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.
Although the results have yet to be certified, and the Democratic Party is doing their best to invalidate the petition gathering effort (even going so far as to sue individual College Republican signature gatherers) the recall election of State Senator Josh Newman is likely proceeding. And now the Republican party has a candidate for the special election.
This morning, Fullerton City Councilmember Bruce Whitaker announced his intention to run in the special election to replace Newman, when it takes place.
Whitaker, a Republican, has been on the City Council since 2010, when he won a special election to replace Shawn Nelson. Whitaker has a long record of fighting tax increases prior to his election to the City Council, including his opposition to Measure R, the proposed county sales tax proposed to deal with Orange County’s bankruptcy in the mid 1990s. This will be the second recall election Whitaker has been involved in, as he was also part of the successful recall of three Fullerton City Councilmembers over a utility tax increase in 1994.
Whitaker’s announcement will hopefully put the final nail in the nascent candidacy of Ling Ling Chang, who was the Republican Party’s candidate in the 2016 election and who many (myself included) believe blew what should have been a winnable race. Whitaker is not the first candidate to announce however, as FFFF contributor Joshua Ferguson announced his intention to run for the race earlier this week.
Let’s say you bought a house in Fullerton at the peak of the housing market. The market has mostly recovered but the house is only worth what you originally paid. However, when you receive your tax bill, the Franchise Tax Board assesses it higher, so there is more than a $1,000 difference in what you think you should pay and what you are actually charged. So you send a letter to the Franchise Tax Board disputing the charge and explaining why you believe your bill should be lower.
According to our State Senator Josh Newman, what you just did was costly and unnecessary. You see, that letter disputing the $1000+ charge cost 49 cents to mail, and the letter isn’t guaranteed to get you that refund you want.
That’s pretty much the takeaway from this recent editorial from Mr. Newman, which ran on Page 2 of our local Fullerton Observer Newspaper. Senator Newman’s response to the anger over his vote to raise taxes by over $52 billion over ten years in an already overtaxed state is pure misdirection, asking his supporters to instead ask recall proponents “why they’d waste $2.5 million on a recall petition rather than put 34 more teachers in our schools, 16 more firefighters in our communities, or 13 more cops on our streets.”
Of course the answer is really simple: Because $52 billion is more money than $2.5 million. About $51.9975 billion more.
Elsewhere in the editorial, Senator Newman does get around to justifying his vote and that the increased spending on roads was necessary due to the poor condition they are in. Nobody in Fullerton would dispute that, but the reason for the problem is grossly out of whack spending priorities, not a lack of revenue.
Take the examples Newman cites himself. He bemoans the fact that the alleged $2.5 million recall cost could put 13 more cops on our street and not the fact that, by his own admission, putting a single police officer on our streets costs over $192,000 per year in the first place due to the grossly unsustainable public employee benefits we dole out. He bemoans the horrible condition of our roads and not the fact that the 18 cent per gallon tax we already pay has been diverted into the fiscal vortex that is high speed rail – and even when Caltrans does spend money on roads, overpayment and delays have come to be accepted as inevitable.
This is why your constituents are angry, Senator Newman, and this is why they are listening to (as you put it) “shock jocks” and signing the recall petition in droves. We are tired of excuses and we are tired of politicians who choose to represent the interest in Sacramento that want to keep this unsustainable benefit machine chugging along at the taxpayers’ expense.
In the event you are reading this yourself, Senator, I don’t say any of this with rancor and I still like you personally, but you are working against my interests and those of hundreds of thousands of your constituents in Sacramento and it has to stop. And babbling about millions while your policies are costing tens of billions isn’t going to save you.
Parks and Recreation has been spending a considerable amount of energy lately, between their big PR push to justify their last costly mistake (Hillcrest Park’s poorly constructed and unneeded stairs) and obtaining approval for the next one (Hillcrest Park’s unneeded bridge across the creek).
Do you know what Parks & Recreation have been paying less attention to? Their parks.
Residents have been complaining for several months about the condition of Rolling Hills Park’s playground and equipment. The issues run from routine maintenance like unpainted benches to hazards like this:
Phone calls and letters to Parks & Recreation were ignored for months until residents went over Hugo Curiel’s head and appealed to the Commissioners directly, at which time they finally saw results.
Well, sort of. The benches have been repainted, but that rickety play truck is unchanged. Meanwhile, the broken spinner was simply been removed, along with an unsafe climber that had split in two. Before removing the climber outright, however, this was Parks & Recreation’s solution:
Which worked out about as well as anyone who’s ever had a five year old could have told them it would.
This right here is the hidden cost of our wasteful policies at City Hall: we get stairs and bridges we didn’t ask for or want, but we do not get well maintained parks or working playground equipment (aka recreation) for our children that we expect. Our government in a nutshell.
It’s back! Thanks to our tireless activist Joshua Ferguson, who snapped this picture up during a recent visit to City Hall this morning:
College Town originally came up before the Planning Commission on February 10, 2016. Opposition was so strong to the plan the opposition’s “Our Town Not College Town” signs started springing up faster than mushrooms and the Planning Commission meeting was packed with angry residents opposed to the proposal (full disclosure: I played a significant part in organizing the opposition to that plan). In the end, five members of the Planning Commission agreed that adding 10,000 residents while diverting even more traffic to Chapman by closing a portion of Nutwood was a ridiculously ill conceived the idea and the proposal was tabled.
So what is the new and presumably improved plan for College Town? Your guess is as good as mine, but the early picture isn’t encouraging.
See that website on the picture? The one that says www.collegetownfullerton.com? Go ahead and click the link. Here’s a screen capture of what you found when you checked as of todays’ date:
According to Google’s English/ Japanese translator the phrase above translates to “Chat lady’s job contents and rewards.” Your guess is as good as mine what that actually means, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean “so tell us what you think about College Town.”
So how did this happen? Apparently, the City registered collegetownfullerton.com back in 2011, but they apparently allowed the domain name to lapse, allowing Chat lady here to swoop in an take over the domain around September 15, 2016.
A little personal anecdote: back in the 2012-2013 timeframe, the City complied with the notice requirement by sending out notice for around a dozen meetings with a smaller number of invitees (just 2 or so blocks at a time would be notified of each meeting) rather than inviting everyone in the affected area to one single meeting. The “informational” meetings would then be set up in the Chapman Park clubhouse, and they would set up for a full house, even though only a few people would actually show up, which the City used to create the impression that opposition to the concept was non-existent.
As infuriating as that strategy was, I had to at least admire its ingenuity. Personally I would have preferred that the City and Cal State Fullerton actually listened to residents before trying to shove their little sandwich down our throats a second time, but it is at least comforting to see that the Ernst Blofeld-level strategist behind the original campaign has been replaced by Dr. Evil. Off to a heck of a start.
Fullerton City Councilmember Jennifer Fitzgerald deserves all the criticism she gets for her primrose path approach to budgetary issues, the extravagant public employee pay raises she approved, and her false claim during her re-election campaign that Fullerton’s budget is balanced!,among other issues.
Still, it’s important to note that Fitzgerald does understand the concept of a balanced budget, when it is important to her.
As an example, here is a screen capture from her 2012 campaign statement. As you can see, she contributed $350 of her own money to that initial campaign:
And here is another screen capture of the same campaign statement showing how much of her campaign funds she directed towards her own company (C7 Communications) during that election:
$2,100.02 is a heck of a lot more than $350, meaning her campaign basically turned a profit for her personally of $1,750.02. Whatever else you may think of Fitzgerald, she takes care to make sure her personal finances are balanced. Fullerton’s? Not so much.
Now that the City of Fullerton is finally admitting that our budget is not balanced!, contrary to Jennifer Fitzgerald’s campaign claims, this would be a good time to revisit how we got here in the first place.
The City of Fullerton website includes links for the minutes and agenda for the last four years of city council meetings and beyond and can be found here. You’ll find that on October 20, 2015, Fitzgerald voted for the Memorandum of Agreement with the Fullerton Municipal Employees Federation 1200 (resolution 2015-52), which provided increased costs of $5,595,576 over the next four years, and then voted for the contract at the second reading on November 3, 2015. The resolution passed 3-2.
But that’s not all, not by a long shot.
On November 3, 2015, Fitzgerald voted for the Memorandum of Agreement with the Fullerton Police Officers’ Association – Safety and Dispatcher Units (resolution 2015-59), which provided increased costs of $9,502,904 over the next four years, and then voted for the contract at the second reading on November 17, 2015. The resolution passed 3-2.
On February 16, 2016, Fitzgerald voted for the Memorandum of Agreement with the Fullerton Firefighters’ Association (resolution 2016-16), which provided increased costs to the city of $1,959,821 over the next two years, and then voted for the contract at the second reading on March 1, 2016. The resolution passed 3-2.
On April 5, 2016, Fitzgerald voted for the Memorandum of Agreement with the Fullerton Management Association (resolution 2016-23), which increased costs to the city of $1,175,030 over the next four years, and then voted for the contract at the second reading on April 19, 2016. The resolution passed 3-2.
Also on April 5, and again on April 19, 2016, Fitzgerald voted for a revised resolution providing for raises to confidential non-represented employees (resolution 2016-24), which increased costs to the city of $391,857 over the next four years. The resolution passed 3-2.
And on December 6, 2016, Fitzgerald voted for the Memorandum of Agreement with the Fullerton Police Management Association, which increased costs to the city of $882,492 over the next four years. The resolution passed 3-2. Oh, and if you’re interested, this was the meeting where outgoing councilmember Jan Flory berated Josh Ferguson for having the temerity to claim our budget wasn’t balanced and we were exhausting our reserves (starting at around 1:21:00).
Over the course of her first term in office (the December 6 hearing was a lame duck session), Jennifer Fitzgerald voted for pay increases totaling nineteen million five hundred and seven thousand nine hundred and fifty three dollars ($19,507,953) over a four year span – or almost five million dollars per year. And Fitzgerald’s vote was crucial for the passage of each and every one of these pay increases.
And let’s not forget the numerous “side letters” Fitzgerald approved over the years as well – including one for $500,000 on November 5, 2013, for $450,000 on March 4, 2014, for $60,000 per year on April 15, 2014 (to “adjust” Fullerton Fire Management’s pay to bring it into parity with Brea’s), and for $202,00 on November 14, 2014, plus several other agreements for less than $100,000. Oh, and let’s not also forget the $4.9 million settlement of Ron Thomas’s lawsuit which Fitzgerald also voted to authorize, which will be indirectly paid for by the city through increased insurance premiums for decades to come.
So Jennifer Fitzerald didn’t just mislead voters about our supposedly balanced! budget. – she was one of the architect of our current fiscal mess in the first place.
While there is much in government to bemoan and criticize there is apparently much to celebrate as well, at least according to the Association of California Cities – Orange County, who are soliciting nominations for the Sixth Annual Golden Hub of Innovation Awards.
Yes, that’s right. The Government has an award show.
The ACC-OC is giving out awards in multiple categories, including Elected Leader of the Year, City Manager Leader of the Year, Innovator of the year and Public Private Partnerships of the year.
Last year’s winner for Innovator of the Year was the Anaheim Fire Chief who approved an ambulance system to respond to non-urgent medical requests, an “innovation” about fifty years behind almost every emergency response system outside out Orange County. Not to be outdone, 2014’s winner of the Innovator of the Year award was this guy:
The ACC-OC is a lobbying organization, ostensibly created to lobby on behalf of its member Cities in Sacramento, and prevent the passage of legislation harmful to municipalities, but their actual priority seems to be lobbying Cities to implement the kind of statist, crony, public-private partnerships the organization itself prefers. For example, in one seminar sponsored in July 2015, ACC-OC advocated both streetcars and the Poseidon desalination plant in a seminar hosted by no less than Curt Pringle himself. ACC-OC also was one of the driving forces behind the HERO program, which facilitated construction of solar panels by converting the construction costs into high interest tax liens on residences (specifically, eight percent a year high, for a senior lien). So, not only does ACC-OC lobby Fullerton for bad legislation but we PAY them to do so with our own tax dollars.
That aside, in the spirit of this press release, can FFFF come up with its own nominees or, better yet, its own categories for the “Golden Hub of Innovation?” Maybe award Hugo Curiel Procrastinator of the Year for his failure to report the water loss at Laguna Lake until the statute of limitations against the civil engineer that performed the work had run? Perhaps a doublespeak award is in order for the fine folks at the NOCCCD for their efforts to claim that the football stadium they are trying to build with Measure J money isn’t going to be built with Measure J money. ACC-OC also needs a White Elephant of the Year award to honor tireless efforts of some staffers to push expensive and unnecessary infrastructure projects like streetcars, ARTIC or the “Great Park” in Irvine. Truly, the possibilities are endless.