Brea First Follow Up – Natalia Todorov

A good friend and active local mom, Natalia Todorov, attended last night’s Brea First Forum about Measure G. Early this morning she posted her reaction to the discussion on social media and I thought it would be a great “guest blog” here.

Brea First Follow-up – Natalia Todorov

I am a Brea resident of 18 years. I am a working mom who has two children going to Brea schools. I went last night to the Measure G community discussion at the Brea Museum & Historical Society.

Why did I go? Because I am a parent who knows what good education is and what good education can do for my kids’ future. I went because, to be frank with you, as a working mom I didn’t know very much about the proposed Measure G and I honestly didn’t know if I should vote Yes or No.

I went because I wanted to hear the pros and cons of Measure G from the two top supporters of both sides (Dwight Manley – For, Glenn Vodhanel – Against) and then make a choice about the future of my family. Should we sacrifice and give part of our hard-earned money for the Brea schools?

Frankly, I was surprised to see there were not a lot of Brea parents like me there. Oh, I should not be surprised because we’re super busy and even though we do care for the future of our children, it is hard to juggle everything when it comes to raising a child (including taking them to private lessons or teaching the kids themselves on the dining table at home).

The opposition’s point-of-view.

Glenn Vodhanel, the opposing leader, expressed his opinion why I should vote NO. In short, what I gathered from his speech was that in the past such measures have never worked because the funds were usually mismanaged and the Brea Olinda Unified School District (BOUSD) should not be trusted with money. The second argument was that good education doesn’t come from nice school buildings but from good teachers.

Yes, of course, these two opinions make a lot of sense … at first glance.

Some well known facts:

  • Are Brea schools aging, especially Brea Junior High being 104? YES
  • Do Brea schools need much needed repairs and improvements? YES
  • Does the BOUSD have limited funds given to them? YES
  • Does the BOUSD pay the most competitive teacher salaries in Orange County? Sadly, NO
  • Can BOUSD do better by paying teachers more and attracting better educators for our kids? YES
  • If the Brea community helps financially to alleviate the continuous spending of BOUSD funds for just ‘bandaging’ our aging schools, will that help us to attract and hire even better teachers? YES
  • Is PROGRESS a forward movement for a better future? YES
  • Can progress be achieved by doing the same thing over and over? NO
  • Knowing that school bond initiatives have not been passed for 21 years, can that be the answer to our school’s education not progressing as it should? YES
  • Can progress in our Brea education system be achieved by passing the proposed Measure G? YES

Oh, wait! I got my answer! YES!

So the two arguments the opposing side to Measure G were what?

Buildings don’t teach students, teachers do. Yes, I agree! Measure G will bring to our BOUSD better teachers because the district will be able to provide them with better modern facilities. Build it and they will come!!!

We can’t afford to repeat the past.

School measures in the past did not work because the funds were mismanaged and we can’t trust the BOUSD. OK, I see how that can be a very big concern. In fact, yes, that is a very big concern! What history has shown is that there is no progress if we keep on doing things the same way.

If we keep on saying NO to such measures, then nothing will change! And that is unacceptable!

If the school bond initiatives keep on being the same type, like Measure K, nothing will change.

But Measure G is different!

There will be a rigorous Citizens’ Oversight Committee and there are provisions ensuring compliance with the OC Taxpayer bond guidelines.

So Measure G is different! Measure G can lead to progress and improvement of our kids’ education and the overall Brea community stability!

What do you think?

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.

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.