Let’s Talk More about Privacy

Big Brother Watching

Tonight our City Council is going to allow the Fullerton Police Department to use asset forfeiture money to purchase two automated license plate readers or ALPRs.

According to the paperwork these devices are used to allow police to drive around and scan the license plate of all cars on both sides of a street at up to 160mph. Tonight this is being sold as a way to enforce parking as part of the Downtown Parking Pilot Program as recommended by staff and the vendor SP+.

But these devices have a dark big brother side to them in how the data is shared and stored.

Apparently Fullerton has had these types of devices since 2008 (as referenced in my earlier post) despite the staff report tonight alluding to their newness. I’m betting the devices are currently being used for covertly tracking specific criminals in the same way that FPD uses the cellphone data capturing “Stingray” that they borrow from Anaheim.

Regardless of how the ALPRs are currently being used,  they aren’t a new concept as far as I can tell for the city or police department owing to our involvement in the UASI.

Urban Area Security Initiative

In the staff report, as a way to sell these ALPRs, it is mentioned that the city currently “chalks” tires to check for parking violations.

Why are our parking enforcers “chalking” tires when they have electronic equipment to do that for them? Does that equipment no longer function? Was there a problem with the implementation of the previous “digital chalking”. Nobody knows because no data, details or explanations are being provided by staff – yet again.

The big issue here, according to the ACLU and others, is that these devices are also used to keep track of where people go and how long they stay at those locations. The police department can track your movements and build a pattern of your activities and then share that data with other agencies.

Do the police really need a record of what church everybody goes to? What about who goes to the local AA/NA meetings? Local clinic? Political rallies/events/protests? Do you want the police to have a record of every time you visited your lover or possible mistress/paramour for the politicians in the room?

Caught Cheating

All of your activities are now that much easier to track and store with this technology and there needs to be safeguards against abuse and misuse.

This giant privacy concern is why the ACLU, EFF, 10th Amendment Center and others are against the use of these devices without strict controls. Surprisingly enough the CA State Legislature mostly agrees with them.

According to the Electronic Freedom Foundation, CA law, in effect since 2016, requires agencies deploying automated license plate readers to divulge:

  • The authorized purposes for using the ALPR system and collecting ALPR information.
  • A description of the job title or other designation of the employees and independent contractors who are authorized to use or access the ALPR system, or to collect ALPR information. The policy shall identify the training requirements necessary for those authorized employees and independent contractors.
  • A description of how the ALPR system will be monitored to ensure the security of the information and compliance with applicable privacy laws.
  • The purposes of, process for, and restrictions on, the sale, sharing, or transfer of ALPR information to other persons.
  • The title of the official custodian, or owner, of the ALPR system responsible for implementing this section.
  • A description of the reasonable measures that will be used to ensure the accuracy of ALPR information and correct data errors.
  • The length of time ALPR information will be retained, and the process the ALPR operator will utilize to determine if and when to destroy retained ALPR information.

Sadly you can scour tonight’s staff report and you won’t find any of this information. You also won’t find these requirements on the website or city archive which begs a question of legal compliance.

But it’s more irritating than that. If this was an issue of non-compliance by virtue of the law changing AFTER we already had the equipment (purchase in 2008, law change in 2016) it would be one thing. It would be illegal but an issue chalked up to oversight and city attorney incompetence. But no. Two years ago our city agreed to remain in what is known as the Urban Areas Security Initiative and we’re in clear violation of that grant process as well:

UASI PII Requirement

I’ve looked for this “publicly-available policy” to no-avail on the city servers. Honestly though I shouldn’t have to look for such information when staff is asking the council to address the license plate readers tonight – the policy in question should have been included and explained in the staff report.

An example of compliance with the law regarding your privacy and how the city handles it related to ALPRs can be seen with the city of Cypress’s Police Department Manual. This is what should have been included tonight before council votes upon such the ALPR issue.

Fullerton, however, gives us this:

FPD Policy Manual

If you look at the top of that page you’ll it was put up back when David Hendricks was Chief of Police.

Chief Hendricks went on admin leave back on 25 August of last year before resigning. So our Police Department hasn’t had a publicly available policy manual for AT LEAST 7 months & 22 days. The best I can find is a policy manual from 2012 on archive.org and the section of ALPRs (page 322) is not compliant with the 2016 state law.

Way to go team. Way to be transparent and compliant with the law. Way be ahead of the curve and to put the interests of the people first. Oh wait. Nevermind on all counts.

Why does staff, let alone council, not care about your privacy? Why do they think it’s okay to violate CA law and their own grant agreements regarding your privacy & transparency? Why is the hunt for more downtown money more important than addressing such fundamental concerns?

I’d tell you to find out tonight but we all know that they’re going to gloss over this issue with some allusions to trust, heroes and the like after being called on their nonsense.

Regardless of who’s on council this is just the Fullerton way I suppose.

Tonight the Downtown Bars Win

cronyism

The Fullerton City Council is about to hand the Downtown Restaurateurs Bar Owners two big wins and they’re going to continue to slap down the privacy of those in Fullerton in the process.

The first big win for the bars is in changing the rules around operating a bar in the Downtown area. This is partially because city staff thinks it’s too hard to do their jobs regarding enforcement. It’s just so hard to tell the couple of bars without Conditional Use Permits that they’re operating illegally.

The truth here is that it’s so hard to enforce anything downtown because council won’t let staff or the police department do their jobs so they all have to turn a blind eye to illegal operators and this change to Title 15 allows the downtown scofflaws to now operate *mostly* legally.

Except those without CUPs which the city will continue to ignore because favors and cronyism.

This is being sold as a way to make enforcement easier but let’s be real here – every year for a decade+ the Chief of Police (each of them) has signed off on Live Entertainment Permits which themselves say CUPs will be enforced. Our Chiefs of Police rubber stamp LE Permits for businesses that operate without required fire / life safety requirements.

So if the Police Chief is going to turn a blind eye to life safety in order to rubber stamp a permit for a favored business owner why should we believe that these new relaxed rules will be enforced? Because we’re supposed to “trust” these corrupt kleptocrats.

This Title 15 Change is being pushed to allow “legal non-conforming businesses” to now operate quasi-legally but staff won’t even tell use who that applies to in Downtown. We’re offering a form of amnesty without talking about who gets it and for what and if that’s even a good thing.

Ted White will likely prattle on about lumens and the percentage of tint on a window as cover but there are real concerns being omitted here. Why? Because saying “no, we allowed a business to illegally board up their windows with flammable material without fire sprinklers in clear violation of their CUP” doesn’t sound as easy to wash away in a rhetorical flourish such as “how do we know what 15% tint looks like”? (more…)

Government’s Stupid Priorities – Survey Edition

Office Space - Bobs

The city is once again trying to figure out how to do their jobs, this time by holding a “community stakeholder survey“. I kid you not. They want us t0 take a survey so they can figure out what it is they’re supposed to do be up there in City Hall.

From the website:

Over a year ago, the City held its first strategic planning session to introduce the concept of strategic planning and development of Priority Policy Statements. Strategic Planning is a well established process to help local governments (and private sector businesses) conduct an assessment and set goals and objectives for use of their available resources. The effort last year focused on establishing three Priority Policy Statements — Fiscal and Organizational Stability, Public Safety, and Infrastructure and City Assets.

For the next strategic planning session, the City will conduct a community stakeholder survey prior to working with the City Council to develop Mission and Vision statements, and ultimately set goals to implement the Priority Policy Statements.

They had a strategic planning session and they came to the conclusion that they needed Fiscal and Organizational Stability (which we don’t have), Public Safety (which we can’t afford), and Infrastructure and City Assets (which we don’t maintain and keep selling).

If you asked them BEFORE that planning session what their priorities were supposed to be do you think the answers would have been materially different?

Of course not. So now, after spending time and money for no point, we get to move to Round Two in the dog and pony show of figure out how government is supposed to work.

This is the type of thing a business does when a disrupter comes in and they lose market share or when a business is first starting – not something a government should be doing because they’re too bought and paid for to remember the point of a municipal government.

“Priority Policy Statements”. What a joke.

How many staff hours are wasted on crap like this? You want to know what the job of the city is? Do the things you’re paid to do – like fix our damn roads you nitwits.

More negativity. Just think positive!

You tax us specifically to do some things and to maintain other things. While government apologists and statists preen that “taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society” the city sure make it impossible to be civilized when the very streets we drive on cause road rage.

City Staff’s / Council’s job is to read and balance a budget and then prioritize the things we citizens cannot do on our own – like paving damn roads.

That’s basically it. We allegedly form governments to do things we cannot do on our own so that’s what needs to be done.

You don’t need a survey and to hold meetings to figure out these priorities. That’s just a dodge to avoid doing actual hard work. This is the TPS report system of government and everybody who came up with and supports this process should be ashamed of themselves.

TPS Reports

But by all means I encourage everybody to take the survey and give the city an earful, they deserve it and it doesn’t really matter anyways. This city is immune to actual criticisms or stakeholder input. Hell, our rotating Chiefs of Police turn a blind eye to life safety issues if it means appeasing a favored bar owner. That should give you a barometer for our complacent and corrupt Fullerton is from top to bottom.

Costs of Transparency

So Fullerton has decided to publish the weekly records request log. Okay, it’s a public document so I don’t care about that and I’ve never been shy about my involvement in local politics.

But this newest document is just horseshit and screw the city bureaucrats for their disingenuous blame shifting.

Why the rage? Read the line items.

Weekly PRR Log

Staff / Attorney Time?!

Attorney Cost?!

If the city didn’t hide everything and lie about what is released into the public domain there wouldn’t be a need for much “staff time” and/or “attorney cost”.

I’ll prove my point.

Here’s a line of from the current log:

Weekly Log - Joshua

This request, for what should be public data, allegedly cost the city just shy of $100.

Here’s what was returned:

19-101 PRR

There. Are. No. Available. Records.

None. Nothing was returned. So the city called the attorney to go over what exactly?

This request was related to an accident where Parks employees wrecked a city vehicle. Since the date of that incident the city has buried the details without so much as saying a single word to the ratepayers who owned that vehicle. Not one word. Not one answer. No acknowledgement and no pretense of accountability.

So not only was the city not transparent to the people, which is the norm for these nitwits, they paid the attorney to double down and hide everything while returning zero records and admitting nothing.

This is just a line item to shame and blame the people who put in requests by pointing out the costs of transparency.

If the city is going to lie, obstruct, hide information and then try and shame us with bullshit costs I say bring it on. Let’s do this. I’m going to try and get the high score now. Who’s up to the challenge?

Fullerton’s Version of Transparency

I’m not going to wax poetic or waste time building a narrative or telling a story today. Today I just want to lay out a simple example on how Fullerton deals with transparency.

On Wednesday, 16 November 2016 at about 9:00 PM, a Fullerton Parks and Recreation vehicle collided with another car at the intersection of Highland and Chapman.

Not long after learning about it I put in a Public Records Request asking for information on the case, vehicle and so forth and got little to nothing back. So I just ignored the issue and waited.

Up until that point nearly nothing had been reported (if anything) on this accident and the city had said nothing. Being that this is a city owned, meaning taxpayer funded, vehicle we should expect at least some acknowledgement as to what happened or even that it happened.

Instead we got crickets.

I started asking around again and rumor has it that the driver was intoxicated and three parks employees were in the vehicle and all were subsequently fired.

So recently I again put in a Public Records Request asking about such information. That request was denied on a grip of what I call “so sue us” or “you have remedies” grounds.

Then I put in another Public Records Request asking for, and I quote:

“…I now want all information released to the public about the incident involving that vehicle including any PRRs responded to, emails sent or received, reports released, press releases, etc.”

And the response from the city was:

“There are no records responsive to your request.”

When I asked for clarity:

“Is it the city’s position that nothing has been said in any way about this incident?”

They doubled down with:

“There are no available records regarding the incident.”

No available records regarding this:

No available information says the city, not even an email.

So city employees can destroy a city vehicle, which allegedly is still sitting at the Basque yard, not to mention possibly damage private property and we poor plebeians aren’t allowed to know anything all while our pompous and pretentious council pretends to care about transparency.

In all this time they could have asked for an update, asked staff what happened, explained why they might not be able to talk about a public incident (lawsuit, etc) but no. They sat and asked no questions and offered no insights.

So the next time our Council, Planning Commission, City Staff or City Manager claim to care about transparency just point to this incident and laugh at them. Laugh at them and then possibly give them the finger.

Flory Puts Grudge Over Law

Brown Act

Well, it took precisely one meeting for Jan Flory to bring her bitter, mean spirited and petty nonsense back to the dais. And we have Ahmad Zahra to thank for that return. With the claim of experience and I quote, “no scandals”, as her selling points before being anointed I suppose it’s once again up to us malcontents to knock those talking points down.

In what was clearly a Brown Act violation the council voted to shank Bruce Whitaker and remove him from the Orange County Water Board and replace him with Zahra before Whitaker’s term has expired.

Gee, it doesn’t look like they agendized that…

The City Manager was contacted about this possibly illegal action and “after further consideration” from the city attorney they’ve repealed the illegal action and put it back on the agenda to make sure they shank Whitaker legally. Let us be honest here and admit that The Other Dick Jones™ never gave this any consideration in the first place. Man, not even one meeting with Flory back and the law has already been thrown to four-winds over the pettiest of nonsense. So much for experience and lack of scandals – something we’ll be talking more about in the coming days.

This move to go after Whitaker was payback from 2016 pure and simple.

It stems from Flory being bitter because after she left council in 2016 she wasn’t reappointed to the Orange County Water District board despite bringing a group of FlorBots to city council to lobby for her. The council voted at that time to appoint Whitaker under the premise that Flory was no longer on council by her own choosing and a sitting council member should represent the citizens of Fullerton on the advisory board. This was a decision I supported at the time and stand by today. Flory at last week’s meeting lamented her being removed “mid-term” from the board which is absolute revisionist history but alas now she’s playing up being a victim with a false narrative. Oy.

Add this to Fitzgrald’s willingness to take a stab at Whitaker at any time over nearly any issue and Zahra’s complete lack of guiding principles and this is what Fullerton gets. It’s gross, it’s petty, it was illegal and it’s going to be the new normal.

Despite neither Whitaker or Zahra being mentioned in the agenda and Zahra only being mentioned in the agenda materials relating to Flory appointing people to boards, hence the Brown Act violation and repealing of the outcome, Whitaker was removed and Zahra was put in his place.

Hmm, that doesn’t seem to be what they did last night…

A cynical mind would wonder if this is what Zahra was promised in exchange for selling out the citizens of Fullerton in the Flory appointment farce. Being that the OCWD appointment wasn’t on the agenda, outside of it being listed as something the council (not Flory) appoints one would be hard pressed to believe that Whitaker’s removal wasn’t planned in advance. Silva having a well written and prepared statement also points to this being pre-planned which ALSO likely means a serial meeting was held – also violating the Brown Act. Good luck proving all that, but it’s the way things are done in Open and Transparent Fullerton – just ask Zahra how many candidates he met with privately during the vacancy process for proof of this concept.

A backroom deal over the OCWD seat would certainly explain Zahra’s immediate about face and willingness to throw transparency and openness out of the window in support of the bitter bureaucracy booster and “scandal free” Flory family.

Well, they are The Heart of the City!

It’s rather sad as Zahra seemed like a man of principle for precisely one meeting. Since then we’re seeing more and more evidence that he has no integrity and this last Tuesday continues to confirm that he’s a man of little character and a whole lot of bluster. While he works to build his legacy and name recognition we’ll be here to keep you appraised of his and his cohort’s shenanigans and malfeasance. We’ll also keep your appraised of “scandal free” and “ready to go” Jan Flory’s performance.

Downtown Rules Apply or They Don’t

welcome-to-fullerton

I’m in Downtown Fullerton as I type this post. Specifically I’m at an office space some friends and I are thinking about renting for our podcasts, the same office space I used for the live video on Flory’s appointment. I’m here because I wanted to reshoot that video owing to the technical and delivery problems of my first ham-handed efforts and I wanted to see how practical this space is for our purposes at night.

I knew the train schedules and checked the sound levels with a decibel meter for quality and started figuring out some of the technical things I wanted or needed to change. Then 8pm hit and I encountered something I hadn’t really planned around – live music emanating from across the transportation center.

Let’s get to brass tacks here; it was coming from the Slidebar – a favorite punching bag of commenters here on FFFF and some of the people I know around town. But this is a problem for me because generally I LIKE the Slidebar. I know Jeremy and he’s always been civil with me. I know Josh and he allowed me to take photos inside the bar back when I shot bands for a hobby. I have little desire to bother people I have no beef with personally and who have been cool with me historically.

SlidebarMotto

When I go after things I try to focus on issues and the people I think are causing the problems. I spill a lot of digital ink railing against Fitzgerald, Silva, now Zahra and so forth because I think they’re bad leaders and corrupt politicians – but I try to leave their personal businesses and family lives out of my posts, comments and claims as best I can because that’s not where my interests rest unless those things prove to be connected to some form of political corruption, grandstanding or malfeasance.

But tonight I got irritated. I got irritated because this city plays favorites and that favoritism, while common everywhere, shouldn’t exist from government and shouldn’t impinge on my ability to do my work in an office I want to rent. Further, the city lies about basic provable things because they think nobody will bother to call them out on their nonsense. I saw this when Fitzgerald ran all over Fullerton claiming our budget was balanced. I saw this when the city lied about Red Oak’s bonafides to convince the council to approve a zone change. I saw it and heard it again tonight.

(more…)

Zahra Sheds Integrity in Record Time

Jesus Silva, Jennifer Fitzgerald and Ahmad Zahra just manipulated you and the entire city for the sole purpose of putting Jan Flory back on city council.

Jan (Staff is the heart of the city) Flory.

Jan (3% at 50 Pension Crisis) Flory.

Jan (Hold no one accountable ever) Flory.

This woman was and will be a train wreck for council because she has zero regard for our budgets, has never shown a desire to hold people accountable and is nothing but a shill for those who are supposed to work for us.

I’m not sure why Zahra would have neutered himself by giving FitzSilva their third vote on every agenda item. I’m not sure why Zahra would have given Chevron 3 votes to develop Coyote Hills when he campaigned against that issue.

I’m not sure why Zahra would have switched in less than a month from a man of votings rights and constitutional principles to selling out and playing along in a mockery of an appointment process.

No. Sorry, I am sure why. Ahmad Zahra is just another in a long line of hacks who will lecture us from the dais while having no principles himself. Just like his pal Josh Newman – another self-righteous and pompous ass who thinks it’s okay to lie to your face as long as it gets him into power and the good graces of his corrupt party. He’ll spout wiki-quotes and nonsense for the sole reason of justifying his incompetence and malfeasance.

Zahra can preen and pretend to care about our budget all he wants. He can use whatever emotional ploy to try and justify an appointment process. What he cannot do is pretend that the reasons for an appointment excuse his actions in participating in a farce of a process that was the antithesis of the open and transparent system we were promised.

(more…)

My Council Speech from Tonight

I really don’t have much to say that I haven’t said at this dais before, or which hasn’t been reported by local media such as the Voice of OC.

It’s my opinion that this whole process has been riddled with malfeasance and corruption since the get-go. Yes Councilmember Zahra, there is plenty of blame to go around and money is an issue but that doesn’t excuse the way the city has handled this issue including changing our municipal code on election day.

Tonight’s issue has been so mired in the muck that even after you directed staff to reach out to the Neighbors United for Fullerton to have them change their meeting agenda and NUFF was gracious enough to accommodate your last minute favor – two of you snubbed them, disrespected the citizens, abdicated your moral authority on even the pretense of openness and transparency and you insulted all of the people who put themselves up for consideration.

I know about the lobbying by power brokers and the behind the scenes closed door meetings on both sides of the aisle as you preen and haggle to get your anointed pick onto the dais.

It was obvious a month ago who was the favorite before we the people even knew how the process would play out legally. That’s how baked into the cake the corruption and dishonesty is in Fullerton.

But I’m here to dare you to be better than you think you can be and better than you have been in the past. I’m here to dare you to be open and honest and to give the people a chance to vote for their own representation with a special election.

Regarding cost, It may have been hard to look at a struggling mother and explain where this $400,000 might be spent but as a struggling father of 3 I ask if you looked her in the face and explained why 70+% of our general fund goes to salaries and pensions to support people to do jobs we then don’t have the funds to complete – such as our aging infrastructure including that dark park?

If the cost is truly too much to bear then I can offer you a compromise. Everybody who tunes into these meetings knows that Whitaker doesn’t like me because I ran in the Newman recall instead of supporting him. Silva doesn’t like me for calling him out both here and on the FFFF blog time and again. Fitzgerald – well that list to too long to recount here but suffice it to say she and I won’t be getting tea anytime soon. And Zahra – he’ll learn if he hasn’t already.

I’m the one guy none of you wants up on that dais. I’m a “chronic malcontent”, I pick on everybody in power, I don’t smile enough and I have this beard. I have it on good authority that this beard alone disqualifies me with half of the city.

And all of that means that I can’t win reelection. I obviously won’t be tightly allied with any of you so you’ll have to compromise and work together to find solutions that aren’t one-sided nonsense and best of all my blogging by virtue of the brown act will all but need to cease and who of you wouldn’t see that as a bonus?

You know I’ve read the budget, you know I’m well versed in city issues and oh who are we kidding here – even if I was the best candidate this was done before it started. I didn’t throw my name in because I wanted the position – I put my name in to highlight the corruption and ridiculousness of this travesty of a process. The process ended up being worse than I anticipated so my goals were on point.

In summation I dare you to be better than yourselves. To actually embrace openness and transparency and to give the people the voice that you’ve been trying so hard to deny them.

29 Jan Council Vacancy Agenda

The following came through from the City Clerk’s office regarding the agenda for tonight’s special meeting:

“Following applicant presentations, City Council will hear public comments regarding filling the City Council vacancy.  After public comments, City Council will deliberate and vote to appoint an applicant to fill the vacancy through December 2020.”


It looks like the cat is out of the bag and this farce can be put to bed. The council is going to appoint somebody and all discussions related to a special election and the integrity of voting rights, transparency and openness is and was just gloss. You can’t claim to be open and transparent when you’ve already decided, without public notification and input, on the council’s decision before the “special meeting” meant to decide the very issue of direction.

Don’t think the council has decided already? Then ask yourself why 2 of 4 council members couldn’t even be bothered to show up to the Neighbors United for Fullerton (NUFF) forum last night? Not one of them was present for the entire event, a whole whopping 2 hours of their precious time was too much to give up for this oh so important open process.

Silva gave an opening statement and Whitaker stayed the longest which is amusing considering he voted for a special election and was the only voice really against this sham. The “public forum” that council directed staff to ask about and that council voted to approve and that NUFF was kind enough to host – was too much of a hassle for our council to attend. Go figure.

NUFF by the way deserves a hearty thank you from the citizens of Fullerton for rearranging their agenda to accommodate this charade. It’s not NUFF’s fault that Fullerton’s council acts like Fullerton’s council. NUFF did a great job all around and I personally thank them.

On a personal note, it was nice to see Josh Newman acting like the man I voted for in 2016 and not the man we recalled from office in 2018. I know he loathes me, which is fine, but you wouldn’t have known it last night which is what mattered.

Back to the travesty of the appointment process – with all of the behind the scenes meetings, deal making and huckstering going on right now it’s anybody’s guess how long it’ll take tonight for the anointed one to finally be appointed.

Should the obvious not happen, the council has a pretty good crop of people if they’re looking to find the least suitable, most mathematically challenged applicant to rubber stamp higher taxes and less accountability for staff. I counted at least 3 people in last night’s beauty pageant who wouldn’t hold anybody accountable or demand fiscal restraint – which really is a hallmark of Fullerton’s electeds.

I’m probably the only person who put in an application who can unite the council – but that’s because they’re united in not wanting me anywhere near that dais. Heck, I’m pretty confident that I wouldn’t want me anywhere near that dais.

As far as beauty pageants go I was the best dressed but we never made it to the swimsuit competition or special talents so that was sad. Maybe tonight will be different. Maybe not.