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.

BOUSD Mailer Is A Pack Of Lies.

An oversized BOUSD mailer hit Brea Friday, courtesy of the “Yes on K” PAC and it failed to contain a shred of truth. Instead it leaned heavily on scare tactics. Let’s parse the language one false statement after another.

BOUSD MailerFalse: “Fanning Elementary sustained significant damage requiring over a one year closure and almost $7 million in repairs and updates.”

Truth: Only a portion of Fanning Elementary underwent asbestos mitigation and repair. The total cost was closer to $4 million of which $2 million was reimbursed by the state.

Months passed without the board approving or initiating any work. We’d would have fared better had we called FEMA.

2015 SARC (School Accountability Report Card) states that Safety (Fire & Hazardous Materials), Structural (Damage & Roofs) and External (Playground, School Grounds, Windows, Doors, Gates & Fences) are in good condition and facility is given an overall rating of “Exemplary.”

Facility Improvement Needs list for Fanning lists these “to do” items: Seismic Upgrades for Kindergarten Wing and Main Office – $1 million; Asbestos Abatement – $500,000; School Facility Repairs & Upgrades $12.85 million. Total: $14.35 million

BOUSD MailerFalse: “The Orange County Grand Jury made a ruling requiring mandatory asbestos removal at all schools in O.C.”

Truth: The grand Jury has no authority to mandate anything, they review and recommend. Their 2015-16 report “Dealing With Asbestos In Orange County Public Schools” cited 12 findings and 20 recommendations.

gjury_aNot all of which were applicable to all schools/districts. The 27 OC school districts were required to respond (in writing) to only those findings and recommendations applicable to them. I checked the Grand Jury website and discovered that the BOUSD response is missing for some reason. Looking into it.

There was no mandatory mitigation required, this was a county wide assessment.

False: “Measure K will fund critical projects throughout the BOUSD… Earthquake Retrofit, Restore Leaking Roofs, Plumbing Repairs/Replacement, Installation and/or Repair of Fencing, Asbestos Abatement, Fireproofing, ADA Accessibility/Code Updates, Install Shade Structures, Electrical Repairs, Construct/Renovate Classrooms, Cafeteria & Multi Purpose Buildings, Installation and Upgrades to Campus Security Systems, Replace Outdated Heating/Ventilation/AC Systems, Repair Hardcourt Surfaces.”

BOUSD MailerTruth: This is not the official legal language of Measure K and is therefore excluded from consideration when holding the district accountable.

However, Measure K fine print does say, “… certain construction funds expected from non-bond sources have not yet been secured. Therefore, the Board cannot guarantee that the bonds will provide sufficient funds to allow completion of all listed projects.”

Following consultant recommendations, the district turned to generic terminology, proven via focus group study to elicit a supportive response to school bond measures. It is so nonspecific that it renders bond revenues into nothing more than a slush fund.

The process leading to Measure K has, from it’s outset, relied on total fabrication. It’s genesis can be found in the district’s failure to actually do the work as promised from the 1999 bond issue, in the dismal failures of 2012 and 2014 bond issues, in the mishandled asbestos mitigation projects at Fanning Elementary and the Junior High.

Liars, damned liars and statistics.

Stephen King once said, “The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool.”

The BOUSD and Board are relying on conscripting faculty to work the phones day and night, scaring the hell out of parents and convincing them that Measure K is the mother load of solutions.

It is not. It is a straight line to creating a massive debt from here to 2056, the preponderance to be paid off by those it is supposed to serve… our children. All with no guarantee provided that anything of real educational value will be created, upgraded, mended or mitigated.

BOUSD Mailer

ADDENDUM:

Measure K

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