The other day FFFF noticed a gentleman who was actually an active bicycle user of the City’s much-vaunted recreation trail through the industrial wasteland of central Fullerton. In fact, this fellow has two bikes!
This poor chap seems harmless enough, but guy’s presence once again raises the several issues regarding the proposed $2,000,000 trail, mostly about safety and maintenance, but also about the homeless problem that has plagued the City’s Union Pacific right-of-way for two decades and actually helped close the dead Union Pacific Park years, and years ago. Potential users, even if there were any identified beyond the insane projection of 105,000 per year, would surely think twice about the neighborhood and the company they would be keeping whilst recreating on the Trail to Nowhere.
No one in City Hall, not staff, and not the incurious City Council who unanimously approved this waste of money, explained why the fate of the UP Park won’t also be visited upon the Trail to Nowhere. The physical conditions still appertain and the existence of the homeless and the Fullerton Toker’s Town gang is as prevalent as ever.
You would think that no one would want their fingerprints on this new disaster-in-waiting, but there seems to be the understanding that in Fullerton all you have to do is wait for a year or two and all past sins will be forgotten if not forgiven. This is called no-fault government, and man, we got it bad.
The City of Fullerton Parks Department wanted a bike trail from The abandoned UP Park to Independence Park – a mere three quarters of a mile a way. They had an ally in D5 councilmember Ahmad Zahra who was desperate to be seen giving something to his “poor,” Latino constituents; whether they wanted it or not was irrelevant. And of course we now know that the Fullerton Observer, an operation that pretends to be a news outlet was (and still is) busy stirring up support for the silly and expensive idea, even after the council majority voted it down.
All of these bad actors had reasons for wasting $2,000,000, and none of them were good.
Thanks to good Friend D. Johnson, we also now know something else: that none of these self-interested people – disingenuous or just plain ignorant – told anybody is that there already is a designated bicycle route from the south side of the Santa Fe railroad tracks at the Depot that follows Walnut Avenue and turns south on Richman to Valencia Avenue, and that this bike route, should anybody want to use it, goes to the front of Independence park, not the hidden back corner.
Hard to believe that the existence of this bike route was never mentioned by anybody, but we’re talking about the Fullerton Parks Department that has a long history of deliberately omitting facts, misleading the council and the public, and has resorted to outright peddling of lies to get what it wants from our feckless councils. It was this department (in conjunction with the Planning Department) that ignored the council’s request for a broader vision for the land adjacent to the UP right-of-way.
It would be more than a bit embarrassing to acknowledge an existing bike route just 200 feet or so from their proposal and running parallel to it! So of course they didn’t.
And the existing route – with a little paint striping – can be easily upgraded and the people of California will be $1,780,000 better off; and the people of Fullerton will be $300,000 better off in capital costs plus who knows how much in maintenance and water costs. And any and all bike riders who wish to make the tour through this industrial neighborhood can do so at their convenience and leisure.
Which brings me to the conclusion of this story by noting that people who work along the Walnut/Richman route inform me me that they don’t recall seeing a lot, if any bicyclists along this route. And this may very well be because nobody wants to go that way – despite its connectivity to the bike route on Valencia. There is a mind-set among top-down liberal circles that if you build something for the underserved, people will, must use it, despite decades of evidence to the contrary. The idea that demand might well encourage supply is a completely alien notion to them.
It’s a sad fact that local politicians usually have no qualms about spending money from off-budget sources – like State and Federal grants to do this or that uber-important thing. And these things don’t really undergo much scrutiny at all because the money the locality gets, if it finds itself awarded such a grant, isn’t competing with other municipal needs. And, better still, the awarding agency very often has no interest in seeing how successful the grant actually was. See, this requires a rear-view mirror, which the government go-carts just don’t have.
This topic came to light during discussion of the ill-fated “Trail to Nowhere” that was going to built with almost $2,000,000 bucks raised from some State of California bond rip-off or other. We heard from the drummed up “community” that the money had been awarded, so better take it; these people being not at all concerned that just maybe the money could be better spent on a project elsewhere. And let’s not worry about the fact that nobody will be responsible for the failure of the scheme.
Which brings me to Fullerton’s history of grant money, utterly wasted, and with absolutely no accountability. Specifically I am referring to the long-lost Core and Corridors Specific Plan. I wrote about it seven years ago, here.
Back in 2013 or so, the City of Fullerton received a million dollars from Jerry Brown’s half-baked Strategic Growth Council to develop a specific plan that would sprawl over a lot of Fullerton, offering by-right development for high-density housing along Fullerton’s main streets – a social engineering plan that would have drastically changed the character of the city. The reasons for the entire project’s eventual disappearance off the face of the Earth are not really important anymore. What is important is that the grant money – coming from Proposition 84 (a water-related referendum!) was completely and utterly wasted.
A page on the City’s website dedicated to the Core and Corridors Specific Plan had quietly vanished by 2017, never to be heard of again.
The lesson, of course is that Other People’s Money causes public officials – the elected and the bureaucratic – to take a whole other attitude toward spending on stuff than it does if the proposed projects were competing with General Fund-related costs – like the all-important salaries and benefits; or competing for Capital Improvement Fund projects that people actually expect a city to pursue. And it’s very rare indeed for a city council, like ours, to realize that grant money can be misused and actually wasted.
And so I salute Messrs. Dunlap, Whitaker and Jung for voting to return the Trail to Nowhere grant money – an act of true fiscal and moral responsibility.
You are excused for not knowing a goddamn thing about SCAG – the Southern California Association of Governments. There’s a good reason for this. SCAG operates as a completely opaque government entity; it is run by public employees, for public employees with no accountability to anybody. Its reason for existence is to promote whatever the latest liberal idea de jour happens to be.
And right now, the idea de jour is housing units. Lots and lots of housing units. In fact, in SCAG’s humble opinion…er…a, I mean expert opinion, Fullerton needs 13,000 new housing units, a notion, if executed would complete the destruction of our already overburdened infrastructure and increase our current population by 33%.
“Well, okay, Joe,” I can hear you saying. “So what?”
Here’s what: SCAG creates what is known as Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) concocted by who knows who, and that assumes the temerity to tell cities how they are deficient in their provision of housing for po’ folks.
“Well, okay, Joe,” I can hear you saying. “So what?”
Here’s what: the State of California Housing and Development Department, another bureaucratic godzilla, is becoming militant in making cities comply with some sort of plan to accommodate these idiot quotas – or else.
And although the circle hasn’t yet closed, the arc is extending: there are special-interest groups, allied with developers who are mining the opportunity to exploit the bureaucratic trend for fun and profit. The consequence that matter to you and me don’t concern them in the least.
Last night’s City Council hearing on moving ahead with a marijuana ordinance produced the usual incoherent blather from our distinguished electeds, none of whom seemed to know what they were talking about, and two, in particular, who seemed to have been coached by representatives of the legal pot lobby. Of course we learned that the previous outreach didn’t reach anybody not looking to make a buck in the weed biz.
Somehow in its latest incarnation, staff’s proposed framework for allowing these uses, particularly dispensaries. reduced the “buffer zone” at schools and parks from 1000 feet to only 600, and eliminated the buffer for residential zones altogether. Why? Pretty obviously to increase the opportunities for locating dispensaries.
Councilmembers Zahra and Silva, who gave every appearance of repeating “consultant” talking points expressed concern that workers in these places be unionized and that to proceeds go to kiddie social programs, but they were more interested in increasing parcels available for development than they were about the impacts on residential neighbors. The bumbling Silva in particular made a big deal about having most permissible zoning in order that the burden of hosting these facilities would be shared by rich folks up in the hills, an idiotic pretext since a majority of the council spent a good deal of time extolling the virtues and minimal impacts of licensed shops.
Councilmembers Whitaker, Flory and Fitzgerald indicated their desire for a 1000 foot buffer, and the inclusion of residential use as a “sensitive receptor” requiring a buffer. So good for them. However, Fitzgerald and Whitaker both voted against going forward with more “outreach” and a future ordinance anyhow, meaning that either Zahra, Silva or Flory somebody is going to have to change their support for a residental buffer, ultimately, in a final ordinance. I leave it to the Friends to guess who that might be. On the other hand it’s hard to see how this can make it back to the Council before the election and both Flory and Fitzgerald will be gone, meaning that we may get lucky in Districts 1 and 2 and get a level-headed council majority who can make a decision that isn’t bogged down by fake concern, verbal gas, and union stoogery.
Kind Readers, every once in a while we receive an essay one of the Friends wishes to us to publish. In this instance Mr. George Jacobson has written a piece objecting to the proposed gigantic school bonds that the educrats at the FSD and FJUHS districts have smuggled onto the March ballot with virtually no public notice.
The vote on the second reading of the FSD Resolution that included language changes, was actually taken December 10th, a mere three days before the ballot opposition statement filing deadline and seven days after their Notice of Intent was filed. Well, let’s hear from Mr. Jacobson:
ZOMBIE SCHOOL BOND MEASURES TERRORIZE FULLERTON VOTERS
by George Jacobson
They are coming after us, with their ravenous appetites. Yes, the Fullerton Union High School District (FUHSD) has placed on the March 3rd Presidential Primary ballot a very large property tax bond measure that will require every homeowner and property owner in the district to pay $30 per $100,000 assessed valuation. So, for example, if you live in a house that has a $500,000 assessed valuation, you will pay an extra $150/year in taxes to the high school district. But wait, it gets worse. Not to be outdone, the Fullerton Elementary School District (FSD) is also placing on the March 3rd ballot their own very large property tax bond measure, which also will require every homeowner and property owner living within the elementary school district’s boundary to pay an additional $30 per $100,000 assessed valuation. What this means is that if both bond measures—Measure J and Measure K—pass, and if you live in a home that’s assessed at $500,000, you will pay an extra $300annually in property taxes. Both Measure J and Measure K are by far the most expensive local school bonds to ever appear on the ballot in Fullerton!
Just like zombies, these two school districts keep coming back for more and more of your money, not waiting for bonds that they already got passed to be paid off. As you may recall, in 2014 the high school district fooled enough people to get their $175 million Measure I bond measure passed (it just barely passed, receiving a 56% “yes” vote; anything less than 55% “yes” and the bond measure would have lost). You may also recall the mailers urging a “Yes” vote that voters received claimed that the $175 million would be spent on educating and training FUHSD students for “jobs for the 21st Century.”
Now, a 21st Century job is usually one that is thought to encompass the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. And, for one to be successful and employable for such occupations, one needs to possess a solid background and understanding of math. So, let’s look at how FUHSD math students have performed since the $175 million Measure I bond passed in 2014. At the end of each year 11th graders (juniors) in all the district’s schools are administered the state test—California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP). In 2015 at Fullerton Union High School 63% of the juniors did NOT meet the CAASPP grade level standard for Math. One would think that by 2018 the $175 million of Measure I bond money should have produced significant improvement in these students’ math scores. But, in fact, the students did worse! In 2018 67% of FUHS students did NOT meet the CAASPP grade level standard in Math. Shockingly, this worsening trend was the same at all the other FUHSD schools. Buena Park High: 76% in 2015, then 79% in 2018 not meeting the grade level standard for Math. La Habra High: 58% in 2015, then 67% in 2018. Sonora High: 55% in 2015, then 58% in 2018. Sunny Hills High: 40% in 2015, then 45.5% in 2018.
How could such a horrible worsening of the math scores occur, given that FUHSD’s top priority in 2014 was supposedly to train and educate district students for jobs for the 21st Century? A clue can be found in looking at what the district really spent the $175 million on. It turns out that FUHSD actually spent most of the $175 million on the following: a new theater at La Habra High, new stadiums at La Habra HS, Buena Park HS, and Fullerton HS, new swimming pools at Sunny Hills HS and Troy HS, and a new gymnasium at Sonora High. An actor, football player, and swimmer is not a 21st Century job! As for FSD, its students’ test scores also make for grim reading. For example, in 2018 the median English/Language Arts score on the CAASPP test was 51% of FSD students NOT meeting the grade level standard, with 6 FSD schools reporting 60% or more of its students not meeting the CAASPP grade level standard for English/Language Arts.
The Measure I 2014 property tax bond costs homeowners $19 per $100,000 assessed valuation, and is not paid off until 2039. Already a person living in a home that’s assessed at $500,000 is paying $95 annually in property taxes to the high school district. And, this same homeowner is already paying annual property taxes on the elementary school district’s Measure CC bond, which passed in 2002 and isn’t paid off until 2027. Plus, this homeowner is already paying on not just one, but two bonds that the college district (North Orange County Community College District—NOCCCD) got passed. In 2002 NOCCCD’s $239 million Measure X bond passed, and in 2014 so did NOCCCD’s $574 million Measure J bond. These two NOCCCD bonds cost $120 annually for a homeowner living in a house assessed at $500,000. When one adds up all the taxes that one is currently paying to FUHSD, FSD, and NOCCCD, if the two new bond measures that will appear on the March 3rd ballot are passed, one living in a house assessed at $500,000 will pay just to these three education districts $590!
There was a time when school districts lived within their means. If they issued a bond, they would pay it off over the bond’s 25-year period, and only after the bond was paid off would the school board then consider asking the voters to approve a new bond proposal. Clearly, those days are over in Fullerton. If the high school and elementary school districts fool enough voters to get their latest huge property tax increase bonds approved this March 3rd, what is to stop them and the college district from coming back again in 4 or 5 years with yet another bond measure? Remember, zombies keep coming back for more.
A Friend just forwarded me a press release from Josh Newman’s campaign to get back his old job – the one he got recalled from after gas taxing his constituents, rich and poor alike, in order to support the State’s featherbedded transportation bureaucracy and infrastructure lobbyists.
The gas tax was nothing other than a free-up of state resources to help support the ridiculous High Speed Rail boondoggle that has made Californias a laughing stock.
And right on cue, these same special interests have rewarded Newman with their endorsements.
ORANGE COUNTY, CA — In another indication of his wide-ranging support from working men and women in the rematch race to represent California’s 29th State Senate District, today U.S. Army veteran, businessman and former State Senator Josh Newman secured endorsements from Ironworkers Local 433 and the Professional Engineers in California Government.
Both unions released statements following the announced endorsements:
“Courage, integrity and doing the right thing matters. That’s why we’re pleased to give Josh Newman our enthusiastic support in his 2020 rematch campaign. Josh is a political rarity – in the face of adversity – he bravely stood up for the people and did the right thing time and again. We know Josh will be a fierce and outspoken leader for working families and a pro-middle class agenda in the State Senate. We look forward to helping him win this race.” -Ironworkers Local 433 Business Agent Paul Moreno
“The Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG) is pleased to announce our endorsement of Josh Newman for State Senate District 29. Josh has worked to create and protect good-paying jobs; invest in infrastructure, and education; safeguard collective bargaining, organizing in the workplace and retirement benefits; expand access to healthcare; and all the while, grow and strengthen our middle-class economy. We support Josh Newman for Senate because we support fierce defenders of our working families.” -Professional Engineers in California Government President Cathrina Barros
The signal is loud and clear: Newman supports bureaucrats and boondoggles above the public – so much so that he was and will be willing to load the burden of regressive taxes on the very constituents the liberal Democrats are always bleating so loudly about – poor minority folks.
What’s going on over at the Fullerton Arboretum? Well, it’s pretty clear: a bunch of State educrats and planners have their eyes on expanding the CSUF campus into the Arboretum grounds. Why? Because they can.
At April 10, 2019 open houses, these worthies finally unveiled their “concepts,” “placeholders” and other thin end of the wedge lingo that means construction of some sort is coming. The on-line story in The Fullerton Observer by Jesse Latour gives an excellent summary of what happened – along with the recital of the poor planning effort the planners put in to holding their own meeting. The staff drones and their flunky “consultant” obviously didn’t count on the horde that showed up to almost unanimously oppose any encroachment on the Arboretum grounds, and to point out, correctly, that the place had been overwhelmingly described as people’s favorite place at the university.
As might have been expected, lie and dissimulation, and outright refusal to answer straight questions were piled one on top of one another into a classic bureaucratic dung heap. But one thing emerged in pellucid light: the people that run the university want to build something, maybe anything, within the confines of the existing Arboretum. All three “conceptual” scenarios include new buildings on the grounds that are not wanted or needed by the people who run the Arboretum. And those of us who know how these incremental approvals work know that the die is already cast.
Unfortunately, the good folk who showed up for this phony pow-wow don’t understand that as local citizens they have virtually no power to effect a stop to whatever the Cal State University system and its Chancellor in Long Beach authorize. This is particularly true since Fullerton’s Redevelopment Successor Agency seems to be pulling out of its long-standing cooperative agreement with the university. Back in the late 70s, the City actually paid to help establish the Arboretum. Does anybody in City Hall care? There is certainly no revenue to be squeezed from it.
Two years ago FFFF ran a series of posts based on the observations of “Fullerton Engineer” about the ludicrous elevators addition to the existing bridge at the Depot. Nobody wanted this project except for city staff and only because the dime was somebody else’s. And so a strange bureaucratic odyssey began with fits and starts of activity to waste $4,000,000 of transit money doled out by distant agencies. Then in 2017 the monster was shocked back to life with an infusion of $600,000 of Fullerton’s own cash. Ouch. Let’s let our Friend, Fullerton Engineer take it from here:
It appears as if the depot elevator project is grinding to a conclusion: the elevator foundations and steel are finally done and the traction elevators are almost complete. Are congratulations in order? Not quite, although I suspect there will be a victory celebration and ribbon cutting and back-pats all around when the City Council takes its first expensive elevator ride.
A construction sequence that should have taken perhaps seven months has dragged on for two years.That’s right – two years. No one in charge seems to have offered any explanation, probably because no one in authority has ever asked for any. As I noted in the spring of 2017, the request for more money was shrouded in double talk and obscurantism. Somebody was hiding something.
Over the past two years as I have driven by the site it was more likely that I saw no one working as when I did. So what were all those people who were being paid, and well paid, to oversee this fiasco doing? Who knows? Have delay claim change orders ever been processed? Have they been rejected? Is a lawsuit coming or is it just going to end in a feeding frenzy on a complicit public agency? PRA requests may shed light on this disaster, if in fact they are not ignored by the city’s lawyer.
Don Hoppe, our former City Engineer has disappeared into a well-pensioned retirement. His replacement, a professionally unqualified bureaucrat will take no heat for this embarrassment. It’s no-fault government where the taxpayer foots the bill.
The California State Assembly investigation involving groping allegations against Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia leveled by Cerritos resident Daniel Fierro has morphed into a wide-ranging political influence and retaliation investigation revolving around Garcia, 65th District Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton), and her husband, Fullerton Council Member Jesus Silva.
Jesus and Sharon are accused of threatening a businessman with political retribution if he didn’t fire a public relations firm run by Daniel Fierro, a former Assembly staffer who accused Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D) of groping him earlier this year.
During the meeting, Quirk-Silva echoed her husband’s statements and made it clear to the businessman that he should fire Fierro because of his sexual harassment and groping allegations against Garcia.
The reportedly shocked businessman was then told that “not doing so might result in her [Garcia’s] political disfavor.”
Quirk-Silva denied all of the allegations via her office’s spokesperson. But if they are true, they could have serious implications for Fullerton’s political power duo. Would the Quirk-Silva’s really engage in threats of retribution against the victim of sexual assault? That doesn’t seem like a good choice in the current era.