Friends for Fullerton's Future supports causes that promote intelligent, responsible and accountable government in Fullerton and Orange County
Author: Mr. Peabody
Mr. Peabody is a Child of Aquarius, a former hard drug user, and a devotee of lawn bowling. He abandoned a profitable career as an curb address number painter to fulfill a lifetime dream of mastering the zither.
Another would-be County Supervisor has declared his 2018 candidacy for the 4th District. His name is Joe Kerr. He is a Democrat. He is also the former boss of the union that represented the Orange County Fire Authority. As such it was his sole responsibility to shove his hand as hard and as deep into the pockets of the taxpayers as possible to provide his members with spectacular pay and pensions, and to perpetuate a scam in which his members enriched themselves on a gamed overtime system.
Voters will not hear about that from Mr. Kerr, of course, even as he brings in “public safety” union bucks to grease his campaign, We will hear that Joe is Fire Hero and Deserves.
Will the voters go for this? I don’t know. Right now Fullerton is facing a massive fiscal drain due to the exploding pension costs of the cops and the “fire fighters.” Having one of the chief perpetrators of this meltdown trying to run for public office seems ill-timed.
Everyone is familiar with the politician’s reputation for telling untruths, which are generally more or less creative. Rare is the outright, black and white lie. Once in a while you find it in the politician who is supremely confident of their unaccountability – or clouded in a miasma of narcissistic delusion. Or both. It hardly matters which.
And so we have Jennifer Fitzgerald, who as mayor blatantly lied about the City having a balanced budget, and blatantly lied about the City fiscal prudence that created a balanced budget.
Ever since City Manager Joe Felz’s infamous Wild Ride on November 9th, 2016 folks have been wondering about the role of Fitzgerald in the unfolding scandal in which the FPD collected no evidence and gave a liquor-smelling Felz a ride home.
A few days ago our Friend, Travis Kiger made a Public Records Act request covering:
1. Call logs/detailed billing records for all mobile/landline phones used by Councilmember Jennifer Fitzgerald on November 9, 2016.
2. Call logs/detailed billing records for all mobile/landline phones used by Police Chief Danny Hughes on November 9, 2016.
This request covers all devices used by these public officials, regardless of ownership.
Here’s what Kiger got back:
But hey, wait a minute! What about that memo put out by Police Chief Dan Hughesrelating his communication about the incident to Fitzgerald. Remember that? Here he clearly states his communication with Madame Mayor over the Felz affair. The memo is dated November 9th!
And then there was the sad declaration from SparkyFitz herself that she got a call at 3:00 am on the morning of the 9th.Remember that? And are we seriously to believe that Fitzgerald had no city-related phone calls the day her dear friend drove over a tree on Glenwood Avenue? That’s nonsense.
Here we have the spectacle of a public official pretending that there are no records documenting these communications – a position belied by the written and oral statements of the communicants themselves.
And then there is the rather odd response regarding Hughes. The fact that he is no longer employed by the City is irrelevant information. The answer about “his” phone is equally evasive. Did Hughes use his own phone or a city-issued phone? We aren’t told. And more to the point, does a public record cease to exist because the recorder is no longer a government employee?
Next Tuesday’s Council meeting brings us another Budget Show, one more in a line of footling meetings strung out like faux pearls on a cheap necklace. This one is particularly entertaining since it acknowledges a big structural deficit that the suggested cost savings will do almost nothing to correct: “modest” revenue increases are broadly suggested, but apart from some fee increases and one-time sale of “surplus” property nothing meaningful is proposed. Obviously the recommendation for a utility tax or a sales tax increase will be sprung like a rabbit out of the magician’s hat at the last moment.
One entertaining bit of the agenda memo is the inclusion of a small table identifying some of City Manager Allan Roeder’s “loose sofa change,” giving the impression that maybe, just maybe, Mr. Roeder regrets his previous offhand dismissal of a $50,000 per year contract that accomplishes nothing as not worthy of councilmanic attention. Of course I am referring to the ridiculously conceived and suspiciously ill-managed “Behind the Badge” agreement that was improperly contracted by Wild Ride Joe Felz in the first place.
Well, good for Roeder, even though desperate times call for desperate measures And it takes a lot of desperation for a City bureaucrat to even tacitly acknowledge the expendability of a contract. The irony here is thick. It is the exploding pension cost of the Fullerton police Department that is breaking our bank. Even as we pay for the cops to peddle their dopey PR right back at us.
Well, it looks like more loose change has fallen into Fullerton’s municipal sofa. A lot more. And it’s all so funny. The one thing the Fullerton train station didn’t need was another pair of elevator structures; and the last place they needed it was right next to the existing ones.
But that’s where they’re going. That’s right. A new elevators right next to the old ones that the City has failed so spectacularly at maintaining. “Wait, Joe,” I can hear you saying. “Tell us, for the love of SparkyFitz’s God, this is some sort of cruel joke.”
The joke’s on all of us. Even people who have never been to the Fullerton choo-choo station.The whole thing is costing taxpayers $4,000,000 which is almost three times the amount the exiting one cost 22 years ago. The arguments in favor of building this are laughable as you might imagine, and immediately prove that other taxpayers are picking up most of the tab – as it turns out, money funneled through the bottomless suck hole known as OCTA.
For instance we “had” to build a new set of elevators rather than repair the existing ones. Why? Taking the existing elevators out of service for a long period of time would result in ADA lawsuit. There is not a single filament of proof for these assertions but hey, that money ‘s got to be spent by somebody, right? For $4,000,000 you could set up a daily ADA access shuttle for 20 freaking years. Of course there is also an existing gate opened by a remote control that could access the other side of the tracks at ZERO cost.
But wait!!! (as they said on those old TV steak knife commercials). The new toy is not free to the people of Fullerton after all. A new agenda item asks for an extra $600,000 due to cost overruns. Just a few lost nickels in Allan Roeder’s couch, right? And listen to the string of incompetencies by our Engineering Department that caused the extra cost:
“An additional $ 600,000 is required for the BNSF flagging requirements, unforeseen utility conflicts, escalated cost in securing the elevator subcontractor and additional assistant in construction administration. Due to OCTA funding constraints, only direct construction-related costs will be reimbursable.”
Of course it would be nice if some one on our illustrious city council bothered to ask why a contract was awarded two years prematurely, and why our staff needs “additional assistant” (sic) to administer this simple project, or maybe why the job wasn’t rebid. But they won’t.
And so we witness the comical spectacle of two sets of elevator structures side by side, each slowly deteriorating, until 20 years from now some over-paid idiot proposes a third, because as any artist knows, three objects in a picture are much more aesthetically pleasing than two.
There is an old saying: “it’s the least I can do.”
And once in a while you get to see the least someone can really do without doing anything at all.
At the last “budget workshop” (cue: a sales tax is coming music), David Curlee brought up the idiocy of the worthless and mismanaged “Behind the Badge” contract – a 50 Grand per year repository of feel-good stories about our police department’s tender employees who, apparently, would rather be well-thought of for anything besides honest police work.
At this prompting, our mayor, Bruce Whitaker raised the issue – where, right on cue, it was peremptorily shot down by our $100 per hour Interim City Manager, Alan Roeder, as chump change that fell into the sofa cushions and isn’t worth digging around for. He warns Whitaker about “obsessing” over such loose change.
And there the matter seems to have died.
Of course if Whitaker had done his job in the first place and agendized the issue as a stand alone item at a regular meeting, this dismissive bullshit could not have occurred. The Behind the Badge embarrassment could not have been written off as an irrelevant, small-picture nothing instead of what it is – a blatant rip-off of the taxpayers that has run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past four years.
And consider this question: how many other loose change contracts, approved by no one other that Wild Ride Joe Felz, are still out there accomplishing nothing? And did any of our council stalwarts bother to make Roeder explain exactly what the monetary level of significance is before he will deign to consider it? We know it’s not $50,000 a year. Is it $100,000? $500,000? A million? Of course not.
Total leadership failure. The litmus test is done. Now we know why Roeder was hired in the first place:
UPDATE: As Mr. Fullerton Rag correctly points out Jesus Silva is not up for re-election in 2018. He was elected to a 4 year term last fall. If District 3 were on the ballot in 2018 then Silva would have to resign his current seat (and term) to run in 3 as a non-incumbent or he would have to move to a different district to keep his job in 2020. I think I have that right.
Councilman Greg Sebourn lives no where near Councilman Jesus Silva. And yet thanks to the gerrymandered district map cooked up by the downtown bar owners to dilute a single voting block downtown the two find themselves both in District 3. And that’s because the map was approved by the City Council – including Greg Sebourn.
So what’s the problem? Sebourn is up for reelection in 2018 and Silva just got elected. If District 3 were chosen as a district open for elections next year then Sebourn could run against Silva as an incumbent. But if District 3 were not up in 2018 then Sebourn would have to move to a district that was in order to keep his job.
Drum roll: in a 3-2 vote last night the council decided that District 2 (where Doug “Bud” Chaffee resides) and District 5 (where no council persons currently live) would be up for election in 2018. Chaffee and Silva were joined by Bruce Whitaker in this strategy. So Sebourn has no place to sit when the music stops in 2018.
Since this vote will be seen as deliberately undermining a fellow Republican and erstwhile ally, Whitaker’s got some explaining to do. Was this a quid pro quo for Jesus Silva’s unusual support of Whitaker to retake his place on the OC Water District Board? That’s what some cynical folks around town are saying, and the suspicion fits the facts.
Personally, I’ll be glad to get rid of Sebourn, who, frankly just isn’t very smart and isn’t very principled. And that’s a bad combination. Since his election in the 2012 Recall he has been an almost complete disappointment, trying to please everybody and in the end making no one happy.
We are used to politicians lying to us, especially when they are running for office. Sometimes the lies are more or less fuzzy, but once in a while the lies are staggeringly blatant. So blatant, in fact, that we must assume the politician believes the electorate are idiots.
And so it was last year with then-lobbyist-mayor and humble vessel of God, Jennifer Fitzgerald, whose campaign rhetoric deliberately misled the public into believing everything was just fine with Fullerton’s financial state of affairs. Here are a couple of pearls from her little chest of jewels:
While other cities in Orange County are trying to raise sales taxes to prevent insolvency, in Fullerton, our budget is balanced! Our five-year financial forecast shows a balanced budget to 2020. We’ve done this by making the most of our assets and minimizing our liabilities.
REDUCED UNFUNDED PENSION LIABILITY
With conservative fiscal management and successful revenue strategies, Fullerton has been able to reduce its unfunded liabilities. This is a long-term strategy, with a short-term goal to achieve what is a generally accepted adequate level of funding of 80% of liabilities.
It didn’t take long for that hot-air balloon of happy talk to sail away. Barely three months after Fitzgerald’s re-election she had to listen as the Director of Administrative Services, Julia James, at last week’s budget workshop, tell the exact opposite story. Due to continuing unbalanced budgets and exploding pension costs, the City is following in the footsteps of Stanton and Westminster with a built-in, structural budget deficit. Naturally the cops and the “fire fighters” bloated salaries and pensions are the principle cause of the impending disaster.
James mentioned taxes as a solution. Any takers?
How long will it be before our temporary City Manager, who has absolutely nothing to lose, begins crisis public meetings meant to gin up support for a Fullerton sales tax increase? And how long will it be before the people who voted for her realize that “SparkyFitz” Fitzgerald would have said, and did say anything to get re-elected?
It’s often said that government spends half its time fixing problems it created with the other half.
And what better way to make problems go away by getting the taxpayers to pick up the tab for your mistakes?
On next Tuesday’s council agenda there is an item to “study” a downtown Business Improvement District (BID). A BID creates a special tax on property owners for specific purposes, generally tied to sprucing up (as the local media loves to say) a geographically limited area. And in this case that area centers on Harbor Boulevard from Truslow to Brea Creek; and from Highland to Lemon.
Below you see a letter sent out from the desk of Community Development Director, Karen Haluza, enjoining property owners and businesses not yet on board to sign up for the great cause. The idea is to generate the appearance of momentum and consensus for a new tax.
Did you notice something very peculiar about this letter? Haluza first admits she is working on orders from the City Council (“tasked” is bureaucrat-speak); but within a few sentences suddenly it is the “stakeholders” (more bureaucrat-speak) who have, seemingly with spontaneity, made a “formal request” to study the formation of a BID. Can anyone for a second believe this whole concept was not hatched, fertilized and fermented in Wild Ride Joe Felz’s office in City Hall? And check out the list of proponents – mostly businesses, not the actual property owners. On top of that we see the names of several bars and a couple big developers. The developers we can dismiss as toadies looking to score their next big monsters courtesy of Haluza’s Planning Department. The bars?
Here’s the realproblem, and the reason why Downtown Fullerton is an annual $1,500,000 drain on the General Fund. Cleaning up after the nocturnal mess caused by the customers of the bars costs a small fortune in cop time and city maintenance. It’s a cost that is born by every man, woman and child in Fullerton, even though it is only people like Florentine’s and Slidebar that rake in the bucks.
Downtown Fullerton has been an out-of-control disaster for well over a decade as the City-approved bars proliferated and the mayhem ensued. And now in 2017 city staff is trying to get everybody who owns property in the “district” to fork over a new tax to cover the cost created by the bar owners. A reasonable person might think that cracking down on all the miscreants and scofflaws and irresponsible bar proprietors would be the way to clean up the mess. No. The cops are playing pattycake with the booze culture, and Haluza thinks it’s right and proper that the landlords of allthe businesses – good and bad alike – pay the freight.
Back on December 1, 2016 KTLA reporter Chip Yost made a Public Records Act request about information surrounding then-City Manager Joe Felz’s alcohol odorific Wild Ride.
Poor Chip. Of course he was given the big FU from Gregory Palmer, employee of the City Attorney and best known by us for his enthusiastic adult sex business work. Palmer cites disclosure laws that have now been thrown out by the State Supreme Court, and somehow believes that communications from then-Chief Danny “Galahad” Hughes are exempt, too.
One thing that was turned over is the following memo from Gretchen Beatty, HR Director, who somehow has taken it upon herself to write an apology for Felz even though she admits the latter is still “on duty.” Under the comical subject line “Keeping You Informed” she proceeds to tell her “colleagues” nothing they surely didn’t already know.
Gretch says the FPD is “completing its independent investigation” which is a wonderful oxymoron and also not true. But let’s not let truth impede upon the business of City Hall. Rather, let us observe business as usual.
The other day our old Friend, The Desert Rat, wrote a post about a Bruce Whitaker vs. Jennifer Fitzgerald county supervisor contest in 2018. Our commenter Fullerton Rag pointed out the presence of Young Kim, recently failed State Assembly incumbent. Sure enough, looks like this Ed Royce (R- Chickenhawk Coop) acolyte is running. And she is wasting no time – the primary election is still 16 months away.
This means that our lobbyist-councilcreature Jennifer Fitzgerald, another of Ed Royce’s political progeny is most likely out, voluntarily or otherwise. We’ll have to wait on that.
Meantime we have the spectacle of another unqualified Republican pursuing the “Asian female” formula at the County level. Kim knows as little about county government as she did about running the State of California, although in politics ignorance about governance is no longer held as any sort of impediment.