Uncovering The Simple Truth.

It should have been a simple records request. It could have been a simple records request. It turned out to be anything but.

Here’s the backstory.

green_mugAbout a year ago, not long after he created the “Green Brea 2012” website, ex-Mayor Schweitzer launched his “One Ton Challenge” to encourage Breans to reduce their annual carbon footprint by a metric ton. Seeing a pattern developing, I decided to give it a year, then check back to see how much was accomplished.

As you would expect, the website and Mayor were retired at the same time. The website, which offered nothing of value when launched, was never changed, not one pixel, then Schweitzer pulled the plug a few weeks ago. Time will tell if Schweitzer’s legacy is one of equally unproductive wing flapping.

Getting answers ought to be easy.

On January 14 I filed a simple CPRA (California Public Records Act) request seeking documentation of the number of participants and reduction(s) in carbon footprints achieved in the Mayor’s One Ton Challenge.

Sounds pretty basic, right?

On January 24, the absolute last day the City Clerk could respond without violating CPRA guidelines, I was told, “… due to unusual circumstances, an extension of the statutory 10-day determination period is reasonably necessary for the proper processing of your request.  Specifically, there is a need to search for, collect and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of records pertaining to your request.

pubrec_200Are you kidding? Unusual circumstances? What circumstances? Voluminous amount of records? It turns out that was a baldfaced lie, there were no voluminous records. I don’t believe they found anything because they didn’t look very hard, if at all.

I might speculate that, having come up with zip, they figured it could take at least another ten days to fabricate something.

I reminded Ms. Balz that participants registered through the city’s website and were to report their results in order to receive the Mayor’s recognition. I also reminded her that Cindie Ryan’s Marketing Department, responsible for the website, should easily be able to provide the data requested.

After all, if the esteemed ex-Mayor and others can brag again and again about what great successes they’re having, wouldn’t it stand to reason that someone prepared a report detailing the program’s accomplishments? Apparently not.

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…

duck1It could be a cheap imitation of a duck!

The City Clerk’s next response, received in less than 24 hours (not 10 days later after culling through mythical voluminous records) included five documents, obviously from Cindie Ryan in the Marketing Department, all from the early concept development and promotion of the program… none of which included a single thing fulfilling my request.

It’s like Ms. Balz asked Ms. Ryan if she had anything and Ms. Ryan sent the only stuff she saved, assuming it had to answered my inquiry. I can imagine what happened next.

Without looking at the documents (a quick glance was all that was required to verify they were worthless), Ms. Balz attached them to an email, clicked send and thought, “Maybe now he’ll shut up and get off my back,”

No such luck. I wrote back, encouraging Ms. Balz to press on to find documents that actually satisfied my inquiry. At the end of the day she responded, sending me copies of the only three application forms received… yeah, you read that right… only three. I’ll get back to the One Ton Challenge in a minute.

This is why we needed Measure U!

Measure U, amongst other things, was designed to reinforce citizen’s rights ensuring that speedy access to public records is not thwarted by public officials or employees.

The more city hall plays their semantical games claiming requests are either too broad or too narrow in scope resulting in the production of thousands of records… or none; the more city hall routinely gives itself extensions because they were on holiday or because they encountered voluminous records that actually didn’t exist; the more city hall stacks the deck against inquiring citizens, likely violating CPRA guidelines in the process, and discourages citizens from exercising their rights… the more we need to support citizen initiatives like Measure U.

We passed Measure T, now it seems that the City Attorney is about to start lobbying for amendments and maybe even legal challenge to see how much of the citizen’s desires can be rendered impotent. You’ll not want to miss the next Council meeting for that dog and pony show.

Back to the One Ton Challenge.

Three, remember? Only three signups. Brace yourself, this would be funny a la SNL Weekend Update if it wasn’t so incredibly sad.

  • The three lone “applications” included two City of Brea employees and the wife of a City of Brea employee. Yes, they all live in Brea. No, there isn’t what anyone would consider a legitimate “private” citizen amongst them. They represent roughly 0.000075% of the population.
  • Collectively, per the documents they provided, only one of the three reached the 1 ton goal, the other two fell short. In fact, extended to the full year savings, three people collectively only saved as much as the goal for two people.
  • coolplanetEven though the Challenge only reached a tiny fraction of the population and they missed the mark by 33%, the “Climate Registry” saw fit to honor Brea with their Cool Planet Award citing the One ton Challenge as one of the contributing factors. I wonder what they were told about the program’s success?
  • The Mayor’s challenge was designed without the ability to audit progress or quantify the results, which suggests to me that no one planned on following up, reporting results accurately or that they even felt the program had any chance of succeeding.

solar_money_300Add this together with the bogus green theme and website, the questionable productivity of the new power generating turbines up at the Alpha Olinda landfill and the sketchy unverified data coming from the massively expensive Solar Project put in on a sole bid contract by Chevron Energy… and what do you get?

Greenwashing!

Greenwashing is a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s aims and policies are environmentally friendly. Whether to increase profits or gain political support, greenwashing is used to manipulate popular opinion to support otherwise questionable aims.

smokestacks_225The term is generally used when significantly more money or time has been spent advertising being green rather than spending resources on environmentally sound practices. Example, every one of the solar panels installed all over the city produced a larger carbon footprint being created than it is saving through operation.

Put down the Kool-aid!

koolaid-man_150A growing number of you (Brea Matters readership is up almost 300% since the election, thank you very much) are getting sick and tired of the nonsense and dysfunction that runs through almost everything said or done down at city hall. Yours calls and emails remind me daily that you’re not buying the old party line any more.

Good! Now if we can just, somehow, muddle through the next two years, maybe we can put on Council people with real vision, proven experience, no personal agenda or high-falootin’ political aspirations.

It might mean you have to turn off the tv, skip Taco Tuesday once or twice a month and screw up the courage to come down to city hall and speak your piece. C’mon… this is your town for cryin’ out loud… is that really too much to ask?

kool-aid_640

Postscript.

If you’re picking up on the possibility that I might be a bit angry about all of this, you’re right. What part of doing their job don’t they understand?

If you think I’m stretching the truth anywhere in this, please feel free to contact your favorite City Council member. They were openly copied every step of the way. Even if they retreat into that ultra-safe politically correct cityspeak, they will still be able to verify that my account of the events is honest and accurate in every word.

This willful arrogant disrespect for the people of Brea and the continued efforts to block progress in the move towards more engaged, more transparent, more ethical, more fiscally responsible government is without explanation or excuse.

The longer Brea voters allow this deviant behavior to continue, the more presumptive and deeply entrenched the subculture becomes. If this is the legacy of neglect we’re passing along to the next generation, God help them. The consequences will be blamed on no one but us… the folks who decided it was okay to let the idiots to run the asylum.

PS: I have a lot more, I mean a lot more, city staffer’s reading this blog than signed up for the Mayor’s One Ton Challenge. It cracks me up every time I think about it.

It isn’t easy being green.

Back in mid-December, during the coronation ceremonies for the newly, if not duly elected Mayor, Hizzonor Schweitzer excitedly announced the launch of his Mayor’s theme, “Making A Difference” and the new website he had designed “Green Brea 2012” (Link abandoned).

The home page boasted, “Welcome to the site for my Mayor’s theme this year. In Brea each new Mayor chooses a theme to highlight throughout his term.” The heart warming and oh so motivating text that followed has remained the only content on the site for seven months.

We were going to have events?

On the page labeled “Events” we saw only three listed, one of which wasn’t even really an event but some sort of carbon footprint calculator. Don’t waste your time clicking on it. The results are an endless loop of the same info and graphics, rehashed and no more informative than where you started.

The Links page provides a similarly unrewarding experience… a promise that we could check out the output from our new sole sourced solar arrays — via a live feed updated every 5 minutes. Sadly, we never even got an initial report, let alone a live feed. Hopefully, the panels will not become obsolete as quickly as the website did.

Comments? No. Contact? Also no.

Unlike most blogs, which invite two way dialog between the blogger and their followers, “Brea2012” failed to provide an opportunity for open conversation, the Contact page remains totally useless, the create a login function doesn’t function and the Search box must be purely a tease, it doesn’t function either.

I suppose that doesn’t matter since there is no real content on the entire site. How Beaumanesque.

The closing comments made are, “The site is totally funded by me. No city money or staff time will be involved. Richard Nixon once said, ‘What a strange creature man is that he fouls his own nest.’ Let’s do our part this year to stop fouling our own nest! Thank you for visiting.”

So there you have it, graphic proof of how one earns a reputation for being a strong starter and a non-finisher. Might have been a good idea to follow his own advice. I wonder how long before he calls his webmaster, assuming he still has one, to yank the embarrassment out of cyberspace?

Thankfully, this überfailure was not accomplished at city expense since the Mayor promised he was paying for it out of his own pocket. I guess, thanks to that pay cut and having to return the flex benefit bonus, he ran out of green.

It worked on mugs and t-shirts.

The Mayor’s theme wasn’t a complete bust, It probably looks really cool on the mugs and t-shirts that mayors pass out at community events. (I’ll bet the city did pay for those.)

While I can’t promise you, I’ll bet if you email the Mayor (dons@cityofbrea.net) and let him know how much having one of his mugs would mean to you, he would drop one in the mail.

Besides,  they’re a great way to commemorate his final term in office and the end of the Schweitzer dynasty.

kool-aid_640POSTSCRIPT: 09/20/12 – In recent weeks there have been a flurry of faux-green announcements and proclamations feigning success at the greening of Brea.

The Climate Registry (a loose partnership between Edison and the Energy Coalition) tossed Brea a bone with their “Cool Planet” award and inadvertently disclosed that our massive solar expense is only returning a $320,000 a year savings… far from what was projected to retire the millions spent. At that rate it will take 50 years to pay it off. Any bets on how long the technology remains state-of-the-art?

And then there’s the Mayor’s “One Ton Challenge” encouraging residents to sign up and save 167 pounds of carbon emissions a month. Many of the suggestions as to how to accomplish this are laughable. This, and the “Green Life Green Brea” (make that blue skies) proposal from the City Manager are all part of this faux-green image that Brea is trying to project.

C’mon… you can do better than this!  I hope the Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem and the City Manager find time to brainstorm this while on their taxpayer subsidized vacation to Korea and Japan.