$215K Garden Is A Boondoggle!

boondoggle bucksCity Council’s agenda next Tuesday includes a boondoggle item to spend $215,000 to put in a drought tolerant garden at the Civic Center using unnamed grants and something called the Urban Runoff Fund.

The drought is hugely critical. As a friend pointed out to me, Many years of snowfall in the Sierras are needed more than just rainfall. Lake Mead water level is so critical that the hydroelectric power production from Hoover Dam is threatened. This is more serious than most people realize or understand.

This boondoggle has all the earmarks of a look-what-I-did campaign trick. Unacceptable. There are numerous locations around Brea that are excellent examples of drought sensitive landscaping.

No such thing as free money!

The fact that grants are available is not a selling point. Far too many tax payer dollars get wasted under the guise of grants passed from one level of government to another. The money in the “Urban Runoff Fund” came from somewhere (you), it isn’t free.

Please email or call Council members and demand a no vote on this useless and foolish expense.

 

cleanupUpdate 1:

Response to this blog and a similar comment string on the Nextdoor website indicate widespread objection to this project.

One neighbor posted on Nextdoor, That must be some garden the City has in mind; can’t wait to see it. We’re planning to rip out our front lawn and go with a drought-tolerant planting, and have already had exchanges with a licensed, experienced firm that does just that.

They do commercial and government buildings as well and, in fact, recently finished one job that included several acres, complete with subsurface watering, etc. That whole job came to about $40,000.

I don’t know how many acres are being ‘improved’ down at the Civic Center, but maybe there are other aspects of this that the City plans to surprise us with. How many bids did they get, anyway?”

Multiple bids confirmed.

I’m told that three bids were made on the project. And $215,000 is the low bid? We’re talking something around 8,500 square feet. An acre is 43,560 square feet. The project mentioned above, at several acres, was completed for $40,000. Something is really wrong with the math here.

Roy Moore always gets ribbed for being such a “cheapskate” because he questions every expense that seems slightly out of line. I can only imagine the field day he will have over this price tag.

Matters from the audience.

I hope the lineup at the podium Tuesday evening, behind Mr. Fullington, wraps all the way around the room and that Council gets the full brunt of resident anger and disappointment. There is no world where passing this would be the right thing to do.

Update 2:

After a failed attempt by Simonoff to table the item for discussion of other sites, which died for a lack of a second, the real whitewashing of the boondoggle swung into full speed. Turns out this item came from the Development Committee, which is Marick’s little playground.

The “Civic & Cultural Center Demonstration Garden” did pass through the Finance Committee on it’s way to the agenda, which is where Moore and Simonoff should have buried it forever. They didn’t. Big mistake.

In the end, Murdock tried to imply that the Finance Committee’s request to put this on the agenda was a recommendation for approval. Hogwash. Murdock was just trying to create plausible deniability that he bore some of the blame. Moore and Simonoff should have roasted him on the spot!

In all fairness, Simonoff did correct the Mayor regarding approvals and mentioned how it would have helped not to cancel the study session when so many details needed ironing out. Too bad the antiquated sound system kept most from hearing his comments.

No Study Session? Why?

Several calls and emails from parents, surprised to see Hizzoner The Pool Boy out campaigning at the Arovista back-to-school night, certainly shed a little light on where Murdock’s priorities lie. It would appear the silly season is more important to him than some stupid garden… hence the yes vote without having added two words of intelligent comment on the subject.

There is no reason why Mayor Pro Tem Marick could not have conducted the Study Session if the Mayor was unable to attend. That is her job, right? Study Sessions are an important part of the process, if for no other reason than to clarify agenda items or any council reports.

A reasonable theory might be that if Marick conducted the Study Session she would be required to explain where the Mayor was should the question have come up… and it would have, I guarantee.

So, by canceling the Study Session the question could not be asked nor a response provided. I was also of the impression that neither the Mayor or Mayor Pro Tem have the authority to make such a unilateral decision.

This was small town politics at it’s worst.

The boondoggle steamrolls itself to victory.

The presentation, after a lot of nonsense about grants and funds, pointed out that current irrigation for the area in question is 285,000 gallons a year. The garden would reduce that to 93,000 gallons a year… a savings of 192,000 gallons. Sounds good, right?

The city pays 3 cents a gallon! Annual savings after spending $215,000 in tax payer funds, $5.760 per year! It will take over 30 years to recoup the expense from water savings.

I won’t even address the inappropriate and unrequested interjection from City Attorney Markman, Brea’s Water Czar, the man you can thank for tiered water rates (which will likely be proven to be illegal).

Moore, in the end, raised the questions that uncovered the astounding savings. He also tried to pin down staff on the appropriateness of using the Urban Runoff Fund for this expense, a fund built on households paying a $2.10 a month tax on their water bill for like… forever!

Final vote:

Murdock, Marick and Garcia – Yes — Moore and Simonoff – No.

Like this comes as a big surprise. I’m reminded again of Tim O’Donnell’s favorite definition of leadership, “Leadership is disappointing your constituents in increments they can absorb.”

Once again, public outcry is ignored and, as usual, we’ll unfortunately forget about it before election time. Or will we?

Multi-Ethnic Group Of People Holding 11 Empty Placards

Finally, the OCR weighs in.

Well, sort of… in their hit-the-high-points-avoid-anything-that-remotely-suggests controversy style. Friday’s article, painfully absent any serious consideration of the public outcry expressed here and on the Nextdoor website, leaves the rapidly declining OCR readership with little to go on.

I’d give you a link to the OCR itself, but most of you no longer have subscriptions and are unable to get beyond their paywall.

Without continued and accelerated public outcry, which was stymied by the cancellation of the study session and inadequate announcement of the matter to the public, don’t expect to see any follow-up coverage from the OCR. Hopefully there will be continued interest from their editorial department.

Brea Politics, American Politics.

mencken_300H. L. Mencken, American journalist and critic, in the fourth of his series “Prejudices” (1924), addressed the nature of American politics saying this…

“What is any political campaign save a concerted effort to turn out a set of politicians who are admittedly bad and put in a set who are thought to be better. The former assumption, I believe is always sound; the latter is just as certainly false.

For if experience teaches us anything at all it teaches us this: that a good politician, under democracy, is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.”

We have just eight months to “turn out the bad” and “put in the better” – praying all the while that we avoid electing the sort of burglars we’ve historically put in office.

Following issues and candidates.

With the Orange County Register taking a sharp turn to the left, doubling subscription rates, blocking many readers by jamming a paywall between them and the news and abandoning anything that looks like hard news, Brea voters will need to get their facts from other sources.

Rejecting the status quo American politics.

Just because it’s been that way forever doesn’t mean it has to stay that way forever. Brea Matters will be doing our best to keep up with the important issues, pointing the finger at those deserving close scrutiny and shining the light on those deserving of support.

You can join in, reading Brea Matters regularly, commenting (which adds breadth and fresh insights to our content) and encouraging your friends and neighbors to do the same.

 

Legal Tactics Called Bait And Switch.

The 10/27/2013 Orange County Register, under “Our Town – Brea,” published the following: (Reprinted here because many of you object to the OCR’s paywall which blocks you from reading articles via links shared here and elsewhere.)

Amicus brief: Ballotpedia, a non-profit group that disseminates information on elections, and California Aware, which tries to improve agencies’ adherence to laws, have filed an amicus brief supporting ex-Councilman Steven Vargas in a court case against Brea over the validity of City Council authored rebuttals to 2012’s Measures T and U.”

What is an Amicus Brief?

Lady-JusticeAmicus Curiae, “… a phrase that literally means “friend of the court” — someone who is not a party to the litigation, but who believes that the court’s decision may affect its interest.” – William H. Rehnquist.

Ballotpedia and Californians Aware believe they are effected by the court’s decision and have filed an Amicus Brief, formal arguments with the court.  The decision on whether to admit the information lies at the discretion of the court.

I believe the brief presents a strong defense of the claims made in the litigation by Vargas. Clearly, the City ignored the letter informing them of their error and chose instead to disregard the law and bear the costs of the litigation that followed.  The whole matter could have been handled, without heavy legal fees, simply by adhering to the law when their error was brought to their attention.

Amicus Brief’s Conclusion.

You can read/download the full Amicus Brief here, or be satisfied by reading it’s concluding content.

“The fact that one of the present measures involved caps to the bait and switchers’ own salaries should raise an eyebrow of skepticism regarding any actions not completely compliant with the Elections Code. The City of Brea whether honest or nefarious in its mistake should not be permitted to swap signatories after the review and challenge period passed.

This Court must ensure that all entities play by the rules as clearly laid out in the Elections Code.  Section 9283 is crystal clear that the ballot arguments need to be signed by whoever authored them and § 9295 provides the only means to correct a ballot argument during the review period.  This was not followed by Respondents and this Court cannot allow a City to follow a different set of rules.

For the foregoing reasons, Amicus respectfully requests that the decision of the Court below be reversed in a published opinion that clearly holds a City is beholden to the exact same set of ballot argument requirements as every other person or entity.  Amicus requests that the City’s signature box bait and switch is not allowed.”

Throwing good money after bad.

tim_2aMy last blog post, Legal Fees Or Legal Fiasco? (scroll down), will give you a perspective on the $154,000 O’Donnell has paid Markman’s firm and how outrageous these fees are in relationship to the work provided.

At a recent Council meeting, Brea resident Don Parker, made a reference to the City of Bell that drew a heated critical response from Markman.

jmarkman_bContrary to the rules governing conducting of public meetings, our City Attorney was neither asked for, nor did he offer a legal opinion.

Pretending he was the 7th member of Council, he blurted out a personal opinion that has no business being expressed while he was involved in the performance of his duties.

Whether discussing the recent unapproved spending of millions of dollars on water shares, the unsanctioned spending of public funds for private travel, the unchecked and rapidly escalating legal costs incurred to cover up a violation of the Election Code, the inadvertent approval of raises Council gave themselves or the brazen disregard for the law that resulted in a member of Council receiving a $2,000 fine from the FPPC for violation of Election law… the common thread is quite apparent.

RRizzoThe loose management style relied upon to run the city, compounded by the obvious lack of transparency and a history for sweeping matters under the carpet, leaves Brea susceptible to the same abuse of power and authority that led to the disaster in Bell.

Is Brea another Bell on the way to happen?

I’m not suggesting that anyone is currently engaged in illegal activities.  I’m saying that the door has been left ajar and that opportunities are ripe for an unscrupulous individual or group to get away with serious larceny.

We need to replace Brea’s less than thorough policies and management guidelines with a set of rules ensuring that opportunities for corrupt activities is virtually zero.