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.

Brea First — of the people, for the people and by the people.

My prime objective, from day one, has been to encourage my friends and neighbors to pay more attention to what goes on at the Civic Center and to make the best use of their vote as possible. I’m pleased to share with you the launch of a new grassroots group, Brea First. Their Director, Chris Gaarder has been kind enough to provide this background.

Brea FirstIntroducing Brea First

By Chris Gaarder, Director

Last Thursday, January 28, Brea First hosted our first public meeting, on “Developing Brea: From Oil to Commercial Success.” We believe it is important to look to the city’s past if we hope to build a better future.

Brea FirstOur speakers, former Mayor Carrey Nelson and Olinda Oil Museum docent Jack Smith, shared valuable insights on how Brea became the city it is today. Brea FirstWe heard fascinating anecdotes from the early oil days to the more recent redevelopment efforts that created much of the city we see today.

That was then, this is now.

While it is tempting to say the past is the past, decisions made 10 or 100 years ago have effects that ripple into the Brea of today and the Brea of our children’s future. Brea First will continue to explore Brea’s history in our upcoming meetings, and we hope to put a special focus on the city’s future.

Our plan is to host a monthly public event providing Breans with information and analyses of our past, present and future, from local and outside experts.

All too often, critical issues of local government do not get the attention they deserve. In the coming months and years, Brea First will work at the grassroots level, putting the welfare of the people of Brea first, by shedding light on the matters having the greatest effect upon our daily lives.

By promoting a better understanding of how Brea’s government works today, the people of Brea can help create a better tomorrow.

Counting our blessings.

Brea contributes a tremendous amount of good to those living in the city and beyond, including strong schools, a vibrant business scene, a high quality of life, and strong bonds among the diverse communities within the city.

There remains, however, longstanding issues poorly addressed and still unresolved. Breans voice continuing concerns over transparency, accountability and the proper role of government.

Our most serious problem: unfunded pension liabilities.

The unfunded public pension liabilities owed to the City of Brea’s past and current employees are particularly troubling. According to Pension Tracker, Brea has the second worst unfunded public pension liability per household ($20,113 in 2013) of any city in Orange County.

That puts Brea among the worst five percent of cities for unfunded pension liabilities per household in all of California. The reality is, left unresolved, Brea could face the crippling of vital services or even bankruptcy. Residents, including city workers and retirees, could be hurt by these looming liabilities.

Bad news, good news.

As bad as the unfunded liability may be, there are a variety of other serious issues facing the city. The good news is, as Brea First brings an array of issues to the fore, we can find workable solutions to the challenges facing Brea.

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Become part of Brea’s Solution.

Plan to hear our February meeting announced in the coming week. Stay connected by visiting our Facebook Page and Website where you can sign up for our email list.

Brea First is a bright light on the horizon.

Brea’s politics has often been contentious in recent years. We all know it. While important change swept through city hall in 2014, serious issues remain.

I have great expectations for Brea First, confidence in the leadership and am hopeful to see it’s ranks grow at an exponential rate. I hope you feel the same encouragement I feel and make an effort to get involved.