Elevators to Nowhere – the Genesis

This is the third post in a series by our Friend “Fullerton Engineer” describing the elevator addition project at the Fullerton Depot. 

So you think the problem with transportation revenue is that there isn’t enough of it? Let’s see what happens when the State of California doles out grant money to localities, in this instance our very own town of Fullerton.

California transportation projects are very often driven by the availability of money spent in pursuit of a social agenda. Car pools lanes with fantastically expensive fly-over bridges? Check. Highly subsidized transit for upper middle class commuters? Check.

Forget that carpool lanes make everybody’s drive worse and that commuter trains only serve a puny portion of the taxpayers that foot the bill. It’s the gesture that counts, you see, and the more expensive the gesture, the more it counts.

It might be expensive but it sure is useless…

Back in 2010, or so, the good folks whose livelihoods depend on putting the plans of our Sacramento social engineers into effect foresaw a big increase in rail transit through the Fullerton train station. But gee, thought someone, won’t that mean making it harder to get all those new travelers to other side of the tracks?  The solution? New elevators, and right next to the old ones. Forget the fact that most of the day the existing elevators were unused, or that most people just climbed the stairs; and forget the fact that a sensible set of stairs already existed under the Harbor Boulevard bridge to do the same thing. New elevators made no sense even if the new ridership tsunami was believable: after all – only two trains can stop in the station at the same time, the same as before.

But of course the real kicker was the availability of money from our friends in Sacramento to effect alterations in stations that accommodate “transit” modalities, and so the City of Fullerton was going to grab while the grabbing was good, and never mind that the idea was nonsense and that nobody needed or wanted it.

On December 20, 2011 our esteemed City Council voted to award a design contract to Hatch Mott MacDonald, an engineering firm to “design” two new elevators right next to the existing ones. The contract amount was $358,390, a remarkable amount given the scope of the task at hand – to replicate the existing bridge in two new, one-stop elevator structures. In case you are wondering, $358,000 equates to the billing of one $100 per hour person working on this project full-time, doing nothing else, for 1.7 years.

Here’s the Hatch Mott MacDonald Purchase Order record

And so the City embarked on this ridiculous project. HMM began work in march 2012 after the City had signed a master agreement with the State of California. Someone should have become alarmed the following year when Hatch Mott MacDonald’s design service billings eventually ballooned 28% over budget – almost a hundred thousand dollars. But no one did. It was someone else’s money.

Fullerton Engineer

The Infection of Unaccountable Money

This is the second in a series of posts written by our Friend, Fullerton Engineer.

Anybody who thinks the problem with transportation and “transit” funds  is that there aren’t enough of them, either isn’t paying attention or is profiting off of the notion – either as a government bureaucrat, a consultant, a lobbyist, or an engineering construction contractor. The partisan political yappers can be added to the list too.

California government is awash with money. It is also awash with the characters and interests listed above, who all stand to gain from the new Gas Tax that will be levied on everybody else. Sure, everybody benefits, right? And the mantra of “our infrastructure is crumbling?” It sounds dire and maybe it is. But the solution is not new taxes, but effective and accountable use of the resources we already have. Until our governments can demonstrate that they are responsible stewards of what they have, why entrust them with any more?

As was recently noted on this blog, governments are rarely penalized for their misuse of their property, and the same goes for misuse of existing funds; and it would never occur to the transportation lobby to shape up. Why bother, when a helpful Legislature is more than happy to raise taxes and then start handing out salvers of freshly slaughtered pork? The simple fact is that grant funds from a distant government attracts a long line of bureaucratic applicants willing to spend that money in any fashion that meets the bare minimum of requirements from other bureaucrats in Sacramento. This diffusion of authority and ultimately the lack of coherent oversight is at the root of California’s current infrastructure woes. The fact that every dollar sent off to Washington or Sacramento or even collected by OCTA comes back after a big whack has been taken off the top only exacerbates the situation.

And then there is the problem of “transit” projects, a bottomless well of bureaucratic mismanagement, political corruption, and misuse of public funds for pet boondoggle projects that provide minimal, if any benefit to the public, but lots of benefit to the people entrusted with spending the money and those receiving it.

It may have been expensive, but it sure was unnecessary…

Which brings me to case of The People of Fullerton v. the Added Train Station Elevators,  a study that will examine the long and painful (and ongoing) history of this completely unnecessary project that is quickly approaching a $5,000,000 price tag. This comedy of errors and overspending was to be paid for with funds from sources apart from Fullerton’s Capital Funds, namely State transportation funds Prop 1B and Prop 118,  and of course the completely mismanaged OC Measure M Renewal funds. When somebody else is picking up the check it’s a lot easier to lose sight of priorities and interest in accountability. In this instance the availability of this play money has acted like a disease that has rendered everyone senseless and indifferent – a sort of malaise in which no one seems to care about what they are doing or how much it costs.

Fullerton Engineer

You Played Yourself

The other night the council approved the rezoning of the massive Red Oak development site on Commonwealth. The move was made while waxing vigorously about forcing the developer to reduce the project density and increase site parking. The team concluded that holding back the site plan approval until March 7th will give them time to negotiate some sort of fix.

A fiery kiss goodnight.

But in the needless granting of partial approval, the council gave away nearly all of the city’s leverage. You see, the approval of the zoning change brought forth the Specific Plan, along with its density and parking specifics. If the council tries to require additional parking, any decent attorney will point to the already approved Specific Plan and shove it back up the council’s rear end.

The council simply surrendered its ability to get what they wanted. Naturally, city staff and the city attorney sat quietly and helped them proceed. Of course. They are eager to collect those development fees.

At one point, Councilman Bruce Whitaker voiced his commitment to only voting for/against projects in their entirety, perhaps to avoid this exact consequence. But he forgot to be persuasive, and the rest of the council evaded that moment of enlightenment and proceeded to ride off the cliff at full bore.

If only there were an expert nearby…

Now someone less cynical than I might assume that the council fell into this trap out of sheer incompetence. But one must also consider that the screw up conveniently paves the way for the council to be “forced” to complete the Red Oak approvals. They will buckle under legal duress while pretending to be sympathetic to the public’s concerns.

Of course, all of this could be wrong, and the tough-talking council could actually deliver on their promise to significantly reduce the project before it gets built. But when has that ever happened?

FFFF Classics: Doc Hee Haw Holds Forth: Red Light Districts, Tattoos and Syphilis

And another five years later? Sill hilarious!

Here’s a clip of the decrepit jackass the anti-recallers think is bringing dignity and respectability to the Fullerton City Council. This is how Dick Jones handles the public’s business. Enjoy again. And again.

– Joe Sipowicz 

File this one under the heading:  He Said What?

Fullerton Councilman F. Richard “Dick” Jones really is in a class all by himself when it comes to blog fodder. Enjoy this clip in which the mental rambler Jones transforms body art recipients into “patients.” Pins and needles and daggers??!!

FFFF Classics – The Baby, the Bathwater and the Blowhard

Crazy? Check. Rude? Check. Gone? Check.

When it came to boneheaded belligerent bombast there was no one quite like former (and recalled) councilman Dick Jones. Here he is in 2007 and 2008 pontificating about downtown Fullerton and the “monster” he created. His endless fixation on the same tired baby/bathwater cliche remains hilarious as he twists it around and around inside his befuddled noggin. If anybody can explain what a “ruly teenager” looks like, please let us know.

The FFFF editorial staff have enjoyed long hours of amusement courtesy of the corn-pone explursions of Ol’ Country Doc Jones captured on this video. The string of priceless HeeHawisms just gets better with age.

Meantime nothing has changed in downtown Fullerton – except the passage of ten long years and more of “yesterday’s felons” than ever.

Felz After a Fortnight

The last official word we heard on the status of our City Manager post the Sappy McTree incident was that, besides apologizing, Joe Felz was on leave for 2 weeks.

The Official Story, if you recall, started on 15 November 2016 when the City Attorney, “The Other Dick Jones“, told us that City Manager Joe Felz would be on leave for 2-weeks which prompted Jones to ask Mayor Fitzgerald to immediately put forth an emergency motion to appoint Gretchen Beatty as “Acting City Manager” and once that was done she’d stay in the Acting City Manager position until the Council voted to remove Ms. Beatty from said position. None of this was 1) an emergency or 2) needed as legally we don’t need a City Manager but I don’t expect the City Attorney to bother with such details as State Law.

The pertinent issue is that nobody on Council bothered to ask timely questions on this matter and so the fact that there wouldn’t be a Council meeting 2 weeks later (yesterday) never came up. Now 2-weeks has passed with the next Council Meeting scheduled for 06 December 2016 and it’s at THAT meeting that the Council would have the first opportunity to remove Ms. Beatty from her Acting position in order to put Joe Felz into his chair again.

joe-felz-up-close

Does that mean that Mr. Felz is back now twiddling his thumbs with nothing to do (2-weeks later as stated) or that he’ll stay gone until next week when the Council can remove Ms. Beatty from her Acting position or later due to the ongoing Felz/FPD investigation? Who knows with answers not exactly forthcoming from City Hall. We won’t even know if it’ll be on the Council Agenda until this coming Friday night.

As for the inevitable “What difference does a week make?” question I will posture that it speaks to the nature of our City Government and the way our city is run. It’s slapdash thinking & haphazard decisions over even such basic calendar items that showcases the culture in City Hall where there is almost zero attention paid to details. This sort of intellectual laziness is how we end up with unaccountable bureaucrats spending time in Las Vegas or elsewhere while the city bleeds red ink and puts our kids further into debt with only high-density boondoggles on, and blocking, the horizon in order to offset the bloated spending.

We shouldn’t have to point this sort of stuff out but our so-called leaders can’t be bothered to do the jobs they voluntarily took and that leaves us, the malcontents and rabble-rousers,  to do the job of making sure that somebody is paying attention.

Trust the System that Can’t be Trusted

Remember when Our Mayor, Jennifer Fitzgerald, had the City Attorney, “The Other Dick Jones“, repeat the city’s position on the Joe Felz alleged D.U.I. incident?

That they’re looking into it, via an outside investigative group without subpoena power that is answerable only to the City Brass, and that any potential criminal charges would be forwarded to the District Attorney?

It’s a good thing that we can trust the District Attorney, Tony Rackauckas, to be interested in the law and to not be too cozy with Law Enforcement.

Oh wait. Nevermind.

In the latest episode of “You’ve Got to be F*^%ing Kidding Me” the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has kept the entire D.A.’s office off of the most high-profile shooting case in county history for misconduct. All because the D.A. is too cozy with Law Enforcement and doesn’t follow the law.

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Records Request? Denied!

A few people, myself included, who had records requests in with the F.P.D. and City Hall regarding the Joe Felz/Sappy McTree incident were emailed denial letters today. Mine was based upon Section 6254(f) and 6255 of the California Government Code and was sent to me by Greg Palmer of Jones & Meyer, the law firm for our City Attorney “The Other Dick Jones™”.

One records request was hilarious because it denies records to one party when the denial letter was actually sent to another party altogether. These lawyer folk sure are awesome with the details let me tell you and it looks like we’re getting our money’s worth.

The first part of my emailed denial got to me because it says that I can view the 911 call log at F.P.D. during regular hours. Oh really? I went and tried that and they told me to put in a records request which could take x-amount of time and now my denial letter for the audio/video tells me that I can go look at something that F.P.D. told me I couldn’t look at when I was at the desk.

Isn’t it amazing how well the government lies to people? It’s almost as though they do this on purpose to frustrate the commonners while avoiding any real transparency.

After reading this boilerplate nonsense I emailed back to dispute the lie argument that “The Other Dick Jones™” said at Council when he said that the video/audio couldn’t be released owing to it being a “Personnel Matter”. I pointed them to a California Supreme Court Ruling and they were clearly nonplussed. But they responded that that’s not what their letter stated and I was in the wrong because of what CA Government Code 6254(f) said by gum.

I’m the curious type so I went back and re-read 6254(f) and 6255 and it talks about releasing records “unless the disclosure would endanger the safety of a witness or other person involved in the investigation, or unless disclosure would endanger the successful completion of the investigation or a related investigation.”.

So I asked what investigation? There was no citation and no arrest made so what was being investigated?

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The Weasel Words of Dick Jones Regarding Joe Felz

After tonight’s Fullerton City Council meeting all signs point to City Manager Joe Felz being out of a job, likely from early retirement after he runs out the clock on his vacation time. Allow me to explain.

Joe Felz was a no-show at last night’s Council meeting and the City Attorney, Dick Jones, relayed a nothingburger of an apology from Felz during the Open Session and said that Felz was taking a 2-week leave of absence. Mr. Jones then requested that the council agendize an emergency* item for the same meeting, last night, to appoint an Acting City Manager which they did.

There is zero reason to appoint an Acting City Manager if somebody is on a voluntary leave for 2 weeks. Do we appoint an Acting City Manager anytime the City Manager goes on vacation? No. Was it an emergency? No. This is ridiculous. How ridiculous you ask? Well…

Pursuant to California Government Code we don’t even NEED a City Manager owing to Fullerton being a General Law City.

36501.  The government of a general law city is vested in:
   (a) A city council of at least five members.
   (b) A city clerk.
   (c) A city treasurer.
   (d) A chief of police.
   (e) A fire chief.
   (f) Any subordinate officers or employees provided by law.

Notice that there is no “City Manager” on that list.

So our City Council just appointed a person, Gretchen Beatty, to a position that we don’t even legally need because our City Manager is on a 2-week leave. Funny how the City Attorney missed that little nuance in the law or as I like to call it – his job. Dick Jones asked that a non-issue be agendized unless of course more is going on behind the scenes that can’t be discussed with us common rabble known as residents.

Now here’s where the weasel words really come into play. Mr. Jones stated that Gretchen Beatty would be acting City Manager not until Felz came back from leave but rather until the City Council relieved her. He’s a lawyer who chooses his words carefully so this means something.

To really drive this point home it should be noted that during Public Comments people spoke up about the Joe Felz / Sappy McTree incident and Mr. Jones made a point that the details of the investigation couldn’t be released until this “Personnel Matter” is resolved. He also said that it was an ongoing criminal review and it would go to the D.A. for a “Potential Criminal Prosecution”. Further he said, and Mayor Fitzgerald asked him to repeat, that the Bodycam footage couldn’t be released pursuant to California Government Code 6254F.

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