The good people at California’s High Speed Rail Authority, who just can’t waste our money fast enough, are moving toward a revised track alignment between Los Angeles and Anaheim. What does this mean? It means a massive boondoggle of course, spending billions to bring a “bullet train” to Orange County that won’t be any faster than the Metrolink line that covers the same distance in the same amount of time.
The new configuration would share existing tracks along the current three-track mainline, and would a add a fourth, dedicated line. And where would the fourth track alignment go? In Fullerton it would have to go on the south side of the main line tracks because there isn’t any room on the northside where the BNSF Railroad currently has two sidings right up to the edge of their right-of-way. The south side of the tracks, however do have room from the Commonwealth underpass as far as Harbor Boulevard.
Of course this would mean using the property that the Parks Department and the Friends of the Trail to Nowhere say is feasible (later on) to take their amenity to the Hunt Branch Library, and beyond. The question of how the trail could get past the BNSF mainline tracks would become moot. The trail would require a prohibitively expensive bridge with elevators; either that or a bridge a quarter mile long, or more. And there goes the alleged connectivity that the Trail to Nowhere boosters keep talking about, even if the BNSF were willing on some distant day to sell to the City.
The trail folks can pick their poison. Useless transit or useless bike trail. Of course they would have to educamate themselves first, and that’s just not going to happen in the Education Community.
As you might expect, the application form is boilerplate and gives the applicant the opportunity to pick questions that put its proposal in the best light. Reading it gives one the impression that the State doesn’t do a lot of particular investigation; takes applications at face value, assuming applicant to be honest; and doesn’t condescend to concern itself with real field investigations.
The application is replete with traffic and demographic data of the most useless sort. This tripe can be dismissed as bureaucratic string tying and gobbledegooking. The literary answers in it sounds like somebody describing the Yellow Brick Road leading to the fabulous Emerald City.
But there are specific questions on the application that are germane to effective spending of public money, and the answers elicited shed light into the mindset of our Parks Department personnel.
Let’s look at Lie Collection #1. The City is asked to describe boonful economic impacts of the Trail to Nowhere:
Visit local businesses? What the Hell? Like the back of industrial buildings and junk yards? Countless opportunities for economic renewal and growth? Name just one along this dismal “trail.” We now know the proposed “trail” doesn’t even line up with Phase I, a fact omitted in the project budget and description. We also know it doesn’t go east past the abandoned park and doesn’t reach the Transportation Center. An affordable way to travel? For whom, for God’s sake? And how much does it cost to walk to Independence Park, using safe streets? That’s right, nothing. The “trail” links no disadvantaged community with schools (there aren’t any), or local businesses, and of course the “trail” doesn’t get to the Transportation Center. It stops at Harbor Boulevard.
Here’s another packet of misinformation, Lie Collection #2. Get a load of this.
Somehow the author of this application “anticipates” 105,000users annually,an astonishing 288 users each and every day – 24 every daytime hour. In order to get where? Why to the back parking lot in the northeast corner of Independence Park, that’s where. The statistics thrown into the mush to support this nonsense are of the most generic kind, and .prove nothing. Of course we already know that there is no physical linkage to the half-circle north of the tracks. Calling this strip an “active transportation corridor” is hysterically funny to anyone who has walked the abandoned right-of-way.
I included the paragraph above the c.2 in the snippet just to show the repetition of the lies and the nonsense that this “trail” would be used, miraculously, by bus and train riders. There are no points of connection from the “trail” to either service. And notice that the application includes the names of all sorts of disembodied parks that are nowhere near the “trail” and that are not remotely accessible to it.
Now we arrive at Lie Collection #3. This is more of the same rubbish.
This block of lies is nothing but a bureaucratic word salad of nonsense and misinformation. It’s comical that the described location of Independence Park is actually where the large DMV facility is located. You’d think the Parks Department would know where their parks are, but this geographical illiteracy may explain how the “trail” proposal was cooked up in the first place. And we know the “trail” provides no access to Richman Park, and of course the Big Lie about connectivity to Downtown Fullerton, the High School and Fullerton College must be repeated, and repeated and repeated – ad nauseam.
Lie Collection #4 is crucial to understanding how this grant was approved, rather than booted out the door with guffaws of laughter.
Whether this hot mess was really “shovel ready” as confidently asserted here is a matter of conjecture, based on the presence of carcinogenic toxins adjacent and below a significant part of the “trail.” But observe in the red box how the application writer avers that some sort of “Environmental Review process” was completed in 1998, and how no elements of the “trail” were found to require mitigation. There’s a body buried here and it’s toxic, too. We know this claim is a lie because the UP Park was acquired at the same time as the linear right-of-way, and was found to be contaminated much later – in the 2000s, demanding that we accept the idiocy that the “trail” was tested in 1998, but the park site was not. It’s an inescapable conclusion that no environmental “process” was undertaken by the City in 1998 at all. Furthermore, we know that two recent Public Records Act requests for specific information about testing on the “trail” returned no relevant documents. This means that if any documents for Environmental Phase I and Phase II research and testing were performed in 1998, the City is withholding that documentation. Or, alternatively, no documentation exists, meaning that the claim in the application couldn’t have been verified.
Finally, the application conveniently omits any mention of TCE contamination along part of it, and under it, a fact well-known in City Hall and by the State of California for decades.
And that leads to a significant question: would the State ever have approved a grant based on this dodge about environmental assessment? I seriously doubt it.
Fortunately the question is moot so far as the future of the infamous Trail to Nowhere is concerned. That proverbial train pulled out of the station with the wise vote by Dunlap, Jung and Whitaker. That’s not what these series of posts have been about. They are about what goes on in City Hall, how decisions are made, or, as the case may be, not made; how there seems to be be little or no accountability for things that are done poorly, illegally, illogically, and untruthfully.
The other night I was watching our esteemed councilcreatures meet so I could check out the Associated Road conversation and I stuck around for the discussion on whether to hire a “consultant” to figure out the cost for Fullerton to ditch the Orange County Power Agency.
The OCPA was conceived as a way to provide “green energy” alternative electricity to people in orange County who wanted it. The idea was the brainchild of the City of Irvine who paid for the start up costs. Eventually Fullerton, Buena Park, Huntington Beach and the County signed on.
From the get go critics attacked the new agency for secrecy and incompetence and failure to deliver a competitive price. It was up to individuals who wanted out, to opt out, a backhanded way to get, and keep customers. Not a good start.
Flash forward to today.
The County has pulled out of the OCPA, Irvine has been talking about it, too. Last Tuesday the Huntington Beach council voted to do the same; on the very same night the Fullerton City, debated the merits of hiring a consultant to figure out what the financial ramifications might be for us get out, too, before Fullerton is left holding the proverbial bag.
I have no idea why City Hall doesn’t already know the consequences of leaving the agency and why the exact formula wasn’t know before we got into it. Anyhow, the discussion wasn’t all that clear.
Ahmad Zahra, one of the people who voted for Fullerton to join this agency wasn’t there to opine on it. Bruce Whitaker and Nick Dunlap both expressed reservations about the whole deal, but went along with Mayor Jung’s suggestion of having the City Manager ask the agency to tell them what it would cost to bolt, instead of hiring a consultant to do it. That makes sense of course, but begs the question of why this wasn’t done a long, long time ago. Like on Day One.
Shana Charles who comically described herself as a “cost analyst” was pushing hard to waste money hiring somebody to pry the information, somehow, out of the OCPA – no doubt a way to embarrass Jung who is now happens to be the Chair of the OCPA. Her motion died a very slow death.
So where will this all lead? The OCPA claims to have reformed itself, but has provided zero evidence to show it has. The board got rid of the first problematic CEO even as they showered him with praise. As far as I can see this shows that nobody there is serious about anything.
Getting out of OCPA may be expensive and may get more so as members drop out; nobody seems to know, and if they do, they ain’t a-talkin.’ And that’s not only embarrassing, it’s a dereliction of duty on the part of the people who got Fullerton into this mess.
So what do you do as a candidate when you’re a liar, a self-admitted thief, a phony carpetbagger, and quite possibly the worst human being in north Orange County; and because of these sad truths you can’t raise any campaign dough?
If you’re Paulette Marshall, the Constant Candidate, you write yourself a check. A big check
Ms. Marshall did it last time, too, when she previously ran for the OC Board of Education in 2020, and blew through hundreds of thousands of dollars to come in 3rd, 5,000 votes behind Vicki Calhoun who spent almost nothing.
Apparently Marshall and her hubby, the odious rodent Doug “Bud” Chaffee, who serves as our County Supervisor believe any amount is worth it to promote the missus into some elected office – any office probably.
Meantime, she and her pals are trying backdoor legal means to get rid of the incumbent Tim Shaw, and if that works maybe she can save some of that money.
Last Wednesday, Elizabeth Hansburg quit the Fullerton Planning Commission.
FFFF has already introduced Ms. Hansburg to the Friends, noting her involvement in the drive to cover Fullerton in penitentiary-like apartment blocks. Her “non-profit” is used to provide Astroturf support for developers of huge housing projects and of course donations from said developers are always welcome.
Ms. Hansburg was also part of the shadowing clan that developed a new housing plan that almost nobody knew anything about until it was conceptually presented the the City Council. The idea was (and is) to achieve the preposterous new housing unit needs count – 13,000 -proffered by SCAG, the Southern California Association of Government – an unelected agency run by and for bureaucrats and their Big Ideas.
Well, anyhow, Hansburg has had enough. Here’s her petulant good-bye speech at the end of the meeting in which she attacks the City Council, bemoans the loss of her beloved fellow 5th Columnists in City Hall, and of course praises the contemptible camera hog and credit thief, Ahmad Zahra.
Self-righteous, indignant, know-it-all. Hansburg went out of her way to promote God-awful projects that were intrusive, obnoxious, and promised a tsunami of negative impacts on our neighborhoods including more parking disasters.
Good riddance. This is exactly the sort of person that causes regular folks to be wary of self-proclaimed “experts” and the bureaucracies they love so dearly. Now she can peddle her services to developers free from legitimate charges of conflict of interest.
We have also seen how Zahra claimed authorship of Water District-related articles actually ghost-written by a district bureaucrat; and how he tried to leverage this pseudo-expertise to keep his well-compensated seat on that board.
Then there’s the about-face Zahra played on the suckers of Fullerton when he announced that the open seat on the Council should be decided by a vote, and then promptly voted to appoint Jan Flory to the vacancy at the behest of Jennifer Fitzgerald.
And that last bit is what this story is about. The deal that Zahra cut with Fitzgerald to appoint Flory and get himself appointed to the lucrative Orange County Water District Board, a board that pays stipends for all sorts of meetings and sub-committee meetings.
Check this out:
And did Zahra have a role in this little handout? Was this a little payback for getting appointed in the first place? These sorts of little deals happen in OC political/government circles all the time. It’s all just easy government cheese. Maybe Zahra will be forthcoming about what this was all about. Maybe, but don’t count on it.
Yes, Friends you heard that right. In the long history of official misfeasance regarding the ill-fated “Union Pacific Park” we’ve seen stupidity, indifference, lack of accountability waste, more stupidity. A project that nobody in the community wanted, but that a fun thing for Parks Director Susan Hunt to play with, and for Redevelopment Monopoly bucks to buy, has been a humiliation for everybody involved; or should be, except that bureuacrats in Fullerton have no shame and no rear-view mirror.
But now we discover, courtesy of a 19 year-old document, something a lot more nefarious than just the usual City Hall incompetence. Consider the following letter written to local property owner Tony Bushala, from then Redevelopment flunky, Ken O’Leary.
Here’s a smoking gun. The City had already purchased contaminated property, not bothering to employ a Phase 2 environmental assessment. And they knew that the perp was already cleaning up contamination “in the vicinity.” And yet the City proceeded building a park knowing that soils contamination was an issue surrounding the park, and evidently not giving damn whether their own soil was contaminated. So the park was built for well over a million bucks, then Lo and Behold – the park, by now renamed “Union Pacific Park,” was contaminated too. It was fenced off from the junkies and homeless and borachos that haunted it.
Naturally O’Leary is long gone, as is his boss, the ever-hapless Gary Chalupsky. Gone too are bungling bureaucrats Hunt, F. Paul Dudley, Bob Hodson, and former City Manager, Jim Armstrong, all enjoying six-figure pensions courtesy of you, me, and the people of the communidad who never wanted a park at all.
And now it seems the death march is to continue. Only recently City staff cooked up a lame scheme to put a private event center on the site, masquerading as an “educational” aquaponics farm. This hare-brained idea was ardently supported by Jesus Quirk Silva and Ahmad Zahra, two councilmen immune to common sense; and these two now, all of a sudden, want to start a whole new process to find out what the “community” wants, just like Susan Hunt did over 20 years ago.
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.
You are excused for not knowing a goddamn thing about SCAG – the Southern California Association of Governments. There’s a good reason for this. SCAG operates as a completely opaque government entity; it is run by public employees, for public employees with no accountability to anybody. Its reason for existence is to promote whatever the latest liberal idea de jour happens to be.
And right now, the idea de jour is housing units. Lots and lots of housing units. In fact, in SCAG’s humble opinion…er…a, I mean expert opinion, Fullerton needs 13,000 new housing units, a notion, if executed would complete the destruction of our already overburdened infrastructure and increase our current population by 33%.
“Well, okay, Joe,” I can hear you saying. “So what?”
Here’s what: SCAG creates what is known as Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) concocted by who knows who, and that assumes the temerity to tell cities how they are deficient in their provision of housing for po’ folks.
“Well, okay, Joe,” I can hear you saying. “So what?”
Here’s what: the State of California Housing and Development Department, another bureaucratic godzilla, is becoming militant in making cities comply with some sort of plan to accommodate these idiot quotas – or else.
And although the circle hasn’t yet closed, the arc is extending: there are special-interest groups, allied with developers who are mining the opportunity to exploit the bureaucratic trend for fun and profit. The consequence that matter to you and me don’t concern them in the least.
Fullerton is currently represented by Adan Ortega on the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s Board of Directors. Tomorrow the City Council will vote to keep him on as our representative or replace him with somebody else.
Normally I don’t care about commissions or regional seats but this guy bugs me for two reasons. First, his company “Ortega Strategies Group” looks to be a lobbying firm in the municipal water industry and that just stinks of regulatory capture / cronyism.
Second, he’s a racist peddling racism to get his way.
To quote Adan Ortega from last week’s Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District meeting (approximately 20:10 into the audio link, emphasis added)
“Finally, as a Latino and Latina majority board, you outta ask yourselves if it is right to let white people representing Pasadena, Sierra Madre, Foothill and La Canada to choose the winner when people of color on the MWD board disagreed. If you choose this path, then nothing has changed in the empowerment of Latinos, Latinas, African-Americans and women and we are inviting more injustice.”
More “injustice” because somebody disagreed with you. GTFO.
This is naked racism on the part of Adan Ortega and it has no place in Fullerton or elsewhere. If “white people” can’t represent “people of color” it would be logical that “people of color” cannot represent white people. There goes 2 council votes for Adan right out of the window. Also, it is laughable on it’s face to think that a hispanic person can represent Asian, Middle-Eastern, African-American or any other non-Hispanic group or person simply by virtue of not being white when different peoples have such different backgrounds, cultures and histories. This would mean that, per Adan’s own argument, the only person Adan would be representing on council would be Jesus Silva and he would only be representing approximately 35% of our population.
Now, it doesn’t matter that Adan is hispanic here as I don’t believe the horseshit that he’s peddling. Anybody who puts the interests of the Fullerton ratepayers first is who should be on this and every board representing our city. But the important part is that Adan believes the racist horseshit he’s peddling (otherwise he’s a disingenuous liar). Therefore taking him at his own word, Adan believes that race dictates who you can and cannot represent. Adan believes that you are defined by your skin color and sexual orientation and other characteristics of birth. Adan is channeling the Klan like talking points of naked discrimination in his rhetoric and it’s time we moved away from the ugly racial divineness of the past.
Racism is racism even when you try to hide it behind “equity” and other fashionable vulgarities. It’s time to tell this racist to kick rocks and appoint somebody who wants to represent all of Fullerton.