A Garden In Four Acts.

Act One: The Development Committee.

money-barrel_c“Cal Domestic is offering $10,000 grants (i.e. your money) for educational projects on water conservation. Any ideas?”

“A drought tolerant garden at the civic center would be cool but we’ll need more than ten grand.”

“What about MWDOC’s turf removal subsidy, we could call that a grant (i.e. your money) and add $17,000 to the pot.”

“Yeah, and if we add $8,500 out of the Water Fund (i.e. your money) and call it matching… that might be enough to get started… you know, hire a consultant or something.”

“Okay, let’s get some estimates and see how far $35,500 will take us.”

Act Two: The Finance Committee.

“Next item, an 8,500 square foot educational garden demonstrating drought tolerant landscaping on the slope under the flag poles at the Civic Center. Cost, $215,000 dollars.”

“A what? To do what? For how much? Are you kidding?”

“They got three estimates, this is the lowest. Mostly grants from the water companies and nothing from the General Fund… well, not exactly.”

“What does that mean?”

“$188,000 comes from the Water Fund and the Urban Runoff Fund (i.e. your money).”

“Is that even legal?”

“I don’t know, let’s kick it upstairs and let Council decide.”

Act Three: Behind closed doors.

murdock_inbox“I can’t make Study Session next week, I need to hit the Arovista back-to-school night. You’ll have to cover for me.”

“What! I don’t want to explain that you’re out campaigning instead of doing your job. No!”

“No worries you two, we’ll just cancel Study Session and bump your garden downstairs for a vote.”

“Can we do that?”

“Sure. We have three votes in our pocket, with only two days prior notice how much discussion could there possibly be? It will be a slam dunk.”


  • BreaNet leaks the news to 500+ involved Brea citizens.
  • News breaks on nextdoor.com and the public is outraged.
  • The story is picked up on the Brea Matters blog and registers the highest reader response in over three years.
  • Angry and disappointed comments abound, from a former Mayor, high visibility residents and members of the silent majority.
  • Council email inboxes are flooded with admonitions to reject the project, postpone discussion to allow for public comment and with alternatives infinitely smarter and markedly less expensive.

Act Four: The Council Meeting.

“Item 10: Civic & Cultural Center Educational Garden. Any discussion?

“I think this isn’t an urgent matter. We need to open this up for public discussion… besides, I’m getting huge input about other, potentially better sites. I move to postpone.”

Dead silence.

“Motion dies for lack of a second. Any further discussion?”

“This garden blah blah blah drought tolerant blah blah blah educate residents blah blah blah grants available blah blah blah need to conserve water blah blah blah renovation blah blah blah draw a lot of visitors blah blah blah public amenity blah blah blah.”

“Don’t forget the memorial. I love memorials. I’ve spent half my life in combat. There’s a gravel path around the memorial with bees and butterflies.”

“I’m always the cheapskate on stuff like this. I’m sure we could do this for less.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll get three bids and besides… it’s almost free.”

“All in favor say aye.” (Murdock, Marick, Garcia)

“All opposed?” (Moore, Simonoff)

Lights dim. Curtain drops. Bring up the house lights.

It ain’t over ’til it’s over.

This can and should be reversed. There is no legitimate reason to bury this much pork on the Civic Center lawn. Grant sources are uncommitted and can be refused. Public monies are not allocated for this type of expenditure and should be denied. The Water Fund and Urban Runoff Fund are not slush funds.

Keep writing Council members. Keep writing letters to the editor. Keep talking to your neighbors. Shake off your fears and come speak to Council during Matters From The Audience. Keith loves a parade and deserves your support.

Make your voice heard. Make your opinions count.

cleansweepAnd, for heaven’s sake, whether you vote by mail or make the trek to the ballot box, do not vote for any incumbents… for any office. Not this year. Not in 2016.

It will take a clean sweep to get local government rebooted. Do you want your voice, the voices of your friends and neighbors, to be heard?

Click Restart.



20 thoughts on “A Garden In Four Acts.

  1. Our 1st Amendment rights have just been flushed down the toilet by three members of the city council. How, you may ask? By denying us the right to a Study Session that would allow Brea residents their right to speak. Our right to speak about what is happening in OUR city, spending OUR money.

    What type of politician denies their constituents the right to speak? The kind of politician that is arrogant, smug, unethical, disrespectful… and scared.

    What we have in Brea are three city council members who are afraid of us. They are afraid to meet us eye to eye. They hide behind closed doors. It is imperative that we vote Murdock out of office.

    • Connie… yes, they are scared. They have been found out. Their complete disdain for the people they’re supposed to represent has become the catalyst of their undoing.

      As the public’s anger spills over onto signs and banners along the roadways what is their response? They intimidate merchants with threats of scathing Yelp reviews and lost business.

      They send out whining emails complaining of the very tactics they’ve employed in previous elections. Their prefered strategies of yesterday are now today’s dirty politics.

      Yes, Murdock must go.

    • How can we as parents explain to our children how political problems can be solved in the world, the nation, the state or the county, when we can’t even elect local leadership that can work together for the benefit of those they’re supposed to represent and serve?

      • Stephen… The simple answer, unfortunately, is we can’t. We need to be better, more informed, more discerning voters. Until folks understand voting for incumbants or strictly by party line is what got us here, we’re going to see the same thing in houses of government year after year.

        Thankfully, many (if not most) of those wooed by the pool boy’s impish grin and grandious promises in 2010 have discovered what they encountered were a self-centered sneer and empty campaign rhetoric. They won’t be fooled again.

        No Murdock and Operation Clean Sweep signs are popping up everywhere. Hope to see them in your yard soon!

  2. Be Water Wise.

    Maybe you would consider adding another couple of acts to your narrative on public education about water. Where is the water conservation with Madrona? Where is the water conservation at the yet to be opened Birch Hills Golf Course?

    As for supporting Brett Murdock, I did it once and it was a huge mistake.

    I got a “walk with me” email from Brett to support his campaign full of his whining about dirty politics in Brea because of a mailer where folks complained about the cost of the so called educational garden and lack of public participation in the discussion.

    Now remember, he’s the guy that made the back room deal with the bankrupt Old Standard Life Insurance Company to approve Madrona where fees would be paid but the problems identified in the EIR like traffic and water waste would not be fixed.

    And that same project was previously approved by an ex-Brea Planning Commissioner who was then hired to promote Madrona. As for public participation, the project was approved without a map showing the placement of the lots.

    Muddy Murdock complaining about dirty politics? Get real!

    • Duane… The four acts were sufficient, I think, to cover the specific issue of the Civic & Cultural Center Educational Garden. Madrona, Birch Hills Golf Course are different discussions.

      You are in a growing and equally disappointed group who are actively campaigning to hold Murdock to a single term. The thought that he only has four more meetings left warms my heart.

      I have pulled together documentation and unchallengeable proof that we are not in need of an educational garden of any sort, for any group of water consumers plus that the major funding source is absolutely unavailable for this sort of expenditure.

      Council can and should rescind the resolution to create that garden. Everyone I know shares that opinion. Hopefully this will be driven home loud and clear next Tuesday evening and Council will have the drought tolerant rocks to do the right thing… cancel the garden.

      • Hi Rick,

        It’s your website. So if you say so, O.K. Drought and water waste and approvals of projects that waste water forever are all part of the same issue.

        Are you aware of the problem in Chino Hills where 2.1 million gallons of drinking water have been poured into Carbon Creek to clear bacteria from water lines for a project half the size of Madrona? Are you aware that Madrona homes would use something like 5 times the average use in Brea? Do you want to talk about water?

        I think you supported Madrona but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why.

        Call me NIMBY if you like. I, like you, keep watch over my back yard. It’s a good thing. Who else is there to do it? I call folks who support bad projects that don’t live in the community PIMPS. That’s Profit In My Pocket Supporters.

        I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee or a beer and talk about this and get to know you.

        Thanks for the quick response.


      • Ha ha ha Duane… Yes, it is my blog. From the sound of things, you should really consider starting one yourself. I agree all the topics mentioned share the common denomination of water, and big bucks, but I prefer to take a focused approach to blogging. Too easy to end up running down some side street and straying from the central point.

        Would love to talk about this, and any other local issue that strikes your fancy. Coffee sounds great. I’m pretty easy to find… let’s do it!

      • OK. I’m looking forward to that conversation. I don’t need to create a new blog though. We don’t need a new blog. We’ve got a great one called Carbon Canyon Chronical. Paul knows the issues of the Canyon and there is no [explitive deleted].

        Speaking of that, at the grand opening of the Olinda Village fire station, the honorable mayor Brett Murdock had the guts to say that this was the Brea way. I just about had to change my underwear.

        How much did this temporary fire station cost? Not that we don’t appreciate having fire protection, but something like a quarter of a million dollars over budget? So something like $1,250,000 for about 1500 square feet of a temporary station?

        But the tacos and burritos and ice cream were great. The residents of Olinda Village were very polite and happy to have this celebration not become a political event.



  3. I find the idea of this drought tolerant garden disturbing. Why not go to Armstrong where they give free classes on this? Why build anything near the already crowded civic center? Why use a fund earmarked for runoff for this project?

    If we have such a surplus, why not take Councilman Moore’s advice and reduce our runoff fee in our water bill?

    How do I get a no Murdock lawn sign??? Really, how can I get a lawn sign?

    • Linda… Good questions. These and others were addressed at Matters From The Audience last night. You can watch it on the city’s website. And yes, if there is such a surplus, reduce the fee. Roy’s exactly right.

      Sending you sign info via email.

  4. I added garden links and phone numbers to my matters of the audience comments. Click on them and read about each garden; stories of residents coming together to save a park or garden when a city had NO funding.

    Obviously, who ever came up with this bright idea never bothered to do the research or could have cared less. All they had to do was pick up a phone and call.

    • Susan… Agreed. Apparently the document began in Public Works, not known for their writing abilities, and then the Marketing Department put their professional propaganda skills to work.

      I know who did the final writing, her style is a dead giveaway. I also have been told that no one in Marketing took two minutes to verify anything. I suggested to Cindie Ryan to simply take the piece down as it contained no truth or info of value. The response was to remove the cities named that you totally debunked Tuesday night.

      Seeing what they left up, I wrote a pretty scathing email to Cindie and copied all members of Council. I’m betting hizonner the pool boy wouldn’t approve taking it down.

  5. I watched the matters from the audience and the City Manager’s answers but I still don’t understand why the demonstration garden did not have a study session before a vote. Perhaps I did not understand but it sounded like he said the Finance Committee and Development Committee both have council members so is it possible they can agree on items without public input?

    What about this leak? So having landscaping that uses less water might reduce the leak but that does not fix the problem. Why not a blue tarp then?

    Also, I still don’t know how they propose to educate the public and what public? Has the public voiced a desire to learn this there…where there is no parking to begin with? Will we now have to hire docents?

    Apparently the people of Brea are already reducing water consumption… maybe the city should pay us to tour our own yards. This whole thing seems really odd. Have I missed something?

    • Linda… the City Manager’s response left many scratching their heads, myself included. He said he cancelled the study session, not Murdock or Marick, because there was nothing to discuss. When questioned after the meeting he admitted that everyone at city hall never anticipated the extreme public opposition.

      No excuse. The level of possible controversy should not be the determining factor on whether public discussion should occur or not. If you’re considering spending nearly a quarter million dollars on anything… assume the public has something to say.

      Neither the Development or Finance Committees, even with Council members attending, have the authority to make a final decision. Their job is to forward to Council matters they believe deserving consideration. Mistaking this review and referral as an indication of approval of any kind is no more than a smoke screen to let Murdock, Marick and Garcia dodge responsibility for their decisions.

      A side note, the average amount of time the Finance Committee actually meets ranges from ten to twenty-two minutes. I ask you, how much meaningful discussion could possibly occur in meetings averaging 17.5 minutes from gavel to gavel?

      There has yet to be confirmation that the garden is a ruse to redirect a revenue surplus from the Urban Runoff Fund to pay to mitigate a leak in the parking structure that returned after the quake earlier this year. The leak was originally fixed about eight years ago using the appropriate Building Maintenance Fund.

      The notion to create a demonstration garden to educate the public to the benefits of xeriscaping and drought tolerant landscaping emerged from a briefing by Jim Beyrrum, President of Cal Domestic Water Co. attended by Brett Murdock, Bill Gallardo, Assistant City Manager and Eric Nicoll, Director of Public Works earlier this year.

      It turned into the proverbial snowball downhill. If the foundation of an idea is faulty the fruits of that idea are equally as faulty. As you heard during the matters from the audience, Brean’s have consistently reduced water consumption for the last eight years.

      Today’s residents are using less water than the smaller number of residents did in 2007-08.

      Linda, it isn’t you that has missed anything. I think those folks all have offices on the third floor of the Civic Center.

  6. In response to my email inquiry to Brett Murdock regarding the demonstration garden, he sent a 5-point justification of the project (most of which we’ve heard — the leaky roof, water savings, and maintaining Brea’s role as a “visionary” city).

    What I hadn’t heard were 2 new justifications for his still enthusiastic support: Brett says “the money being spent isn’t just for plants. A very important part of this project is rehabilitating the memorial to our police officers that we have lost in the line of duty. Also, a large part of the money will be spent on hard scape, shade structures, and new and improved flagpoles that will make honoring our country, state, and city more efficient with proper lighting.”

    Don’t the memorial rehab and the purchase of flagpoles these take us further down the path of misappropriation of grant funds to serve purposes completely unrelated to these grants?

    • Dave… Yeah we’ve all received or seen Murdock’s weak and unsupportable rationalization for a stupid decision by Council (Moore and Simonoff dissenting, remember). There is no legitimate reason to create such a demonstration garden, it is grossly over priced and attempts to tap funds that were never designed for such a project.

      Regarding “rehabilitating the memorial to our police officers” please contact Chief Jack Conklin (jconklin@cityofbrea.net) and ask if the BPD felt the memorial was in need of rehabilitation and to what extent the department was involved. Please come back and share what you find out.

      Having spent more time down at city hall than the average Brean, I do not recall ever thinking the flagpoles, the memorial or the landscaping was even slightly substandard.

      And someone tell me what is the most “efficient” way to honor flag and country. Passionate I understand. Humble I get too. Same with heartfelt. But efficient? Really?

      And a reminder, MWDOC, when I spoke with them, had no knowledge of the project and had received no application from Public Works. Cal Domestic has only said they might participate, tossing $10M into the project, after reviewing final, Council approved, plans.

      This city has become almost OCD in their quest for “free money” and desperately needs to learn to live within it’s means.

    • I’m just wondering because in truth I have not been very involved politically before, but isn’t there a watchdog group/organization that makes sure funds are not misappropriated?

      The justification for the “demonstration garden” seems to answer many other issues the city might have, and clearly has other funds/departments to work on them. I don’t understand how this has gotten so far. Rather frustrating.

      • Linda… To start, you might want to read the original garden post for background.

        There are individuals such as myself that take on some watchdog activities, and occasionally we join forces against specific issues. Measure E and Measures T&U come to mind. We’ve never mustered the sort of effort or expense to require the forming of a PAC.

        The garden answers no questions, solves no problems, serves no need and warrants no expense of taxpayer money. It is a boondoggle. Period.

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