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

The Chief is Gone Long Live the Chief

It’s now been a day since Chief Dan Hughes left us to go work for the Mouse. After all the praise he’s been showered with it’s time somebody said what too many of us are thinking and that’s that if the FPD stinks it stinks like a fish from the top down so we’re gonna take a quick look at the top.

hughes

First let us recall the letter to Joe Felz from Benjamin Lira outlining Hughes place in the chain of command corruption.

Dan Hughes didn’t think there was a problem with the FPD because he was a part of the problem and he certainly didn’t see a problem after he took over and made some changes that we can’t fully verify because of records laws and access that only our betters get. Some go as far as to claim he said the video of Kelly Thomas being beaten to death “wasn’t that bad”.

Dan Hughes was so confident in the goodness of his department that he was under the impression that only a vocal minority lost favor with the Police Department after the Thomas beating (Rincon, Mater, Major, Hampton, Nguyen, Mejia, et cetera). A vocal minority.

The actions of the FPD are what spurred the recall. FPD beat a man to death and then the council majority sat on their hands. Remember the recall? It led to three of those City Council Members being removed from office by a factor of 2-1. If only a vocal minority was against the Police than a even smaller minority was in favor of them going on this metric.

Hughes was the head of the Patrol Division at the time of the Kelly Thomas murder and said nothing as Spokesman Andrew Goodrich lied to the people of Fullerton about the boo-boos that FPD sustained in the process of their fucking up a guy, as Ramos promised, who committed the heinous crime of being homeless.

Manny's Boo boo
Manny’s Boo boo

Hughes was on the same police force that the Genacco report said suffered from a Culture of Corruption and he did nothing on record to stop it. If there was a Culture of Corruption he was a part of it for 20+ years before we could prove it existed to enough people to notice. To pretend that he wasn’t a part of the problem is naive.

On his way out the door we learn that the FPD arrested a couple for being victims of a crime based on the word of actual criminals because apparently police work, like looking at the video that exonerates the true victims, was just too hard for this pillar of our community and his reformed department.

We Also learned on Wednesday that Chief Hughes left a parting gift for City Manager Joe Felz. Felz got to get away with an alleged DUI, if nothing else he got at least got away with destruction of city property because we’re told, well nothing. We’re told nothing. The only reason you know anything about this story is because we here at FFFF got ahold of a memo from Danny boy himself. It’s all hush-hush and will remain that way during the closed session at council on Tuesday.

Speaking of secrets.

Did you know that we already have a new Interim Chief? You’d think we residents would be allowed to know who’s running our Police Department. Suckers. You’re allowed to know what they tell you you’re allowed to know and when they tell you if they bother to even tell you. The ink is probably already dry on the contract and we don’t even know if it was legally opened up to candidates. Wanna bet that the Council rubber stamps the new Chief behind closed doors too?

The good thing for Disney and their new VP of Dineyland Security and Emergency Services is that at least he’ll have fewer DUIs to cover up for his bosses now that the House of Blues has left Downtown Disney.

Under New Manangement

 

Friends for Fullerton’s Future is now owned and operated by a brand new collection of miscreants, malefactors and truth-tellers. Sure, some of our old Friends will still be here. Some new ones, too.

In 2013, the previous proprietor of this esteemed institution decided to shut it down – after thousands and thousands of posts and hundreds of thousands of comments. In 2010 and 2011 FFFF was named the Best Blog in Orange County by the OC Weekly. Well, guess what? We’re back.

On a hot July night in 2011 a sick, homeless man was bludgeoned and suffocated to death in one of our gutters by members of our own police department. He choked to death in his own blood as the cops that killed him were nursed for their scrapes with soothing words, Bactine and band aids. A supposedly distraught mother and father were bought off with $6,000,000 of our money, in order to keep the truth from us.

And what the Hell has happened in Fullerton the meantime?

In 2012, a new 3-2 city council majority emerged, belligerently determined to eradicate the memory of Fullerton’s second recall; blindly determined to ignore the Culture of Corruption that pervaded the Fullerton Police Department. You remember that culture? Remember the names: Rincon, Mater, Major, Hampton, Nguyen, Mejia?  Search our archives, Friends, to remind yourselves.

Jan Flory, Doug Chaffee and  Jennifer Fitzgerald replaced the Three Bald Tires – Bankhead, McKinley and Jones – as proprietors and caretakers of the corrupt Old Regime and as custodians of the silence.

It is four years later. Now our streets are choked with traffic that will only get worse with the advent of new massive projects created to enrich a few developers, their “consultants” and their lobbyists.

Lobbyists? Our own mayor is a professional lobbyist. She says she wants us to  “participate in building a better future for our city.” How? Apparently, by promoting more gargantuan housing development by her own future campaign contributors, while turning a blind eye to the incredible waste of resources spent policing the downtown booze-fueled free-for-all created by her predecessors and her own current campaign contributors.

Hundreds of millions of gallons of water have been poured into leaky Laguna Lake by the City government as Fullerton citizens have been forced by their own government to let their landscaping die. In the past four years, $45 million dollars have and will be been transferred from reserve accounts to keep the City solvent, as our own mayor takes credit for a “balanced budget.”

Are things changed? You tell me, humble readers.

Oh yeah, we’re back. And we’re kind of pissed off.

 

Now, What About Our Water Tax Refund? Part 2: The Phony Report

thief

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.

I think the City should pay that back, too.

 

Sooner or Later, Social Justice For Kelly Thomas

It’s funny, in a sick sort of way, but the very types who used to bray the loudest about the need for “social justice” have been virtually silent in Fullerton in the wake of the Kelly Thomas murder at the hands of members of an out-of-control police department.

The graying establishment Democrats had been hiding behind their drawn chintz curtains, curled up in an intellectual fetal position on their plastic slip-covered Naugahyde sofas. It was just too scary and, well, controversial to say anything, let alone actually do anything.

Fortunately, others, such as Stephan Baxter, Marlena Carrillo and Lauren Becker are willing to keep up the pressure.

Here is a link to Becker’s website that reminds us exactly what a Culture of Corruption can do, and try to get away with, when left to its own devices. It also reminds us what we can do to push back against an entrenched system.

The bars stayed open and the bands played on…

Democrats like Jan Flory, and Molly McClanahan and Pam Keller didn’t say a word in the aftermath of the murder. No, they only got outraged when people outside their cozy little circle took the reins of government out of the hands of three incompetent old fools.

These people are a lot more worried about the fate of the bureaucracy than they are about the people of Fullerton. All of them.

 

The Moral Bankruptcy of Bankhead

Somebody captured this campaign sign recently. It suggests one of three things.

Re-elect? How many times does this boob need to be recalled?

1) Don Bankhead is a liar who wants people to think he is an incumbent; or,

2) Bankhead belongs in a memory care unit since he can’t remember that he was recalled four months ago and is no longer on the City Council; or,

3) he is too cheap to buy new campaign signs and is using old ones.

Pay no attention to the dinosaur behind the curtain…

Well, which is it?

Municipal Redevelopment Arrogance: A Common Scourge

Sometimes you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Like the case in Philly where a local businessman may be sued by the Redevelopment Agency for cleaning up trash and beautifying a piece of blighted Agency-owned property that they willfully refused to clean up. So ths guy spends 20 big ones of his own dough since the City blatantly ignored its own mess, and is now looking at a potential lawsuit – a lawsuit some asshole city bureaucrat says is based on “principle.” Principle. Now that’s a scream.

What’s really funny is that if the city had done the work it would have cost twenty times as much and taken ten times longer.

Of course apologists of Fullerton’s former Redevelopment Agency (you know who they are) would be quick to point out is that this sort incompetence and arrogance  never happened in Fullerton; Fullerton Redevelopment folks were  just so darned…well… you know.

But consider this: Fullerton has had a long and inglorious Redevelopment history that includes building, then demolishing concrete trestles along Harbor, giving away a public sidewalk to a politically connected apaign contributor, subsidizing dozens of boondoggles, supporting architectural design Nazi-ism, stealing an old lady’s property to give to a car dealer, and nasty little sales tax kick backs from Redevelopment funds – all done to promote more tax revenue to pay for pensions, League of City junkets, and all those inevitable step pay increases for the gang.

A final thought: even though Redevelopment is supposedly dead in California you can bet the farm (if they don’t steal it for High Speed Rail) that the lobbyists are busy at work in Sacramento trying to revive it, and that local mall fry politicians and local political wannabes are real eager for it to come back.

Why not? It’s fun and it isn’t their money.

Baxter Gets It Right

Here is a fun image I just harvested from the Orange Juice blog, apparently the creation of local liberal activist Stephan Baxter who has gotten it into his noggin that Fullerton politicians should be held accountable for their actions (or to be more precise, their inaction) in the wake of the Kelly Thomas murder at the hands of members of the FPD. Funny the ideas some folks have.

Even more disturbing to some, Baxter doesn’t seem to care that the object of his scorn happens to be an old Democrat war horse named Jan Flory. who really loves the FPD.