The Doug Chaffee Experience, Kindness Edition

Just in case you were still wondering about his competence and priorities, our Supervisor, Doug “Bud” Chaffee has helped out with his latest insipid e-mail. The latest installment invites nominations for something called a “4th District Kindness Award.” No, I am not making this up. Here it is:

Sometimes you gotta be cruel to be kind…

Now coming from a dyed-in-the-wool SOB like Chaffee this is really a bit much. His record of screwing the people of Fullerton through incompetence, spleen, rancid deal making with FitzFlory; and his aiding and abetting his criminal wife in stealing campaign signs and creating a phony residence to run for office, would lead a normal person to suspect that kindness in any form is the last thing on Chaffee’s shrinking mind.

Erection Dysfunction

 

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.

A little Jack Daniels gets you through the morning.

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 stupid that men do lives after them…

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 once and present tenement…

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!

Oh, boy, the other football!

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.

There is no second floor. Other than that it’s a 2 story building

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.

Deception, Incompetence and Damn Proud of It

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.

Trees and planters block the platform; staff obstruction was almost as bad.

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.

So bad he had to pull over and barf…

 

For those who can remember the Fullerton SRO debacle – a history filled with so much doubling down on stupidity that it strains credulity – it remains one of Fullerton’s saddest tales. Years and millions were burned on fly-by-night developers, one of whom turned out to be impecunious, and the other a flim-flam artist.

Fort Mithawalla, AKA, the Bum Box…

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.

Maybe the less said, the better…

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?

Caution – ethical behavior narrows ahead…

In a great example of the tail wagging the dog, the Fox Theater has been used to justify all kinds of nonsense, including moving a McDonald’s  a 150 feet to the east and later proposing development of perhaps the greatest architectural monstrosity anybody has ever seen. This saga is still going on, believe it or not, after two decades or more. No one knows how much has been wasted going nowhere on this rolling disaster, and no one seems the least bit interested in finding out.

Egad. What a freaking mess…

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.

Water in, water out…

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.

What can we do with it ? Or to it?

We’ve already covered in detail the multi-million dollar death march of the new elevators at the depot, an unnecessary project that was only pursued because “other people’s money” was paying for it – that is until the project burned into its seventh year. And then City money had to pay to keep the disaster on life support. Aggravating this complete folly and waste is the fact that the existing elevators tower stairs are slowly rusting away and the glass is graffiti marred.

Let the groundbreaking begin. No point in waiting to waste other people’s money, right?

 

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.

A light post not even fit for a drunk to lean on…

And finally, let us not forget the completely useless $725,000 “ceremonial” bridge over Brea Creek at Hillcrest Park. Of course it’s just there to make some sort of statement, not to be used. The only statement that occurs to me is one of conspicuous consumption by a city that is just rolling in dough.

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.

Water, water everywhere. Except where it’s supposed to be…

 

It could be worse. No it couldn’t.

The end.

 

What is it About OCTA and Bikes?

What is it about the Orange County Transportation Agency and its love of bicycle boondoggles? We know they are obligated to pretend they care about multi-modal transportation, but why the silliness? FFFF readers will recall we talked about the ludicrous $800 per bike ride fiasco overseen by former County Supervisor and OCTA Boardmember, Shawn Nelson.

Sturdy looking, but up to the challenge? 

Now it appears that Nelson’s sclerotic successor, Fullerton’s own Prince of Potholes, Doug “Bud” Chaffee is following in the noble tradition.

 

I just received a self-promoting e-mail from Supervisor Chaffee touting OCTA bike day. For ten bucks you get bike training, a nifty bike helmet, bike lights and a delicious lunch. What the subsidy for these days of fun is the public is not informed. However the impoverished need not worry; for “scholarships” are available on a limited basis although we are not enlightened as to who might qualify, and how. The provided link says nothing about “scholarships.”

Now while there’s nothing wrong with bicycle safety, per se, one wonders why we are paying for classes on how to ride a bike, and on “fun” bike tours and “advanced” bicycling skills. And why does the public have to pay for the political promotion of “public servants?”

 

Elevators to Nowhere – The Death March Isn’t Over

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

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 Fullerton Engineer

 

Will Ahmad Zahra Hold Firm?

AhmadZahra

Back in December, in his first at-bat, Ahmad Zahra surprised me by speaking of the Constitution and transparency whilst simultaneously voting against FitzSilva in their attempt to appoint Jan Flory to Council. Zahra was on fire with gems such as:

“My decision is going to be contingent upon us making sure that the appointment process is fair and open and transparent. So until we can make that decision, I don’t see how we should take votes away from people.

“The question is, is there a fairer and open and more transparent process than voting itself? Can we come up with that? Can we come up with something better than what the Constitution come up with? That is my question for the council. I’m leaving my decision until I hear other council members.”

Tonight we get to find out if Zahra is a man of principle standing by his own talking points at the last meeting or if that was all simply a clever flex to show who has the real authority on this issue in an effort to get his preferred pick onto council.

For those new to the story here’s the gist as I understand it —

Jesus Silva wanted incumbency in 2022 and thus opted to run for the District 3 seat on council.

Council then chose to change the law ON ELECTION DAY in the case Silva beat Sebourn in order to limit the options for voters.

Silva took home the ring on election day and in winning he vacated his at-large seat which runs until 2020.

Then in December the dynamic duo of Jennifer Fitzgerald and Jesus Silva testily complained that they needed Ahmad to go along to get along in order for them to get what they wanted. Zahra didn’t go along which brings us to today.

Tonight we’ll watch as FitzSilva likely tries to lay it on thick and blame Ahmad for the cost of the election should he choose transparency and an election (as he did back in December). This is posturing bollocks but I’m wondering if he’ll stand firm. Both he and our residents need to know that the fault here lies partially with Silva for running, partially with council for changing the city ordinance, ON ELECTION DAY, to facilitate this choice between the devil and the deep blue sea, but really the fault lies with our City Attorney The Other Dick Jones for offering terrible advice and putting us in this situation in the first place. Zahra is blameless here on the issue of cost should he choose openness and transparency by way of a special election.

dick-jones

Prepare for the same shenanigans with FitzSilva promising a fictionally transparent process in this city which is allergic to the very premise of transparency. The same transparency which had Jan Flory meeting with at least 2 (if not 3) current council members and bringing a cabal of people to lobby for her to be appointed without the citizenry any the wiser. THAT type of so-called transparency should be rejected and here’s hoping that Councilman Zahra continues to impress the way he did during at his last at-bat.

Is the Flory Rumor True?

FergusonDeadWrong-Flory
Except we do, and our own budgets prove it.

Rumor has it that former councilwoman Jan Flory is lobbying to become the appointee to our City Council tonight and has already secured both Jennifer Fitzgerald and Jesus Silva’s votes. This is the same Jan Flory who voted, with Jennifer Fitzgerald and Doug Chaffee, on multiple unbalanced budgets and who helped lead us into our structural deficit. The same Jan Flory who puts City Staff above the very citizens they’re supposed to work for and represent.

Want to know why our roads suck so bad? Blame Jan Flory and her cohorts who think bureaucracy is the true heart of Fullerton. Want to know why Downtown is such a train-wreck? Yeaup. Same cabal of incompetence.

If the council votes to appoint somebody the voting members will own every vote put forward by the new council member. In effect, if they vote for somebody like Jan Flory, who helped sink our budget for years, they will be responsible for both their own votes on the budget (and similar items) as well as hers.

Appointing somebody is bad. Letting Jesus Silva vote on an appointment to the very seat he himself vacated is worse. Having council vote to give themselves the bulletproof majority needed to walk all over the people of Fullerton is downright despicable.

The people should really have a say who in represents them and voting to appoint somebody, especially somebody who will raise our taxes, is the essence of being anti-democratic. Our republic was literally founded against the premise of taxation without representation.

A New Council Member on Tuesday?

18Dec2018 Council Meeting

The agenda is online (HERE) for next Tuesday’s council meeting and the one major item of note, item #3, is the possible appointment of a council member to fill out the remainder of Jesus Silva’s abandoned at-large seat.

Item 3 States:

3. On December 4, 2018, Council Member Silva was sworn in as the District 3 City Council Member. This created a mid-term vacancy in Council Member Silva’s prior at-large City Council seat which expires in December 2020 and requires the City Council to consider the legally available alternatives for filling the vacancy.
Recommendation by the City Clerk’s Office:
  1. Appoint a qualified individual to the fill the vacancy through the remainder of the term, either through direct appointment or following a process for applications and / or interviews and / or other steps as determined by City Council.

  2. Direct Staff to prepare resolutions to call a special election to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the term for consideration at the next City Council meeting.

  3. Continue discussion to the January 15, 2019 City Council meeting.

This agenda item, according to City Manager Domer, was written intentionally vaguely so that council can do whatever they want on Tuesday. If they want to just appoint somebody on Tuesday, solidifying the premise that they’ve already been wheeling and dealing behind closed doors, then they can appoint whomever they want. If they want to take a different path, such as an election, they can direct staff to start that process as well.

This item will be somewhat fun to watch because of how it played out up to this point. It only matters because Silva beat Sebourn. As for the ability to appoint a crony to fill out Silva’s seat, that was passed 3-1-1 with 2 (R)s swinging into the Yes column on 16 October 2018 and again 3-1-1 with Fitzgerald ($R), Whitaker (R) and Silva (D) voting for this move on 06 November (election day) 2018.

Direct Appoint Council Vote

If another liberal (D) ends up on council after Tuesday, the (R)s in Fullerton will have nobody to blame but their own council majority. A council majority that this vote could cost them.

UPDATED: Corrected the 06 November vote. A previous version claimed it was 5-0 when it was the same 3-1-1 as the 16 Oct meeting.

PAULETTE MARSHALL CHAFFEE CHARGED WITH TWO COUNTS OF THEFT

Today the Orange County District Attorney’s office announced it had filed two charges of petty theft against former Fullerton Mayor and Supervisor-Elect Doug Chaffee’s wife, Paulette Marshall Chaffee.

Paulette was last seen receiving a bouquet of flowers at City Hall from Councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald.

Pilfering Paulette has her arraignment scheduled for December 18th at 8:30AM.

Given the razor thin victory of Doug Chaffee in last month’s election, one can’t help but wonder how his opponent would have fared had these charges been filed before the election.

More on Paulette’s plea and likely plea deal in two weeks.

A New-ish Council This Way Comes

Backroom-Deal

Tonight Doug Chaffee and Greg Sebourn leave the Fullerton City Council and Ahmad Zahra gets sworn in to be the first to represent District 5 on the dais. This wouldn’t be Fullerton if that’s all that was happening tonight – a simple transition of (some) power – but true to form our current Mayor (for a few more hours), Doug Chaffee, opted to ram a pet project down the council’s throat one last time. An unsolicited bid to turn the parking lot used for Train Days into a “boutique” hotel without the pesky bother of worrying about competition or opening a bid process. He wants this to happen now, NOW, NOW! because… reasons. It’s such a great idea that Chaffee doesn’t trust the council to pick it up without him which means he either thinks they’re too stupid to know a good thing when they see it or it’s not… wait for it… a good thing.

Ah the smell of cronyism.

While we’ll eventually get to say goodbye to a few members and add Ahmad which should be the only focus tonight, first we have to see if Jesus has been bought off and has changed his tune on competition. A tune that he sung only 2 weeks ago, mind you.

After that first crony, I mean agenda, item has been dealt with the council will move on to the actual (partial) transition of power.

For those not keeping track here’s what will happen tonight:

Jesus Silva moves from at-large to the District 3 representative. This will leave his at-large seat open until council decides to fill it or holds a special election.

Bruce Whitaker and Jennifer Fitzgerald will stay status quo.

After tonight we’ll also have a new Mayor (likely Silva) and a new Mayor Pro-Tem (likely Fitzgerald). As for the empty seat – don’t forget to comment on who you think will be the appointed council member in our Wheel of Replacement Candidates thread.

We doubt there will be any surprises tonight but we’ll keep you posted as always friends.

Chaffee’s Last Crony Grasp on Council

SONY DSC

Just when I was preparing to see a new chapter of shenanigans in Fullerton coming from our new council, instead from the realm of ARE YOU F^&$&ING KIDDING ME comes Doug Chaffee trying to slap Fullerton with one more bit of cronyism before he leaves to play at the county level.

Less than two short weeks ago the council voted, 3-2 (Sebourn, Silva & Whitaker vs Fitzgerald & Chaffee) against an unsolicited bid for a hotel on the parking lot near the train station at Santa Fe and Ponoma. Cooler heads prevailed and a more open, transparent and honest process was suggested.

Now Chaffee, who per the City Manager agendized this item, wants to crush that transparency and openness in his last meeting this coming Tuesday. To make matters more unpalatable the council/staff arranged the agenda to swear in our new council member (Zahra) and say goodbye to the ones leaving (Sebourn & Chaffee) AFTER they vote again on this hotel nonsense. For the uninitiated there is a vendor who wants to build a hotel and Fitzgerald and Chaffee want to hand it off to them without opening a bid process to interested parties. It’s cronyism and backroom dealing 101.

Agenda-NewCouncilHotel

This is truly a slap in the face to both Ahmad Zahra and District 5 as this new development would be in their neighborhood and the first District 5 candidate will have no say on it because the agenda lets Zahra join council mere moments AFTER this hotel’s fate is already decided.

This coming back this quickly means one thing and one thing only – somebody got to Silva* as he’s the likely weak link on this issue.

For reference here’s what Silva said about the ENA at the last meeting at approximately the 3:30:12 mark:

“I think an RFP, or a bidding, would help the city I think, would help us get the best possible product. Competition drives,  brings out the best in you. And I think having that can bring out the best in the current applicant and someone else.”

We’ll see if Silva still believes this on Tuesday or if all of the sudden competition is less important than craven cronyism.  Even if it’s the case that Silva changed his mind, does he really think so little of fellow Democrat Ahmad Zahra that he’ll prevent him from voting on an issue that residents of District 5 have officially elected him to decide on?

This is just dumb, unnecessary, and silly. One can’t help but wonder if this is really Doug Chaffee being that tone deaf or if it’s really retribution for Ahmad Zahra winning a seat his wife coveted in the first place.

Because, and let’s be honest, if Paulette Marshall Chaffee won this election, Doug wouldn’t be preventing her from voting on Tuesday.

cronyism-kills

*it’s possible that Whitaker or Sebourn were flipped but they had stronger arguments than Silva and are more ideologically opposed to cronyism.