A Public Response.

Well, it’s time I offered a public response to the folks wondering if I’d been run out of town by our new bloviating blogger. Hardly. His vacuous attempts to wade in on issues without the benefit of a single provable fact have only served to boost readership of Brea Matters.

wading-inYes, there are numerous topics that are high on my interest list… and most involve spending serious coin, setting precedents that may prove harmful in the future, will create greater traffic hassles than we now endure or barely give lip service to the promises of greater transparency and engagement.

Simply put, I have refrained from wading in for good reason. Having been appointed to the Planning Commission I must weigh each issue based upon whether it, or some aspect of it, might find it’s way onto the Commission’s agenda.

My job as a Commissioner is to review and understand every item with an open mind, my opinions set aside in favor of case-by-case judgments made without bias.

Thankfully, I am working with four other Commissioners and a professional staff having deep histories and broad experience in public planning and an excellent grasp of the laws, regulations, ordinances, guidelines and standards that apply.

What about Citizen Clark?

roy-mooreI am taking a page from Roy Moore’s playbook. For sixteen years he successfully chronicled every issue, large or small, in his bi-monthly newsletter BreaNet.

When issues heated up he solicited opinion from the friends and neighbors he faithfully served. He trusted the public and they trusted him.

When issues were formally discussed, BreaNet filled in the gaps in action minutes giving us the details we needed to better understand what was happening down at city hall.

And when the votes were cast, Roy Moore provided a clear analysis of the final results.

What better mentor than Roy Moore?

Roy MooreI can think of none.

I shared my draft of this post with Roy this afternoon. He was kind enough to put down the Sunday paper and share his thoughts on how I will best serve Brea with this blog.

I’m doubly encouraged that he’s considering guest blogging here as a way of continuing his service to Brea. I’m eager to hear his stand on matters like unfunded pension liabilities, proper use of the 560 Fund and whether Brea ought to be paying some outsiders $180 thousand bucks to tell us how to plan for the next decade or two.

I have no doubt Roy will keep a close eye on me and will be quick to take me to task should I need it. So… that’s it for today.

And make no mistake, “I’ll be back.”

 

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.”

Intermission.

  • 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.

NoBrett

 

OCDA Disappoints Again.

justice_640

After five weeks of silence, no response to several follow-up emails, the OCDA’s office has turned a blind eye to the facts staring the rest of us in the face.  Instead of responding to my email inquiry, Senior Deputy District Attorney Raymond S. Armstrong choose to rely on snail mail (click here) to slam the door in my face.

Armstrong’s response, telling me that there was “insufficient evidence” to escalate his inquiry into a full scale investigation, included these three telling phrases in support of his denial of impropriety:

A  “…procedure may have been different than that utilized by councils in previous years”

This change threw council members a curve and led to the incorrect and misleading instructions given to Roy Moore by City Attorney Jim Markman, reported on by Moore and admitted to by Markman. It allowed the reorganization process to, once again, turn it’s back on decades of tradition in order to issue a political snub and ensure that council leadership remained in the hands of those in the hip pocket of City Manager Tim O’Donnell.

B  “…communication between the city manager and one of the newer council members”

Amongst other things, this clearly indicates that Armstrong did not contact either Moore or Simonoff to validate the details in my complaint. Newer council member? Moore, whose BreaNet #639 mirrored much of my complaint, is in his 14th year on council.  Simonoff, who verified the inappropriate approach and offer made prior to the meeting by O’Donnell, is the senior most member of council in his 16th year.

Garcia, Murdock and Marick together barely add up to eight years on council.

C  “…even if the communication occurred as you allege”

This is another telling example of the failure on the part of Armstrong to carry out a meaningful inquiry. A simple phone call to Roy Moore and/or Marty Simonoff would have doubled the allegations and provided validation from principal players in the events described.

Armstrong never contacted either Moore or Simonoff.

Putting things into perspective.

I’ve talked to dozens of knowledgable, politically savvy Breans who either watched the reorganization live or on the public access channel in the weeks that followed. Every one recognized the awkward and obvious behavior which overwhelmingly suggested collusion on the part of some council members prior to the meeting.

Had Armstrong given the online video even a single unbiased viewing, I have to believe he is smart enough, experienced enough to see what everyone else saw.

What is it going to take?

The OCDA seems to dodge political corruption cases for some reason, though it is currently investigating the Costa Mesa Police Association (click here and here). Maybe Brea isn’t messy enough. Unlike the City of Bell, maybe Brea issues don’t have enough zeros attached to warrant a closer look.

I wonder what it would really take to get the OCDA to pay attention to Brea, misuse of public funds for a foreign sightseeing junket?

This is not sour grapes.

This is just a raging case of complete frustration. How egregious does the misconduct have to be before Breans, in large numbers, have finally had enough? When will a few fresh faces show up at Matters from the Audience demanding full accountability and real transparency for a change?

The prevailing belief inside city hall that Breans are oblivious to the truth, apathetic about local government or both fuels their continued arrogant disregard for and dismissal of public opinion. Can this go on, unchecked, forever?

They’re betting it will.

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” ~ Albert Einstein