Bond vs. Health Benefit.

An open letter to the BOUSD Board and our community from Brea resident and business owner Dwight Manley.

Bond

I am writing this to clarify my position regarding the BOUSD board member’s compensation. The following 12 points summarize my considered opinion:

1.   I view the privilege of being elected and serving on the board as a “volunteer” position.

2.  Our schools have been hit hard by rising pension costs, which has resulted in severe reductions in funding for basic class needs, sports programs, school events and teacher’s salaries.

3.  I deeply sympathize with the teachers that are having to dig into their own pockets for supplies, and parents that are repeatedly hit up with requests for funding.

I especially find the school district’s use of children to be the messengers for these pleas to be unacceptable. Making a child return to class with a signed form saying “No” and having to be involved in a parent’s inability or unwillingness to “give” is not healthy for a child.

4.  As a self-made person who has done well in my life, I feel a responsibility to give back. Consequently, I receive numerous requests weekly from BOUSD students, teachers and parents.

5.  I have extra joy in providing funds for those less fortunate. One example is funding the senior night which runs over $100 per student. I feel every student should be able to attend regardless of their parent’s financial situation. Every student should be able to attend.

6.  Every time I sign a check, I think of the thousands of dollars per month the BOUSD board is taking for their “volunteer” position. Over the last 20 years, this is over $1,000,000 and some years was over $120,000.

These dollars would have a real impact on hundreds of lives immediately. Imagine a free breakfast program with supervision at the Jr High for parents that go to work early and could drop their children off at 7am?

7.  I’ve challenged members of the Board to drop this “benefit” for several years now, and they’ve repeatedly refused.

8.  Again and again I have told the Board that I would support a bond measure if;

a.  They drop their health insurance and only receive their stipend.

b.  A bond be tightly regulated with a sub 4% interest rate; no refinancing to pull out more money as was done in the past; the projects be “front loaded” meaning we get as much as can be built in 36 months.

I don’t like the money sitting around for 20 years unused like Olinda School did; a specific list of projects that improve the school’s ability to teach kids and not have a “Cal K-12” taking 15% off the top to feed to do their work.

The overseer of any funds needs to be a publicly bid process with a sub 10% fee. I don’t want to see bond money spent on fencing etc.; the district already has plenty in reserves to do that if its truly that vital.

9.  Various terms have been thrown around to describe my stance; “political blackmail”, “extortion”, “threats.” Those are all being used to deflect and attack me, rather than staying focused on the only issue at hand.

Kids and teachers are woefully short of funds, and the board, some living in million + dollar homes, are taking those funds for themselves. I equate this to people working at a food bank for the needy, taking the food home for themselves.

10.  Having health insurance for “volunteers” creates a huge conflict of interest. If the board members can’t afford their own insurance – they become dependent on the benefit.

Those that can afford it, besides being greedy in my opinion, would have to change doctors if they lost it, and as we all know, that’s not desirable. Why would we have such a personal, emotional and important thing be injected into a position that requires 100% selfless actions?

11.  Our own City council does not have such a “perk”.

12.  Some say “The bond initiative and health insurance issues shouldn’t be linked.” As stated above, having this “perk” is too personal and too important to not play a role in decisions.

If we have $150,000,000 to spend from a bond, no matter how tight the controls are, we can’t have a repeat of the horrific sale to Hines of the old school farm for pennies on the dollar, by a board that thought nothing of taking over $120,000 personally per year, while supposedly so low on funds, they had to do that deal.

Imagine the district having the $71,000,000 that Hines received from Avalon Bay just for a piece of paper saying they can build 653 apartments on our old school farm. We would not be in this position if they hadn’t done that.

Final Thoughts.

So, there you have the gist of my thinking and why I’m taking this public stance. We can’t waste another dollar on a board member’s health insurance until each and every teacher doesn’t have to send one of those letters home asking for money. Until every coach doesn’t have to send out letters or have players canvas the town for money to buy basic items.

Brea is where my heart is. I’m from here, I went to school here and my mom is buried here. I will be buried here. I will always try to help our community and when needed, step up to defend it.

Thank you.

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