The Swindle

It’s often said that government spends half its time fixing problems it created with the other half.

And what better way to make problems go away by getting the taxpayers to pick up the tab for your mistakes?

On next Tuesday’s council agenda there is an item to “study” a downtown Business Improvement District (BID). A BID creates a special tax on property owners for specific purposes, generally tied to sprucing up (as the local media loves to say) a geographically limited area. And in this case that area centers on Harbor Boulevard from Truslow to Brea Creek; and from Highland to Lemon.

Haluza

Below you see a letter sent out from the desk of Community Development Director, Karen Haluza, enjoining property owners and businesses not yet on board to sign up for the great cause. The idea is to generate the appearance of momentum and consensus for a new tax.

Did you notice something very peculiar about this letter? Haluza first admits she is working on orders from the City Council (“tasked” is bureaucrat-speak); but within a few sentences suddenly it is the “stakeholders” (more bureaucrat-speak) who have, seemingly with  spontaneity, made a “formal request” to study the formation of a BID. Can anyone for a second believe this whole concept was not hatched, fertilized and fermented in Wild Ride Joe Felz’s office in City Hall? And check out the list of proponents – mostly businesses, not the actual property owners. On top of that we see the names of several bars and a couple big developers. The developers we can dismiss as toadies looking to score their next big monsters courtesy of Haluza’s Planning Department.  The bars?

Business is booming…

Here’s the real problem, and the reason why Downtown Fullerton is an annual $1,500,000 drain on the General Fund. Cleaning up after the nocturnal mess caused by the customers of the bars costs a small fortune in cop time and city maintenance. It’s a cost that is born by every man, woman and child in Fullerton, even though it is only people like Florentine’s and Slidebar that rake in the bucks.

Downtown Fullerton has been an out-of-control disaster for well over a decade as the City-approved bars proliferated and the mayhem ensued. And now in 2017 city staff is trying to get everybody who owns property in the “district” to fork over a new tax to cover the cost created by the bar owners. A reasonable person might think that cracking down on all the miscreants and scofflaws and irresponsible bar proprietors would be the way to clean up the mess. No. The cops are playing pattycake with the booze culture, and Haluza thinks it’s right and proper that the landlords of all the businesses – good and bad alike – pay the freight.

This new tax proposal is nothing but another Fullerton cover up – on a grand scale. The object? To pay for the disastrous culture of booze and violence that permeates Downtown after dark; a culture that was deliberately created and fed by our own incompetent government. Their solution? A new tax.

 

Boozing, Schmoozing and Being Lobbied. Check, Please…

 

Man, there’s a lot of bottles back there!

Let’s say you’re the mayor of a City that is chugging red ink like a drunk city manager slurping booze in a cheap downtown Fullerton bar. Would you be sensitive to the appearance of wasting taxpayer’s money on a footling trip to Sacramento, ostensibly to “advocate” for something? Well, not if you’re crooked, and very confident. And nobody has accused our 2016 mayor, Jennifer “sparkyfitz” Fitzgerald of honesty, or lack of confidence about not having it.

Last year the Orange County Business Council, the twisted brain child of grifters Curt Pringle and Lucy Dunn (whose purpose is to rob public agency coffers) teamed up (once again!) with the Association of California Cities – OC another twisted brain child of Curt pringle and Lucy Dunn (whose purpose is to rob public agency coffers). Why? The teamwork was meant to throw a big, out-of-town lobbyist party. In Sacramento. Naturally, our then mayor-for-hire Jennifer “sparkyfitz” Fitzgerald had to attend. And so did our then-City Manager Joe Felz. Wild Ride Joe knew which side of his bread was buttered and who was buttering it. And then there was all that liquor – paid for by somebody or other.

Of course “advocacy” means lobbying, but surprise! It turns out that the would-be lobbyists were not going to Sacto to lobby, but to be lobbied! And we paid for it.The politicos who went were there to lobbied by other ACC-OC/OCBC members! That’s the cozy, incestuous little world inhabited by the Fitzgerald family. That’s the ACC-OC/OCBC formula for success.

Wow. Even Doug “Bud” Chaffee went to this expensive non-event. And while certain stuff that couldn’t be easily laid on the public – like Chaffee’s wife’s plane ticket – was reimbursed by the party-goers – the rest of it was on our dime. And at the very same time Fitzgerald was lying about Fullerton having a balanced budget. Here are the numbers:

 

What sort of idiot pays almost $500 for airfare to Sacramento? The sort of person who is playing with house’s money. I wonder if a single mutual legislative goal was achieved. I bet not. Any takers?

And the Award for Most Ridiculous Awards Show Goes to…

While there is much in government to bemoan and criticize there is apparently much to celebrate as well, at least according to the Association of California Cities – Orange County, who are soliciting nominations for the Sixth Annual Golden Hub of Innovation Awards.


Yes, that’s right. The Government has an award show.

The ACC-OC is giving out awards in multiple categories, including Elected Leader of the Year, City Manager Leader of the Year, Innovator of the year and Public Private Partnerships of the year.
Last year’s winner for Innovator of the Year was the Anaheim Fire Chief who approved an ambulance system to respond to non-urgent medical requests, an “innovation” about fifty years behind almost every emergency response system outside out Orange County. Not to be outdone, 2014’s winner of the Innovator of the Year award was this guy:

A toast to all my good ideas…

The ACC-OC is a lobbying organization, ostensibly created to lobby on behalf of its member Cities in Sacramento, and prevent the passage of legislation harmful to municipalities, but their actual priority seems to be lobbying Cities to implement the kind of statist, crony, public-private partnerships the organization itself prefers. For example, in one seminar sponsored in July 2015, ACC-OC advocated both streetcars and the Poseidon desalination plant in a seminar hosted by no less than Curt Pringle himself. ACC-OC also was one of the driving forces behind the HERO program, which facilitated construction of solar panels by converting the construction costs into high interest tax liens on residences (specifically, eight percent a year high, for a senior lien). So, not only does ACC-OC lobby Fullerton for bad legislation but we PAY them to do so with our own tax dollars.

That aside, in the spirit of this press release, can FFFF come up with its own nominees or, better yet, its own categories for the “Golden Hub of Innovation?” Maybe award Hugo Curiel Procrastinator of the Year for his failure to report the water loss at Laguna Lake until the statute of limitations against the civil engineer that performed the work had run? Perhaps a doublespeak award is in order for the fine folks at the NOCCCD for their efforts to claim that the football stadium they are trying to build with Measure J money isn’t going to be built with Measure J money. ACC-OC also needs a White Elephant of the Year award to honor tireless efforts of some staffers to push expensive and unnecessary infrastructure projects like streetcars, ARTIC or the “Great Park” in Irvine. Truly, the possibilities are endless.

Business as Usual – In Every Sense of the Term

Back on December 1, 2016 KTLA reporter Chip Yost made a Public Records Act request about information surrounding then-City Manager Joe Felz’s alcohol odorific Wild Ride.

 

His main business is dirty businesses.

Poor Chip. Of course he was given the big FU from Gregory Palmer, employee of the City Attorney and best known by us for his enthusiastic adult sex business work. Palmer cites disclosure laws that have now been thrown out by the State Supreme Court, and somehow believes that communications from then-Chief Danny “Galahad” Hughes are exempt, too.

One thing that was turned over is the following memo from Gretchen Beatty, HR Director, who somehow has taken it upon herself to write an apology for Felz even though she admits the latter is still “on duty.” Under the comical subject line “Keeping You Informed” she proceeds to tell her “colleagues” nothing they surely didn’t already know.

Gretch says the FPD is “completing its independent investigation” which is a wonderful oxymoron and also not true. But let’s not let truth impede upon the business of City Hall. Rather, let us observe business as usual.

 

The Enduring Legacy of Manny Ramos, Danny Hughes, and the Culture of Corruption

 

The gift that keeps giving…

Okay, Friends, here’s a blast from the past.

Back on the first day of summer in 2011 Fullerton cop Manny Ramos allegedly roughed up a handicapped dude in an Albertsons parking lot and threw him into the Fullerton clink. Mark Edwin Walker was charged with all sorts of nastiness like resisting arrest and public intoxication.

Manny’s badge of honor awaits a band aid.

FFFF wrote about this back in 2012. We noted that the phony charges dreamed up by the supremely fat and lazy Ramos were thrown out by a judge. Ramos was lucky. He didn’t even have to commit perjury (like several of his colleagues have done) to back up his story.

And now, our perusal of recent City settlements shows that Walker got paid $20,000 in nuisance money – given the happy fact that twisted cops in OC can pretty much do any goddamn thing they want with impunity.

Ya see, it’s all about perception. That’s why I hired a PR guy…and always pose in front of a flag.

Of course 20 grand is chump change and the Fullerton taxpayers are a lot luckier than they deserve to be, if you think about it. Unfortunately, the real cost to Fullerton happened a few weeks later when Ramos harassed, intimidated and instigated the activity that led to the death of Kelly Thomas. That one was caught on video and cost $5,900,000 (if you don’t count hundreds of thousand in legal fees). And who was in charge of the walrus with the bad attitude, and who later insisted that those of us who observed a Culture of Corruption in the FPD were misinformed? Why none other than former PoChief Danny “Gallahad” Hughes.

 

Walker v Fullerton Complaint

Walker settlement agreement

Behind the Bullshit: Poor, Poor Pitiful Me

It was only a matter of time before the laughable pro-cop PR outlet called Behind the Badge (that we pay for) went from trying to impress us with Fullerton cops’ good works to putting the poor lads on the psychiatrist’s couch.

Service pistol concealed in robes…

A typical BtB “article” reads like a veritable life of Saint Francis of Assisi, in which the sick are healed, the hungry are fed, and the homeless housed. But not the piece I’m writing about today. It was crayoned by a well-pensioned Anaheim former cop called Joe Vargas, and it refers to a Pew Research Center report about a survey that allegedly proves how tough and dangerous cops say their work is, what with all those suspicious black folks and noisy critics doing all that complaining. Why, Good Heavens! They are almost afraid to go out on the streets, seemingly.

Off course Mr. Vargas fails to inform his readers that the survey is all about impressions and opinions and doesn’t provide a nickle’s worth of statistical information about the real risk involved in being a police officer. It’s all about feelings.

And now let’s enjoy the self-serving takeaway provided by Fullerton’s police union:

I have a different question…

Oooh. Scary stuff!

Here’s an alternative question: does the cops’ ability to be shielded from the consequences of their own illegal behavior by POBAR, and by a justice system and by union-elected politicians that coddle and protect them at the price of justice itself, impact public safety? Of course we all know the answer to that.

By the way, it’s too bad Vargas doesn’t cite results shared in the entire Pew article, which paints a much less dire picture of how cops view their  jobs. But Behind the Badge is  pure for-profit propaganda, so expecting an honest essay from Officer Joe is a lot like expecting a good reason for someone to end up in the Fullerton jail.

 

 

Roy, The Reluctant DA

 

Um, okay.

The other day FFFF had representation in the comments section of from “Roy,” in a post about – Roy. He’s a reasonable sounding fellow who claimed to be the jury foreman on the Kelly Thomas murder case, and who also got a ration of shit on the John and Ken radio program as he defended his work on the jury that exonerated the cops who baited, harassed, and killed a schizophrenic homeless man.

When asked (by me) if he had ever worked for the DA Roy said that he had completed the District Attorney’s TAP program, a gig that takes civil lawyers and immerses them in the DA culture for a couple of months. Roy noted that this relationship had been disclosed during the voir dire of the jury selection process.

Well, this got me thinking of the completely inappropriate placement of a juror who had received psychological indoctrination into the mindset of the prosecution apparatus. But it also made me wonder about the defense attorneys who accepted Roy and the possible reasons for their approbation.

One of the  very first things they must teach in TAP to would-be prosecutors, is that to get ahead in that line of work you need convictions; and the cops are the guys whose testimony will get you convictions. The abstract concept of justice doesn’t come within a million miles of the equation. If justice is done, well, what a happy coincidence! Therefore, a virtually complete trust must be given to whatever the police have done, or, to be more accurate, what they say they have done. And if you are a defense attorney representing cops, what better sort of chap to have on your jury; and better still if this guy gets himself appointed foreman.

But what about the Tony Rackauckas? Did the DA believe that Roy was possibly a reliable vote for conviction given his prior TAP relationship? Of course it’s possible that both these potential prosecution and defense motives are accurate, which would explain Roy’s presence on the jury.

On the other hand, there has been a lot of speculation that DA Tony Rackauckas intentionally boobed the case by charging the wrong persons with the wrong crimes; and that he also blew it by trying the case himself, even though he hadn’t personally prosecuted a case in decades.

And then it hit me. Maybe both sides wanted Roy on the jury for the same qualification: a person able to grasp the big picture, that is, a subliminal or maybe even overt desire to protect a system in which the prosecutors and cops exist in a symbiotic relationship where convictions mean everything, and neither are held responsible for arresting and prosecuting the wrong people and gathering information any way they can get it.

Well, there it is. Have at it.

 

Get Run Over, Get Paid

Remember David Tovar, the bike rider guy who got rammed from behind by an unmarked Fullerton police vehicle? In case you don’t, here’s an interview from 2012:

Tovar later filed a civil rights suit against the city of Fullerton, claiming that officer Bryan Bybee intentionally used the vehicle as a deadly weapon.

The city predictably responded by denying all claims.

Well, we went spelunking through settlement agreements approved by City Hall and discovered that the taxpayers up coughed up $20,000 to David Tovar for one of our cops chasing, and crashing into him.

 

Behind the Badge: Dan and Bill’s Excellent Oregon Adventure

Bill Rams, the principal of Cornerstone Communications and man behind Behind the Badge.

Last spring former Police Chief Dan “Galahad” Hughes and Bill Rams went up to Oregon to speak at a cop convention. The City paid for Hughes and Bill Rams’ plane tickets. Who is Bill Rams?

Bill Rams is the proprietor of “Behind the Badge,” a shallow, police feel-good PR outlet that sells its dubious information to public agencies so the taxpayers can pay for cop propaganda aimed right back at them. We have already noticed that this charming swindle was orchestrated in Fullerton behind the scenes by former City Manager Joe Felz – without any public input or council oversight.

Hughes went up to Portland to deliver of himself some sort of speech to the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police, titled “When Trust is Tested…Strategies for Restoring Public Confidence.” That name alone should cause a torrent of laughter here in more southerly latitudes given the Culture of Corruption in the Fullerton Police Department in which Captain Danny Hughes was an integral part of the management team, and that included theft, fraud, sexual battery, perjury, more perjury, false arrest, assault, more assault, more theft, destruction of evidence, kidnapping and homicide. His solution as soon as he became Chief? Hold an open house and hire a footling PR purveyor named Bill Rams. But I digress…

 

Why did the taxpayers foot the bill for Chief Danny’s air fare to Oregon in the first place? And why on Earth did we have to pay to send Danny’s little chronicler, Bill Rams, to a conference that had absolutely nothing to do with Hughes’s job of running our police department?

Here is the full expense report.

Should the city be flying employees around the country on personal speaking junkets? Of course not. Should the City be paying their own vendors to fly around the country so they can hand out business cards? Of course not.

Sinnce Danny got his freight paid by us we can assume he was on the clock the whole time. And I would be remiss if I didn’t cynically ask whether or not “Chief” got a cash honorarium from OACP for his presentation. That would mean he got paid twice.

 

Rental Car
Jet Blue
Alaska

While We Were Away: The Embarrassing Fullerton Bike Share Story

An acquaintance reminded me the the other day of the ridiculous OCTA “Bike Share” program of a couple years ago – one of the most embarrassing boondoggles on record, and proof that regional government agencies are just as bad as our own city when it comes to throwing our money away.

The OCTA is always ready, able and willing to waste money – some of it comparatively small amounts, and some of it (think ARTIC) monstrously large. The common theme is that hardly anybody knows about it before the dough is blown, or after because the mainstream media is so good at keeping government unaccountable.

This is the tale of Bike Share, a supposedly “green” initiative, and thus free from the constraints of economic common sense.

The Roll Out. Nelson assures a skeptical Flory that the bike is up to the task…

Back in 2012 OCTA invested in a program where people could rent bicycles from a public rack and return them. To somebody it seemed like a plausible idea. The OCTA chose our city as the test lab because of all the college kids who like to take a commuter train to Fullerton.

Pringle’s Krew: It’s dirty work, but someone’s gotta do it…

Surprise! Bike Nation, a client of Curt Pringle and Associates (the current employer of Council-lobbyist Jennifer Fitzgerald) got the contract to run the program. Better qualified vendors were rejected by the OCTA Board. And the cooperative guy who made the motion to approve Bike Nation and proceed with the program?  None other than our own 4th District Supervisor Shawn Nelson. According to the Voice of OC, the cost of the program was $700,000; the per bike ride subsidy was an astonishing $800.

The forced, painful smile betrayed the awful truth: the bikes were made for political posing, not for riding.

At the end of a couple years the magnitude of the Bike Share stupidity became clear. Almost no one signed up for the membership subscription and almost nobody was using the bicycles, bikes that were heavy and unwieldy. Some of them broke down after they had been washed.  The vendor blamed the OCTA, the OCTA blamed the vendor; but we paid for it.

And Nelson? He didn’t return a Voice of OC call asking for comment.