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.

Behind the Badge – The Gravy Train

No civilians were harmed in the making of this satire…

UPDATE: a keen-eyed friend wrote in to inform us of a couple interesting facts about the City’s “Back the badge” documents. First, the original contract and the first purchase order don’t agree. The PO describes a one-year term while the contract is for only six months. Second there is no PO that covers the period from May to November 2014. The City’s controller should not have been able to write checks without a PO to write checks against, so something is fishy there.

FFFF has already shared with the Friends here some of the more ludicrous aspects of “Back the Badge” a PR outlet for cop departments and unions that we pay for.

The whole shabby deception is so bad we decided to dig a little deeper to see just how the Fullerton taxpayers got hooked into paying for the cops to peddle their propaganda – to us.

Here are the documents we were given.

The documents we received indicate a completely non-transparent, slipshod City-vendor relationship in which deliverables are sketchy, and grossly overvalued.

Danny says you are either ignorant or misinformed!!!

First, it’s important to point out that this relationship was approved in secret by former City Manager Joe Felz in spring 2013, presumably under his spending authority. The City Council may have been informed, but the public most assuredly was not. Even Felz must have been aware of the possible public blowback against this nonsense. And he undoubtedly had the support of council persons Flory, Chaffee and Fitzgerald in trying to keep this gross squandering of public funds out of the public eye.

It is critical to recognize the contract for what it is: a fixed fee arrangement in which the vendor gets his contracted monthly amount regardless of what he actually accomplishes. These sorts of contracts are comparatively rare in government precisely because they are not tied to specific scopes of work. In essence there is no real oversight at all, even if anybody felt like doing it – which they didn’t.

The Blue Crew

If you peruse the invoices you will find all sorts of weird “deliverables” of intangible sort like “PR services,” “OC Register columns,” and “Fullerton News Tribune” just the sorts of things that are impossible to value and make you wonder if the real media was in collusion with Back the Badge. FFFF has already noted how the Yellowing Fullerton Observer has published an article, verbatim, from Back the Badge, here.

Of course some of the contractual items like “traffic/performance reports” yielded no responsive documents in our public records request. Anyway, as I noted it above it hardly matters.

One extra-contractual proposal sent to former Chief Danny “Galahad” Hughes offers 40,000 print copies of “Behind the badge Fullerton magazine” for a mere twenty grand.  Who approved that, and where did these print copies go? That we shall likely never know, as the police PR mechanisms are obviously none of our damn business, even though we are bankroller and target audience.

Before we only had to pay him to make stuff up…

My favorite item in the proposals from Back the Badge is something called “crisis counseling.” This must be a service that is called upon when something really bad occurs and the cops need to polish up that road apple, and quick! So did Back the Badge spring into crisis counseling mode the night their benefactor, Joe Felz, smelling of liquor, drove off Glenwood Avenue, and was given a free pass and a ride home by the Fullerton Police Department?

On December 17, 2016, the City issued a new Purchase Order for more of those valuable Back the Badge services. The invoice cites the brand-new interim Chief but there is no reference to the Acting City Manager since by this time Joe Felz was long gone, the victim of his own reckless behavior. So who authorized the issuance of this new PO? The police chief, whoever he is, has no such spending authority. It seems as if the Culture of Opacity and Unaccountability is humming along on auto pilot.

Well, this is Fullerton and if you want to find out what is going on – well, good luck with that.

 

 

The Finest of Farewells

It is common for government to bury waste carefully, neatly hidden away from the citizens who pay for it. Other times, they shove it right in your face like an ether-soaked rag.

That’s what happened at Chief Danny Hughes’ grand farewell party on November 10th. Fortunately, one neighbor filed an hour-long interactive grievance and shared with us the highlights.

Helicopter overhead, fire engines, barricades, officers, SWAT trucks, oh my!

The cast of characters does not disappoint. Look carefully for the appearance an oblivious “Patdown” Pat “I hired them all” McPension. Watch the FPOA thank Hughes for staying “on course” through “the lowest parts” of FPD history (when their constant misdeeds were finally exposed to the public). Listen to Jan Flory offer a cringe-worthy come-hither to her “Big Boy” Hughes, warn him of the “five-headed beast” that is the city council, and then trumpet her slavish dependence on city staff. Don’t forget to note Stan Berry, the OCDA investigator and FPD buddy boy who was first charged with looking into the Kelly Thomas murder. I’m glad he was able to maintain good relations.

If you were able to retain your lunch through all of that, congratulations. Now think about the hundreds of Fullerton commuters and residents who were caught in the traffic blockades on two major roads during rush hour. The police force parked their equipment and their posteriors in the middle of the roadway for this pointless pomp and circumstance, holding the public and its safety in complete disregard.

Of course the most comic part of this display of flags and armaments (think Soviet May Day parade) is the fact that just two days before, Mr. Integrity ordered his boyz to give City Manager, Joe Felz a free ride home with no Breathalyzer test after having careened though a sleepy Fullerton neighborhood after an evening of partying in the gin mills of downtown Fullerton.

FFFF Classics – The Baby, the Bathwater and the Blowhard

Crazy? Check. Rude? Check. Gone? Check.

When it came to boneheaded belligerent bombast there was no one quite like former (and recalled) councilman Dick Jones. Here he is in 2007 and 2008 pontificating about downtown Fullerton and the “monster” he created. His endless fixation on the same tired baby/bathwater cliche remains hilarious as he twists it around and around inside his befuddled noggin. If anybody can explain what a “ruly teenager” looks like, please let us know.

The FFFF editorial staff have enjoyed long hours of amusement courtesy of the corn-pone explursions of Ol’ Country Doc Jones captured on this video. The string of priceless HeeHawisms just gets better with age.

Meantime nothing has changed in downtown Fullerton – except the passage of ten long years and more of “yesterday’s felons” than ever.

Drive As We Say, Not As We Do

Once again the Boys & Girls in Blue have decided to insult the residents of Fullerton with a poorly timed Press Release via the F.P.D. Facebook Page where they tell that we need to “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” and that they’ll be “stepping up enforcement” of impaired driving laws.

One Set of Rules for You…

This Press Release is actually dated yesterday, 13 December 2016, the EXACT same day that it was announced at the Special City Council Meeting that the City Manager, Joe Felz, has left his position with the city. Weepy words from Jennifer Fitzgerald notwithstanding we know that Felz left owing to his own alleged D.U.I. Hit-&-Run that F.P.D. and the City Attorney are still attempting to cover up with boilerplate legal obfuscation and the myth of an ongoing investigation.

From the Press Release;

“We want to keep our roads safe for the holiday travelers, so we will have zero tolerance for drunk or drugged driving.”

F.P.D. will have zero tolerance. Zero! None I dare say.

Unless of course you’re part of the upper echelon of our City’s Bureaucratic Bureaucracy and can get the Police Chief on speed dial.

I figured the award for most clueless response to the Felz departure would go to Fitzgerald & Flory for their nonsense praise but this press release might take the cake. To be fair the F.P.D. probably didn’t know that Felz was on the way out when they wrote this little public service announcement but they certainly knew of their own culpability in the continuing culture of city corruption.

Word on the street is that City Hall is glad to be rid of Felz and now they’re just itching to get rid of his sycophantic entourage that continues to make city life miserable. Stay tuned as we might be able to help with some of that as time passes. If any intrepid City Employees want to help foster some more changes you know how to reach out to us here at F.F.F.F..

 

Make It One For My Baby, And One More For The Road

Another party on a Tuesday night, and no DUI stops!

How fitting. Soon to be former councilwoman Ms. Jan Flory, one of the principal architects and mother hen of downtown Fullerton’s out-of-control culture of vodka. vomit and vehicular mayhem, is tossing herself a going away party. And naturally it’s at one of Fullerton’s fine dining establishments bars.

Here’s the outreach:

———- Forwarded message ———-

 Good morning!

 As you know, the new council will be seated on 12/13/16 at 6:30 p.m.  Would you pls get the word out that I will be having a soiree at Joe’s Bar and Grill after that council meeting.  I’ll have appetizers and a no-host bar to celebrate my leaving the council.  That doesn’t sound right, but it will be better than a funeral.  People will probably start showing up between 7:30 and 8. 

 Thanks a bunch and thank you for keeping so many people informed. 

 Jan Flory

 

You would think a Fullerton City Councilperson would be a little reluctant to have a political party at a downtown saloon given what happened the last time this occurred – five scant weeks ago.

Sappy McTree, We Hardly Knew Ye…

You’ve got to love the message of the “soiree”:

I’ll have appetizers and a no-host bar to celebrate my leaving the council.” 

Auld lang syne…

Maybe Flory figures if you have to buy your own drinks you’ll be a lot less likely to get drunk, drive off the road on the way home and require the interim police chief to cover up the whole mess.

We probably won’t be there, but we’ll be celebrating, too.

 

The Bitterness of Negative Banter

What is “negative banter?”

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:

Cut through the baloney to find the bullshit...
Cut through the baloney to find the bullshit…

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.

 

Molly’s Problem

 

Nothing intelligent was forthcoming...
Nothing intelligent was forthcoming…

Could be trouble’s a-brewin’ for our old acquaintance, North OC Community College District trustee Molly McClanahan.

Now, in case you’re not familiar with the life and times of McClanahan, here’s a primer: rightfully recalled from the Fullerton City Council in 1994 for imposing a stupid and unnecessary utility tax (at the behest of the public employee unions), she was tossed a little political plum as an appointee to the NOCCCD. There she has been a reliable cheerleader for a bloated, overpaid and incompetent administration for over 20 years.

A few years back we followed the tale of the magical football stadium at FJC, an embarrassment on so many levels that I won’t recount them, just give you Loyal Friends the link.

Seven years have passed and apparently the football practice facility is still slated to become a completely unnecessary game day venue – given the fact of the FHS stadium a few hundred yards away and the CSUF stadium less than two miles away. looks like some of the neighbors are still as unhappy about this as ever. In fact, somebody has started a website dedicated to pressuring McClanahan to act on behalf of her constituents instead of her district bureaucrats, with the promise of a recall. Since they linked to the old post of ours, I felt compelled to return the favor.

Now Molly may have a problem, maybe. Recalling anybody is hard, especially in a big JC district that nobody even thinks much about. Yet the NOCCCD has seven much smaller individual districts. I don’t know for sure, but I’m supposing the individual trustee districts have about 70,000 people, so gathering signatures would not be impossible. But would anybody off the hill behind the campus even care?

Unfortunately, the website isn’t real clear on what how McClanahan is supposed to do anything at this point. Maybe the proprietor of that blog will stop by and give us some more information. One thing is certain, though. Whoever is behind this is pretty pissed off. The hostility comes through loud and clear; and tellingly, there is a pointed reference to McClanahan’s illegal gift-taking from a bond peddler and the consequent FPPC fine.

Now, What About Our Water Tax Refund? Part 2: The Phony Report

thief

When you are  in charge of the City’s bureaucracy, it’s really easy to get what you want. You simply hire a “professional” opinion to validate your own desire. Good God, it happens so often and yet they continue to get away with it.

For fun, lets’ consider the case of the City of Fullerton’s illegal water tax tax. In 2011 the City was finally caught with its pants down. And what was revealed wasn’t pretty: an illegal 10% tax stuck onto the annual cost of selling water to the ratepayers of Fullerton. In an attempt to stall the inevitable and obfuscate the obvious, the comatose council handed the job of analyzing the tax to an ad hoc water rate committee that had been previously established.

Now we all know that a citizen’s committee is incapable of figuring out things on its own and so staff helpfully hired one of those paid opinion consultants to help out; one of those consultants whose sole mission is to validate whatever the staff wants them to do. In this case the mission was to keep as much of that 10% as possible. After all, that 10% was a much necessary ingredient for for keeping up CalPERS payments and sending Pam Keller and Don Bankhead and Doc HeeHaw to four star hotels in far off Long Beach.

True to form, the City Council’s “consultant” returned with a helpful finding that the water fund owned the City between six and seven percent annually, principally on the weird fiction that the water utility owed the City rent for land that the water reservoirs and pipes sit on.

Naturally, nobody bothered to explain the embarrassing fact that the land in question had little or no commercial value; or that the water utility could have bought that land for virtually nothing fifty years ago had a true arms-length distance actually existed between the utility and the City that was milking it like a rented cow.

An, worst of all, nobody had explained the self-serving nature of this sudden discovery of a true distinction between the water utility and the City, particularly in light of the fact that the utility had supplied the City with free water for decades.

That’s right. The very mechanism lade upon you and me to “incentivise” conservation, was deemed unnecessary when the City itself was wasting water. How many hundreds of thousands of acre feet of water has been used for free by the City in the past fifty years? Of course nobody knows. But the value is worth millions.

I think the City should pay that back, too.