A New Decade Begins.

In city government there is no sense of reciprocity. The wealth, the benefit, the power and authority only travels in one direction — like water downhill — away from the people. Anyone who’s ever taken the time to actually go to a meeting or catch it on streaming video, will confirm… the voice of the people falls on deaf ears.

Hurry Up And Wait.

Everything centers upon the immediate, the now, the tyranny of the urgent. There is never enough time or money to do anything right the first time but always seems to be enough of both to fix things later.

And, that balanced budget they constantly brag about is proving to be little more than a myth. It is a classic example of robbing Peter to pay Paul, all wrapped up a David Copperfield sort of accounting process that makes finding the truth about anything an impossibility.

Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain!

The recent discussion over water funds is a prime example. As Council wrestled over spending another $1.2 million on some mysterious form of Cal Domestic water shares, Bill Gallardo and Cindy Russell referred to three different “water funds” with distinctly different functions within the city budget.

The problem? There is only one water fund, the 420 Water Utility Fund. Throughout Council’s “discussion”, including an awkward effort by Steve Vargas to get to the bottom of things, no one on Council seemed aware that there is only one fund.

Here is five and a half minutes of “must see teevee”.

Digging Into The Details.

I looked at the documentation in the 2019-20 Operating Budget and confirmed several things about this strongly limited fund.

Described by Gallardo, in the opening, as an “enterprise” fund that can only be spent on water improvements, water capital, water purchases. “We cannot use it for anything not related to the water system because that is an enterprise fund… it is separate and distinct.

Hogwash! I discovered that every year several millions of dollars received from the sale of water are diverted to other funds! In the Adopted 2018-19 Operating Budget, $15,261,399 was diverted (transferred out) to these funds:

  • $118,895 to the Fixed Asset Replacement Fund (182) which provides funding for the replacement of City owned infrastructure, facilities and capital assets.
  • $289,667 to the Risk Management Fund (470) used to account for the costs of operating a self-insured program for general liability, workers compensation, long-term disability and unemployment compensation.
  • $0 to the Information Technology Fund (475) used to account for the operations of the City’s Internal Information Technology Division. (Skipped this year.)
  • $14,852,837 to the Capital Improvement Fund (510) used to account for the citywide costs of constructing street improvements, parks and other public improvements.

Did you read anything about water there? Yeah, me either. Someone has some very serious explaining to do.

Public Water Utility – Not For Profit?

Governed by the CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission), a mutual water company is defined as any private not-for-profit corporation or association organized for the purposes of delivering water to its stockholders and members at cost, including use of works for conserving, treating and reclaiming water.

In 2019-20, the city received $24.4 million in revenue and expensed $22.5 million. That generated a “profit” of $1.8 million for the year. That’s after disbursing all transfers to other funds. Where did it go? Shouldn’t it have been refunded to rate payers? Certainly it didn’t find it’s way into offshore accounts.

Peeling the onion that is Cal Domestic Water Company and all of it’s holdings is long overdue. We’ll revisit that can of worms later.

Truth Or Consequences?

It is my very strong opinion that Council’s decisions are made with little concern for consequences other than those effecting re-elections or perpetuating those six figure public employee jobs with lavish pensions.

Facts and details are meticulously obscured to protect the perpetrators from discovery. The “insiders” have developed their own language, immortalized in policies, civil codes and laws.

The first response to any request from the public is, “No.” The NIH Factor (not invented here) is in full force. An unsupportable behavior from a staff that must always turn to expensive outside consultants to resolve even the most simple of tasks.

Until transparency and accountability become something more than campaign rhetoric, until the arc of history bends back again towards truth, justice and the American way — we will be forever trapped within the status quo.

Someone Find The Broom!

As 2019 draws to a close, there is growing rumbling about producing a sequel to Clean Sweep. The question becomes, how?

There are some who believe a combination of naturally ending terms and a recall could clear the dais and give Brea a fresh start. The problem is we have no idea who is lurking in the shadows to fill the void.

Frankly, “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t” has kept many an inept council member on the job for multiple terms.

Maybe there is a less severe plan that would make more sense. I’m too annoyed at the moment to think about it.

Well… Happy New Year from Brea Matters. Let’s hope that 2020 is a prophetic reference to our vision for Brea’s future.

 

2016 Election Likely To Set Voter Records.

The 2016 election has evolved into the most contentious and, in many ways, inexplicable political seasons I can remember. It has divided families, lifelong friends, partisan constituents in almost violent ways and likely without hope of reconciliation.

It would be political suicide for me to wade in on any level other than local… Brea First… Brea Matters. We have more on our plate in 2016 than in recent years and a larger voter population tasked with deciding Brea’s future.

2016 Election: Why vote?

2016 ElectionSadly I hear too many people voicing opinions on candidates and issues that are little more than last night’s talking points from campaign surrogates… none of whom has had an original thought since the primary season began.

Sorry, that isn’t good enough.

Cooping the opinions of others, mostly because it’s easier than doing the work or because it creates an illusion of considered thought, is doing a total injustice to the value and purpose of our right to vote.

In the 2016 election, if you want your vote to mean anything… if you want it to honor those who have been wounded or died to preserve that right, then you need to devote the time and energy necessary to fill out your ballot by being informed rather than merely opinionated.

2016 Election: City Council.

2016 ElectionWith two incumbents, Marick and Simonoff, and a relative newcomer Christopher Parkin on the ballot, it will be interesting to see what issues emerge and how they’re addressed.

Parkin, you’ll remember, ran an almost invisible campaign for Council in 2012. Marick and Simonoff, separated by 250 votes, were just shy of hitting 9,000 votes each. Parkin was lucky to get 1,715.

Marick and Simonoff have been actively campaigning since well before the Country Fair, Parkin put in his papers at the last possible moment and is rumored to be the surrogate candidate of Council member Vargas.

Having fumbled his solo attempt to get term limits on the 2016 election ballot, running/supporting opposition to the incumbents seems a likely fallback strategy. While still only a rumor, the speculation is widespread and not without feasibility.

2016 Election: City Treasurer.

2016 ElectionGlenn Parker’s return to Council following two and a half terms as City Treasurer, led to the appointment of Bill Christensen as Parker’s replacement. For reasons never quite clear, Christensen resigned the position and Ric Rios was appointed to finish the final 90 days.

Both Rios, oddly enough running as the “incumbent” and George Ullrich, currently on the Planning Commission, seek to be the next duly elected City Treasurer.

Both have history serving in various capacities in town but Ullrich has a distinct advantage in terms of finance, investment and accounting experience. This will likely be the more interesting race for city office.

2016 Election: School Board.

2016 ElectionIncumbents Lyons, Todd and Hobby are running against Paul Ruiz, Jason Kraft and Joseph Covey. The two ballot initiatives will likely have a strong influence on who emerges victorious.

Measure K, the hotly contested $148 million dollar 2016 school bond initiative, has a steep uphill battle ahead of it. Measure K lacks detailed explanation of how the money might be spent or how this expense would contribute to raising the quality of education.

Measure L, which would reduce board membership from 7 to 5 members, seems to have universal appeal to voters and would serve to provide a boost to the “clean sweep” movement hoping to reboot the board with as many new members as possible.

On your mark, get set…

Start putting in the time and energy to become more informed than opinionated.

 

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

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