A Sensible Future for Californians

Americans are being pushed apart by pundits and politicians who don’t really care about us.  It is time to remember that most Americans share the same ideals and dreams. All of us share a common destiny.  As Ben Franklin said during the Revolution, “We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Both political parties bear responsibility for the divisive trend, but as an old-school Republican, I acknowledge that my own party has lost its way in determining the future of California.  To some, our state’s 2018 election represented a final nail in the GOP coffin. This may prove true, but I'm not ready to abandon the ship. Republicans still have valuable ideas to contribute -- ideas that can help Californians of every race, religion, gender, and income level.

Traditionally, California Republicans focused on helping all people by promoting individual freedom and responsibility, economic opportunity, sound fiscal policy, and cost-effective government.  

We believed in helping people lift themselves out of poverty by providing world-class education and ensuring a level playing field. We stood for giving people the freedom to run their own lives and businesses without undue government interference.

In the 1980 debate during  the primaries between Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, it was evident Republicans were pro-immigration, welcoming responsible people from all over the world who sought to live the American Dream. These people were secure knowing they would not be persecuted, and they built strong families and vibrant neighborhoods.

I believe an old-fashioned Republican can contribute in California today -- through honesty and optimism, common-sense solutions to real problems, and unifying Americans, rather than pointing fingers at others.

Most Americans can find value in these ideals. The truth is, the California GOP lost sight of its primary mission:  To serve constituents. Ultimately, the party tried to force voters to buy things that most people don’t want to buy.

In a recent poll, voters were asked whether they considered immigrants “a benefit to California because of their hard work and job skills,” or “a burden…because they use public services.”  The question didn’t specify legal or undocumented. Among Republicans, 55% considered immigrants a burden. But 83% of Democrats and 73% of Independents judged them a benefit.

The California GOP lost relevance because of a doctrinaire message and obsolete agenda that particularly makes many women, minorities, and young people feel unwelcome.  These people should be the lifeblood of today’s party, but they gravitated to Democrats as the sole alternative, and today they have a stranglehold on state politics.

But there is danger for everyone in this situation.  Without the essential checks and balances of a balanced two-party system, California is tilting toward dysfunction.  Politicians cater to special interests, and are unable to develop real solutions for affordable housing, efficient transportation, and premier public education.

I believe that all Californians are tired of divisive politics.  We are sick of seeing proposals which serve influential campaign donors, but not average people.  We all want to restore balance in government -- and we want our elected leaders, regardless of party, to work together and compromise on bipartisan solutions that will last.

President Trump will be with us for at least another two years.  Members of both parties must dispense with the same old talking points, and cooperate on smart, fair reforms on immigration, trade, and healthcare.  We need efficient transportation, reliable water supplies, and affordable housing. We need state leaders to stop wasting the people’s assets -- our time, our energy, and our tax dollars -- talking about email servers, impeachment, and the latest minor scandal.

If you agree, tell your representatives to stop spending time tweeting adolescent insults -- or responding to divisive tweets.  There are selfish people on both sides of the aisle, dividing the nation with every tweet, social media post, and blog entry.  Tell your elected leaders you don’t want them to follow. You want them to lead.

Beaumont's Future is Bright

Beaumont’s future is the brightest it has been in years.  With the illegal activity and red ink behind us, we now have an honest, stable government which is attracting more new businesses, and generating more local jobs.  

Check out what’s happening in Beaumont.

Beaumont Economic Development Video

In 2014 the voters of Beaumont, honored me with your trust. 

Your new team of representatives immediately began to uncover the City's true financial condition.  This resulted in search warrants, arrests, convictions, and, finally, cash repayments to our citizens. 

Since then...

* We successfully battled a $43 million judgement related to the Western Riverside Council of Governments (WRCOG), which had threatened to bankrupt Beaumont

* We eliminated deficit spending.

* We replaced all upper-level Beaumont employees, improving the quality and efficiency of civic operations. 

* We lowered Mello-Roos (CFD) payments by over $4 million, ending unnecessary expenses for 88% of homeowners in M-R developments. 

* After our WRCOG success, the City began receiving sales tax dollars for road repairs, and we established Beaumont’s first-ever street maintenance team.  We have launched an aggressive five-year plan to repair all the city's major thoroughfares. 

We have assembled an outstanding team, both on the City Council and among the staff members who serve Beaumont residents.  

However, there is still much work left to repair the damage done over past decades.  I am asking you, my neighbors, to grant me the privilege of continuing to serve our community, and finish what the voters started four years ago.

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What Do YOU want for beaumont's future?

The City Council is a little more than half way through a two-year process to update the city's general plan. The general plan is a guide for growth and land development for Beaumont, for both the current period and the long term. The plan addresses important community issues such as new growth, housing needs and environmental protection. Every county and city in California is required by state law to have a General Plan, and the plan is required to be up to date. Beaumont's last update is more than 10 years old.

We created a task force made up of community members and stakeholders. We've conducted community meetings, workshops, and online surveys. Last month we held a General Plan community meeting where two general concerns were repeatedly expressed during public comments. The first was about losing our small-town feel. The second was about balancing home development with adequate infrastructure. For most Beaumont citizens I’ve spoken to, these are two of the most common concerns.

I moved to Beaumont because I found a home that met my family’s needs and was more affordable than ones closer to my work. I was attracted by a small-town feel, recreational opportunities for my kids, and good schools. I knew, in the short term, I would be driving to Redlands or the desert for shopping, dining and entertainment but I believed the promise of more retail, restaurants and entertainment that the City of Beaumont’s website promised. The recession of 2008 followed a couple years after I moved here and economic development came to a halt.

In 2014, I was elected to the Council the worst of my fears were confirmed. We learned of our true financial condition and it became clear the infrastructure necessary to support future economic development would once again be put on hold. Now, three years later we are rebuilding our financial future and we are beginning to address our infrastructure needs. The WRCOG settlement has enabled the city to direct more resources towards infrastructure but there is still a long way to go.

We know our community wants to maintain the opens spaces and small-town feel that we all moved here for but we also realize our community needs more infrastructure just to catch up. Now we need to plan for investments into the infrastructure we need and at the same time we want to preserve the open spaces and small-town feel? The council members know the community wants to see more retail and entertainment businesses instead of more dollar stores and auto parts stores. How do we attract the businesses we now drive to Redlands and the Coachella Valley for? How do we bring businesses that will employ our residents and transform Beaumont from a bedroom community to a self-sustaining city?

After I was elected to the City Council, I reached out to Costco, Target, movie chains and dining establishments to find out what we need to do to attract their business. There is one common answer, more rooftops. The residents we have here now aren’t enough, they are more interested in the potential future market? They need to know what is Beaumont’s plan for growth?

A city's two primary sources of revenues for funding operations and providing the services our citizens need, are property and sales taxes. We will need to upgrade our infrastructure and grow our population to attract the businesses and home owners we need to grow our annual sales and property tax revenues.

We could design a general plan that discouraged home development but we wouldn't be able to fund our infrastructure needs. With insufficient infrastructure and no future growth potential, Beaumont will no longer be the place young families and retiring seniors will want to move. This will have a negative impact on home values, the most significant investment most of us have made in our family’s future.

The Council understands the importance of our decision and we take our responsibility seriously. We have authorized moving forward with an environmental impact report, EIR, that will provide us guidance towards responsible growth. We are seeking guidance from our community on what balanced growth they want for Beaumont’s future. There will be more public hearings and council meetings to voice your opinion. Please contact City staff or a council member to make sure you don’t miss your opportunities to voice your opinion and be a part of the planning process.

This Beaumont City Council is Honoring our Commitment

In May of 2015, from the findings of an independent audit the new council ordered immediately after taking office, we learned the city’s reserves were gone. Were they stolen, embezzled, misappropriated, or all of the above? The city’s financial director, William Aylward, resigned days before the independent audit was to be released to the public. In December 2017, he was one of the 6 Beaumont officials to have plead guilty to committing a felony. Aylward had not been following sound accounting policies and his records would be incomplete at best. Our problem was that many of the records he and Kapanicas would have kept were in the hands of the DA. We feared we would soon be facing bankruptcy.

The mismanagement by previous councils and Kapanicas resulted in awarding lucrative, non-competitive contracts to Urban Logic Consultants whose principals are also now admitted felons. Decisions made by Kapanicas, with direction from the City Council, were putting the interests of Kapanicas and ULC ahead of the citizens of Beaumont. While other cities were cutting staff and services during the 2008 recession, Kapanicas was boasting that City of Beaumont was the only city not laying off employees. He convinced council to spend more than a quarter of a million dollars year after year for summer concerts even though reserves were being used to hide deficit spending. Annual deficits were in the millions during Kapanicas’ final years.

There have been repeated claims by Elizabeth Libi Uremovic of hundreds of millions of dollars stolen from the citizens of Beaumont, this is not true. I addressed this in a post on my OurFocusOurKids.com blog $400 MIL MISSING - $350 MIL EMBEZZLED FROM CFD BONDS. Claims have also been made that the principals of Urban Logic, Dillon, Eggers, and Moorjani, along with help from Kapanicas, stole $42 million from the citizens of Beaumont. Some would have you believe they took the $42 million in TUMF monies loaded it in a truck and drove it out of town.  This perception is inaccurate, it arises from a misconception about the basis for the criminal charges that resulted in conviction of the former principals of Urban Logic Consultants.

The main thrust of the charges filed by the DA against Dillon, Egger and Moorjani were as follows:

The city was a voluntary member of WRCOG (Western Riverside Council of Government) which with the passage of Measure A, voters had authorized to establish a TUMF (Transportation Uniform Mitigation Fee) program to address the need for regional transportation infrastructure. This was a voluntary program but a city had to join in order to receive the Measure A 1/2 cent sales tax revenue. Beaumont's council decided to participate and adopted a TUMF ordinance requiring TUMF funds to be collected from developers and remitted to WRCOG to pay for regional transportation projects. ULC principals knew the TUMF program would result in other engineering firms competitively bidding for design and management of regional projects. if the city retained control of the projects, ULC's contract with Beaumont guaranteed they would earn up to 9% of the project costs. ULC principals‎ used their positions as city officials to influence the city to divert TUMF money away from WRCOG to local city projects and their firm received millions. 

Influencing decisions where ULC had a financial interest, violated govt code section 1090, this is what the ULC principals were convicted of. The criminal defendants have been ordered to collectively pay about $11.2 million in restitution. In addition, the city has pending lawsuits against Urban Logic Consultants and also the former City Attorney. We also have a $15 million claim against the city's theft and dishonest insurance policy and are working on additional possible claims against other parties that we cannot discuss at this time.

Our agreement with WRCOG requires the first $9 million we receive in loss recovery from the criminal defendants, lawsuits and other claims, be submitted to WRCOG and credited towards settling our debt. After that amount was reached, we began sharing in future loss recovery dollars. However, if we had not been able to meet the minimum $9 million requirement within 5 years, we would have to begin paying a guaranteed amount.

Some have criticized the DA and the City for settling for too little. The DA recognizes no criminal trial presented to a jury is a sure thing. Even if you prevail, it could be years before the city or WRCOG would see any of the funds. The plea deals reached between the DA and the convicted felons resulted in their restitution coming from cash and assets already frozen by the court, meaning a shorter recovery time. As a result of the plea bargains, the guarantee of the first $9 million of loss recovery has been met and nothing will be paid out of Beaumont's general fund. Protecting the general fund was a primary goal of the city council.

Now, almost three years after we discovered the true financial position of the city, there still is no clear answer to what happened to all of the money. We know much of it found its way into Urban Logic's profits through non-competitive contracts and inflated fees. We know ULC principals‎ used their positions as city officials to influence the city to divert TUMF money away from WRCOG to local city projects and their firm received millions because they admitted to it in their statements to the court. We know Aylward and Kapanicas helped by misappropriating and embezzling the funds to ULC because the admitted to it in their statements as part of their plea deals. Can we quantify the amount misappropriated? No. 

Every time the council makes decisions resulting in significant costs, decisions other cities make on a routine basis, we realize we are going to hear, "Why don't you go get more of the funds stolen by Kapanicas and the gang before asking more from the tax payers?". I want to assure our citizens we are doing everything we can to recoup our losses but we will never be able to make the city completely whole, even if we were able to quantify the financial damage caused by our predecessors.

We will do our best to continue to move our city forward which means making necessary, and often unpopular, decisions. Each of us made a commitment when we volunteered to serve our community to always put the interest of our city above the interests of all others. This Beaumont City Council is honoring its commitment.