One of the more startling examples of stupid waste at Fullerton City Hall has been the exorbitant expense of Behind the Badge: fifty large ones a year for former bad OC Register “journalists” to publish and disseminate pro-cop propaganda pabulum. It was all phony crap meant to obscure the real news about the FPD: a litany of bad behavior and criminal activity that over the past decade has spanned the breadth of the California Penal Code. Fortunately, thanks to the Friends this ridiculous waste is coming to an end. We wanted to make sure, too, so we requested the good bye letter.
And here is our temporary police chief Dave Hinig, hand-wringing over the loss of what can only be described as no loss at all for the taxpayer:
Is this some sort of sick joke? Value? To whom? Certainly not for the people who were paying out almost $250,000 over the past four years.
And what’s really laughable is all this lachrymose bullshit over a contract that was made in secret, was grossly mismanaged, and that had no actual requirements for performance – even if Joe Felz had had any inclination to oversee what he initiated.
Well, anyway, Behind the Badge is going away although why we have to pay another $8000 for two more months of this unadulterated literary manure is beyond me.
City Hall did something really helpful this week. The Clerk’s Office worked with Administrative Services to post very detailed budget documents online in advance of next Tuesday’s City Council budget workshop. I asked if this could be done and they made it happen 24 hours later. Thank you!
Budget detail of this depth has never been provided to the public. This is a big step in the right direction, and likely never would have happened if Joe Felz was still in charge.
From this cache of documents, we are able to see the type of General Fund waste that Dan Hughes justified during his tenure as police chief. The next time you call the Police Department and are told no officers are available to respond to a call for service, just remember where his priorities were.
Much of this is charitable and/or personal expenses. Dan Hughes was Fullerton’s highest compensated employee in 2015 with $358,403 in wages and benefits. He should have paid these expenses out of his own pocket, or simply not at all.
Let us not forget that it was the City Council — led by Fitzgerald, Flory, and Chaffee — that let him get away with shenanigans like this.
One can only hope the current City Council sees fit to finally end this nonsense.
Friends, in response to our public records act request regarding council communications on November 9th, 2016, we actually received the image below from newly-elected but not even sworn-in councilman Jesus Silva.
The first message from the afternoon of November 9th is “responsive,” but not requested since Silva was not yet a councilman. Still it’s pretty darn funny.
The second message dated five days later is a completely gratuitous offering, and you are free to make of it what you will. To me it looks an awful lot like Jesus was planning a list of invitees to an upcoming fundraiser. Let’s hope Felz didn’t waste any time on a purely political exercise for somebody too lazy too do his own research. Of course Stumblejoe had other things on his mind on November 14th.
This is the third post in a series by our Friend “Fullerton Engineer” describing the elevator addition project at the Fullerton Depot.
So you think the problem with transportation revenue is that there isn’t enough of it? Let’s see what happens when the State of California doles out grant money to localities, in this instance our very own town of Fullerton.
California transportation projects are very often driven by the availability of money spent in pursuit of a social agenda. Car pools lanes with fantastically expensive fly-over bridges? Check. Highly subsidized transit for upper middle class commuters? Check.
Forget that carpool lanes make everybody’s drive worse and that commuter trains only serve a puny portion of the taxpayers that foot the bill. It’s the gesture that counts, you see, and the more expensive the gesture, the more it counts.
Back in 2010, or so, the good folks whose livelihoods depend on putting the plans of our Sacramento social engineers into effect foresaw a big increase in rail transit through the Fullerton train station. But gee, thought someone, won’t that mean making it harder to get all those new travelers to other side of the tracks? The solution? New elevators, and right next to the old ones. Forget the fact that most of the day the existing elevators were unused, or that most people just climbed the stairs; and forget the fact that a sensible set of stairs already existed under the Harbor Boulevard bridge to do the same thing. New elevators made no sense even if the new ridership tsunami was believable: after all – only two trains can stop in the station at the same time, the same as before.
But of course the real kicker was the availability of money from our friends in Sacramento to effect alterations in stations that accommodate “transit” modalities, and so the City of Fullerton was going to grab while the grabbing was good, and never mind that the idea was nonsense and that nobody needed or wanted it.
On December 20, 2011 our esteemed City Council voted to award a design contract to Hatch Mott MacDonald, an engineering firm to “design” two new elevators right next to the existing ones. The contract amount was $358,390, a remarkable amount given the scope of the task at hand – to replicate the existing bridge in two new, one-stop elevator structures. In case you are wondering, $358,000 equates to the billing of one $100 per hour person working on this project full-time, doing nothing else, for 1.7 years.
And so the City embarked on this ridiculous project. HMM began work in march 2012 after the City had signed a master agreement with the State of California. Someone should have become alarmed the following year when Hatch Mott MacDonald’s design service billings eventually ballooned 28% over budget– almost a hundred thousand dollars.But no one did. It was someone else’s money.
Carl DeMaio out of San Diego has been pitching the idea of a recall for our new CA State Senator Josh Newman. Why Newman? Because Newman voted to increase our gas taxes for the dubious claim of fixing our roads. He barely won his seat and without him the State wouldn’t have a (D) Super-Majority with which to tax us into oblivion.
While it’s true that Mah Roads need fixing it is not true that the government needs to steal more money in order to accomplish this task. Sadly Newman, like nearly every (D) in Sacramento (I’m looking at your Quirk-Silva) thinks theft is the only way to combat incompetence and prior graft. The cycle will continue unabated until we get mad as hell and don’t take it anymore.
Will the recall succeed? Considering Newman barely won by a razor thin margin this last November it’s definitely possible that he could get the boot. While Newman’s district covers quite a bit of real estate it’s not as if this would be Fullerton’s first recall rodeo.
For those that support the recall I’d recommend checking our DeMaio’s page HERE. While I’m inclined to give the boot to anybody who saddles the working class with such ridiculous taxes – I remember who our last recall gifted us in this fair town and substituting Newman for a Fitzgerald type would be no win for taxpayers. I’m also of the opinion that if we’re going to boot Newman for being a party stooge reaching for our wallets we should probably aim for a twofer and do the same to his colleague in the Assembly at the same time.
When Councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald finally got around to not misunderstanding the public records request for her phone communications on November 9th, 2016, FFFF received a document that purported to be responsive to our request. Here it is:
Have you ever seen a phone bill that wasn’t sorted chronologically? That’s because the document we received is not a phone bill. It’s data that was dumped into an Excel spreadsheet and deliberately sorted to confuse the chronological record and quite possibly to obscure the sequence and time-frame of redacted calls. This is not the public record that was requested and is not responsive to the request that was made by FFFF. In fact, this clumsy effort at obfuscation gives every indication of being an attempt to hide Ms. Fitzgerald’s communications in the early hours of November 9th.
And just for fun we have helped out with the names associated with the numbers:
As usual, when someone looks like they’re trying to hide something folks get a little suspicious that there is something worth hiding. And when it comes to our lobbist-councilwoman, we’re naturally suspicious to start with. So rest assured, Friends, we’ll be demanding that we get the original record, and not some self-serving, massaged data.
How funny. When you hire a lawyer the City’s legal minions suddenly realize that peddling bullshit may just have ramifications. They become slightly less obnoxious to the citizens they are supposed to be working for.
In the case of Jennifer Fitzgerald’s phone records from the early morning of November 9th, 2016, the public was first told that there were no responsive records. FFFF knew that was a lie because Fitzgerald herself admitted she was in communication with the police chief, Danny “Galahad” Hughes that night; and Hughes memorialized his conversations with councilmembers the very next day in a written memo.
That was when FFFF decided to lawyer up.
Well, here’s the response FFFF attorney, Kelly Aviles, received to her first demand letter. Mostly it’s a clarification about what FFFF wants. But the final page of the response contains this priceless gem:
Seems it was all just a “miscommunication,” donchaknow, in which the poor, befuddled lobbyist-councilwoman Fitzgerald thought members of the public were seeking information about some whole other day, you know, just for the heck of it. But boy was she hustling to cooperate when she found out what FFFF really wanted!
FFFF was just sent a few pages from the latest budget proposals, which the Fullerton City Council will soon vote on. The true costs of Fullerton’s pension debt are coming to bear, as the proposals call for the elimination for firefighters, police corporals, maintenance workers and security guard services.
These reductions will be necessary in order to offset significant increases in CalPERS pension payments for existing employees. Most of the budget is allocated to staffing, so city staff claims there are very few non-staffing cuts to be made.
From here, it will only get worse. CalPERS will continue to lower its discount rate, triggering higher bills for cities across the state. We are looking at many more reductions in services and increases in taxes and fees over the next few years.
Will our council have the guts to pull the trigger and start making severe cuts now? Or will they postpone action until insolvency becomes inevitable?
On Saturday the city will shut down several public streets for an event called the “March for Science.” It’s the local version of a nationwide protest of federal budget cuts to scientific research. While the event organizers claim that it is non-partisan, critics say its the nerdy version of yet another anti-Trump protest.
Naturally the city bureaucrats were eager to accommodate to the public’s expression via a gathering on the city hall lawn and a march through downtown streets, right? Of course not. The City of Fullerton declined the assembly. Organizers were told to come up with $12,000 for city fees, a $2 million insurance policy and provide 90 days notice before starting the march.
What were these fees supposed to pay for? $8,000 went towards some sort of a traffic control plan and $4,000 was earmarked for police fees. Specifics costs were unavailable, but we can read between the lines: it’s $12,000 to put up plastic barricades and have some cops stand around, collecting overtime.
The ACLU got involved and lit up the city for charging excess fees they claim were intended to “discourage community members from exercising their First Amendment rights.”
Predictably, the ACLU communique prompted a change of heart at city hall. City management found a way to drastically reduce fees to a mere $175. The march will proceed as planned, without most of the ridiculously expensive bureaucratic requirements.
The moral of this story, of course, is that city hall’s default reaction to 1st amendment activity is to put up artificial financial/administrative barricades and prevent the unwashed masses from organizing and criticizing government. Around here, if you can’t bring in a lawyer to assert your rights, you’re nobody. That sounds familiar.
On the other hand, I am reminded of a peaceful Fullerton march that occurred in 2011 without lawyers, city approval, plastic barricades, insurance policies, traffic control, fat cops on overtime or any sort of certificate of authenticity. How did that happen?