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?

BOTA Pressures BOUSD Board.

Within an hour of Gail Lyons, Nicole Colon and Kerri Kropke storming out the BOUSD Board meeting Monday night, the BOTA/CTA shill Jim Rogers flooded Brea teachers with the message below.

Reading between the lines.

Hi BOTA Members,

Thank you SO much to everyone who attended and/or spoke at the board meeting this evening. We achieved our goal of packing the chambers and definitely made a statement. For those of you who were not there to witness it, the bond vote unfortunately failed. We cannot afford to lose momentum now.

Please read the following message from Jim Rogers, our CTA staff member for BOTA. Jim is also a teacher of many years and Brea resident, and he has our back! We must take action!

There is nothing on the BOTA website about this “demonstration” and no members vote was taken to ensure a consensus. When the “blue shirts” were commanded to stand by that Elmer Gantry on steroids, Joe Bartell, they did so with obvious hesitation.

Why? According to “blue shirts” that contacted us on the patio after the meeting and via email yesterday… BOTA members are as conflicted as the community at large, especially about the golden board perks.

Dear Members of BOTA,

Tonight’s School Board meeting did not go well for the children you serve, let alone your working conditions. A big thanks to everyone for wearing there BOTA shirts yesterday. For those members that were able to make the Board meeting last night, your presence was very important. Your strength as a unit comes when it’s time to stand together.

Tonight the Board failed to reach a super-majority to place a bond on the March ballot. This holds huge ramifications to BOTA members other than working in substandard classrooms and school sites overall.

Because of the age of the schools, plumbing and sewers, electrical, plaster and paint, roofing, and so much more updating is greatly needed. Too many classrooms have been displaced over the years. This is the obvious need for a bond.

What you don’t think of right away is the other complications that will come without a bond. Fixing the problems that pop up each year drains the General Fund of the monies that provide your wages, health benefits, and retirement payments. When any new monies are needed to fix breaks at the aging sites, there is less left to provide raises and enhancements to benefits.

BOUSD has $38,000,000 now to fix any of these items!

A bond must be passed in order for your bargaining team to be able to make agreements that improve your standing.

This is the union’s entire interest in this, not teachers or students, but in maintaining the union’s power.

It’s time for BOTA to show Carrie Flanders it’s strength! Paul Ruiz has been against the last three bond measures, and therefore we must not waste our energy on him, (at least until he runs for re-election.)

So, the union wants to bully Carrie… remember that folks!

Carrie and Paul both want a bond! They also want a board that isn’t taking money from students or is compromised by their need to perpetuate personal benefits.

The November Board meeting will be Monday, November 18, 2019, at 6:30 p.m.

WE NEED EVERY MEMBER TO SAVE THIS DATE!

Your strength in numbers will be needed to pass the bond, however, we must show Carrie Flanders that you have the strength to make it happen.

I wonder if Gail Lyons will make a copy of this message and, with tear filled eyes and quaking voice, wave it at the next meeting as another example of bullying?

Monday night she overlooked the message sent to parents during the campaign for Measure K to boycott downtown businesses – a clear attempt at bullying.

We need at least 150 members to show up at the November 18th Board meeting. Your presence alone will do the trick, but it’s appropriate for anyone who would like to speak also. (Speaking is not an expectation.)

Parading 150 red shirted teachers around (better than brown shirts) will do little to advance their cause… union power. Recent polls suggest roughly 80% of Brea voters support rescinding health insurance subsidies before working out the details of a school bond and putting it on the ballot.

That’s 120X your little band of red shirts. Get rid of the golden perk and Brea voters are inclined to support a well designed school bond.

We are going to wear RED FOR ED November 18th! We are then going to turn the Boardroom RED!!!

Again, thank you for your participation thus far, but please know how important it is that you turn out for this Board meeting! 150 strong!

Sincerely,

Jim Rogers

CTA Regional Uniserv Staff for BOTA

BOTA is expecting defeat.

This communication was written BEFORE the board meeting, evidence of the foreknowledge of their weak position. They anticipated defeat and played right into their own shortcomings. Brea teachers and parents, for the most part, are too smart to fall for their strategy of intimidation and misinformation.

Read Dwight Manley’s challenge to the board here:

“An Open Letter To BOUSD From Dwight Manley”

 

Birch Hills Golf Course, A Toxic Blunder.

Title to the Birch Hills Golf course, owned by Union Oil/Chevron since it was built in 1972, was to be transferred to the City of Brea in exchange for being released from the obligation of paying a Parks in Lieu Fee. Who knew what a total nightmare this seemingly simple matter would become?

The pissing contest between Chevron and the City of Brea has consumed over three years in closed sessions, allowed the once popular course to be dramatically reduced in size and to fall into a horrible state of disrepair and finally, last Tuesday, it showed up on Council’s agenda as Consent Item 21.

Consent Item! Bull Sugar!

Consent Calendars are reserved for routine, non-controversial, housekeeping items, or matters the Council has achieved consensus on after previous discussion. Generally, topics that have not been previously discussed by Council should not be put on the consent agenda.

Since the early ‘90’s Staff and Council have been burying critical items on the Consent Calendar to avoid conflicting public opinion. It’s a practice I’ve been fighting for years.

The moment agendas are posted late Friday afternoon, I immediately check the Consent Calendar to see what is getting swept under the rug at the next meeting. I find dubious items virtually every time, the Birch Hills matter is a prime example.

Why Pull The Item For Discussion? 

Three years in the making and this multi-million dollar city asset was being acquired like a thief in the night, with no provision for discussion. Again, bull sugar.

Well over a hundred pages of complicated legal documents, with 14 attachments, were handed off to Council Friday evening and they… we all… had 97 hours to digest and research or corroborate it all.

Thankfully there were several folks willing to attempt the task.

What they found was a grossly incomplete set of documents that saddled Brea, forever, with a toxic, barely profitable piece of property with virtually no means of turning it around without spending a fortune.

How toxic? How costly to mitigate? What options for repurposing some or all of the land to a more safe and profitable use? Nothing in the documents offered even a hint at answers.

Birch Hills Toxicity Is Serious Issue.

Chevron’s field assistant to the project manager on the La Floresta and the senior boots on the ground as the biohazards on the golf course and Rails-to-Trails segment were mitigated, John Bickel, pleaded with Council at their study session to pull the item from the Consent Calendar and table it until they had a better idea of what they were really accepting.

John provided a detailed account of burying countless yards of contaminated soil under the parking lot and the additional mitigation required to bring the property up to residential standards.

John concluded his remarks with the admonition that we just don’t know enough… there are still too many unknowns. There’s a lot more explaining to do before we saddle ourselves with this monster.

Addendum – John Bickel: I think it’s important to add some clarity on exactly what is buried there, why there is more remediation to do.We (Chevron) cleaned up to meet golf course spec not residential. There really is no danger in playing golf, the lake is not contaminated. The soil beneath MAY be, no one knows for sure, it has liner underneath it is why it wasn’t sampled. The unknowns and talk of toxics could damage the income of the course.

Erin Brockovich ring a bell?

Let me add that converting this land to residential use has been a part of the General Plan since 2003. It’s on the city website. The map on page 40 shows this property as low density residential.

The city planners knew it. Unocal/Chevron knew it. Yet the documents to effect the transfer of title provide little or no clear answers how the city might proceed in that direction in the future.

Another Voice Of Reason.

During Matters From The Audience, Dwight Manley chastised Council for putting such an important matter on Consent Calendar and to table the item until the many blanks could be filled in. Clearly Council could not proceed with any certainty based upon the information available.

Here are Dwight’s comments to Council. Please listen carefully. Would you have proceeded blindly to conclude this transaction knowing how little you really knew?

Vargas Exits, Council Dives In.

Forced by legal counsel to recuse himself, Council member Vargas left the meeting. Having voiced his serious concerns since early in the weekend about the Birch Hills issues, Mr. Vargas appeared to be the only real voice of reason.

Many people, believing that Council had clearly heard the public’s position on the matter, left the meeting as well. Thinking it was tabled… they were in for the shock of their lives.

A Comedy Of Errors.

I was watching from home and hung in there. The thirty minutes of bungling and incompetence that followed was gut-wrenching.

In response to half-baked questions from an obviously uninformed Council, staff pulled off an exhibition of world class sugarcoating, deflection, outright misinformation including the “$80 a cubic yard” lie.

If you have the stomach for it, you can watch the streaming video on the city website.

I texted Dwight, warning him that it appeared Council was being drug down a path towards approving the transfer of the Birch Hills Golf Course and direct the Mayor to execute all documents necessary to close escrow.

That’s exactly what they did. They saddled us with a toxic horror and no means to dealing with it lest we spend millions upon millions of dollars ($300 million?) and beg, with fingers crossed, that Chevron and the EPA would approve our request to clean up and repurpose the property.

Unbelievable! Inconceivable!

Brea resident, Thomas Kwan, turned off his TV and emailed Council after listening to Dwight’s detailed and heartfelt plea. A copy of it reached me on Friday. Here I’ve paraphrased a few excerpts.

The last document of the set of exhibits setting forth the request for approval of the Birch Hills Golf Course Ownership Transfer Documents is the Covenants, Conditions, and Environmental Restrictions…which contains the Soil Mediation Plans for the different parts of the property.

There remains on the southern portion of the property toxic chemicals including among others, PCB’s polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins/furans, relatively stable compounds toxic chemicals that will be there for a long time.

Who in their right mind would want to accept the Draconian responsibilities and liabilities associated with that property and the associated acquisition agreement?

Keep in mind not all of the soil has been tested. There may be areas of contamination that have not been found, have been buried without record or carried by the elements elsewhere to an untested area.

As far as I am concerned the owner (Chevron) should keep Birch Hills, build a sarcophagus over the site and fence it with skull and crossbones signs around the property.

If Brea wants to take over compliance with the EPA and OCHCA restrictions and share the responsibilities and liabilities, then Chevron should fund a multimillion dollar trust for such.

So What’s The Damned Rush?

There are no critical deadlines, threatening penalties or life and death issues here. No real urgency at all. Hell, we’ve screwed around with this for three to four years. Can’t we take a few more weeks… months… to make sure we do this right?

There are legally acceptable ways to delay the final execution of escrow while we connect all the dots. Why wouldn’t Council use every means at their disposal to do this right?