Who Was Emmanuel Perez?

While I was strolling along the ill-fated Trail to Nowhere the other day, I came across a small shrine-like set-up just where the UP right-of way starts its parallel run with the BNSF mainline.

This is what I saw.

This small memorial is dedicated to somebody called Emmanuel Perez who died at 28 years of age, six years ago. I did some quick searching and found no news references to anybody dying here, whether by foul play or by train accident. But Fullerton has a history of keeping bad news out of the news.

Naturally, Voice of OC “photojournalist” Julie Leopo failed to publish this image after she took her guided tour of the area, helpfully provided by “journalist” Skaskia Kennedy. That would not have been good for the pre-arranged narrative.

Death on the Trail to Nowhere is not new, but this is one I hadn’t heard of. If anybody can shed some light on the life and death of Emmanuel Perez, let FFFF know.

Mr. Average Gets A Raise

What do you do when your City Manager is spectacularly unspectacular? If it’s Fullerton you give him a raise.

I’ll drink to that!

See, in Fullerton if you’re a City Manager who avoids getting drunk and driving over a tree before trying to evade the law, you’re doing pretty darn good.

Don’t let the amorphous shape fool you. Oh, wait…

And so Mr. Eric Levitt, who has been City Manager for less than 2 years is getting an 8% raise from $250,000 to $270,000. This gentleman is hardly any different than the two temps who preceded him and gives precisely the same deference to an incompetent collection of underlings. In the past 20 months he hasn’t shown any interests in establishing a corps of excellence – just the opposite in fact, and this must be cause for comfort for a City Council that thrives in a culture of not bad is outstanding – just try not to let us make ourselves look too bad.

Last year, the City Manager predicted dire economic issues ahead for Fullerton, massive deficits, of course; and by the end of 2023 Levitt had already started paving his own path of least resistance by hiring a public opinion pollster to drum up support for a general sales tax. This year’s mission will be to revive the ill-fated Measure S, give it a new letter from the alphabet, and let the cops and emergency medics pitch it to the public.

What a performance.

High Speed Rubbish. Mate.

I came across this video gem the other day. Look and sound familiar? The Australian TV show Utopia, goes after high speed rail as never making economic sense. But economic sense ought not to get in the way of progress, and the idea of intercity transit going real, real fast is irresistible to some, including the army of consultants, engineers, union construction workers and land grabbers who make bank on the concept.

California’s HSR Authority has been a sink hole for billions and billions of dollars, escalating costs, tortuous delays, etc., etc. And yet it gasps on, staggering along thanks to its own bureaucratic inertia – an idea sold to the voters over 15 years ago and with little hope of opening the easiest segment before 2030.

Meantime, this titanic boondoggle is scoping the all-important line from Anaheim to Los Angeles where the line currently under construction in the Central Valley may never reach in this century. Cutting through this urban landscape, including Fullerton, will cost a fortune, of course, and the HSR won’t be able to go much faster than existing train service. What would it mean for us if this dopey authority cut a swath through Fullerton? It won’t be good, that’s for sure.

But who cares? In California it’s not efficacy that matters. It’s the grand gesture, and in this case the laughable assertion that California will be appreciably better off by spending hundreds of billions of dollars to buy a few train trips per year.

The Process & The Consultant

A few weeks ago I published a post on the extremely dubious efforts of a paid consultant to begin a renewed effort to raise a new sales tax in Fullerton. The consultant is an operation called FM3.

We’ve seen this movie before. Many times.

In an effort to build momentum toward justifying a new tax a consultant is tasked with cooking up a poll, a survey that is worded in such a way as to make the question of a new tax sound not only plausible but even desirable.

The information that is collected is meant to probe the electorate’s weak spots, just like an army might send out reconnaissance to figure out where to attack.

Another benefit is to begin the process of developing ballot statement language that will push and persuade voters to the correct decision – a decision that will always be to vote for the tax. The reasons will be a short recital of the usual, low-hanging fruit, public safety being at the top of the list, but with no explanation that our public safety corps – emergency medical personnel (formerly known as :firefighters) and cops already suck up the majority of Fullerton’s General Fund. Mention of parks, quality of life, libraries and now “homeless” will be thrown in to the pot; and infrastructure maintenance will be included, disingenuously, to get support of the more hard-headed voter, just like last time.

Measure S Covid Lie
Let me count the ways…

And of course this language will be also be used by the inevitable political action committee formed to wage the propaganda war.

Make no mistake about it. The consultant hired to undertake this effort will know at the outset what his mission is. He knows who hired him and he knows what his employer wants.

Here’s a fun little Aussie video that spells out the process succinctly:

And so it goes. The start of a charade in which the taxpayers foot the bill to be “educated” into supporting a pre-determined outcome. The line between education (legal) and propaganda (illegal) is not bright, as asserted by Councilmember Bruce Whitaker. The fuzzy demarcation is exploited all the time by government agencies – always based on information collected in the original poll.

No On S
Don’t Reward the City’s Stupidity

The hopeful part of this is that the electorate is not always as easily persuaded as is supposed by the would be taxers. This was demonstrated in Fullerton in 2020 when voters rejected the ill-considered Measure S, and property tax-based bond floats by Fullerton’s two school districts.

In the end the Council (Jung, Zahra and Charles) voted, vaguely, to keep the “education” process going, a process that we know is nothing other than political propaganda aimed at persuading a majority of voters and coordinating with a special political action committee set up to scare, cajole, and bamboozle the voters.

The Trail to Nowhere, Redux

Just in case you missed last night’s City Council meeting I am thoughtfully presenting a recap of Trail to Nowhere item.

Informed commentary was not forthcoming…

Public comments kicked off the fun-filled evening with the usual Ahmad Zahra puppets berating the Council majority for their many deficiencies.

The trail didn’t go anywhere, but it sure was short…

And then followed, once again, an re-examination of the corpse of the Trail to Nowhere, a topic that had somehow made it back onto the agenda courtesy of Zahra and a compliant City Manager and City Attorney. Bruce Whitaker immediately stated his opposition to this move and motioned to take up the discussion in January. This was seconded by Nick Dunlap.

Let slip the dogs of law…

Howls of outrage filled the chamber from the usual brigade of uninformed Zahra followers who were told that they could only discuss the motion to continue the matter, and not sing their usual hosannas for a complete waste of $2,000,000. True, this was weird. City Attorney Dick Jones of the “I Can’t Believe It’s a Law Firm” blessed this process, which of course made absolutely no sense. Since when can the public give comment on an individual motion of the Council? See the problem? I got the distinct impression that Jones was trying to redeem himself for letting the thing on the agenda in the first place.

dick-jones
Staying awake long enough to break the law…

I’m going to write a separate post on why it’s time, way, way past time to shit-can Dick Jones and his crew of incompetent lawyers once and for all.

Anyway, public comments did proceed with speakers accusing the council majority of Whitaker, Jung and Dunlap of wasting their time and trying to kill the Trail to Nowhere by stalling it to death. None of these worthies seemed to get the irony that it was their hero, Ahmad Zahra, who was stringing the thing out by putting a dead issue on the agenda. And he was doing it solely for the purpose of embarrassing the Council majority. Some wanted the matter decided then and there, a pretty reasonable demand if you think about it, and one that really would have laid the matter to rest.

If I knew what I was talking about this wouldn’t be Fullerton!

Councilwoman Charles phoned in her nonsensical two cents by claiming that “new information” rendered the August decision open for discussion because it didn’t look like the State was going to allow a repurposing of their grant. Of course that was a misstatement of the Council decision which was clear: turn down the grant unless it could be used elsewhere. She also added that changes had been made to the plans – a completely false statement.

I know what’s best. Trust me.

After more Zahra pontification about his neglected district, yadda, yadda, the Council voted to continue the matter until January 17th, 2024, a move that unfortunately validates the improper move by Zahra to agendize the matter in the first place.

The only interesting thing that emerged from the issue was that Ahmad Zahra had gone directly to the State Natural Resources Agency behind everybody else’s back, and Fred Jung found out about it. What this communication entailed is unknown – Jung wants to get to the bottom of it – but I have the sneaking suspicion that Zahra was trying on his own to undermine diversion of the State funds to something useful – again, to simply to embarrass his colleagues. According to our lackluster City Manager, Eric Leavitt they are planning another meeting with the State.

The Trail to Nowhere Connectivity Would Be Doomed by HSR

The good people at California’s High Speed Rail Authority, who just can’t waste our money fast enough, are moving toward a revised track alignment between Los Angeles and Anaheim. What does this mean? It means a massive boondoggle of course, spending billions to bring a “bullet train” to Orange County that won’t be any faster than the Metrolink line that covers the same distance in the same amount of time.

The new configuration would share existing tracks along the current three-track mainline, and would a add a fourth, dedicated line. And where would the fourth track alignment go? In Fullerton it would have to go on the south side of the main line tracks because there isn’t any room on the northside where the BNSF Railroad currently has two sidings right up to the edge of their right-of-way. The south side of the tracks, however do have room from the Commonwealth underpass as far as Harbor Boulevard.

Of course this would mean using the property that the Parks Department and the Friends of the Trail to Nowhere say is feasible (later on) to take their amenity to the Hunt Branch Library, and beyond. The question of how the trail could get past the BNSF mainline tracks would become moot. The trail would require a prohibitively expensive bridge with elevators; either that or a bridge a quarter mile long, or more. And there goes the alleged connectivity that the Trail to Nowhere boosters keep talking about, even if the BNSF were willing on some distant day to sell to the City.

The trail folks can pick their poison. Useless transit or useless bike trail. Of course they would have to educamate themselves first, and that’s just not going to happen in the Education Community.

The Taxman Cometh. Again.

I’m here to help. Again.

A few years ago during the depths of the COVID pandemic, the Fullerton City Council voted to put a sales tax measure on the ballot. Since things were looking grim and with revenue falling off, the best course of action in City Hall seemed to be to lay it on to taxpayers. It was necessary to protect Fullerton’s quality of life, you see; or, to be more precise, to protect the pay and pensions of City employees, particularly the cops and “fire fighters” who suck up the majority of the municipal budget.

Well, the names have mostly changed, except for Ahmad Zahra, but the playbook remains the same.

At their November 7th meeting the City Council heard a report from a company called FM3 that had been tasked with producing a survey of resident concerns, and, significantly, to poll them about how to raise revenue. And lots of it.

Who actually hired FM3 in the first place is a mystery, but it must have been our illustrious City Manager, Eric Levitt, since no record of the Council approving a contract is found in the City Clerk’s database. So far they have been paid $49,000 – most likely sneaking under their City Manager’s spending authorization.

Before delving into the presentation, it’s important to note that FM3 is a consulting operation deeply involved in promoting government tax and bond efforts, and has been supporting liberal Democrat politicians for decades. One of the clients listed on their website is Carter/Mondale! On their splash page we find the slogan: Synthesizing Public Opinion To Help Achieve Your Goals, which is code for push polling that promotes your client’s goal of raising taxes.

The company conducted its polling of likely voters last spring, The “results” were presented to the Council on the 7th.

The concerns of the citizenry polled emphasized Fullerton’s rotten roads and included a bunch of stuff that the City has no control over and is merely being used as data filler. The options were presented by the pollsters.

Notice the inclusion of budget shortfalls on the list. According to FM3, 45% of those surveyed believe budget shortfalls are a extremely/very serious problem. Really? Then the other shoe begins to drop.

First, it’s curious that somehow data relating to 2019 and 2020 are shared. Where did that data come from? And what happened to 2021 and 2022? This presentation is just nonsense.

The bland term “additional funding” to the initiated means more taxes, but probably not to those polled. Not yet anyway, for the respondents are being artfully massaged by people whose job it is to push and pass tax proposals for their governmental “clients.” The bit about providing “the level of services Fullerton residents need and want” is telling, and so is the language. How does one’s “personal opinion” qualify one to opine on all Fullerton residents? The purpose is to loosen the respondents mind into the miasma of the common good, as defined by the principle beneficiaries – City employees. Then the other shoe hit the ground.

It didn’t take very long for FM3 to roll out a couple of “hypothetical” sales tax raising ballot measures, one a general purpose tax and the other more narrowly directed to infrastructure, although including the ambiguous phrase “to maintain rapid police, fire and 911 response.” The general purpose tax only requires 50%+1 ballot majority; the special purpose tax requires a 67% majority. The latter is an almost impossible threshold to get over.

Then FM3 rolls out some interesting language in their push for a general sales tax. Notice how these alleged concerns of the surveyed mimic the language of the typical “push poll.” FM3 is using language that will elicit super-high positive responses and suggest that others are already on board. The tiny text at the bottom of the slide tells all. But is all this dire language persuasive when it actually comes to voting?

Finally, FM3 sums it up by saying that a general sales tax is winnable. But is it? Somebody said the same thing about the City’s Measure S back in 2020 and it failed.

In the end the Council (Jung, Zahra and Charles) voted to keep the “education” process going, a process that we know is nothing other than political propaganda aimed at persuading a majority of voters and coordinating with a special political action committee set up to scare, cajole, and bamboozle the voters.

As Bruce Whitaker pointed out on the 7th, there is supposed to be a “bright line” that separates government information from government propaganda. But this line only in the abstract law. In practice the line dissolves almost completely.

The Strange Tale of Johnny Lu’s Grant Deeds

Enhanced with genuine brick veneer!

By now Fullerton City Hall is aware that their partner in a boutique hotel/apartment high-rise on Santa Fe Avenue, TA Westpark LLC, is in trouble. TA Westpark Fullerton., AKA Johnny Lu has defaulted on a massive loan, previously borrowed to complete projects in Irvine.

Why is Johnny smiling?

The fallout from this embarrassment remains unknown, although there are plenty of questions that need to be answered, and sooner rather than later.

One of the questions involves the transfer of the public property ownership at the site to TA Westpark Fullerton, LLC before proper project approval, a desperate, and of course, totally unnecessary act. And the actual documents supporting ownership of the land in question need to be examined, too.

On December 22, 2022 the City sold the land at a huge discount to Lu. Check out the grant deed:

By now Craig Hostert, whose brain-child the boutique hotel was, is scratched out and TA Westpark Fullerton, LLC, a Delaware corporation, is the proud owner of the land and the transfer is signed by a “managing partner” of a whole other entity – “TA Partners.” Looks like Hosteret was bought out or walked away, abandoning his baby.

But, as they say in the infomercial, wait, there’s more. A quick check of the State of Delaware’s corporations roster doesn’t turn up any results for TA Westpark Fullerton, LLC. Hmm.

No responsive records…

And here’s something else. A few months later a new grant deed was promulgated and recorded at the County of Orange. Here, the hard to find Delaware corporation deeds the land in question over to TA Westpark Fullerton, LLC, a California corporation.

Something is odd here, and it’s not just the amateur hour handwritten changes on the original deed. Did the City sell this property to a non-existent corporate entity? If so, hasn’t some sort of fraud occurred? Why the shell game here, and could the original deed be considered invalid in retrospect?

No, I wasn’t asleep. I was praying…

We could ask these question of Dick Jones of the “I Can’t Believe It’s a Law Firm” law firm, because I doubt the City Council will make inquiries of their ace lawyer. Getting an honest answer from ol’ marble mouth? A rare and precious jewel.

Some might think this entire fiasco is going to get worse before it gets better. I’m not sure how that’s possible.

Bungled Boutique Hotel May Be In Big Trouble

Friends probably remember that FFFF has been relentlessly critical of the dubious scheme approved by our City Council to underwrite a downtown boutique hotel and uber-dense apartment project on a parking lot owned by the City and used by Metrolink commuters.

Here’s a reminder: three councilmembers Bruce Whitaker, Shana Charles and Ahmad Zahra voted to sell this property to a developer for a mere $1.4 million (less site material removal) while simultaneously time jacking up the value of the land by approving density 2.5 times the limit specified in the Transportation Center Specific Plan. It was a gift of public funds at least ten million dollars.

Here’s the fun part. The original and completely unqualified baby daddy of the project, Craig Hostert, didn’t have the wherewithal to make the deal. After years of failing to perform on his Exclusive Negotiating Agreement and numerous extensions, Hostert’s West Park Investments, LLC joined its non-existent forces with TA Partners Development of Irvine, Johnny Lu, proprietor.

Mr. Lu, the new face of the project, appeared at council meetings to seal the deal with a ration of gobbledygook bullshit.

Now it appears that Mr. Lu may not have been the best choice of partner according to the Real Deal Real Estate News.

Why is Johnny smiling?

It seems that Johnny has gotten himself in over his head on two projects in Irvine, including second bridge loans that he has now defaulted on. And of course Sunayana Thomas, Fullerton’s crack “business development” director seemingly failed to inform the City Council of Mr. Lu’s impending financial embarrassment, something that should have been revealed in even a cursory perusal of TA Partners’ asset to debt ratio and its balance sheet.

And then, of course there is the problem with the completely incompetent concept of rushing the approval to transfer of title to the land, before the deal had received final approval.

By now the Council has possibly, though not necessarily been informed by the Fullerton City Manager, Eric Leavitt, of the problem, but where does the deal stand? Title to the property has been transferred from the City to and through Lu’s companies*, presumably for the original sale amount. But if TA Partners can’t perform, will the City get its now very valuable property back, or will it be encumbered by bankruptcy receivers? Will the City, in order to save face as it always has, permit Mr. Lu to assign his rights and interests to another party as a face-saving strategy? If that happens, will the original bad idea still go forward, or will the Council approve something even worse as a sop to a new developer so to avoid admitting their horrible mistake in the first place?

You can try asking Whitaker, Charles, or Zahra, the architects of this inexcusable and completely avoidable mess, but don’t hold your breath waiting for a response.

* Topic of future post

Fullerton Observer Up To Old Tricks

On a clear day you can see forever…

Those Fullertonions who know about the Fullerton Observer are well aware of the bad habit of this operation of passing along editorial content as news.

Here’s an example.

An “article” running under the heading: Union Pacific Trail advocates hold peaceful demonstration asking to use the $1.78 million grant for its intended purpose.

Reading this headline you might suppose that somebody had been shot by the cops, and that violent protest could have broken out at any moment, and kudos to the protestors. But no. This drama was about not wasting a couple million bucks for a useless Trail to Nowhere that runs through one of the most dangerous parts of Fullerton. Were those octogenarians and 13th graders likely to break out in a rage-induced riot?

The editorial under the headline, written by one S. Kennedy, followed suit. Readers were not informed why the trail might have been considered a poor idea, for that would have been real journalism. Instead we learn the identities of a few of the those who spoke against giving the dough back to the state. We are told that nobody spoke against the Trail to Nowhere, a stupendous mislead since there was no agenda item to discuss it and the only people there had been orchestrated to yak about they knew not what during open mike public comments.

Readers were helpfully informed that there going to be another protest at today’s council meeting just in case some of the eager didn’t get Ahmad Zahra’s memo.

Trails are necessary for the health of our kids…

What the author of this piece didn’t tell you was that she was one of the cheerleaders of this event; that speaker Egleth Nunccio is a part of a conspiracy to ignore the City Council majority’s previous direction; that speaker Diane Vera is an Observer scribbler.

Intrepid reporter/newsmaker, S. Kennedy, top left.

Of course the authoress, Saskia Kennedy, got up and spoke her ignorant piece. (She did so again today, above -10/3/23 – and then plopped down in the audience to smugly encourage the “outraged” protesters she helped stir up). In other words the Observer, which calls itself a newspaper, is actually helping create the crap it is “reporting” on – and not telling anybody.

Comments were varied, some calling out the obvious Astroturf protest. One happy soul named Angela offered: “Civics in action. Love to see it!” Except, Angela, this was a lot less about civics and a lot more about a petty political game by Zahra to embarrass his opponents. The Trail to Nowhere isn’t coming back, the public at large doesn’t care, and Zahra knows this.

As I started this essay (see I know the difference between opinion and news) I pointed out that none of this should really come as a surprise to those who have been around a while. And as the Observer passes from one generation of ignorant, self-righteous Kennedy to the next, it would be foolish to expect otherwise.