2016 In Review.

2016Brea bans ganjapreneurs.

2016 started off with a continuation of the medical cannabis debate, pitting the “Reefer Madness” crowd against those recognizing the rapidly increasing credibility of the medicinal values of cannabis.

This was triggered by a flaw in the language of Prop 215 which threw communities from Crescent City to Calexico into a frenzy to preserve local control.

Brea successfully prohibited cannabis dispensaries in 2008-09 but the passage of Prop 215 added another wrinkle… cultivation.

Tossing the matter to the Planning Commission, Council sought to block all cultivation through a land use amendment of the zoning code.

Today the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation is no closer to being operative than it was a year ago, the passage of Prop 64 Marijuana Legalization Initiative further muddied the waters and the Federal government still classifies pot as a Schedule 1 drug.

Look for the cannabis debate to light up again in the first quarter as the “Reefer Madness” crowd seeks to keep a tight rein on cultivation and sales in Brea.

2016Brea First becomes part of the solution.

Founded by a grassroots group of longstanding Brea residents and facilitated by Director Chris Gaarder, Brea First hosted several public events down at the Brea Museum.

Created to provide Breans with information on and analyses of important local issues, with input from local and outside experts, Brea First subscribes to the notion that is it better to be informed than merely opinionated.

At the top of the list of hot topics was Brea’s unfunded pension liability but other issues emerged as well, like term limits and the school bond issue. Look to Brea First to continue their mission into 2017.

2016Brea Envisions launches, stumbles and takes a nose dive.

Initiated by Council with the best of intentions, Brea Envisions was to set a new high water mark for public engagement.

Taking a hands-off approach, Council passed the project to the Planning Department to establish a citizen’s committee to create, oversee and report opinions of Breans on a wide variety of topics.

A steering committee was established but without leadership, facilitation was closely held by Planning staff instead. A commercially developed generic website template became the Envisions gateway to the public, supported by a medley of misused social media accounts.

A less than successful survey gleaned from a handful of folks willing to take the time to wade through it, less than 800 responded. Fewer still completed the entire survey.

The raw data produced was extremely difficult to interpret and required substantial speculation to form comprehensible results.

A second volley of a half dozen additional mini-surveys, created using a web based app called Survey Monkey, produced almost zero response.

Phase three? A phone survey. Is about to be launched to validate their findings. What findings? Where is even an interim report to help guide the process?

Brea Envisions is already over three months behind schedule, the odds that a final report will truly reflect Breans’ opinions is virtually nil and Council continues to take a hands-off approach.

2016Vargas seeks to put term limits on the ballot.

A discussion more academic than urgent turned ugly when Council member Vargas broke his promise to Council and independently embarked on an effort to gather signatures for his own term limits initiative.

The effort seemed more designed as an attempt to thwart Council member Simonoff’s run for a sixth term than than it was to give voice to voter concerns.

The threat of a possible incursion by an out-of-town PAC, Council member Vargas’s audacity to ignore public input and his callous blindside of fellow Council members cost him serious political capital and likely foreshadowed another clean sweep in 2018.

Council held a public hearing on June 7 and all hell broke loose. Folks lined up at the podium to vent their feelings, most opposing term limits. Council hashed out their various positions, with more than a little shouting and finger pointing, and eventually hit an impasse.

Thankfully the “Vargas Initiative” fell well short of obtaining the required number of signatures. Council member Vargas learned the meaning of an extinction level event and came face-to-face with his failure as a consensus builder and a man of the people.

20162016 election, winners and losers.

As if the national election weren’t contentious enough, the BOUSD Measure K pitted friend against friend, neighbor against neighbor and candidate against candidate.

Seeking an unprecedented $148,000,000 ($300,000,000 with vigorish) with an initiative that lacked any public input and failed to define how the money would be spent, it was doomed from the start.

An independent PAC solicited, received and spent nearly $75,000 in an attempt to push Measure K into the win column, then it was discovered that most of the money came from companies that would substantially benefit from Measure K winning.

Meanwhile, a handful of residents seeing through the smokescreen, reached into their own pockets to shed a little light on the truth. None came close to legal spending limits yet they prevailed at the ballot box.

Paul Ruiz, winning by a landslide, joined the BOUSD Board… clearly a mandate from Brea voters. Gail Lyons and Kevin Hobby retained their seats while Rod Todd was finally vanquished.

At least he was until Joe Rollino dropped the bombshell that he was resigning and the reorganized board relied on little more than cronyism to let Todd finish Rollino’s term.

Adding insult to injury, the board snubbed new member Ruiz, refusing to second his nomination of Jason Kraft… clearly the most qualified applicant to fill the vacancy.

What will 2017 hold?

The reorganized Council, with Cecilia Hupp moving up as Mayor and Glenn Parker as MPT, will be facing an interesting array of potentially contentious issues in the coming year.

Of course there is the matter of shoring up our city limits against the onslaught of ganjapreneurs and rogue developers, greedy pensioners and presumptuous public servants.

Then there’s that long awaited Centennial year celebration that seems to lack funding, focus and public fervor. With events promised as early as February still in the early planning stage I wonder just how memorable this Centennial celebration will actually be?

Nevertheless, Happy New Year.

Council Meeting Triggers Rant.

Like a growing number of folks I watched last night’s Council meeting from the comfort of my easy chair. As I watched I slid ever closer to the edge of my seat and the comments I was barking at the TV got louder and louder. Okay, forewarned is forearmed. This is a rant and you can bail out now and we’ll still be friends.

What is Council really approving?

Council is elected to make decisions in the best interest of those they serve… the ones who voted for them and those that didn’t. So why do so many issues become so politicized?

Why doesn’t staff provide all the pros and cons, including verified factual information, allowing Council to come to their own conclusions? Why do I constantly hear, “I move to approve, as presented…” – and boom! Another rubber stamp on the status quo.

council rubberstamp

Between the medical marijuana zoning ordinance and the rather contentious conclusion to jacking up our tiered water rates, I’ve never heard so much convoluted legalese and city speak tossed about. And why?

To herd Council down a trail leading to an unedited approval of staff’s grand plan.

When is the law not the law?

When it doesn’t suit the desired results sought by Planning and the City Attorney. Case in point, the medical marijuana matter was concluded based, in part, on 65 year old unsubstantiated Reefer Madness propaganda masquerading as fact.

Worse yet, though clearly pointed out by Council member Vargas, the vote for final approval included approving language stating Council verified and attested that the “facts” in the ordinance are true and correct!

Either remove the un-vetted opinion from the “Recitals” or delete the statement putting Council on the hook as validating the true and factual nature of statements. They have no means of proving anything.

“NOW, THEREFORE, the City Council of the City of Brea ordains as follows: The City Council find that the facts set forth in the Recitals, Part A, of this Ordinance are true and correct.”

One or the other has to go or it is arguable that Council is lying. I don’t care which part is nuked, just pick one and delete it… now and forever.

Also, what is all this nonsense about interim vs. permanent ordinances? Clearly, according to one City Attorney, the only real difference is an interim ordinance is a short term solution and the other is permanent (subject to amendments, remember).

The conflicting opinion is that a permanent ordinance is more defensible because it is created based upon fact and not upon urgent circumstance. Fact? Really? Go back and read my last point.

How did this get through the Planning Commission?

By the slimmest of margins following a passionate plea from the public, lengthy discussion of purpose and process by three Commissioners (two Commissioners didn’t join the discussion) and a series of three separate motions.

But did Council have the Commission’s minutes in their information packet? No. Were Commissioners contacted by Council to discuss the issues? Not that I’m aware of.

Council was told by the City Attorney that having the Planning Commission minutes would be unhelpful, offering only a bare minimum of information. Further he recommended Council listen to the streaming audio recording of the Planning Commission meeting as a better resource.

If the Commission’s minutes are unhelpful, why do them?

Council and Planning Commission minutes are created to provide a meaningful account of the business conducted – they are the official public record of the meeting. Years from now, anyone should be able to access and review these minutes and should be able to reconstruct a reasonable account of what transpired.

I have been attempting to drive this point home for two years, with two City Clerks, two City Managers and three Council members.

Action minutes, for Council and Planning Commission, where city policy and law are created, fall miserably short of fulfilling their purpose as written public record.

Don’t use the excuse that we have streaming video we can refer to, who the hell does that? Provide a reasonable summary in writing. That’s really not too much to ask. If the summary leaves me with additional questions I can turn to the video for details, but let it be my choice.

Back on topic.

Having listened to the streaming audio file for the January 26 Planning Commission meeting, it is abundantly clear that the audio quality is intermittent at best with much content being unintelligible.

I’m told this is attributable to two things. One – Commission members need additional instruction on how to properly use the new equipment, and two – as is common practice with Council meetings, Communications Department staff should be present to monitor recording quality.

Okay, so the Planning Commission audio file is virtually useless to Council.

Last night’s rush to judgment ran roughshod over common sense for the sake of kicking the can down the road and clearing the agenda. In the future I wish Council would leave the politics out and make a more concerted effort to get it right the first time. Its damn poor policy to keep falling back on the excuse that it’s easy to amend stuff later should circumstances change.

Really, when has that ever happened?

Again, case in point, since the Central Park Village Brea project was approved, has Council revisited the CFD and Mello-Roos issues that were swept under the rug? No.

How many other open ended issues have disappeared into the fog of history? We can’t even go back and review past minutes to answer that question. Per City Attorney Markman, “The law only requires action minutes and record of the vote.”

What about the spirit of the law Mr. Markman? What will it take to shift “transparency” from being a campaign buzzword to how this city conducts it’s business? What will it take to institute a level of accountability into how this city conducts it’s business that will help Breans to begin to trust local government again?

One final thought.

When a motion dies for lack of a second it’s a slap in the face to the one making the motion. I’ll refrain from suggesting what epithet accompanies the assault, but you might as well raise middle fingers in unison as you sit there mute.

Roy Moore once said that he often seconded motions with which he was in opposition if for no other reason than to demonstrate respect for his peers and afford them the opportunity to have their ideas discussed. Amen Roy.

For all Council’s continued yammering about respect and professional courtesy, letting a motion die for lack of a second belays all that. It is unconscionable. It is unacceptable.

council rubberstamp