Loyal and Patient Friends, our long narrative of the City Lights SRO is coming to a sordid climax, and a merciful denouement. We have witnessed incompetence, vindictiveness, cultural vandalism and bureaucratic usurpation of authority, But we’re still not finished. The SRO project appeared dead. The elected representatives had killed it. Democracy at work! But as long-time city-watchers know, the project is only dead when staff says it’s dead, and none of the architects of this disaster – City Manger Jim Armstrong, Planning Director Paul Dudley, or their puppet, Redevelopment Director Gary Chalupsky, wanted it dead. Because that would be an admission of what everybody else already knew – they were largely incompetent.
We left off with Dick Jones at a March, 1997 meeting waxing voluble about drug users and their nefarious ways. Nuh-uh, not in my city! Unfortunately, Jones discovered that getting the foot into the mouth is a whole heckuva lot easier than extracting it.
Jones was not acute enough to pick up on clues that the City Manager, Flory and Bankhead were not going to let this die. He should have been clued in during the March meeting by the Agency attorney, who, at the insistence of Flory, Bankhead, and a clueless Julie Sa, gave a legal opinion in public stating that Mithawalla could have a case against the Agency. Here’s where the story gets a bit murky, culpability-wise, and who orchestrated what, so rather than accuse anybody we’ll just let you – the Friends of Fullerton – draw your own conclusions.
A civil rights lawsuit was adventitiously filed against Jones and the City by some guy nobody knew, claiming that the targets of Jones’ tirade were protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act; Mithawalla was waiting in the wings to go after the City for breach of contract – although clearly no contract had been established. With enough proper coaxing from people who wanted this project to live, Dick Jones, the Big Man with The Big Mouth suddenly experienced a case of shrinkage.
A new hearing was held in May 1997. The stage was re-set to take up the SRO project one more time. It didn’t matter that the Council majority had already spoken. The City Staff, the Redevelopment Attorney, Flory and Bankhead were determined to have the last word in order to remind everyone who really runs the City of Fullerton.