win reelection. Over the past 30 years it had become virtually impossible to unseat an incumbent until the grassroots effort of Operation Clean Sweep lit up Brea ballot boxes.

People have a tendency to vote for people they recognize. Donors and special interest groups (in the past I’ve referred to them as the old guard) tend to support past winners who will likely continue to benefit their interests. Term limits actually increase voter choice by making elections more competitive and encouraging more candidates to run.

In communities where term limits have been instituted there is far higher turnover amongst elected officials, giving voters more choice in who should represent them. Ultimately, long term council members using political machines to retain power do their community and constituents a disservice. Power is best used when it changes hands over time in order to allow for dynamic new solutions.

Term limits prevent corruption and exploitation of office.

FINGERS-LWith a few exceptions like Koreagate and the Energy Coalition, Brea has been blessed with a history of well intentioned and ethical leaders. One only need to think of the City of Industry and Bell to realize the magnitude of the risk.

Sure, we’ve seen behavior that danced perilously close to the edge of the Brown Act. Local politics have always been a bit rough and tumble… and personality clashes are unfortunately more commonplace than one would prefer.

That said, when a career politician is firmly entrenched, they may seek to enrich themself at the expense of the public, to shower unearned perks upon family and allies in order to maintain and strengthen their powerful position.

Term limits serve to limit the ability of individuals to put forward self-serving legislation and to retain power indefinitely. Instead, with term limits, elected officials have only a limited time in power, which tends to shift their focus toward genuinely benefiting the public.

Term limits trigger action over apathy.

A major focus of any elected official hoping to serve another term is on the next election and on vote-getting. It is often the case that hard decisions need to be made but it is difficult for them to do so when they are fixated on being reelected. Elected officials have an incentive to put tough decisions off if they can retain power by doing so.

An example of such seemingly perpetual procrastination (climbing on my soapbox for a moment) is the interminable delays in allowing public comment on the creation of an Environmental Advisory Board.

For almost a year Council has been asked to hold a town meeting to determine how broad an interest, or lack of same, Brea residents have in local environmental issues. A simple word to the City Manager and it could have happened months ago.

When constrained by term limits, elected officials must make the most of their limited time in office, resulting in greater prioritization of difficult decisions and reform. While there will always be some of this behavior, it is curtailed by term limits, as elected officials will, in their final term at the very least, not be beholden to as many special interests as they cannot run again.

Where do you stand?

Is it time at last to finish what Operation Clean Sweep started and let term limits put an end to career politicians in Brea?

VOTECOUNTS

This Diamond Is No Jewel.

g_diamondEarlier this week a new blog was launched targeting Breans. A widely distributed email announcement from it’s author, Greg Diamond, appears to have used the Murdock reelection committee’s contacts list.

mary_barcelonaAs Diamond’s daughter, Mary Joana Barcelona, is on record as Brett Murdock’s reelection committee’s treasurer, that doesn’t seem to be a stretch.

Though the blog has only three posts thus far, a quasi-mission statement, a royal flogging of Brea Matters and an analysis of the 2014 campaign/election and our new Council… his writing credits go back several years. All one needs to do is Google ‘Greg Diamond Orange County’ to find many examples of his checkered past.

My favorite response from a fellow Brean.

Last night, posted on Nextdoor website’s Brea & State College neighborhood are these remarks from Jennifer Hefner, long time Brea resident.

There are times I feel compelled to speak out against something so obviously wrong, this is one of them. Having read the latest installment of the new blog “The Brean”, I can only say “what a bunch of hogwash.” Greg Diamond’s blog is a blatant, retaliatory attack from a friend and business associate of former Mayor Brett Murdock.

This blogger tries to disguise himself as a new and enlightened community watchdog and attacks the longtime blogger of “Brea Matters” because he had the nerve to suggest we step back a minute and see what the new council has to offer before judging them.

Greg Diamond must think that the average Brean doesn’t have half a brain and won’t ascertain that Greg Diamond is closely connected to Brett Murdock. Greg Diamond would like to re-write history and have Breans believe that outside PACs and a wealthy local developer of downtown Brea are the reasons for Brett Murdock’s defeat.

Despite how anyone may feel about our fellow Brean, Dwight Manley, he has just as much right to make his feelings about a candidate known as any of us. And, I find it especially insulting that Mr. Diamond gives no credit to voter’s opinions since I was a part of the grassroots Brean effort to remove this incompetent city council member.

It wasn’t the mailers or signs that made me vote Murdock out of office, it was Brett Murdock’s disregard for the concerns brought to him by myself and my fellow citizens.

Lastly, with regard to Mr. Diamond’s attack on Marty Simonoff, I can say I’m hopeful for change, since he was the only member of the preceding council to show any concern for our fracking issues.

Jennifer, that’s music to my ears!

Not because Jennifer offers her support to me or Dwight or Marty, but because she represents what I’ve hoped to see emerge as local government does more than give lip service to transparency and public engagement. Given the right environment, I believe there are many Breans who will openly take a stand on Brea issues.

So Mr. Diamond, I suggest you explore other hobbies.

Postscript, May 15, 2016:

Diamond_4AThough Mr. Diamond abandoned his blog in June 2015, I still see folks visiting Brea Matters from links he embedded into The Brean.

What an odd and ironic legacy.