I have sat back and stayed out of Beaumont City politics because I have focused on our school district. But, regardless of where the questions come from regarding the city's finances, I think we deserve answers. I applaud Libi for doing what she is doing.
Last year I tried getting answers from the school board's financial officer who has since resigned after he was suspended with pay. He is gone and no one on the outside knows why. There are rumors that it had to do with misappropriations of Measure Z funds but, for fear of a lawsuit, the district isn't talking. He put up every roadblock possible when I requested financial information and even had the rules changed to discourage and discredit me for asking. I am not an accountant and I don't vouch for Libi's credentials but she seems to know what she's talking about. If I knew half of what she does, I might have had better luck with our school district. I plan to attend the next meeting of the Measure Z Oversight committee to ask them if there is any truth to the rumors. Since they are an oversight committee, I can't imagine they will be able to dodge my questions.
You tell everyone to come to the council meetings to get their concerns addressed. But the city council has made it difficult for the average citizen to comment at your meetings. We are required to fill out a form to speak but then we have to wait until the end of the meeting to comment. The council members make their comments at the beginning of the meeting allowing them to avoid directly commenting on any citizen's concerns.You used to hold the public comment section at the beginning of the meetings and the council member responses at the end, making access to our elected officials easier.
Also, understand when the mayor's first response to a comment on the Patch is to check the phone book for a local address, can anyone blame a concerned citizen worrying about reprisals and using an alias? Don't bother looking my name up in the phone book, you know I live in Beaumont. It is interesting that you are so concerned about criticism coming from Beaumont residents but you don't have a problem with your campaign financing coming from outside Beaumont.
In my opinion, campaign financing is a right to free speech but I think we should all know who our elected officials are receiving campaign financing from. I'm not accusing anyone of doing anything wrong but we need to know our officials are making the best decisions for the community and not just rewarding campaign donors. Knowing campaign financial relationships to the individuals and companies our elected officials are awarding contracts to helps us all to be better informed voters.
On my website www.OurFocusOurKids.com I've created a section entitled "Show Me The Money" where I've done a complete study of the "local" political action committee Pass Area Families For Good Government and their contributors. I am also working on a page to detail the campaign financing for the school board which will be available by the end of this week.
Of the 23 contributions PAFFGG has received since 2007 only 4 have come from families or companies in Beaumont, and one from Banning, The Morongo Band of Indians. Two of the contributions from Beaumont were from Bogh Engineering and the other 2 were refunds from two of their candidates they prefiously supported; more than $5,000 was given back by Mr. DeForge alone. There are some smaller donations which don't require itemization but ithese make up a small percentage of the overall funds.
Before you question my facts, check out the "Show Me The Money" section on my website. I have created a page detailing PAFFGG's campaign financial records and have almost completed the complete study of the School Board members financial records. I've also provided links to every campaign finance form submitted since 2007. Pay special attention to PAFFGG's focus on the school board, it is clear the pac's large donors know who butters their bread.
Here are some of my findings:
Who is Pass Area Families For Good Government (PAFFGG)?
- Since 2007, PAFFGG received $76,206 from large contributors, those who gave more than $1,000 in a year.
- Of the 22 contributions greater than $1,000, only 4 were from contributors from Beaumont
- The four contributions from Beaumont came from Bogh Engineering or appeared to be reimbursement from election committees of unused PAFFGG donations from a previous election.
How does PAFFGG spend their money?
- Over the last two elections (2010, 2012) PAFFGG has contributed $57,852 to 20 candidates in Pass area races.
- 5 candidates for Beaumont Unified School District Board received almost 40% of the total contributions.
- Beaumont Unified School District Board Candidates received on average $4,494 while the 15 other candidates averaged $2,359 in PAFFGG contributions.
- 4 of 5 School Board members have received more than $5,000 from PAFFGG
Other funding sources for our school board members?
- If you include contributions from another political action committee, San Gorgonio Tax Payer Association, (entirely funded by Bogh Construction and funding one candidate's campaign) and contributions from the district's favorite architecture firm, 99% of all cmpaign financing for our sitting board members has come from people or organizations doing business with the district.
- Only $240 of our school board's campaign funding came from sources with no apparent ties to the district's vendors or contractors.
I plan to begin work on a similar study for the city council but I am finding it difficult to get electronic access to your form 460s. The county doesn't seem to have these digital records available but other cities in California have made them available on their city's website. Taxpayers and voters would appreciate it if you used some of our funds to provide transparency to your campaign finance. To charge me for copies of the paper documents, not only seems to be outdated, it also suggests there may be something to hide.
Mr. Berg, I have a question from a concerned citizen, me. I pay an additional $2,000 every year in property taxes specifically for city services which I believe includes the lighting of our streets. The street lights on Brookside Ave, from the I-10 freeway east to Beaumont Ave, have been out of service for nearly two years. I addressed this with the city maintenance department at the open house you held last year and I believe I mentioned it to the City Manager that night as well. When will these lights be back on?
My kids attend Brookside Elementary and when we have night programs the already dangerous traffic conditions become much worse in the dark. Not to mention the safety of the number of walkers and joggers that use Brookside in the early morning and late night. I have been told there is a problem with the copper wiring constantly being stolen. Maybe you could ask the new head of maintenance for the school district, Brian De Forge, for some advice. They seem to be able to maintain the lights in the new $15 million district office built by your campaign supporter, Bogh Engineering. Just a suggestion.
If the only way you will address this issue is for me to sit through a city council meeting, let me know the time and date of the next meeting, I'll be there.