A Shameless Hustle

A good Friend received an interesting piece in the mail the other day, and sent it in to FFFF.

It’s a solicitation from Scott Flynn, President of the FPOA – Fullerton Police Officer’s Association – the cop’s union in Fullerton.

It seems your support of the police union “has been a beacon of hope that has helped fuel many initiatives to make our community a better place.” Somehow your donation helps the cops with their “support” of all sorts of philanthropic efforts. What that support might be is left to the imagination of the reader.

If you give them some big money you will get incredibly valuable gifts as a “VIP.” An “engraved” tumbler and a “custom donor plaque” will be yours for the low, low price of $1000.

Of course the solicitation is based on the idea that the giver isn’t very bright. The obvious first thought is that if you put the FPOA’s decal on you car somewhere, you might just avoid getting that next, expensive, moving violation. Could that be true? I don’t know, but the thought obviously crossed the minds of the solicitors and the donors.

Second, if you look closely at the piece you notice something interesting.

Of course this operation isn’t a non-profit and you can’t deduct your donation. In fact the FPOA exists for only two reasons: first, to use its political influence electing councilmembers to squeeze evermore higher wage and benefits out of the citizenry; and second to remain as unaccountable to the civilian authority as possible.

The whole thing is hardly different than any other mail scam trying to get people to part with their money. There is no charitable purpose here, just a way to get people to support a public employee union by pretending to be doing good works.

Why wouldn’t any intelligent person simply donate to the real and worthy charity of their choice, and get a tax deduction, too?

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Downtown Fullerton saw a ribbon cutting this week for “Madero.” It’s not a new place. It used to called “Matador” but an El Matador already existed in Costa Mesa and the story goes that Mario Marovic, proprietor of the Fullerton place, got sued and had to change the name of his establishment. So an event was held and here’s the scene:

All smiles…

The guy with the green hat is Mario Marovic. That name sure rings a bell.

Right. He’s the scofflaw who got caught squatting on the City’s property on Commonwealth Avenue – the legacy of the Tony Florentine sidewalk theft. When that came out Marovic made a deal with the City to remove the egregious “bump-out” and to be complete by July 2023. Oops. Nothing has even started, 14 months after the start of work deadline. And we know that the City Council has been presented with some sort of legal claim by Marovic, because it was on their Closed Session agenda.

And who is the little guy on the left standing next to Marovic? Why it is none other than the District 5 Councilman Ahmad Zahra, dressed in his usual ribbon-cutting attire, palling around with Marovic and even giving him some sort of City proclamation!

Will not work for new clothes…

Now, we all know that little Ahmad is a notorious attention hound and desperate photo-op seeker. We also know that a City Council agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. But this is really too much. Marovic is still squatting on public property and it looks like no one in City Hall has the balls to enforce an agreement signed by Marovic himself. Instead the City seems to be actively socializing with him.

Coming to a Theater Near You

On this week’s Fullerton City Council agenda I caught a glimpse of the upcoming May 21st agenda forecast:

AGENDA FORECAST (Tentative)
Tuesday, May 21, 2024

  • APRIL 2024 CHECK REGISTER
  • MONTHLY COMMITTEE ACTIVITY AND ATTENDANCE REPORT
  • DISPOSITION AND DEVELOPMENT AMENDMENT FRONTIER
  • COSTA COURT AREA STREET REHABILITATION PROJECT
  • ALL CITY MANAGEMENT SERVICES CONTRACT
  • SENATE BILL 1383 COMPLIANCE ACTION PLAN FOR SERVICES AND PROGRAMS
  • CHAPMAN PARKING LEASE
  • FOX BLOCK
  • REVENUE OPTIONS

Not all that interesting until you get to the bottom.

Yeah, it was ugly as sin, but there sure was a lot of it…

The Fox Block, a never ending saga and a classic example of a tail wagging a dog. For years the “rehabilitation” of the historic Fox Theater structure has been used to support all sorts of God-awful lunacy, including residential land acquisition and demolition, new grotesque clown architecture, and the six million dollar relocation of the McDonalds restaurant a couple hundred feet to the east. The “Fox Block,” as the boondoggle came to be known, is a living fossil of the bad old Redevelopment days, when any nonsense could be got away with by City staff playing with Monopoly money. Damn accountability. It’s the Fox Block!

Why this is on the agenda is as yet unknow, but I noticed that one of our Friends “Fullerton Historian” suggested it may have to do with extending a development agreement or some other similar concept. Then I saw the third bullet point above: Disposition and Development Amendment with Frontier. “Frontier?” That’s all? What is this? Frontier Real Estate is our “partner” on the Fox Block, meaning we’re probably taking the risk and they’re goon get any reward – if there is any.

M. Eric Levitt. Will he save us from ourselves?

And finally we see an item simply called “Revenue Option” an oatmealy sort of phrase, but one that FFFF has already discussed. At this meeting the City Manager, Eric Levitt, will try (without too much unseemly enthusiasm) to tie dangling threads heretofore described here: a push poll created to drum up support for enhanced public services; a review of the likelihood that general sales tax might pass at 50%; and a precipitous budgetary cliff looming ahead.

See where this is going? Let’s see who stands up and demands that for our own good we must have a tax increase.

The Fiscal Cliff

The Fullerton City Council is holding a special meeting tonight – a 2024-25 Budget “workshop.” No work will get done but there will be shopping going on as staff begins its formal press to raise a sales tax.

There is a lot of self-serving verbiage about how well our City staff has performed its tasks up ’til now, but then the hard reality hits because budget numbers can’t pat themselves on the back.

There are some harrowing numbers in the proposed budget – including a $9,400,000 draw-down from strategic reserves. This means of course, that the budget is no where near balanced as City Hall apologists like Jennifer Fitzgerald and Jan Flory claimed when they ran the place into the red almost every year.

M. Eric Levitt. Will he save us from ourselves?

Let’s let our City Manager, Eric Levitt tell the tale:

Financial Stability. The City has been able to over the last two years (for the first time in recent history of the City) to reach and maintain a 17% contingency reserve level. This budget maintains that reserve level; however due to an operating deficit, we will be utilizing one-time excess reserves this year and coming close to that 17% level in FY 2024-25 and below that in years beyond next year

Read. Weep.

The overall picture gets even worse as the levels of reserves slowly dwindle away. After this year Fullerton continues to be upside from $7.5 to $8.8 million each year until the end of the dismal decade. We are not favored with the running reserve funds balances.

Infrastructure is supposedly a big deal. Which reminds me of a quotation attributed to Mark Twain: Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it. But this year we are told, we can push get going on our deteriorating infrastructure along by borrowing! Once again let’s heed the words of Mr. Levitt:

I have also put together a strategy to increase that funding level to closer to $14 million over the next four years through the use of financing. However, there are both upsides and downsides to this approach which will be discussed with you in more detail at today’s presentation.

Now this should be a red flag: borrowing to perform maintenance, a basic accounting no-no. And what form will the borrowing take? Not a municipal bond, you can be sure, It would likely be by selling certificates of participation or some other dodge to avoid municipal debt restrictions. Here’s the table that shows our Maintenance of Effort (MOE) shortfall without financing.

Now we all know that interest payments are made by somebody, somewhere, and that somebody is you and me. We get to pay the interest on debt incurred by years of municipal mismanagement by people like Joe Felz and Ken Domer and Jeff Collier who get to sail off to a glorious and massively pensioned retirement at 55 years of age.

And finally, to circle back to the story lead, here’s a distasteful nugget carefully slipped into the City Manager’s report:

“Staff recommends City Council review options over the next year to stabilize the budget and ensure the City remains financially sound.

Jesus H. There it is. Not quite explicitly stated, but we know very well where this is going. Another general sales tax effort, just like the ill-fated Measure S of four years ago. The seeds for this have already been planted, of course, in a nasty little taxpayer-funded fishing expedition in the guise of a community survey. Last November I regaled the Friends with this slimy maneuver, here.

How did things get so bad?

By the way, this is exactly the same process City Hall rolled out four years ago. And we will be told By Ahmad Zahra, Shana Charles and Vivian Jaramillo that if we don’t pony up we will be morally deficient.

Well, good luck Friends. This is going to be a long year and you can bet the farm that we will be asked to pick up the check – again.

The Militarization of Fullerton’s Cops

No more blood on Fullerton’s streets,” went the chant of a handful of protesters after the vote on last Tuesday’s Council Agenda Item 4. These folks were upset that the item, which was a statutory requirement that the City police department list its “military” hardware, on going running costs, and reaffirming policy to the use thereof, was passed on a 3-0 vote.

But you’re looking good, baby, I believe you’re feeling fine…

The protesters, such as they were. seemed agitated that the cops have these toys to begin with – surplus military equipment, some of it, and other weaponry that were included by the Legislature under the rubric “military.” And that’s okay. Ever since the war on terror began two decades ago, our military-industrial complex has been churning out hardware to attack, assault, disarm, kill, maim anybody that cause or accident put in the way of our military. So a lot of it, used or unused, has become surplus, and was bound to find its way into the hands of American police departments. That’s not okay.

Da! Is good…

Having the equipment – from projectile launchers to high caliber guns and assault rifles – has helped reinforce the notion of our own police as an occupying force, and is about the last mentality you want your cops to have, and leaves citizens feeling like maybe something sinister is at work. I get that.

The apologists for this item were quick to point out that the list of equipment – some of it very expensive to maintain – was for stuff the City already has, and wasn’t a shopping list, as they supposed the public speakers believed. Councilmembers Whitaker, Charles, and Zahra were happy to explain this, and reiterated the pro forma nature of the list and the policy statement. They seemed really averse to discussing the item at all, which is understandable for a politician in Fullerton; you don’t get ahead denying police their armored vehicles and, riot gear, and SWAT paraphernalia.

And so the the second issue that should have been discussed never happened at all.

Do we trust our police department to deploy their military equipment competently?

A few weeks back, as Friends may recall, FPD cops killed an evidently distressed man in front of the McDonald’s on Brookhurst St. by blasting him in the chest with multiple “less lethal” projectiles – a distinction without a difference to the dead man.

Then there was the case of Hector Hernandez who was blown away on his own property defending himself against a police dog let loose by Jonathon Ferrell – who is still on the payroll. That settlement cost $8.5 million.

I could go on and report the FPDs long history of physically abusing the citizenry – people like Veth Mam and Edward Quinonez, but really, why bother? Would you want an AK 47 or an assault vehicle in the hands of Manual Ramos, Jay Cicinelli, or Joe Wolfe? What about Christopher Wren, or Jeff Corbett, or Sonny Siliceo, just to name only a small handful of FPD’s “bad apples?”

And finally, there is this harrowing tale from 2011, when the FPD SWAT gang invaded the wrong damn house!

And just as importantly, who is going guarantee the proper training for this gear? Accountability has never been a strong suit of Fullerton’s governing personnel.

This is all certainly food for cogitation. But Fullerton, being Fullerton, nobody is going to do it, at least not anybody in authority.

Jaramillo High on Retail Pot

Green means green. One way or another…

You heard right, Friends. Very high.

Wanna ganj?

Earlier today, one of our Friends shared a couple Vivian “Kitty” Jaramillo posts from the Next Door site sharing her views on the subject of marijuana tax revenue. Jaramillo says she’s running for the Fullerton City Council, and has big plans for solving the budget problem.

I don’t know when the lightbulb will go on for our current council majority that our city is dying. We have been pinching penny’s for much too long and our city’s infrastructure shows it. If they would put on their thinking caps and allow legal dispensaries they could be the super heroes of Fullerton. Vote only candidates in favor of legalizing

Responding to something called Legalize Fullerton Dispensaries, Jaramillo shared:

Thank you for your continued interest in legalizing marijuana dispensaries in Fullerton. Unfortunately we still have the same 3 councilman, Whitaker, Jung & Dunlap, who voted against this issue. So let’s be sure when any of these 3 are up for re-election to show up and vote them OUT! Our city is losing millions of dollars each year that dispensaries are not allowed. We all know how desperate we are for a stronger budget……

I can’t guarantee that these are genuine comments made by Jaramillo, but when you consider the poor grammar and punctuation, they have the ring of genuineness. And of course, Jaramillo’s world view, “pinching penny’s” (sic) is the problem, not excessive pay and pensions to thousands of employees over the years.

Her stake-out makes sense if she she believes the Long Beach Cannabis Cartel can be a source of political fundraising; and, of course her political soulmate, Ahmad Zahra, has long been known a wannabe player in the legal dope store game. Zahra supported the proposed ordinance that could have resulted in legalized dispensaries within 100 of your house. Zahra has also been associated with the “consulting” work of one Melahat Rafiei who recently pleaded guilty for conning a would-be dispensary operator in Anaheim out of hundreds of thousands that were meant as payouts to officials, and to trying to bribe Irvine City Council members.

Now, it could be that Jaramillo really believes that dispensaries are an economic salvation for Fullerton, and the more the better, and any negative impacts are worth the price of happy public employees and timely CalPERS payments This may put her at odds with the Fullerton Police Department that has a long-standing opposition to this sort of thing; she must be counting on the cop union to paver her way to office.

Congrats to Fullerton Planning Commission

It’s pretty rare when one of our commissions really does its job, so when they do I’m happy to advertise the fact. Last week the Fullerton Planning Commission re-reviewed the noise ordinance that was kicked back to them by the City Council for further consideration, and they excelled themselves.

Their performance was so rewarding it almost makes me want to overlook the first time this group unanimously passed virtually the same proposed ordinance in November, 2023. This time they really took their jobs seriously.

The staff report for the item, given by some guy named Edgardo, was the same nonsense they pitched before, and they essentially asked the Commission to rubber stamp it yet again.

But this time there is a problem. It seems that no matter how many words they throw at the issue, staff can’t talk around their own complete lack of effort at code enforcement in Downtown Fullerton. They admit it now, claiming (without a shred of evidence) that the existing noise level is unsupportable in court, and begging the question of why amplified music is then allowed outdoors at all – it wasn’t for decades. We were informed that a “vibrant” downtown (pictures of happy people) requires more noise, not less. The underlying theme was the usual tripe: DTF is an economic asset whose saloon proprietors must be coddled at all cost. Look the other way, fast!

Incredibly, our new friend Edgardo informed the Commission that current levels of noise are acceptable to the citizenry based on the fact that so few complaints are lodged. Complete balderdash, of course. Naturally the bald declaration of “acceptability” was unsupported by any complaint data, suggesting that if there is a record, it is an embarrassing one. And the Commission learned from public speaker Joshua Ferguson that the City doesn’t bother with code enforcement and almost never has, leading Commissioner Patricia Tutor to wonder if this lack of responsiveness might have caused citizens to give up complaining.

One poor lady, the owner of Les Amis was there to push for the proposal. Unfortunately, as she admitted, she does live music in her establishment without the benefit of the required entertainment permit. Oops. Code enforcement to the rescue!

Local hero…

Tony Bushala got up to speak, sharing his story of being driven out of his downtown home due the noise. He also produced a lengthy list of errors and omissions in the proposed ordinance and stuff that was just contradictory. It turns out that the public and the Commission were not presented with a complete underline/strike-out version, showing pretty clearly that counsel Baron Bettenhauser of the I Can’t Believe It’s a Law Firm, had not, as he claimed, looking up from his cell phone, read the damn thing.

Edgardo and Baron work their magic…

One zoom caller named Maureen said the smartest thing of the night. She actually suggested that without actually hearing the sound on site, she (and presumably everybody else) was at a loss to really fathom the mystery of decibel levels.

Tutor tutors staff.

Commissioner Tutor was particularly effective in asking pertinent questions, one of which, was how come, after 10pm when music is supposed to move indoors, isn’t the decibel level lowered. A really commonsensical question. She didn’t get a commonsensical answer. The acoustical consultant from some operation called Dudek explained that during their noise collection procedure, that seemed to be the general noise level.

What’s going on here?

Oops again. Commissioner Cox pounced on the fact that the collected data was based on a noise level that was one, currently illegal; and two, based on a situation where there is no code enforcement, thus kicking up the noise level that staff was claiming was acceptable! He didn’t say so, but it was pretty clear that Mr. Dudek Guy had been receiving coaching from staff on the noise levels they found acceptable.

Mansuri ain’t buying it.

The other main sticking point was where to measure noise from – a certain distance from the noise source or a certain distance from the property line; two choices were offered with the greater distance being recommended. Commissioner Mansuri was unpersuaded by staff. That issue tied everybody up in knots off and on for the better part of an hour. Finally it was concluded that the noise sampling site needed a rethink.

Thanking God it’s over…

Finally, mercifully, Commissioner Arnel Dino moved that the whole thing come back in May with the entire code changes organized and clarified and that in the interim the Planning Commissioners would go out themselves with decibel monitors and experience for themselves the problems of sound accumulation, reverberation, etc. So that’s what is going to happen. Imagine that – first hand experience without the muddled abstraction of decibel levels on a piece of paper.

As usual it was obvious that our hand-wringing staff was pursuing their path of least residence by raising sound thresholds, making it harder to enforce even that, and refusing to enforce the requirements of the bar-owners’ entertainment permits – things like closing doors and windows. How many times have we seen staff guide the consultant they chose to get what they want? Happens all the time. And how many times must the public be subjected to uninformed or misinformed opinion passed along as Gospel truth by our public employees? Happens all the time. And when will the City Council demand honesty and competence from its bureaucrats? I’m afraid we all know the answer to that.

Fullerton, being Fullerton.

Dysfunction Junction

Denial is a fairly common human condition, but normally it involves interpersonal relationships and fact isn’t always that easy to ascertain. It is also quite common in politics where one’s emotional beliefs and prejudices are set against somebody else’s. And then there’s the case when bald facts are staring you in the face and you just can’t allow the cold truth to intrude upon your fantasy.

Nowhere is the latter situation better seen than in the City of Fullerton’s attitude and actions involving the “downtown” area.

Business is booming…

It’s not real complicated. The City has known for almost two decades that downtown Fullerton was a money loser. A big money loser. And yet nary a word of complaint or criticism of the booze culture of downtown Fullerton has been uttered by the bureaucrats and politicians.

The most recent analysis was essayed 7 years ago. Here’s the money shot:

In 2017, the taxpayers of Fullerton were subsidizing the bar owners to the tune of almost $15,000 per liquor joint, each and every year. Three quarters of a million a year. Of course this was just for “public safety” as noted:

We focused on the public-safety facets of this study alone, and did not include the development and maintenance services costs Fullerton audited. We illustrate below Fullerton taxpayers were effectively subsidizing bar and restaurant establishments – to the tune of about $15,000 per establishment – all to cover the costs of police, fire and rescue services provided to the establishments and their patrons.

We know that maintenance and code enforcement and the legal services of Dick Jones and his I Can’t Believe It’s a Law Firm jack up the cost to well over a million bucks – $1.4 million being the overall cost previously discovered. And there are now over 50 bars.

Another award!

Think of it. During hard times and good, the taxpayers of Fullerton subsidize the likes of the Florentine family and the Marovic mob and the Poozhikala posse, while they make a fortune peddling fish bowls of booze to out-of-control miscreants and ignoring the law.

And still City staff insists on describing downtown Fullerton a glowing success story, a triumph to be built on; of course they aided and abetted in the charade by city councils that are marked by political cupidity, stupidity and a desire to look like they have accomplished something. Anything. For decades these people have crowed about their achievements in DTF, even as they desperately crammed more and denser housing blocks in and around main streets – hoping a captive audience would somehow help. It didn’t, and by the early 2000s the City decided an open air saloon was just the thing. And then the restaurants morphed into bars and then the bars morphed, illegally at first, into nightclubs.

I can keep this up all night…

As things got more lawless, and even some like Dick Jones lamented the “monster” he had created, the only thing that happened was that things got worse. Blasting noise, random violence, sexual assaults, human waste, mayhem, shootings, sadistic and pervy cops – you name it – caused no retrospection in City Hall about what had, and what was happening. It was all a big victory, and you don’t second guess a victory.

Well, things are looking glum fiscally for Fullerton according to last years budget projections and we will be told Ahmad Zahra and Shana Charles that we must bear the burden of a new sales tax jack-up in order to keep the creaky old jalopy going.

I say fix the financial sinkhole that is downtown Fullerton before you stick your hands in our pockets.

An Unhappy Anniversary

And what anniversary might that be, Friends may be asking.

Not gone, but almost forgotten…

This Wednesday, March 27th, marks the one-year anniversary of a deadline date agreed to by the City of Fullerton and one Mario Marovic, a downtown bar owner. Not much of a deadline, huh?

Hey, that’s not yours!

By March 27th, 2023, Mr. Marovic was required to have started demolition of the so-called “bump out,” an illegally constructed room addition built by the Florentine Mob two decades ago on City property. Marovic had gotten rid of the Florentines, finally, but decided that the leasehold on the room addition was somehow ripe for the encroaching. So he began remodel work on the leasehold right along with the rest of the building that he does own.

Busted.

Meet the new proprietor, same as the old proprietor…

But Fullerton being Fullerton, where nothing seems to be done right in City Hall, and where downtown scofflaw saloon owners do whatever the Hell they please, Marovic seems to have decided that the deadline meant, and means, nothing. And why should he believe otherwise? He has seen firsthand how the City bureaucracy and the City Attorney bent all the way over for the Florentines – instead of making them obey the law.

Well, the Earth has made an entire revolution of the Sun.

The City Council may occasionally talk about this in their hush-hush, top secret “Closed Session” meetings, but the public is not to know what is happening, even as our money and property are being frittered away. We do know that Marovic has threatened a claim against the City, but so what? Why would that be cause for the City to ignore Marovic’s breech of contract and seize the public property that Marovic encroached on illegally?

dick-jones
Staying awake long enough to break the law…

The reason could be that our esteemed lawyer, Dick Jones of The I Can’t Believe It’s a Law Firm, believes upholding agreements is not a winning strategy. Of course this third rate pettifogger has won so few cases for us, and has lost so many that we may feel confident questioning his judgment.

Or, it could be that the feckless and spineless City Council has been individually persuaded by Marovic that it’s in their best interest to ignore the deal, and that they should just let Marovic keep raking in the bucks thanks to a Conditional Use Permit that was contingent upon the removal of the room addition.

Council Ponders Parking Puzzle Pilot Program

Lots of people have lots of cars. And the on-site parking plans of the 50s, 60, and 70s multi-family housing just don’t work anymore. We all know that. Even single-family neighborhoods suffer from the same issue – adults’ cars, their kids’ cars, and a garage full of crap.

In 2023 the Fullerton City Council directed staff to consider the issue of early morning parking prohibition, a device to keep people from parking on the streets overnight. The current situation is that certain streets with multi-family housing or old, pre-1940 houses have been granted a waiver. An applicant’s address could also get a one-year “hardship” permit with an extensive review process and a $250 permit fee.

After an 11 month gestation period, staff labored hard and gave birth to a “pilot plan” proposal that would keep existing street and individual waivers/permits, but that would make it easier, supposedly, to get a one year permit – with four one-year options.

The issue is Item #7 on the 3/19/24 Agenda consent calendar.

The staff report provides the usual entertaining history of a Fullerton topic, like downtown nuisance noise, that never seems to get fixed.

As usual there are options presented that are really just non-starters to make the desired option look better. Option 1 is to do away with overnight parking altogether – a surefire recipe for political disaster. Option 2 is to get rid of street/block waivers and also hardship permits, and let anybody apply for an overnight permit – another sure loser.

And so Option 3 (as described above) gets the brass ring, with the proviso that it be a 2-year pilot program to see what happens. As noted, staff is proposing a streamlined process, online portal, etc., etc., with one goal being to help disadvantaged neighborhoods (of course “disadvantaged,” like “underserved” is code in City Hall for Latino, so that’s an interesting use of the word). This option begs the question: if the permit process could be streamlined why wasn’t it – a long time ago? There is no mention of the new permit fee amount.

The staff report contains a long list of possible additions that could be made, presumably to help a City Council that can’t be trusted to come up with its own.

What I think is really interesting is that there is no option for doing nothing. Not every snake or green-glowing rock needs to picked up and examined, and I get the impression that there is a political undercurrent here. Commonsense suggests that adopting a revision for the purpose of allowing more cars to park overnight will still annoy some residents who may not like others parking in front of their house all night – especially in the vicinity of under-parked, older apartments.