Elevators to Nowhere – the Genesis

This is the third post in a series by our Friend “Fullerton Engineer” describing the elevator addition project at the Fullerton Depot. 

So you think the problem with transportation revenue is that there isn’t enough of it? Let’s see what happens when the State of California doles out grant money to localities, in this instance our very own town of Fullerton.

California transportation projects are very often driven by the availability of money spent in pursuit of a social agenda. Car pools lanes with fantastically expensive fly-over bridges? Check. Highly subsidized transit for upper middle class commuters? Check.

Forget that carpool lanes make everybody’s drive worse and that commuter trains only serve a puny portion of the taxpayers that foot the bill. It’s the gesture that counts, you see, and the more expensive the gesture, the more it counts.

It might be expensive but it sure is useless…

Back in 2010, or so, the good folks whose livelihoods depend on putting the plans of our Sacramento social engineers into effect foresaw a big increase in rail transit through the Fullerton train station. But gee, thought someone, won’t that mean making it harder to get all those new travelers to other side of the tracks?  The solution? New elevators, and right next to the old ones. Forget the fact that most of the day the existing elevators were unused, or that most people just climbed the stairs; and forget the fact that a sensible set of stairs already existed under the Harbor Boulevard bridge to do the same thing. New elevators made no sense even if the new ridership tsunami was believable: after all – only two trains can stop in the station at the same time, the same as before.

But of course the real kicker was the availability of money from our friends in Sacramento to effect alterations in stations that accommodate “transit” modalities, and so the City of Fullerton was going to grab while the grabbing was good, and never mind that the idea was nonsense and that nobody needed or wanted it.

On December 20, 2011 our esteemed City Council voted to award a design contract to Hatch Mott MacDonald, an engineering firm to “design” two new elevators right next to the existing ones. The contract amount was $358,390, a remarkable amount given the scope of the task at hand – to replicate the existing bridge in two new, one-stop elevator structures. In case you are wondering, $358,000 equates to the billing of one $100 per hour person working on this project full-time, doing nothing else, for 1.7 years.

Here’s the Hatch Mott MacDonald Purchase Order record

And so the City embarked on this ridiculous project. HMM began work in march 2012 after the City had signed a master agreement with the State of California. Someone should have become alarmed the following year when Hatch Mott MacDonald’s design service billings eventually ballooned 28% over budget – almost a hundred thousand dollars. But no one did. It was someone else’s money.

Fullerton Engineer

Coverup Deepens As Fitzgerald Tampers With Phone Records

When Councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald finally got around to not misunderstanding the public records request for her phone communications on November 9th, 2016, FFFF received a document that purported to be responsive to our request. Here it is:

Have you ever seen a phone bill that wasn’t sorted chronologically? That’s because the document we received is not a phone bill. It’s data that was dumped into an Excel spreadsheet and deliberately sorted to confuse the chronological record and quite possibly to obscure the sequence and time-frame of redacted calls. This is not the public record that was requested and is not responsive to the request that was made by FFFF. In fact, this clumsy effort at obfuscation gives every indication of being an attempt to hide Ms. Fitzgerald’s communications in the early hours of November 9th.

And just for fun we have helped out with the names associated with the numbers:

Names added by FFFF Telephonic Investigation Team.

As usual, when someone looks like they’re trying to hide something folks get a little suspicious that there is something worth hiding. And when it comes to our lobbist-councilwoman, we’re naturally suspicious to start with. So rest assured, Friends, we’ll be demanding that we get the original record, and not some self-serving, massaged data.

The Infection of Unaccountable Money

This is the second in a series of posts written by our Friend, Fullerton Engineer.

Anybody who thinks the problem with transportation and “transit” funds  is that there aren’t enough of them, either isn’t paying attention or is profiting off of the notion – either as a government bureaucrat, a consultant, a lobbyist, or an engineering construction contractor. The partisan political yappers can be added to the list too.

California government is awash with money. It is also awash with the characters and interests listed above, who all stand to gain from the new Gas Tax that will be levied on everybody else. Sure, everybody benefits, right? And the mantra of “our infrastructure is crumbling?” It sounds dire and maybe it is. But the solution is not new taxes, but effective and accountable use of the resources we already have. Until our governments can demonstrate that they are responsible stewards of what they have, why entrust them with any more?

As was recently noted on this blog, governments are rarely penalized for their misuse of their property, and the same goes for misuse of existing funds; and it would never occur to the transportation lobby to shape up. Why bother, when a helpful Legislature is more than happy to raise taxes and then start handing out salvers of freshly slaughtered pork? The simple fact is that grant funds from a distant government attracts a long line of bureaucratic applicants willing to spend that money in any fashion that meets the bare minimum of requirements from other bureaucrats in Sacramento. This diffusion of authority and ultimately the lack of coherent oversight is at the root of California’s current infrastructure woes. The fact that every dollar sent off to Washington or Sacramento or even collected by OCTA comes back after a big whack has been taken off the top only exacerbates the situation.

And then there is the problem of “transit” projects, a bottomless well of bureaucratic mismanagement, political corruption, and misuse of public funds for pet boondoggle projects that provide minimal, if any benefit to the public, but lots of benefit to the people entrusted with spending the money and those receiving it.

It may have been expensive, but it sure was unnecessary…

Which brings me to case of The People of Fullerton v. the Added Train Station Elevators,  a study that will examine the long and painful (and ongoing) history of this completely unnecessary project that is quickly approaching a $5,000,000 price tag. This comedy of errors and overspending was to be paid for with funds from sources apart from Fullerton’s Capital Funds, namely State transportation funds Prop 1B and Prop 118,  and of course the completely mismanaged OC Measure M Renewal funds. When somebody else is picking up the check it’s a lot easier to lose sight of priorities and interest in accountability. In this instance the availability of this play money has acted like a disease that has rendered everyone senseless and indifferent – a sort of malaise in which no one seems to care about what they are doing or how much it costs.

Fullerton Engineer

The Rip Off

We have been asked by one of our Friends to publish the following post:

Now that our Legislature has passed the obscene Gas Tax, the usual liberal Democrat suspects have popped up to add their voices in high hosanna to the deed. Their script, as usual, is the old, tired mantra of affiliating more taxes with good government, as if the two things had more than a distant correlation. Generalities are the stock-in-trade of this crew. It’s too bad the opponents also tend to speak in generalities about the existing waste in government transportation planning and execution.

I’m going to talk about waste in government, too. But I am going to do it with specifics in near-future posts that will closely examine a “transportation” project that was planned entirely with earmarked transportation funds to demonstrate the crazy, almost obscene ways in which these funds were budgeted, and are being spent.

Does a single project represent a current state of affairs? Given the fact that the State and County governments are always “educating” us about their strict compliance with rules and regulations, and given the fact that the County Measure M extension, for instance, was sold with the idea of a rigorous auditing process complete with Oversight Committee, I am going to posit an affirmative answer to my question and challenge someone to prove me wrong. This should be easy if indeed I am wrong.

Held up by wishful thinking…

So what’s the project? Is it some distant, unknown pork boondoggle in some liberal, urban bastion? Ah, no. It is the ridiculously conceived, horrendously over budgeted and overstaffed, and seemingly bungled-out-of-the-gate elevator addition project at Fullerton’s own train station.

Fullerton Engineer

It’s Official. Fullerton has the Worst Roads in Orange County

Not bad.

Well done, Fullerton.

A recent report from the OCTA lists OC cities’ “pavement condition indexes” and Fullerton shows up at the very bottom.

And the projected future conditions look even worse.

But that doesn’t stop councilmember Jennifer Fitzgerald from shamelessly touting the “success” of her road repair efforts in her campaign material.

Here’s a video of councilmembers Fitzgerald, Flory, Chaffee and Popoff making excuses for the sad condition of our asphalt.

 

Joe Felz Got A New Job?

Editor’s note: This was originally composed on March 3, moments before Joe Felz was charged with DUI hit-and-run. As such, the Renick agreement may have gone bottoms up. If not, well that just makes it more fun.

A toast to all my good ideas…

I have it on pretty good authority that our former City Manager (and now accused criminal Wild Ride Joe Felz) is picking up a consulting gig for Renick Cadillac down on Orangethorpe and Euclid.

Now what possible use would ol’ StumbleJoe be to a car dealership?

The story goes that Renick would like to acquire the site occupied by the Grand Inn which is situated right between the dealership and the asphalt lot on the corner of Euclid and Hill Avenue where Renick parks its spare Subarus. Looks like the idea may be to get the cops to start dishonestly documenting alleged bad activity at the motel. If you can harass the motel, the owner might have a lot more incentive to sell out.

Just so Renick can park its cars without having to drive out on Euclid. Really?

I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking this source may have it wrong. That maybe Renick is not planning on expanding at all, at least not for the long term; but that rather we are seeing a lot assemblage in order to build a future penitentiary-like apartment block.

Assistant to the Assistant

Remember when we told you about the poor “Mayor’s assistant” who’s job mysteriously appeared and disappeared right alongside Jennifer Fitzgerald’s mayorship?

Well, the position seems to have re-appeared… this time as an Assistant to the Assistant (City Manager), Nichole Bernard.

Not pictured: Assistant

From the February 14th Economic Development Commission minutes:

Now what Ms. Bernard needs assistance with is anybody’s guess. We don’t even know what she does, especially now that her mentor Wild Ride Felz is gone. Will the assistant pick up Starbucks lattes? Pack Nicole’s unmentionables for the next useless Vegas or South Korea junket? Who knows?

More to the point, when and how was this mysterious job ever budgeted and approved by the City Council? 

Note how the position may not be filled until summer. Why is that? In a well-run operation it might have something to do with a semi-responsible fiscal mentality – don’t hire someone to a completely unnecessary job until someone has figured out how to tame the out-of-control Felz/Fitzgerald Budget.

In Fullerton it’s maybe just that hard to find a qualified candidate for a glorified flunky position.

Felz Mouthpiece Shares Thought With FFFF

You may recall that the notice for Joe Felz’ criminal charges was sent to the “Law Offices of Bob Hickey” in Fullerton. Ok, so Joe hired a DUI defense attorney. That’s smart.

Well, Mr. Robert Hickey seems to be a new reader of our humble blog. Last night he stopped by our Facebook page and left us with a brief critique of a post on the Hillcrest Park stairs. That’s not smart.

Another dissatisfied reader.

Get Run Over, Get Paid

Remember David Tovar, the bike rider guy who got rammed from behind by an unmarked Fullerton police vehicle? In case you don’t, here’s an interview from 2012:

Tovar later filed a civil rights suit against the city of Fullerton, claiming that officer Bryan Bybee intentionally used the vehicle as a deadly weapon.

The city predictably responded by denying all claims.

Well, we went spelunking through settlement agreements approved by City Hall and discovered that the taxpayers up coughed up $20,000 to David Tovar for one of our cops chasing, and crashing into him.

 

Whitaker Wants to Hear More From You; Bored, Tired, Cranky Fitzgerald Wants to Hear Less

Watch as Mayor Bruce Whitaker restores the public’s full speaking time. Following in Jan Flory’s footsteps, Jennifer Fitzgerald puts her disdain for the public on full display. Councilman Silva shows a healthy attitude about hearing from the public and staying up late from time to time: “It’s what we do.”

When lobbyist Fitzgerald began her mayoral term last year, she cut public speaking time to 3 minutes. Of course she gave out-of-town developers all the time in the world.