Punxsutawney John Caught Red Handed.

In a recent Brea Net (#629), Councilman Roy Moore’s newsletter, fed up with the misinformation and outright lying that has once again contaminated the political process here in Brea, Roy calls a spade a spade. Here’s what Roy had to say…

“Former city council member John Beauman chipped in his opinion on Measurers T and U.  In his September 26, 2012 blog he accused former city council member and current city council candidate Steve Vargas of  ‘… costing the City legal fees in the tens of thousands of dollars.’  He added, “After a lengthy and thorough legal investigation, no evidence was fold (Sp?) to substantiate his claims.

This statement is false.  I reported on this topic in my newsletters 160 and 161, dated July 17, 2002 and July 25, 2002 respectively.  Council member Vargas believed the City Council was breaking the Brown Act via email and requested copies of all emails between council members for the past year.  When informed that this action would be costly he agreed to three months of emails.  As pointed out in newsletter 161, ‘Prior to submittal a staff member of the law firm Richard, Watson and Gershon will review the emails.  The review will be done on the City’s retainer and will not incur additional cost.’  No law suit and no expenditure of tens of thousands of dollars.  Mr. Beauman should apologize to Mr. Vargas.”

Punxsutawney John Fires Back!

And here is how Punxsutawney John chose to do damage control, having been caught red-handed twisting the truth to fit his warped perspective of history.

He buried this in the middle of his hardly readable blog post hoping no one would notice.

“Councilman Roy Moore claimed the effort didn’t cost the City anything. Acutally, the hours spent in the effort were recorded and charged against the City’s legal retainer. So, the City was charged legal fees but they were applied against the City’s retainer with the City Attorney’s firm. Staff hours were expended on the effort, but were absorbed into the City’s payroll.”

You and O’Donnell can’t have your cake and eat it too, Punxsutawney John.

You can’t one day choose to bury expenses by ascribing them to overhead, calling them “soft costs” so it appears that you’re fiscally responsible (when you’re not), then choose to single out similar expenses characterizing them as an egregious waste of public funds.

Listen Punxsutawney John, if you’re going to cut-and-paste from some cover-your-butt worksheet one of your undercover cohorts has prepared for you, here’s a couple of suggestions.

First, run spellcheck and have someone with half a brain look over the grammar. I’ve read more compelling papers with far fewer mistakes from high school seniors.

Second, when you cut-and-paste from an incompatible document format into your blog or email, remember to remove the artifact “&apos” as most savvy folks recognize that as cyber-shorthand for Annoying Piece of Sh*t.

Time to man up Punxsutawney John, assuming you have the strength of character to carry it off.

Apologize to Mr. Vargas and Mr. Vodhanel… and then disappear at least until next Spring.

Tilting At Windmills

If you missed the emergency meeting of the City Council at 11:30 Tuesday morning, you’re in the vast majority. The third floor conference room was virtually empty. Three residents, a handful of staff (hopefully on their lunch break with nothing better to do), the City Manager, the City Attorney, The City Clerk and four out of five Council members was about it.

What was so important?

Arguments for and against the two citizen supported initiatives on the November ballot had to be filed no later than 5:30 that evening. Mayor Schweitzer and Mayor Pro Tem Murdock called the meeting to seek Council approval on the arguments they had written opposing the “Brea Accountability Act” and the “Brea Open Governance Act” but oops… once again they had the cart before the horse.

The sharp eye of our City Clerk, Cheryl Balz, discovered that, before anything could be written, Council had to formerly delegate the task — which it had never done. City Attorney, Jim Markman, took blame for the oversight and Council set about fixing their blunder.

But first, Matters from the audience.

Up strode Mr. Glenn Vodhanel. Having somehow become the recipient of the rough drafts by Schweitzer and Murdock, he was justifiably livid… but calmly leveled over a dozen succinct questions at Council regarding the content of the drafts — none the least of which was to challenge the pointed attempt to use character assassination to attack the credibility of the measures. Obviously pointing the poison pen at Mr. Vodhanel, the drafts suggested him as the sole source of the challenge to the status quo and described his work as the “spiteful effort of a single individual.”

Really? Did they overlook the fact that several thousand registered Brea voters, almost as many as voted in the last election, felt these matters were worth consideration?

Really? They felt that this sort of childish retribution best represented Council’s position on these initiatives?

And, as Mr. Vodhanel returned to his seat, the only response was the Mayor’s angry retort, “Where did you get access to [private] counsel documents?” Mr. Vodhanel appropriately declined to answer.

The Mayor then made inquiry of the City Attorney on the matter and was reminded that he needed to conclude Matters from the Audience before asking questions. Oops again.

The only other person to speak, Keith Fullington, was quick to remind Council that what he had just witnessed more than justified considering the Open Governance Act.

Cleaning up their act.

To handle the necessary housekeeping, a motion was made by MPT Murdoch to delegate the writing of the arguments (and rebuttals if necessary). This was followed by a painfully long silence. With crossed fingers, I hoped the motion would fail due to lack of second.

Then Councilman Garcia muttered his second and the fireworks went off a day early.

Roy Moore, after getting clarification from Mr. Markman that delegating the task meant also giving up his right to review and approve the language, said that he was not at all comfortable with this approach. No other discussion followed and, as we’ve grown accustomed to seeing time and time again, Schweitzer, Murdock and Garcia lined up in favor of the motion and Roy Moore abstained. (Note: Councilman Simonoff was out of town on business and unable to attend. I can’t imagine he would have been any happier about this turn of events than was Councilman Moore.)

With most of the mess carefully swept under the rug, and with no further legal or compelling reason to even acknowledge that draft arguments had been written and circulated to Council the week prior (can you say Brown Act violation?), Mayor Schweitzer quickly adjourned the meeting and everyone scattered like rats leaving a sinking ship.

So, where do we go from here?

Within the next few days final arguments for and against the initiatives, as well as Mr. Markman’s “Impartial Analysis” of the measures will be posted on the city website. I’ve read these documents (I made specific request of the City Clerk to email them to me the moment they were part of the official public record) and you owe it to yourself to do the same.

Mr. Markman’s “impartial” analyses is loaded with the usual legalese and boilerplate language for which he is well known. He is quick to point out a couple of components as potentially not being legal, and clarifying why he felt they would be challenged should the measures pass in November. They’ll be challenged if for no other reason than the healthy legal fees that will be another windfall to his firm.

Here’s what I want you to do. Check the city website (if you have trouble, the City Clerk can be reached at (714) 990-7757), download and read all documents. C’mon, it will take the average reader less than twenty minutes to get through everything.

If it’s all clear to you and you find it easy to reach your own opinion on these matters, and I have no reason to think it wouldn’t be, vote.

Fewer than 25% of all registered Brea voters cast ballots in the last election. I know that you weren’t one of the slackers. Rock the vote in your neighborhood, will ya!

If you still have questions on these matters, talk to your friends and neighbors about it. Share what you know. Listen to what they have to say. I trust you’ll be able to reach a decision and I’m counting on you to vote on these initiatives in November.

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” ~ Generally attributed to Edmund Burke

The name’s Bond… RDA Bond.

All across the state, there is turmoil and confusion regarding the dissolution of Redevelopment Agencies. Brea is no exception. Except if you read the lead article in the current issue of BreaLine.

This 8 1/5 x 11 inch piece of real estate has become the number one launching pad for some of the most misleading, braggadocios and self serving “news” coming out of City Hall.

If you buy off on what staff writers pass off as journalism, our “… legacy of positive growth and significant infrastructure improvements is proof that redevelopment worked very well for Brea.”

There Have Been Benefits.

Hey, I’ll be the first to admit that a new high school, two fire stations, our civic and community centers and 750 new workforce housing units certainly benefit the community. I suppose the Brea Mall does as well.

These projects are a partial list and likely do not account for the majority of projects completed since the agency was founded in 1972. Oh, and before you start believing that “Brea was an early adopter” nonsense being spread around, The California Community Redevelopment Act was passed in 1945.

The passing of Prop 13 in 1978 firmly established the adversarial relationship between the state and cities, and it seems pretty clear that neither party is interested in mending fences… even if it could be paid for with future “tax increment.”

So What Is Tax Increment Anyway?

They toss this, and countless other cityspeak terms, around with apparently little or no interest in actually educating the general population. It’s not rocket science and it’s what’s saving our collective assets at the moment.

Simply put, when a redevelopment area is designated it’s property taxes are frozen at the current level. Then comes the fun part of floating bonds (federally insured), dreaming up projects (none of which actually get publicly approved), aggregating land (remember all the eminent domain battles), finding willing developers (eager to take advantage of the windfall) and painting intersections blue, turning abandoned railroad right-of-ways into trails and building a bigger better clubhouse on the old golf course.

Yeah, I’ll bet those projects are in perfect synch with redevelopment guidelines.

Poorly Written Legislation.  Surprise!

Unless there is better clarification in the law, successor agencies may be charged with meeting enforceable obligations entered into by the redevelopment agency as well as performing many other wind down functions. They will operate under Oversight Committees who will determine what will and will not move forward. It’s unclear what the full extent of Brea’s liabilities might ultimately be.

Statewide, for every $1 in revenue collected last year there was $18 of total indebtedness remaining. What’s the story here in Brea? Are our projects going to generate sufficient tax increment to keep us solvent? Anyone besides me interested in getting some answers in language we use every day? The career bureaucrats up in city hall need to remember that us folks out here on the street don’t speak gibberish.

Fast forward to today.

Yup, Brea’s RDA created almost $200 million in outstanding bond debt. Take that death grip off your wallet, it’s not up to you to pay it. Federally insured, remember? Tax increment, remember?

The mechanics for repayment should already be built into the process. Problem is, no one knows for sure. If they say they do, I’ll go out on a limb here, they’re lying.

Bond holders knew the risky nature of those tax free bonds. Real estate values could decline. Oops. Full tax increments may not be realized. Oops. Changes might occur in California law. Oops. Thanks Jerry.

Are The Skies Falling?

I think it’s very possible we may end up with a few orphaned projects. But Brea has always been good at sucking in unsuspecting developers, at holding their feet to the fire to milk projects for all they can get and in exchange maybe expediting a permit here and there or bumping up project density to help make projects pencil out.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that we launch into default panic.

But I do think it’s time for folks to step up and start asking the hard questions and demanding answers we can understand. Keep talkin’ that smack, keep printing that propaganda, and you’ll hear from us loud and clear come November.