Rusty’s Bank Account

A while back some anonymous Friend dropped off what appears to be leaked financial statements from Rusty Kennedy’s non-profit, the Orange County Human Relations Council. The files didn’t receive much attention from FFFF at the time, but this week one of our readers recently pointed out Rusty has been down at the county begging for a new $250,000 infusion to fund additional employees for his private non-profit.

We have a small problem.

OK, let’s take a look at his financial statements. If you believe that this leaked budget is authentic (I do), an additional $250,000 per year from the county taxpayers would conveniently cover the Council’s projected loss for 2016.

Now that’s not very good, is it? Running a non-profit at a 20% annual loss is cause for concern. But of course this is a private 501(c)(3), so that’s normally a problem for Rusty’s private board members to worry about.

Or is it? What if Rusty is groveling for cash at the county just pay for existing expenses, rather than hiring the three new people as promised? The group already receives substantial funding from the county and local cities. Why should the county give more money to a group that can’t balance its budget? Furthermore, it’s hard to tell if there’s any real value in Rusty’s services, or if his organization offers any sort of efficiency. Program expenses aren’t identified in this budget at all. Why not?

Here’s one clue hidden within the documents: Salaries, Benefits, and Payroll Taxes account for 98.1% of their budgeted revenue. With salaries eating up the entire budget, one might wonder if this whole operation isn’t just some make-work project for Rusty and his friends.

There’s one more concern. Rusty has collected a lot of donations over the years by pretending that his non-profit is actually an empowered county agency. Many of his donors are misinformed, which is why the county recently insisted he stop using the county logo and misappropriating  the name of the similarly-named Orange County Human Relations Commission. Furthermore, there is at least one board member who hold seats in both organizations – a glaring conflict of interest that the county has yet to resolve.

Altogether, these documents paint a pretty dim picture for Rusty’s personally lucrative public/private amalgamation. Will county supervisors continue to dump money into Kennedy’s opaque and unaccountable mess of an organization? And how much are individual OC cities paying into Rusty’s perpetual self-employment apparatus? Do Orange County residents receive any real value from this public/private partnership, or is it time to scrape this useless barnacle off the county barge?

Rusty’s Trombone

Brazenly hypocritical? Check. Shiningly self-righteous? Check. Slavishly sycophantic? Check.

Here is the Director of  the OC Human Relations Council, Fullerton’s own Rusty Kennedy (in a letter to his sister’s Fullerton Observer)  simultaneously congratulating himself and his fellow professional do-gooders,  boot-licking the County Supervisors who will soon reflect upon the merits of Kennedy’s operation, and of course, denigrating all the citizens who are rightfully concerned that having several hundred homeless people imported into the vicinity of their homes, schools and businesses are misguided, etc., etc.

Of course none of this semi-literate screed is surprising. In fact it’s all old stuff – particularly the nauseating part about the death of Kelly Thomas being some sort of wake up call. From the very beginning of that saga, Fullerton’s old guard liberals were determined to make the death of Thomas at the hands of six FPD goons a homeless issue, instead of what it really was – the worst example of a police department mired in corruption, incompetence and denial.

For Rusty Kennedy in particular, this distraction was essential and based on his own self-interest. Kennedy’s crew collects income from local police departments who “partner” with him in the aftermath of one of their outrages, ostensibly to calm troubled waters, until the next crisis. He relies upon police chiefs to recommend him and his “council” to be the County’s operator of another useless organization: the OC Human Relations Commission. And that contract is reviewed periodically as part of the County’s frugality theater kabuki.

Comment of the Month, Plus A Taxpayer Funded Movie!

Here is a recent comment from one of our Friends, Just Off Euclid, in response to watching another one of those super-expensive “State of the City” videos that we buy to make City Hall and the politicians therein, look good.

Thanks for sharing that nauseating bit of municipal self-promotion. I note:

Whitaker sitting in front of Laguna Lake where untold millions of gallons of prime MWD water were lost with no apology, no accountability, no responsibility. Fitzgerald brazenly bragging about the moronic stairs to nowhere. Donwtown stakeholders are committed she says. Committed to what? Profit at our expense. Sebourn, with his ass parked in the Corporate Yard as the streets of Fullerton crumble; “we’re ready” he boasts. ready for what?

And then the images of the vast Joe Felz/Karen Haluza stack n’ pack tenement blocks. Who is the target audience for that? Developers, I guess.

Jesus. How much did this bullshit cost?

We don’t know how much it cost. Not yet anyway. But here are some invoices that indicate the cost of 2015 and 2016 productions:

Kneadle 2 | Kneadle | Barron AV 2 | Pipeline Digital 2-2 | Pipeline Digital 2 | Pipeline Digital 1

Take Care of Your Toys

Held up by wishful thinking…

When you were a kid your parents most likely told you what parents have been telling their children for thousands of years: if you don’t take care of your toys you won’t have any toys to take care of.

Too bad such admonitions are often lost on the custodians of public property. How often have you seen property owned by you and me left without proper maintenance or even abused by it’s supposed caretakers? It happens all the time, and with impunity. But how often have you seen a government actually refused resources because they can’t take care of what they already have? That’s right. I can’t remember a single instance, either.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

FFFF has already opined on the ridiculous waste of money, $4.6 million and counting, being poured into two new elevator towers at the Fullerton Depot – right next to the existing elevator bridge. Why? Because some other government agency was willing to blow the money.

It’s bad enough the new elevators are unnecessary; they are also in the wrong location since so many commuters will use the Harbor Boulevard underpass to get where they want to go – to the bridge that gets them to the huge parking structure west of Harbor.

But the most unkindest cut of all is the brutal fact that the existing bridge is a disgrace to the entire City. The glass elevators have been etched with so much tagging that they are becoming opaque; the paint, where it hasn’t peeled off, is discolored and oxidized; and the steel stair steps are rusted through. The deformed stair treads have been patched here and there with caulking, and that, too, is decaying.

The Windex didn’t help…
Bad caulk…
The closer you get, the worse it looks…
The underside. Rust never sleeps…

 

So next time somebody like Jan Flory or Jennifer Fitzgerald sneeringly defends of the “experts” in City Hall, please point them in the direction of the Fullerton Transportation Center; and remind them that thanks to the ever-generous taxpayers nobody in City Hall has to worry about breaking their toys. New ones will always be handed out.

 

While We Were Away: The Embarrassing Fullerton Bike Share Story

An acquaintance reminded me the the other day of the ridiculous OCTA “Bike Share” program of a couple years ago – one of the most embarrassing boondoggles on record, and proof that regional government agencies are just as bad as our own city when it comes to throwing our money away.

The OCTA is always ready, able and willing to waste money – some of it comparatively small amounts, and some of it (think ARTIC) monstrously large. The common theme is that hardly anybody knows about it before the dough is blown, or after because the mainstream media is so good at keeping government unaccountable.

This is the tale of Bike Share, a supposedly “green” initiative, and thus free from the constraints of economic common sense.

The Roll Out. Nelson assures a skeptical Flory that the bike is up to the task…

Back in 2012 OCTA invested in a program where people could rent bicycles from a public rack and return them. To somebody it seemed like a plausible idea. The OCTA chose our city as the test lab because of all the college kids who like to take a commuter train to Fullerton.

Pringle’s Krew: It’s dirty work, but someone’s gotta do it…

Surprise! Bike Nation, a client of Curt Pringle and Associates (the current employer of Council-lobbyist Jennifer Fitzgerald) got the contract to run the program. Better qualified vendors were rejected by the OCTA Board. And the cooperative guy who made the motion to approve Bike Nation and proceed with the program?  None other than our own 4th District Supervisor Shawn Nelson. According to the Voice of OC, the cost of the program was $700,000; the per bike ride subsidy was an astonishing $800.

The forced, painful smile betrayed the awful truth: the bikes were made for political posing, not for riding.

At the end of a couple years the magnitude of the Bike Share stupidity became clear. Almost no one signed up for the membership subscription and almost nobody was using the bicycles, bikes that were heavy and unwieldy. Some of them broke down after they had been washed.  The vendor blamed the OCTA, the OCTA blamed the vendor; but we paid for it.

And Nelson? He didn’t return a Voice of OC call asking for comment.

Reliable Local News

With age came wisdom.

Here’s some fun stuff from our local amateur news effort, The Fullerton Observer, from the latest installment.

First, one of the yellowing observers writes in to compliment the production of reliable news and to note that “local” news is the best kind. The editor Sharon “ED” Kennedy goes on to describe other news sources that are less reliable than her own.

You’ll notice that the subscriber, a Ms. Christina Garner, displays the classic muddled logical error of attributing the characteristics of some members of a class of objects, to all of them. A tiger is a mammal. A tiger has stripes. Mammals have stripes. You get the idea.

Kennedy soldiers on in her solicitude to making sure we don’t succumb to the lure of “fake news.”

And  yet, hilariously, and indicative that we have now entered an irony-free zone, on the facing page is yet another of The Observer’s funny fact dodging articles about Joe Felz’s Wild Ride and subsequent quitting of his post. The last one didn’t even mention Felz until the third paragraph and never mentioned his first name at all. Here’s the latest:

Here it takes six paragraphs of nonsense to get around to the real reason Felz was forced to quit: he was drinking the night of November 8th/9th, drove off Glenwood Avenue, killed a tree, and tried to drive away from the scene. But of course these facts appear almost disembodied from the rest of the drivel so that any connection drawn between these events will not be the fault of Sharon Kennedy. The reason for this weird version is clear enough given The Observer’s penchant for idolizing of public employees no matter what they do: it would make them look bad.

Now I have no idea whether any of the Observer’s loyal followers actually give a rat’s ass about reading real news; and maybe the reason they like the Observer is because it helps reassure them of their own little weltanschauung. But really? In the “most reliable zone?” I don’t think so.

 

xx

We Get Mail: A Most Unhappy Neighbor

Friends, here is a letter sent to Mayor Bruce Whitaker and thoughtfully provided to us from a citizen who live in the Chapman Park neighborhood across the street from the proposed site of a County homeless shelter.

I omit this individual’s name and number to spare them annoying calls from the bureaucrats but it was included in the letter to Whitaker:

Subject: proposed homeless shelter

Mr Mayor,
This is in regards to the proposed homeless shelter to be opened in the old Linder’s Furniture building on State College in Fullerton.  I am a long time Fullerton home owner (almost 30 years) and live in the Chapman Park tract directly across State College from the proposed site.  I would like to voice my adamant opposition to this project!  If the shelter goes in at this site you are opening us up to security and safety issues, property value drops & outright living in fear.  We have a park in our tract that will potentially become the hangout for the people of the shelter, all they have to do is walk across State College Blvd and they are at the pedestrian entrance to our housing tract.  This park is a little league park full of kids on the weekends, and homeowners including myself walk the park frequently in the mornings and evenings. A great many of the homeowners in this tract are older single women like myself who live alone and the thought of our community/tract being opened up to this kind of influx of homeless and mentally ills is frightening.  I have already had my house broken into and robbed in the recent past and what is being proposed will bery likely increase the chance of this happening again.  It’s bad enough that our neightborhood has been turned into a parking lot by the students from Cal State Fullerton and the city won’t help us with that issue, now we are going to be asked to have the residents of this shelter desend on us also.  I know this seems like the old “not in my backyard” standard but truthfully this is a very disconcerting and potentially dangerous situation for us. It seems like there must be an available building in a more industrial location rather than this one so close to homes, little league fields and schools. And what happens when the over/under pass project reaches State College?
 
I know my voice probably doesn’t matter and nothing will change as it appears deals have already been made and this is being railroaded through but I hope at the very least that the pedestrian entrance at the corner of  State College and Fender will be completely sealed up.  And when our houses get broken into or tagged and the mentally ill and homeless accost us at the park I hope you will personally come visit us to see what you have allowed.
 
Sign me
A very unhappy Fullerton resident
Hopefully this tax-payer’s voice will matter, although the odds seem against it.

Welcome To Floryland

The closer you look, the worse it gets.

When you have an inflated sense of self-worth it must be hard to come up against a wall of objective facts that square with the reality everyone else sees. Thus narcissists and paranoiacs must concoct a narrative that seems to embrace those facts and yet tell the myth you want everyone to believe about yourself.

And so we have Jan Flory: a rigid, humorless, sometimes near-hysterical defender of an ideology that has placed California on the edge of financial insolvency. Think Greece.

Flory’s ridiculous muumuus and wooden beads are symbolic of a much more sinister problem: a fundamental dishonesty about herself and her corrupt mind set.

But don’t take my word for it. Lets examine Flory’s own Facebook rants. Like this latest, with added commentary by me.

DRIP, DRIP, DRIP

At 12:15 a.m. last night, the City Council took up the question of how to refund $7.3 million to people who overpaid their water bills in our city over the past 3 years. Mayor Sharon Quirk moved to continue the matter to the next city council meeting because of the late hour. Doug Chaffee concurred. Bruce Whitaker, Travis Kiger and Greg Sebourn voted to go forward no matter how late or how tired the council members. It also might have had something to do with the fact that the audience had dwindled to a handful by that time. So much for transparency and accountability.

Or it might have had something to do with the fact that hours and hours of time had been unnecessarily wasted by Quirk and Chaffee promoting the candidacy of Danny Hughes as Chief, despite the fact that the Council had already decided it wanted to do a wide recruitment instead of ramming home the inside goon. Transparency? Check. Accountability? Check.

Reality? If Flory is tired and can’t stay up past Murder She Wrote reruns on cable she shouldn’t be on any city council.

A little history first: To begin with, the water fee was never an “illegal water tax”.

Lie number one. Keep counting.

The water tax was first adopted in 1968 at 2% of the water bill. The purpose of the tax was to pass through to the ratepayers (you and me) the city’s cost of getting water to your tap. Fair enough. The tax increased to 10% in 1970. We had aging reservoirs, pumps and water lines that needed replacement and ongoing maintenance. The water fee was a way to do that.

Now that’s just another series of outright lies. But let’s not let the facts stand in the way of a good story, right? The 10% was originally cooked up to divert revenue into the General Fund to pay for the City Attorney and City Administrator. IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH ONGOING MAINTENANCE AND AGING INFRASTRUCTURE. Flory could have actually read the ordinance but that wouldn’t have been as fun making something up.

In any case there was never any accounting to see how bad the rip off really was, and in the old days water was dirt cheap, right?

In 1996, the California voters passed Proposition 218 which required there be a connection between a fee charged and the services rendered. In other words, you couldn’t just pull a number (like 10%) out of the air.

One truth accidentally tumbles out!

Proposition 218 was tested and upheld by the courts beginning in 2002.

Aha! Flory slips in a date to give herself an alibi for her own approval of the illegal tax for six years! Too bad that upon learning the truth she and her cohorts continued to steal the 10% each and every year for the next NINE YEARS. No talk about fixing the rip-off, apologizing to the ratepayers, trying to reclaim even a small mole hill of moral ground. Nope.

The Water Rate Study Committee was authorized by the OLD council long before the Recall to address concerns about the 10% charge to the Water Fund.

And at whose behest? Not city staff or you, Flory, we can be sure of that. It was political pressure that did it.

Ultimately, the study committee determined this summer that the city should have been charging in the neighborhood of 7% rather than 10% in order to comply with 218.

Another outright lie. The Committee determined no such thing. The staff-chosen consultant cooked up a phoney number to keep as much of the rip-off as possible including exorbitant rents paid to the City! Even Quirk said it was ridiculous!

The committee relied on the work of an independent financial consultant, Municipal Financial Services Group (MFSG), to determine the City’s cost in providing water to its customers, and outside legal counsel (Best, Best & Krieger) to make sure that the outcome comported with Proposition 218.

Independent? Now that’s just comical!

The results were even submitted to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association that concurred with the methodology used in the study.

Wrong, again. But by now is anybody counting?

The NEW council majority threw all that out the window, disregarded the recommendations of the Water Rate Study Committee, and completely eliminated the “in lieu” fee. That will have the effect of reducing city revenues annually by $1.7 million which could have properly been charged by the city to bring water to our homes.

Let’s all gloss over the fact that no one has ever said a proper water rate shouldn’t cover costs of maintenance and infrastructure. If it doesn’t Flory has only her own beloved staff to blame – those same incompetent bureaucrats like Chis Meyer and Joe Felz who have let the City’s infrastructure go to hell as they feathered their own nests handsomely. In the meantime, the “in-lieu” fee had no legal rationale for existing since it wan an obvious triple dip. Step one was to get rid of it. Step two is find out what the true costs of running the water utility really is, and charge it to the ratepayers.

Because the city had charged its water customers 10% (rather than 7%), the Water Rate Study Committee found that the city had overcharged the rate payers the sum of $7.3 million over the last 3 years.

Once again, those were the cooked up findings of the hired “consultant.”

It recommended that the overpayment of the water fee be accomplished by an incremental transfer from the General Fund to the Water Fund to be used for infrastructure repairs,–something that desperately needs addressing. This would also avoid the City’s incurring debt to pay the debt.

Um, see comment above. How did the water infrastructure get so bad, Mrs. Flory? You were on the City Council for eight long years. Do want to take responsibility for that? What? Speak up!

What did the new Libertarian majority do? It voted to rebate the entire $7.3 million back to the rate payers. It is estimated that this will be a onetime payment of $100 to $400 per household depending on how much water was used during the 3 years.

The horror. Government giving back something it stole!

It’s an accounting nightmare for several reasons. The overpayment has to be calculated for each household in the city. Some residents have moved or died; thus, creating the dilemma of finding out where to send the money.

But Jan, are you saying your beloved staff can’t figure out a way to print and send out some checks? Hell, they manage to send out the water and trash bills every month.

Finally, the question of where the money is to come from must be determined. We don’t have enough in the General Fund to pay the lump sum. Staff suggested that a debt issuance might be necessary, with an estimated yearly debt service of $500,000.

Put away the violin Mrs. Flory. Step up and take your medicine. You and Bankhead and Jones and McKinley ripped us off for 15 years. YOU figure out how to make it right!

So now we not only have a decrease of $1.7 million in revenue, but we need to add $500,000 for debt service. This totals $2.2 million if you’re counting.

See, it’s all about government revenue, the altar at which the egregious muumuu clad priestess Flory worships. Yes we can count and we know whose balance sheet this belongs on – even though it’s on ours.

Last night, the council majority (Whitaker, Kiger and Sebourn) directed staff to find “creative ways” to pay off the debt such as selling off surplus properties. In other words, asking city staff to remove the rope the council majority had put around its own neck.

Wrong, again, Flory. They are asking city staff to do the right thing, and remove the rope YOU put around our necks for all those years.

Change on the Council cannot come quickly enough. Drip, drip, drip.

It’s coming all right. be careful of what you wish for.