BOUSD Puts $148 Million Dollar Bond On November Ballot!

BOUSD Board met last Monday evening and once again I’m turning to a Brea resident with special insight into the district, Connie Lanzisera. Connie has monitored the BOUSD for many years, holding them accountable on a wide variety of issues… mostly linked to money. The Board attempted to very quietly hustle a bond issue onto November’s ballot and almost got away with it. Here’s the backstory from Connie.

BOUSDI would like to thank the many Brea residents that attended the BOUSD Board meeting Monday night voicing their opinion on a possible $148 million dollar bond. Even though the outcome did not turn out as many had hoped, it was good to see the public become involved in the discussion.

For many hoping to at least delay the bond issue for a couple of years, the BOUSD Board’s decision to put it on the November 8th ballot appeared to have been decided before the meeting began.

Unfortunately, the School Board chose not to listen to Brea taxpayers who had legitimate complaints about, amongst many things, the lack of transparency thus far in this process.

Strong opposition voiced.

Every person opposing the bond measure told the board they would support a bond IF and only IF the District was truthful, transparent, and thorough in explaining how the $148 million dollars would be spent.

It seems both prudent and reasonable to ask for a detailed list of projects and costs the District wants to spend. However, the District has provided only a vague list in their attempt to define the scope of work to be performed.

They want the taxpayer to cough up $148 million dollars without any prior oversight from Brea residents… no questions asked.

BOUSDBOUSD – History repeats itself.

This mimics the Board’s strategy in 1999 when they duped voters into approving a $27 million dollar bond for which there has never been an adequate independent audit. We are still paying for it even though the money was spent many years ago.

In 2012 the Board tried to slip another $54 million dollar bond initiative onto the ballot but voters were smarter and the measure failed… much to the embarrassment of both district staff and the Board who assumed the measure would easily pass.

This year, attempting to gather public input, phone surveys were conducted on a very limited basis. Less than 300 taxpayers were contacted at a cost of $127,340 (those phone calls cost $425 each).

The consultant confirmed they called from a list of voters who had voted in the last two presidential elections because they had a high probability of voting this November. They called the week after their huge sob story postcard landed in Brea mailboxes. This is playing a numbers game, nothing else.

How many surveyed were homeowners or renters like you and me who will eventually be stuck paying the bill? Hardly a projectable sample.

Marketing vs. Engagement.

The District, rather than legitimately seeking public support, is relying on buzzwords tested by the financial interests in the bond industry. Rather than conducting broadly announced public hearings where community opinions might become part of the public record, the matter slipped onto last week’s agenda like a thief in the night.

Had sharp eyes not spotted the attempt to sneak the resolution through, there would have been little or no opposition expressed. A handful of teachers and PTA parents would have congratulated the Board for their forward thinking.

BOUSDBOUSD – A pattern of deception.

If the School District begins this process deceiving the community and trying to mask their intent, how can we expect them to be transparent and truthful when it comes to spending our money? Their flagrant disregard for truth is obvious.

The Board couldn’t (or wouldn’t) answer questions to how the $148 million dollars would be spent. Their answers, turning to those tested buzzwords, were generic phrases like fixing leaky roofs, upgrade wireless infrastructure, energy efficiencies and environmental upgrades and reinforce eroding hillsides.

This will raise the quality of education how?

Board member excuses ring hollow.

BOUSDBoard members spoke of their good stewardship and management of district assets, bragged about their success “saving” the district during tough financial times and took issue with comments from the audience to the contrary.

BOUSDBottom line, this is the Board that, in spite of millions of dollars in bond revenue and millions in profits from the sale of properties, has allowed our schools to deteriorate into a completely deplorable and unacceptable state of disrepair.

Our children and parents deserve better… so do those of us whose property taxes will take a big jump for another 30 years. The plan is not sufficiently clear or adequately detailed. The public has been disregarded.

The only reasonable choice is to vote no on the BOUSD school bond measure in November.

BOUSD

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

A Public Response.

Well, it’s time I offered a public response to the folks wondering if I’d been run out of town by our new bloviating blogger. Hardly. His vacuous attempts to wade in on issues without the benefit of a single provable fact have only served to boost readership of Brea Matters.

wading-inYes, there are numerous topics that are high on my interest list… and most involve spending serious coin, setting precedents that may prove harmful in the future, will create greater traffic hassles than we now endure or barely give lip service to the promises of greater transparency and engagement.

Simply put, I have refrained from wading in for good reason. Having been appointed to the Planning Commission I must weigh each issue based upon whether it, or some aspect of it, might find it’s way onto the Commission’s agenda.

My job as a Commissioner is to review and understand every item with an open mind, my opinions set aside in favor of case-by-case judgments made without bias.

Thankfully, I am working with four other Commissioners and a professional staff having deep histories and broad experience in public planning and an excellent grasp of the laws, regulations, ordinances, guidelines and standards that apply.

What about Citizen Clark?

roy-mooreI am taking a page from Roy Moore’s playbook. For sixteen years he successfully chronicled every issue, large or small, in his bi-monthly newsletter BreaNet.

When issues heated up he solicited opinion from the friends and neighbors he faithfully served. He trusted the public and they trusted him.

When issues were formally discussed, BreaNet filled in the gaps in action minutes giving us the details we needed to better understand what was happening down at city hall.

And when the votes were cast, Roy Moore provided a clear analysis of the final results.

What better mentor than Roy Moore?

Roy MooreI can think of none.

I shared my draft of this post with Roy this afternoon. He was kind enough to put down the Sunday paper and share his thoughts on how I will best serve Brea with this blog.

I’m doubly encouraged that he’s considering guest blogging here as a way of continuing his service to Brea. I’m eager to hear his stand on matters like unfunded pension liabilities, proper use of the 560 Fund and whether Brea ought to be paying some outsiders $180 thousand bucks to tell us how to plan for the next decade or two.

I have no doubt Roy will keep a close eye on me and will be quick to take me to task should I need it. So… that’s it for today.

And make no mistake, “I’ll be back.”