Put The Cookies Back!

Local media fans the flames.

Thursday’s Star Progress had an article by OCR writer Doug Morino with the headline, “Last year’s city trip to Asia still a hot topic.” — yeah, and it’s about to get even hotter.

The article begins, “Brea leaders are once again catching fire for their traveling ways.  First, the heat came from a few residents (cough, cough…).  Now, it’s coming from one of their own.  Councilman Marty Simonoff said he wants to take a deeper look at how the city’s travel budget is allocated and how public funds were spent during a trip last year by city officials to Korea and Japan.”

Better late than never.

cookie-jarBless you Marty for finally jumping in, but I’m afraid I have to take a different view of this…  it’s not time to focus on the minutia.  Getting mired down in the trivialities of the trip will not address the real issue.

The bottom line is that Schweitzer, Murdock and O’Donnell appear to have gotten caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

It’s time to stop all of the muddling around spreading half truths, in an attempt to cloud the real issue, too much time has been wasted already trying to make this junket appear to be something it wasn’t… official anything.

cookie-2It doesn’t matter if the cookies were chocolate chip, oatmeal or peanut butter.  They weren’t for the taking.  It’s time to man up.

You can’t just help yourself to what isn’t yours without expecting to pay the consequences when you’re caught.  Extremely poor choices were made, they come with a price.

In this case there may very well be a law against stupid.

 Is travel the issue?

cookie-3

Not completely, no.  There are historically legitimate reasons that require Council and staff to travel.  At least that’s what we’re being told.  A discussion about which organizations make sense for Brea to join and which don’t should also go on the agenda.  Could be some real savings lurking here.

I’m talking about National League of Cities, League of California Cities, the Energy Coalition and the like.  I’m still trying to figure out how Breans have directly benefitted from the city’s involvement in these and other dubious organizations, but that’s not the issue at the moment.

Who’s business was it… really?

cookie-1This whole debacle began when the Mayor inappropriately intruded into the business of a private organization over which the city has never had any authority beyond a minor ceremonial role.  How the BSCA and BKSCA choose to settle their differences is their business.

When Mr. Park, Anseong Mayor Hwang’s emissary, came calling, Don Schweitzer should have politely directed him to share his concerns with these organizations.  Instead Schweitzer butted in like we were on the brink of some international crisis.

The pool boy wades in.

liar-liarIt’s even more ludicrous that, according to the article, “Murdock fired back at Simonoff, calling his inquiry into the Asia trip a type of politically-motivated vendetta aimed at shifting attention from other civic issues.”

Hogwash.

I don’t believe that any more than I believe Brett Murdock is, as he has so loudly suggested, the leading knight on a white horse trying to solve Brea’s unfunded pension liability.  What a ridiculous claim to make.

It’s on the agenda now.

I’m glad to see that the Mayor reversed his denial and is now allowing the discussion to occur.  Sadly, it’s slated for the study session on June 4th which means it’s at a time and place where the public isn’t likely to be free to attend and unfortunately will not get to hear a full report on the conversation.

Have the courage to take it downstairs!

With the whole matter blowing up as it has in the media weeks in advance, and with the unsubstantiated personal attacks being leveled to further keep the truth from seeing the full light of day, I’m curious to see what sort of preemptive strikes might be made when Council meets next week (05/21).

This would almost be funny if it wasn’t so sad and embarrassing.

 

Brea Measures T And U

Update 10/16/12: In what appears to be a bit of collusion, Chamber CEO Sharon Wagoner has issued a statement regarding these measures, with complete disregard for Chamber tradition and policy. Read “The Devil’s In The Details.” to get the details!

Adding insult to injury, it seems Chamber Chair Dave Rader and some members of city staff are forwarding the dubious propaganda… and it’s coming out from city hall using city email addresses. Aren’t there laws about things like that? Since when did city staff wade in on politics” In the six years I was “on the inside” I was reminded many times that staff couldn’t respond to political matters, and especially took no position on anyone running for Council.

Right. Are you kidding me? Could it be any more obvious that staff is scared spitless about who they might be working for in December. So much for not wading in.

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The Brea Chamber’s annual forum to meet the candidates… and issues, has just signed off. While I would love to jump in and provide the Brea Matters perspective on the candidates, the questions and answers, I’ll save that for another day.

I’m still reeling from the presentations by MPT Murdock, speaking in opposition to Measures T and U and Glenn Vodhanel, speaking in support of the measures.

Relying almost exclusively on character assassination as his principal argument against these measures, the stock approach from the city since day one, Mr. Murdock succeeded in making himself the poster boy for why Brea voters should vote yes on both measures T and U.

Seeking to expose the “devil in the details,” Mr. Murdock cited one unsubstantiated fact after another… all with that childish grin pasted across his face. No matter how many times you repeat yourself Mr. Murdock, untruth remains untruth.  This continued dissemination of misinformation only reinforces why supporting accountability and open governance is simply the right thing to do.

Pointing out that you’re joined by Lynn Daucher, John Beauman, Bev Perry, Glenn Parker, Wayne Wedin, Rex Gaede and a “host of former Brea leaders” fails miserably to convince me or any other intelligent voter to support your lost cause.

On the other hand, Mr. Vodhanel, unruffled by your irrational personal attack, calmly and clearly described each measure in simple, understandable terms — allowing each voter to come to their own conclusion and cast their ballot as they see fit.

I won’t attempt to summarize or paraphrase Mr. Vodhanel’s statements in favor of Measures T and U. Here is the transcript of Mr. Vodhanel’s presentation, I’ll let Brea’s voters decide.

Measure T – The Brea Accountability Act

Measure T was designed to curb the growing cost of government in Brea. Both Measure T and Measure U are on the ballot thanks to over 6,000 voter signatures that clearly support their necessity.

Measure T imposes limits on staff compensation, particularly highly paid executive staff.  Measure T does not impact those currently working for the city but provides assurances that city executives making over two hundred thousand dollars a year will be a thing of the past.

Public employee compensation and pension reform are two of the most pressing issues because they are two of the greatest budget threats at all levels of government. Maintaining a balanced budget demands that these matters are not shoved under the carpet any longer.

Measure T imposes limits on council perks, like the $32,000 annual travel budget that paid for Mayor Schweitzer, Mayor Pro Tem Murdock and City Manager O’Donnell’s holiday junket to Korea and Japan.  Taxpayer’s should not have to pay for unwarranted foreign travel.

[ Editor’s Note: While our Sister City programs have provided opportunities for cultural exchange, they should be self-sustaining rather than a continual drain on the city budget. Many of Brea’s community services are required to achieve some level of revenue recovery. This means that, to some extent, they pay for themselves.  Sister Cities should be a financially independent endeavor.]

Measure T imposes caps on council salaries and benefits, keeping them compliant with state guidelines and consistent with other part time employees.  No longer will council, willfully or accidentally, vote themselves raises or retroactive bonuses of several thousand dollars each!

This past year we witnessed a fiasco where council took over six months to correct their error while local newspapers made a laughing stock of our city. Such poor judgment should not be tolerated again. Holding council accountable for these decisions, requiring them to exert reasonable oversight for the benefit of Brea residents, only makes perfect sense.

Measure T is designed to curb rising costs that have escalated without restraint, and without voter approval.

It’s your money.  It’s your city.  It’s time to send a message to city hall to just say no to frivolous expenses and to start living within their means.  It’s very clear city hall is taking a hard line stance against Measure T!  Ask yourself why your city council is opposed to accountability?

Measure T was created to establish reasonable spending limits and to reduce the rising cost of local government. You pay the taxes. You make the rules.  You can do your part to make a better Brea by voting YES on Measure T.

Measure U – The Brea Open Governance Act

Measure U was designed to ensure that cities conduct their business in full view and with full participation of their residents. It adds requirements to Brea’s municipal code that enhance those currently found in the Public Records Act, the Brown Act and the State Constitution.

Sadly, a law The Brown Act was enacted in 1952 to prohibit secret meetings of official bodies, except under the most exceptional circumstances, shouldn’t be necessary. But apparently it is. That is why.

Measure U, in part, expands the Brown Act’s open meeting requirements by requiring that study sessions, like council meetings, be recorded and played back on the public access channel. This is particularly important as study sessions are typically held at times inconvenient for residents to attend.

As much of the city’s business is conducted in study sessions, it is especially important to give residents full view of those meetings.

Measure U also creates expanded guidelines regarding the access and availability of a wider range of records to the inquiring public. Measure U sets a higher benchmark for electronic requests and responses.

Thankfully, since the initiative process began nearly two years ago, the city recognized the handwriting on the wall and has implemented some of what Measure U set out to accomplish. Some, but not all.

Without Measure U putting into law the requirements to maintain and expand this system, the door would be left open for future councils to reverse the whole process.

Contrary to what city hall has suggested regarding greater costs, staff burdens and technology constraints, they have already proven that the system works, that it saves time and money and better serves the public for which it was designed.

Measure U will provide Brea residents with a greater opportunity to follow and participate in local government.

Measure U helps to streamline access to public records and increases the types of records to be kept in electronic format. Making these records available through the city’s website promotes the sort of self-search for which the internet was designed.

It’s your city.  It’s your government.  It’s your right to know what’s going on in city hall and to have a say in the process as well.  You can do your part to make a better Brea by voting YES on Measure U.

Please, join those who love Brea and vote YES on measures T and U.  Let’s promote open and transparent government for a better Brea.

 

Read.  Register.  Vote.

(The forum, in it’s entirety, will be playing on Time Warner public access channel 3 daily, following the Council meeting, at 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.)