The Maxwell Smart Strategy for Approving School Bonds

One of the regular go to jokes on the old Get Smart show was when Don Adams, after being caught redhanded in a baldfaced lie, would follow up with “Would you believe…” while trying to walk back the lie to something the listener might accept.

Well, it turns out that this is exactly how school bond measures get drafted and, ultimately, passed.

The Fullerton School District has recently commissioned a Baseline Bond feasibility survey from True North Research (available here) and they have been calling residents to feel out their receptiveness to a $198 milion bond measure that, by their own admission, will increase property taxes by at least another $93 per year. What is interesting about the survey is not that the School District wants more money and isn’t shy about raising taxes to do it (they wouldn’t be a government agency otherwise) but that it is designed to determine what promises need to be made to get it. Hence the reason why the question about removing “dangerous asbestos” was included, even though A) asbestos is generally more dangerous when it is removed and B) the City of Fullerton supposedly removed the asbestos from their classrooms thirty five years ago according to this article in the LA Times archive.

The results of the Baseline Survey will be presented to the Fullerton School Board at their next meeting on Tuesday, August 13, 2019. The bond measure, if when it is ultimately approved by the School Board to go on the ballot will likely be drafted based on which spending priorities polled best, and for an amount that does not exceed the comfort level the polled residents expressed.

Of course the problem arises when the promises needed to pass a bond measure conflict with the what the school district wants to actually use the money in question for. And if the Fullerton School District is anything like the North Orange County Community College District or most other school districts, the solution is simple – spend it on what you wanted to anyway, and to hell with your promises.

Would you believe $500 million for a brand new state of the art Veteran’s Center? How about a couple busted laptops and a new football stadium?

I take no joy in calling out the Fullerton School District here. Unlike the City’s roads (which are a pothole strewn laughingstock), our schools are among the best in Orange County and a key reason many of us chose to live here (myself included). But well run or not, our schools suffer the same problems endemic to government – excess allocation to pay and benefits at the expense of infrastructure, administrative bloat and employee protections that make it too costly to fire bad employees – and until these problems are addressed bond measures designed to paper over the financial shortfalls will be a steady fixture at the ballot box. Along with a steady stream of promises nobody intends to fulfill.

 

Did Jennifer Fitzgerald Just Admit to Illegal Lobbying on Behalf of Jamboree Housing?

Recently Jennifer Fitzgerald circulated to her closest supporters- via her Curt Pringle & Associates  email account – her opening salvo in the 2020 election, an email entitled “2019 – A Year of Resolution and Re-commitment”.

Plus a few people she thinks are her closest supporters. Whoops.

There’s a lot to digest here, and the amount of mendacity, outright falsehoods and terrible policy proposals would take multiple posts to unpack.

But one particular boast stands out above the others:

No, not the one about the budget (although it is absolutely galling how she can still claim she balanced the budget two years after the City admitted we have a serious structural deficit and four years after members of the public started noticing). Instead, look at her claim that “Looking back over my six years of service on the Fullerton City Council, I’m proud of newly constructed affordable housing communities with… Jamboree Housing.”

So what’s the problem? Well, as Curt Pringle & Associates admit on their facebook page,  Jamboree Housing is one of their clients. Which means that Councilmember Fitzgerald just bragged about breaking the law.

That’s the one.

Two important caveats. First, I know from attending most council meetings over the last four years that Fitzgerald has avoided voting on any agenda item involving Jamboree Housing’s low income housing development since obtaining residence at CP&A. However, Government Code Section 87100 doesn’t just prohibit an elected official from making or participating in making a decision in which he or she has a financial interest – any attempt by an elected official “to use his official position to influence a governmental decision” is also illegal.

Second, and probably more important, this is could be yet another example of Fitzgerald misleading her voters about her accomplishments (and possibly CP&A clients, given that this email was sent via [email protected])  and taking credit for something she had no role in, or claiming she accomplished something she did not.

“Hey, it was balanced for a few seconds!” – Jennifer Fitzgerald, probably

So which is it? Did she break the law and influence a decision that she had a clear financial interest in or does she just have a chronic aversion to telling the truth and chose to brag about her influence and effectiveness to Fullerton voters as well as potentially CP&A’s clients?

A quick poll of FFFF staff seems to indicate that “both” is not entirely out of the question as a possible answer, but maliciousness is in the eye of the beholder.

Meet the Candidates – Nickolas Wildstar

While we suspect there’s at least one candidate on the ballot on November who will not be responding to our candidate questionnaire under any circumstances, we did receive our second response, from Libertarian Nickolas Wildstar. Wildstar is running in the Third Council district where I live and the only non-incumbent in the race.

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. Wildstar’s responses, are as follows: (more…)

Will Mayor Chaffee Do the Right Thing?

Over the weekend the rumors have been swirling as to the fate of Paulette Marshall Chaffee City Council campaign after having apparently been caught on camera removing No Paulette – Carpetbagger signs. We will probably have a clearer picture of the truth of that rumor at tomorrow’s City Council candidate form, but even if she does drop out of the race, this does not end the story.

Her husband, Doug Chaffee, is currently the Mayor of Fullerton and a candidate for Board of Supervisors. While he was not involved in either recorded sign theft, his title as Mayor creates a conflict for the City to investigate the crime. Also, as an active candidate for the Board of Supervisors race, he has an obligation to speak out on this matter and do what he can to make things right. especially since he was the direct beneficiary of an almost identical anti-carpetbagger campaign against his Democratic opponent in June (one Joe Kerr, aka Cotto Joe).

Tony Bushala (one of the founders of this very blog, although he divested his interest two years ago), though Residents for Reform and his brother George Bushala, paid for the political signs that were stolen and he wants them back. He has penned a written request to Mayor Chaffee requesting return of the signs in his residence and has authorized publication here. As an initial good faith gesture, Mayor Chaffee should be strongly encouraged to return the signs on his property forthwith.

The text of the letter is provided below, (more…)

Meet the Candidates – Johnny Ybarra

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:

(more…)

The Friends for Fullerton’s Future candidate questionnaire

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).

The transition to District elections is proceeding smoothly.

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.

The complete questionnaire is below the cut.

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The Wheels are Coming off Rolling Hills Park

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:

 

Hey, kids! This is what our City Manager’s car looked like after he totaled it!

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”

And it will provide many more years of play time for personal injury lawyers after that.

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.

You shall not pass!

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.

City Council to Decide Homeless Shelter Rezoning Ordinance (eventually)

(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.

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Yes, two stadiums are too many

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 horror.

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.

While We Were Away: the Train Kept On Rolling

Enjoy the one way trip to insolvency

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.

What, you thought I was kidding?

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.

I present to you, the Orange County Centerline:

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay. Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare.

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 trophy is huge, gaudy, expensive, tacky, unnecessary and completely impractical. It’s the perfect metaphor.

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.