With roughly half of Brea’s voters using absentee ballots, likely the die was cast for this election weeks ago. Typically, once the first results are released Tuesday evening, there are rarely any surprises. Some slight incremental differences are inevitable, but the leading candidates when you go to bed have generally won the election when you wake up.
A muddy, bloody campaign.
Past elections, going back at least a decade, have all had their nasty edge to them. Even non-partisan races, like City Council or School Board, will polarize voters to some extent. When issues precipitate differences of opinion, majority rule seems to resolve matters and fences are mended after the election.
The last few elections have been quite different. Widely opposing opinions have been fueled more by personality conflicts than management or policy issues. Even with testy ballot measures like the school bond or Measures T and U, arguments might have been heated but they weren’t slanderous or absent any basis in fact.
An interesting anomaly this election was the appearance of a Facebook page: Reject Negative Politics In Brea. They plateaued around 130 ‘likes’ and were obviously from the pro Murdock camp.
All went well, I suppose, until they were challenged a little and out came their claws. Blatantly false statements were made, names were called. It seems free speech applies only to that which is in synch with your opinions.
Can’t we all just get along?
Apparently not. And I will be the first to admit that my reaction to how some have conducted themselves in office has been intense.
There have been obvious back room deals that smacked of Brown Act violations, we’ve witnessed them and allowed them to fade from memory. There have been indications that some Council members lack any sort of ethical or moral compass, misusing public funds for unnecessary foreign travel, retroactive votes to cover up procedural blunders, and a perpetual disregard for public opinion.
How can this sort of behavior not tick you off? These arrogant, self-aggrandizing narcissists, these wannabe career politicians, have turned what should have been an intellectual endeavor into an emotionally charged popularity contest. Is that how we should elect leaders? Are elections reduced to selecting the lesser of all evils?
Separating the wheat from the chaff.
First, let’s ban all campaign signage. From candidates, PACs, activists, fans and friends and political parties. They’ve become little more than visual blight contaminating our community for months. Instead of relying on signs to remind people of who you are, try doing something worth remembering.
Next, put a cap on campaign expenditures. Ron Garcia spent around $40,000 to narrowly win a second term. For what? What has he really accomplished over the last four years? What was in it for him worthy that expense?
Roy Moore spent half that to win four elections! Four! Why are this year’s candidates pouring small fortunes into their campaigns?
Hats off by the way to Brea’s Firefighter’s Association and Police Officer’s Association who focused their bankrolls and energy back into the community via public service instead of backing candidates who, after getting elected, never did squat for them anyway.
Put a lid on spending.
Cap expenditures at $7,500 and pray the balance will trickle it’s way into the numerous local charities that desperately need the support.
Seventy-five hundred bucks is enough to cover one postcard mailer and a fairly robust social media effort. We can ‘like’ whomever we wish and our mailboxes would not be stuffed with electioneering crap we neither need nor want.
Limiting candidates to one mailer would restrict space enough to focus text on what’s true… eliminating the unsupportable litany of accomplishments and endless list of political endorsements from officials whose judgement is suspect to begin with.
Pretty simple solution I think. No signs or banners. None. Zip. Nada. One mailer, period. Oh yeah, no buttons, book bags, ball caps, candy bars, koozies or trinkets and trash.
Candidate forums, neighborhood meet-n-greets and weekend walks… take it to the people. Engage with the public you hope to serve. Attend all the Council meetings you can, but stay away from that podium. That’s our place to address Council, not your soapbox to show off.
When invited to a public forum or neighborhood meeting, show up!
If you don’t care enough to connect with your constituents before the election, we’ll assume you would just phone it in after elected. Epic fail. Why waste your time and ours running in the first place?
So, what’s left?
Are you registered to vote? Do you give a rip or are you just soaking up this great place to live, work and play with little interest in why it even exists in the first place? Brea didn’t suddenly appear at the entrance to the canyon like some Emerald City.
A lot of pretty dedicated folks, many coming from Brea’s business community (the ones being chastised today for contributing to campaigns), built this place through hard work and personal sacrifice.
Somewhere along the way Brea slipped off the rails.
If you’re relying on Council and City Staff to put things back on track… you may be in for a rude awakening. They don’t share the same vision, get along with each other or have any interest in how you think this place ought to run.
It’s up to you to reboot things. That’s what gave impetus to the idea of Clean Sweep. Your votes are the broom. If you don’t vote, don’t complain later.