Municipal Elections Are A Circus.

With roughly half of Brea’s voters using absentee ballots, likely the die was cast for this election weeks ago. Typically, once the first results are released Tuesday evening, there are rarely any surprises. Some slight incremental differences are inevitable, but the leading candidates when you go to bed have generally won the election when you wake up.

A muddy, bloody campaign.

Past elections, going back at least a decade, have all had their nasty edge to them. Even non-partisan races, like City Council or School Board, will polarize voters to some extent. When issues precipitate differences of opinion, majority rule seems to resolve matters and fences are mended after the election.

The last few elections have been quite different. Widely opposing opinions have been fueled more by personality conflicts than management or policy issues. Even with testy ballot measures like the school bond or Measures T and U, arguments might have been heated but they weren’t slanderous or absent any basis in fact.

An interesting anomaly this election was the appearance of a Facebook page: Reject Negative Politics In Brea. They plateaued around 130 ‘likes’ and were obviously from the pro Murdock camp.

All went well, I suppose, until they were challenged a little and out came their claws. Blatantly false statements were made, names were called. It seems free speech applies only to that which is in synch with your opinions.

Can’t we all just get along?

Apparently not. And I will be the first to admit that my reaction to how some have conducted themselves in office has been intense.

There have been obvious back room deals that smacked of Brown Act violations, we’ve witnessed them and allowed them to fade from memory. There have been indications that some Council members lack any sort of ethical or moral compass, misusing public funds for unnecessary foreign travel, retroactive votes to cover up procedural blunders, and a perpetual disregard for public opinion.

How can this sort of behavior not tick you off? These arrogant, self-aggrandizing narcissists, these wannabe career politicians, have turned what should have been an intellectual endeavor into an emotionally charged popularity contest. Is that how we should elect leaders? Are elections reduced to selecting the lesser of all evils?

Separating the wheat from the chaff.

First, let’s ban all campaign signage. From candidates, PACs, activists, fans and friends and political parties. They’ve become little more than visual blight contaminating our community for months. Instead of relying on signs to remind people of who you are, try doing something worth remembering.

Next, put a cap on campaign expenditures. Ron Garcia spent around $40,000 to narrowly win a second term. For what? What has he really accomplished over the last four years? What was in it for him worthy that expense?

Roy Moore spent half that to win four elections! Four! Why are this year’s candidates pouring small fortunes into their campaigns?

Hats off by the way to Brea’s Firefighter’s Association and Police Officer’s Association who focused their bankrolls and energy back into the community via public service instead of backing candidates who, after getting elected, never did squat for them anyway.

Put a lid on spending.

Cap expenditures at $7,500 and pray the balance will trickle it’s way into the numerous local charities that desperately need the support.

Seventy-five hundred bucks is enough to cover one postcard mailer and a fairly robust social media effort. We can ‘like’ whomever we wish and our mailboxes would not be stuffed with electioneering crap we neither need nor want.

Limiting candidates to one mailer would restrict space enough to focus text on what’s true… eliminating the unsupportable litany of accomplishments and endless list of political endorsements from officials whose judgement is suspect to begin with.

Pretty simple solution I think. No signs or banners. None. Zip. Nada. One mailer, period. Oh yeah, no buttons, book bags, ball caps, candy bars, koozies or trinkets and trash.

Campaign face-to-face.

Candidate forums, neighborhood meet-n-greets and weekend walks… take it to the people. Engage with the public you hope to serve. Attend all the Council meetings you can, but stay away from that podium. That’s our place to address Council, not your soapbox to show off.

When invited to a public forum or neighborhood meeting, show up!

If you don’t care enough to connect with your constituents before the election, we’ll assume you would just phone it in after elected. Epic fail. Why waste your time and ours running in the first place?

So, what’s left?

Are you registered to vote? Do you give a rip or are you just soaking up this great place to live, work and play with little interest in why it even exists in the first place? Brea didn’t suddenly appear at the entrance to the canyon like some Emerald City.

A lot of pretty dedicated folks, many coming from Brea’s business community (the ones being chastised today for contributing to campaigns), built this place through hard work and personal sacrifice.

Somewhere along the way Brea slipped off the rails.

If you’re relying on Council and City Staff to put things back on track… you may be in for a rude awakening. They don’t share the same vision, get along with each other or have any interest in how you think this place ought to run.

It’s up to you to reboot things. That’s what gave impetus to the idea of Clean Sweep. Your votes are the broom. If you don’t vote, don’t complain later.

Operation Clean Sweep

12 thoughts on “Municipal Elections Are A Circus.

  1. Great grand finale to this horrific election season. And people wonder why more folks don’t run for public office…

    • Terri… Yeah, not sure what, if anything, needs to be added to this string of posts. Once votes are tallied, I will begin covering the transition and return to the open topics (Fracking, Koreagate, Civic Center Garden, Tiered Water Rates, Violation(s) of Measure T, etc,). 2015 promises to be an interesting year for Brea.

  2. Great Recommendations for Campaigning within the City of Brea. I agree that the political signs all over town have become… who can erect the BIGGEST BANNER. It blights the town for months and shouldn’t be!

    I feel that ‘Candidate Forums’, one or two direct mailers are the best ways to communicate the candidates’ vision and commitment to our City of Brea. With all these signs all over town, our beautiful landscaped corners and storefronts now look awful.

    The $7500 Cap Expenditure would also encourage more people to run for office without mortgaging their homes/businesses and taking donations from special interest funds.

    Everyone needs to VOTE VOTE VOTE.

    • Craig… I’ll bet if we put campaign signage and term limits on the ballot, both would pass by large margins. These two changes alone could alter the political landscape of Brea (no pun intended).

      Interesting point about bringing the cost of running for office into the range of more people. I’d always thought the pomp and circumstance was the biggest deterrent but cost may be an even greater barrier.

      Thanks for wading in with such great observations!

  3. I’ve been away from Brea for over a decade but, Rick, you portray a very different community than I remember. Sad to hear. I hope your article has a measurable impact. Well said!

    • Ginger… Ten years ago Brea was markedly different. While it is sad, I’m hopeful that we’re on the leading edge of changes that will turn things around in a big way. If what I’ve written has even a small impact it was worth every minute’s effort. Thanks.

      • I always enjoyed listening to your opinions and perspective on things. The written word is equally compelling. Keep up the good work. 🙂

      • Ginger… Just put two and two together! What a delight to hear from you again. If you ever find your way back through this way, coffee is on me!

  4. Rick,
    I had the pleasure of meeting you this year because of “fracking” and I admire your dedication to doing your part to keep Brea one of the best places to live.

    I believe the changes to Brea election rules that you propose make perfect sense. Hopefully once the City Council is swept clean we will be able to install such sensible solutions.

    FYI, for those in favor of Operation Clean Sweep, like minded people will be coming together November 4th, 2014, 5:30 pm at TAPS. I hope to see you and many others there.

    • Jennifer… thanks! There’s still work ahead to enlighten Breans to the potential threats of fracking and the folly of allowing big oil to operate with impunity right in our backyards.

      My suggestions regarding term limits, capping campaign expenditures and banning all political signs are getting a lot of likes. Maybe that’s the common ground that will unify opposing factions and we’ll see these turn into ballot measures in 2016.

      There will be a lot of hopeful ballot watch parties going on Tuesday evening, the Taps party should be well attended.

  5. Rick,

    Excellent wrap up.

    Roy’s approach to campaigning has always been the standards bar to hit. His door to door, actually talk to people philosophy is a proven winner with the voters as well as a testament to his dedication to Brea.

    It has always bothered me a bit when we have had candidates run with little or no community volunteerism beyond the horizon of an election season. This usually happens when another politician needs to ensure continued power and longevity.

    So how do we address that problem? Your suggestion of limiting campaign contributions would limit the bombardment of ads and banners to a large degree. A candidate would have to choose between competing name recognition platforms, which I think would limit the banner proliferation… but as I said, only to a degree.

    Unfortunately, we have no control over independent expenditures (IE). Banners, signs, and mailers can be bought and distributed through an IE as they do not adhere to local spending limits. There are reasons for that at some level as it falls into freedom of speech.

    So as a result, you would have the inability of local community volunteer candidates to spend money on name recognition while sitting incumbents, or candidates chosen by the incumbents, with access to huge resource pools via IE’s take advantage of not having to limit what they do.

    Point is, I agree with your suggestions but it must be crafted in a way to address all tangential influences. On the surface, a blanket spending restriction could actually have the opposite affect and give even greater power to those in power.

    Would a $7,500 limit be a good starting point? Yes. It begins to place everyone on a level playing field. MOST important, it forces community contact and involvement for candidacy recognition which Roy has proven is the way to go.

    The community contact and involvement is how you counter the IE issue.

    As always, good write up.

    Rick Rios

    • Rick… Your point about independent expenditures is one I overlooked. Like the couple of mailers this year coming from that Sacramento based PAC, these are easily recognized as being unauthorized by the candidates and little more than meddling by out-of-towners who don’t really have a dog in the fight.

      All things considered, I stand on my original position that capping expenditures, a blanket signage prohibition and term limits might well be better for us all.

      Appreciate the kind words and your dedicated readership of Brea Matters.

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