Last week the Voice of OC published an opinion piece by a gentleman named Ed Bargas. Mr. Bargas is head of the civilian employee union in Fullerton, and if he wrote this drivel, then I’m the Pope.
You can read about how Bargas believes Fullerton is at a crossroads – meaning that the City leaders must choose between the welfare of his union members and the citizenry at large. Of course he doesn’t put it like that. He complains that the City Council is embracing the conservatism of the ’80s in which government is viewed with suspicion, even hostility. To this all I can suggest to Mr. Bargas is to read the pages of this blog, and after reviewing the litany of incompetence, corruption and cover-ups, reconsider whether or not suspicion, even hostility is justified.
Bargas makes the mistake of starting of his long list of threatened city functions with public safety, forgetting to remind his readers that it is the very public safety pensions laid out by supine politicians like Ahmad Zahra and Jesus Silva & Co. that have brought financial crisis to Fullerton.
Of course the Big Problem is lack of revenue, and Mr. Bargas was no doubt a cheerleader for the ill-fated Measure S on last November’s ballot that went down in flames, falling victim to honesty and common sense. Maybe he thinks that somehow the new majority of responsible councilmembers can be persuaded to try that scam again. Well good luck with that.
An item on last week’s Closed Session council meeting just caught my eye. The item identified the southeast corner of Pomona Avenue and Santa Fe, location of the previously discussed “boutique” hotel proposal. I last reported it here, when the Council voted 4-1 to let the unsolicited, single proposal issue get a time extension. As usual the lone no vote came from Bruce Whitaker. The July 6th item just says “terms and price” so that it can be hidden behind the Brown Act exemption.
When the City Attorney emerged he declared that this harebrained idea was moving ahead on a 3-2 vote to authorize a Letter of Intent to approve a development agreement. Hmm. We know that Jesus Quirk Silva would go for it. After all, he already changed his vote once to move this along – way back in December of 2018 as a parting gift to Doug “Bud” Chaffee. And Ahmad Zahra is always a reliable vote to support some stupid government giveaway or overreach.
So that leaves councilmen Nick Dunlap, Fred Jung and the aforementioned Whitaker. It is really hard to believe that Whitaker would suddenly change course 180 degrees from a previous commonsense, conservative position. Dunlap and Jung have so far shown unusual sales resistance when it comes to ridiculous bullshit so it’s hard to see either one going for this. But obviously, one of the three did. Who was it, and why? We were not told by the City Attorney and the minutes do not include such potentially embarrassing things.
And this will be a giveaway. You and I own that parcel of land that is currently providing popular parking for Transportation Center commuters. What is the land truly worth? If the Council continues on this reckless course to support a massive public subsidy to for an idea that has no basis in market demand, we may never know.
The days of the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency writing checks to fly-by-night developers, scammers, and other corporate welfare queens is over; but the so-called Successor Agency is perfectly capable of handing over real estate and getting nothing in return. And that looks likely to happen as the story of Fullerton’s unsolicited boutique hotel lurches forward.
The Florentine Mob may be gone; the douchebag Jeremy Popoff has popped off somewhere; but the battlefield known as Downtown Fullerton – created and nurtured by our own government is still in fine form. And by fine form, I mean gunfire.
The FPD has announced that it has apprehended one of our stand up DTF patrons who allegedly fired shots a the JP23 “restaurant” following an altercation therein.
Somebody got shot. Here’s part of the cop’s statement (self-congratulatory bullshit omitted):
On Tuesday, July 6, 2021, at approximately 1:03 AM, Fullerton Police Officers responded to 101 S. Harbor Boulevard, JP23 Urban Kitchen and Bar, regarding a subject who had been shot.
Upon arrival, Officers located a 24-year-old male with a single gunshot wound. Officers immediately rendered aid to the victim, and he was transported to a local trauma center. It was determined the gunshot wound was not life-threatening and the victim was expected to survive.
So once again the establishment known as JP23 finds itself in the middle of crime, although most of the crime at this place comes from the refusal of the owner to obey the Fullerton Municipal Code and his own Conditional Use Permit.
Oh, well. I guess there’s a certain amount of psychological reassurance that some things just don’t change. And mayhem in Downtown Fullerton appears to be one of them.
Fullerton has a long and sordid history of City Council making stupid moves and putting personal animus and self-interest above what’s best for the City and it’s residents but this week they’re just insulting us taxpayers.
You see, at the last council meeting a majority of the Council voted to approve a budget with a glaring $10 Million hole in it. That’s right – the budget is in the red and terribly so. We’re broke largely because we’ve been systematically defunded by the Police and Fire Unions over the years abetted by an indebted City Council Majority who can never make hard decisions, do real math or plan ahead for the future.
The current Council has no idea how they’re going to make up this budget deficit or where the money is going to come from to pay the ever increasing union pay and benefits packages they can never deny.
So this week what’s on the agenda? What are the brass tacks they’re going to get down to? What are the hard choices they’re prepared to make in light of our financial woes? Where oh where must the cutting begin?
Somewhere else at some later date. Instead of cutting, the council is instead going to vote on spending – specifically spending for themselves.
That’s right. Self-interest is the item of the day. They’re going to vote on wether or not they should spend $75,000 to give themselves offices on the third floor of City Hall.
You heard that correctly. Just one meeting after admitting they have no idea how to balance our budget they want to reward themselves with new offices for all of their hard work.
This is a level of self-entitlement and tone-deafness that should be unimaginable from true “public servants”. This is nothing less than arrogance of the highest order.
Over the next few years you’re going to be asked to give up more in services, to pay more in fees and taxes and to take it on the chin because of our financial dire straights. Dire straights we were put in BY our bought and paid for City Councils.
Over those next few years Council and their allies will likely be trying to sell you on all of the financial hardships we face as a city – of course right after taking meetings with developers and lobbyists from their swanky new offices they prioritized over balancing the budget because, well, screw you.
I hope they at least have the decency to play the fiddle from up there on the third floor while they watch Fullerton burn but I doubt they’d even give us that much respect.
Who is Eddie Manfro? I asked myself the other day. Name sounds familiar.
See, I had seen the name pop up on a Fullerton City Council agenda as somebody who was involved as a participant, along with our former City Manager, Ken Domer, in carrying on labor negotiations with the City’s labor unions.
Hmm. Where had I heard that name before? Then it hit me. He’s the former City Manager of Westminster, who quit last year to become some sort of “human resources” expert whose supposed abilities were now for sale. Apparently Ken Domer was in the market for Manfro’s “expertise.” If the thought of a couple of bungling bureaucrats negotiating on your behalf makes you a little uneasey, well…but, I digress.
Here’s why I remember Eddie Manfro: he’s the City Manager who willingly participated in the Dick Jones scam in Westminster, where our ethically plugged-up City Attorney pretended to be a city employee to qualify for the CalPERS pension system and even went so far as to submit fraudulent time cards to line up with the sham. I believe these are all crimes.
And Eddie Manfro went along with the scam; and now, surprise, he is getting work from another agency in Dick Joneses stable of fine municipalities.
How did Eddie acquire this gig, that’s what I would like to know. And when for God’s freaking sake is Fullerton’s City Council finally going get rid of the incompetent, corrupt, and utterly self-serving, the Dickensianly awful, the I Can’t Believe It’s a Law Firm® of Jones and Mayer?
Most readers of this blog are well aware of the recent settlement between the City of Fullerton, FFFF, Joshua Ferguson, and myself.
Joshua did a great job explaining various aspects of our lawsuit in a video, and why we settled. I encourage you to watch if you haven’t already. Until now, I’ve been pretty quiet about this lawsuit and haven’t said much. In an effort to clear our names, I’d like to dispute some of the City’s claims and share new information you might find interesting.
This is what the City’s Dropbox account looked like.
Typing www.cityoffullerton.com/outbox into a web browser redirected anybody to this open and unsecured Dropbox account. The City went out of their way to disable security controls to make it possible for all users to see all files.
Notice some of the files have our last names, Curlee and Ferguson, in the file name itself. Who wouldn’t download a file named for you?
Yesterday, in a special meeting, the City of Fullerton officially bowed to the inevitable and settled its retaliatory lawsuit against Joshua Ferguson, David Curlee, and this blog. The vote was 3-2 with Bruce Whitaker, Nick Dunlap and Fred Jung voting to end the bloodletting. Jesus Quirk Silva and Ahmad Zahra, who started the lawsuit and have stubbornly kept it alive, voted no. Whether they were laboring under the sunk cost fallacy or if it was simply a childish aversion to admitting their own culpability in the mess, will never be known.
It doesn’t happen very often that honest citizens can prevail against their government. In fact it almost never happens – a tribute to the tenacity of the courageous FFFF bloggers and their attorney, Kelly Aviles.
After a year and a half of lies, defamation, obstruction, incompetence, buffoonery, temporizing, more lying and running up huge legal bills the City has given up. Here are the main points:
$60,000 in compensatory damages to Ferguson and Curlee;
A public statement absolving Ferguson and Curlee of any culpability;
Legal fees for Kelly Aviles amounting to $230,000.
The winners here are justice (deliberately stalled, to be sure) and journalistic freedom against prior restraint; and, of course, any people who want to be able to get information that their own government is legally obligated to provide.
The losers, once again, are the taxpayers of Fullerton who are on the hook for $350,000 plus how ever much the legal team of Jones and Mayer have racked up – a sum estimated to be approaching $500,000.
Well, Friends, you can add as well as I can. At least three quarters of a million bucks to pursue this hare-brained retaliation against bloggers whose only desire was to get information from their own city government.
And so it is particularly amusing to consider the stammering, babbling statement from Jesus Quirk Silva that he was voting against the settlement because of his “fiduciary responsibility” to the people of Fullerton.
Too bad the other two vindictive and profligate architects of this disaster have conveniently exited from our political stage: Jan Flory has resubmerged herself into whatever nasty swamp will have her; and our former influence peddling Mayor-for-hire, Jennifer Fitzgerald, is fleeing the state entirely, having feasted on the Fullerton carcass until there was no more meat on the bones.
You have to hand it to government bureaucracies. They never give up on stupid ideas. But why should they? With all the time in world, huge amounts of money given to them by others, and with zero accountability, what is there for them to lose?
Specifically, I am talking about an item on the May 4th Agenda, dutifully approved by the City Council, to take $1.8 million in State grant money and $330,000 in Fullerton park money to design and build what they are pleased to call The Union Pacific Trail, Phase II.
Of course we all know that Phase I was a total waste of money – a weird “equestrian trail” (complete with pony railing) that has never seen a horse, that was attached to the poisoned and fenced off UP Park that dies a merciful death at Highland Avenue.
Our crack Deputy Parks Director, some person named Alice Loya pitched the item to a less than bedazzled Council, making sure to point out that the area was disadvantaged, an irony certainly lost on City bureaucrats whose job it has been to un-disadvantage this neighborhood over the past 50 years.
Let me share a paragraph from the staff report, that, as usual, is so full of lies to rationalize the scheme that one wonders if the City staff would ever pursue this nonsense if they had to use City funds to pay for it:
The proposed project will transform an existing 50 to 80 foot wide, blighted corridor into a greenbelt trail providing alternate transportation, linking the Transportation Center and several parks, including Independence Park at its terminus. This proposed trail aligns with the Hunt Branch Library to the west, providing potential future linkages. The total cost of the project is estimated at $2.1 million.
Lie Number One: Alternative transportation? What the Hell does that even mean? Walking?
Lie Number Two: the trail would not link anything to the Transportation Center since it would terminate at a narrow sidewalk behind the Ice House that includes a 90 degree turn. And of course just a week ago, or so, our very same staff tried to sneak through an idiot scheme to cut off the UP right-of-way completely with their private event center on the Poisoned Park site.
Lie Number Three: the proposed extension does not link “several” parks. It would indeed terminate at the Independence Park parking lot but the only other “park” it would touch is the fenced off Poisoned Park that nobody even wants.
Almost as good as a lie Number Four: the proposed trail would be virtually impossible to link to the “aligned” Hunt Branch Library, nearly a mile away, because gosh darn it, the rail siding is still being used by…the railroad. But what the Hell let’s throw out the chimera of “connectivity” to fool the dopes on the City Council, right? It’s always worked just fine in the past.
Almost as good as a lie Number Five: when has the City ever built anything on time and on budget? That proposed cost would sky rocket, of course, as Fullerton’s army of staff, consultants, and design professionals hump the “greenbelt” into submission. Remember the wooden steps at Hillcrest Park and the elevator-from-Hell at the Depot?
But what wasn’t said was much more important than the propaganda ink spilled to promote this idiocy:nobody will use this “trail” since it passes through sketchy industrial zoned property, completely empty at night, and would remain, just like it is now, an attractive nuisance that the taxpayers will be on the hook to maintain out of the General Fund.
On the bright side, members of the new Council commonsense majority pointed out that Staff was already devising a top-secret Specific Plan for the area, and gee, wouldn’t it make sense not to piecemeal things like Planning Director Matt Foulkes tried to do on the ill-fated aquaponic farm/event center? They did treat the item as still very provisional, but FFFF knows better – we know that government money once available, will be spent, most likely on something nobody outside City Hall wants.
Naturally, Councilman-in-search-of-camera-opportunity, Ahmad Zahra scrounged up some of his usual misguided acolytes to beat the drum for this utter waste of $2.1 million bucks. After all, this project would be mostly paid for with “free money” of the sort “progressives” love to accept, then waste. We need look no further than the $1,000000 Core and Corridors Specific Plan, paid for by the State Sustainability Commission, that was quietly abandoned, never to see the light of day. And ironically, the old UP Right of Way passes right through the middle of two of the C&C Specific Plan Areas, suggesting to me, at lest, that the City is not, and never has been interested in the well-being of the part of Fullerton accept as something to play with.
Last Tuesday the Fullerton City Council majority finally got sick and tired enough with their hapless City Manager to tell him to take a hike. The votes to oust Ken Domer came from Bruce Whitaker, Nick Dunlap and Fred Jung.
Insiders are suggesting that his temporary replacement will be none other than Police Chief Robert Dunn.
The Council is meeting Tuesday to discuss a replacement appointment.
And when you think about it, the only real question is why it took so long.
By any measurable standards, Ken Domer was not very good at his job. He took too long to address the City’s structural budget deficits, and when he did, his solution was to raise sales taxes – taxes not even aimed at our horrible infrastructure.
Under Domer we saw the deliberate ignoring of noise code violation enforcement and the effort to dilute the relevant codes. We saw the the aiding and abetting of a permit applicant who forged official planning documents. We saw idiotic and unsupervised vanity construction projects. We saw stupid things like the recently killed “aquaponics farm” and the connivance required to begin a Specific Plan without any input from the community or even the City Council.
We saw a string of “consultants” hired out of the blue to perform tasks that Domer and his highly paid staff should have been able to do in their sleep.
Why the underqualified Domer was ever hired in the first place will probably always remain a mystery, except that it makes perfect sense that Jennifer Fitzgerald, our former Mayor-for-hire, wanted someone who would reliably do what she wanted without asking any embarrassing questions.
Along with walking legal catastrophe, Dick Jones, Domer was certainly complicit in the vindictive lawsuit waged by the City against FFFF bloggers, a disastrous strategy that will cost the tax-payers plenty.
But it was the ill-fated and duplicitous Measure S sales tax scam that really iced the cake. It was designed as a rescue for the pay and pensions of Fullerton’s full-time public employees, who, during the pandemic, have continued to enjoy pay and benefits while many of Fullerton’s residents and business were suffering the cruelty of a real world unprotected by the largesse dispensed by government union-friendly politicians.
Well, Domer is gone, but it would be a waste of time and tears to mourn his departure. He is getting a month’s pay and benefits up front worth $25,000. And then he will begetting 9 months’ pay and benefits courtesy of a contract extension granted just two month before last November’s election by Fitzgerald and her council cronies Ahmad Zahra, Jan Flory, and Jesus Silva. That’s another $25,000. Per month. And the bonanza of Domer’s pension spike in Fullerton will be a cost borne by all of us for a long, long time.
The people of Fullerton have been awful good to the Domer family.
An institution, namely our City Council, that has been moribund/and, or corrupt and cowardly for at least 40 years has finally sprouted a few darling buds, raising hopes that our future is no longer simply a matter of waiting for mental and moral entropy to render our city into a puddle of putrification.
Well, what happened? you ask. Last night the City Council pronounced a loud no to bureaucracy- driven nonsense. Let me explain.
Yesterday evening the Council took up the matter, again, of extending an “Exclusive Negotiating Agreement” or ENR, with some guy who wanted to put a non-profit aquaponic farm on the site of our embarrassingly fenced off Union Pacific Park on Truslow Avenue. The biggest trouble (among many) was that this type of venture is thoroughly dependent upon the financial kindness of strangers and can’t possibly sustain itself.
No problem there! said our Planning Director and incoherent word salad shooter, Matt Foulkes. The aquaponic farm shall be surrounded by a fence and a hedge, and a private event center to pay for it all! In true staff fashion a last minute “letter of intent” from an event coordinator was offered up yesterday afternoon to show the marvelous potential of converting a park into a private facility – open now and then to the public – at the convenience of the operator.
Councilman Ahmad Zahra was in fine fettle – drumming up a handful of forlornly ignorant boosters; and his hapless colleague Jesus Silva stammered and stuttered support for this nonsense as well as his limited ability permits. He moved for an extension of the agreement
But then the fun started: several speakers pointed out both the idiocy of making a deal with a single, impecunious guy. Other pointed out the hypocrisy and nonsense of permitting an event facility that has no parking.
Mayor Bruce Whitaker cogently and patiently explained his rationale for offering a substitute motion to end the deal then and there: the park is part of a much larger Specific Plan area being developed (behind closed doors) and it made no sense to pursue piecemeal development with a single individual on the 1.7 acre site.
Councilman Nick Dunlap echoed that idea and observed, kindly, that the aquaponic guy already had 18 months to work something out with nothing to show for it. Like Whitaker he suggested an RFP process to determine ideas for the site.
Finally Councilman Fred Jung unloaded on the hot mess, decrying the City’s inability to address the park over the years and the arrogance of city staff thinking it could determine what was best for “the community.”
In the end Whitaker’s substitute motion carried the day 3-2 with Zahra and Silva trying desperately to defend the honor, competence and integrity of a planning staff that hasn’t got any of those qualities.