Community Stakeholder Survey Says

Tonight the Fullerton city council will pretend to go over the results of the Community Stakeholder Survey that just recently wrapped up. Remember that survey? It’s where the city is going to, and I quote:

For the next strategic planning session, the City will conduct a community stakeholder survey prior to working with the City Council to develop Mission and Vision statements, and ultimately set goals to implement the Priority Policy Statements.

We don’t have nice roads but at least we’ll have mission and vision statements.

The whole reason for this dog and pony show is to pretend to do something productive while our roads literally crumble around us each day. We’re in a structural deficit and only balance our budgets by selling capital assets (city owned property) and by not filling vacant positions.

So when people complain that we’re understaffed the current and retired staff are entirely to blame for this problem because they’re eating all of our general fund.

As to the survey itself, how engaged were the people of Fullerton in regards to this important mission of vision questing?

Vision

Super engaged, so responsive. The whole city was interested in giving their two cents… Oh. No. Nevermind. Almost nobody even knew this things existed and fewer participated.

706 people responded and 9 sent in written statements via email. That’s it.

It was a truly terrible turnout.

But the city, using that whopping return of 706 survey responses and 9 written statements will march ahead ever ready as a city to talk about what our local government’s priorities should be going forward in an open and honest fashion.

(more…)

Enjoy Downtown While it Lasts

Downtown Fullerton

Fullerton’s City Council last Tuesday, as expected, voted to change the rules governing how bars operate in the city in order to facilitate having more bars and making them more profitable.

The crux of the change is that it was too hard for staff to do their jobs, and for the Police Chief to stop rubber stamping permits, so the city needed to change the rules. This time they mean to enforce them unlike the last decade+ they promise… kind of… well not really.

Not one council member got an answer of who was in violation of what rules they were changing and why it was so hard for community development, code enforcement and the police to use a checklist to sort it out and in fact Ted White’s answers on how Conditional Use Permits work negated his own arguments of the Title 15 change. But again, council was too inept and/or lazy to follow the logic of the change or to ask any real questions per the norm.

The council ALSO voted to launch a pilot program, which we all know will be permanent, for paid parking in downtown. This is a data driven program tracking who comes and goes how often and how long they stay based on license plate data. As we heard at the meeting the whole point was data, data, data and more data. You will be tracked and your data will likely be sold. It’s so data driven that the vendor, staff and council want you to punch in where you park even when you don’t have to pay for parking – just because you WANT to be tracked.

Data Breach

When council asked who owned the servers the vendor claimed it was a “cloud based server” and that’s where the questions stopped. We don’t know what data is kept, where it is kept, which servers are used or who our travel data is being sold to – all because council couldn’t be bothered to ask.

It was a pathetic meeting full of incompetence, malfeasance and laughable gaffs. The Other Dick Jones™ got torn into by both Fitzgerald and Zahra for how they can/can’t handle an agenda item and when the city clerk offered helpful info the council just blanker her. It was probably the worst example of governing I’ve seen in years.

Individually the council members didn’t do themselves any favors in the integrity or intelligence departments. (more…)

A Fullerton Staffing Question

Hero Pay

The Fullerton Firefighters are pushing a narrative that they’re understaffed and underpaid on social media, so let’s talk about it.

We constantly hear about how underfunded, unpaid, underappreciated, undereverything our Police and Fire Depts are from the “Hero Deserve” crowd and the opposite side likes to point to pay rates, pension spiking, double dipping, medical presumptive, lies about early death, OT abuse, CalPERS costs and other fiscal rebuttals.

But what we almost never talk about is how we actually implement service and if we do things in a smart, fiscally sound or even common sense way in our departments. Our City Council won’t touch these issues because they’re petrified of the unions spending campaign money against them or they’re colluding with the unions in order to get those sweet, sweet endorsements.

Since council won’t discuss these things openly I figured we can do it ourselves before dropping numerous records requests.

Therefore for the sake of starting discussions I’ll drop two topics;

  1. If our fire engines, with a crew of 4, have a max of 2 Paramedics on board and 85% (per their statements) of their calls are medical then what do the other 2+ crew members do during the majority of these calls? Are they glorified Uber just taxiing the paramedics around? What do they do at the hospital? How much time do these non-paramedics spend doing crowd control and the like?
  2. Every time I see a police stop or call where the police department is at a scene I see multiple vehicles on scene. To the casual observer it seems that there are multiple units at every stop seen. I understand the premise of needing or wanting backup but why not drive around in pairs so you have backup with you at all times instead of needing to wait for it and waste the resources (gas, etc) on another vehicle?

Does anybody have stats on these things? How many calls for FFD are actually medical? How many calls does each crew actually respond to and what do they do on scene? How much OT is accumulated for passive activities?

How many calls does FPD respond to and how many of those calls require backup? How much backup typically responds? What’s the response time for this backup? How is this different for traffic stops versus calls for service?

I think as the city prepares for budget meetings with so much of our budget going towards salaries and pensions these numbers should be discussed and be as transparent as possible. If we need to pay people more to retain them we need to make sure we’re getting the most bang for our buck and the best, most logical and fiscally sound, service possible.

Anybody want to dive into these questions?

Let’s Talk More about Privacy

Big Brother Watching

Tonight our City Council is going to allow the Fullerton Police Department to use asset forfeiture money to purchase two automated license plate readers or ALPRs.

According to the paperwork these devices are used to allow police to drive around and scan the license plate of all cars on both sides of a street at up to 160mph. Tonight this is being sold as a way to enforce parking as part of the Downtown Parking Pilot Program as recommended by staff and the vendor SP+.

But these devices have a dark big brother side to them in how the data is shared and stored.

Apparently Fullerton has had these types of devices since 2008 (as referenced in my earlier post) despite the staff report tonight alluding to their newness. I’m betting the devices are currently being used for covertly tracking specific criminals in the same way that FPD uses the cellphone data capturing “Stingray” that they borrow from Anaheim.

Regardless of how the ALPRs are currently being used,  they aren’t a new concept as far as I can tell for the city or police department owing to our involvement in the UASI.

Urban Area Security Initiative

In the staff report, as a way to sell these ALPRs, it is mentioned that the city currently “chalks” tires to check for parking violations.

Why are our parking enforcers “chalking” tires when they have electronic equipment to do that for them? Does that equipment no longer function? Was there a problem with the implementation of the previous “digital chalking”. Nobody knows because no data, details or explanations are being provided by staff – yet again.

The big issue here, according to the ACLU and others, is that these devices are also used to keep track of where people go and how long they stay at those locations. The police department can track your movements and build a pattern of your activities and then share that data with other agencies.

Do the police really need a record of what church everybody goes to? What about who goes to the local AA/NA meetings? Local clinic? Political rallies/events/protests? Do you want the police to have a record of every time you visited your lover or possible mistress/paramour for the politicians in the room?

Caught Cheating

All of your activities are now that much easier to track and store with this technology and there needs to be safeguards against abuse and misuse.

This giant privacy concern is why the ACLU, EFF, 10th Amendment Center and others are against the use of these devices without strict controls. Surprisingly enough the CA State Legislature mostly agrees with them.

According to the Electronic Freedom Foundation, CA law, in effect since 2016, requires agencies deploying automated license plate readers to divulge:

  • The authorized purposes for using the ALPR system and collecting ALPR information.
  • A description of the job title or other designation of the employees and independent contractors who are authorized to use or access the ALPR system, or to collect ALPR information. The policy shall identify the training requirements necessary for those authorized employees and independent contractors.
  • A description of how the ALPR system will be monitored to ensure the security of the information and compliance with applicable privacy laws.
  • The purposes of, process for, and restrictions on, the sale, sharing, or transfer of ALPR information to other persons.
  • The title of the official custodian, or owner, of the ALPR system responsible for implementing this section.
  • A description of the reasonable measures that will be used to ensure the accuracy of ALPR information and correct data errors.
  • The length of time ALPR information will be retained, and the process the ALPR operator will utilize to determine if and when to destroy retained ALPR information.

Sadly you can scour tonight’s staff report and you won’t find any of this information. You also won’t find these requirements on the website or city archive which begs a question of legal compliance.

But it’s more irritating than that. If this was an issue of non-compliance by virtue of the law changing AFTER we already had the equipment (purchase in 2008, law change in 2016) it would be one thing. It would be illegal but an issue chalked up to oversight and city attorney incompetence. But no. Two years ago our city agreed to remain in what is known as the Urban Areas Security Initiative and we’re in clear violation of that grant process as well:

UASI PII Requirement

I’ve looked for this “publicly-available policy” to no-avail on the city servers. Honestly though I shouldn’t have to look for such information when staff is asking the council to address the license plate readers tonight – the policy in question should have been included and explained in the staff report.

An example of compliance with the law regarding your privacy and how the city handles it related to ALPRs can be seen with the city of Cypress’s Police Department Manual. This is what should have been included tonight before council votes upon such the ALPR issue.

Fullerton, however, gives us this:

FPD Policy Manual

If you look at the top of that page you’ll it was put up back when David Hendricks was Chief of Police.

Chief Hendricks went on admin leave back on 25 August of last year before resigning. So our Police Department hasn’t had a publicly available policy manual for AT LEAST 7 months & 22 days. The best I can find is a policy manual from 2012 on archive.org and the section of ALPRs (page 322) is not compliant with the 2016 state law.

Way to go team. Way to be transparent and compliant with the law. Way be ahead of the curve and to put the interests of the people first. Oh wait. Nevermind on all counts.

Why does staff, let alone council, not care about your privacy? Why do they think it’s okay to violate CA law and their own grant agreements regarding your privacy & transparency? Why is the hunt for more downtown money more important than addressing such fundamental concerns?

I’d tell you to find out tonight but we all know that they’re going to gloss over this issue with some allusions to trust, heroes and the like after being called on their nonsense.

Regardless of who’s on council this is just the Fullerton way I suppose.

Tonight the Downtown Bars Win

cronyism

The Fullerton City Council is about to hand the Downtown Restaurateurs Bar Owners two big wins and they’re going to continue to slap down the privacy of those in Fullerton in the process.

The first big win for the bars is in changing the rules around operating a bar in the Downtown area. This is partially because city staff thinks it’s too hard to do their jobs regarding enforcement. It’s just so hard to tell the couple of bars without Conditional Use Permits that they’re operating illegally.

The truth here is that it’s so hard to enforce anything downtown because council won’t let staff or the police department do their jobs so they all have to turn a blind eye to illegal operators and this change to Title 15 allows the downtown scofflaws to now operate *mostly* legally.

Except those without CUPs which the city will continue to ignore because favors and cronyism.

This is being sold as a way to make enforcement easier but let’s be real here – every year for a decade+ the Chief of Police (each of them) has signed off on Live Entertainment Permits which themselves say CUPs will be enforced. Our Chiefs of Police rubber stamp LE Permits for businesses that operate without required fire / life safety requirements.

So if the Police Chief is going to turn a blind eye to life safety in order to rubber stamp a permit for a favored business owner why should we believe that these new relaxed rules will be enforced? Because we’re supposed to “trust” these corrupt kleptocrats.

This Title 15 Change is being pushed to allow “legal non-conforming businesses” to now operate quasi-legally but staff won’t even tell use who that applies to in Downtown. We’re offering a form of amnesty without talking about who gets it and for what and if that’s even a good thing.

Ted White will likely prattle on about lumens and the percentage of tint on a window as cover but there are real concerns being omitted here. Why? Because saying “no, we allowed a business to illegally board up their windows with flammable material without fire sprinklers in clear violation of their CUP” doesn’t sound as easy to wash away in a rhetorical flourish such as “how do we know what 15% tint looks like”? (more…)

Government’s Stupid Priorities – Survey Edition

Office Space - Bobs

The city is once again trying to figure out how to do their jobs, this time by holding a “community stakeholder survey“. I kid you not. They want us t0 take a survey so they can figure out what it is they’re supposed to do be up there in City Hall.

From the website:

Over a year ago, the City held its first strategic planning session to introduce the concept of strategic planning and development of Priority Policy Statements. Strategic Planning is a well established process to help local governments (and private sector businesses) conduct an assessment and set goals and objectives for use of their available resources. The effort last year focused on establishing three Priority Policy Statements — Fiscal and Organizational Stability, Public Safety, and Infrastructure and City Assets.

For the next strategic planning session, the City will conduct a community stakeholder survey prior to working with the City Council to develop Mission and Vision statements, and ultimately set goals to implement the Priority Policy Statements.

They had a strategic planning session and they came to the conclusion that they needed Fiscal and Organizational Stability (which we don’t have), Public Safety (which we can’t afford), and Infrastructure and City Assets (which we don’t maintain and keep selling).

If you asked them BEFORE that planning session what their priorities were supposed to be do you think the answers would have been materially different?

Of course not. So now, after spending time and money for no point, we get to move to Round Two in the dog and pony show of figure out how government is supposed to work.

This is the type of thing a business does when a disrupter comes in and they lose market share or when a business is first starting – not something a government should be doing because they’re too bought and paid for to remember the point of a municipal government.

“Priority Policy Statements”. What a joke.

How many staff hours are wasted on crap like this? You want to know what the job of the city is? Do the things you’re paid to do – like fix our damn roads you nitwits.

More negativity. Just think positive!

You tax us specifically to do some things and to maintain other things. While government apologists and statists preen that “taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society” the city sure make it impossible to be civilized when the very streets we drive on cause road rage.

City Staff’s / Council’s job is to read and balance a budget and then prioritize the things we citizens cannot do on our own – like paving damn roads.

That’s basically it. We allegedly form governments to do things we cannot do on our own so that’s what needs to be done.

You don’t need a survey and to hold meetings to figure out these priorities. That’s just a dodge to avoid doing actual hard work. This is the TPS report system of government and everybody who came up with and supports this process should be ashamed of themselves.

TPS Reports

But by all means I encourage everybody to take the survey and give the city an earful, they deserve it and it doesn’t really matter anyways. This city is immune to actual criticisms or stakeholder input. Hell, our rotating Chiefs of Police turn a blind eye to life safety issues if it means appeasing a favored bar owner. That should give you a barometer for our complacent and corrupt Fullerton is from top to bottom.

Chasing Rainbows

I noticed two things in the Fullerton Observer the other day that on the surface are pretty innocuous but that upon a little reflection seem to be symbolic of the way our city government has operated over the years.

AhmadZahra
Movin’ on up

The first is the City’s proclamation of Arab American Month, a first, and no doubt conceived by new councilmember Ahmad Zahra who is himself an Arab American. Here is Zahra:

“As an Arab-American myself, I’m very proud of this moment, and I’m proud of our city for being such a wonderful, diverse place where everybody can celebrate who they are but work together for what is best for our community.”

Diversity and celebration. Hmm. Well, okay, a little color toner and some quality legal-sized paper, a few minutes of everybody’s time and you’ve got your proclamation. Go in peace.

The second item is about the rainbow flag flapping on the pole in front of City Hall. The City Council in March approved flying the banner that symbolizes LGBTQ rights, etc for LGBTQ Month. Mr. Zahra is also gay and this may account for the fact that Fullerton has finally got around to this pressing issue. This is a bit more problematic because here we have an official endorsement by the City. Personally, I’m all for equal rights for everybody – including marriage, and I couldn’t care less if Jennifer Fitzgerald orders that a Goofy flag fly over the City Hall. Still, it gives one pause to consider the priorities of our esteemed leaders – nobody’s rights are threatened by not flying the flag; meaning, of course, that the whole thing is an empty gesture.

And this brings me, finally, to the point of this post. We have a city council that has spent us to brink of fiscal disaster with no accountability, no responsibility and no concern at all for the taxpayers and citizens of Fullerton. They have squandered millions on vanity construction projects that were mismanaged, unnecessary, or downright dangerous. They have let the streets of Fullerton become the joke of Orange County. They have turned over downtown Fullerton to a gang of scofflaw saloon owners. They have nurtured a deadly Culture of Corruption in the police department, an infection that reaches from top to bottom. Meantime they are determined to ignore any of the calls for a correction to the course they have navigated.

More negativity. Just think positive!

Ask yourselves this question: Are any of the real municipal problems of Fullerton ever addressed? The answer, sadly, has been no. Meanwhile, empty symbolism and diversion are the order of the day. It’s easy pandering, and to the uninitiated might even look like something is being accomplished.

The question whether hollow gestures are better than none at all, especially when promoted by incompetent or corrupt officials, may remain academic. What is a practical reality is that in a month or so Fullerton will begin its Annual Can Kick – known as the budget approval. But the can is getting more obdurate every year and the lies coming from Fitzgerald and Flory ever more outrageous. Soon we will be able to see what sort of new flags from Mr. Zahra and his colleagues will be run up the flagpole. Will anybody salute?

The Rape of the Fullerton Arboretum

No one knew how much would be left…

What’s going on over at the Fullerton Arboretum? Well, it’s pretty clear: a bunch of State educrats and planners have their eyes on expanding the CSUF campus into the Arboretum grounds. Why? Because they can.

At April 10, 2019 open houses, these worthies finally unveiled their “concepts,” “placeholders” and other thin end of the wedge lingo that means construction of some sort is coming. The on-line story in The Fullerton Observer by Jesse Latour gives an excellent summary of what happened – along with the recital of the poor planning effort the planners put in to holding their own meeting. The staff drones and their flunky “consultant” obviously didn’t count on the horde that showed up to almost unanimously oppose any encroachment on the Arboretum grounds, and to point out, correctly, that the place had been overwhelmingly described as people’s favorite place at the university.

Pay no attention to the people in front of the curtain, especially the ones sitting on the floor…(image shamelessly boosted from Fullerton Observer)

 

As might have been expected, lie and dissimulation, and outright refusal to answer straight questions were piled one on top of one another into a classic bureaucratic dung heap. But one thing emerged in pellucid light: the people that run the university want to build something, maybe anything, within the confines of the existing Arboretum. All three “conceptual” scenarios include new buildings on the grounds that are not wanted or needed by the people who run the Arboretum. And those of us who know how these incremental approvals work know that the die is already cast.

Unfortunately, the good folk who showed up for this phony pow-wow don’t understand that as local citizens they have virtually no power to effect a stop to whatever the Cal State University system and its Chancellor in Long Beach authorize. This is particularly true since Fullerton’s Redevelopment Successor Agency seems to be pulling out of its long-standing cooperative agreement with the university. Back in the late 70s, the City actually paid to help establish the Arboretum. Does anybody in City Hall care? There is certainly no revenue to be squeezed from it.

Costs of Transparency

So Fullerton has decided to publish the weekly records request log. Okay, it’s a public document so I don’t care about that and I’ve never been shy about my involvement in local politics.

But this newest document is just horseshit and screw the city bureaucrats for their disingenuous blame shifting.

Why the rage? Read the line items.

Weekly PRR Log

Staff / Attorney Time?!

Attorney Cost?!

If the city didn’t hide everything and lie about what is released into the public domain there wouldn’t be a need for much “staff time” and/or “attorney cost”.

I’ll prove my point.

Here’s a line of from the current log:

Weekly Log - Joshua

This request, for what should be public data, allegedly cost the city just shy of $100.

Here’s what was returned:

19-101 PRR

There. Are. No. Available. Records.

None. Nothing was returned. So the city called the attorney to go over what exactly?

This request was related to an accident where Parks employees wrecked a city vehicle. Since the date of that incident the city has buried the details without so much as saying a single word to the ratepayers who owned that vehicle. Not one word. Not one answer. No acknowledgement and no pretense of accountability.

So not only was the city not transparent to the people, which is the norm for these nitwits, they paid the attorney to double down and hide everything while returning zero records and admitting nothing.

This is just a line item to shame and blame the people who put in requests by pointing out the costs of transparency.

If the city is going to lie, obstruct, hide information and then try and shame us with bullshit costs I say bring it on. Let’s do this. I’m going to try and get the high score now. Who’s up to the challenge?

Fitzgerald Quits Fullerton City Council

I’m not telling the truth and you can’t make me…

Today Jennifer Fitzgerald announced her resignation from the Fullerton Council, effective immediately.

It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it…

“I can no longer even pretend to fulfill all the oaths I swore when I became a councilperson,” said Fitzgerald. “All the developer shakedowns, all the lies, all the influence peddling – I just can’t keep track of it all anymore. Balanced budgets, commitment to roads, honest cops – people want so much and I am so tired. I’m going to spend time with my family,” she stuttered weepily. “The evil has been backing up so much I feel I may burst.”

Mayor Jesus Silva responded to the announcement by saying ” I guess I’ll miss her helping me out at meetings when I started babbling like a boracho pendejo, but it will sure will be nice to have only one woman telling me what to do.”

Quick, get clear of the impending collapse…

Recently appointed Councilwoman Jan Flory had kind words for her colleague. “I’m going to miss Jen’ on council. To my lights she was the heart of the city and represents the very best commitment to service. We accomplished all sorts of things together – good roads, a successful downtown bar scene, an accountable police department, an unmatched string of balanced budges, effective and successful public works projects – you name it. She’s the reason Fullerton is where it is today.

Recently elected councilperson Ahmad Zahra was quick to praise Fitzgerald. “I thought at first  she might be, you know, difficult to work with after she called out my long-winded moral posturing on the council appointment deal. But, later, when the chips were down, and she was willing to screw Whitaker just for the fun of it, I was so happy to make the deal to be on the water board. It was a very successful transaction.”

The council will now have to decide whether to replace Fitzgerald by appointment or by special election. According to the City Attorney a special election in November could cost eighty trillion dollars, which might come close to unbalancing the City’s budget according to City Manager Ken Domer.