*The following is an editorial provided to Friends for Fullerton’s Future by Former CA Assemblyman and Fullerton resident Chris Norby.*
“City Allows Outdoor Dining in Defiance of State Health Order” blares the front page headline of the Fullerton Observer. The article bemoans the lack of police response in chasing off outdoor diners and closing local restaurants whose only crime is feeding people. Strange sentiments from a “progressive publication”?
California state government is a democracy whose powers are divided among the legislative, executive and judicial branches. The “Regional Stay-At-Home Order” referred to by the Observer is the arbitrary edict of one man –Gavin Newsom– that has not been passed by the legislature. The Fullerton Police Department should not enforce it. It should not shut down hundreds of local businesses and throw thousands out of work.
Emergency powers granted the Governor are of limited scope, when there’s no time for legislative action. This pandemic has been with us now for 10 months, yet none of his 58 emergency edicts have been approved by the legislature, which has had plenty of time to act. On December 8, L.A. County Superior Court Judge ruled against that county’s outdoor dining ban, as there was no “risk-benefit analysis” showing any connection with Covid-19 spread. Newsom himself doesn’t think so either, as his crowded unmasked dinner at the French Laundry showed.
There are many places in the world where the police enforce one-man rule. Does the Observer really want Fullerton to be one of them?
–Chris Norby / Fullerton
*This is being published without comment with the only change being to add a link to the mentioned Observer story for reference*
Word has seeped out from the once hermetically sealed walls of City Hall that we may not have Richard “Dick” Jones, Esq. to kick around much longer. It would seem, if the rumors are true, that Good Ol’ Dick has had enough of screwing the taxpayers of Fullerton with his pettifogging, self-serving legal advice and is “retiring” with all of his ill-gotten spoils.
Well, possibly not all his spoils, because he must believe his “I Can’t Believe Its A Law Firm” will have some residual value after Mudslide oozes off.
Now I don’t know about you, Friends, but a collection of lawyers that includes Kimberly Barlow and Gregory Roosevelt Palmer doesn’t seem like it could be worth very much to me; but Jones is supposedly pitching the continued services of his collection of miscreants, so he must plan on keeping his name on the letterhead and probably receiving revenue thereby.
Will our city councilcreatures keep this gang on retainer? After the abysmal performance of Jones in the pas it’s hard to imagine anybody wanting them around, at all. Of course this is the same gaggle that has kept Jones, et al., on the clock for over twenty years – and that’s a lot of bungling and cover-ups.
If someone takes the time to review the history of Fullerton over the past forty years, one thing becomes shockingly clear: when it comes to building things, maintaining things and planning for things, the City government just can’t do much of anything right. And yet over this long history, the City and the public seem to have the shortest of memories.
For the denizens of City Hall, the fact that the jalopy has no rear view mirror makes perfect sense. After all, if you’re pulling down well over a hundred Gs, with a trampoline retirement coming your way, why spoil things with strange notions like accountability and responsibility? It’s so much easier to pretend nothing bad has happened.
The people who live here on the other hand, have no such incentive; quite the reverse, in fact. So how come constant repetition of the disastrous lessons from the past are tolerated? Is it easier to just ignore the millions upon millions wasted in foolish vanity projects, make-work comedies, and deteriorating infrastructure? Maybe.
But I hope that by continuing the drumbeat started on this brave blog 11 years ago, sooner or later the populace will wake up to the ineptitude and dissimulation by its highly paid, and so far untouchable masters of disaster.
And so join me Friends as I take you on trip down memory lane, Fullerton style.
Today almost nobody remembers the comical City endeavor to transform Harbor Boulevard in the early 80s by removing on-street parking, adding medians, spike-laden, pod-dropping floss silk trees, and bizarre concrete peristyles along the sidewalks. Comical, did I say? It would have been funny except that it doomed the businesses along Harbor to slow entropy. The ridiculous peristyles were soon removed but the rest of the mess lasted for decades and many of the hideous trees and broken sidewalks are still there as a reminder that the City is perfectly willing to waste millions on hare-brained, concept-of-the-day tomfoolery that gives them something to do.
The Allen Hotel, was Fullerton’s first foray into “affordable” housing back in the late 80s. It was a slum, alright and thirty years after the City’s bungling acquisition, the site is just begging for more “redevelopment.” Will it get it?
The CSUF Stadium & Fundraising Fiasco of 1990 ought to give plenty of pause to those contemplating Big Projects with public money. The brainchild of slimy City Councilman and later slimy State Senator, Dick Ackerman, the idea was to build a permanent home for the CSUF football team. Only trouble was that the $15,000,000 stadium was completed the same year the plug was pulled on a dismal gridiron program. In typical fashion, the City invested in a fundraising plan in which a company was hired at a cost of several hundred thou to raise money, and didn’t. Oops!
The horror story “Knowlwood Corner” is a veritable textbook case of government bureaucratic misfeasance, from start to finish. The story started in the early 90s and dragged on for years and years; when the signature building was finally built, the missing second floor became a perfect symbol for this misadventure. From stupid economic micromanagement to horrible architecture, this one touched all the bases – and it took seven years to do so.
The Bank of Italy Building was another disaster from the early 90s, but one that actually gutted an historic building. Millions in public money were wasted to pay for something that never should have been undertaken in the first place.
The North Platform remodel of 1992-93 proved that no matter how bungled things were in Fullerton, it could always get worse. A landscape architect was hired to place as many impediments between passengers and trains as was humanly possible. Some of the citizens got wise, and half the crap was ripped out. Heads rolled in City Hall. Oh, wait, no they didn’t.
Few folks now remember the Fairway Toyota dealership expansion fiasco from the mid-90s that required threatening an old lady with eminent domain and then closing off Elm Avenue forever. The City’s investment disappeared like an early summer morning’s dew when the dealership took off for Anaheim a few years later. After years of housing a used car dealership, the City permitted the development of another massive cliff dwelling along Harbor Boulevard. The losses were never accounted for but at least the neighbors got a nice view and early shade.
Fullerton’s Corporate Yard expansion was a mid-nineties project that left the City gasping for air. Despite hiring an outside construction manager and paying him a couple hundred grand, the project dissolved into a litigation mess that only escaped public embarrassment because nobody on the City Council gave a damn. Settlement details vanished into the haze.
The so-called Poison Park on Truslow Avenue may set the standard for Fullerton incompetence, although admittedly, the competition is fierce. In the late 90s, the City had Redevelopment money to burn and just couldn’t wait to do so. So they bought a piece of industrial property and built a park that nobody outside City Hall wanted. Cost? $3,000,000. Of course the site attracted gang members and drug dealers as predicted. Worse still, the land was contaminated and the “park” fenced off. It’s been like that for almost 15 years. And Counting.
No story of Fullerton calamities would be complete without once again sharing the tale of the Florentine Sidewalk Hijacking, in which a permit for “outside dining” was transformed one day by the Florentine Mob into a permanent building blocking half a public sidewalk. The Big City Planner, Paul Dudley, said everything was peachy. He was lying, of course, but did anybody really care?
Some people might conclude that the majority of Fullerton’s disasters can be laid at the feet of the Redevelopment Agency (really just the City Council) and well-pensioned, inept managers like Terry Galvin and Gary Chaplusky. When they weren’t slapping brick veneer on anything that didn’t move, they were screwing everything else up, too. But when we regard the history of Laguna Lake we enter into the realm of Fullerton’s Parks and Engineering mamalukes. After spending a small fortune on renovating the lake, the thing leaked like a sieve. Hundreds of millions of premium MWD gallons were pumped into the thing to keep it full. The public and council were left in the dark, even as citizens were told to conserve water in their homes. Did anyone in charge give a damn? Did anyone ask how much money and water were squandered over the years? Of course not. This is Fullerton. We could ask Engineering Director Don Hoppe for details, except that he is now comfortably retired and pulling down a massive pension.
Our professional planners, have been knee deep in Fullerton’s morass. Over-development (see example, above) has been fostered and nowhere was this better seen than in the Core and Corridors Specific Plan. This idiotic plan wasted a million bucks of State money without a backward glance after the whole thing was finally dumped on the QT – too stupid even for Fullerton. Did anybody ask for their money back? Nope. And yet a link to a blank web page titled Core and Corridors still exists! Hope springs eternal.
The 2000s proved that nobody in City Hall or out, was learning anything, even after the expensive failures of the 90s. The “West Harbor Improvement” project in 2009, was an endeavor so unnecessary that it could only be proposed in Fullerton, where government “place making” has never succeeded. The alley is a barf zone behind a bunch of bars that only needs hosing down every Sunday morning.
This litany of disasters, follies and debacles brings us to the Pinewood Stairs at Hillcrest Park which put on display the incompetence of the designer, the city staff, the construction manager, and a contractor who couldn’t build a sand box to code. Wasting $1.6 million is bad enough; permitting the code violations and construction deficiencies go unfixed is even worse. Barely two years old, the ramshackle structure moves more than the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
And over all these years Fullerton’s “leaders have neglected our aging infrastructure and permitted zone changes allowing for massive new development that has lined the pockets of developers and political campaign coffers, and left the rest of us with even more traffic and more burden on our roads and pipes.
The 2018 4th District County Supervisor race just got a little more interesting with her announcement that La Habra City Councilwoman Rosie Espinoza is joining the fray.
Espinoza ran against Chris Norby in June, 2006 and did poorly. She ran again in June, 2010 and failed badly once again.
What gives this story a dash of interest is that Rosie is a Democrat and it is well-known that the public employee unions have made a concerted effort to limit the Dem candidates to one, namely Joe Kerr. The shameless union campaign hustle of Kerr, who actually lives with his family in ritzy Coto de Caza, now has a bit of a problem, to wit: a Democrat candidate who actually lives in the 4th district.
The other interesting angle is that Ms. Espinoza will be running against another La Habra councilcreature, Republican Tim Shaw, know best for his underling relationship with Redevelopment prostitute and general scum-sucker Bob Huff (R – Ed Roski). Shaw has probably been counting on being able to carry the northernmost precincts in the district on name recognition – thus making a November runoff and hoping for the best. Oops!
If she’s even paying attention, the news of the Espinoza campaign should be somewhat warmly received by the other repuglican in the race, Young Kim, the utterly unqualified political job-hopper who is looking for another taxpayer-funded gig after having been dethroned by Sharon Quirk-Silva in the 2016 State Assembly election.
Of course everybody in City hall knew the dirty little secret. The illegal 10% water tax that was hidden by the confusing name of “in-lieu fee.” Year after rancid year the City Fathers and Mothers – from daffy and angry liberal spendthrifts like Molly McClanahan and Jan Flory, to supposed conservatives Dick Ackerman and Chris Norby blessed the scam and put their imprimatur of approval upon it.
Of course they knew, or must have suspected, that the 10% was nothing other than a greasy rake-off that made their jobs easier and rewarded their friends in the bureaucracy. And they knew, or must have suspected, that the various City departments were already charging directly to the Water Fund – in direct contravention to the purpose of the original Resolution that created the”fee.”
This means that because the City departments were already charging to the Water Fund, that cost too jacked up the tax. Double Dip.
And all that free water wasted by the City over the years? You guessed it: the cost jacked up the illegal water tax. Triple Dip.
The fee was set at 10% of gross water revenue, meaning that every time the commodity cost of water went up, or transmission cost went up, so did the absolute amount of the tax itself. Quadruple Dip.
Naturally, the water tax itself was considered to be part of the gross “cost” of the water works, meaning that as the absolute value of the 10% increment rose, so did total of the tax!! The true amount of the tax was 10% of cost plus 10% of the 10%!!! Which is why the tax was actually about 11% of the true cost. Got it? Quintuple Dip.
The defenders of the Old Culture of Corruption and its slimey shakedown want you to believe that everything is pretty okay, that no harm was done, and that refunding any part of this felonious rip-off would just be a big waste of everybody’s time.
Wrong. Accountability and responsibility have their cost. Sooner or later you have to pay the piper.
When you are in charge of the City’s bureaucracy, it’s really easy to get what you want. You simply hire a “professional” opinion to validate your own desire. Good God, it happens so often and yet they continue to get away with it.
For fun, lets’ consider the case of the City of Fullerton’s illegal water tax tax. In 2011 the City was finally caught with its pants down. And what was revealed wasn’t pretty: an illegal 10% tax stuck onto the annual cost of selling water to the ratepayers of Fullerton. In an attempt to stall the inevitable and obfuscate the obvious, the comatose council handed the job of analyzing the tax to an ad hoc water rate committee that had been previously established.
Now we all know that a citizen’s committee is incapable of figuring out things on its own and so staff helpfully hired one of those paid opinion consultants to help out; one of those consultants whose sole mission is to validate whatever the staff wants them to do. In this case the mission was to keep as much of that 10% as possible. After all, that 10% was a much necessary ingredient for for keeping up CalPERS payments and sending Pam Keller and Don Bankhead and Doc HeeHaw to four star hotels in far off Long Beach.
True to form, the City Council’s “consultant” returned with a helpful finding that the water fund owned the City between six and seven percent annually, principally on the weird fiction that the water utility owed the City rent for land that the water reservoirs and pipes sit on.
Naturally, nobody bothered to explain the embarrassing fact that the land in question had little or no commercial value; or that the water utility could have bought that land for virtually nothing fifty years ago had a true arms-length distance actually existed between the utility and the City that was milking it like a rented cow.
An, worst of all, nobody had explained the self-serving nature of this sudden discovery of a true distinction between the water utility and the City, particularly in light of the fact that the utility had supplied the City with free water for decades.
That’s right. The very mechanism lade upon you and me to “incentivise” conservation, was deemed unnecessary when the City itself was wasting water. How many hundreds of thousands of acre feet of water has been used for free by the City in the past fifty years? Of course nobody knows. But the value is worth millions.
Our State Assemblyman and former County Supervisor has made some really lame endorsements in the past, including the unspeakable corn pone donkey, Dick Jones.
But this time he has really surpassed himself, bestowing his political benediction on an Anaheim city council candidate named Steve Lodge. Except that his name isn’t Steve Lodge at all. It’s Steven Chavez Lodge, a name he recently adopted in an attempt to curry favor with Anaheim Latino voters and, not insignificantly, get his name to the top of the ballot.
Let’s set aside the fake name gambit for a moment and consider a few other unsavory facts about Lodge. First he is an ex-cop with a dirty record, “retired” with a disability at 52, set up in a make-work schmooze job by who knows who, and of course, worst of all, this cypher is a creation of the Kurt Pringle government for sale machine that has a hold of the City of Anaheim by the balls.
“Chavez’s” list of endorsers includes a who’s who of OC repuglicans including “Everything Must Go” Bill Campbell, carpetbagging spouse Dick Ackerman, carpetbagger Harry Hairball Sidhu and the other Pringle puppets on the Anaheim City council. Disney and the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce have joined the band, endorsing this miscreant as some sort of businessman who didn’t just move into Anaheim in the past year. Naturally, Ed Royce is a supporter.
And then there is Chris Norby. An endorser. Why? Why on Earth? You’ll have to ask him since the answer isn’t readily apparent. Maybe his political handler John Lewis dictated that it must be so. Maybe Norby was simply flattered to be asked for an endorsement that is now completely devalued.
But this Lodge creep stands for everything that is abhorrent to those who want intelligent and responsible leadership. So what could Norby be thinking? Who knows.
Jan Flory is running for Fullerton City Council. Jan Flory used to be on Fullerton City Council. Jan Flory is hoping that nobody remembers her disastrous decisions on Fullerton City Council.
Oops! Too late.
In one of the costliest misjudgments in Fullerton history, Mrs. Flory joined her fellow council members in approving the horrible, retroactive 3@50 pension formula for the City’s “public safety” employees that was a massive gift of public funds and created a huge unfunded pension liability that eats up a bigger percentage of Fullerton’s budget every year.
Bankhead, Flory, Clesceri, Jones and Norby. At least Norby apologized for his blunder. Flory never has. She even made the motion to approve the gargantuan giveaway!
Of course the excuse Don Bankhead and Patdown Pat McPension used was that without the benefit Fullerton couldn’t recruit the best and brightest. You know, cops like Ramos and Wolfe and Cicinelli, and Rincon, and Mater and Mejia and Major, and well, you get the idea.
Of course Mrs. Flory never got around to explaining how giving away a retroactive benefit to current employees would improve future recruitment.
Being on a city council for eight long years can create an embarrassing trail of disastrous decision. Our job will be to remind the public of Mrs. Flory’s string of expensive votes.
Um, Chris Norby, you are a State Assemblyman, right? You stand for something, right? You ran for office for some reason, right?
So now that you’re up in Sacramento, why don’t you do something about the hideous union scam known as POBR – the Police Officer’s Bill of Rights – that grants special protection to cops good and bad. It seems that POBR keeps honest, law-abiding, tax-paying citizens from knowing which crooked cops have been preying upon the very citizens who pay for their salaries and exorbitant pensions. Are you in favor of this? Do you care? Are you worth a dehydrated ostrich turd?
You’ve been in Sacramento for over two years and so far have accomplished nothing. Zilch. Nada. Zero. So how about finally showing some guts by doing the right thing. Make it legal for all police departments to release all relevant information on cops who have been separated from their police force. If they’ve done nothing wrong the facts will bear this out. If they have violated policy, or worse, if they are criminals, the public has a right to know.
And Sharon Quirk, if you’re reading this (and I know you are) what do you have to say about fixing POBR.