Mad is an understatement. Having pressed for answers, reasonable explanations and an understanding of how local government works I’ve come to a conclusion. It doesn’t. At least not in a way that most voters have hoped it would.
Let me share again former City Manager Tim O’Donnell’s favorite definition of leadership, “Leadership is disappointing your constituents in increments they can absorb.” That made me mad as hell the moment I heard it. Hearing that launched Brea Matters and kept me going every time a door was slammed in my face as I sought the truth.
How many times have you been disappointed by something Council has decided, that a Commission or Committee has recommended or that staff has suggested? How many times have you let it slide only to find yourself disappointed about something else just days or weeks later?
See, it works. They know it works. They know they’re able to bend a rule, break a law or violate an ethical standard with little or no concern that they might be held accountable. That makes me mad. It should make you mad as well.
Maintaining public records.
Recently, Planning Staff admitted to deleting documents, a consultant’s proposal that pointed out an error in Staff’s thinking. It wasn’t what they wanted to hear or felt the Planning Commission had a right to hear. The City Attorney said they were within their authority and the matter was swept under the rug.
When this loophole in the city’s Records Retention Schedule was pointed out by Brea Matters, members of Council demanded that the loophole be closed. Then another discovery was made.
The Records Retention Schedule, unchanged since the last millennium, was updated by the City Clerk last year and submitted to the City Attorney for review. It had sat there collecting dust until Council’s demand brought it to the top of the pile.
Still, nothing has been done. “Leadership is disappointing your constituents in increments they can absorb.” Dammit, I’m mad as hell.
Amending municipal code.
On September 28, Councilmember Vargas invoked an obscure, never before used, piece of the Brea Municipal Code and, without warning or prior notice, “fired” me from the Planning Commission (see details here). He citied causes not included in the municipal code.
Several months of haggling with the City Manager and City Attorney finally got me a face-to-face with the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem on January 9 where I laid out my “case” that Brea Municipal Code inadvertently violated my Constitutional due process rights.
I had no interest in litigation. None. Still don’t. All I hoped for was to help initiate a change in the BMC that would protect the Constitutional rights of my friends and neighbors who might one day consider volunteering for a Commission or Committee… that would protect them from the sort of incompetent conduct I was subjected to.
A month later I was informed by the City Manager that the City Attorney had been instructed to draft amendments to the BMC, eliminating the due process issues, and that the amendments would be given to Council to approve within the month. That was February, this is June.
On three subsequent occasions I was told that the amendments would be on the agenda in the next meeting or two. I fully expected to see the item on this week’s agenda. Nope. Nothing. “Leadership is disappointing your constituents in increments they can absorb.” Again, I’m mad as hell.
City Hall priorities.
On April 7 I published a blog headlined “Corruption’s Partner Is Our Own Indifference.” The admonition expressed was clearly made towards Brea Matters readers with the reminder that our continued indifference to what goes on in city hall is the catalyst from which corruption is born. The word corruption never again appears in the piece.
The City Attorney, I’ve been told, read that word and went ballistic.
Over the next six days, the City Attorney and staff conducted legal research, wrote an eight page memo to the City Manager, City Council and others (more like a manifesto obviously pointed directly at Brea Matters) and engaged the city’s Marketing Department to see that it was circulated on social media to the broadest extent possible.
Six days. Not six months… six days! They’ve been sitting on the Records Retention Schedule for almost nine months, on the BMC amendments for five months but they can somehow fire off a memo attacking Brea Matters in six days?
Who’s setting priorities down at city hall? “Leadership is disappointing your constituents in increments they can absorb.” I think I have every right to be mad as hell.
A call to action.
Council reads Brea Matters. Faithfully if not supportively. So I’ll take this opportunity to make a couple of suggestions.
Please, with all the authority you can muster, instruct the City Manager … once again, to tell the City Attorney to get off his ass (sorry Gramma). Obviously unable to determine which assignments should take precedence over others, it’s time to step in and retake control.
Please, take a look at how long it’s been since Council and the City Manager made any attempt to confirm that Richards, Watson, Gershon (RWG), and more specifically James Markman, are Brea’s best choice as City Attorney. Maybe it’s time we sent out an RFP for City Attorney to see if there might not be better choices for Brea.
Still mad as hell.
One more time, let me remind everyone. Leadership IS NOT disappointing your constituents in increments they can absorb. Here are a few thoughts that do a better job of defining leadership.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” — John Quincy Adams
“Leadership: The capacity and will to rally people to a common purpose together with the character that inspires confidence and trust.” — Bernard Montgomery
“Leadership defines what the future should look like, aligns people with that vision, and inspires them to make it happen, despite the obstacles.” — John Kotter
“Leadership is about service to others and a commitment to developing more servants as leaders. It involves co-creation of a commitment to a mission.” — Robert Greenleaf
What sort of leader do we want?
I believe we want leaders who create an inspiring vision of the future, who motivate and inspire us to engage with that vision and who have the skills to deliver that vision.
Write that down in big bold easy-to-read letters. Stick it on your fridge where you will see it every day. When election day rolls around again… remember it.