Economic Development 101

In my last post I introduced the topic of Fullerton’s latest foray into “Economic Development” a term that really refers to the idea that a city can generate more sales tax revenue through its ministerial efforts so that it can hire more people and pay them more money.

This is the old California Redevelopment mantra that was used by cities across California for decades to hand out land, cash, and favors to chosen developers and retailers. Nowadays, there’s really only land to give away as we saw in Fullerton with the abysmal “Tracks at the Tracks” project that ironically handed away millions of dollars in potential up-front revenue that might have balanced our budget in 2025 all by itself.

I thought I would spend some time reviewing the Kosmont Companies report and watching our esteemed City Council’s review of said “Retail Market Strategy.” To say that I was underwhelmed would be an understatement.

The report is 90 pages long. 95% of it is data mined from some source which tells us nothing an ordinary person couldn’t fathom all by himself – like on-line shopping is a big problem – and which seems almost disconnected from the recommendations on pages 11-13.

I have to wonder about the source of all this tsunami of numbers and even their validity. One side-by-side pair of graphs was particularly dubious.

Huh?

Somehow triple net rents in Fullerton spiked, even as vacancies soared. Meanwhile in the broader areas of Orange County, including neighboring towns, vacancies somehow dropped during the worst of the Covid pandemic. And in Fullerton the graph shows, rents stabilized, even dipped in ’21-’22 even though demand apparently skyrocketed. I’m not an economist but this sure looks like pure nonsenso-data to me.

Anyway, the recommendations are just a boilerplate laundry list of ways to spend money, and a lot of it, to hopefully make money. I’m sure Kosmont uses them over and over again in every “study” they perform. Here they are. Enjoy:

What a load of consultant bullshit-jargon leading to the inevitable conclusion that Fullerton needs to hire more people in order to pay for the ones we already have. If we look at these recommendation we see the old Redevelopment lingo writ anew – collaborations, outreach, improvement districts, façade improvements, “thematic” sidewalks, way-finding, public art. Don’t forget enhanced customer service! And of course collecting data (probably through the kindly and expensive offices of Kosmont itself). But is there a single mention of a public accountability program by which the people of Fullerton and their elected representatives can determine if money blown on this nonsense even paid for itself? Nuh-uh.

And of course Kosmont’s “study” diplomatically avoided mentioning Downtown Fullerton’s million dollar budgetary sinkhole, supporting the myth that it is an asset instead of a decades-old liability. Maybe they think thematic sidewalks will clean up the clientele.

The Council’s reaction to this consulto-gibberish was utterly predictable. Ahmad Zahra, who must have peed himself in excitement over Action Item 12 was completely on board and vocally supported the need to increase “staffing levels” to accomplish this laundry list of pabulum. He believes that art tourism, and all of Fullerton’s museums can pave the way to success. His accomplice in stupidity, Shana Charles was all giddy, too, and pointed out the inescapable link between economic development and Fullerton’s “urban forest” whatever that may mean.

Silence is golden…

Bruce Whitaker mentioned that he was a follower of somebody named Jane Jacobs and supported organic economic development. A wise position, but one completely at odds with his recent approval of the idiotic City-driven apartment/hotel boondoggle that flushed millions and millions right down the municipal commode.

In the end nothing specific was decided and the Council moved on, no one having bothered to find out, presumably because they didn’t care, what this 90 page report cost the taxpayers of Fullerton.

The Mantra of Economic Development

No news is good news…

A Friend just forwarded an article in the Yellowing Fullerton Observer about the City’s latest foray into something called economic development – an effort to create more tax revenue, somewhere, somehow, sometime. The good folk in City Hall are alarmed at the looming budget deficit they forecast in the next few years. And they know full well that another attempt at a sales tax like the ill-fated Measure S promoted by Ahmad Zahra and Jesus Quirk-Silva would be a shaky proposition.

According to the Observer the City hired an entity called Kosmont Companies to assay Fullerton’s future and determine where tax generating opportunities may lay. At the June 20th meeting of the City Council a report by Kosmont was submitted for general perusal.

Exhausting all options…

I note that Kosmont Companies is an operation whose sole raison d’etre these days is to work for Redevelopment Successor agencies and municipalities trying to gin up revenue to support the bureaucratic establishment. According to the staff report Kosmont was employed by “the City” in February 2023; since no agenda report exists for this contract, it must have been executed out of the public eye by our esteemed City Manager, Eric Levitt. I’ll address the report itself and the Council’s reaction in another post.

I often wonder why anybody thinks local government have any business promoting these types of endeavors. Government employees know little about business operations, nothing about the concept enterprise; they know defined benefit pensions, their union agreements and petty, make-work bureaucratic stuff. These same chuckleheads just up-zoned and entitled a massive apartment project on land they sold to the developer for 10% of its new value. As far as the unknown amount paid to the “consultant” I wonder if even that expense will be recouped by their own work product.

Just as bad, the economic development concept is created and run, for and by, the same people who stand to benefit from it – it it were to even work at all. And of course there is never any accountability for public resources expended in the pursuit of this talisman.

Fullerton’s Fiscal Ship About to Take on Water. Nobody Has a Clue What to Do

Gulb, glub, glub…

A few weeks ago the Daily Titan published an article about how, in a few years, Fullerton is going to be running in the red. Deep red. City projections point to being upside down $19 million between 2024 and 2028. Now that’s not very good, is it?

Here’s the grim forecast:

Going the wrong way…

Naturally, the article quickly devolved into a vehicle for advocating the hiring of more people and paying them more, replete with completely fraudulent comparative pay statistics. On hand were Ahmad Zahra and his helper Shana Charles to bleat about unfilled positions and service deficits, always the first opening salvo in a new tax proposal – like the one Zahra pushed hard in 2020.

The head and the hat were a perfect fit.

Doug Chaffee, the senile Fourth District Supervisor of Orange County and a former Fullerton mayor contributed this gem to the conversation: “I think I would have been a little heavier on keeping our staff because they are the lifeblood of the city. They do the work.” Uh, huh. He failed to mention his own inept culpability in mismanaging Fullerton’s budget for years.

Gimme some of that do-re-mi to waste…

Hilariously, Zahra seems to think the phrase “economic development” has some sort of talismanic quality, as if there were anything City Hall could do to produce it. It never worked during the heyday of Redevelopment and it won’t do anything now. It’s just a shiny distraction that can’t even pay for the bumblers who are paid, and paid very well, to pursue it.

What economic development really means is a focus on increasing tax revenue to pay for the salaries and benefits of public employees and their bloated, guaranteed pensions. It would be refreshing if just once elected folks thought about less about raising revenue and more about living within budgetary constraints.

Mayor Fred Jung calmly opined that Fullerton has adequate reserves to handle the tsunami of red ink coming his way, but this is not reassuring. Fullerton went through the same crimson bath during the Fitzgerald/Chaffee/Quirk-Silva/Flory/Zahra regime, and anybody who thinks Fullerton is better off for the deficit spending it is a damn fool.

Old News Better Than No News

The trouble with being away so much last summer and fall was that I missed all sorts of Fullerton-related stuff. And one of those things was the separation of Tony Florentine from his Earthly cares.

Addio, Tony!

The Florentine paterfamilias, bar owner and restaurateur passed on to his reward back in July of 2022.

FFFF has been diligently following the activities of Tony and his offspring, Joe, in a series of posts going back well over ten years.

Good luck with that!

We documented how in 2012, Tony loudly inserted himself into the anti-Recall campaign as a staunch supporter of Fullerton’s incompetent Old Guard councilmembers Jones, Bankhead and McKinley, parroting the nonsense peddled by his old Rotary pal, Dick Ackerman. He had lots of good reasons for defending the boobs as they let him run illegal entertainment in his business establishment, and as he and his son did everything they could to dodge the City-ordained -and not enforced – conditions of approval for use permits.

Gone, but not quite forgotten…

But the history went farther back. In 2003 Tony got the City to look the other way as he purloined a public sidewalk and got away with it, creating a legal headache that still hasn’t gone away. The Florentines pulled out in 2020 and left the City as landlords of a building extension that the co-joined building owner didn’t own.

Years before that, if we can believe a former associate, in 1989 Tony took a torch to his business, The Melody Inn, that also destroyed one of the oldest buildings in Fullerton and began an embarrassing Redevelopment boondoggle.

Whether or not Tony once drove a copper spike into a street tree because it was blocking his sign is a matter of conjecture, but that’s the tale told by some old Fullertonions.

Joe Florentine was happy to follow in dad’s footsteps as he continued to dodge installing required fire sprinklers in the Tuscany Club and even went so far as forging an official City planning document granting himself use authority over the building he rented because he had a lease there. That fiasco cost us $25,000, not counting legal eagle Dick Jones’s time. The Florentines just seemed to think that laws and rules were nothing but inconveniences to avoid.

So belatedly FFFF says farewell to Mr. Florentine – who brought a little Jersey color to our drab town. In parting it has to be said that neither he or his kid are that important in and of themselves, but they symbolize a governmental culture of incompetence, and a willingness in City Hall to tolerate scofflaws that have become synonymous with Fullerton.

The Crazy Tale of JP23 Urban Kitchen

Why crazy? Well it’s not really crazy at all if you’re “Jacob” Poozhikala, the scofflaw proprietor of the notorious downtown gin joint at Harbor and Commonwealth.

JP23 is just the sort of place that the creators of DTF’s nightlife economy didn’t envision and yet have done nothing to stop.

Mr. JP (left) gets a good guy award from some Supervisor Shawn Nelson drone.

Mr. JP has been in violation of conditions placed on his permits seemingly forever, and the City government just can’t seem to screw up the courage to tell Mr. JP to go screw himself once and for all. The list of violations over the years reminds me of a lurid passage in a Dickens novel – occupancy violations crowding, cover charges, illegal occupation of substandard spaces, illegal site use (shipping containers!), etc. Even the minor requirements laid upon Mr. JP, such as exterior lighting have just been ignored.

Friends may also remember JP 23 from the incidents involving a woman who claimed she was drugged in JP23 and raped in the nearby City-owned parking structure. When protesters pestered JP23, Mr. JP’s immediate response was to sue the woman for slander and libel. He was even accused of assaulting protesters.

Without delving into the details of that awful story I will only say that the patrons of the place probably don’t exercise the greatest judgment in the first place.

Ima hit that…
Student nite at At JP23…

So what’s the latest?

Last week the City Council received an update on the status of this enterprise. Apparently, Mr. JP says he has been planning to sell his business to an eager young nephew, a gambit that has gained even more time for Poozhikala to evade making the remedial requirements demanded by the City. The alleged nephew-sale was supposed to happen last November, but still hasn’t been consummated. There are still the outstanding deficiencies to be rectified, and then there is the looming problem of the all-important new entertainment permit that has to be approved.

“You have remedies”

Our old pal, handjob lawyer Gregory Palmer stood up to bring the Council a status update on the whole affair. It was like watching an old jalopy lumber down the street. It was painful to watch this cut-rate pettifogger trying not to say things that were spelled out in the staff report, the funniest of which was:

It was very clear to all of us in the room with Mr. Pathiyil that he was nothing more than a “straw man” put up by Jacob Poozhikala to avoid his responsibility, and that Mr.Pathiyil was not a bona fide purchaser.”

In their communications, Mr. JP has declared to the City that apart from “training” his young protégé on the intricacies and mysteries of saloon owning, he will have no interest in the ongoing business. The City staff report laconically informs us that:

The purchase price for all of the business equipment, inventory and packaging; books, records and files, trademarks and trade names, as well as goodwill, was zero dollars ($0.00).

However, for some unstated reason, Mr. JP intends to remain the principle tenant of the building and supposedly collect rent from his nephew.

I’m not voting yes and you can’t make me…

Mayor Jung correctly observed the unlikelihood of Poozhikala letting go of the reins. It does seem pretty likely, as the staff report warned, that The Pooz is using his nephew to act as a decoy so a new business can be established with a new entertainment permit, unsullied by the business’s long history of bad behavior.

Finally, the report was received and filed, the issue of the permits still in the works.

And so the saga of JP23 sags along. And aren’t law-abiding citizens, taxpayers, and the owners of legitimate businesses indeed justified in calling this never-ending pas-de-deux with Mr. JP what it is? It’s crazy.

Former Fullerton Councilman Doc Jones Dead

Yes, apparently, former Fullerton City Councilman, Dr. F. Richard “Dick” Jones has gone to his reward. He was 90, or thereabouts.

I am ambivalent about his passing. His record as a public representative was appallingly bad. And yet, doggone it, I miss him. Every other Tuesday we could look forward to some crazy and limitlessly entertaining outburst.

Indeed, it would be remiss of this blog not to acknowledge Mr. Jones and his place in Fullerton lore. This is especially true since it was Jones whose re-election campaign in 2008 was the impetus that created this very blog. Many people in Fullerton believed that 12 years of Jones was more than enough, and FFFF was created as a response to his record on the City Council dais.

Jones was re-elected, of course, and a good thing, too – for over the subsequent years and months the blog was able to treat Fullertonions to wonderful examples his special wit and wisdom. It’s true that the first 12 years of Dick’s political career went largely underappreciated, and included a lot of bad stuff – his support of retroactive pensions spikes, the illegal water tax and the constant shilling for dumbass Redevelopment were largely forgotten – but the FFFF spotlight of the next 4 made up for it.

Between 2008 and 2012 – when Jones was finally and justly recalled from office – he gave us a wealth of comedic material that displayed the various facets of the man: vindictive bully, philistine, loudmouth, hypocrite, bloviator supreme and ignoramus – all delivered with an especially thick, southern-fried coating. Jeez, we traversed the years together sharing fun Jonesian vignettes.

Who can forget him lamenting the monster he created in Downtown Fullerton, the “New West” even as he continued to feed it? His fixation on babies in bathwater became the stuff of legends. He introduced new names for the patrons of DTF – Drunken Others and Last Week’s Felons, even as he saddled the taxpayers of Fullerton with the bill to clean up the mess he admitted creating.

Sit down and grab some sidewalk, brother…

His sideways reference to the sidewalk stealing Florentine Mob came out as an encomium to the Italian “roots” mafia that ran his hometown of Galveston “very well,” to the chagrin of the Feds who couldn’t figure out how to traverse that consarned two-mile long bridge.

Let’s not forget the night Jones took umbrage that an award-winning architect had come to town to propose good, modern residential architecture. Nuh uh! Mr. Arkyteck? He might like Salvador Dali, but none of that fizzjickle would be in Jonesy’s living room and none of these pointy-headed modern buildings would be in “his” city, brayed the Good Doctor.

When it came to legalized marijuana – as approved by the people of California, Dr. Jones would have none of it. He was out to “right a wrong,” goldarnit! And somebody gotta stop little kids from eatin’ manure, too! And he introduced us to the wonders of heroin products and oxytoxin!

Dick was open-minded in his abomination of the different and novel, and tattoo parlors and piercing shops fell under his censorious gaze. “Pins and needles and daggers,” he asserted were a health menace to the town, and dagnabit, he remembered the old days when third degree “syphilitic” sailors infested Galveston’s lively red light district.

When the sore subject of Fullerton’s illegal water tax rates again floated to the surface, Jones was right there to draw baffling comparison with Hitler’s reoccupying the the Rhineland in 1936. Nobody knew what in tarnation he was going on about, but all the toadies in City Hall nodded, sagely.

We shared the time that Jones got even with former Congressman Bill Dannemeyer, displaying a petulance appropriate for a five-year old. That diatribe flowered into one of his trade-mark mangles – a nation called Kharakhastan, giving birth the a blog post and even a Wikipedia page dedicated to the imaginary country.

But finally, in 2011, the mismanagement of Fullerton began to catch up to those who were responsible. When a mentally sick homeless man was horrifically murdered by Fullerton cops, Jones had no way of wrapping his personality around the realities. His lack of accountability was matched only by his lack of empathy in the aftermath of the Kelly Thomas killing. His natural instinct to defend Authority and join the clown show inside the circled wagons came to the fore as he nailed his colors to the Fullerton Police Department mast.

Well, why belabor this? In June 2012 Dr. F. Richard “Dick” Jones was recalled from office, along with his pals Don Bankhead and Pat McKinley. The recall election wasn’t even close.

I don’t know what Mr. Jones has been doing with himself the past 11 years, but I doubt if it included a lot of self-reflection. Dick just wasn’t built that way.

Paulette Marshall Lands in Box

Although the thought of discovering Paulette Marshall in your mailbox might seem a little unsettling, worry not. For it is only her campaign propaganda. A vigilant Friend forwarded the piece in question.

Would the grimace pass for a smile?

This is so funny because everybody in Fullerton knows that Ms. Paulette has never “led” anything. She is the consummate joiner, padding her service resume with memberships in this or that group started and carried on by others. She tried to be a leader in Fullerton by faking an address in a district that she didn’t live in. She insinuated herself into all sorts of photo-ops where she didn’t belong, courtesy of her equally creepy spouse Doug “Bud” Chaffee.

Paulette attacks the guy who beat her like a drum the last time around, Tim Shaw, who was made to resign from the OC Board of Education to avoid a costly lawsuit brought by a Chaffee surrogate and undoubtedly paid for by the Chaffee Crime family. Shaw didn’t resign in shame and no doubt feels none. Sort of like how Paulette doesn’t feel any shame as a caught and convicted criminal.

Oh, no. The purple Joker pantsuit again!

We see that Paulette is “endorsed by OC teachers” although she doesn’t care to inform us which ones those might be. Another posed picture shows Paulette engaging exited youngsters, but I really have to wonder if this picture wasn’t staged during her mandatory community service following her guilty plea bargain.

And finally, Paulette shares more staged images that only a fool would mistake for genuine support or personal experience.

Paulette uses a freakin’ adding machine? How 20th Century.

As my uncle Cas always said, no matter how you slice it it’s still baloney. So here’s the image by which we will always remember Paulette – caught in the act of committing a crime.

Paulette Stolen Sign
Crime doesn’t always pay in Fullerton…

Fullerton 2022 Map Quest

The 2022 effort to create new districts stumbles along. Last week, the Commission set-up to make a recommendation to the City Council met to discuss the several maps that had been submitted. The complete lack of public participation was evident – only a handful of maps were submitted.

At the end of the meeting a 5-2 majority favored Map 114 – the demographers tweak of Commissioner John Seminara’s Map 106. Then they added Maps 111 and 112 as worthy of Council consideration. Take a look at Map 114. The dark lines show current district boundaries:

Map 114 making pre-eminent good sense.

Map 114 isn’t perfect, but it is informed by Fullerton’s clear major street boundaries and respects both ethnic and physical communities of interest. It cleans up the idiotic Tentacles of Interest foisted on the voters in 2016 by our former Mayor-for-Hire, Jennifer Fitzgerald. There would no longer be district contortions so that council members could each have an interest in the public money vortex knows as Downtown Fullerton.

Two of the commission members – former City employee Kitty Jaramillo, and Jody Vallejo preferred Map 110 a bizarre amalgamation for District 3 – a long, thin district that stretches from Placentia Avenue to Euclid Avenue connecting neighborhoods that are physically remote and that don’t share any obvious connection. The adherents of this map apparently banded together into a committee of some kind to concoct this hot, wet mess, proving that more heads are not necessarily better than fewer. Check out this acid burp:

The people who defended this map claimed that it is the “College map,” joining CSUF and FJC with their surrounding neighborhoods as a dubious “community of interest.” The further rationale for its support was that “many people” had participated in its creation. This map violates several basic tenets of district-making, to wit: creating a district (3) that is not compact; splitting the trans-57 community of interest into two separate tribes; and throwing together neighborhoods almost 4 miles apart in a weird, horizontal embrace.

How anybody could justify this District 3 is still beyond me. The demographer tried to make it less ridiculous by whacking it back by a mile (Map 112), but it still looks unsupportable by reason or logic. Here is Map 112.

So what gives? Commission member Tony Bushala dialed in to proclaim that Map110 (and by extension, Map 112 was motivated by purely political consideration, not the Voting Rights Act and the Fair Map Act that govern this process, and would have none of it. He didn’t elaborate.

The train of thought was weak but it sure was short…

And then it hit me.

Map 110 (and by extension Map 112) was submitted by a group of people committed to keeping Jesus Quirk-Silva, the current liberal, dim-witted D3 councilman in office. The other recommended maps – that removed the gerrymander that put him in the office – would leave him with no place to run in 2022 and out office!

Hence the desperation by this “committee” that wasted a lot of verbal gas doing what it not permitted by the FPA – protecting a party or a politician.

Oh, well, the maps go to the City Council on Tuesday the 8th, where outrage theater, liberally sprinkled with liberal handwriting will be featured on the playbill. Expect long lines the usual weepers, new and old, show up to promote Map 112. Will it work? That depends on Mayor Fred Jung who by now must be getting a shitload of unwanted importunity coming at him.

Of course there is nothing stopping a council majority from devising its own map, drawing on others, or cooking up a whole new one. But as it stands now, Map 114 is the one supported by the Redistricting Advisory Commission.

Hansburg Says Sayonara

Kids just love to walk…

Last Wednesday, Elizabeth Hansburg quit the Fullerton Planning Commission.

FFFF has already introduced Ms. Hansburg to the Friends, noting her involvement in the drive to cover Fullerton in penitentiary-like apartment blocks. Her “non-profit” is used to provide Astroturf support for developers of huge housing projects and of course donations from said developers are always welcome.

Ms. Hansburg was also part of the shadowing clan that developed a new housing plan that almost nobody knew anything about until it was conceptually presented the the City Council. The idea was (and is) to achieve the preposterous new housing unit needs count – 13,000 -proffered by SCAG, the Southern California Association of Government – an unelected agency run by and for bureaucrats and their Big Ideas.

Well, anyhow, Hansburg has had enough. Here’s her petulant good-bye speech at the end of the meeting in which she attacks the City Council, bemoans the loss of her beloved fellow 5th Columnists in City Hall, and of course praises the contemptible camera hog and credit thief, Ahmad Zahra.

Consistently awful…

Self-righteous, indignant, know-it-all. Hansburg went out of her way to promote God-awful projects that were intrusive, obnoxious, and promised a tsunami of negative impacts on our neighborhoods including more parking disasters.

Good riddance. This is exactly the sort of person that causes regular folks to be wary of self-proclaimed “experts” and the bureaucracies they love so dearly. Now she can peddle her services to developers free from legitimate charges of conflict of interest.