Who Says Fitzgerald Doesn’t Know how to Balance a Budget?

Fullerton City Councilmember Jennifer Fitzgerald deserves all the criticism she gets for her primrose path approach to budgetary issues, the extravagant public employee pay raises she approved, and her false claim during her re-election campaign that Fullerton’s budget is balanced!,among other issues.

As balanced as our City Manager was when he reviewed it.

Still, it’s important to note that Fitzgerald does understand the concept of a balanced budget, when it is important to her.

As an example, here is a screen capture from her 2012 campaign statement. As you can see, she contributed $350 of her own money to that initial campaign:

And here is another screen capture of the same campaign statement showing how much of her campaign funds she directed towards her own company (C7 Communications) during that election:

$2,100.02 is a heck of a lot more than $350, meaning her campaign basically turned a profit for her personally of $1,750.02. Whatever else you may think of Fitzgerald, she takes care to make sure her personal finances are balanced. Fullerton’s? Not so much.

It’s Official. Fullerton has the Worst Roads in Orange County

Not bad.

Well done, Fullerton.

A recent report from the OCTA lists OC cities’ “pavement condition indexes” and Fullerton shows up at the very bottom.

And the projected future conditions look even worse.

But that doesn’t stop councilmember Jennifer Fitzgerald from shamelessly touting the “success” of her road repair efforts in her campaign material.

Here’s a video of councilmembers Fitzgerald, Flory, Chaffee and Popoff making excuses for the sad condition of our asphalt.

 

Fitzgerald’s 5 Year Deception

At last night’s Fullerton City Council meeting (21 March 2017) I spoke on Agenda Item 3 regarding budget strategies. Amongst other comments I asked for clarification on what was meant by “Structural Deficit” considering that both Fitzgerald and former Councilwoman Jan Flory constantly claimed we have/had a balanced budget. I asked what changed overnight to take us from a balanced budget on 08 November 2016 into a “Structural deficit” today.

Structural Deficit Evidence

What I got regarding an answer was Councilwoman Fitzgerald dodging the question and blaming Sacramento and the CalPERS rate change. And I quote:

“And I will go ahead and answer the question that was brought up over balanced budgets and what happened overnight and I will tell you, I mean, for former Council member Flory and I, when we talked about balanced budgets. Our 5 year projections, every year showed a balanced budget and what happened overnight is CalPERS decreased the amount of returns that they assumed that we were going to receive. So, that is what happened to those 5 year projections to change them.”

There’s a lot to unpack so strap in kiddos.

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End the Overnight Parking Ban

Tomorrow night, the City Council will consider a move toward repealing the citywide overnight parking ban between the hours of 2:00 and 5:00am.  This is a long overdue and welcomed change that would significantly improve the lives of many Fullerton residents.

I’ve lived in Fullerton my entire life.  Never once have I heard someone complain that a car was illegally parked on a city street in the early morning hours.  The only complaints are from people who have been cited.

The overwhelming majority of us are asleep, at least partially, during those hours and aren’t aware, and couldn’t care less, if a car was left parked on the street.  Our quality of life is not impaired one iota by another person making use of a public asset during the night hours.

In the Agenda Letter, Director of Community Development Karen Haluza provides an insightful history into the overnight parking ban, which dates all the way back to 1924 when Fullerton was converting from dirt to asphalt roads.  Spencer Custodio at the Voice of OC also penned a nice article on this subject.   Both are well worth the read.

The City’s Nonsensical 1970 Findings

Besides having no use apart from generating citation revenue, the irony of the many justifications the City made in 1970 for preserving the ban apply more appropriately to daylight hoursThe findings were as follows:

(a) In that frequent sweeping of litter, refuse and trash from streets is required to
prevent disease and unsightly appearances and such sweeping can be done
most economically and efficiently while vehicles are not parked thereon, and

I’m not aware of any City street sweeping taking place between 2:00am and 5:00am.  As far back as I can remember, street sweeping has been as predictable as trash collection on a specific day of the week during daylight hours.

(b) In that frequent police patrolling of streets is required to deter, prevent and detect
criminal activity and there is greater need for such patrolling between the hours
of 2:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. than at other times and such patrolling can be done
most economically and will best accomplish its purpose while the streets are free
from parked vehicles, and

There is no “frequent police patrolling of streets” between 2:00am and 5:00am.  Many Fullerton residents out and about during those hours have stories of FPD patrol units parked in inconspicuous locations around town with the officer sound asleep, provided nothing else is going on.

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Behind the Badge on the Chopping Block?

We are notoriously bad at getting our story out…

Next Tuesday’s Council meeting brings us another Budget Show, one more in a line of footling meetings strung out like faux pearls on a cheap necklace.  This one is particularly entertaining since it acknowledges a big structural deficit that the suggested cost savings will do almost nothing to correct: “modest” revenue increases are broadly suggested, but apart from some fee increases and one-time sale of “surplus” property nothing meaningful is proposed. Obviously the recommendation for a utility tax or a sales tax increase will be sprung like a rabbit out of the magician’s hat at the last moment.  

One entertaining bit of the agenda memo is the inclusion of a small table identifying some of City Manager Allan Roeder’s “loose sofa change,” giving the impression that maybe, just maybe, Mr. Roeder regrets his previous offhand dismissal of a $50,000 per year contract that accomplishes nothing as not worthy of councilmanic attention. Of course I am referring to the ridiculously conceived and suspiciously ill-managed “Behind the Badge” agreement that was improperly contracted by Wild Ride Joe Felz in the first place.

Well, good for Roeder, even though desperate times call for desperate measures And it takes a lot of desperation for a City bureaucrat to even tacitly acknowledge the expendability of a contract. The irony here is thick. It is the exploding pension cost of the Fullerton police Department that is breaking our bank. Even as we pay for the cops to peddle their dopey PR right back at us. 

$1.6 Million Stairs to Nowhere

Comically happy rendering by overpriced design “consultant”

The City’s budget is a total disaster and so are our streets. But Fullerton’s Parks and Rec visionaries would like us to know that construction is underway on a brand new set of 3 stairs. From Lion’s Field to Hillcrest Park. The cost is $1.6 million worth of small change that fell into the cushions of Joe Felz’s municipal couch, and that interim City manager  Allan Roeder will no doubt tell us isn’t worth worrying about.

Not Roeder’s first rodeo…

Here’s a PR article in the Register.

A typical bureaucracy driven idea that nobody wanted – a very familiar tale indeed for poor, neglected Hillcrest Park. The most idiotic part of the story is a quotation from Hugo Curiel, the drone in charge of the City’s parks:

“They can use (the stairs) leisurely, also for exercise, in a positive way. The stairs will open the floodgates from Lions Field into Hillcrest Park.” 

Apart from the hilarious malaprop (floodgates don’t open to release anything uphill!) the idea that there is a line of people waiting to somehow access Hillcrest Park from the fake turf playing fields of Lions Field is ridiculous.

But if you read the article you will find something a bit more sinister: city staff blaming the state of Hillcrest Park’s botany on the drought. That is an outright lie. The park’s dying plant life and the resultant erosion on the north and west flanks of the hillsides have been going on since the 1980s –  even as the City under the “guidance” of Susan Hunt and Joe Felz wasted all sorts of money on “studies” and an event center and other useless projects.

A pile of dirt symbolized the effort.

A moronic stair way from Lion’s Field that nobody is going to use is the last thing Hillcrest park needs. Are you reassured by the fact that our visionary  “leaders” believe we have $1.6 million lying around to pay for this nonsense?

Fullerton Makes The Nightly News!

But not in a way that brings anybody any civic pride.

Ms. Pollinger is a well-intentioned person, but she is off target to praise the justice system for collaring itself a bad boy, presumably because the ladder of justice has no top and no bottom. Since the Fullerton cops intentionally failed to collect any evidence and didn’t arrest anybody, there is no crime to prosecute. And anybody who believes this little stage show isn’t designed to tank has taken too many rips on Sergeant Bonghit Schoen’s magical nugg pipe.

 

The $4 Million Elevator That Nobody Needs

It looked so bad another one was needed…

Well, it looks like more loose change has fallen into Fullerton’s municipal sofa. A lot more. And it’s all so funny. The one thing the Fullerton train station didn’t need was another pair of elevator structures; and the last place they needed it was right next to the existing ones.

But that’s where they’re going. That’s right. A new elevators right next to the old ones that the City has failed so spectacularly at maintaining. “Wait, Joe,” I can hear you saying. “Tell us, for the love of SparkyFitz’s God, this is some sort of cruel joke.”

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

The joke’s on all of us. Even people who have never been to the Fullerton choo-choo station.The whole thing is costing taxpayers $4,000,000 which is almost three times the amount the exiting one cost 22 years ago. The arguments in favor of building this are laughable as you might imagine, and immediately prove that other taxpayers are picking up most of the tab – as it turns out, money funneled through the bottomless suck hole known as OCTA.

Yes I’m on the OCTA Board, and no, I couldn’t care less about wasting four ‘mil.

For instance we “had” to build a new set of elevators rather than repair the existing ones. Why? Taking the existing elevators out of service for a long period of time would result in ADA lawsuit. There is not a single filament of proof for these assertions but hey, that money ‘s got to be spent by somebody, right? For $4,000,000 you could set up a daily ADA access shuttle for 20 freaking years. Of course there is also an existing gate opened by a remote control that could access the other side of the tracks at ZERO cost.

But wait!!! (as they said on those old TV steak knife commercials). The new toy is not free to the people of Fullerton after all. A new agenda item asks for an extra $600,000 due to cost overruns. Just a few lost nickels in Allan Roeder’s couch, right? And listen to the string of incompetencies by our Engineering Department that caused the extra cost:

“An additional $ 600,000 is required for the BNSF flagging requirements, unforeseen utility conflicts, escalated cost in securing the elevator subcontractor and additional assistant in construction administration. Due to OCTA funding constraints, only direct construction-related costs will be reimbursable.”

13 Transportation Center Pedestrian Overpass Elevator – Budget Transfer

Of course it would be nice if some one on our illustrious city council bothered to ask why a contract was awarded two years prematurely, and why our staff needs “additional assistant” (sic) to administer this simple project, or maybe why the job wasn’t rebid. But they won’t.

And so we witness the comical spectacle of two sets of elevator structures side by side, each slowly deteriorating, until 20 years from now some over-paid idiot proposes a third, because as any artist knows, three objects in a picture are much more aesthetically pleasing than two.

The Speech From the Empty Chair

So much to skim, so little time…

Lobbyist-councilmember Jennifer Fitzgerald took a powder from the budget meeting on Tuesday. Perhaps the potential embarrassment was too much to contemplate.

But she did send in this letter in lieu of her presence. Since she wants it to become “part of the record” we know that it is really meant to be a political PR document. For a little help FFFF has highlighted some fun parts.

Okay.We now know that Fitzgerald is blaming “Sacramento” for Fullerton’s gloomy, no, desperate fiscal projections. We can’t expect her to make reference to her own irresponsible deals with the unions or remind us of her campaign lie that Fullerton’s budget was balanced. We can’t expect her to admit that everyone has known CalPERS projections have been BS for years. No disappointment there.

Scrolling down her wish-list we see the properties she wants to sell off to her developer pals, a one-time fix that won’t fix anything. More insidious is the “public/private partnership” expansion, or P3 in the parlance of the lobbyist’s guild, in which the public generally pays for the same thing twice. Electronic billboards? Like the fuzzy, illegible ones along the 57 put up by Placentia when things got dire next door? Wow, that really is desperate! The ad revenue from signs would be peanuts (but oh no, let’s not discuss Behind the Badge. That loose change is lost in the couch forever).

You have to give Fitzgerald credit, being what she is. After putting Fullerton in a dire financial hole she is still looking for ways to direct profit to people who have or who might contribute to her political future; or to other politicians in cities where Pringle and Associates have clients.

Do you feel better knowing that “this community always rises to the occasion?”

Fitzgerald A No-Show at Important Budget Workshop

The City Council held an important budget workshop Tuesday evening.  Councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald was nowhere to be found.

She claims to have had a prior commitment, but I was also told she wasn’t aware of the meeting, or something silly along those lines.  Knowing the date and time of meetings, and attending them regularly, had never been a problem for her in the past.  The only exception that comes to mind is a recent family emergency, in which case her absence was totally justified — I’m not about to rag on her for that.

Vacant seat Fitzgerald

One has to wonder if she purposely ditched the meeting to avoid accountability on her bogus “Balanced Budget” claim, which was — again — disputed by City staff and others during the 2+ hour meeting.

She doesn’t seem to handle accountability very well.