Is There Corruption in Beaumont?

Does the city of Beaumont have corruption? I don’t know for sure.  I hear a lot of talk and the audit information coming from Libi seems to indicate we need to take a closer look at our city’s finance.

There've been a lot of personal attacks made against Libi, but not one Patch commenter, City Council Member, local press representative, city manager, Urban Logic Principal (aka. The Directors of Planning, Public Works, and Economic Development Departmen) has disputed a single fact, or at least in a coherent way. Considering what the audits may reveal and the serious questions being raised, if you were a city council member, wouldn’t you want someone to dispute, in public, the audit and back it up with city documentation. Why isn't this happening?

Most people I talk to believe there is corruption at every level of government. I have been following the audits by Libi and I’ve looked at some of the spreadsheets with the supporting data. I can’t point to corruption because I don’t know what to look for. I’ve seen numbers and account descriptions that have me concerned but, on paper, I probably wouldn’t know corruption by staring at the figures.

I try to watch closely the elected officials. I note their actions, reactions and non-actions to determine if there is corruption.

Here’s what I see…

I see a city management contract beginning 20 years ago with an out of town consulting firm, Urban Logic, it hasn’t been renegotiated in 19 years. The contract pays Urban Logic a percentage of public projects in the city of Beaumont. This includes bridges, water treatment plants, and state highway interchanges.

I see our city council members being provided advice and recommendations on projects in which their advisors' have a personal financial interest.

I see council members voting on items in the consensus agenda with no interest to take out for discussion; items that deserve at least a little discussion.

Is any of this illegal? - Probably not.

Does this indicate corruption? - No.

But, it’s wrong, if not ethically, definitely on an economic level.

20 years and 30,000 people ago, this contract might have been a good deal for Beaumont. The city wanted the growth and lacked the sophistication to do it themselves. They probably didn't have the money to hire individual department heads and a commission based solution with a consulting firm might have been prudent.

But according to our mayor we have the money now and, I believe, we have the sophistication to move to the next phase in our growth. Urban Logic is focused on a heavy transportation infrastructure and plans to make Beaumont a major regional warehouse distribution center. Our city council is focused on the distribution centers but they also want to see thousands more new homes built before the local jobs and infrastructure are devloped enough to support the existing citizens. Most people I’ve talked to want to see something different.

With the amount of money we are paying for Urban Logic’s services, we could hire proven individual department heads and pay them a respectable salary. In the last few years Urban Logic earned $6 million in mitigation fees for the Potrero interchange alone. It seems we could pay significantly less to administrators with no financil interests and still offer a high enough compensation package to attract candidates with proven success.

I would focus on administrators from cities that have had significant population growth. We should look for administrators who focus on long term local jobs, street repair, and other general services to support an existing population before bringing in a new 30,000 people. I don’t know enough to argue that our current department heads might not be the best individual to run their departments in Beaumont; I would encourage them to apply. But I think if we want to change the direction we are headed, or even have a say in what Beaumont looks like in 5, 10, 20 years, we need to move to a management model where our department heads don’t have a mutual financial incentive in the projects they are recommending. We need administrators whose incentive would be to build the kind of city in which they would want to raise their own families.

I don’t know if any positive action will come out of the audits or any investigations but, I know if Beaumont citizens aren’t interested in what’s happening to our resources or, they are not willing to demand transparency and accountability from our city council, no federal or state authority is ever going to investigate.

Our council members and mayor need to prove to us they understand the financial state of the city well enough to answer a direct question about the reserves they boasts as a key indicator of the success of the city under their watch. When I asked the mayor to tell me if the $10 million the city manager has planned for the construction of the first phase of the Trucking Interchange was included in the Mayor’s $11 million reserves, he said he would have staff get back to me.

I learned in a later council meeting that the mayor's reserves represented the city's assets minus liabilities. The city manager told the council that the $10m for the bridge is not part of the reserves. I'm not an accountant but something just doesn't sound right. Shouldn't the $10m be on the city's books somewhere? An asset or a liability? If it is, then it does affect the mayor's reserves.

Eventually, if there is corruption and is bad enough to get citizens upset enough, it will all come out, one way or another. That will take a long time. What do we do in the meantime? 

Go to city council meetings and ask for answers. Take a look at the streets we drive every day in Beaumont. Is Beaumont Ave, Cherry Valley Ave, 6th street, San Timoteo Canyon, Brookside Ave, Highland Springs and  Oak Valley in good repair and safe? If not, why not? What has happened to the gas tax portion that goes to cities for repairs? With $11 million in reserves, how come some of the gas tax isn't going to repair roads. Find out for yourself what the real water issues are about. Go to water board meetings.

In my opinion the city is headed in the wrong direction. A number of people like to accuse me of just complaining. But I go to meetings, I do research, propose solutions and try to inform others. I haven't heard any of these accusers argue that we are headed in the right direction. I don't hear any of them argue for more warehouses and more trucks. Unless they want to argue a position or put forth a solution, they aren't contributing to the discussion and should stop wasting everyone's time. Stop attacking people who aren't hiding behind aliases and who are trying to wake up others to action. If you think this is all just complaining, what point is there for you to even waste your time, you aren't contributing . Bury your head in your personal lives, something you have every right to do, and ignore what is happening to your city and you will get the environment and warehouses you deserve.

As long as citizens aren't aware of what's happening, nothing is going to change. In a few years, when it's too late, people in Beaumont are going to wake up and ask why we have so many trucks on our roads and what ever happened to the council's promise of more shops, movie theaters and restaurants. We need to make citizens more aware. If you support the actions of the city council then come out from behind your aliases and stand up in support of Mayor Berg and the others. If not, then either help us get the word out or get out of the way.