Erection Dysfunction

 

If someone takes the time to review the history of Fullerton over the past forty years, one thing becomes shockingly clear: when it comes to building things, maintaining things and planning for things, the City government just can’t do much of anything right. And yet over this long history, the City and the public seem to have the shortest of memories.

For the denizens of City Hall, the fact that the jalopy has no rear view mirror makes perfect sense. After all, if you’re pulling down well over a hundred Gs, with a trampoline retirement coming your way, why spoil things with strange notions like accountability and responsibility? It’s so much easier to pretend nothing bad has happened.

A little Jack Daniels gets you through the morning.

The people who live here on the other hand, have no such incentive; quite the reverse, in fact. So how come constant repetition of the disastrous lessons from the past are tolerated? Is it easier to just ignore the millions upon millions wasted in foolish vanity projects, make-work comedies, and deteriorating infrastructure? Maybe.

But I hope that by continuing the drumbeat started on this brave blog 11 years ago, sooner or later the populace will wake up to the ineptitude and dissimulation by its highly paid, and so far untouchable masters of disaster.

And so join me Friends as I take you on trip down memory lane, Fullerton style.

Today almost nobody remembers the comical City endeavor to transform Harbor Boulevard in the early 80s by removing on-street parking, adding medians, spike-laden, pod-dropping floss silk trees, and bizarre concrete peristyles along the sidewalks. Comical, did I say? It would have been funny except that it doomed the businesses along Harbor to slow entropy. The ridiculous peristyles were soon removed but the rest of the mess lasted for decades and many of the hideous trees and broken sidewalks are still there as a reminder that the City is perfectly willing to waste millions on hare-brained, concept-of-the-day tomfoolery that gives them something to do.

The stupid that men do lives after them…

The Allen Hotel, was Fullerton’s first foray into “affordable” housing back in the late 80s. It was a slum, alright and thirty years after the City’s bungling acquisition, the site is just begging for more “redevelopment.” Will it get it?

The once and present tenement…

The CSUF Stadium & Fundraising Fiasco of 1990 ought to give plenty of pause to those contemplating Big Projects with public money. The brainchild of slimy City Councilman and later slimy State Senator, Dick Ackerman, the idea was to build a permanent home for the CSUF football team. Only trouble was that the $15,000,000 stadium was completed the same year the plug was pulled on a dismal gridiron program. In typical fashion, the City invested in a fundraising plan in which a company was hired at a cost of several hundred thou to raise money, and didn’t. Oops!

Oh, boy, the other football!

The horror story “Knowlwood Corner” is a veritable textbook case of government bureaucratic misfeasance, from start to finish. The story started in the early 90s and dragged on for years and years; when the signature building was finally built, the missing second floor became a perfect symbol for this misadventure. From stupid economic micromanagement to horrible architecture, this one touched all the bases – and it took seven years to do so.

There is no second floor. Other than that it’s a 2 story building

The Bank of Italy Building was another disaster from the early 90s, but one that actually gutted an historic building. Millions in public money were wasted to pay for something that never should have been undertaken in the first place.

Deception, Incompetence and Damn Proud of It

The North Platform remodel of 1992-93 proved that no matter how bungled things were in Fullerton, it could always get worse. A landscape architect was hired to place as many impediments between passengers and trains as was humanly possible. Some of the citizens got wise, and half the crap was ripped out. Heads rolled in City Hall. Oh, wait, no they didn’t.

Trees and planters block the platform; staff obstruction was almost as bad.

Few folks now remember the Fairway Toyota dealership expansion fiasco from the mid-90s that required threatening an old lady with eminent domain and then closing off Elm Avenue forever. The City’s investment disappeared like an early summer morning’s dew when the dealership took off for Anaheim a few years later. After years of housing a used car dealership, the City permitted the development of another massive cliff dwelling along Harbor Boulevard. The losses were never accounted for but at least the neighbors got a nice view and early shade.

So bad he had to pull over and barf…

 

For those who can remember the Fullerton SRO debacle – a history filled with so much doubling down on stupidity that it strains credulity – it remains one of Fullerton’s saddest tales. Years and millions were burned on fly-by-night developers, one of whom turned out to be impecunious, and the other a flim-flam artist.

Fort Mithawalla, AKA, the Bum Box…

Fullerton’s Corporate Yard expansion was a mid-nineties project that left the City gasping for air. Despite hiring an outside construction manager and paying him a couple hundred grand, the project dissolved into a litigation mess that only escaped public embarrassment because nobody on the City Council gave a damn. Settlement details vanished into the haze.

The so-called Poison Park on Truslow Avenue may set the standard for Fullerton incompetence, although admittedly, the competition is fierce. In the late 90s, the City had Redevelopment money to burn and just couldn’t wait to do so. So they bought a piece of industrial property and built a park that nobody outside City Hall wanted. Cost? $3,000,000. Of course the site attracted gang members and drug dealers as predicted. Worse still, the land was contaminated and the “park” fenced off. It’s been like that for almost 15 years. And Counting.

Maybe the less said, the better…

No story of Fullerton calamities would be complete without once again sharing the tale of the Florentine Sidewalk Hijacking, in which a permit for “outside dining” was transformed one day by the Florentine Mob into a permanent building blocking half a public sidewalk. The Big City Planner, Paul Dudley, said everything was peachy. He was lying, of course, but did anybody really care?

Caution – ethical behavior narrows ahead…

In a great example of the tail wagging the dog, the Fox Theater has been used to justify all kinds of nonsense, including moving a McDonald’s  a 150 feet to the east and later proposing development of perhaps the greatest architectural monstrosity anybody has ever seen. This saga is still going on, believe it or not, after two decades or more. No one knows how much has been wasted going nowhere on this rolling disaster, and no one seems the least bit interested in finding out.

Egad. What a freaking mess…

Some people might conclude that the majority of Fullerton’s disasters can be laid at the feet of the Redevelopment Agency (really just the City Council) and well-pensioned, inept managers like Terry Galvin and Gary Chaplusky. When they weren’t slapping brick veneer on anything that didn’t move, they were screwing everything else up, too. But when we regard the history of Laguna Lake we enter into the realm of Fullerton’s Parks and Engineering mamalukes. After spending a small fortune on renovating the lake, the thing leaked like a sieve. Hundreds of millions of premium MWD gallons were pumped into the thing to keep it full. The public and council were left in the dark, even as citizens were told to conserve water in their homes. Did anyone in charge give a damn? Did anyone ask how much money and water were squandered over the years? Of course not. This is Fullerton. We could ask Engineering Director Don Hoppe for details, except that he is now comfortably retired and pulling down a massive pension.

Water in, water out…

Our professional planners, have been knee deep in Fullerton’s morass. Over-development (see example, above) has been fostered and nowhere was this better seen than in the Core and Corridors Specific Plan. This idiotic plan wasted a million bucks of State money without a backward glance after the whole thing was finally dumped on the QT  – too stupid even for Fullerton. Did anybody ask for their money back? Nope. And yet  a link to a blank web page titled Core and Corridors still exists! Hope springs eternal.

The 2000s proved that nobody in City Hall or out, was learning anything, even after the expensive failures of the 90s. The “West Harbor Improvement” project in 2009, was an endeavor so unnecessary that it could only be proposed in Fullerton, where government “place making” has never succeeded. The alley is a barf zone behind a bunch of bars that only needs hosing down every Sunday morning.

What can we do with it ? Or to it?

We’ve already covered in detail the multi-million dollar death march of the new elevators at the depot, an unnecessary project that was only pursued because “other people’s money” was paying for it – that is until the project burned into its seventh year. And then City money had to pay to keep the disaster on life support. Aggravating this complete folly and waste is the fact that the existing elevators tower stairs are slowly rusting away and the glass is graffiti marred.

Let the groundbreaking begin. No point in waiting to waste other people’s money, right?

 

This litany of disasters, follies and debacles brings us to the Pinewood Stairs at Hillcrest Park which put on display the incompetence of the designer, the city staff, the construction manager, and a contractor who couldn’t build a sand box to code. Wasting $1.6 million is bad enough; permitting the code violations and construction deficiencies go unfixed is even worse. Barely two years old, the ramshackle structure moves more than the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

A light post not even fit for a drunk to lean on…

And finally, let us not forget the completely useless $725,000 “ceremonial” bridge over Brea Creek at Hillcrest Park. Of course it’s just there to make some sort of statement, not to be used. The only statement that occurs to me is one of conspicuous consumption by a city that is just rolling in dough.

And over all these years Fullerton’s “leaders have neglected our aging infrastructure and permitted zone changes allowing for massive new development that has lined the pockets of developers and political campaign coffers, and left the rest of us with even more traffic and more burden on our roads and pipes.

Water, water everywhere. Except where it’s supposed to be…

 

It could be worse. No it couldn’t.

The end.

 

Silva’s Escort

Readers of this blog might think I have a hyper-obsession with toll road violations.  Not really.  It’s just that toll road violations seem to bring out the very worst and embarrassing moments in government.  Nine times out of ten, the car shouldn’t have been using the toll roads to begin with.  Such is the case here, once again.

“Rebecca Leifkes escorted Council Member Jesus Silva to various Homeless Shelters in Orange County.”

Why does Silva need an escort to visit homeless shelters?  He owns his own car, and is presumably competent enough to drive the freeways.  Council members are not entitled to mileage reimbursement, toll road reimbursements, nor do they have assigned staff persons to cater to their every need.

If the hand-written notation is as true as written (below), this speaks volumes about Jesus Silva’s ability to conduct City business on his own, without help from staff.  The hand-holding and coddling needs to stop.

 

The Dysfunction of Downtown Fullerton

Friends for Fullerton’s Future just received a disturbing story accompanied by a photograph that seems to encapsulate the Downtown Fullerton experience:

Hey, FFFF, I wanted to send along a story about what happened to me a few weeks ago. About 2 am a friend and I were walking along the north side of Commonwealth. Across the street we could see some kind of free-for-all going on. Then the crowd ran off leaving two people lying on the ground. By the time we crossed over to see what the damage was, the Fullerton police had arrived. The two people, a guy and a woman, were bloodied and obviously beaten. One of the cops saw me observing the scene and asked if I wanted to be arrested.

Rather than provide information about what we had seen, we decided to move on. But before we left I turned around and took this picture showing the woman pleading with four cops who appeared indifferent to whatever physical abuse she had suffered.

Sad. 

Yes, Friend, it is sad. Our “leaders” have created, nurtured, and encouraged a culture of mayhem where sometimes it’s hard to tell the victim from the perpetrator and where the cops are seemingly anesthetized to the weekly blood bath.

Stuffed Animals

Two years ago, I wrote a post for this blog entitled, Woe to the Charitable Donor where I pointed out the embarrassingly poor oversight when it comes to receiving and spending donated money.  Literally nothing has changed in the time since then.

Last year, the City purchased 75 K9 Hero stuffed animals — like the one pictured above — for the tidy sum of $618.75.

Follow along below.  On the reconciliation report, that purchase is charged to the 95-2501 account.  95 is a Trust Fund, and 2501 is where K-9 donations from the community are deposited.

 

Again, we have an instance where well-meaning Fullerton non-profits think they’re helping to fund actual police work, actual K-9 food and equipment, actual K-9 veterinary care — when that isn’t the case at all.

A mere four days before those stuffed animals were ordered, actual K-9 veterinary expenses at Yorba Regional Animal Hospital were charged to the General Fund, account 10277-6319.  (Note: anything 10xxx is the General Fund)

Without missing a beat, two days later, they spent $700 at Work Dogs International, again using General Fund account 10277-6319.

Why did they charge the General Fund when just days before/after, they had donated K-9 money to burn on stupid stuffed animals?

My detractors will say, so what, it’s a small sum of money, who cares?  Tell that to the City employees whose jobs in the Public Works / Landscape Division are about to be eliminated.  The City just issued an RFP for Park Maintenance because the City can no longer afford their wages and pensions.  Maybe if the incompetence and sense of entitlement at the police department weren’t so bad, we would have cash to spend elsewhere.

Does the City have any policy whatsoever for proper handling of donations?  Why is this tolerated?

The Maxwell Smart Strategy for Approving School Bonds

One of the regular go to jokes on the old Get Smart show was when Don Adams, after being caught redhanded in a baldfaced lie, would follow up with “Would you believe…” while trying to walk back the lie to something the listener might accept.

Well, it turns out that this is exactly how school bond measures get drafted and, ultimately, passed.

The Fullerton School District has recently commissioned a Baseline Bond feasibility survey from True North Research (available here) and they have been calling residents to feel out their receptiveness to a $198 milion bond measure that, by their own admission, will increase property taxes by at least another $93 per year. What is interesting about the survey is not that the School District wants more money and isn’t shy about raising taxes to do it (they wouldn’t be a government agency otherwise) but that it is designed to determine what promises need to be made to get it. Hence the reason why the question about removing “dangerous asbestos” was included, even though A) asbestos is generally more dangerous when it is removed and B) the City of Fullerton supposedly removed the asbestos from their classrooms thirty five years ago according to this article in the LA Times archive.

The results of the Baseline Survey will be presented to the Fullerton School Board at their next meeting on Tuesday, August 13, 2019. The bond measure, if when it is ultimately approved by the School Board to go on the ballot will likely be drafted based on which spending priorities polled best, and for an amount that does not exceed the comfort level the polled residents expressed.

Of course the problem arises when the promises needed to pass a bond measure conflict with the what the school district wants to actually use the money in question for. And if the Fullerton School District is anything like the North Orange County Community College District or most other school districts, the solution is simple – spend it on what you wanted to anyway, and to hell with your promises.

Would you believe $500 million for a brand new state of the art Veteran’s Center? How about a couple busted laptops and a new football stadium?

I take no joy in calling out the Fullerton School District here. Unlike the City’s roads (which are a pothole strewn laughingstock), our schools are among the best in Orange County and a key reason many of us chose to live here (myself included). But well run or not, our schools suffer the same problems endemic to government – excess allocation to pay and benefits at the expense of infrastructure, administrative bloat and employee protections that make it too costly to fire bad employees – and until these problems are addressed bond measures designed to paper over the financial shortfalls will be a steady fixture at the ballot box. Along with a steady stream of promises nobody intends to fulfill.

 

Cicinelli Got $1K to Hide Out in Arizona

Back in 2012, after Fullerton Officers beat Kelly Thomas to death. In the aftermath, that is still ongoing today as former Officers Cicinelli and Wolfe continue to fight their terminations, the Cicinelli family asked for close to $1k in order to hide out in his parent’s house in Arizona.

 

Cincinelli Living Expenses

 

“We have recently been asked by one of our police officers involved in
the Kelly Thomas incident if the possibility still exists for
reimbursement of extra living expenses incurred in August following the
publication of their home addresses on a local blog.  I believe I had
conversations with Alan about this expense being reimbursable under this
policy.  As I recalled, our discussion was that certain expenses would
be allowable if they met the “reasonableness” test and clearly were
additional living expenses.
At the time, none of the officers asked for reimbursement.  We now have
one indicating that he did incur additional expenses in the weeks
following the publication of his home address when he relocated his
family.  He originally was inclined to not seek reimbursement, but now
wishes to do so.
Please advise whether you are in a position to consider such a claim
and, if so, what you will need to review to evaluate whether any
expenses are reimburseable.”
This request was received by Human Resources Director Gretchen Beatty, who we figured should have laughed it off, and then paid out to Cicinelli.
Cincinelli Living Expenses Approved
“We will reimburse the expense.  Can you just confirm that the amount being sought is 969.31 and the check should be made payable to Jay Cincinelli and mailed to [redacted].”
The excuse was that somebody doxed Cicinelli but the truth is that somebody ran a public Google search and posted comments around the internet of information readily found on said internet. Hardly an excuse to shell out more money to a guy who just smashed somebody’s face in.
Or as one City Staffer put it:
Jason Rosanne
“Maybe he should have thought about all this before he beat a man to death…..”

Fullerton Wants State to Help Fight Marijuana

Here in Fullerton, where our downtown is essentially wall-to-wall bars with hundreds of DUIs a year as a result, we don’t take alcoholism or drinking and driving very seriously.

Sure we hand out awards to the officers with the most DUI arrests but when it comes to the over-serving or other bad behaviors by bars we don’t just turn a blind eye, as a city we change the laws on the books to make it easier for those bad bars to operate. Hell, Jennifer Fitzgerald is so blind on the issue that she’s on record blaming “pre-gaming” in the parking structures for the problems.

You can get drunk and kill a 6yo in her front yard and Fullerton’s Staff and Council will yawn at the DUI culture they’ve created. That’s not fair – they won’t just yawn. They’ll actively spend the next year making the DUI factory in downtown worse.

But weed? Now that’s a problem that Fullerton is willing to tackle.

Fullerton City Manager Domer and Chief of Police Dunn want help from the State of California to crack down on “black market marijuana retailers” despite the city council steadfastly refusing to allow legal dispensaries to exist in the city.

State Help Weed

My City Manager forwarded me an article from the OCR..

https://www.ocregister.com/2018/08/28/state-begins-crackdown-on-black-market-marijuana-retailers-starting-in-costa-mesa/

He’s curious how you were able to get the state to assist you.  Any insight you can share would be greatly appreciated.

In 2016 the voters of CA approved Prop 64 for legal marijuana with 57% of the vote, even 52% of OC voters voted yes on Prop 64. Even Fullerton was pro-weed with a 51% Yes vote.

Fullerton Prop 64

Fullerton Weed 2016

Despite the vote, the Fullerton City Council has refused to allow a single dispensary anywhere in Fullerton. They won’t zone any industrial or commercial areas for legal weed leaving sellers in non-compliance.

You can run an illegal venue at the airport, refuse to put in mandated fire sprinklers in the largest nightclub in downtown, run a bar without the legal permits and so much more and the city is more than happy to let you get away with it. But weed? Oh man, that’s a sin too far and a sin that might cut into the profit margins of the bustling bar and fight scene.

This is substantially no different than Measure W, where 60% of voters voted against the development of Coyote Hills and the council is going to do it anyways. Welcome to Fullerton where your vote counts as long as we like the way you vote.

Ken Domer’s Arrogance Peaks Through his Emails

City Manager Ken Domer really is just another petty bureaucrat who doesn’t want people to know the truth. When our own Joshua Ferguson put in a record’s request asking for emails about this very blog and his own self, the city worked to limit the scope but not before throwing some shade his way.

Either Ken Domer is ignorant regarding how boolean searches work or he’s just being petty and mocking Joshua’s attempt at thoroughness.

Joshua Boolean

“Ivy, I know Josh, or Joshua, or Josh Ferguson, of Joshua Ferguson, stated no timeframe –”

I guess if you assume your messages will never be made public you’re free to be arrogant and condescending about those members of the public you don’t favor.

Hanger 21 is Still Illegally Operating at the Airport

Back in 2017 the city of Fullerton kicked Air Combat USA out of the airport and after a legally questionable bid process the city leased the hanger to a company called Hanger 21. We covered this briefly HERE and HERE.

Here’s some of the backstory from the City Manager himself:

Domer Hanger 21 PL

“The problem is that regardless of the lease term, it is the use that is non-conforming.  However, what is the remedy for a non-conforming use?  Cessation of the use, which could happen if the PL amendment is not approved or the lease is not.”

Realizing that the city had approved a bid for a business that wasn’t legally allowed to operate, the city swung into action to fix the problem. The remedy was for Fullerton’s City Council to chang the municipal code in an effort to make Hanger 21’s then-illegal use conform to local law.

And because this is Fullerton – they failed spectacularly.

On December 05, 2017 the city council approved Hanger 21’s lease AND then on March 20, 2018 they changed the zoning at the airport.

PL Zone Change 2018

“H. Other similar public facilities, commercial amenities, and special events on City-owned property when in conformance with the purpose of this zone and approved by the City Council.”

Read that and then think about the timeline because the city didn’t and hasn’t. I’ll point out the obvious problem:

“and approved by the City Council”.

The City Council cannot legally be said to have approved Hangar 21’s usage since they haven’t visited the issue since the municipal zoning change. This is a cart before the horse problem with the council just assuming that they’ve de facto approved Hangar 21’s lease and use through the zone change but that’s an ex post facto problem and is quite an illegal interpretation.

Score another blunder for Jones and Mayer.

Here we sit a year and four months later and the council has YET to fix this problem.

This is another case of city staff, consultants, attorneys and the city council being incompetent and hoping nobody catches on which of course has led to the city being sued.

Follow the Bouncing Bureaucracy

One of the biggest problems with government is that it’s slow to react and generally stupid in those reactions. This is largely because governments are run by incompetent bureaucrats who refuse to learn lessons from their own mistakes.

Let’s look at some complaints lodged against city appointed commissioners and how the city reacted to those complaints to see how the rules in government changed depending on the person involved.

First up is a complaint against our own Joshua Ferguson by city manager assistant Nicole Bernard. She apparently got mad at the posting of an anonymous complaint  against her.

She asked the city to compel Joshua to remove the post and the lawyer the city used to look into it came back with a big fat no can do: (more…)