Your Roads Suck & Measure S Won’t Fix Them

The City of Fullerton is spending your money to promote a new sales tax to you. They want you to vote yes on Measure S in order to raise the sales tax in Fullerton. Don’t be a sucker.

True, they’re promising roads and infrastructure and all of the goodies that government is supposedly designed to provide. The problem is that they spend exactly ZERO of your local taxes on these things right now.

Zero of your Property Taxes go to the roads and infrastructure.
Zero of your Sales Taxes go to the roads and infrastructure.
It’s the same with all of the fees and permits, licenses and so forth.

Despite taxing people in Fullerton to the tune of over $97 Million dollars, not one dime goes to the most basic of road work. Seems like we could fill a lot of potholes with +/- $97 Million dollars a year.

So how does our little amount of road work happen?

After the City squanders all of the tax money you give them directly, mostly on salaries and benefits, they then rely on OTHER government agencies to tax you further in order to do the terrible job they do on keeping your city nice. Remember SB1? When Newman jacked up the taxes on every gallon of gas you buy? Yeah, that was because your city government doesn’t actually care about your city and they use the State (where your vote barely matters) as bad cop to their incompetent cop.

Here’s a snippet from Fullerton’s budget to outline my point:

Zero Dollars to CIP
Don’t worry, they promise they’ll spend more if you give them more

That “-” denotes exactly zip, zilch, nadda dollars.

The City Council of Fullerton cares so deeply about keeping your city nice that they can’t be bothered to allocate a single dollar out of the $97Million General Fund – a General Fund that comes directly from your property & sales taxes – to basic upkeep.

I cannot stress this point enough.

Oh they’ll promise that they pave “8 miles of road a year” or whatever hogwash they’re peddling during election season, but in reality they can’t be bothered to tell a single union “No” in order to keep the alignment of your car from freaking out.

So where DOES that money go? Here’s a chart that sums it up:

Taxes to Public Safety
What a coincidence that those lines match up so nicely…

That is a chart from our own David Curlee showing Fullerton’s Property & Sales taxes that you pay laid next to the amount the City spends on Police & Fire. Notice how they line up? The Police Department eats every single dollar (and some) brought in to the City through Property Taxes and Fire eats all of your Sales Taxes. They don’t do that directly of course, they have accounting gimmicks and various funds to try and hide this from you but this is basic math minus bureaucratic bullshittery we’re showing you.

That’s right. That’s where ALL of your money goes and a large chunk of that is to pensions for guys who retire at 55 and will outlive all of us.

And along comes Measure S.

Much like Newman’s SB1 lie, Measure S is full of promises that require you to suspend disbelief and history in order to believe. The same city that prioritizes precisely ZERO of those $97 Million in taxes to keeping up our infrastructure NOW wants you to believe that they can be trusted to do the right thing with Millions more of your money if you give it to them.

Don’t do it. Don’t believe them. Don’t trust them. Don’t give them another dime of your money until they learn how to prioritize spending what they already take from all of us every year.

If you give them more money, they will absolutely spend every dollar on whatever strikes their fancy and when your roads still suck in years to come they’ll put their hat back in their hands and start the begging all over again. End this abusive relationship. They don’t steal from you because they love you, they do it because you won’t fight back.

Join the fight. Vote NO on Measure S.

The Latest City Scam – Campaigning for Measure S

It’s supposed to be illegal to use public resources in support of ballot initiatives, but of course the concept of illegality only applies to losers like you and me, and not to government agencies.

Here’s an example of the City of Fullerton blatantly using your money to propagandize you about the proposed sales tax increase, Measure S.

 

Tell me how this is not obvious political campaign propaganda from start to finish.

Complaint Filed With DA Over More Pro Measure K Shenanigans

Always game day in Fullerton…

Anti Measure K activist Tony Bushala has lodged a formal request to OC District Attorney Todd Spitzer to investigate whether Fullerton Joint Union High School personnel illegally campaigned for the March 3rd bond effort.

Okay, do something…we dare ya.

According to State law, it is impermissible to expend public resources on behalf of an election. It’s a crime. Public agencies do it all the time, of course, and generally do it with impunity. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s flagrant. Yet rarely does anybody challenge the behavior. But Mr. Bushala has. Below is a facsimile of an e-mail he sent to Spitzer today.

FFFF has already noted the school district personnel intimately involved in the K scam, and the idea that no district resources were used in the campaign is laughable. The District has already been caught using graduation tickets to bribe kids into “volunteering” for the campaign. Likewise school fences were used for pro-K banners. It’s easily conceivable that the people listed in the campaign reports used District communication networks and even physical space to try to foist K on the taxpayers.

Well, good luck Tony in your endeavor. You’ve already helped save home owners hundreds of million on the K and J grabs.

The Fiscal Cliff

The Fullerton City Council is holding a special meeting tonight – a 2024-25 Budget “workshop.” No work will get done but there will be shopping going on as staff begins its formal press to raise a sales tax.

There is a lot of self-serving verbiage about how well our City staff has performed its tasks up ’til now, but then the hard reality hits because budget numbers can’t pat themselves on the back.

There are some harrowing numbers in the proposed budget – including a $9,400,000 draw-down from strategic reserves. This means of course, that the budget is no where near balanced as City Hall apologists like Jennifer Fitzgerald and Jan Flory claimed when they ran the place into the red almost every year.

M. Eric Levitt. Will he save us from ourselves?

Let’s let our City Manager, Eric Levitt tell the tale:

Financial Stability. The City has been able to over the last two years (for the first time in recent history of the City) to reach and maintain a 17% contingency reserve level. This budget maintains that reserve level; however due to an operating deficit, we will be utilizing one-time excess reserves this year and coming close to that 17% level in FY 2024-25 and below that in years beyond next year

Read. Weep.

The overall picture gets even worse as the levels of reserves slowly dwindle away. After this year Fullerton continues to be upside from $7.5 to $8.8 million each year until the end of the dismal decade. We are not favored with the running reserve funds balances.

Infrastructure is supposedly a big deal. Which reminds me of a quotation attributed to Mark Twain: Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it. But this year we are told, we can push get going on our deteriorating infrastructure along by borrowing! Once again let’s heed the words of Mr. Levitt:

I have also put together a strategy to increase that funding level to closer to $14 million over the next four years through the use of financing. However, there are both upsides and downsides to this approach which will be discussed with you in more detail at today’s presentation.

Now this should be a red flag: borrowing to perform maintenance, a basic accounting no-no. And what form will the borrowing take? Not a municipal bond, you can be sure, It would likely be by selling certificates of participation or some other dodge to avoid municipal debt restrictions. Here’s the table that shows our Maintenance of Effort (MOE) shortfall without financing.

Now we all know that interest payments are made by somebody, somewhere, and that somebody is you and me. We get to pay the interest on debt incurred by years of municipal mismanagement by people like Joe Felz and Ken Domer and Jeff Collier who get to sail off to a glorious and massively pensioned retirement at 55 years of age.

And finally, to circle back to the story lead, here’s a distasteful nugget carefully slipped into the City Manager’s report:

“Staff recommends City Council review options over the next year to stabilize the budget and ensure the City remains financially sound.

Jesus H. There it is. Not quite explicitly stated, but we know very well where this is going. Another general sales tax effort, just like the ill-fated Measure S of four years ago. The seeds for this have already been planted, of course, in a nasty little taxpayer-funded fishing expedition in the guise of a community survey. Last November I regaled the Friends with this slimy maneuver, here.

How did things get so bad?

By the way, this is exactly the same process City Hall rolled out four years ago. And we will be told By Ahmad Zahra, Shana Charles and Vivian Jaramillo that if we don’t pony up we will be morally deficient.

Well, good luck Friends. This is going to be a long year and you can bet the farm that we will be asked to pick up the check – again.

Mr. Average Gets A Raise

What do you do when your City Manager is spectacularly unspectacular? If it’s Fullerton you give him a raise.

I’ll drink to that!

See, in Fullerton if you’re a City Manager who avoids getting drunk and driving over a tree before trying to evade the law, you’re doing pretty darn good.

Don’t let the amorphous shape fool you. Oh, wait…

And so Mr. Eric Levitt, who has been City Manager for less than 2 years is getting an 8% raise from $250,000 to $270,000. This gentleman is hardly any different than the two temps who preceded him and gives precisely the same deference to an incompetent collection of underlings. In the past 20 months he hasn’t shown any interests in establishing a corps of excellence – just the opposite in fact, and this must be cause for comfort for a City Council that thrives in a culture of not bad is outstanding – just try not to let us make ourselves look too bad.

Last year, the City Manager predicted dire economic issues ahead for Fullerton, massive deficits, of course; and by the end of 2023 Levitt had already started paving his own path of least resistance by hiring a public opinion pollster to drum up support for a general sales tax. This year’s mission will be to revive the ill-fated Measure S, give it a new letter from the alphabet, and let the cops and emergency medics pitch it to the public.

What a performance.

The Process & The Consultant

A few weeks ago I published a post on the extremely dubious efforts of a paid consultant to begin a renewed effort to raise a new sales tax in Fullerton. The consultant is an operation called FM3.

We’ve seen this movie before. Many times.

In an effort to build momentum toward justifying a new tax a consultant is tasked with cooking up a poll, a survey that is worded in such a way as to make the question of a new tax sound not only plausible but even desirable.

The information that is collected is meant to probe the electorate’s weak spots, just like an army might send out reconnaissance to figure out where to attack.

Another benefit is to begin the process of developing ballot statement language that will push and persuade voters to the correct decision – a decision that will always be to vote for the tax. The reasons will be a short recital of the usual, low-hanging fruit, public safety being at the top of the list, but with no explanation that our public safety corps – emergency medical personnel (formerly known as :firefighters) and cops already suck up the majority of Fullerton’s General Fund. Mention of parks, quality of life, libraries and now “homeless” will be thrown in to the pot; and infrastructure maintenance will be included, disingenuously, to get support of the more hard-headed voter, just like last time.

Measure S Covid Lie
Let me count the ways…

And of course this language will be also be used by the inevitable political action committee formed to wage the propaganda war.

Make no mistake about it. The consultant hired to undertake this effort will know at the outset what his mission is. He knows who hired him and he knows what his employer wants.

Here’s a fun little Aussie video that spells out the process succinctly:

And so it goes. The start of a charade in which the taxpayers foot the bill to be “educated” into supporting a pre-determined outcome. The line between education (legal) and propaganda (illegal) is not bright, as asserted by Councilmember Bruce Whitaker. The fuzzy demarcation is exploited all the time by government agencies – always based on information collected in the original poll.

No On S
Don’t Reward the City’s Stupidity

The hopeful part of this is that the electorate is not always as easily persuaded as is supposed by the would be taxers. This was demonstrated in Fullerton in 2020 when voters rejected the ill-considered Measure S, and property tax-based bond floats by Fullerton’s two school districts.

In the end the Council (Jung, Zahra and Charles) voted, vaguely, to keep the “education” process going, a process that we know is nothing other than political propaganda aimed at persuading a majority of voters and coordinating with a special political action committee set up to scare, cajole, and bamboozle the voters.

The Taxman Cometh. Again.

I’m here to help. Again.

A few years ago during the depths of the COVID pandemic, the Fullerton City Council voted to put a sales tax measure on the ballot. Since things were looking grim and with revenue falling off, the best course of action in City Hall seemed to be to lay it on to taxpayers. It was necessary to protect Fullerton’s quality of life, you see; or, to be more precise, to protect the pay and pensions of City employees, particularly the cops and “fire fighters” who suck up the majority of the municipal budget.

Well, the names have mostly changed, except for Ahmad Zahra, but the playbook remains the same.

At their November 7th meeting the City Council heard a report from a company called FM3 that had been tasked with producing a survey of resident concerns, and, significantly, to poll them about how to raise revenue. And lots of it.

Who actually hired FM3 in the first place is a mystery, but it must have been our illustrious City Manager, Eric Levitt, since no record of the Council approving a contract is found in the City Clerk’s database. So far they have been paid $49,000 – most likely sneaking under their City Manager’s spending authorization.

Before delving into the presentation, it’s important to note that FM3 is a consulting operation deeply involved in promoting government tax and bond efforts, and has been supporting liberal Democrat politicians for decades. One of the clients listed on their website is Carter/Mondale! On their splash page we find the slogan: Synthesizing Public Opinion To Help Achieve Your Goals, which is code for push polling that promotes your client’s goal of raising taxes.

The company conducted its polling of likely voters last spring, The “results” were presented to the Council on the 7th.

The concerns of the citizenry polled emphasized Fullerton’s rotten roads and included a bunch of stuff that the City has no control over and is merely being used as data filler. The options were presented by the pollsters.

Notice the inclusion of budget shortfalls on the list. According to FM3, 45% of those surveyed believe budget shortfalls are a extremely/very serious problem. Really? Then the other shoe begins to drop.

First, it’s curious that somehow data relating to 2019 and 2020 are shared. Where did that data come from? And what happened to 2021 and 2022? This presentation is just nonsense.

The bland term “additional funding” to the initiated means more taxes, but probably not to those polled. Not yet anyway, for the respondents are being artfully massaged by people whose job it is to push and pass tax proposals for their governmental “clients.” The bit about providing “the level of services Fullerton residents need and want” is telling, and so is the language. How does one’s “personal opinion” qualify one to opine on all Fullerton residents? The purpose is to loosen the respondents mind into the miasma of the common good, as defined by the principle beneficiaries – City employees. Then the other shoe hit the ground.

It didn’t take very long for FM3 to roll out a couple of “hypothetical” sales tax raising ballot measures, one a general purpose tax and the other more narrowly directed to infrastructure, although including the ambiguous phrase “to maintain rapid police, fire and 911 response.” The general purpose tax only requires 50%+1 ballot majority; the special purpose tax requires a 67% majority. The latter is an almost impossible threshold to get over.

Then FM3 rolls out some interesting language in their push for a general sales tax. Notice how these alleged concerns of the surveyed mimic the language of the typical “push poll.” FM3 is using language that will elicit super-high positive responses and suggest that others are already on board. The tiny text at the bottom of the slide tells all. But is all this dire language persuasive when it actually comes to voting?

Finally, FM3 sums it up by saying that a general sales tax is winnable. But is it? Somebody said the same thing about the City’s Measure S back in 2020 and it failed.

In the end the Council (Jung, Zahra and Charles) voted to keep the “education” process going, a process that we know is nothing other than political propaganda aimed at persuading a majority of voters and coordinating with a special political action committee set up to scare, cajole, and bamboozle the voters.

As Bruce Whitaker pointed out on the 7th, there is supposed to be a “bright line” that separates government information from government propaganda. But this line only in the abstract law. In practice the line dissolves almost completely.

The Mantra of Economic Development

No news is good news…

A Friend just forwarded an article in the Yellowing Fullerton Observer about the City’s latest foray into something called economic development – an effort to create more tax revenue, somewhere, somehow, sometime. The good folk in City Hall are alarmed at the looming budget deficit they forecast in the next few years. And they know full well that another attempt at a sales tax like the ill-fated Measure S promoted by Ahmad Zahra and Jesus Quirk-Silva would be a shaky proposition.

According to the Observer the City hired an entity called Kosmont Companies to assay Fullerton’s future and determine where tax generating opportunities may lay. At the June 20th meeting of the City Council a report by Kosmont was submitted for general perusal.

Exhausting all options…

I note that Kosmont Companies is an operation whose sole raison d’etre these days is to work for Redevelopment Successor agencies and municipalities trying to gin up revenue to support the bureaucratic establishment. According to the staff report Kosmont was employed by “the City” in February 2023; since no agenda report exists for this contract, it must have been executed out of the public eye by our esteemed City Manager, Eric Levitt. I’ll address the report itself and the Council’s reaction in another post.

I often wonder why anybody thinks local government have any business promoting these types of endeavors. Government employees know little about business operations, nothing about the concept enterprise; they know defined benefit pensions, their union agreements and petty, make-work bureaucratic stuff. These same chuckleheads just up-zoned and entitled a massive apartment project on land they sold to the developer for 10% of its new value. As far as the unknown amount paid to the “consultant” I wonder if even that expense will be recouped by their own work product.

Just as bad, the economic development concept is created and run, for and by, the same people who stand to benefit from it – it it were to even work at all. And of course there is never any accountability for public resources expended in the pursuit of this talisman.

COVID ZAHRA

When things get tough, real leaders make difficult choices. And then there are those like Ahmad Zahra.

When Covid 19 rolled around in the spring of 2020 Fullerton was already looking at financial disaster. Years of unbalanced budgets were backfilled by reserve funds by the partnership Fitzgerald, Flory, Silva and Zahra. With the Covid lockdown things looked bleak.

What to do?

“I know” said Ahmad Zahra, “lets have a sales tax.”

And so the ill-fated Measure S was placed on the ballot by the same herd: Fitzgerald, Flory, Silva and Zahra. The proponents didn’t seem to care that sales taxes are inherently regressive, and Zahra seemed uninterested in the fact that his D5 constituents would be disproportionately hurt. Ironically, at the time, Zahra was hauling in $4,000 a month for a few hours time as an appointed member of the Orange County Water District Board.

Later, in 2021, when federal relief money rolled in to Fullerton, Zahra tried to direct funds away from infrastructure and into salaries and pension obligations.

Well, those chickens have come to roost. This mail piece landed in D5 mailboxes today:

Oops!

And the back side:

You have something he wants…

The Second Try

Nothing says 1962 like Fullerton City Hall

Back in 2020 our Lords and Masters at City Hall cooked up a plan to impose a sales tax increase upon people buying stuff in Fullerton. It was staff-driven natch, and lazy liberals Zahra, Quirk-Silva, Flory and Fitzgerald were on board. It was called Measure S. See, they figured the path of least resistance was deploying a new tax rather than finally exercising fiscal restraint.

Measure S Covid Lie
The Big Lie

Measure S soon found itself in the crosshairs of Fullerton anti-tax advocates and some well-placed signs describing the true nature of the beast doomed it to failure come election time.

Well guess what? They’re at it again. This time the idea is something called a Pension Obligation Bond, a mechanism for paying off part of Fullerton’s massive unfunded pension actuarial liability at CalPERS, the State’s giant pension administrator.

An introductory briefing was on the Council’s agenda last Tuesday to start the cheerleading process – a process that will entail the employment of an “expert” who will certainly benefit from a positive result; and of course “bond counsel” the legal camp-followers who push bonds on lazy elected officials after a hot meal and a few glasses of wine.

As everybody knows, the interest on the bonds are ultimately backed up by the collateral of new property taxes. This revenue would go to pay down the pension debt and free up money owed to CalPERS for staff salaries and benefits that will ultimately, and ironically, increase pension debt.

Here’s the second kicker: because a pension obligation bond is not deemed new debt, per se, but a sort of pea-under-the-walnut shell maneuver, no vote of the people is required – as it is in the case of general obligation bonds. It just gets “validated” by a judge and goes through on the nod unless challenged. Ouch. Of course the Council, if it wanted to could put the issue on a ballot anyhow, if they chose to move ahead with this scheme.

Of course the strategy for this type of thing is to reprimand opponents by citing the fact that the daily cost is little more than a Big Mac, or some other trifle and in return we get…what do we get again? Our loyal and devoted “public safety” club will almost certainly gobble up the lion’s share of this taxpayer largesse, just like they already do, and we’ll be even worse off than we already are, and no desperately needed cultural changes will have been made.

I looked over the agenda material on line and found nary a clue as to how this was even agendized. Another smoke screen protecting somebody.