Bankhead & Keller Go A Callin’ For Bogus Redevelopment Expansion

According to our well-placed sources, Fullerton Mayor Don Bankhead and council member Pam Keller (hereafter referred to as Pam’nDon) made the rounds of the County Supervisors’ offices last week to try to strike a deal with the County not to sue the city on its illegal redevelopment expansion.


We can’t think of two less informed advocates of an issue, but they would never have been sent out if they hadn’t memorized their talking points as presented by Redevelopment legal promoter Jeff Oderman of the notorious Rutan & Tucker. Or maybe Jeff just wrote a figure on a piece of paper and sent them off with it.

Since the County and its attorneys have already gone on record opposing the expansion, we reckon than Pam’nDon went with checkbook in hand.   The County objects to the loss of property tax revenue, especially when the whole scam is based on non-existent blight and the phony findings thereof. And so the County pot needs to be sweetened. A lot. Enter Pam’nDon. Of course it’s supposed to be all hush hush, but you know, these things have  way of getting out, especially when the old slushola is being divvied up. Transparency is such a bitch.

We have an indication that the County will take the bait, and that, Friends is a story for another day.

Bankhead and The Great McDonald’s Leap Forward

For those who really and truly want added proof of the fiscal irresponsibility of City Councliman Don Bankhead, here he is casting his vote to pay $6,000,000 to move a perfectly good McDonald’s restaurant about 200 feet to the east.

Bankhead’s only arguments? One, that he’s already wasted a bunch of money on this titanic Redevelopment boondoggle; and two, that without the relocation the titanic Redevelopment boondoggle might be harder to build!

Fortunately (somewhat) wiser heads prevailed, although nobody in City Hall ever admitted that the monstrous “Fox Block” was just a plaything for the Redevelopment staff, a source of government handouts to the so-called ‘developer,” and had absolutely nothing to do with the restoration of the historic Fox Theater.

Really and truly, Bankhead has been supporting massive boondoggles, huge corporate subsidies and crony capitalism for the better part of 25 years. High time to hit the road.

Redevelopment As We Know It Is Dead

Come to think of it, don't rest in peace...

Yesterday the California State Supreme Court pulled the plug on the scam known as Redevelopment. The agencies that were created under the Health and Welfare Code to eliminate urban blight had taken on lives of their own, of course, and became sinkholes of waste, abusers of eminent domain, handers out of corporate welfare, and implementers of aesthetic fascism.

Good riddance. Despite stout defense by big government addicts like Don Bankhead, Pat McKinley and Dick Jones, the sad truth is that for every paltry “success” of Redevelopment, there have been a hundred failures – failures for which there was no accountability, and no responsibility. The Redevelopment klown kar had no rearview mirrors.

The Court unanimously found that the Legislature does indeed have the power to disband that which it created – common sense to you and me, but a horror-in-the-making to all the lawyers, bond salesmen, grifters, con men, housecoats, no-talent architects, and design Nazis who make their livings off of the property tax increment theft.

What will happen to all the recently approved projects in Fullerton is uncertain, although there is little doubt that McKinley, Bankhead and Jones will try to keep  building over-dense low-income housing for the benefit of their handlers, especially anti-recall team leader, Dick Ackerman.

Nevertheless, the result of the decision is crystal clear: victory for the people of California; defeat for the Unknown Government and its Invisible Empire.

Another Redevelopment Fiasco That Refuses to Die

Friends of Fullerton’s future have read many pages on this site dedicated to cataloguing the manifest failures of Redevelopment and all the attendant boondoggles it brings with it. Blind support for these disasters is one of the reasons The Three Blind Brontosauruses are being recalled. One of the biggest disasters-in-the-making is the lamentable “Amerige Court” project, another gigantic monster to be plopped down into Fullerton, and a totally staff-created and driven mess.

Naturally Bankhead and Jones have supported this gross example of corporate welfare that we end up paying for. McKinley is bound to go along for the ride.   When he does we’ll be sure to let you know about it. Here is an update.

By Judith Kaluzny as published in The Fullerton Observer

The Amerige Court proposal is not dead yet.   The council will vote December 5, 2011, whether to extend a Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA) first approved February 7, 2006,  the third amended version having been approved by council March 4, 2008.

Since then, two extensions requested by developer Pelican Laing /Fullerton LLC (a Delaware corporation) were granted by staff June 2010 by Rob Zur Schmiede, executive director of the Redevelopment Agency (RDA), and April 1, 2011, by Joeseph Felz, acting executive director.

Meantime, the Laing portion of the Pelican-Laing developers, had been purchased in June 2006 by a company in the mideast country of Dubai, and Laing subsequently filed for bankruptcy in February 2009.

“Amerige Court,” described as “mixed-use development with up to 124 residential units and as much as 30,000 square feet of commercial area” was to be located on the north and south parking lots in the 100 block of West Amerige.  At one time, the project was to be nine stories high on the south side of Amerige, with a five story parking structure on the north side of the street.

A Draft Environmental Impact Report was prepared in 2008 and concluded that there were “no potentially significant impacts that cannot be mitigated.”

Richard Hamm of Pelican Properties said recently, “It has been impossible to make any progress with the project since the State has attempted to end redevelopment.  Of course, the economy has not helped.

“We have four companies waiting in the wings to join us in Amerige Court. We want to get the extension to the DDA as well as a few details worked out with Redevelopment before going forward with a new partner. Amerige Court is still a great opportunity. Downtown Fullerton is still a great place (despite the recent events).

Points in the original contract included:

-Giving $5.5 million from a $6 million bond issue to Pelican Properties to build the parking garage.  The bonds were to  be paid back by the residents and businesses in the new development.  That will cause the businesses to cost $1.93 per square foot more than any other retail space downtown according to the city’s consultant, Keyser Marsten Associates, which advised the city to do “more due diligence” before they entered into this contract.

-The land Pelican will be given the by the  city was not appraised, but agreed as being worth $8 to $8.5 million.

-A guarantee of 10% profit to Pelican on the project.  Pelican can submit a new budget before escrow closes.  If that does not show they will get a 10% profit, they can withdraw from the project.  However, at that point, the redevelopment agency can volunteer to pay the required profit to Pelican.  The Executive Director of the Redevelopment Agency can do this without further input from the city council/redevelopment agency.

-Tearing down the historic properties on the southeast corner of Malden and Amerige Avenues.

[The DDA and amendments are a maze of turgid language:  The Third Amendment provides for a “future amendment,” but if  “a Future Amendment is not approved by Developer and the Agency Board (city council) by April 5, 2009, or such later date as may be approved by the parties in the sole and absolute discretion of each of them, either party shall have the right to terminate the DDA… .”

[The third amended DDA also includes the following language: “However, the Entitlements have not been approved as Agency has not approved the Project or any other project for the Property.  The parties acknowledge that this Third Amendment does not constitute the third amendment that was contemplated under the Second Amendment.”]

Begun in 2001 with a “rendering” commissioned by Paul Dudley, then Director of Development, and shown to city council members in closed session, it has been said that this was a scheme to get more parking for the bars/restaurants downtown.  (In December 2002, restaurants downtown were exempted from having to provide parking or to obtain conditional use permits.)

FFFF has argued for years that this grossly subsidized monstrosity should be killed outright. As I noted, above, the extension of this agreement will become another issue in the upcoming recall campaign: a perfect example of corporate welfare of the type that has characterized massive subsidized apartment blocks in downtown Fullerton already approved by Bankhead and Jones over the years.

Bankhead Considers Using Public Funds to Bail Out the Civic Light Opera

Here’s an eye-opening story from last winter by Greg Sebourn about one of the most hare-brained Redevelopment boondoggles ever proposed. The fact that it was suggested by Don Bankhead a mere six weeks after his umpteenth re-election is ample evidence that either 1) his mental gears have slipped completely; or 2) he really never had any judgment in the first place. You decide if you really want this king-sized boob in office any more.

– Joe Sipowicz

Mayor Pro Tem Don Bankhead seeks to use Redevelopment Agency funds, originally set aside for combating blight and providing low-income housing, to prop up the Fullerton Civic Light Opera (FCLO).

We're off to see the wizard...

In an article penned by Eric Marchese of, Bankhead indicated he is “…investigating the use of Redevelopment Agency funding to assist the Duncans and FCLO.”

What would prompt this Republican and self-proclaimed conservative council member with more than 22 years of elected service under his belt to conclude a necessity for a taxpayer bailout of the FCLO?

Bankhead was quoted as saying, “It would be a blow, a terrible loss, to the city if [the Duncans] can’t figure out some way of saving [the company].”

And therefore taxpayers must somehow bailout this private endeavor??

Infrastructure lying in ruin from continuous neglect.

What about the public employees who have taken significant cuts in pay (and service hours) to help shore up the financial debacle created by a city council with their collective heads in the sand? Should the Redevelopment Agency also bail out these other departments and public employees?

The short answer: NO! Before the Redevelopment Agency existed taxpayer funds were meant to go toward all of our public services from engineering and education to public safety. But after the Redevelopment Agency was created and expanded, taxpayer funds were redirected to combat blight and fund low-income housing. Meanwhile, our infrastructure lays in ruin from continuous neglect and habitual misappropriation of public funds.

I like the flying monkeys.

If we use Redevelopment Agency funds to bail out the FCLO we will have effectively robbed all of our public agencies so that a select few can be entertained.

I cannot think of a more egregious abuse of public funds except perhaps spending $6-million to move a McDonald’s restaurant 200 feet or borrowing $29-million to evict low-income families.

Does the recall effort begin now or do taxpayers wait for further damage to be done at their expense?

The Monumental Misrule of Don Bankhead

Yes, I am the king!

Yes it’s been a long, long time. When he first climbed the steps to his throne and surveyed his Fullerton domain the year was 1988. Ronald Reagan was president.

Don Bankhead has been on the Fullerton City Council for 23 years. With a few weeks off for bad behavior – an unnecessary Utility Tax and subsequent recall in 1994 – this monument to sub-mediocrity has been demonstrating his dubious mental faculties every other Tuesday night since dirt was young.

I will always fondly remember when Dick Ackerman referred to him as Don Blankhead. Now how many times did Don hear that as his fellow Fullerton cops chuckled at the dunderhead behind his back?

So now let’s take a moment or two to review Mr. Bankhead’s singularly inept career in Fullerton.

Back in 1988 Bankhead tried to get the job of Fullerton Chief of Police. He failed when the council chose somebody else. Ironically, Dick Ackerman who was on the Council then, was well aware of Blankhead’s utter incompetence. And so, out of spite, he ran for the city council: Lo and Behold he won! On the city council he believed that no one would would laugh at him anymore. And he believed people would laugh with him instead of at him. He was wrong.

Bankhead also suddenly revealed what he never told anybody when he interviewed for the Chief job, or even when he ran for County Sheriff in 1990: that he was a virtual cripple from a series of earlier alleged mishaps that, if true, would have made Inspector Clouseau look like an Olympic gymnast. His scam made the news, but the nice people in Fullerton were too polite to say anything. But we all knew.

Throughout the 1990s, Bankhead supported every single Redevelopment subsidy, boondoggle and giveaway of public money to fly-by-night developers; here is my pithy summation.

In the past ten years he has smiled that dim, senile smile as he turned downtown Fullerton into a booze-soaked battle field that costs the taxpayers of Fullerton $1.5 million every single year, all to the benefit his cynical and parasitical “supporters.” He had the effrontery to claim that without his interventionist Redevelopment Fullerton itself would be a ghost town! He tried to lie his way out of that idiocy. It didn’t work.

or to put it another way:

A darling of the cop union he voted for the bank-breaking 3@50 pension formula that has created a massive and permanent unfunded liability for the taxpayers of Fullerton; he continuously voted for the illegal 10% utility tax on the water ratepayers of Fullerton, money that has gone to pay his own bloated pension.

Of course Bankhead was propped up every step of the way by his “public safety” union allies for whom he performed such acts of generosity with our money.

What Bankhead doesn’t want anyone to know is that in the course of his political career he has pulled down hundreds of thousands of dollars snoozing through footling meetings of various agencies and commissions about which he knows absolutely nothing – but for which he applied the same rubber stamp he has wielded so disastrously in Fullerton.

Although Bankhead is a Republican, and supposed to be some sort of conservative, the inescapable fact is that he is big-government in a big way. And if big-government could help him or his developer buddies score big, so much the better. After all who was really watching? FFFF, that’s who. Here we busted Bankhead for blowing $1200 staying at a four star Long Beach Hotel, on our dime – a mere 25 miles from his house in Fullerton!

This year, finally, the extent to which Bankhead has aided and abetted an incompetent and criminal police department has finally surfaced, and the extent of the damage this simpleton has caused Fullerton has become crystal clear.

Will Bankhead become the first man in California history to be recalled from the same office? Let’s work for it!

Don Bankhead, this is your life: a sad, belabored death march of cognitive meltdown, incompetence, lackeydom, and buffoonery. Fortunately your quarter century misrule is coming to a merciful conclusion. Fullerton is finally waking up and finally deciding that it wants real leaders – not clownish cartoons – on its city council.


Would Fullerton be a Ghost Town without Redevelopment?

Here’s a revealing exchange between Fullerton City Councilman Bruce Whitaker and his two dinosauric RINO colleagues Don Bankhead and Dick Jones. The subject is Redevelopment.

Whitaker points out that Redevelopment property tax diversions from school districts are back-filled by the State and that absent Redevelopment diversions back, taxes could go up. He also takes exception to Bankhead’s assertion that without Redevelopment Fullerton (or downtown, take tour pick) would be a ghost town. Bankhead loves big government economic central planning; Whitaker has faith in the private sector.

Naturally the ever-increasingly disheveled Doc HeeHaw (say that haircut sure looks like blight to me) stimulates himself by babbling about about stim-u-lus and even mentions Prez Obama and how Fullerton’s government stimulus is real stimulus. Thanks, Comrade Heehaw.

Well, there you have it Friends. A clearer distinction between calm, conservative opinion and rambling, emotional, Jurassic nonsense could not be drawn.

Kudos to Whitaker. And shame on all the Fullerton voters and repuglican string pullers for making sure nincompoops like Jones and Bankhead re-elected.

Barry Speaks: Redevelopment Loans and the Lack of Public Input

This just came in from council candidate Barry Levinson:

Barry Levinson

Last Tuesday night was the vote on the issuance of housing bonds by the RDA in the amount not to exceed $29 million. The Mayor spoke and indicated that there will be no public comments on this issue.

The city attorney right before the vote was to begin, rightly reminded Mayor Bankhead that since the people cannot vote on whether or not to approve the bond issue, we should at least be allowed to voice our non-binding opinions.

Here are some of my comments I presented to the council:

Mayor and council shame on all of you for almost forfeiting our right as Fullertonians to speak out on this housing bond issuance.

We need better oversight over the RDA projects.  The city council and the rest of the RDA should not be the ones policing themselves.

The RDA is the only taxing authority that requires no voter approval. We as taxpayers, S/B given more information and more time to review these bond measures before it comes to a vote by council.

Since there will be 2 possibly 3 new council members as of November 2,  I suggested that this item be postponed to after the next election.

The council’s answers largely were defensive.  No one touched on the third rail issue of no voter participation!  Mayor Bankhead remained conspicuously quiet throughout the council’s responses to our objections.

And there you go; another council meeting where our rights as citizens were eroded and $29 million was obligated by the city council without a single vote cast by the people!

Ground Zero of Fullerton Redevelopment Failure

For dyed-in-the-wool government apologists like Dick Jones, Jan Flory, Dick Ackerman, Sharon Kennedy, Don Bankhead, et al., Redevelopment blunders are conveniently overlooked, when possible; when not possible, some lame defense is mounted, such as: mistakes were made (passive voice obligatory) but we learned and moved on; hindsight is 20/20 (Molly McClanahan’s motto vivendi); the problem was not too much Redevelopment, but too little!

But when any reasonable person contemplates the collection of Redevelopment disasters along Harbor Blvd. between Valencia Drive and the old Union Pacific overpass, the only conclusion he or she could draw is that the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency should have been shuttered years ago, and the perpetrators of the manifest failures crowded onto a small raft and set adrift with the Japanese Current.

We have already described in nauseating detail the “Paseo Park” debacle; and the Allen Hotel fiasco; we haven’t yet had time to talk about the “El Sombrero” pocket park give away (we will).

But instead of wasting too many perfectly good words, we will share with you Friends a Redevelopment pictorial essay with just a little piquant commentary.

First there’s the strip center known as Gregg’s Plaza. Brick veneer, of course. Even the veneer is so disgusted it’s trying to jump off the building.

The standards of the RDRC were established early.
The standards of the RDRC were established early.
Pop goes the brick veneer...
Pop goes the brick veneer...

Across the street is the Allen Furniture Store. When they got their rehab loan somebody forgot to tell them that a storefront is a storefront – not a jailhouse. So why are there bars on the dinky little windows? And pink stucco?

Stone walls do not a prison make; nor iron bars a cage...
Stone walls do not a prison make; nor iron bars a cage...

Jumping back across the street we re-introduce ourselves to the egregious Allen Hotel, perhaps the biggest Redevelopment boondoggle of all, a mess that we have already admirably documented, here. As we noted then, the add-on was unspeakably awful (and expensive). The front is, well, pretty awful, too.

The once and present tenement...
The once and present tenement...
It could have been worse. Well, no, it couldn't...
It could have been worse. Well, no, it couldn't...

What was sold, in part, as an “historic preservation” project ended up violating just about every standard in the book. The original windows were ripped out and replaced with vinyl sashes; the transoms were destroyed and replaced with sheets of plastic and surface applied strips supposed to simulate leaded glass.

Just say something. They'll believe anything...
Just say something. They'll believe anything...

Across Harbor we discover the “El Sombrero Plaza,” another sock in the face to any Fullerton windshield tourist. Forget the stupidity of the sideways orientation and the Mission Revival On Acid stylings (which attain a kind of crazy Mariachi deliciousness); this development included the give away of part the adjacent public green space so they have parking for a restaurant. The owner never did develop a restaurant, of course (more on that story later).

Ay, caramba!
Ay, caramba!
The extra parking that was supposed to be for a restaurant is now used for a storage container!
The extra parking that was supposed to be for a restaurant is now used for a storage container!

And finally we come to exhausted collapse at another one of the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency’s low points. And by low point we mean the complete, unmitigated disaster of the Union Pacific Park, ably chronicled here; and in a whole series here, here, and here.

Maybe the less said, the better...
Maybe the less said, the better...

The poisoned park: dead as a doornail. An aesthetic, pratical, and policy disaster. And no one has ever stood up to take responsibility for the total waste of millions of dollars.

Embarrassing from the beginning. How many $100,000 pensioneers had their fingers in this pie?
Embarrassing from the beginning. How many $100,000 pensioners had their fingers in this pie?

Well, there you have it, Friends. Redevelopment in action; Redevelopment creating blight, not eradicating it. No accountability. None. Zero. Zilch. And some people wonder why FFFF has sued to keep Redevelopment from expanding.

A Redevelopment Boondoggle in the Making

Teachers are being laid off, we have fewer police officers patrolling the streets of our city, and our library is cutting back. 

(Christine Cotter, Los Angeles Times) March 12, 2009

So why did Pam Keller, Sharon Quirk and Don Bankhead vote to spend 6 million of our tax $ to move McDonalds 150 feet closer to Fullerton High School?