Poor Arguments Abound in Bicycle Link Battle

The battle of the Puente Street bicycle path will intensify tonight at a special Parks and Rec commission meeting, giving us an opportunity to examine the silly exaggerations and misdirections shouted from both ends of the table. There are probably dozens of excellent arguments both for and against the 1/4 mile section of bike path that will connect Brea and Fullerton neighborhoods, but sometimes it’s more fun to point out the sillier arguments thrown between the NIMBY’s and the two-wheeled maniacs.

  1. In a (properly labeled) Observer editorial, Barbara Rothbart warns that bicycle users on the bridge will not be protected from flying golf balls while crossing the bridge, as if they were more dangerous than sending bicycle riders onto busy arterial streets.
  2. Heads up!
    Heads up!
  3. Members of the bicycle users subcommittee counter by claiming that there are 40,000+ bicycle riders in Fullerton. While there may be that many bikes stored in Fullerton garages, that number probably has no relation to the expected use of the proposed bridge.

    40,001 - every bike counts.
    40,001 - every bike counts.
  4. Local homeowners are suddenly afraid that we might slip and fall if the city were to pave the 17.7% grade, keenly ignoring the fact that this grade is already open to the public and covered in loose gravel.

    Bike riders, we care about you. We really do.
    Bike riders, we care about you. We really do.
  5. Vince Buck calls the pre-fabricated bridge a “local stimulus project”, though it is unlikely that the bridge will be pre-fabbed anywhere near Fullerton nor installed by Fullerton contractors.

    Not quite the pork we were hoping for
    Not quite the pork we were hoping for

We could go on and on, but you get the point.  Bike path debaters, please don’t marginalize the argument with this superfluous stuff. If you have a legitimate, sane comment about the proposed bike path, you may want to show up at tonight’s meeting.

The List – Fullerton’s $100,000 Pension Club

Fullerton taxpayers are looking down the barrel of a major increase in pension payments next year. The CalPERS agency has lost as much as 37% of its assets in the stock market crash and taxpayers are contractually obligated to make up the difference.

Our Friends at the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility just released a report called the CalPERS $100,000 Pension Club. In their handy database, we located the annual pensions of 26 City of Fullerton employees who are bringing home over $100,000 a year post-retirement at our expense. We believe in an open government where the residents of Fullerton know what they are paying for — so here is the list:

Name Annual Pension Position
JAMES “JIM” REED $163,512.96 Fire
MICHAEL MAYNARD $137,565.84 Police
DANIEL CHIDESTER $136,680.84 Fire
FRANK PAUL DUDLEY $131,197.20 Development Services Director
ALLEN BURKS $131,152.92 Police
ANTONIO HERNANDEZ $124,902.12 Police
H HUNT $124,157.88
RONNY ROWELL $122,712.12 Police
STEVEN MATSON $121,586.16 Police
GEORGE NEWMAN $120,332.76
MARK FLANNERY $118,563.48 Director of Personnel
DAVID STANKO $117,924.00 Police
ROBERT HODSON $117,606.60 Director of Engineering
DANIEL BECERRA $114,625.56 Police
PHILIP GOEHRING $112,821.12 Police
BRAD HOCKERSMITH $111,957.96 Fire
JEFFREY ROOP $111,382.32 Police
NEAL BALDWIN $110,694.12 Police
ROBERT “BOB” RICHARDSON $107,643.48 Police
DONALD “DON” PEARCE $105,858.00 Police
CAROLYN JOHNSON $105,078.48 Library Director
PAUL TURNEY $103,674.36
RONALD “RON” GILLETT $103,431.72 Police
ARTHUR WIECHMANN $102,113.88 Police
JONATHON “JON” MCAULAY $100,036.32 Fire

Though we did our best to identify the contributions these individuals made to our city, some of the names do not ring a bell. Perhaps our loyal audience can fill in the blanks for us.

Say Fran... we really stuck it to those taxpayers, huh?
Say Fran... we really stuck it to those dumb taxpayers.

We are not against paying market rate for talented and motivated professionals to run our dear city — our disdain lies with the cloud of financial uncertainty that pension plans represent to our taxpayers. Historically, pensions are gleefully spiked in rosy times, with little thought given to potential long-term risks.

Out in the real world, we often use a calculation called “Total Compensation” — the sum of all salary, health benefits, taxes and retirement contributions for a given employee. This number allows both the employee and the employer to calculate the exact compensation of the employee and to ensure that it is comparable to that of similar jobs at other businesses. Businesses can see exactly what they are paying for an employee and thus how that will affect their budget for years to come.

With pensions, no such calculation is possible because an employer is making a future commitment based on unlikely investment forecasts stretching 50 years into the future. As we are about to painfully learn, those forcasts can be incredibly wrong. If we don’t change the way we compensate city employees now, we will continue to foot the bill for a very long time.

One Thousand Comments and Beyond

Here's to you, Anonymous Commenters
Here's to you, Anonymous Commenters

Today we captured our 1,000th comment on this blog  – a testament to our readers and their passion for Fullerton’s Future.

The millennial comment is attributed to someone who goes by the crafty alias “Norby” — and of course, it’s fitting that this comment is actually a critique of our own post. Thank you, Norby, for demonstrating that this blog does not seek to silence those who disagree – this comment and all others remain online forever as a reminder of our promise to never control the message through censoring or heavy handed pseudo-journalism.

FFFF was never created as a podium with which to espouse a single viewpoint or burn the butts of a few bad actors — but rather as a place to openly discuss problems and solutions with the entire community; a place for candid conversation of topics that are too taboo for conventional medium;  a place where whistleblowers are welcome and scandalous secrets will be told to anyone who will listen.

Thank you, FFFF commenters, for your numerous contributions – your city may never be the same.

Departing Police Chief Brings Home The Bacon

Porktacular reading material

Just in time for his retirement, our beloved police chief Pat McKinley brought home a $100,000 federal earmark for his new body armor which he designed in a partnership with seasoned police contractor Safariland, a subsidiary of Europe’s largest military contractor. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez congratulated herself for rooting up the money for the high-priced vests as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act.

What could be wrong with this earmark? It’s nothing but free money for the City of Fullerton – an unconditional gift from the federal government, right?

But the earmark qualifies as official government pork according to government watchdogs.

Citizens Against Government Waste have identified 10,160 projects at a cost of $19.6 billion in the 12 Appropriations Acts for fiscal 2009 that symbolize the most egregious and blatant examples of pork.  All of the items in the Congressional Pig Book Summary meet at least one of these criteria, but most satisfy at least two:

  • Requested by only one chamber of Congress;
  • Not specifically authorized;
  • Not competitively awarded;
  • Not requested by the President;
  • Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding;
  • Not the subject of congressional hearings; or
  • Serves only a local or special interest.
Officer Rubio shows off his new vest while demonstrating a choke hold for our unsuspecting photographer.
Officer Rubio shows off his new vest while demonstrating a choke hold for our unsuspecting photographer.

There are two sides to every slab of government pork: on one hand, earmarks return a portion of Fullerton citizens’ federal tax dollars back to the city itself. If Fullerton doesn’t grab it’s share of the pie, the money will merely be assigned to some other bloated project in some other needy town far, far away.

On the flip side, earmarks represent the very worst in fiscal responsibility and big government. Appropriations Committee members arbitrarily pick winners and losers by earmarking funds for specific recipients.  Lobbyists and their congressmen bypass authorizing committees directly for pet projects, creating a giant fiscal free-for-all that undermines the Constitution and makes states and localities increasingly beholden to the federal government. Finally, the federal deficit grows unchecked and our taxes increase via the debasement of our currency.

Pork projects have haunted this nation since our early years, but they have always been reviled by fiscally responsible citizens. Thomas Jefferson considered earmarks “a source of boundless patronage to the executive, jobbing to members of Congress & their friends, and a bottomless abyss of public money”. If Jefferson knew about the exponential increase in federal earmarks over the last decade, he would likely rise from his grave to scribe a brand new Declaration of Independence.

In the end, the chiefs’ friends at Safariland are $100,000 richer, our police have new vests that cost twice as much as the old, and most importantly, the fruits of our labor have been lost in a sea of unaccountability.

Fast Talking Techno-Pitch Man Tries to Sell Council Sack of Magic Cyber-Beans

Council member Mr. Dick Jones was caught drooling yesterday at the idea of using taxpayer funds to create a massive fiber optic nightmare to compete against local businesses and bring high-speed Internet connections to our supposedly media-starved school children. A presentation was made to the council by smooth-talking Paul Stover of the Technology Working Group to deploy a 37-mile fiber-optic loop buried shallowly underneath major Fullerton traffic arteries. Mr. Jones seized upon the idea of becoming his own telecom corporation, using taxpayer resources to launch Fullerton into the high-risk world of the telecommunications business. Despite his lack of experience in the telecom industry and without surrendering a moment to ponder the idea, Mr. Jones eagerly pronounced “I’m ready to sign up!”

In the corporate world, responsible executives must keep a tight reign on their computer geeks, who are easily coaxed by fast-talking technology salesmen into spending other people’s money to buy themselves fancy new toys. Mr. Jones and the rest of the council should always be wary when IT salesmen throw around meaningless buzzwords like “Futureproof” and “knowledge workers” in an attempt to justify fabulous new financial ventures deep into the territory of private enterprise.

Council member Shawn Nelson got started with some important questions, but the council needs to go much deeper. These are the questions you should be asking TWG and ISMS (the consulting company who conveniently recommended themselves to manage the proposed system). Vague, assumptive or misdirecting answers should not be accepted.

1. Should we make a long-term investment into a rapidly-depreciating commodity? The cost of bandwidth has been falling by orders of magnitude for the last 15 years and is expected to fall even faster as ISPs trip over each other to deliver high-definition video to every home in America over the next few years. Is that the low-margin business that the City of Fullerton should enter? Or perhaps we should position ourselves to benefit from the fruits of this new competitive marketplace by leaving ourselves open to the most efficient solution utilizing commercial economies of scale that a city can never achieve by itself.

2. Do our children really need gigabit Internet connections at school? Some of our teachers seem to be very interested in bringing more bandwidth into our schools to fill our children’s mind with the best videos that the Internet has to offer. For as far back as I can remember, projectors, VHS and DVDs were used by lazy schoolteachers as babysitters in the classroom when they don’t feel like actually teaching. Will Internet video be any different? Why are these teachers so quick to outsource themselves to a video professor?

3. Why does the network have to be physically owned by the city? ISMS disingenuously implies that their giant list of potential uses for this fiber network can only be achieved if Fullerton owns the physical medium. That is completely false – any and all of these technologies could be run over network access provided by the marketplace on an as-needed basis.

4. Will Fullerton really be able to re-sell portions of the network to businesses? Mr. Jones clearly became enamored with the idea, but the TWG spokesman downplayed it and suggested that it was merely a possibility. Almost all businesses have connectivity needs that go beyond the borders of a single city and would be wary in signing up for government-run service in a competitive marketplace.

5. What are the risks of microtrenching the new cable? Microtrenching is a newer cable distribution method which only buries the cable about a foot under the surface of our roads instead of digging large trenches. Are there any long-term reliability studies of this new technique? If we lay 37 miles of cable over the top of our existing utilities, what are the increased costs when we have to do maintenance to our gas lines, sewer lines, water mains and street surfaces?

Mr. Jones may be easily bedazzled by big words, flashing lights and his own jokes, but the rest of the council should be wise enough to ask the right questions before taxpayers are sold on this so-called Fiber Field of Dreams.

SWAT Raid On Fullerton Students and Taxpayers

As the Fullerton Joint Union High School District struggles with drastic budget cuts that threaten to strip public education back to the three R’s, Fullerton SWAT and the Sunny Hills High School administrators decided that their students should spend the day playing “PARAMILITARY POLICE RAID” at the expense of Fullerton taxpayers.


The Orange County Register reports the students were given a 14 day window in which to expect 3 SWAT trucks and an unknown number of armored pseudo-soldiers to storm the campus in an attempt to replicate the fear and panic of an active shooter situation.Despite the unfortunate news of a real attack in another part of the country, the Fullerton SWAT team was unable to inspire the high school students into true hysteria. The event did give Officer Mike a chance to remind the students of the days’ lesson: if this was a real hostage situation, they should be curled up in the fetal position begging for their lives.


This unfortunate event came at a time when all school expenses and activities are under strict scrutiny due to $6.9 million in projected budget cutbacks. Somehow this waste-of-a-day just slipped past those watchful eyes at the district and the taxpayers are left pondering which public learning institution will be featured as the next simulated warzone.


The All-Seeing Eyes of Fullerton

Over the past several years you may have noticed the increasingly prolific nature of government-sponsored surveillance cameras throughout the public areas in Fullerton. One Fullerton resident counted over 122 police and traffic cameras spread throughout the city.

These unblinking eyes are given the authority to record us as we lawfully participate in the everyday life of Fullerton citizens. Some of them issue $400 citations when we break the law. Others merely record our presence and store it on disk at the police station, to be reviewed later if we are accused of a crime. Sometimes the cameras are viewed in real time by Fullerton’s finest — other times they are viewed by private citizens working for a smooth-talking surveillance system vendor.

Most of us do appreciate the hard work that Fullerton Police do to find and detain those who cause us harm. However, we must remember that all government power is ultimately derived from the threat of force — necessitating our extreme caution in creation of new powers and rules. As free citizens, it is our responsibility to maintain strong oversight over those who we allow to govern us. We must keep a wary eye on technologies that enable the quiet expansion of power over us, and we should thoughtfully devise rules and policies regarding their use to protect us from individual or systemic abuses of such power.

Some may sneer at our natural tendency to question the continued spawning of such devices. After all – what do we have to hide? Don’t we trust our law enforcement agencies? We all know individual Fullerton officers who we personally trust. Shouldn’t we trust all of them?

Isn’t this just paranoia?

http://media.newtimes.com/2553956.41.jpgNO. The recent case of Orange County Sheriffs Department’s abusive surveillance of the OC Board of Supervisors is strong justification for our concern. Sheriff Sandra Hutchens stands accused of allowing her deputies to use surveillance cameras to zoom in on the notes, emails and text messages of political opponents and then unlawfully denying public records requests to release the tapes to the public.

Sheriff Hutchens has given us a perfect example of what can happen when we are too cavalier about allowing new technology to expand the presence of law enforcement into our lives. The Board has since voted to remove the Sheriffs’ contract to provide security over the boardroom, but as citizens, it’s not always that easy to protect ourselves once we have allowed an agency to go too far.

I urge the City of Fullerton and the Fullerton Police Department to carefully consider the ramifications of the continued proliferation of surveillance cameras throughout Fullerton. As free and law-abiding people, we do not need or deserve to be monitored whenever we leave our homes.