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.


6 thoughts on “A New Decade Begins.

  1. I would love for you to find the good in something of the City. I am part of the Brea CERT and RACES program backed by the Fire and City Government. That is an amazing program the city offers for free.

    It is a shame that you aren’t able to see the good that the City is doing. I challenge you in 2020 to be balanced. Find one good story for every critical one you write.

    • Ms. Russell…Fair comment. I certainly agree there are things the community benefits from. It’s just that they are mostly programs that are volunteer based. The actual financial affairs are the focus of what I critique and the former doesn’t mitigate the latter.

      Brea Matters has evolved to be exclusively investigative journalism. This is the unveiling of issues that are concealed either deliberately by someone in a position of power, or accidentally, behind a chaotic mass of facts and circumstances – and the analysis and exposure of all relevant facts to the public.

      Investigative journalism crucially contributes to freedom of expression and media development, which are at the heart of Brea Matters’ mandate.

      • After reading your post, Rick, I find the information you provide to the citizens of Brea to be of enormous interest and assistance to all who live here. Your relentless search for the truth to uncover the wrongs of those in local government override the free programs and volunteer projects that bring some benefit to Breans.

        Sometimes, more good is done between neighbor to neighbor relationships or Nextdoor posts than through some public volunteer program. Some programs look good on the books, but your relationship with Breans is totally related to your investigative journalism to uncover the truth about what is really going on in our city.

        This is the truly important work.

        Thank you for all your effort, time and diligence. May 2020 be the year you find the real truth that will set us all free.

      • Judy… Your constant support and encouragement is deeply appreciated and helps to provide the energy needed to stick to the job.

        “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” ~ Elie Wiesel

  2. Rick, What a point you made; you and Brea Matters IS the ONLY local investigative reporter in Brea today!

    Thanks to the demise of printed news and the newspaper business in general, what used to serve as a “watchman” for each town, the local reporters, now is a vacant post. The result of this “void” has been an abuse of the public’s trust and total abuse of statutes and laws.

    Vargas v. Ballz, Measure T, Cal Domestic 700’s, Paramedic Tax abuses, excessive bond management fees, Birch Hllls, etc. etc. etc. are all results of this.

    Lets hope that 2020 brings more transparency to Brea, and that you and Brea First can shine the brightest light ever on city hall.

    Thank you.

    • Dwight… thanks. Brea Matters began as an exercise in public education grew to fill the void left as local news resources vanished one after another. Editorial limitations and the quality of reporters remaining renders today’s local newspapers more entertainment than information.

      As I mentioned, there is something prophetic about the new year being 2020 – shorthand for clarity and sharpness of vision. Lets hope we do get a better view of how local government really works, where it is failing to properly, honestly function and how we might best bring about the long needed changes.

      To survive the coming decade and many more to follow, we need to focus, without fear or limited vision, on sustainable solutions that enhance the quality of life in Brea.

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