Fast Talking Techno-Pitch Man Tries to Sell Council Sack of Magic Cyber-Beans

Council member Mr. Dick Jones was caught drooling yesterday at the idea of using taxpayer funds to create a massive fiber optic nightmare to compete against local businesses and bring high-speed Internet connections to our supposedly media-starved school children. A presentation was made to the council by smooth-talking Paul Stover of the Technology Working Group to deploy a 37-mile fiber-optic loop buried shallowly underneath major Fullerton traffic arteries. Mr. Jones seized upon the idea of becoming his own telecom corporation, using taxpayer resources to launch Fullerton into the high-risk world of the telecommunications business. Despite his lack of experience in the telecom industry and without surrendering a moment to ponder the idea, Mr. Jones eagerly pronounced “I’m ready to sign up!”

In the corporate world, responsible executives must keep a tight reign on their computer geeks, who are easily coaxed by fast-talking technology salesmen into spending other people’s money to buy themselves fancy new toys. Mr. Jones and the rest of the council should always be wary when IT salesmen throw around meaningless buzzwords like “Futureproof” and “knowledge workers” in an attempt to justify fabulous new financial ventures deep into the territory of private enterprise.

Council member Shawn Nelson got started with some important questions, but the council needs to go much deeper. These are the questions you should be asking TWG and ISMS (the consulting company who conveniently recommended themselves to manage the proposed system). Vague, assumptive or misdirecting answers should not be accepted.

1. Should we make a long-term investment into a rapidly-depreciating commodity? The cost of bandwidth has been falling by orders of magnitude for the last 15 years and is expected to fall even faster as ISPs trip over each other to deliver high-definition video to every home in America over the next few years. Is that the low-margin business that the City of Fullerton should enter? Or perhaps we should position ourselves to benefit from the fruits of this new competitive marketplace by leaving ourselves open to the most efficient solution utilizing commercial economies of scale that a city can never achieve by itself.

2. Do our children really need gigabit Internet connections at school? Some of our teachers seem to be very interested in bringing more bandwidth into our schools to fill our children’s mind with the best videos that the Internet has to offer. For as far back as I can remember, projectors, VHS and DVDs were used by lazy schoolteachers as babysitters in the classroom when they don’t feel like actually teaching. Will Internet video be any different? Why are these teachers so quick to outsource themselves to a video professor?

3. Why does the network have to be physically owned by the city? ISMS disingenuously implies that their giant list of potential uses for this fiber network can only be achieved if Fullerton owns the physical medium. That is completely false – any and all of these technologies could be run over network access provided by the marketplace on an as-needed basis.

4. Will Fullerton really be able to re-sell portions of the network to businesses? Mr. Jones clearly became enamored with the idea, but the TWG spokesman downplayed it and suggested that it was merely a possibility. Almost all businesses have connectivity needs that go beyond the borders of a single city and would be wary in signing up for government-run service in a competitive marketplace.

5. What are the risks of microtrenching the new cable? Microtrenching is a newer cable distribution method which only buries the cable about a foot under the surface of our roads instead of digging large trenches. Are there any long-term reliability studies of this new technique? If we lay 37 miles of cable over the top of our existing utilities, what are the increased costs when we have to do maintenance to our gas lines, sewer lines, water mains and street surfaces?

Mr. Jones may be easily bedazzled by big words, flashing lights and his own jokes, but the rest of the council should be wise enough to ask the right questions before taxpayers are sold on this so-called Fiber Field of Dreams.

SUSTAINABLE DESIGN IN FULLERTON?

Dave Musante knows it takes a long time to bring about positive change in cities. Right now the first LEED-certified affordable housing development is being built in Northampton Massachusetts, where Dave was first elected Mayor for 12 years. What did they name the street that leads to the project?

Dave was advocating sustainable planning elements–greenbelts, energy conservation features, etc. way before he left office back in 1992. So 17 years later, when this project became a reality, the planners said its street sign had to say “Musante”.

Now that Sharon Quirk has reappointed him to the Planning Commission for the next four years, we can anticipate his outspoken advocacy for sustainability in public projects here in his new hometown? Will the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency’s planned $30 million government-subsidized Richman Ave. housing project adjacent to the historic Jones and Emmons neighborhood live up to the standards Dave pushed for in Northampton. Stay Tuned……

CITY COUNCIL TURNABOUT STICKS IT TO OLD GUARD

In a surprising move Pam Keller and Sharon Quirk performed a U turn at last night’s council meeting on the subject of commission appointment process. At the “first reading” of a new ordinance the proposal was defeated 3-2, with the support of Shawn Nelson.

Although previously supporting the jettisoning of direct appointments and replacing it with the old, cumbersome interview process, both Keller and Quirk, upon reflection, decided that exercising individual authority and accountability is part of the responsibility of being elected to public office. We commend them for making the right choice.

As expected, council mastodons Bankhead and Jones refused to emerge from Fullerton’s last ice age, and vociferously defended the old interview process in which retired government statocrats such as themselves had a disproportionate amount of influence choosing appointees of like mind and temperament.

The process of filling “at-large” commission seats will now be handled in special council sessions, in public. To which we respond – bravo! Transparency and responsibility!

Someday, perhaps the council will simply abandon these at-large seats and operate with five member commissions, each member of which responsible to his or her elected representative. In the meantime we congratulate the majority of the council for doing the right thing.

FULLERTON CITY COUNCIL VOTES TO EMASCULATE SELF

On January 6th, a 4-1 majority of the Fullerton City Council perpetrated a strange act of self-mutilation, with Shawn Nelson dissenting. It decided to revoke its policy of selecting people to serve on commissions and committees. Instead of individual councilpersons being able to choose direct appointments, they returned to the old system whereby a couple of councilpersons and a commission member conduct interviews and make recommendations for approval by the entire City Council.

So effectively a majority of the City Council chose to disempower itself by abdicating the ability to choose their own direct representatives on commissions.

Now why would politicians give up direct appointment for the diluted old groupthink process? A good question, and one only partially explained by the typical Fullerton city councilperson’s fear of actually exercising the power the electorate has bestowed upon them.

Historically, the old system of interviews meant that certain candidates could be effectively weeded out or ignored altogether. And what was the profile of these undesirables? Independence and a willingness to question the bureaucrats in City Hall were likely character traits; or, to put it another way, the process effectively ensured the type of person who was selected. The latter was inevitably chosen for his or her willingness to be a team player, to go along with the recommendations of “staff” and who could be counted on not to ask embarrassing questions and expect coherent answers.

Furthermore, since the commissioners were not directly accountable to anyone they were even more likely to identify with the staff department that oversees its respective commission, than with any elected official’s policy. This fact may comfort those who find politics distasteful, but it results in a diffusion of authority – a vacuum into which bureaucratic inertia will inevitably insinuate itself.

Appointing people who are safe who through personality type, or can be relied upon to run with the herd in order to protect their business interests would certainly appeal to Dick Jones and Don Bankhead – retired Air Force doc and cop, respectively. It was the retired bureaucrats themselves who always had a disproportionate influence in this system since they had ample time to the interviewing.

We associate this sort of corporate thinking from men once in uniform. But what of the two avowed liberal members of the Council, Sharon Quirk and Pam Keller? Liberal women might not be expected to adhere to the lockstep logic of military teamwork. To them we may attribute a liberal, process-oriented view of things in which the more convoluted an operation is in masticating its material, the more digestible the product must be.

And finally, we must note that the practical consequence of this council’s castration will be to deprive current Council pariah Shawn Nelson with the opportunity to make his own direct appointments to commissions; and since he might actually appoint people likely be independent-minded and represent the taxpayers instead of the bureaucracy his colleagues will certainly be gratified by denying Nelson this prerogative – even if it means depriving themselves of the same privilege.

4:1 Fullerton Council “Clueless” Ratio

Below is a link to a video of the January 6th Fullerton City Council meeting. Try this. Jump to item 14 and watch the various members discuss the proposal to RETROACTIVELY increase city employee pensions. Your challenge in responding to this post is to explain how any member other than Shawn Nelson does not appear to be clueless. In all fairness, Pam Keller may have escaped “clueless” status in this segmant as it was unclear as to when she figured out that the proposal was a bad idea. But for Quirk and Bankhead, it was as though somebody just let them know that the earth isn’t flat and they’re pissed. Heads are going to roll. By essentially implying to Nelson that opposing defined benefits to public employees is unconcionable, Bankhead is literally arguing that the math should be damned. It’s really worth the watch for the entertainment value alone if you know the players. Warning. If you were hoping that Sharon Quirk had a basic understanding of her responsibilities, have a martini first because you are about to be enlightened. http://fullerton.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=127

CSUF FACULTY HOUSING PROJECT LAYS BIG EGG

What do you call a government project that destroys an historic building, creates an eyesore, accomplishes none of its goals, can’t pay for itself, and requires no accountability on the part of its perpetrators? That’s right gentle readers! A BOONDOGGLE.And so it is with the much ballyhooed University Heights Project meant to provide subsidized (oops, “affordable”) housing for needy CSUF teachers. The University sank millions into this venture by buying property from the BPOE and building them a new lodge on the site of the original, totally Rat Pack cool building. Well, the old building is long gone, the new butt-ugly building is done, and cheapo cookie cutter stucco tract houses jam the ridgeline.

Only problem is nobody wanted to buy these boxes on dinky lots. A covenant that would keep the properties restricted to CSUF personnel was way too limiting for buyers in a plummeting real estate market, so nobody was buying in.

At first sales were restricted to CSUF employees as per plan. Then they were opened to any public employee. When will they be for sale to anybody? Occupancy of one kind or another has been pegged at about 40% although a quick drive through is reminiscent of a trip to Calico or Rhyolite. The word on the street is that the bank has pulled out because the deal can’t pay for itself.The architects of this miserable failure have yet to suffer any of the consequences that a private real estate developer would. Let’s see if we can help. First, there’s Milton Gordon, President of CSUF who must be wondering how come nobody has called him out on this yet. And of course let’s not forget our dear friend Fullerton City Council member and all around buffoon Dick Jones who actually did take credit for it (link to video) ironically unaware of the true fiasco unfolding up on Elk Hill.

There is an object lesson here of course that will no doubt be lost on educrats and befuddled local electeds: stay out of the housing business and kill policies that encourage tax-payer purchased housing subsidies for public employees.

15th ANNIVERSARY OF THE GREAT FULLERTON RECALL

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the event that has shaped Fullerton’s political landscape ever since: the Fullerton Recall of 1994. Three stubborn, entrenched councilpersons chose to side with the bureaucrats over the citizenry and imposed an unnecessary utility tax on the populace. Well, the citizenry struck back. Common folks, many of who had never taken any part in municipal politics banded together and began a yearlong recall effort that eventually ousted A.B. “Buck” Catlin, Molly McClanahan, and Don Bankhead.

The event was seminal and pitted the old, statist interests that had run Fullerton since the beginning of time and the barbarians who had very recently arrived at the gate. The statists of both political parties looked on in horror as the Outsiders assaulted their citadel. For them it was indeed a contest of good (them) versus the evil of untutored and unwashed common folk.

The resulting recall, the determined effort of those recalled not to leave office, and the ultimate repeal of the utility tax were formative events that created a permanent citizen political presence and a resolute effort by the statists to regain control of the city. The middle of the road Chamber of Commerce Republicans were thrown together with the Fullerton do-good Democrats who had newly discovered their dedication to the City Hall bureaucratic apparatus.

The fact that the old guard managed to secure its position by the re-election of Bankhead and the election of “conservative” empty suit like Godfrey, Jones, Clesceri and Wilson, and outright liberals like Quirk and Keller has shown just how stubborn political interests resist real change. Fullerton has failed to elect a representative who wasn’t beholden to vested interests, and who was willing to challenge the authority, or even the competency of the city manager and staff.

There is hardly any way to gauge the level of animus that some of the old guard, especially the leftists, have nurtured toward those they deem rabble. Will that change with the emergence of a new generation of politicians?

We hope that new leaders will be able to start seeing issues through their responsibility to their constituents more than their affiliation with the apparatchiks in City Hall and the vested interests that have been so cozy with incumbents over the years.

The Recall was memorable less for what it ultimately accomplished than that it demonstrated, for a brief, shining moment, at least, that in a democracy the people can exercise their sovereignty.

Fullerton Council to Discuss TERM LIMITS

At the request of several Council Members, the City Council will discuss the issue of term limits, and if the matter should be placed on the next ballot. How many years do YOU think is enough? Some say 8 years, others 12, Mr. Dick Jones says NO term limits. Don Bankhead has been on the Council for 22 years and counting. What will Mr. Jones have to say about agenda Item #13, will he “blow his lid”… again? Stay tuned this Tuesday evening, it should be one to remember.

OC REGISTER SPIKES BALL TOO SOON ON PENSION ISSUE

On Sunday the OC Register recognized Fullerton Councilman Shawn Nelson’s lone stand to protect the Fullerton taxpayer against a proposed employee pension spike plan that was being discussed behind closed doors last summer. Register Editorialist Steve Greenhut commended Nelson for saving Fullerton from an underfunded pension disaster of the sort that is bankrupting California cities like Vallejo. Click here to read article.

Poor Steve! He spoke too soon! This Tuesday the very council that chose behind closed doors to accede to union demands last summer will now conduct a hearing to approve the proposed pension increase.

The vote should be fairly predictable. Union water bearers Dcmocrats Sharon Quirk and Pam Keller plus quasi-Republican Don Bankhead are safe votes for the increase, which is all that is needed for passage. More entertaining will be the action of Mr. Dick Jones, another iffy Republican who previously supported the proposal, at least until the GOP Central Committee got wind of it. Then he changed his tune. Now that he has been re-elected it will be interesting to see if he will keep the promise made in order to keep the Republican endorsement, or if he will once again flip back to his natural inclination of giveaways to public employees at the taxpayers expense.

The issue is Item #14 & 15 on the meeting agenda. The Council will meet at 6:30 Tuesday night at City Hall. Public participation is strongly encouraged by Friends For Fullerton’s Future.