End the Overnight Parking Ban

Tomorrow night, the City Council will consider a move toward repealing the citywide overnight parking ban between the hours of 2:00 and 5:00am.  This is a long overdue and welcomed change that would significantly improve the lives of many Fullerton residents.

I’ve lived in Fullerton my entire life.  Never once have I heard someone complain that a car was illegally parked on a city street in the early morning hours.  The only complaints are from people who have been cited.

The overwhelming majority of us are asleep, at least partially, during those hours and aren’t aware, and couldn’t care less, if a car was left parked on the street.  Our quality of life is not impaired one iota by another person making use of a public asset during the night hours.

In the Agenda Letter, Director of Community Development Karen Haluza provides an insightful history into the overnight parking ban, which dates all the way back to 1924 when Fullerton was converting from dirt to asphalt roads.  Spencer Custodio at the Voice of OC also penned a nice article on this subject.   Both are well worth the read.

The City’s Nonsensical 1970 Findings

Besides having no use apart from generating citation revenue, the irony of the many justifications the City made in 1970 for preserving the ban apply more appropriately to daylight hoursThe findings were as follows:

(a) In that frequent sweeping of litter, refuse and trash from streets is required to
prevent disease and unsightly appearances and such sweeping can be done
most economically and efficiently while vehicles are not parked thereon, and

I’m not aware of any City street sweeping taking place between 2:00am and 5:00am.  As far back as I can remember, street sweeping has been as predictable as trash collection on a specific day of the week during daylight hours.

(b) In that frequent police patrolling of streets is required to deter, prevent and detect
criminal activity and there is greater need for such patrolling between the hours
of 2:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. than at other times and such patrolling can be done
most economically and will best accomplish its purpose while the streets are free
from parked vehicles, and

There is no “frequent police patrolling of streets” between 2:00am and 5:00am.  Many Fullerton residents out and about during those hours have stories of FPD patrol units parked in inconspicuous locations around town with the officer sound asleep, provided nothing else is going on.

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Fitzgerald A No-Show at Important Budget Workshop

The City Council held an important budget workshop Tuesday evening.  Councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald was nowhere to be found.

She claims to have had a prior commitment, but I was also told she wasn’t aware of the meeting, or something silly along those lines.  Knowing the date and time of meetings, and attending them regularly, had never been a problem for her in the past.  The only exception that comes to mind is a recent family emergency, in which case her absence was totally justified — I’m not about to rag on her for that.

Vacant seat Fitzgerald

One has to wonder if she purposely ditched the meeting to avoid accountability on her bogus “Balanced Budget” claim, which was — again — disputed by City staff and others during the 2+ hour meeting.

She doesn’t seem to handle accountability very well.

The Desperation Has Arrived

In case you weren’t already convinced, Tuesday’s study session agenda provides ample evidence that Jennifer Fitzgerald lied when she said Fullerton has a balanced budget.  She also boasted during her campaign that Fullerton, unlike other cities, didn’t have special sales taxes because we manage our finances (better).  Short of widespread cuts citywide, that scenario — city sales taxes — looks to be nearly inevitable in the near future:

While not part of the public budget workshop, the City Council will confer in Closed Session beforehand about the (likely) sale of 15 City-owned parcels across town:

The City never provides more than a parcel number, so I’ve taken the liberty of capturing a screen shot of each parcel from the county’s GIS viewer and added a brief description.

After all, these are public assets.  We deserve to know which parcels of public land City Hall is seeking to dispose of.

 

Hunt Branch Library — parcels 030-290-16 and 030-290-21

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JPA Business Plan: Prey on sick and dying people

Just watch the video.

“The ambulances will have to wait their turn.”   Did you catch that last part?

Just the opposite will happen if the ambulance component of this JPA proposal goes forward. The ambulances will be going straight for your wallet, and more than ever before.

Yesterday, I talked about the JPA Feasibility Study authored by Citygate Associates LLC that showed little, if any, reason to merge the Fullerton and Brea Fire departments. A separate study on ambulance service was sought from a company named A. P. Triton, LLC.

The ambulance study makes its bias against private ambulance companies known from the very start. They denigrate private companies for making a profit, then propose ways for the JPA to do exactly the same, with rates far beyond what is being charged now.

The consultant spends considerable time salivating over revenue collection potential.

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Blowing up the Fire Department

Casual readers of this blog may want to pay closer attention than usual.

Except this time, it’s the consultants wearing the turnouts.

 

This coming Tuesday, January 24, the Fullerton City Council will entertain a study session to review the merits of folding the Brea and Fullerton Fire Departments into one. If approved, the Fullerton Fire Department, and it’s 108-year history as we know it, would cease to exist.

Thanks to a 3-2 vote (YES: Fitzgerald, Flory, Chaffee. NO: Whitaker, Sebourn) a new government agency was formed with the City of Brea on October 18, 2016. The North Orange County Cities Joint Powers Authority is its name.

A merged Fullerton and Brea Fire Department would no longer be under the direct control of either the Fullerton or Brea City Councils. Instead, it would be governed by this new JPA — whose board members will be unelected. That is a board which is directly accountable to nobody. Two City Council members from each city, appointed by their respective City Councils, will govern the JPA. That’s not a typo — it really is two members from each city — meaning there is no tiebreaker vote.

The study session follows on the heels of a recent JPA Feasibility Study whereby the case to merge fire departments is rather weak.

We already utilize a shared fire command with the City of Brea. Fullerton’s projected costs under that existing arrangement are shown below, in blue. Fullerton’s projected costs under the JPA are shown in yellow.

The consultant, Citygate Associates LLC, says not to worry about the $300-400K annual cost increases under a JPA as those are within “model variance”.  (Note:  The above figures are in thousands)

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Fullerton’s cozy relationship with Discovery Cube

The Discovery Cube is a pretty neat venue for kids of all ages.  Anyone who has driven the 5 freeway through Santa Ana can’t miss the place.

Discovery’s VP of Sales Lobbying Sean Fitzgerald is married to Fullerton Lobbyist-Councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald. City money began flowing to Discovery Cube within a year of Sean taking the job.

Following a promotion in 2014, this press release described Sean Fitzgerald’s new position:

“As Vice President, Sales and Strategic Development, Fitzgerald works directly with the Center’s leadership on a variety of growth-related initiatives. This includes developing new strategic partnerships with municipalities, corporations and other non-profits and serving as a key member of the team working to open DSC’s new Los Angeles facility later this year. In addition, Fitzgerald oversees a sales team working to fulfill the Center’s sales goals in field trips, outreach programming and partner education programs.”

CalRecycle awards Beverage Container Recycling Grant money to municipalities every year for various recycling programs.  Public education is one of several options with which to spend the money.

Since 2012, the City has been paying for thousands of FSD sixth graders to learn about recycling at Discovery Cube to the tune of $27 per kid. (more…)

Scrutinize Every Detail — Part One

 

The sad part about Joe Felz’ retirement is that running over a tree, while likely under the influence of alcohol, might have actually improved his legacy as City Manager.  How is that possible? Easy. The tree incident is a convenient distraction at an optimal time. Except for the anonymous letter penned by City employees a couple weeks ago, few people are talking about his actual job performance which deserves just as much scrutiny.

One of his biggest failures is that he not only tolerated, but actively participated in deceiving the public through various means, be it omission, obfuscation, or just outright lying to people.  He wasn’t crafty about concealing it either – agenda letters and staff reports sent to the City Council and others were chock full of half-truths, non-truths, and other nonsense designed to mislead the public.

I think we ought to be forgiving in the case of legitimate mistakes or typos.  None of us are perfect, so transposed digits, or maybe a missing word here or there, isn’t the end of the world provided it doesn’t materially influence a decision. The point where it ceases to be a “mistake” or “typo” and, thus, becomes completely unacceptable, is when people offering up this information stick to their guns and defiantly defend such errors as being gospel.

In case you missed the last installment of the Brea Dam fiasco, one point of contention concerning the golf course was converting the Lease to a Management Agreement with American Golf.

Parks and Recreation Administrative Manager Alice Loya went before the City Council in November 2010 and said American Golf would receive a $500,000 “Management Fee” with 1% annual increases.  Minus payment to a couple American Golf managers, this constitutes guaranteed profit to American Golf, a perk they never enjoyed in the past.

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Brea Dam: Crony meet Capitalism

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and said to yourself, hey, I’m going to take out a new mortgage to pay for sprinklers on property I don’t even own?  Yeah, me neither.

Joe Felz, circa 2010

That’s exactly what the City of Fullerton cooked up in 2010 with one minor difference. Instead of a mortgage, they sold municipal revenue bonds, but that distinction is, for the most part, a moot point.  Debt is debt.

You see, the Fullerton Golf Course, located northeast of Harbor Blvd. and Bastanchury Rd. (near St. Jude) sits on nearly 75 acres of land owned by the Federal government.  The City of Fullerton is simply the lessee on a long-term lease granted by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

American Golf (and it’s predecessor) was the contract operator of the Fullerton Golf Course beginning in 1979.  They operated the course as if they owned it outright, and gave the City of Fullerton 20% of the golf and 8% of the concession revenue. This was not a bad arrangement for the City considering it was in American Golf’s best interest to run a lean operation and generate as much revenue as possible.  They also assumed responsibility for golf course operating costs, liability, and capital improvements.

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The Brea Dam Denial

Trust us, the answers are buried in there somewhere…
Trust us, the answers are buried in there somewhere…

I began to question the City’s management of the Brea Dam in early 2015.

Numerous problems had one thing in common: Joe Felz‘ involvement during his tenure as Parks and Recreation Director, and then, again, during his transition into the City Manager role in 2010.   Who better to ask about these things than Joe himself?  I tried reaching him by e-mail.  After that failed, I tried calling instead.  He never returned my calls either.

Seeing that as a dead end, I requested copies of documentation from Parks & Recreation staff that I believed to be the responsibility of administrative manager Alice Loya.  Her name appeared on numerous City Council and Parks & Recreation agendas pertaining to the Brea Dam.

My initial records request was denied, in part, because they said the records didn’t exist.  I had requested from Ms. Loya very basic budget and profit/loss statements for the Fullerton Golf Course.  That’s when I knew my suspicions of mismanagement had at least some merit.  We pay the golf course expenses, yet Ms. Loya, whose job it is to supervise these things, could not produce anything of substance to justify the overall financial performance.  She instead offered what I’ve termed monthly invoicing “bundles”, so I requested a full 12 months.  This was the only way to reconcile financial performance over a full fiscal year.  I would later be shamed by the Fullerton Observer for making that request and others.  After all, I was wasting precious City staff time.

Over the summer of 2015, some friends and I studied these documents in depth, and we each came to the conclusion that something is very, very wrong up there. So wrong that, unless corrected, the US Army Corps of Engineers could revoke the lease and evict the City of Fullerton.  That could potentially force the closure of the Fullerton Golf Course, Fullerton Tennis Center, Fullerton Sports Complex, YMCA, Child Guidance Center, and Fullerton Community Nursery School — all of which occupy Brea Dam land leased from the Federal Government.  The Feds could also sue the City for failing to remit revenue.  Believe it or not, we could also face the wrath of the IRS because the bonds we sold to replace the golf course sprinkler system came with strings attached to the interest subsidy the City receives from the Feds. The list of problems just goes on and on and on…

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Follow the Money, But How?

We’ve all heard the words “follow the money” as if said process will magically unveil itself to us. Certain insight and skills are necessary when confronted by a doozy like this one:

nicolevegas1_gb

ICSC is the International Council of Shopping Centers who held their Global Retail Real Estate Convention May 22-25, 2016 in Las Vegas, which, ironically, cost $570 to attend, the same amount of the first transaction (above).

As if taxis, bagels, and Starbucks charged to the City procurement card wasn’t enough, two days of room service at the Hard Rock Hotel made the trip all worthwhile:

nicolevegas2_nb

nicolevegas3_nb

Just because there’s enough material in the City’s records to write blog posts like these… (more…)