Taking a brief break from the non-stop coverage of (mostly) bad news from the Fullerton Police Department, we have received our first candidate response to the FFFF Candidate questionnaire, and it is realtor Johnny Ybarra, who is running in District Five.
To reiterate: all City Council candidates for the 2018 election are strongly encouraged to respond to the questionnaire and their responses will be reprinted in full at our earliest opportunity. All candidates have received the questionnaires already and we hope to hear what the other candidates have to say soon.
Our original questions, and Mr. Ybarra’s responses, are as follows:
With the filing period now closed, the election season is in full swing for the first district election on Fullerton City Council history (the full list of candidates who have qualified and their candidate statements can be found here).
As someone who has run for office before, I know that the single biggest challenge for any candidate is raising enough money to get your message out so that voters even know who you are. Nobody likes the direct mail pieces that inundate our mail box during election season but the candidates who pay for mail are the ones most likely to win, like it or not. And as a voter who has cast a ballot in every election since his 18th birthday, my biggest challenge for every election cycle is sorting through all that BS to find out which candidates have an actual plan, and are sincere about and committed to that plan.
So as a service to both candidates and the electorate, we have prepared the official Friends for Fullerton’s Future City Council candidate questionnaire, which we will email it to all candidates who qualify for the ballot. Unlike most questionnaires, ours has no word limit. Brevity is always recommended, but if you think your position takes three or more paragraphs to explain, then that’s what it takes. Whatever you write, we will publish it, in full, and let other residents know where you stand and why. The first one to turn in their questionnaire will be the first article we will publish.
A little over a year ago, we ran an article about the deteriorating condition of Rolling Hills Park (right around the time Parks and Recreation were gearing up for the premier of the so-called “fitness stairs”). We even made a little joke about the condition of a certain fire engine play set:
Flash forward a year and the joke is a lot less funny, because this is what the foundation of this children’s toy looks like now:
But don’t worry! According to a July 25 email from the City to a concerned resident, this equipment is a “solid piece of play equipment” that “offers “safe play for the time being”
This denial does seem to be a pattern at Parks and Recreation – we also have the fitness stairs disaster (documented by Mr. Peabody here), which they continue to ignore, and the Laguna Lake fiasco, which was ignored until the statute of limitations on the architect ran out. At least in this case, the City allows that its current plan is to remove and replace all the existing play equipment as part of its upcoming renovation. To that end, our sources tell us the City has placed yellow tape around the dangerous equipment, which has proven to be an extremely effect deterrent in the past.
A community meeting concerning renovations to Rolling Hills Park is scheduled for August 15, 2018, at 6:30 pm, at E.V. Free Church, located at 2801 N. Brea Blvd., Commons Building, Room C-212. If you utilize Rolling Hills Park, or you are a taxpayer who would like to prevent another avoidable personal injury lawsuit, you may want to attend and make sure the City follows through on its promises. And if your neighborhood park is in similar levels of disrepair (or worse) remember: the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Complain loudly and often, and be sure to cc someone at FFFF when you do.
(Update: According to the agenda forcast, the vote on this ordinance will be held on March 6, 2018)
Writing for FFFF is a volunteer effort, aside from the stipend we receive from NASA and the Round Earth Cabal (which really hasn’t kept up with inflation, if we’re being completely honest here). Our lack of compensation gives us the advantage of calling things like we see them, without having to worry about how our opinion will play with our employer/advertisers, but it also means that issues often come up and none of us here at FFFF have the time to dig into the issue and provide any meaningful commentary on the subject.
This was the case for the recent vote on the Planning Commission, which will soon be appearing before the City Council, to rezone all commercial property to allow for homeless shelters provided they operate with a CUP. The decision was made as part of a settlement with Curtis Gamble filed through the Pacific Legal Aid Foundation. Local resident Scott Hess, who is opposed to the rezoning, has investigated the change to the ordinance, and much of the information below is from my email exchanges with him on the subject.
On January 24, 2018, the Fullerton Planning Commission adopted a code amendment to allow 24 hour Emergency Homeless Shelters in any of the commercial districts in Fullerton.
Regular readers know we have already covered the the proposed Fullerton College stadium in detail (see here, here and here). In a nutshell, the NOCCD Board of Trustees want to turn Sherbeck Field into a 4500 seat football stadium so the Hornets can play football in their own stadium instead of their current location, or the Fullerton High School stadium located less than three tenths of a mile away.
The residents around Princeton Circle have been fighting this boondoggle for awhile and appear to be getting organized. They have website, http://www.sharethestadium.org, and are passing out campaign signs, to spread the word that the Sherbeck Field proposal is a costly and unnecessary boondoggle and should be scrapped.
Admittedly, they don’t hammer on my biggest objection to the stadium – the fact that the funds to build it only exist because the voters passed Measure J in 2014, based on the (since reneged) promise to improve the Veterans Centers on campus, but perhaps their approach will be more effective long term. Either way, this is a good sign that the Trustees have a well deserved fight on their hands.
Regardless of where you live, the conduct by the NOCCCD Trustees is a slap on the face for every taxpayer who believes in fiscal accountability and responsibility, or who believes politicians should keep their campaign promises. If you want to help the effort to force some accountability by the NOCCCD, be sure to pay the sharethestadium.org folks a visit.
The last substantive article to run on FFFF site before its almost four year hiatus was this little gem about the “College Connector Study”, a $300,000 study designed to convince the Fullerton City Council that a streetcar system in costing (in their estimate) $140 million was exactly what the City of Fullerton needed. Why? Well, because building the streetcar would encourage high density development all along the rail line, turning Fullerton from a two story bedroom community into a six story high density, high traffic eyesore.
And, just to be clear, that was the argument in favor of wasting $140+ million on the streetcar.
Based on that report, three members of the Fullerton City Council (Chaffee, Fitzgerald and Flory) voted to make a streetcar part of the City’s transportation plan.
For the next three years, progress on the streetcar has stalled, and a competing proposal in Anaheim (this one estimated at $325 million) was shot down by the City Council after a coalition of good government activists ousted the Chamber backed majority from power. Unfortunately (to borrow the tagline for the Friday the 13th Part VI poster), nothing this evil ever dies, and the Fullerton Trolley is back. And like all bad horror sequels, it’s even bigger and more elaborate than before, while making even less sense.
The Centerline (something which has been in various stages of development at OCTA for over a decade) incorporates the Fullerton plan, along with a proposed streetcar line through Santa Ana, and several other lines. The plan is to run the line all the way through Harbor Boulevard all the way up to the transportation center. This would probably explain why that streetcar has been popping up on the artist conception for the Fox Block (image above).
OCTA recently provided a presentation to the Fullerton City Council at Tuesday’s meeting, which can be found here . No mention of which government entity will pay for the project, but even if the OCTA picks up the entire tab, we will at a minimum be on the hook for the maintenance cost , just as Anaheim is with the ARTIC Wasteland. Anaheim taxpayers have been forced to dip into the general fund for every year of ARTIC’s operation, as the revenue generated ($1.6 million) is nowhere near enough to pay the operation ($3.9 million). But hey – the City of Anaheim was given a fancy trophy for agreeing to shoulder these expenses, so the tradeoff was totally worth it, in some people’s eyes.
The Streetcar/ trolley concept is an absolutely terrible idea for too many reasons to count. The cost is astronomical , the benefit miniscule, it will render the streets it is located on un-drivable (seriously, just picture trying to make it through Downtown Fullerton with that thing blocking traffic). Oh, and it will also further undermine bus service in the county, because the cost of running a streetcar line is substantially higher than rapid bus service.
So to sum up, the OCTA wants to take Orange County into the twenty first century by spending hundreds of millions of dollars developing a nineteenth century technology designed to service people who don’t need it, at the expense of the bus riders who do. Sadly, this is about par for the course for state and county government, minus the exceptionally high price tag. Lets give the Center Line project – and every other streetcar project proposed in Orange County – the quick, merciful death it deserves.
Still have any money left over after the state gas tax increases (thanks, Josh Newman), the likely loss of SALT deductions in Congress (thanks, Ed Royce), plus all the state, local and national income, property and sales taxes, licenses, and fees we already pay? Well, too bad, because OC Animal Care and the City of Fullerton are cooking up a new scheme to take even more of your money. And it all comes down to the first law of holes, government style: when you find yourself in a hole, keep digging and hope nobody notices.
On Tuesday, December 19, 2017, the City Council will again be voting on substantial fee increases, this time for the services provided by OC Animal Care. If passed, the licensing cost for a neutered dog will be $51 per year, and the per day impound fee for any lost dog or cat will be increased to $136, plus an initial $205 impound fee on top of the daily fee, and so on; the full list is available here.
According to OC Animal Care, the fee increases are necessary because their current operating budget is only enough to pay for half of the services they provide (with the other half coming out of the participating cities’ general fund).
This shortfall is blamed on the recent decisions in Garden Grove, Stanton, Laguna Hills and Rancho Santa Margarita to contract with alternate animal care facilities. However, the problem is not that these cities left OC Animal Care, but that OC Animal Care’s services are already so expensive that it was in their financial best interest to leave the program in the first place. For example, the City of Garden Grove contracted with Orange County Humane Society in Huntington Beach after their annual payments to OC Animal Care increased from $729,000 to $1.3 million in just four years, and the City believes they will save over $8 million over the next ten years thanks to the switch.
So why hasn’t Fullerton joined these other cities? An opportunity did exist to opt out back in May 17, 2016, when OC Animal Care needed its members to commit to participate in the construction of a new shelter on the Tustin Air Base property.
However, the City Council squandered the opportunity in a 4-1 vote, placing the city on the hook for its share of the construction costs for the new facility without even placing an RFP out to private animal care providers. Even if we were to back out now, we might be on the hook for the cost of construction of this shelter. Oh, and Fullerton currently has an evergreen contract with OC Animal Care because, of course we do, so any effort to extricate ourselves from this failed government program will be complicated to say the least.
But enough is enough. It is time to stop excusing poorly run government programs and to start demanding that we get our money’s worth.
On Tuesday (August 1), the City Council will be voting on the “Clean and Green” initiative, which calls for an affirmation of the City of Fullerton’s Climate Action Plan (available here).
What is the Climate Action Plan, you ask? Well, it was a report prepared in February 2012 to make sure Fullerton does its part to stop “sea level rise, changes in the amount of water supply available, wildfires and other extreme weather events.” Good thing too, because Fullerton’s 130,000 or so residents make up a whopping two thousandths of one percent of the population on Earth (0.02%), so Fullerton clearly needs to spent valuable staff time and expenses combating this threat.
On June 5, 2018, voters in Orange County, including Fullerton, will trudge to the polls to cast their vote for, among other races, the County District Attorney. Thus far, the choices we have been offered rival those for a certain federal election campaign last year. Or a South Park episode from a decade prior.
In one corner we have the incumbent, Anthony Rauckauckas, who was first elected in 1998. Throughout his tenure, he has developed a reputation of refusing to seriously investigate allegations of wrongdoing by public officials, including but not limited to the various violations of open meeting laws in connection with the OC Fairgrounds giveaway (involving favorite FFFF target Dick Ackerman, discussed here ). Rauckauckas was also responsible for personally handling the murder trial of Fullerton PD Officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli, which resulted in defense verdict after key evidence (including the false claim that the officers followed department policy) were unchallenged at Trial. And to top it off, the District Attorney office has been completely ensnared by the Jailhouse Informant scandal, which includes everything from alleged lying to defense attorneys about the existence of said informants to failure to forward exculpatory evidence which was inadvertently obtained by the informants. The scandal is a complex one and no one article can possibly do it justice (here’s a link to a series of articles to get you started) but it is serious enough that the District attorney is now barred from prosecuting the death penalty case of Scott Evans Dekraai.
And in the other corner, we have Todd “Wahoo” Spitzer. Admittedly, the Wahoo incident may sound petty compared to the charged of official corruption where Rauckauckas is concerned but the story itself – leaving the scene at a Wahoo fish taco after a preacher came up to talk to him, grabbing his gun and handcuffs from his car and then arresting the man for threatening him – paints a very, very poor picture of Spitzer’s character and temperament. There is also a corruption probe launched against him by the current District Attorney and while he can easily brush it off at the moment given the source, the allegations (if made by somebody else) could prove damaging. Remember, Todd Spitzer raised $235,000 for his campaign for Central Committee (by contrast, most CC candidates don’t even bother opening a committee meaning their expenditures are less than $1500). And his expenditures included all expense paid tickets to Hawaii for both himself and political donors, as well as groceries, meals and hotel expenditures.
Tough choice. Fortunately, Mario Mainero has put himself forward as a third alternative, although he is still in the exploratory stage at this time.
On July 18, 2017, the Fullerton City Council will vote on whether to approve staff recommendation to hire David Hendricks as Chief of Police of the Fullerton Police Department.
According to his resume, posted online with the staff report, Hendricks has served in the Internal Affairs Division of the LBDP and has “managed approximately 400 Internal Affairs investigations per year.” Per he resume, he also “(p)resented preliminary and formalized complaint cases to the Chief of Police and executive team” and “(r)eviewed police officer use of force/ identify patterns or problems.”
Given that Hendricks has been directly involved in investigating use of force claims and Internal Affairs divisions, it would have been extremely helpful to know what his thoughts on this 2013 beating of Porfiro Santos-Lopez, while lying on his back:
Or his thoughts on the $2.5 million settlement, reached after a plaintiff jury verdict, to two cousins who had filed an excessive force lawsuit arising out of a police beating by Officers David Faris and Michael Hynes, which was caught on camera in 2010.
Actually, thanks to Transparent California, we already know the answer. Both Officers involved in the $2.5 million settlement are still employed with the Long Beach Police Department as of 2016, as is Victor Ortiz, one of the two officers responsible for the spray nozzle shooting death and subsequent $6.5 million lawsuit.
Total compensation of the officers in question, give or take about $9.1 million.
As for the Portofino-Lopez beating, it was described by the Internal Affairs Department itself as a “by the book” arrest in 2013.
The Fullerton Police Department needs reform. The head of an internal affairs division that has a proven track record of excusing and soft peddling officer misconduct charges is not the solution.