Measure E – Follow The Money

Glancing over the “Committee for Brea Olinda Schools – Yes on Measure E” financial disclosure (FPPC Form 460) covering the period between January 1 to May 19, 2012 presents some very illuminating information.

Contributions received total $29,250 and expenditures total $18,212.37 with an ending balance of $11,037.63.

Perhaps there remain outstanding media bills for the heavy campaigning that occurred in the final weeks that will chew up the leftovers, otherwise I’m not sure where that money would end up. It’s pretty much a done deal now, isn’t it?

Who contributed, and why?

Only one contributor was reported from Brea, the PAC’s treasurer Terry Swindle, and one contributor from La Habra, Warren Kraft/La Habra Fence. Mr. Kraft is the retired and well respected Superintendent of La Habra City Schools and a long time supporter of BOUSD. Both Terry and Warren contributed $500 each (or 1% of the total).

The rest of the list reads like a who’s who of companies making a living off of school districts, their construction projects, their bond issues, etc. LPA Architects, Irvine ($5000) who built Brea H.S. and Caldwell Flores Winters, Inc., Emeryville ($7,500) school planners, financiers and bond election services and their CFO Khushroo Gheyara kicked in $250 personally. Illuminate Education, Irvine ($500), Stifel Nicolaus, St. Louis ($5000), BCA Architects, San Jose ($5000), Bernards Builders Management Services, Ontario ($5000).

What’s in it for them?

Seems obvious to me, greasing the wheels of progress to help a little struggling school district in Orange County get it’s hands on $54 million in fresh tax dollars with it’s tagalong $20 million plus from local developers. The ROI stood to be substantial for the winners, except they didn’t win.

So why absolutely zero support from Brea? From Brea parents? From Brea teachers? From all the good hearted active citizens who lent their names and faces to the Yes on Measure E campaign? Even they didn’t seem inclined to put their money where their mouths were.

Where did the money go?

Into an ill conceived, poorly executed and singularly unconvincing advertising campaign conducted predominantly by AMAC, Redondo Beach to the tune of $15,954.44 to date and $1000 to Andrew Todd (now there’s a familiar name) to produce their website. At least with Andrew, they shopped Brea. A quick look suggests that AMAC would do well to hire Andrew to bring their website out of the last century.

Complete with the look of a 1960’s stock photo campaign, this antiquated approach included huge postcards plastered with endorsees (most of whom admitted they hadn’t even read the proposal), brochures, email blasts and personal prerecorded pleadings in unsolicited phone calls from school principals.

And they lost. Beaten by the North Orange County Conservative Coalition who, if I’m to believe what I hear, spent well under the FPPC limitation of $1000 to sufficiently help influence public opinion, ensuring that Measure E went down in flames.

When the education of Brea’s children is more about raising the quality of their learning experience and less about lining the pockets of the special interests or getting out from under the mounting unfunded pension liability… when a full accounting by an independent third party sheds a little light on where the $27 million bond issue and additional $80 million in developer’s funds they got in 1999 were really spent… maybe a bond issue might stand half a chance.

Until then BOUSD, we’re not your personal ATM!

OC Register Says No On Measure E.

– – – – – Update: 06.06.12 – – – – –

Brea voters defeat Measure E, saving property owners millions in increased taxes and preventing a massive legacy of debt from being passed on to their children. Now it’s time to sweep out all the old deadwood from the School Board and put some creative thinking, fiscally responsible people in control.

– – – – – – – Original Post: 06.04.12 – – – – – – – 

The Orange Country Register strongly opposes Measure E, the $54 million General Obligation bond that will put Brea homeowners deeper and deeper in debt without offering anything remotely looking like a detailed plan to spend it. The 20 year plan on the school district’s website is woefully lacking project specific information.

Here’s what the OCR Editorial Board has to say, “Measure E – NO – This measure would increase by $54 million Brea Olinda schools’ bond burden to build facilities with a mere 55-percent vote. Taxes would increase $9 a year on each $100,000 of a property’s assessed valuation.

We calculate that to be $40.50 a year for a new homeowner. Homes purchased before about 2002 would be assessed less because of Proposition 13 protections. But costs could jump as high as $34 per $100,000 in fiscal year 2028-29, or $153 a year for a $455,000 home.

Government money is fungible, meaning this increase for “facilities” could be used to free money for any other purpose, including teacher and administrator salaries and operating expenses.”

To see what the OCR has to say about other ballot measures, go to: “Recommendations for June 5 ballot

Hopefully, tomorrow, cooler heads will prevail and the very expensive media blitz produced by the small special interest group feigning interest in our kid’s education will be foiled. They say it’s for the kids. It’s not.

Do the right thing, vote NO on Measure E.

Your kids and neighbors will thank you for years to come.

Measure E is a farce.

– – – – – – – Update: 05.31.12 – – – – – – –

Just attended the discussion on Measure E hosted by the Brea Senior Center.

Representing “No on E”, Connie Lanzisera and Glenn Vodhanel laid out a rational, common sense justification for their position and posed well researched questions to the opposition.

Representing “Yes on E” was Dr. “Skip” Roland, BOUSD Superintendent, who admitted right up front that it wouldn’t be legal for him to endorse or support the measure but he could answer questions. No one for the “Yes on E” political action committee took the time to attend to present their side of the issue.

Then, in a less than forthcoming way, using a lot of bureaucratic and finance industry terminology well over the heads of many in attendance, Dr. Roland proceeded to explain the important things that might be done if Measure E passed.

There was an obviously adversarial mood in the room. Hovering around the periphery were a council member, a current member and ex-member of the school board, plus the usual array of political activists and gadflys, myself included.

Finally, in the Q&A period, all questions were directed towards Dr. Roland, none for the “No on E” folks. It was quickly obvious that Connie and Glenn had apparently succeeded in sharing a credible message, easily understood by all in the room.

In my estimation, which mirrors comments from those I spoke with following the meeting, Dr. Roland’s responses fell far short of answering the questions asked but more served as opportunities for continued pro “E” political speak.

Seeing Dr. Roland in trouble, or at least assuming he was unable to adequately support their position, the final unscheduled speaker turned out to be none other than Teresa Hampson, BOUSD School Board member since 1994, who made what I would characterize as an impassioned plea for millions of dollars without adequately explaining how one single dime would be spent or why.

In the end, I detected a clear and distinct aroma of deception in the room and it seemed that no one at my table, nor those around me, had any interest in supporting Measure E in any way.

With such a low threshold now for approval, a mere 55%, it’s anyone’s guess what we’ll see when the election results hit the streets.

In closing… Vote NO on Measure E.

– – – – – – – Original Post: 05.25.12 – – – – – – – 

A “Brea Matters” reader, requesting anonymity, sent me the following message and it got me thinking. First, the message.

“I am opposed to Measure E. Not because my property taxes are going to increase but because I’m fairly convinced that the School District is unable to manage the technology they currently have. Having many years experience in the IT industry, I offer this statement, confident in it’s accuracy.

BOUSD hosts three different web sites for parents to track their children’s progress. None of them has complete information. The original teacher portal is stale and outdated, many links don’t work and virtually none of the teachers are keeping their student assignments up to date there.

The high school website, with teacher links too, is utilized by few, if any teachers, on a regular basis.

Finally, there’s “Aries”, the official assignment/grading secure website. It provides no consistent or reliable means for parents to track their children’s progress or for students to access assignments throughout the school year because most teachers batch upload assignments and grades at the end of each period. Useless.

Last year, the district’s mail server suffered a catastrophic failure. All email and contacts for teachers were permanently lost. The service was down for days. Teachers were asking parents to re-send them email addresses. Apparently the district made no provision for adequate back-up and/or recovery, common practice throughout the IT industry.

Parents never received a clear explanation about what happened or what the district planned to do to ensure this didn’t happen again. They just swept it under the rug.

Now BOUSD is asking us to add to our already burdensome property taxes, some of which is still paying off the funding they received in 1999, so they can preform routine facilities maintenance which should have been accomplished long ago. Design, construct, install, reconfigure, replace, enhance, expand… this is the language describing how they intend to spend another $54,000,000 dollars. And not a word about classroom technology or IT infrastructure.

It’s politically incorrect to oppose school bonds. To do so invites ridicule and allegations of not caring about our children’s futures.

My friends and I still have kids in Brea schools but we’re voting no on Measure E. The BOUSD has failed to prove they’ve wisely spent what we gave them in 1999. We’re not about to give them twice as much in 2012.”

Higher Property Taxes Aren’t The Issue.

Silly me, I thought the resistance to Measure E would come from the ultraconservative, no more taxes crowd. Much to my chagrin, it seems that a growing number of folks are simply sick and tired of watching BOUSD spend millions of dollars with only the most limited accountability.

In 1999, with the supposed help of a “Public Oversight Committee,” the BOUSD placed a $27 million dollar obligation bond measure on the June ballot. We won’t have it paid off until 2029. In March of 1999, a series of letters from the district, through each school, went out to parents clarifying what the funds would be doing for their school.

Aside from an embarrassing amount of redundancy, there was nothing to brag about in any letter. It was all pretty much routine maintenance stuff, simple repairs and everyone was getting new communication systems, including bells, public address and telephones.

What… no whistles?

When I made a public records request at the district, asking for documentation of what was proposed and what was done, I received a 27 page compilation of numerous documents with the collective goal to convey nothing but rainbows and unicorns.

I tried to find members of the Oversight Board and found only one. He indicated there had been little or nothing done for over a decade and that at least half of the members no longer even lived in Brea. So, makes me wonder who’s watching the store?

Now They Want Twice As Much.

Now, just 13 years later… enough time to get many of the first graders graduated from high school and their parents distracted by jobless teens, college tuitions through the roof and their need to provide for their own future reaching critical mass… here comes the BOUSD wanting $54 million dollars.

In a 1999 press release, the district said, “If major capital improvements are not made now, the schools will only continue to deteriorate, which will be more costly to fix in the long run.” Welcome to 2012, or as I like to call it, the long run.

And back to the original complaints about the condition of BOUSD’s IT infrastructure, the litany of projects on the “Yes on E” website sponsored by the PAC “Committee for Brea Olinda Schools — Yes on Measure E” (FPPC ID# 1346996) make no mention of updating the antiquated and underutilized IT system or upgrading classroom technology.

Have these folks inundated your mailbox with giant postcards filled with familiar faces and hollow promises?

Have you seen the slick ad campaign?

Did you get a prerecorded message from your local school principal asking for your support (like that’s even in their job description)? Are you seeing the same red flags popping up that I’m seeing?

Just Say No.

Okay, I may be branded a heretic, but I don’t care.

I love our kids and grandkids, I believe wholeheartedly that a solid education is the underpinning of successful productive lives but I also believe that throwing another $54 million dollars at routine maintenance projects that should have been done a generation ago is not the way to raise educational standards and performance in Brea. Please, do the right thing for the kids… Vote No on E.