Fullerton Observer Sinks To New Low

The Yellowing Sub Dives even Deeper
The Yellowing Sub dives even deeper

UPDATE: According to an e-mail we received yesterday, our acquaintance “Tenant” reminded us that he did indeed have a follow up conversation with Ms. Kennedy about his situation. We apologize for that error. However the basic thrust of this post remains. You can’t be a reporter and an advocate for this or that specific cause or organization at the same time.

And just to remind our Friends: we are a blog – not a journalistic endeavor and we have never tried to get anybody to believe otherwise.

To those Fullerton Observer observers who still believe that Sharon Kennedy has an atom of journalist integrity, or any objective standards either, we present the most recent Observer edition as our evidence to the contrary.

Last week we posted a story about how Fullerton Interfaith Emergency Services intended to expand their compound in the 500 block of West Amerige Avenue, and in the process how the current landlord had told his tenants to vacate the premises so he could close the deal.

What we didn’t share was the fact that one of the tenants had actually contacted Sharon Kennedy. According to this individual she evinced considerable interested in his plight; but the tenant never heard back from her.

In the Observer’s mid-September issue she gave an answer. Buried in the middle of an article about unrelated FIES issues the author tucked in a few lines about the FIES acquisition of  property on Amerige. The article notes matter-of-factly that relocation help would be available for those tenants who need it. Check out left column halfway down page nine.

Of course there was no mention of the fact that previously none of the tenants had been notified that “assistance was available,” no mention of what the criteria for qualification are, and no mention of who at FIES told her that they were going to help anybody.

It sure looks to us like Sharon Kennedy was trying to help her pals at FIES cover up an embarrassing episode long after the fact. Wow! What a crusading reporter!

Well, at any rate, we are glad that someone may be getting something, sometime, somehow. We’ll check in to see what FIES is doing to make things right for the folks they are dislocating.

In the meantime a whole lotta irony is still goin’ on: several genuine, non-subsidized affordable housing units are taken out of the available housing stock and the property, soon to be owned by a non-profit, will be taken off the property tax rolls. Hooray!

hey everybody, we gotta stick together...
Hey everybody, we gotta stick together...

O! The Bitter Irony! Will FIES Create Homeless People?

504 W. Amerige Ave.

The Fullerton Interfaith Emergency Services (FIES) is a non-profit collaboration of local folks whose mission is to help people of marginal means subsist, learn job skills, and for some, transitional housing is provided in the FIES compound in the west 500 block of Amerige Avenue.

Imagine the surprise of the tenants at 504 W. Amerige when they recently received eviction notices from their landlord. It seems FIES wants to buy the multi-family property located next to their current assemblage of properties, and the residents have to go. Apparently there are several families living on this property including several kids and even an infant. Some have been living there for over fifteen years and must like it.

It seems nobody at FIES has made it their business to inquire about the fate of the current tenants who now have to find a new home with a comparable rent, and will somehow have to scratch up a new  first/last payment on a new place; or if they did, perhaps they dismissed it as not their problem.

We don’t think it’s real nice of FIES to cause the eviction of employed, rent-paying citizens simply because their mission is to minister to people farther down the housing stock food chain.   It’s particularly egregious since FIES routinely receives government subsidies to pursue its mission.   It must be galling for a taxpayer to find himself on the receiving end of an eviction notice due to the efforts of a taxpayer subsidized organization.

We hope that the good folks at FIES can reach an accommodation with the current tenants to let them stay on until they can relocate, and/or provide monetary relocation assistance. That’s only fair. It would be a painful irony indeed if any of these people ended up as FIES clients in the future.

The Ever Expanding Compound

Finally, the issue of the FIES compound itself needs to be addressed. Is it appropriate for this facility to continue to expand at this location? Is it wise to aggregate this sort of transitional use in a single neighborhood? Continued expansion seems likely to hasten  even more growth in the future. What are the permit requirements, if any, for this proposed use, and what does the City have to say about the dislocation of the existing tenants.

With all of the collaborative activities going on in Fullerton, maybe somebody can collaborate on some help for the residents at 504 W. Amerige Ave.

What Color Is Pam Keller’s Parachute?

Won't take money from developers...
You will never see me taking money from developers...


We’ve been sharing information (when we find it) with our Friends about the unusual – well, unique, really – relationship between the Fullerton Collaborative and the Fullerton School District. Fullerton City Council woman Pam Keller is the Executive Director of the former, but remains an employee of the latter. We’ve coined a term for the process – “contracting-in.” It’s such a rare strategy that we’ve never actually seen it in use before.

Many of our Loyal Readers’ eyebrows have been caused to arch by the possibility that Pam Keller might have been soliciting donations for The Collaborative that actually went to pay FSD for her own services. And those eyebrows got even closer to hairlines when speculation began that Pam may have been soliciting donations from interests that had business before the City of Fullerton.

Today we share the 2009-2010 agreement between the Collaborative and the FSD – agreed upon by the Board of Trustees unanimously and without discussion as a “consent calendar” item.


Notice the asterisk in item #1 of the Collaborative’s responsibilities. It leaves open the possibility that the District may give the Executive Director a raise – and stick the Collaborative with the bill! Now we ask you – what kind of an organization would agree to an open-ended codicil like that in a contract? We’ll help out: one in which the Executive Director (who is also a board member), is the direct beneficiary, that’s who!

We also note in the 2009-10 FSD budget documents a throw away line stating that the Collaborative kicked in extra money to the FSD. It’s noted in that little box at the bottom of the document (below). Now why would the Collaborative do that? What kind of “charity” gives additional money back to a contractor? Possibly a charity whose fund-raiser’s efforts are so successful that a surplus exists which could be kicked back to the District to pay for that raise described in item #1 of the agreement. Of course we’re just speculating here.

Resolution for Expenditure

But, none of these speculations would be so thought provoking if the Collaborative’s mission weren’t so fuzzy, and if it had major expenses other than the cost of hiring a government employee to be its Executive Director/fund-raiser. But the mission is so loose as to be practically meaningless, and the cost of the Executive Director consumed most of its budget in 2007.

All of this really ties back to the fundraising issue and who actually gives money to the Collborative. But it’s perfectly clear now that the funds – donations, fees, whatever –  that go into the Collaborative, go to pay Keller – via the FSD; the question of additional “revenue” given to the FSD by the Collaborative opens up a new issue for people who contribute to this endeavor and who might start wondering why the Collaborative can’t be run by its own employee, or better yet, by volunteer labor.

A Conflicted Individual


We’ve been tracking the doings of Fullerton City Council member Pam Keller lately, with particular interest in her job as Executive Director of something called the Fullerton Collaborative, an outfit with fairly fuzzy goals whose biggest expense in 2007 was Pam Keller herself.

We’ve gotten a little bit of blow back from some Keller supporters who just don’t seem to understand the problem we’re having with a City Council member who might just be voting on projects whose applicants are also contributors to her Collaborative, and hence, pay for her services.

To help illustrate our point we helpfully provide an example. On their website, the Collaborative lists St. Jude’s Medical Center as a member here . Well, members pay dues, and those dues go to the revenue that pays for an Executive Director. Now let’s say (for the sake of argument) that St. Jude’s had some important business before the City of Fullerton. Oh. Wait. No need to suppose.

In December of 2007 the Fullerton City Council voted to approve a general plan amendment, a zone change, permits, and associated CEQA documents that permitted St. Jude’s to expand on the west side of Harbor Blvd – adding a massive new medical building and a gargantuan parking structure here . The vote was 5-0 (check out pages 5 & 6) – meaning that Keller voted to approve a huge project in an already heavily congested area proposed by a key member of her Collaborative, a member whose contributions that year went into the kitty that paid Keller’s salary. We see that as a huge conflict of interest – even if her relationship might somehow be legalized by the fact that she was really an FSD employee in disguise. The fact that the approval didn’t hang upon Keller’s vote offers us little comfort. What if it had – as in the case of the recent Redevelopment expansion?

If this same type of behavior had taken place with private developers, well, you can see the problems that would arise. Oh. Wait. St. Jude’s is a private developer.

What? Me worry?
What, me worry?

Who’s Who In The Zoo

There's a lot more to me than meets the eye...
There's a lot more to me than meets the eye...and a lot less, too.

It’s always nice to know who is who. And when somebody gets up in public to opine on a subject, it’s particularly useful to know what relationship exists between the speaker and somebody – like a staff member, or a city council member- who is promoting a specific item on a public agency agenda.

While we are always promoting the importance of what is said rather than who said it, there’s no denying the fact that having people get up and speak, no matter how stupid or uniformed they are, helps sway councilmanic opinion; and when the council persons aren’t the brightest bulbs on the tree to begin with, it’s just that much more effective.

Here’s a story: somebody named Lee Chalker showed up at the hearing for the Redevelopment expansion hearing and spoke in favor of the expansion. She even got her name in a Barbara Giasone article on the subject here . Now, none of us had ever heard of Lee Chalker before despite her having lived in Fullerton for 35 years. We wonder if she really knew what she was talking about since her stated concerns about bad roads and drainage suggest current deficiencies in the Engineering Department rather than Redevelopment issues.

A little research on Lee Chalker reveals a member of a church called “University Praise” that is affiliated with an organization called OCCCO. What is that? The “Orange County Congregational Community Organization” – a group with a fairly nebulous remit, but that seems to organize its efforts around helping poor folks organize to get things from the government.

What’s really interesting about OCCCO is that in 2007 it was a major beneficiary of Pam Keller’s “Fullerton Collaborative.” In fact, the Collaborative forked over $25,600 to OCCCO for something called “community organizing.” Well, that makes sense, we suppose, since a “Community Organization” should have something to do with community organizing. What they did for the $26K is less important than the connection with Pam Keller herself, who was able to vote on the Redevelopment expansion only after City staff redrew the boundaries around a piece of property that Keller has some sort of interest in. And of course she voted in the affirmative.

We also note that in the Collaborative’s facebook page here we find that Chalker was being installed as a new board member in the Collaborative at just about the same time.

So did Collaborative Executive Director Pam Keller mobilize a gaggle of her pals in the Collaborative and/or the OCCCO to attend the meeting  and shill for the illegal Redevelopment expansion? Who knows? Sure looks like it.

The larger point here is to understand the interrelated nature of all sorts of groups in Fullerton who actually have a very small number of aggregate members, but who can be relied upon to show up periodically at hearings to promote some cause or other near and dear to the heart of some bureaucrat or councilmember. Their numbers give moral support to councilmembers who either lack conviction or are afraid of standing alone.

Is there anything wrong with this sort of mobilization of support? No. But when some of the members of these claques have financial interests at stake (which happens all the time, too) it gets a little dicey. People who want to understand what’s going on are well advised to figure out who these people are and why they are there. In the end it is the content of what they say that counts. But it’s fun to know who the players are. And if you happen to see a procession of people march to the podium to sing the praises of this or that project, you can bet that they were asked to be there. And you have to wonder: if applauders are dragooned into service to help promote some scheme or other, just how good or necessary is it really?

Need a program to tell the players? We’re working on it.

Contracting In: A New Twist On An Old Idea

In government circles there is a concept known as “contracting out.” The idea is pretty simple. Certain services can be provided by the private sector at a fraction of the cost the government can manage. Things like tree trimming and janitorial services spring most readily to mind, but there’s no reason that any government function can’t be compared with the private sector for cost savings. Liberals hate the notion because it means smaller, less wasteful government.

It appears the Fullerton Collaborative has come up with a new wrinkle: contracting in. It pays a government agency, the Fullerton School District, for one of its employees, Fullerton City Council member Pam Keller, to act as Executive Director. Since the Collaborative also shares the same address as the District we assume they provide a desk and a telephone and a computer, too.

If we apply the notion that it generally costs more for the government to do something than a private citizen, we really have to wonder why the Fullerton Collaborative thinks it’s a good idea to have the School District provide this service. Common sense suggests that they could get a better deal by simply hiring Keller – or anybody else – directly, and cutting out the expensive bureaucratic middle-man. This may be a great deal for Keller, but what’s in it for the Collaborative? Of course some of our more cynical commenters have opined that the Collaborative is Keller!

Our guess is that most folks associated with the Fullerton Collaborative work for, or regularly importune the government at some level for something or other, and can’t quite bend their minds around this idea.

Oh, well.