Robocalls: The Final Straw

This weekend yet another campaign season nuisance, robocalls, were launched by the supporters of Measure K. Infinitely more intrusive than big banners and bogus boycotts (and hugely more expensive I might add), robocalls are unsolicited political messages free from the limitations of the “Do Not Call” list.

When did you ever get a robocall you believed?

robocallsWell, the Measure K calls share much in common with their telemarketing cousins. They often rely on a familiar name or voice. Their intent is to convince you to take action that benefits them. They’re not too concerned with truth in advertising guidelines or adhering to them. The sales pitch is often based upon making misinformation sound like fact, lies sound like truth.

Measure K robocalls are no different.

The spokesperson is none other than former Mayor Bev Perry who begins by identifying herself as though it gives credibility to the message that follows.

She has had lucid moments in support of important local issues… this is not one of them.

Let’s parse this telemarketing line by line.

robocalls“This is former Brea Mayor Bev Perry calling about Measure K to support Brea schools.”

Got your attention? If you care about this issue, sure. We’ll have to see if the PAC’s disclosures in their 460 filing shows she picked up a little mad money for the effort.

“People choose to live in Brea because it offers a high quality of life which includes good neighborhood schools.”

Well, it did, but if you believe the Brea school district’s $300,000,000 list of repairs they need to do… it would be more honest to say, “People chose to live in Brea…” past tense.

“Yes on K is accountable and includes a list of authorized Measure K projects, independent annual audits and a citizen’s oversight committee to monitor the funds.”

No, not true. A “Measure” is accountable for nothing. It can be written to include an attempt to require accountability but there are no guarantees. In the case of Measure K, accountability would fall to those charged with managing the money. Precisely why we need a new Board. One we can trust.

There is no list within the measure except for very generic language that authorizes nothing specific. The school-by-school “assessment” was manufactured after the fact to calm public protest over a lack of specificity. It has no connection to Measure K.

The Oversight Committee has no say in how funds would be spent. They “validate” expenditures after the money is spent. It’s a rubber stamp committee powerless to oversee anything with any authority.

And Placentia received regular audits from recently replaced Lance, Soll & Lunghard, LLP (aka LSL CPAs & Advisors, Brea’s auditor by the way) yet one of their financial managers is “alleged” to have embezzled $5.16 million before being discovered by Federal authorities.

I guess it would be reasonable to assume that BOUSD auditors, Vicente Lloyd Stutzman LLP would be who Ms. Perry is referring to.

“All funds stay local to improve our Brea schools.”

This is a non sequitur, period. It’s inference or conclusion does not follow from the premises. What does “stay local” mean? No outside contractors will be used? This will be a big disappointment to Cal K-12 and Pinnacle Design Group, Inc., operators from the Inland Empire who would love to snag some Measure K business.

Together these two out-of-towners have donated $35,000 to the Yes on K PAC and are probably prepared to ante up more if asked. Thirty-five large is nothing compared to the millions on the table.

“Remember to find Measure K on your ballot and vote Yes on K for kids.”

Voters would be wise to remember that those opposing Measure K are doing so for the kids as well.

Tactics for dealing with robocalls.

Hang up. It’s a recording. It’s not really Bev Perry. It’s not really true.

Advocates of Measure K insult your intelligence when they presume you can be convinced by a robocall. Do your homework. Demand facts and proof. Don’t settle for generic solutions and a complete lack of accountability.

ADDENDUM: Mass mailer is the latest straw…

Comments shared by Jason Kraft – Candidate for BOUSD Board

yes-cc_10-17Today I received an unsolicited email in my spam folder from “Yes on Measure K”. The arguments they make in favor of Measure K are the same ones that have been refuted again and again, and most of the people I talk to in the community recognize this.

A common argument from Yes on K is “we can’t afford to wait“, since interest rates are at historic lows. This statement ignores the reality that completing these facilities projects will take at least 10-15 years, and the $148 million we borrow will be separated into four separate bond issues stretching through 2025. Current interest rates have nothing to do with future borrowing costs.

Another argument included in the email is that a 2018 bond is not a good idea because classrooms will be two years older in 2018. Let’s look at the big picture here: if our facilities projects take 12 years to complete, Measure K would fund projects from 2017-2029. A bond passed in 2018 with stronger accountability and a prioritized project list would fund projects from 2019-2031.

A better bond in 2018 will provide accountability before money is spent — Measure K’s oversight committee can only look at funds that have already been used. And a 2018 bond would result in classrooms that are two years newer than Measure K.

I’ve also heard from Measure K supporters that voters will be tired of hearing about bonds in 2018, and something is better than nothing, so we need to pass Measure K now or we will never pass a bond again. This argument doesn’t hold water with me.

The first core value at my daughter’s school, Mariposa Elementary, is Reach for Excellence. We all teach our kids that they should do their best work, and they should not settle for “good enough”. The same lesson holds true for this bond measure.

Every time I walk our neighborhoods, I hear over and over again that people want stronger accountability. They want more specifics on where their money will be going.

They are very uncomfortable with corporate special interests providing financial support to the Yes on K campaign. They feel like they were left out of the process. It’s hard to believe that Measure K is really the best we can do.

We have a chance to Reach for Excellence with a new bond measure that has widespread support. But first, we need to vote No on Measure K and vote out the incumbent school board members. Then we can work together as a community to build a bond measure we can all stand behind with pride, the same pride we have in our schools and our kids.

robocalls

 

Brea Envisions Needs Midcourse Correction.

Brea EnvisionsCompared to the 121 pieces posted to Brea Matters over 5 years, this has been the most difficult blog to write. Here’s why. I do not want to diminish or dismiss the contribution of those volunteering as Brea Envisions Steering Committee members or Ambassadors.

One of Brea’s great strengths, for decades, has been a consistent outpouring of volunteerism. Brea Envisions is only the most recent beneficiary. Brea schools have long benefitted from the hard work and largesse of PTAs. Youth sports have thrived thanks, in large part, to the generosity of the community.

Around 1996 then Mayor Glenn Parker launched the Mayor’s Annual Youth Award helping to instill the spirit of volunteerism into countless young Breans. Brea’s faith based community and service organizations have touched every aspect of life in Brea.

Where did the problem start?

With the best of intentions, Council launched Brea Envisions with the stipulation that no current or former elected or appointed officials could be on the Steering Committee. This was designed to prohibit the committee from being peppered with the same old faces (Old Guard) in an effort to overcome the legacy of manipulation that has blemished every effort at public engagement in recent history.

They forgot one thing, creating a means of continued oversight. Beyond the occasional self aggrandizing updates they’ve been given, Council has no real clue how leadership has evolved. Convinced to not select a Chair, the Brea Envisions Steering Committee essentially handed staff the keys.

Supported by their very expensive consultant MIG and their subcontractors, staff has taken over, concocting a long range planning project hardly touched by the very people they’re hired to serve.

What was my first clue?

Brea EnvisionsA sparse, poorly conceived social media effort and a cookie cutter website that was difficult to navigate and barely mobile friendly. Then I heard about this all purpose hashtag, #breaenvisions, that would be the linchpin tying everything together and triggering a viral response.

Newsflash: going viral is not a strategy, it’s a phenomenon. Jimmy Fallon’s Thursday Tweets create so much traffic they become trending topics because Fallon has 38.4 million followers and his staff understands how to engage their fans. City of Brea has 4,800+ followers interested in traffic updates and Amber alerts. Do the math.

The Brea Envisions website, an app/template from consultant subcontractor Crowdbrite copyrighted in 2015, is an off-the-rack one-size-fits-all “engagement” tool sold to city after city. As I said, it is far from user friendly on mobile devices and almost impossible to determine if or when any new content is added.

Did you take the survey? Did you know there is a new survey now and you can take it too? I didn’t think so.

A third of the survey questions ask for narrative input. Yeah, you have to type sentences and stuff. Someone explain to me how this anecdotal input will be translated to quantifiable data. Plus, as of this writing, only 60 folks have taken the survey. Many questions are phrased, “What are your three favorite…” which leaves zero room for constructive criticism.

This overly Saccharin Pollyanna approach has been the hallmark of that bogus old City Manager Survey that Council used to justify giving Tim O’Donnell raise after raise.

Brea Envisions: Trust but verify.

Brea EnvisionsI checked in with a couple of Brea Envisions committee members, off the record. As promised, they’ll remain anonymous… but they shared that they couldn’t remember the committee having any influence in originating anything relating to the website or social media.

Since Steering Committee meetings are, by law, open to the public and anyone may attend, which Council confirmed during their Study Session the night prior, I decided that sitting in on one was the next logical step.

Brea EnvisionsLast Wednesday evening I went to the third floor conference room, picked an unobtrusive seat to ensure my presence wouldn’t have any impact on the meeting. I stood, for a brief moment, and took a photo with my phone, then sat quietly for the rest of the meeting.

As the meeting started, a quick head count showed that attending were 11 committee members and 8 city staff members. The meeting was run and dominated by staff who easily filled 80% of the airtime. Most of their rambling presentation seemed designed to convince committee members how amazingly well staff was succeeding every step of the way. Near the end of the meeting the committee did interject a few comments. I’ll get to that in a moment.

Brea EnvisionsA detailed “Social Media Promotion Schedule” was shared which consisted of posting on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram twice a week. (Not one of those accounts is for Brea Envisions!)

Yup, a whole six posts a week! The plan is anchored on the assumption that all followers will “like” and share every item with their entire network. The plan will go viral!

Brea EnvisionsBusiness entities relying on social media for their company or personal brand, employ management apps (Hootsuite, IFTTT, TweetDeck etc.) and often post 50, 100, 200+ posts a day across a half dozen social media platforms. Do the math.

They also rely upon advanced analytics which allow them to know precisely how they’re influencing the market. I heard nothing of the sort shared with the committee.

Committee input mostly rebuffed.

When staff was challenged about there not being a dedicated Brea Envisions Facebook page, the answer was, “We decided that it would be potentially too confusing.”

Whoa. Wasn’t that the committee’s job? Doesn’t the Brea PD have their own site for recruiting? What about the Curtis Theater and Brea Gallery?

The heart of marketing, and that’s what this is folks, is built upon differentiation. Burying Brea Envisions in the city’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages is completely backwards. Don’t even get me started on their ridiculous use of Periscope to live stream video of the Ambassador training session. They got 2 viewers.

Committee comments were either greeted with rebuttal or the standard city speak, “We’ll look into that.” which often means waiting long enough that the comment is forgotten.

Time for Council to reassert itself.

There is much more of the racetrack still ahead of us than behind. If Council can find a way to take a more hands-on role in overseeing Brea Envisions without interfering with it being a project by the people, the interest, expertise, energy and enthusiasm of the volunteers will not be squandered.

Otherwise, Brea Envisions will join the ranks of so many other workshops, public discussions and charrettes that tapped the public only for validation and not direction.

Brea Envisions