The Sky Isn’t Falling… Yet.

The doomsayers, pessimists and chickens’ little are all in a panic over nothing, I think. With the passage of Measure T, I felt it prudent to look further into election law to better understand what to expect now.  Let’s start with the law.

California Elections Code 9217: If a majority of the voters voting on a proposed ordinance vote in its favor, the ordinance shall become a valid and binding ordinance of the city. The ordinance shall be considered as adopted upon the date that the vote is declared by the legislative body, and shall go into effect 10 days after that date. No ordinance that is either proposed by initiative petition and adopted by the vote of the legislative body of the city without submission to the voters, or adopted by the voters, shall be repealed or amended except by a vote of the people, unless provision is otherwise made in the original ordinance.

Typical legal mumbo jumbo.

I’ll try to tackle it one piece at a time.

“If a majority of the voters voting on a proposed ordinance vote in its favor, the ordinance shall become a valid and binding ordinance of the city.” That’s it, period, Measure T is law in Brea. No negotiations, no editing, no expensive legal challenges… it’s law.

“The ordinance shall be considered as adopted upon the date that the vote is declared by the legislative body, and shall go into effect 10 days after that date.” The City of Brea has, or shortly will be, in receipt of the final vote count from the Orange County Registrar of Voters. Though the agenda for the December 4th Council meeting has yet to be published, it is reasonable to anticipate that the ROV’s declaration will be accepted by Council that evening.

If anything deserves or qualifies to be placed on the consent calendar, the acceptance of the ROV’s final declaration does. I mean, what would require Council discussion or debate at this point?

This is a routine and necessary step preceding the swearing in of reelected/new council members and the annual reorganization of the Council slated for their December 18th meeting. This means that Measure T becomes law automatically on December 14th.

“No ordinance that is either proposed by initiative petition and adopted by the vote of the legislative body of the city without submission to the voters, or adopted by the voters, shall be repealed or amended except by a vote of the people, unless provision is otherwise made in the original ordinance.” The measure, now law, cannot be repealed or amended without the people voting again on the matter. There is no provision contradicting this in the original ordinance.

But wait! There’s More!

Measure T included a severability clause. In short this means, if some provisions of the law, or certain applications of those provisions, are found to be unconstitutional, the remaining provisions, or the remaining applications of those provisions, will, nonetheless, continue in force as law.

In simple terms, should the City of Brea, at a later date, decide to take issue with some part of the law, they are free to do so but must prove their case in a court of law. If they prevail, the balance of the law remains intact as originally written.

A couple of examples.

Let’s say, somewhere down the road, the City needs to hire a new City Manager.

Due to excessive salaries being paid to City Managers across the state, the City might claim to find it difficult to locate acceptable candidates willing to work for a salary conforming to the limitations imposed by the law. The City, apparently, can use this situation to challenge the salary cap, though I fail to see where their problem has anything to do with the Constitution.

In today’s tough economic climate, with so many highly qualified people either underemployed or out of work, I would imagine finding someone better qualified would be a slam dunk. What would the qualifications be?

  • Having the people’s best interests at heart.
  • Having a willingness to follow the guidance of elected officials rather than an obsessive need to control everything.
  • Willing to work for a fair and reasonable salary, as defined by law.

Another issue that may arise, as has been suggested by the City Attorney, might be the requirement that the City Manager live in Brea, citing the “four miles from city hall” as being unconstitutional.

More a tactic Mr. Markman and Mr. O’Donnell had hoped would help dissuade voters from passing the measure, there is really little or no problem finding cases across this country where elected officials, educators and public safety personnel have been required to live within the community in which they serve.

In either case, until a specific issue is raised due to immediate circumstances, there is no provision that would allow the City to arbitrarily challenge one or more components of the law. It could be years before such a circumstance might present itself.

Immediate impact.

Neither council member Simonoff or council member elect Marick, upon being sworn in on December 18th, will receive or continue to receive flex benefits currently paid to City Council. There is a remote possibility that any stipend adjustment, to be consistent with the limitations prescribed by the State, would as likely create a slight increase to the stipend (which hasn’t seen a raise for maybe a dozen years) than a decrease.

I suppose they could decide to challenge this… trying to find a loophole or something, but the people have spoken, why would they be so foolish?

Both Simonoff and Marick, though not supporters of the initiatives, have expressly promised to:

  • Listen closely to their constituent’s opinions.
  • Conduct all City business openly and in full public view.
  • Carry out the City’s business in a responsible, fiscally conservative manner.

Any attempt to line their pockets by circumventing the constraints specified by Measure T will show that their campaign promises were merely political rhetoric designed to get them elected.

The Heart Of The Matter.

Years ago, probably in a moment of weakness, Mr. O’Donnell shared with me his favorite definition of leadership. He attributed it to Marty Linsky, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

“Leadership is disappointing your constituents in increments they can absorb.”

Is there any wonder how government policies in Brea have reached their current condition? Do you need a better reason to vote yes on Measures T and U?

Don’t let the old guard fool you.

We need open government and accountability now.

An Oh So Blustery Day.

Thanks to the high winds today, the skies over Brea were uncommonly clear… except for the curious puffs of white smoke coming from just east of the 57 freeway. Eerily reminiscent of the first signs of the Triangle Fire, I hustled in that direction to see if another conflagration was starting.

Thankfully, the answer was no.

The smoke was coming from a couple of dozers up on the hillside in the new Blackstone development. However, as I stared at the scalped hillsides, I began having a few questions, none the least of which was, “I wonder why so few people around town have any clue what’s happening up here?”

So, I did a little surfing.

Here’s what I gleaned from a brief article on the City of Brea website.  Blackstone is a sanctioned County of Orange project.  All construction is being overseen by the County. As phase one (sold out) becomes occupied, Brea will work out some sort of annexation arrangement and begin the provision of public services to residents.

Where are we with this? What is the additional burden on city services and what is the projected property and sales tax increment from those living in these mini-mansions? Will we at least make a couple of bucks to help bolster our reserves?

Built in four phases, Blackstone (a joint effort between Shea Homes and Standard Pacific Homes) will feature 795 new homes.  Having skirted Brea’s hard-nosed Planning Department and, except for a dog and pony show on the hillside repair and enhancements, the Planning Commission, I wonder how many of these homes would have made it to the final development agreement?

If “La Floresta” and “Central Park Brea,” on the old hospital site, are any indication, Blackstone would still be about five years away from breaking ground and would be limited to less than 300 homes.

Digging a little deeper.

Blackstone’s website, pretty minimalist by developer standards, says that in addition to Blackstone’s big lot, über-stylish mini-mansions, the development will feature a robust recreation center with “wading pool, Junior Olympic pool, spa, outdoor fireplace, barbecue and children’s water activity center.

As if this weren’t plush enough, Blackstone will also incorporate walking trails, six pocket parks (one with a tot lot), and a 14-acre linear park (Wildcatter’s Park – will be turned over to the city), dog park, fancy schmancy gazebo and a variety of sports fields rivaling our new Birch Street Sports Park (20 acres).

Will we be competing with ourselves?

Didn’t I hear a lot of pushback when folks talked about having some of these amenities at the new Sports Park? Now it’s okay to put these things in a pseudo-private residential neighborhood? Will the HOA take on the costs? Or, like Central Park Brea, will these parks be open to all?  Answers… I think we deserve answers.

When the city “takes over” Blackstone, whatever that might mean, I’m feeling some big, on-going infrastructure maintenance expenses on the horizon and what do we know about them?  Precious little.

Folks used to trust Hills For Everyone to watchdog stuff like this but I found no mention of Blackstone anywhere on their website.

Their mission statement is, “To protect, preserve and restore the environmental resources and natural environs of the Puente-Chino Hills and surrounding areas for the enjoyment of current and succeeding generations and to initiate, sponsor, promote, organize and carry out plans, programs, and activities that will tend to further these ends.”

I guess Blackstone doesn’t fall under the “surrounding areas” provision. I checked out their “Current Projects & Threats” info and, though there are 14 items listed, not one says squat about Blackstone.

Hmmm, maybe a better name for the group might be Only Some Hills For A Few Of Us. Naw… that’s too long and difficult to remember. Besides, it’s not really that flattering either.

Still wonder why we need accountability and open governance?

Didn’t think so.