The other day one of our fine writers in the FFFF stable of bloggers brought to our attention a rather noxious operation called Behind the Badge, that profits from taxpayer’s by acting as a PR conduit for the local police force. In other words we pay them to tell us how great our cops are.
So I took the trip to BtB to see what sort of pabulum they were dishing up. The usual insipid fare. But one thing they were touting in a “story” was a program by OC GRIP – some sort of gang intervention program run by our good-for-nothing District Attorney – that was giving Thanksgiving dinners to kids who had “earned” it through attitude improvement. The post was full of happy pictures that featured smiling Fullerton cops, who got the job of handing over the turkeys.
Sounds nice huh? But really, what kind of program uses food for the Thanksgiving holiday as an incentive to act good? The whole thing started to smell like an old turkey carcass left out in the dumpster- sort of a government charity masquerading as “tough love” where kids “earn” (we don’t give anything away, here!) food for a holiday. The whole thing strikes me as manipulative and patronizing.
And of course the writer of this piece was none other than our old acquaintance Lou Ponsi, whose slavish loyalty to City Hall and the FPD, even as he pretended to be a real reporter, have been documented, here. At least he doesn’t have to pretend anymore.
It’s time, Friends, for the fourth installment of Professor J.H. Habermeyer’s eloquent essay about the fortresses local government bureaucracies erect around themselves in their relationship with their own constituents. And what erections they are!
The Fourth Wall
Let us now recapitulate our history of public participation in local government affairs. Public apathy, official obfuscation, physical and bureaucratic intimidation have weeded out almost the entire population of the commonwealth. And yet, to the consternation of the denizens of the citadel, not all have bowed their heads in submission to the purported expertise of the purported experts.
The few survivors who have passed through the bureaucratic gauntlet have not been cowed by process or pabulum. They press their case and may do so effectively. The common local government species known as the gadfly may be dismissed without further ado. These irritants are the boils on the bottom of the body politic who, likely as not, suffer from personal issues of megalomania and narcissism; they are annoying, but not life threatening. The challenge, rather, is with the informed and militant citizen who is demonstrably not suffering from dementia and who, once aroused, is not likely to demur to the “professionals” and who may very well re-appear on particularly inopportune occasion.
What to do?
The answer is to asphyxiate the irritant in a smothering embrace; to draw said miscreant into the circle of government itself by appointing this him to some footling committee or other, thereby causing him to voluntarily silence himself in deference to the grand fraternity to which he has been officially welcomed. He has a name plate; perhaps even a coveted parking space! Many an underdeveloped and agitated ego has been assuaged by such a maneuver and its proprietor thereby silenced.
Even more subtle is the way that the political realm offers its siren song to those recently initiated to the world of public affairs. The electoral process can be counted upon to woo those infected by the virus of newly discovered political ambition. And, if by some strange twist, one of these individuals should be rewarded with electoral success, the chances of a quick devolution into the typical public servant are high, indeed. And why not? Such an individual, unless unusually perspicacious and independent will soon find himself at the mercy of his bureaucracy!
Nothing is quite as demoralizing as the sight of a once independent spirit “going native” as our cousins across the Atlantic refer to the syndrome. And yet it happens all the time. And thus a potential adversary is subsumed into the system.
Fullerton College is going to ruin the nearby neighborhoods when they build the boondoggle that will be Sherbeck Stadium and they are going to use the fact that you residents didn’t yell at them as the very reason for building an unnecessary Stadium when there is already a High School stadium literally within walking distance of the College in a town with another already under-utilized stadium at C.S.U.F..
If you don’t want Fullerton College to go ahead with their plans you need to write a letter to them to tell them why you’re against it. You have until tomorrow, 03 December 2016, to get your letter postmarked & in the mail or they will ignore you and you’ll have nobody to blame but yourself for sitting out on this issue.
I don’t even live in the neighborhood and I’m writing a letter on behalf of a friend of mine who does live in that neighborhood. Because I’m a friend and it affects both his and Fullerton’s future. That’s why I’m here in the first place.
I got a letter from Fullerton’s Lobbyist-Mayor, Jennifer Fitzgerald congratulating “us” for rising above it by re-electing her. I love it when personal-agenda laden politicians complain about “negativity.” Generally they are just reacting to embarrassing scrutiny they’d rather not have to endure.
Here’s the missive:
Ms. Fitzgerald is happy to share the issues she “campaigned on.” Road repair, more, and higher paid cops, and get this… a balanced budget! Now we all know that Fullerton’s budget has not been balanced since she got on the City Council four years ago. We’ve been leaking red ink worse than Laguna Lake has been leaking Grade A MWD water. The amount during Fitzgerald’s tenure runs in the millions. So not only is she still lying about having a balanced budget, but any other pipe dreams like cops and parks are going to have to come at the cost of draining our reserve funds even more.
Of course this means nothing to Ms. Fitzgerald. After all she is all about politics, not governance. She is a Vice President of Curt Pringle & Associates, an operation that has tried its level best to rip off Anaheim taxpayers to benefit Pringle’s clients. She will be long gone by the time Fullerton goes into receivership.
I really like the part about ensuring “that every Fullerton neighborhood is served well by its city government.” I guess that excludes the people who live in and around downtown Fullerton: it was only recently carved up into five separate council districts by Ms. Fitzgerald and her downtown bar pals like a Christmas ham, precisely for the purpose of disenfranchising the residents while the drunken party rolls merrily along.
And then there’s the part about having a “community-wide discussion” about providing library services for Southwest Fullerton. Quite delicious irony coming from the head of a city government that can’t afford to keep the Hunt Branch Library open; or does she really believe nobody is paying attention?
Finally, I note that “working positively together” is code: what it really means is not criticizing the massive budget deficits; not complaining because there is no adult supervision over the cops; looking the other way as the Lobbyist-Mayor herself helps cover up the madcap motoring adventures of her City Manager returning home from her own election night party.
Well, you know, I just don’t feel like it.
And now, Friends, please share any negative banter in the comments section we thoughtfully provide, below.
In management circles, claiming to be unaware and uninformed is one favored tactic to avoid responsibility for the bad behavior of subordinates. Sometimes unawareness is attributable to simple incompetence. Other times, it is intentional.
Our mayor is caught here taking the latter approach when the woman who witnessed Joe Felz’ drunken crash came forth to recount the details of the event:
The clip ends when the mayor cuts off this concerned citizen.
Now you all know that the city manager reports directly to the council. He is, in fact, the only employee for whom they are directly responsible. You might think the council would be interested in hearing a first hand report of their employee’s bad behavior. Perhaps recklessness, destruction of government property and abuse of authority are not qualities you seek when employing a municipal executive.
Way back in 2010 I offered a post attacking Norberto Santana and his relatively new blog Voice of OC. The title was “The Sad Degenerate World of Norberto Santana.” It was a pretty tough post attacking Santana’s objectivity given the fact of his financial backing by the OCEA union and what some of us perceived as slanted reporting. I won’t go into any more detail. You can check out the original post, here.
Well, over six years have passed and I, like many others have come to appreciate the good things Norberto and the Voice of OC have done uncovering the bad behavior of many of our so-called “conservative” leaders in Orange County. The Voice has been particularly effective uncovering the influence peddling going on in Anaheim, but also covering the County level, where the Board of Supervisors have been working us over like we were peons on their plantation. Their Board’s latest little tactic is to limit public comment to just 3 minutes per person, per meeting. Pretty shameful, right?
With an almost complete lack of competent news coverage on local stuff from the mainstream media, it is more important than ever that we recognize and financially support the the Voice of OC.
Here is the third installment of Professor J.H. Habermeyer’s essay on the means and methods local government uses to keep the citizenry at bay.
The Third Wall
Once the vast majority of potential scrutineers has been successively winnowed out by its own indifference, by pseudo-technical obfuscation, and by awkward meeting times, a hardy type of citizen remains: the man who has steeled himself to learn of an issue; who has cut through enough of the bureaucratic gobbledygook to have at least a passing familiarity with the gist of the topic; and who has rearranged a busy schedule to attend a hearing on said subject.
The Hearing! And now we advance apace to confront perhaps the cruelest hoax in the the local government’s repertoire.
We are all familiar with the quaint image of the New England township or village council meeting: a handful of honest selectmen addressing themselves and the town’s business to their neighbors. Such an ennobling image is now a far cry from the typical local government meeting that is run by professional bureaucrats employed for their alleged expertise, and whose arrogance has been fermented by years of education, training, and wielding of this “expertise” – regardless of the selfish likes or dislikes of their agency’s constituents.
The modern public hearing is run much more like a corporate board meeting than the picturesque town council pow-wow described above. And like any corporate executive conducting a board meeting, woe unto the chief bureaucrat who permits an item onto a public meeting agenda about which he has not fully briefed his political overlords and about which he is confident of majority, or ideally unanimous, approbation!
Once he ventures into the chambers of his elected officials, our intrepid citizen quickly notices that the seats reserved for these elected officials are elevated upon a dais, above those seated in the audience. These august personages are surrounded by their professional advisors and are physically separated from their constituents. This is telling. Very often the municipal executive himself is elevated, too – demarcating his stature as an equal with the elected representatives, and apart from the common herd.
And then the meeting commences: a scripted performance that puts the observer in mind of the heavily stylized kabuki; or, perhaps an Oscar Wilde drawing room farce without the wit. Very often the elected officials will read from actual scripts prepared for them by the bureaucrats. It is an embarrassing, but necessary price to pay to make sure the proper liturgical rites are observed.
The Deity is invoked; the Pledge of Allegiance recited. Thus the Almighty and the spirit of patriotism infuse the room – lending authority, sacred and profane, to the goings on.
The staff presents its proposals. The rhetoric and confoundation will put any self-respecting pettifogging lawyer to shame. Pre-arranged questions are posed and pre-arranged answers are produced. When necessary, witnesses are brought forth to shore up the credibility of the government. They, too have been bought and paid for with taxpayer’s money.
It hardly matters whether the answers are responsive or not. For any answer is seemingly good enough, and the more incomprehensible the better: comprehension on the part of the public would presuppose intellectual equality.
Finally it is the public’s turn to opine. Those who have endured the inconvenience of place and time will get to speak and ask questions themselves. Since many are made acutely uncomfortable by public speaking and some contemplate it with outright dread more potential critics are screened out; others will be intimidated by the surroundings or by the supposed expertise of the government’s phalanx of experts and lawyers. Even so, some may very likely remain.
Unlike the elected representative, the citizen has only a limited time to address his government and his questions may or may not be answered, depending on the whim of the chair. Finally, when the public is done the hearing is closed and the board blithely returns to its business and takes its pro forma vote. The dues required by the democratic republic have been paid.
The last official word we heard on the status of our City Manager post the Sappy McTree incident was that, besides apologizing, Joe Felz was on leave for 2 weeks.
The Official Story, if you recall, started on 15 November 2016 when the City Attorney, “The Other Dick Jones™“, told us that City Manager Joe Felz would be on leave for 2-weeks which prompted Jones to ask Mayor Fitzgerald to immediately put forth an emergency motion to appoint Gretchen Beatty as “Acting City Manager” and once that was done she’d stay in the Acting City Manager position until the Council voted to remove Ms. Beatty from said position. None of this was 1) an emergency or 2) needed as legally we don’t need a City Manager but I don’t expect the City Attorney to bother with such details as State Law.
The pertinent issue is that nobody on Council bothered to ask timely questions on this matter and so the fact that there wouldn’t be a Council meeting 2 weeks later (yesterday) never came up. Now 2-weeks has passed with the next Council Meeting scheduled for 06 December 2016 and it’s at THAT meeting that the Council would have the first opportunity to remove Ms. Beatty from her Acting position in order to put Joe Felz into his chair again.
Does that mean that Mr. Felz is back now twiddling his thumbs with nothing to do (2-weeks later as stated) or that he’ll stay gone until next week when the Council can remove Ms. Beatty from her Acting position or later due to the ongoing Felz/FPD investigation? Who knows with answers not exactly forthcoming from City Hall. We won’t even know if it’ll be on the Council Agenda until this coming Friday night.
As for the inevitable “What difference does a week make?” question I will posture that it speaks to the nature of our City Government and the way our city is run. It’s slapdash thinking & haphazard decisions over even such basic calendar items that showcases the culture in City Hall where there is almost zero attention paid to details. This sort of intellectual laziness is how we end up with unaccountable bureaucrats spending time in Las Vegas or elsewhere while the city bleeds red ink and puts our kids further into debt with only high-density boondoggles on, and blocking, the horizon in order to offset the bloated spending.
We shouldn’t have to point this sort of stuff out but our so-called leaders can’t be bothered to do the jobs they voluntarily took and that leaves us, the malcontents and rabble-rousers, to do the job of making sure that somebody is paying attention.
We’ve all heard the words “follow the money” as if said process will magically unveil itself to us. Certain insight and skills are necessary when confronted by a doozy like this one:
ICSC is the International Council of Shopping Centers who held their Global Retail Real Estate Convention May 22-25, 2016 in Las Vegas, which, ironically, cost $570 to attend, the same amount of the first transaction (above).
As if taxis, bagels, and Starbucks charged to the City procurement card wasn’t enough, two days of room service at the Hard Rock Hotel made the trip all worthwhile:
Just because there’s enough material in the City’s records to write blog posts like these… (more…)
As promised, here is the second installment of J.H. Habermeyer’s engaging essay on the methods local government uses to dissuade public dissent and protect itself and its undertakings.
The Second Wall
Now that the vast majority of qualified electors has decided to voluntarily to disenfranchise itself, and now that the bureaucrats have thoroughly confounded others with incomprehensible nonsense in the form of official reports, studies and agenda materials, we will address ourselves to the most charming scam perpetrated by local government – the charade known as the public meeting.
The meeting itself shall be addressed in the next section. Now I propose to discuss the scheduling aspects of the meeting: the Planning Commission may meet at 1:30 in the afternoon; the County Commissioners may meet at 9:00 in the morning; the City Council may start meetings at 4:00 PM.
You can successfully wager that the bureaucrats will be there in force, for they are being remunerated for their presence, as are any of the expensive expert consultants they have engaged to provide a professional imprimatur for their agenda. Will the public be there?
Fortunately for those inside the citadel, many, if not most electors have mortgages and bills, and other such economic irritations that necessitate gainful employment. Few employers will countenance an employee’s absence to attend the myriad public hearings held at all levels of a local government during working hours – often the very same meetings in which the initial inertial momentum is created for whatever project the bureaucracy is pursuing. That the quotidian necessities of life preclude the attendance of many citizens at meetings is never off the minds of those who schedule public meetings.
An ostensibly helpful government body may elect to hold meetings at a more convenient hour, such as in the evening, but we may be confident that many other items will be crowded on the agenda like so many shipwreck survivors on a small raft. And can John Q. Public get there soon enough after work and a hurried meal? Can he stay late enough to hear the item of particular interest to him? His potential antagonists have all the time in the world; does he?