Coming Up For Air

In FFFF’s early days, this blog noted how the Fullerton Observer and its “editor” Sharon Kennedy would bend over backwards to avoid printing anything that might embarrass City officialdom. In the years after that blog post, the Observer remained true to form. It continually went to bat for the bureaucrats in increasingly shameful ways, even when it violated the tenets of the Yellowing Observer’s own professed liberalism. The culmination, perhaps, was the Observer’s series of misdirections and avoidances in the wake of the Kelly Thomas murder in 2011.

It’s dark in here.

But wait. One of our Friends just noticed that the front page of the latest Observer includes an unexpected headline. The article seems to acknowledge the recent claims of corruption in city hall as asserted by the OC DA investigator Abraham Santos.

The piece discusses the facts of the claims against Dan Hughes and Joe Felz without the insertion of Kennedy’s usual dismissive editorial remarks. How could this happen? Is Kennedy turning over a new leaf?

No. This is the work of the Observer’s new co-editor, Jesse La Tour. How he managed to slip this honest piece of work past Kennedy, we may never know.

Enough Excuses, this Recall is Newman’s Own Fault

The Tax Bear Cometh

Here’s a thought experiment for you.

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.

Don’t think about the $1000 tax you shouldn’t have to pay. Think about the two bubble gum balls you could buy with this money instead.

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.

Can We Get A Refund For The Stairs?

It happened pretty quickly, just like a UFO sighting, and just as rare: a Fullerton councilperson suggesting accountability. But here you see Greg Sebourn raising the embarrassing subject of the lamentable Hillcrest Park “stairs to nowhere.”

If you’ve been paying attention, you know very well by now that these rickety looking wooden “exercise” stairs are a $1.6 million waste, a genuine Fullerton-type boondoggle that nobody outside City Hall wanted; a mess compounded by what can only be called substandard materials, workmanship and incompetent oversight – and that’s being charitable.

No, Greg, we cannot get a refund and good luck finding anybody to second a motion to do a full and complete audit of this project to find out how and why the whole thing went sideways so badly.

How the Newman Recall Could Kill the Gas Tax

Take a second and watch recall leader Carl DeMaio explain how recalling Josh Newman is the first step in a three stage plan to rescind the new car tax and fix California’s roads without new taxes.

To sum up his plan:

  1. Recall Newman and eliminate the 2/3rds Democratic majority in the state senate.
  2. Give legislature 30 days to rescind gas tax before additional recalls commence.
  3. Pass statewide initiative to commit existing tax dollars towards road repairs.

Now that’s pretty ambitious. But remember that this tax is just the first test case for the Democrats, who are working on other tax hikes as we speak. They’re now desperate to fill in the enormous financial gap left by the public pension crisis. Even just the elimination of Newman has the potential to stop the state from reaching back into our pockets over and over again.

The Dan Hughes Sense of Entitlement

Disney Danny.

City Hall did something really helpful this week.  The Clerk’s Office worked with Administrative Services to post very detailed budget documents online in advance of next Tuesday’s City Council budget workshop.  I asked if this could be done and they made it happen 24 hours later.  Thank you!

Budget detail of this depth has never been provided to the public.  This is a big step in the right direction, and likely never would have happened if Joe Felz was still in charge.

The files are posted here:  http://cityoffullerton.com/gov/departments/admin_serv/city_budget/2017_18_proposed_budget_information.asp

From this cache of documents, we are able to see the type of General Fund waste that Dan Hughes justified during his tenure as police chief.  The next time you call the Police Department and are told no officers are available to respond to a call for service, just remember where his priorities were.

Much of this is charitable and/or personal expenses.  Dan Hughes was Fullerton’s highest compensated employee in 2015 with $358,403 in wages and benefits.  He should have paid these expenses out of his own pocket, or simply not at all.

Let us not forget that it was the City Council — led by Fitzgerald, Flory, and Chaffee — that let him get away with shenanigans like this.

One can only hope the current City Council sees fit to finally end this nonsense.

Chaffee Relieves Self on SCAG

This fun clip has it all, drama, comedy and an anti-climactic bathos that can only come when plumbing the depths of political axle greasing. The topic? The Fullerton City Council choosing a delegate to attend the SCAG annual conference at a posh desert resort.

Right out of the gate, Councilman Doug “Bud” Chaffee assertively announces his disgust with SCAG and their staff, proclaiming his desire to withdraw from the regional planning operation altogether, and even wishing it would go out of business. This brief ejaculation elicits two surprised “wows” from our lobbyist-councilperson, Jennifer Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald has reason to be surprised – and worried. These sorts of footling conferences are designed to throw lobbyists and politicians together in a symbiotic clutch, all the while partying on our dime(s). It sure wouldn’t look good for SparkyFitz if Fullerton did pull out. Using organizations like SCAG to pull and persuade the strings of public policy is how people like her employer, Curt Pringle, make their well-compensated living.

Chaffee, to his credit sees SCAGus interuptus as a way to save the City $23,000 in annual dues. And, credit where credit is due. Greg Sebourn eventually seconds the idea of withdrawal from SCAG for the agenda, at which point Interim City Manager Roeder helpfully steps in to steer the ornery indians back onto the reservation. These types of memberships, says Roeder, will all be open for examination come budget time. Hmm. Well, we’ll see about that.

But Fitzgerald will not be diverted from the task at hand: she quickly announces that she is going out there “for work” anywaythus fulfilling the suspicion that for her the trip might be the unsavory act of somehow representing both her loathesome boss Curt Pringle, and the people of Fullerton at the same time.

In the meantime it may be a good idea to reconsider membership in other big government organizations that exist for the benefit of lobbyists, public employees and a liberal political agenda: the League of California Cities. And let’s not forget the Association of California Cities – OC, another useless lobby shop where our own Jennifer Fitzgerald holds exalted office.

The Rip Off

We have been asked by one of our Friends to publish the following post:

Now that our Legislature has passed the obscene Gas Tax, the usual liberal Democrat suspects have popped up to add their voices in high hosanna to the deed. Their script, as usual, is the old, tired mantra of affiliating more taxes with good government, as if the two things had more than a distant correlation. Generalities are the stock-in-trade of this crew. It’s too bad the opponents also tend to speak in generalities about the existing waste in government transportation planning and execution.

I’m going to talk about waste in government, too. But I am going to do it with specifics in near-future posts that will closely examine a “transportation” project that was planned entirely with earmarked transportation funds to demonstrate the crazy, almost obscene ways in which these funds were budgeted, and are being spent.

Does a single project represent a current state of affairs? Given the fact that the State and County governments are always “educating” us about their strict compliance with rules and regulations, and given the fact that the County Measure M extension, for instance, was sold with the idea of a rigorous auditing process complete with Oversight Committee, I am going to posit an affirmative answer to my question and challenge someone to prove me wrong. This should be easy if indeed I am wrong.

Held up by wishful thinking…

So what’s the project? Is it some distant, unknown pork boondoggle in some liberal, urban bastion? Ah, no. It is the ridiculously conceived, horrendously over budgeted and overstaffed, and seemingly bungled-out-of-the-gate elevator addition project at Fullerton’s own train station.

Fullerton Engineer

FFFF Fights City Hall for Release of Wild Ride Felz Communications

Here’s to secrecy…and to all my good ideas, too!

For several months FFFF has been stymied in our attempts to find out who talked to whom in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 when former City Manager Joe Felz drove off Glenwood Avenue, ran over a tree, and tried to motor off. Although he was stopped by the cops and smelled of liquor, calls were made and Felz got off scott free. For a while.

I’m not telling the truth and you can’t make me…

We want to know who had a hand in this dereliction of duty on the part of a police department that has become psychologically addicted to MADD DUI award ceremonies at council meetings. We want to know the role of former Chief Dan Hughes who admitted to communication with councilmembers; of then-mayor Jennifer Fitzgerald who claims to have no responsive documents although she has admitted to getting a call at 3 AM of the morning in question; of the ever-egregious Watch Commander on November 9th, Andrew Goodrich, whose frequent indifference to competent police work has been well-documented on these pages; of one Sergeant Corbett, who showed up at the scene and gave Felz the Breathalyzer pass so that no irrefutable evidence of Felz’s inebriation exists.

Standards were applied, all right. I should know, I’m in charge of the bureau!

Over the months we have been stonewalled by the excuse of phony police investigations, phony personnel investigations, by ridiculous reading of the law, and by the outright prevarications of Fitzgerald.

Now we’re going to try to get to the bottom of this: to find out who was behind the Felz Free Ride and the obvious creation of a double standard for drunk drivers in Fullerton. We have been advised brusquely by City Attorney employee and sex law specialist Gregory Palmer, Esq. that we have recourse. So we have engaged the services of an attorney, Kelly Aviles, to help us find out what the people in City Hall don’t want us to know.

Aviles is a California Public Records Act specialist who serves as litigation counsel for Californians Aware, an organization that helps journalists in the fight for government transparency. Aviles has represented several major news organizations in lawsuits to turn over unlawfully withheld public records.

Here is the first communication with City Attorney, Richard Jones. It probably won’t be the last.

Click to read (4 pages)

Will all this lead to a lawsuit? That depends on whether the City Attorney decides to obey the law; and perhaps on whether there are three councilmembers with any integrity.

Behind the Bullshit Goes Bye-Bye

We’re great guys. Or else…

Of all the money that former City Manager Wild Ride Joe Felz wasted during his shaky tenure, nothing was quite as egregious as the annual fifty grand Stumblejoe blew on Behind the Badge, a silly, pointless PR outlet that passed along empty feel-good tales involving Fullerton cops. No one knows if anyone even bothered reading this pabulum. The idea of us taxpayers actually forking over this dough in order to be administered unhealthy doses of saccharine PR back at us was bad enough. The fact that this policy decision was made, maintained and mismanaged by a bureaucrat made it worse.

Fortunately, last Tuesday, the City pulled the plug. City staff teed up the item as a cut – unless three councilmembers voted to save it. They didn’t. Here’s the video.

Of course cop supported candidates Bud Chaffee and Jesus Silva thought the whole idea was just peachy. Predictably, Jennifer Fitzgerald seemed to be going along. Bruce Whitaker and Greg Sebourn opposed wasting any more on this crap. Sebourn correctly pointed out that the cop union, having plenty of money to stick its snout in Fullerton politics, can easily afford to promote the good deeds of its membership.

Whatever changed Jennifer Fitzgerald’s mind to drop support for this ridiculous concept that has cost us $200,000 in the past four years remains a mystery, but she suddenly did a 180. Hopefully FFFF had something to do with the sudden shift to fiscal responsibility.

In the end the self-serving BS rhetoric of Chaffee and the feeble gibberish of Silva amounted to nothing and the council unanimously went along with the proposed package of cuts that included Behind the Badge.

Rest assured, Friends, FFFF will be following up with a Public Records Act request to get a copy of the termination notice.