When things get tough, real leaders make difficult choices. And then there are those like Ahmad Zahra.
When Covid 19 rolled around in the spring of 2020 Fullerton was already looking at financial disaster. Years of unbalanced budgets were backfilled by reserve funds by the partnership Fitzgerald, Flory, Silva and Zahra. With the Covid lockdown things looked bleak.
What to do?
“I know” said Ahmad Zahra, “lets have a sales tax.”
And so the ill-fated Measure S was placed on the ballot by the same herd: Fitzgerald, Flory, Silva and Zahra. The proponents didn’t seem to care that sales taxes are inherently regressive, and Zahra seemed uninterested in the fact that his D5 constituents would be disproportionately hurt. Ironically, at the time, Zahra was hauling in $4,000 a month for a few hours time as an appointed member of the Orange County Water District Board.
Later, in 2021, when federal relief money rolled in to Fullerton, Zahra tried to direct funds away from infrastructure and into salaries and pension obligations.
Well, those chickens have come to roost. This mail piece landed in D5 mailboxes today:
Before we publish the unedited video of our former City Manager, Joe Burt Felz, arrested for drunk driving, only to be taken home and tucked into bed by his own MADD recognized cops, let us share some highlights of the video as shared and analyzed by FFFFs own Joshua Ferguson. Ferguson was the target of a vindictive and highly expensive lawsuit courtesy of the City’s “I Can’t Believe It’s A Law Firm” of Jones and Mayer. And so it is appropriate for Joshua to remind us what happened – and to remind those not paying attention that the Felz catch and release was a far from isolated case of malfeasance by our police department and our esteemed leaders in City Hall.
There is no no doubt that Danny “Gallahad” Hughes lied to the City Council about Felz, and that the cops knew doing the right thing was professionally dangerous.
As Ferguson says, if there is a lesson to be learned in this long train of corruption, you can be sure that Councilmen Ahmad Zahra and Jesus Quirk Silva haven’t learned it. They voted until the bitter end to keep the moribund lawsuit against FFFF staggering along.
It’s true that the gears of justice grind slowly and no where is that more true than in the case of the Florentine forgery. You remember that, right? Joe Florentine, proprietor of the family amalgamation of restaurants on the corner of Harbor and Commonwealth deliberately altered an official planning document so that he could pursue the Conditional Use Permit that he had never bothered to get. That was in January 2020.
The document was changed to make it look like Florentine was the owner of the property simply because he had a business there. His specious legal theory was backed up by City Attorney Dick Jones, who had his own conflict of interest in the matter and never should have been involved in the first place.
To their credit, the Planning Commission refused to deal with the matter and the application was dropped. But the forgery was not forgotten, as desired.
The real owner of the building, Mario Marovic became involved in a lawsuit with the City over this complicity by both the City Attorney and the City staff – most notably City Manager Ken Domer and Planning Director Matt Foulkes. When that case was settled to Mr. Marovic’s satisfaction ($25,000 courtesy of you and me) he proceeded to file a criminal complaint with the Fullerton Police Department.
That was over eight months ago.
Finally, we hear from folks at City Hall that the case is finally making its way to the District Attorney. Why it has taken the sleuths at the FPD almost nine months to refer this case to the DA can only be explained by a reluctance of the cops to make their compadre public employees look bad. The evidence was right there, on video. The perp admitted what he had done. A blind man could have processed this thing expeditiously. Well, fair is fair, I guess, and Fullerton’s City Managers have never once said or done anything to correct the rampant corruption in the police department.
Well, the hapless boob Domer is gone, kicked out after several years of gross incompetence and mismanagement; Foulkes fled to Buena Park – a step down – but presumably a step ahead of the axe. Both should be damn glad this issue hasn’t come up sooner because both were complicit in the forgery – and that in itself is a felony.
An item on last week’s Closed Session council meeting just caught my eye. The item identified the southeast corner of Pomona Avenue and Santa Fe, location of the previously discussed “boutique” hotel proposal. I last reported it here, when the Council voted 4-1 to let the unsolicited, single proposal issue get a time extension. As usual the lone no vote came from Bruce Whitaker. The July 6th item just says “terms and price” so that it can be hidden behind the Brown Act exemption.
When the City Attorney emerged he declared that this harebrained idea was moving ahead on a 3-2 vote to authorize a Letter of Intent to approve a development agreement. Hmm. We know that Jesus Quirk Silva would go for it. After all, he already changed his vote once to move this along – way back in December of 2018 as a parting gift to Doug “Bud” Chaffee. And Ahmad Zahra is always a reliable vote to support some stupid government giveaway or overreach.
So that leaves councilmen Nick Dunlap, Fred Jung and the aforementioned Whitaker. It is really hard to believe that Whitaker would suddenly change course 180 degrees from a previous commonsense, conservative position. Dunlap and Jung have so far shown unusual sales resistance when it comes to ridiculous bullshit so it’s hard to see either one going for this. But obviously, one of the three did. Who was it, and why? We were not told by the City Attorney and the minutes do not include such potentially embarrassing things.
And this will be a giveaway. You and I own that parcel of land that is currently providing popular parking for Transportation Center commuters. What is the land truly worth? If the Council continues on this reckless course to support a massive public subsidy to for an idea that has no basis in market demand, we may never know.
The days of the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency writing checks to fly-by-night developers, scammers, and other corporate welfare queens is over; but the so-called Successor Agency is perfectly capable of handing over real estate and getting nothing in return. And that looks likely to happen as the story of Fullerton’s unsolicited boutique hotel lurches forward.
The Florentine Mob may be gone; the douchebag Jeremy Popoff has popped off somewhere; but the battlefield known as Downtown Fullerton – created and nurtured by our own government is still in fine form. And by fine form, I mean gunfire.
The FPD has announced that it has apprehended one of our stand up DTF patrons who allegedly fired shots a the JP23 “restaurant” following an altercation therein.
Somebody got shot. Here’s part of the cop’s statement (self-congratulatory bullshit omitted):
On Tuesday, July 6, 2021, at approximately 1:03 AM, Fullerton Police Officers responded to 101 S. Harbor Boulevard, JP23 Urban Kitchen and Bar, regarding a subject who had been shot.
Upon arrival, Officers located a 24-year-old male with a single gunshot wound. Officers immediately rendered aid to the victim, and he was transported to a local trauma center. It was determined the gunshot wound was not life-threatening and the victim was expected to survive.
So once again the establishment known as JP23 finds itself in the middle of crime, although most of the crime at this place comes from the refusal of the owner to obey the Fullerton Municipal Code and his own Conditional Use Permit.
Oh, well. I guess there’s a certain amount of psychological reassurance that some things just don’t change. And mayhem in Downtown Fullerton appears to be one of them.
My human Friends have learned that your former Mayor-for-hire, and the best bestie of my former mistress, Jennifer Fitzgerald, is jumping ship from the Fullerton boat of which she spent years drilling holes in the bottom. But before she skips town she has planned at least one last scam to separate the gullible bipeds from their dough. This borders on some sort of abuse, and believe you me, I know a lot about abuse!
Can you please repeat that? Hard to believe any of you humans would pay a hydrant pee to listen to Fitzgerald opine on any subject, but this topic is so funny that it’s even funny up here in doggie heaven.
What qualities make a good city manager? Well, let’s ask.
How about refusing to reform a criminal enterprise known as the FPD?
How about letting millions of gallons of expensive MWD water leak out of Laguna Lake with zero accountability?
How about years of unbalanced budgets leading to the brink of fiscal disaster?
How about serial neglect of the city fragile infrastructure?
How about getting drunk and running over a tree, and then trying to drive off?
How about covering up a Parks N’ Rec vehicle crash?
How about turning a blind eye to serial code violations?
How about continuing to foster the myth that downtown Fullerton is some sort of financial asset?
How about turning a blind eye to forgery of official city documents?
How about stonewalling on required release of public documents?
How about wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars on crony “consultants”?
How about mismanaging construction projects as simple as wooden stairs and elevator additions?
How about enabling vanity projects like unused ceremonial bridges and dry duck ponds?
How about wasting a million dollars in state money on an idiotic and unpopular Specific Plan?
How about acceding to the demands of regional agencies for housing demands?
How about developing an entire Specific Plan behind everybody’s back – except the housing bureaucrats and do-gooders?
Arf! That’s only some of the stuff I can remember happening under the watch of Fitzgerald’s two city managers – the drunken stumblebum, Joe Felz, and the equally incompetent, likely sober, Ken Domer, neither of whom could run a dog kennel, as well I know.
For Jennifer Fitzgerald the only skill that mattered from a city manager was to accommodate her desires, desires that often as not ended up costing the citizens and taxpayers of Fullerton one way or another. She was a “master” all right. A master of manipulating a feeble system of political hacks and corruptible bureaucrats.
Hopefully some female human attending this gathering will be smart enough to ask some of the specifics of Fullerton’s city management disasters, but I doubt it.
Last Tuesday the Fullerton City Council majority finally got sick and tired enough with their hapless City Manager to tell him to take a hike. The votes to oust Ken Domer came from Bruce Whitaker, Nick Dunlap and Fred Jung.
Insiders are suggesting that his temporary replacement will be none other than Police Chief Robert Dunn.
The Council is meeting Tuesday to discuss a replacement appointment.
And when you think about it, the only real question is why it took so long.
By any measurable standards, Ken Domer was not very good at his job. He took too long to address the City’s structural budget deficits, and when he did, his solution was to raise sales taxes – taxes not even aimed at our horrible infrastructure.
Under Domer we saw the deliberate ignoring of noise code violation enforcement and the effort to dilute the relevant codes. We saw the the aiding and abetting of a permit applicant who forged official planning documents. We saw idiotic and unsupervised vanity construction projects. We saw stupid things like the recently killed “aquaponics farm” and the connivance required to begin a Specific Plan without any input from the community or even the City Council.
We saw a string of “consultants” hired out of the blue to perform tasks that Domer and his highly paid staff should have been able to do in their sleep.
Why the underqualified Domer was ever hired in the first place will probably always remain a mystery, except that it makes perfect sense that Jennifer Fitzgerald, our former Mayor-for-hire, wanted someone who would reliably do what she wanted without asking any embarrassing questions.
Along with walking legal catastrophe, Dick Jones, Domer was certainly complicit in the vindictive lawsuit waged by the City against FFFF bloggers, a disastrous strategy that will cost the tax-payers plenty.
But it was the ill-fated and duplicitous Measure S sales tax scam that really iced the cake. It was designed as a rescue for the pay and pensions of Fullerton’s full-time public employees, who, during the pandemic, have continued to enjoy pay and benefits while many of Fullerton’s residents and business were suffering the cruelty of a real world unprotected by the largesse dispensed by government union-friendly politicians.
Well, Domer is gone, but it would be a waste of time and tears to mourn his departure. He is getting a month’s pay and benefits up front worth $25,000. And then he will begetting 9 months’ pay and benefits courtesy of a contract extension granted just two month before last November’s election by Fitzgerald and her council cronies Ahmad Zahra, Jan Flory, and Jesus Silva. That’s another $25,000. Per month. And the bonanza of Domer’s pension spike in Fullerton will be a cost borne by all of us for a long, long time.
The people of Fullerton have been awful good to the Domer family.
Many people tend to dismiss the visionary dreams of large, regional government consortiums as either too impractical, too complicated or too abstruse to either worry about or even pay much attention to. Those people are wrong.
As we have seen, these agencies have long tentacles and provide funding, or pass through funding, to promote the Big Plans they have for us. And that money goes to pay people we wouldn’t give a dime. Worse, their housing needs projections are so wildly unrealistic that if implemented would destroy the suburban fabric of towns across Southern California.
Which brings us back to Elizabeth Hansberg, whose brainchild, People For Housing, sends folks around to local planning commissions and councils to promote high-density housing projects that promise no concomitant benefits to the communities in which they are crammed. And as we have seen Hansberg’s “non-profit” has received somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 from SCAG to promote its agenda of a high density housing jamboree – based on a claim that says we need another 13,000 housing units in Fullerton.
The problem is that Hansberg is on our Planning Commission. The Chair, in fact. The bias, if not outright conflict of interest toward high density housing is cemented by her pecuniary reliance on SCAG. And thus planning in Fullerton is compromised. Think I’m exaggerating? Think again.
Hansberg was selected by our staff to be part of a collection of high-density housing enthusiasts who amusingly called themselves “Project Champions” and have participated in an idiot document called the Fullerton Housing Game Plan. And within this document is concrete evidence of what these people want to do in Fullerton. It’s called the Rail District.
Now this idea is not new. Apparently our crack staff have stolen both the boundaries and even the name from local business guy Tony Bushala who’s been trying to promote a sustainable, mixed use plan for his vision of the Fullerton Rail District. But no. The SCAG-Hansberg plan is all about high-density housing, not livability or sustainability.
And here’s the proof: a plan drawing from this hitherto secret draft Specific Plan, already developed without even being shared with property owners in the area or even members of the City Council. And guess what? The Specific Plan is being paid for by SCAG. And SCAG is also paying to develop a plan to change the Poison Park within the site to an aquaponic farm, ditching the promised park and tying up valuable land in the process. And finally, SCAG grant money is also being eyed by the City bureaucrats to plan a half mile trail along the abandoned Union Pacific right-of-way, an idea so stupid that not even Ken Domer’s predecessors tried it.
It’s very clear that the giant thumbprint of SCAG is placed squarely on these hairbrained and even dangerous ideas. And with the enthusiastic support of their local auxiliaries like Elizabeth Hansberg, they are well on the way to entangling Fullerton in “plans” that will finish off our crumbling infrastructure and add 100,000 new traffic trips to our streets everyday.
So far, Dear Friends, I have first introduced you to the Chair of Fullerton’s Planning Commission, Elizabeth Hansberg. And then I noted the alignment the interests of her “non-profit” – People for Housing – with the interests of the utterly opaque government cartel known as SCAG – the Southern California Association of Governments.
We have seen that SCAG’s ridiculous housing quotas as applied to Fullerton, amount to over 13,000 new units, a number cooked up in their latest Regional Housing Needs Assessment, or RHNA.
“Well, okay, Joe,” you may be saying. “Just a coincidence.”
Not quite. While some justifiably cynical folks have wondered whether Hansberg is shaking down developers by promising fake grassroots support for over-built housing projects, one thing is clear: she gets money from SCAG to help them pursue their grotesque housing schemes that promise to destroy cities and towns through Southern California.
Here’s a SCAG press release announcing grants of $50,000 to $100,000 to various groups who will help them promote their utopian view of a massive apartment block on every corner. And here’s the part that mentions the grant award to Hansberg’s creation:
“People for Housing Orange County. Scope: Empower grassroots activists to advocate for fair and feasible Housing Elements in the five OC cities with the highest potential for economic integration (Brea, Buena Park, Fullerton, La Habra and Placentia).”
Don’t be fooled by the high-minded rhetoric. We’ve already seen that “grassroots” activity has nothing to do with this operation. It’s really all about drumming up public speakers to go to planning commissions and city councils – including Fullerton’s – to try to hustle up approvals. And the concepts of fairness and feasibility have very little to do with the grim reality: in SCAGs “expert” opinion Fullerton needs another 30 or 40 thousand people crammed into massive apartment blocks, by-right apartment units in R-1 zoned neighborhoods, and any other upzoning that suits their end.
I think the idea that Elizabeth Hansberg may actually be lobbied at a Commission hearing by public speakers she is using public resources to gin up in the first place would be pretty damn funny if it weren’t so appalling. Her appointment to the Planning Commission was a mistake to begin with. And now we see how high the stakes for Fullerton’s future really are.