Dysfunction Junction

Denial is a fairly common human condition, but normally it involves interpersonal relationships and fact isn’t always that easy to ascertain. It is also quite common in politics where one’s emotional beliefs and prejudices are set against somebody else’s. And then there’s the case when bald facts are staring you in the face and you just can’t allow the cold truth to intrude upon your fantasy.

Nowhere is the latter situation better seen than in the City of Fullerton’s attitude and actions involving the “downtown” area.

Business is booming…

It’s not real complicated. The City has known for almost two decades that downtown Fullerton was a money loser. A big money loser. And yet nary a word of complaint or criticism of the booze culture of downtown Fullerton has been uttered by the bureaucrats and politicians.

The most recent analysis was essayed 7 years ago. Here’s the money shot:

In 2017, the taxpayers of Fullerton were subsidizing the bar owners to the tune of almost $15,000 per liquor joint, each and every year. Three quarters of a million a year. Of course this was just for “public safety” as noted:

We focused on the public-safety facets of this study alone, and did not include the development and maintenance services costs Fullerton audited. We illustrate below Fullerton taxpayers were effectively subsidizing bar and restaurant establishments – to the tune of about $15,000 per establishment – all to cover the costs of police, fire and rescue services provided to the establishments and their patrons.

We know that maintenance and code enforcement and the legal services of Dick Jones and his I Can’t Believe It’s a Law Firm jack up the cost to well over a million bucks – $1.4 million being the overall cost previously discovered. And there are now over 50 bars.

Another award!

Think of it. During hard times and good, the taxpayers of Fullerton subsidize the likes of the Florentine family and the Marovic mob and the Poozhikala posse, while they make a fortune peddling fish bowls of booze to out-of-control miscreants and ignoring the law.

And still City staff insists on describing downtown Fullerton a glowing success story, a triumph to be built on; of course they aided and abetted in the charade by city councils that are marked by political cupidity, stupidity and a desire to look like they have accomplished something. Anything. For decades these people have crowed about their achievements in DTF, even as they desperately crammed more and denser housing blocks in and around main streets – hoping a captive audience would somehow help. It didn’t, and by the early 2000s the City decided an open air saloon was just the thing. And then the restaurants morphed into bars and then the bars morphed, illegally at first, into nightclubs.

I can keep this up all night…

As things got more lawless, and even some like Dick Jones lamented the “monster” he had created, the only thing that happened was that things got worse. Blasting noise, random violence, sexual assaults, human waste, mayhem, shootings, sadistic and pervy cops – you name it – caused no retrospection in City Hall about what had, and what was happening. It was all a big victory, and you don’t second guess a victory.

Well, things are looking glum fiscally for Fullerton according to last years budget projections and we will be told Ahmad Zahra and Shana Charles that we must bear the burden of a new sales tax jack-up in order to keep the creaky old jalopy going.

I say fix the financial sinkhole that is downtown Fullerton before you stick your hands in our pockets.

Preservation Attempt in South Fullerton

I checked out the upcoming Fullerton City Council agenda and noticed an appeal of a Planning Commission decision to approve a new, 185,000 square foot warehouse project at 801 S. Acacia Avenue.

The appeal is being made by Fullerton Heritage who believe that the PC failed to receive enough relevant information about the existing building’s historical significance.

Apparently the structure was designed by noted SoCal architects A. Quincy Jones and Frederick Emmons. It’s front elevation sports a mid-century modern aspect.

The back doesn’t seem very distinguished – metal buildings and canopies. According to FH they used to make sliding doors here including those requested by well-known architects.

Well, good luck to Fullerton Heritage, say I. The City government has almost always turned a blind eye to historic preservation, pretending otherwise, of course. And in the old days “historical” meant old and cutesie – in City Hall it probably still does, and it’s not hard to see staff blow past something like this.

Of course Historic Preservation is generally a more “liberal” idea and in this case the property in question is standing in the way of “economic development” a concept so near and dear to every politician’s self-promotion. It should be fun to observe District 5 Councilman Ahmad Zahra navigate his way between some of his natural constituents and his proclaimed dedication to the hustle of economic development.

The Sound of Music

Business is booming…

Over the past two decades FFFF has documented the mess our City government has made of the financial sinkhole know as Downtown Fullerton; how laws and rules have been ignored to help the myriad bar owners, and how what is undoubtedly a fiscal municipal liability continues to be characterized as some sort of wonderful accomplishment.

Matt Foulkes. The spin out left casualties…

Planning Directors and Redevelopment Drones came and went: Dudley, Zur Schmied, Zelenka, Haluza, White, Foulkes, each one as useless as the one that came before, and each willing to put the scofflaws’ interest ahead of the citizens.’ To be fair, the political interference was there, too, nowhere better exemplified than in the case of our now-departed Mayor-for-Hire, Jennifer Fitzgerald, who had a for sale sign on her back. And of course City Attorney Dick Jones was there every step of the way to add obfuscating smoke into the downtown atmosphere.

dick-jones
Staying awake long enough to break the law…

Nowhere is the Fullerton downtown dysfunction better seen than in the complete hash the bureaucrats in City Hall have made of the noise situation. At first, the noise ordinance was simply ignored by the cops and by code enforcement. And for the past 15 years the City has made a concerted effort to allow amplified outdoor music downtown, to delay action (we’re still studying it), and to water down whatever official rules were on the books.

For the past four years nothing has happened and of course the nightclub operators have continued to take advantage of Fullerton’s de facto unwillingness to enforce anything.

And now the issue has finally resurfaced yet again, and once again the effort is likely not to work for us, but essentially, to admit defeat and allow the raucous free-for all to become official.

In December a new stab at a noise ordinance addressing outdoor music was placed on the table in front of the City Council.

Evidently the proposed ordinance was so bad that the our otherwise malleable City Council turned it back for rework. I don’t know what was in it because the City Clerk’s webpage doesn’t work. But supposedly the thing will be coming back on Tuesday the 29th and hopefully we will be able to see what sort of surrender our staff is coming up with.

Voice of OC Played By Trail to Nowhereists

Addendum: I apologize for not providing a link to the story in Voice of OC. Here it is. And after reading it again and Elattar’s phone interview with the egregious Egleth, I really have to wonder if he even went to the site at all. Why would he have to call her if he was there listening to her nonsense? Could this whole tale be simply the result of phone interviews? If so, that would be pretty bad, and seeing Leopo’s pictures still should have made his journalist’s antennae go sideways – if he has any.

DE-H

People who read the online news source known as the Voice of OC know that it reflexively leans toward stories that promote the notion of the local underdog up against monied interests entrenched in the corridors of power.

And that’s okay – up to a point. And that point is crossed when their “reporters” buy into some shenanigan or other without delving at all into the issues. It’s the narrative that counts, of course: rich vs. poor, good vs. evil, and the narrative must not change.

And so when Voice of OC reporter Hosam Elattar got a call from Ahmad Zahra (or one of his brain-washed followers) about the “popular” uprising in Fullerton about a rejected “greening” grant it must have been irresistible. And so the Voice scribe showed up for some sort of Trail to Nowhere romp where the usual suspects – Egleth Nunnci and Saskia Kennedy of Fullerton Observer infame – were ready for him, with a gaggle of followers bearing the usual “home made” signs of protest.

Over there is the run and play and enjoy railroad tracks. We need that fresh air. (Photo by Julie Leopo/Voice of OC)

It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Mr. Elattar to ask why protesters with signs were parading down the abandoned UP right-of-way where exactly nobody could see them, except Julie Leopo, the Voice “photojournalist.” A real reporter, or an honest one at this point would know he was being played. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to him to inquire into Nunnci’s absurd statement that he later published:

“This is an area that is overpopulated, overdeveloped – where people are not thinking about green spaces,” Nuncci said. “Mental health (issues) are happening because our children don’t have the opportunity to go and play and run and enjoy.”

The trail didn’t go anywhere, but it sure was short…

Elattar didn’t ask why those poor, mentally affected kids couldn’t “play and run and enjoy” themselves in nearby Richman Park or Lemon Park or Independence Park. Nor did he inquire into the question of how these little victims of society were going to get to the Trail to Nowhere, since only one street – three short blocks of Truslow Avenue – is closer to the right-of way than to Richman Park or Independence Park. And he didn’t bother to notice, or at least inquire about the graffiti and ask Ms. Nunnci if maybe the industrial zone with its obvious blight, might not be the best place to build a linear park. The Leopo pictures themselves betray the problem by showing the beloved Trail to Nowhere as it runs along the no man’s land next to and lower than the Santa Fe mainline tracks.

Did Elattar bother to continue along the route to see what it passed through? Did he even bother to look at a google satellite image?

Did Elattar bother to interview any of the residents of the adjacent Liberty Walk community at the western end to find out if they were even notified of the Trail to Nowhere proposal that had lights shining into their backyards? What about SOCO Walk on the eastern end? Did he ask anybody who actually lived on Truslow whether they would use this silly facility? Why would he do that? He already had his tale from the get-go.

Elattar, moreover, took it as gospel that this rump trail would have provided connectivity to other trails and “several parks.” It would not have – previous lies that even City staff have finally abandoned, although The Fullerton Observer keeps using to dupe the gullible kids and the elderly Observers who just can’t know better.

And finally I would be remiss if I didn’t share this charming image:

Why just write about stuff when you can try to make your own news! (Photo by Julie Leopo/Voice of OC)

This is Saskia Kennedy, directing traffic for her photo op actors, creating the news before her Fullerton Observer writes opinion “news” articles about it.

One hopes that Hosam Elattar’s superiors at the Voice of OC cotton on to the scam pulled on their ace reporter and advise him to delve into the issue more closely. But I’m not counting on it.

The Curse of Other People’s Money

It’s a sad fact that local politicians usually have no qualms about spending money from off-budget sources – like State and Federal grants to do this or that uber-important thing. And these things don’t really undergo much scrutiny at all because the money the locality gets, if it finds itself awarded such a grant, isn’t competing with other municipal needs. And, better still, the awarding agency very often has no interest in seeing how successful the grant actually was. See, this requires a rear-view mirror, which the government go-carts just don’t have.

It might work…

This topic came to light during discussion of the ill-fated “Trail to Nowhere” that was going to built with almost $2,000,000 bucks raised from some State of California bond rip-off or other. We heard from the drummed up “community” that the money had been awarded, so better take it; these people being not at all concerned that just maybe the money could be better spent on a project elsewhere. And let’s not worry about the fact that nobody will be responsible for the failure of the scheme.

Phase 1 was a complete failure so Phase 2 is bound to work!

Which brings me to Fullerton’s history of grant money, utterly wasted, and with absolutely no accountability. Specifically I am referring to the long-lost Core and Corridors Specific Plan. I wrote about it seven years ago, here.

I’ll drink to that!

Back in 2013 or so, the City of Fullerton received a million dollars from Jerry Brown’s half-baked Strategic Growth Council to develop a specific plan that would sprawl over a lot of Fullerton, offering by-right development for high-density housing along Fullerton’s main streets – a social engineering plan that would have drastically changed the character of the city. The reasons for the entire project’s eventual disappearance off the face of the Earth are not really important anymore. What is important is that the grant money – coming from Proposition 84 (a water-related referendum!) was completely and utterly wasted.

A page on the City’s website dedicated to the Core and Corridors Specific Plan had quietly vanished by 2017, never to be heard of again.

It doesn’t matter how it turns out. It’s the gesture that counts.

The lesson, of course is that Other People’s Money causes public officials – the elected and the bureaucratic – to take a whole other attitude toward spending on stuff than it does if the proposed projects were competing with General Fund-related costs – like the all-important salaries and benefits; or competing for Capital Improvement Fund projects that people actually expect a city to pursue. And it’s very rare indeed for a city council, like ours, to realize that grant money can be misused and actually wasted.

And so I salute Messrs. Dunlap, Whitaker and Jung for voting to return the Trail to Nowhere grant money – an act of true fiscal and moral responsibility.

Zahra Shoots Wad

And not in any sort of good way.

In 2022 D5 Councilman Ahmad Zahra raised, and spent a small fortune hanging on to his low-pay gig as a Fullerton councilmember. Check it out:

At the end of 2021 Zahra had almost $33K in the bank, the product of furious, rabbit-fornicating fundraising from all sorts of strange people and places. In the next year – an election year – he really went to town putting the screws to donors.

During 2022, Zahra raised an enormous $83K from a wide assortment of unions, boohoos and lots of out-of-towners. And guess what? He spent it all! Plus $26K more. At the end of the year he had only $6.5K to his politcal name. This may be a record for Fullerton elections, certainly in the new district set up. And that leads to some fun math.

Looking at the election results we can discern two undeniable facts. First, Zahra spent an astonishing $42 per vote, and still won by only 300 votes. And, second, without the nearly 600 votes that went to Zahra’s stooge Latino-named candidate, Tony Castro (who has since disappeared), he would have lost to Oscar Valadez by 300 votes.

It takes money to make money…

These numbers really make you wonder why it was so necessary for Zahra to raise and spend all this loot just to stay on our City Council. The inescapable conclusion is that his political career, such as it is, is the only thing this miscreant has going for himself. He’s not a doctor and he’s not a film maker. He’s an unemployed flim-flam artist. He did use his campaign credit card to pay for personal expenses in 2022, but that sort of self-indulgence can only go so far.

Another conclusion is that he has and will use his position of limited authority to continue fundraising and influence peddling, including and perhaps most of all with the legal marijuana cartel. The end game for Zahra must be for higher office – an elected job like State Assembly where he can continue peddling his brand to a wider audience and get paid a real salary to do it.

But as with most grifters, the end game becomes more remote as the lies pile up; and in politics the less bread you have to cast upon your own waters, the harder things are going to get for you.

We Get Mail…And Other Stuff

Here at FFFF HQ we always leave the door open for Fullerton citizens to share their issues. This instance is a little different. We received (anonymously) a statement that purports to be by a 5th District resident. I don’t know who wrote it, or in what context it was written. I don’t need to know. It is a well-written, eloquent, and damning indictment of Ahmad Zahra’s weepy, sleezy, self-serving 4 year tenure on the Fullerton City Council. And it’s all true.

Money talks…

Here’s the statement as we received it:

“1. Mr. Zahra denied the voters of Fullerton the opportunity to elect a member to a half term on the Fullerton City Council. Although he at first vocally supported an election to fill the at-large seat vacated by Jesus Silva on the Fullerton City Council, Mr. Zahra ultimately voted to appoint someone to the two year remainder of this term despite dozens of public speakers from all backgrounds pleading for a special election. Mr. Zahra argued that a special election would be too expensive, but went on to support at least one other questionable expenditure far in excess of the estimated cost of such an election.

“2. Following the appointment of Jan Flory to the aforementioned two year seat on the city council, she joined council member Jennifer Fitzgerald and Mr. Zahra himself in appointing Mr. Zahra to a paid seat on the Board of the Orange County Water District, supplanting the city’s then current representative, whose term had not yet expired. The vote gave the appearance of an obvious quid pro quo, wherein Mr. Zahra supported appointing Ms. Flory to the council in exchange for her support in appointing him as Fullerton’s representative to the OCWD.

“3. Mr. Zahra consistently voted to support spending over a million dollars on legal fees to sue two writers from the Friends for Fullerton’s Future blog who downloaded private files from an unguarded and publicly available folder on the city’s website— a folder to which the city itself had directed the bloggers. The blog’s publication of of at least some of these files revealed incompetence and malfeasance on the part of the city’s administration and police department. In addition to being an enormous waste of public funds on a suit the city was unlikely to win, this lawsuit represented a serious attack on freedom of the press, on par with legal actions taken against the publication of the Pentagon Papers fifty years ago—that is, an attempt by government to suppress publication of materials embarrassing to it and to punish news outlets who would do so. Council member Zahra’s support of this lawsuit alone should be reason for any news organization to decline to endorse him for public office.

“4. Mr. Zahra participated in a council subcommittee consisting of himself and then Council member Jennifer Fitzgerald. This economic development subcommittee held meetings behind closed doors with no publicly available agendas, no publicized meetings times or places, and no subsequent public notes. The public were not invited to attend. No one knows what was discussed in these meetings.

“5. No notes were ever made available from the aforementioned subcommittee meetings, but Mr. Zahra subsequently supported, with great enthusiasm, the development of the former Kimberly Clark property into a massive warehouse distribution site for Goodman Logistics, a frequent host of Amazon delivery services. It is no exaggeration to state that Goodman subsequently stripped the site of every living tree, including a perimeter of large, mature pine trees and groves of fruit trees that included the last orange tree orchard in Fullerton.

“6. Mr. Zahra falsely claimed authorship of a story about the Orange County Water District submitted for publication and ultimately published by The Fullerton Observer. Subsequent discovery that the article was actually authored by OCWD staff caused public embarrassment to the Observer and revealed that Mr. Zahra was willing to uncritically and deceptively pass along an agency’s public relations material to The Fullerton Observer as his own writing, casting clear doubt about the independence of his representation of Fullerton on the Board of this agency as well as his trustworthiness as a public official.

“7. Mr. Zahra has refused to reveal the ultimate disposition of criminal charges brought against him while serving on the council. Although the charges were reported by the Observer to have been dismissed, court records were sealed, denying the public the right to know what actually happened in the case of a public official accused of assault and vandalism. Whether or not the charges were judged to be justified, Mr. Zahra should have revealed exactly how this case proceeded and how it was ultimately concluded to dispel any doubt in the minds of his constituents.

“8. Mr. Zahra appointed to the Planning Commission, arguably the most important and powerful committee or commission in the city, a representative for a pro-development organization Her role as director of this organization represented a clear conflict of interest between her profession and her public service. She ultimately resigned from the Commission part way through her term with no prior notice during one of its meetings, leaving before the meeting has been concluded the the evening. Such an appointment, in my opinion, calls into question Mr. Zahra’s judgement.

“Additionally, we should remember that the 5th District was created to accommodate representation by the area’s largely Latinx population—the only such district in the city. Endorsing the only non-Latino in this contest would not seem to advance this goal.”

The Mysterious Police Report

FFFF has just received an interesting document from an anonymous, yet seemingly informed source.

Something happened after a council meeting last year that caused the Fullerton cops to take a police report and to inform the councilmembers, obliquely, what they were doing – as if the council already knew. So what was it? Our informant tells us that Ahmad Zahra, the perpetual victim, filed a complaint against Fred Jung for some sort of assault, or threat or something. That part isn’t clear.

Looking down from above…

The fact that this police report never went anywhere means that there was nothing behind it, and in fact that Zahra probably and deliberately filed a false report to begin with. That would be a crime, of course, if anybody is keeping track, and well within broadly described moral compass Zahra has drawn for himself.

FFFF could do a Public Records Act request to get the documents, but I have a sneaking suspicion they are long gone, rather like the records surrounding Zahra’s battery and vandalism case.

MEET DIRTY DOUG

FFFF has squirted some cyber-ink on the missus, so I thought we ought to start spending a bit of time with Pilferin’ Paulette’s hubby, the egregious Doug “Bud” Chaffee.”

If the snout fits, wear it…

This piece was recently sent out by Chaffee’s OC Board of Supervisor challenger, Sunny Park of Buena Park.

The swine were offended by the comparison…

The reference here is to an early foray of the Chaffee Crime Family into “affordable” housing, the subsidized sort that always costs so much more than the regular kind. Of course this was thirty years ago and Chaffee has a much longer list of grifts large and small, including selling out the advocates of preserving the West Coyote Hills, creating phony districts in Fullerton, supporting overbuilt prison, I mean apartment blocks with inadequate parking, and of course spending all his time failing to reform the Fullerton Police Department.

On the Board of Supervisors Chaffee has distinguished himself by hiding COVID information from the public, overseeing the public humiliation and politicization of the Health Care Agency, and being a lackey for the misfeasance of his fellow board member, Andrew Do. And the funniest thing of all is that he, as Chairman of the Commission to End Homelessness, had to confess to reporters that he didn’t know what the Commission does.

Putting politician’s faces on animals has always struck me as desperate and sort of silly, persuasion-wise. But Sunny is running against an incumbent (and recumbent) Democrat and needs to syphon enough votes to 1) at least come in second; and, 2) keep Bud from reaching the magic 50%+1 number thereby forcing a runoff in November. Will this help?