It Was the Fullerton Hunger Games

And the Odds Were Not in District Three’s Favor

Do not be fooled; Fullerton had it’s first Quarter Quell on Tuesday and Councilman Greg Sebourn was put up as Tribute and didn’t make it out of the games alive. Somewhere a canon is being fired in his honor.

The vote was all about self-interest and gerrymandering and anybody who says otherwise is either lying to you or is too dishonest with themselves to know the truth. I’ll explain quickly.

The city never really gamed this out or explored any options legal or otherwise. I had asked, several times, if the city could require sitting At-Large Council members to resign their At-Large seat to run in for a District Seat and the response I got was “We don’t know if that’s legal”. Gee, if only we had a lawyer in the room during Council to answer these things or research them.

I also inquired if it could be made random in order to take the horse-trading and politics out of the equation and again crickets. All of this means that the city never gamed these basic scenarios out.

To make matters worse we had no study-session or talks about how this would play out post-election. The election happened, with a gerrymandered council approved map, and voila they voted on who got to stay and who got to go.

The real meat about this crap is that it was all race based if you read the complaints and lawsuits that got us here. There hadn’t been an Asian on council since X-Date or a Hispanic since X-Date and thus we got sued and the council settled. So the Council voted to put up District 5 under the guise of giving the Hispanic vote a voice. District 3 means that the likely scenario is that the Hispanic vote will have 2 voices on Council while the Asian vote will have none until 2020 when somebody can run for Fitzgerald’s seat only to have the District Map change in 2022 after the 2020 census. It played out this way because apparently;

  1. Jesus Silva is not Hispanic?
  2. Silva living 2 blocks from District 5 is too far for him to understand that district’s “unique voice”?
  3. The Asian vote doesn’t matter as much as protecting Fitzgerald?
  4. Oh and Sebourn gets the bum’s rush owing to reasons Whitaker has yet to articulate publicly.

I’ll admit that I don’t like the way Sebourn votes on a lot of issues. Further I think Fitzgerald is the worst kind of tax-and-spend bankruptcy-inducing fiscally irresponsible politician the GOP can muster and that’s saying a lot. However — at least with the GOP you get the theory of a sliver of a chance of maybe some fiscal sanity. With the next few years of belt-tightening, thanks to the greed of public safety and the insanity of CalPERS, we’re going to require more budget allies and not fewer. Throwing 1/2 of our current 3-2 fiscally responsible minority out with the bath-water in the hopes that 2018 will maybe, possibly, hopefully and somehow see some balance seems foolhardy to me.

I still contend that the map should have been chosen randomly but I prefer governmental honesty to political expedience and crony gamesmanship.

Now going forward should a Republican decide to run in 2020 against Silva I can only offer one bit of advice:

Haluza’s BID Bid Bites Dust

Haluza

On Tuesday night our esteemed City Council, a clan that can never say no to a bad idea, reviewed Community Development Director Karen Haluza’s Big Plan to begin the process to create a downtown BID. For the uninitiated, BID stands for Business Improvement District. FFFF already gave the Friends a heads up, here.

To remind you, a BID means a new property lax levy. In downtown the lion’s share of any tax is going to go to the cops, whose performance shutting down the booze culture gives zero confidence that more money in their direction is money well spent. The rest of the loot would probably be wasted on stupid, footling projects that give work to Haluza’s crack staff. Here’s an example of the sort of nonsense that gave our planners the warm and fuzzies before Redevelopment was abolished.

Anyway, the Council got an earful from a few property owners – including one who vehemently denied being notified of the hearing. FFFF will soon be highlighting the comments of this gentleman who poignantly observed that his property income is his retirement income, and, pointing to the uniformed Heroes in the back of the room trenchantly noted that nobody was talking about taking their retirement away.

Our lobbyist-councilperson Jennifer Fitzgerald, who no doubt oversaw this wretched swindle in the first place as a way to keep her bar-owner pals from having to pay to clean up their own mess, moved to continue the item indefinitely. The others didn’t have a whole lot to say, which is typical.

My belief is that we have not seen the last of this obnoxious dodge, a way for the city to get somebody else to pay for their disastrous bar-on-every corner policy.

Irony: Sebourn Pays Price For Booze Peddlers’ Map

And then the self-congratulation came to an end…

UPDATE: As Mr. Fullerton Rag correctly points out Jesus Silva is not up for re-election in 2018. He was elected to a 4 year term last fall. If District 3 were on the ballot in 2018 then Silva would have to resign his current seat (and term) to run in 3 as a non-incumbent or he would have to move to a different district to keep his job in 2020. I think I have that right.

Mr. P.

Councilman Greg Sebourn lives no where near Councilman Jesus Silva. And yet thanks to the gerrymandered district map cooked up by the downtown bar owners to dilute a single voting block downtown the two find themselves both in District 3. And that’s because the map was approved by the City Council – including Greg Sebourn.

So what’s the problem? Sebourn is up for reelection in 2018 and Silva just got elected. If District 3 were chosen as a district open for elections next year then Sebourn could run against Silva as an incumbent. But if District 3 were not up in 2018 then Sebourn would have to move to a district that was in order to keep his job.

Drum roll: in a 3-2 vote last night the council decided that District 2 (where Doug “Bud” Chaffee resides) and District 5 (where no council persons currently live) would be up for election in 2018. Chaffee and Silva were joined by Bruce Whitaker in this strategy. So Sebourn has no place to sit when the music stops in 2018.

Why? C’mon, spill it.

Since this vote will be seen as deliberately undermining a fellow Republican and erstwhile ally, Whitaker’s got some explaining to do. Was this a quid pro quo for Jesus Silva’s unusual support of Whitaker to retake his place on the OC Water District Board? That’s what some cynical folks around town are saying, and the suspicion fits the facts.

Personally, I’ll be glad to get rid of Sebourn, who, frankly just isn’t very smart and isn’t very principled. And that’s a bad combination. Since his election in the 2012 Recall he has been an almost complete disappointment, trying to please everybody and in the end making no one happy.

Where’s Whitaker?

 

Lost in plain sight…
FFFF has been busy detailing the ridiculous waste of public money that is poured into a PR outlet pretending journalism called Behind the Badge. This on-line enterprise provides happy, pro-cop stories that are meant to put the police in a good light by sharing feel good stories of philanthropy, charity, empathy, blah, blah blah. The editor, Bill Rams, says his business is necessary because the innocent and naive cops are just so doggone rotten at tooting their own horns. So we pay to have our own force shoved back at us as veritable paragons of virtue. Is there a single person in Fullerton taken in by this claptrap?

Anyway, a few weeks ago I posted a letter that had been sent to our mayor, Bruce Whitaker, about the Back the Badge contract, an irresponsible, staff-driven, no-bid, fixed-fee arrangement that has no intelligible scope of work, no way to measure effectiveness, and the management of which had been badly bungled by former City Manager Wild Ride Joe Felz.

Could greatness be thrust upon him?
Well, two City Council meetings have passed and nothing has been agendized by our mayor to discuss this $4000 per month mess, a waste made particularly acute by last week’s doom-and-gloom budget forecast. Does Mr. Whitaker condone this insulting $50,000 a year boondoggle while Fullerton’s ship keeps taking on oceans of red ink? How does he condone not even talking about it? I don’t know, but maybe somebody will go to the next meeting and ask him.

How Fitzcal Irresponsibility Drove Us Over the Cliff

“Hey, it was balanced for a few seconds!” Jennifer Fitzgerald, probably

Now that the City of Fullerton is finally admitting that our budget is not balanced!, contrary to Jennifer Fitzgerald’s campaign claims, this would be a good time to revisit how we got here in the first place.

The City of Fullerton website includes links for the minutes and agenda for the last four years of city council meetings and beyond and can be found here.  You’ll find that on October 20, 2015, Fitzgerald voted for the Memorandum of Agreement with the Fullerton Municipal Employees Federation 1200 (resolution 2015-52), which provided increased costs of $5,595,576 over the next four years, and then voted for the contract at the second reading on November 3, 2015. The resolution passed 3-2.

But that’s not all, not by a long shot.

On November 3, 2015, Fitzgerald voted for the Memorandum of Agreement with the Fullerton Police Officers’ Association – Safety and Dispatcher Units (resolution 2015-59), which provided increased costs of $9,502,904 over the next four years, and then voted for the contract at the second reading on November 17, 2015. The resolution passed 3-2.

Fitzcal responsibility.

On February 16, 2016, Fitzgerald voted for the Memorandum of Agreement with the Fullerton Firefighters’ Association (resolution 2016-16), which provided increased costs to the city of $1,959,821 over the next two years, and then voted for the contract at the second reading on March 1, 2016. The resolution passed 3-2.

On April 5, 2016, Fitzgerald voted for the Memorandum of Agreement with the Fullerton Management Association (resolution 2016-23), which increased costs to the city of $1,175,030 over the next four years, and then voted for the contract at the second reading on April 19, 2016. The resolution passed 3-2.

Also on April 5, and again on April 19, 2016, Fitzgerald voted for a revised resolution providing for raises to confidential non-represented employees (resolution 2016-24), which increased costs to the city of $391,857 over the next four years. The resolution passed 3-2.

And on December 6, 2016, Fitzgerald voted for the Memorandum of Agreement with the Fullerton Police Management Association, which increased costs to the city of $882,492 over the next four years. The resolution passed 3-2. Oh, and if you’re interested, this was the meeting where outgoing councilmember Jan Flory berated Josh Ferguson for having the temerity to claim our budget wasn’t balanced and we were exhausting our reserves (starting at around 1:21:00).

Over the course of her first term in office (the December 6 hearing was a lame duck session), Jennifer Fitzgerald voted for pay increases totaling nineteen million five hundred and seven thousand nine hundred and fifty three dollars ($19,507,953) over a four year span – or almost five million dollars per year. And Fitzgerald’s vote was crucial for the passage of each and every one of these pay increases.

And let’s not forget the numerous “side letters” Fitzgerald approved over the years as well – including one for $500,000 on November 5, 2013, for $450,000 on March 4, 2014, for $60,000 per year on April 15, 2014 (to “adjust” Fullerton Fire Management’s pay to bring it into parity with Brea’s), and for $202,00 on November 14, 2014, plus several other agreements for less than $100,000. Oh, and let’s not also forget the $4.9 million settlement of Ron Thomas’s lawsuit which Fitzgerald also voted to authorize, which will be indirectly paid for by the city through increased insurance premiums for decades to come.

So Jennifer Fitzerald didn’t just mislead voters about our supposedly balanced! budget. – she was one of the architect of our current fiscal mess in the first place.

The Liar

The new, official City Bird

We are used to politicians lying to us, especially when they are running for office. Sometimes the lies are more or less fuzzy, but once in a while the lies are staggeringly blatant. So blatant, in fact, that we must assume the politician believes the electorate are idiots.

Bored and angry. Accountability? It was never on the agenda.

And so it was last year with then-lobbyist-mayor and humble vessel of God, Jennifer Fitzgerald, whose campaign rhetoric deliberately misled the public into believing everything was just fine with Fullerton’s financial state of affairs. Here are a couple of pearls from her little chest of jewels:

BALANCED BUDGET

While other cities in Orange County are trying to raise sales taxes to prevent insolvency, in Fullerton, our budget is balanced!  Our five-year financial forecast shows a balanced budget to 2020.  We’ve done this by making the most of our assets and minimizing our liabilities.  

REDUCED UNFUNDED PENSION LIABILITY

With conservative fiscal management and successful revenue strategies, Fullerton has been able to reduce its unfunded liabilities. This is a long-term strategy, with a short-term goal to achieve what is a generally accepted adequate level of funding of 80% of liabilities.

It didn’t take long for that hot-air balloon of happy talk to sail away. Barely three months after Fitzgerald’s re-election she had to listen as the Director of Administrative Services, Julia James, at last week’s budget workshop, tell the exact opposite story. Due to continuing unbalanced budgets and exploding pension costs, the City is following in the footsteps of Stanton and Westminster with a built-in, structural budget deficit. Naturally the cops and the “fire fighters” bloated salaries and pensions are the principle cause of the impending disaster.

James mentioned taxes as a solution. Any takers?

How long will it be before our temporary City Manager, who has absolutely nothing to lose, begins crisis public meetings meant to gin up support for a Fullerton sales tax increase? And how long will it be before the people who voted for her realize that “SparkyFitz” Fitzgerald would have said, and did say anything to get re-elected?

 

 

 

 

Red Ink Tsunami

Last night’s budget workshop showed some pretty dire forecasting. Due to exploding pension costs, especially for our good friends in “public safety” Fullerton is going to deplete its reserve funds in five years, just like other standout OC cities such as Westminster and Garden Grove and Stanton.

The “unfunded pension liability” issue has been around for years, despite the public employee union’s efforts to minimize it, but here our Director of Administrative Services, Julia James, informs the Council that the California Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) is still using happy-talk return projections. The City’s cost to pay for our fire and police Heroes is expected to double.

Hmm. Did you catch our lobbyist-councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald interrupt Ms. James at the 4:25 mark in a sneering attempt to downplay the crisis as bureaucratic alarmism? Fitzgerald has all sorts of selfish reasons to avoid talking doom-and-gloom, namely, she has been right there over the past four years as the S.S. Fullerton was taking on water and rather than try to plug the holes was happily drilling more. Naturally her pals in the police and fire unions are not going to want to share the pain. And James’s talk about possible revenue sources to staunch the bleeding includes a tax, which would be a likely coffin nail in SparkyFitz’s already dubious political future.

The Swindle

It’s often said that government spends half its time fixing problems it created with the other half.

And what better way to make problems go away by getting the taxpayers to pick up the tab for your mistakes?

On next Tuesday’s council agenda there is an item to “study” a downtown Business Improvement District (BID). A BID creates a special tax on property owners for specific purposes, generally tied to sprucing up (as the local media loves to say) a geographically limited area. And in this case that area centers on Harbor Boulevard from Truslow to Brea Creek; and from Highland to Lemon.

Haluza

Below you see a letter sent out from the desk of Community Development Director, Karen Haluza, enjoining property owners and businesses not yet on board to sign up for the great cause. The idea is to generate the appearance of momentum and consensus for a new tax.

Did you notice something very peculiar about this letter? Haluza first admits she is working on orders from the City Council (“tasked” is bureaucrat-speak); but within a few sentences suddenly it is the “stakeholders” (more bureaucrat-speak) who have, seemingly with  spontaneity, made a “formal request” to study the formation of a BID. Can anyone for a second believe this whole concept was not hatched, fertilized and fermented in Wild Ride Joe Felz’s office in City Hall? And check out the list of proponents – mostly businesses, not the actual property owners. On top of that we see the names of several bars and a couple big developers. The developers we can dismiss as toadies looking to score their next big monsters courtesy of Haluza’s Planning Department.  The bars?

Business is booming…

Here’s the real problem, and the reason why Downtown Fullerton is an annual $1,500,000 drain on the General Fund. Cleaning up after the nocturnal mess caused by the customers of the bars costs a small fortune in cop time and city maintenance. It’s a cost that is born by every man, woman and child in Fullerton, even though it is only people like Florentine’s and Slidebar that rake in the bucks.

Downtown Fullerton has been an out-of-control disaster for well over a decade as the City-approved bars proliferated and the mayhem ensued. And now in 2017 city staff is trying to get everybody who owns property in the “district” to fork over a new tax to cover the cost created by the bar owners. A reasonable person might think that cracking down on all the miscreants and scofflaws and irresponsible bar proprietors would be the way to clean up the mess. No. The cops are playing pattycake with the booze culture, and Haluza thinks it’s right and proper that the landlords of all the businesses – good and bad alike – pay the freight.

This new tax proposal is nothing but another Fullerton cover up – on a grand scale. The object? To pay for the disastrous culture of booze and violence that permeates Downtown after dark; a culture that was deliberately created and fed by our own incompetent government. Their solution? A new tax.

 

Re-elected And Alone

Yesterday, one of our Friends shared a rather entertaining video clip of our lobbyist-councilwoman Jennifer “SparkFitz” Fitzgerald unburdening herself of thoughts at Grace Winter Fest. Her interlocutor is Sam Han, her former Planning Commission appointee, and the guy who stood up and said his church, Grace Ministry International, supported the bar owner’s council districting map.

Yea, verily, the Lord sure moves in mysterious ways, doesn’t he, Sam.

Here’s a snippet:

Poor Jen, has lost her pals in City Hall – her bureaucratic enabler, Wild Ride Joe Felz, and her political enabler, the obnoxious Jan Flory – both of whom “had her back;” or to be more accurate, both let her get away with her cultivation of out-of-town developers and her protection of the moral and economic sinkhole that Downtown Fullerton has become. Well, God is good, says the lobbyist, and her recent depression over the rather cavalier way The Almighty has diverted her control of City Hall must be for some greater purpose. Her depression has turned to excitement. Hallelujah! Almost a miracle!

Did you enjoy the end where the unctuous Han asks the audience (most of whom probably didn’t have a clue what SparkFitz was talking about) to “get excited with her?”

Jesus May Have a Plan for SparkyFitz. And the Rest of Us, Too

You know, it’s easy to be skeptical of organized religion, particularly when it insinuates itself into the secular realms of science or public governance.

God told me he loves speed metal and a good bar fight…

We saw that when a fellow named Sam Han popped up at a public hearing to proclaim his church’s bizarre allegiance to the downtown booze-and-fight-fest districting map. His church is the Grace Ministry. Mr. Han is a also former Fullerton Planning Commissioner, appointed by none other than our lobbyist-councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald.

Which leads us to a nice tie-in.

Recently the church held something called  Grace Winter Conference. Apparently, Ms. Fitzgerald put in an appearance and shared a revelation.

Hmm. Good things a-comin’

Now, what specifically Fitzgerald is excited about remains a mystery to us uninitiated. Is it some sort of municipal Christolic manifestation, or is there something more secular, as in campaign cash and political advancement?

Lookin’ good, girl!

We’ve seen so many evangelists confuse their own self-promotion with the Big Plan of the Almighty. Politicians, too – especially in what H.L. Menken called the Coca Cola Belt – but not always confined to that swampy environment.

I’ve decided to be suspicious for what Fitzgerald is going to do in the City of Fullerton.