Last night the City Council voted to appoint Bruce Whitaker To the OC Water District Board of Directors. The term of the previous incumbent, Ahmad Zahra had expired at the end of 2020.
The vote was 3-1-1, with Whitaker, Jung and Dunlap voting for Whitaker; Zahra nominated and voted for himself; Jesus Silva decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and abstained.
It was not for lack of trying to keep this paying gig that Zahra relinquished his job. No, Indeed, for a line of scripted commenters tried valiantly to praise Zahra to the Heavens, why, Good God! The man practically invented water!
The funniest commenter was none other than Fullerton’s Mistress of Disaster, Jan Flory, who joined in to share in the hosannas for Zahra. She read her script okay, but it included her statement that Zahra had actually authored articles about water,,,for the Fullerton Observer.
Whitaker was clearly the better choice. The water board has jurisdiction over the aquafer on which we sit. The district has massive financial reserves paid by us in ad valorem taxes. And in the past decade the OCWD has been at the center of a massive rip-off called Poseidon, a desalinization scam meant to provide more water to OC county for the purposes of south county development.
Unlike Zahra, Whitaker will not posture on the board for publicity and to be able to pretend some imagined expertise. He won’t use the agency to promote his own agenda and his own political prospects. And Whitaker is not currently charged with crimes by his own police department; nor is he under threat of recall by his district constituents.
Riddle: what’s worse, an endorsement by a greasy political bagwoman, or the endorsing of a perjurer, a confessed thief, and a desperate office-seeker?
I don’t know, and I don’t need to.
Here is our lobbyist mayor, the ethically challenged Jennifer Fitzgerald endorsing the equally unspeakable Paulette Marshall to her fellow female Republican cohorts.
Whoa! What’s this? Endorsing a non-Republican?
There are two things we may discern from this cozy relationship. The first is that Fitzgerald thinks she can get her scuzzy self re-elected without local party help, and second, more importantly, Curt Pringle, for whom Fitzgerald plies her wares, is betting the farm on the Chaffee Crime Family.
Yes, Dear friends, it’s that time of the political season when we can count on the reappearance of our old pal, Barfman. Barfman has been making periodic visits to Fullerton ever since Roland’s Chi’s restaurant code violations finally caught up with him in 2010. Ever since then Barfman has returned to inform Fullerton taxpayers about particularly vomitous political campaigns. In this case it’s the horrendous and duplicitous Fullerton school bonds – Measures J and K that would cost the average homeowner $400 per year in new property taxes – even if the actual value of their houses goes down.
Kind Readers, every once in a while we receive an essay one of the Friends wishes to us to publish. In this instance Mr. George Jacobson has written a piece objecting to the proposed gigantic school bonds that the educrats at the FSD and FJUHS districts have smuggled onto the March ballot with virtually no public notice.
The vote on the second reading of the FSD Resolution that included language changes, was actually taken December 10th, a mere three days before the ballot opposition statement filing deadline and seven days after their Notice of Intent was filed. Well, let’s hear from Mr. Jacobson:
ZOMBIE SCHOOL BOND MEASURES TERRORIZE FULLERTON VOTERS
by George Jacobson
They are coming after us, with their ravenous appetites. Yes, the Fullerton Union High School District (FUHSD) has placed on the March 3rd Presidential Primary ballot a very large property tax bond measure that will require every homeowner and property owner in the district to pay $30 per $100,000 assessed valuation. So, for example, if you live in a house that has a $500,000 assessed valuation, you will pay an extra $150/year in taxes to the high school district. But wait, it gets worse. Not to be outdone, the Fullerton Elementary School District (FSD) is also placing on the March 3rd ballot their own very large property tax bond measure, which also will require every homeowner and property owner living within the elementary school district’s boundary to pay an additional $30 per $100,000 assessed valuation. What this means is that if both bond measures—Measure J and Measure K—pass, and if you live in a home that’s assessed at $500,000, you will pay an extra $300annually in property taxes. Both Measure J and Measure K are by far the most expensive local school bonds to ever appear on the ballot in Fullerton!
Just like zombies, these two school districts keep coming back for more and more of your money, not waiting for bonds that they already got passed to be paid off. As you may recall, in 2014 the high school district fooled enough people to get their $175 million Measure I bond measure passed (it just barely passed, receiving a 56% “yes” vote; anything less than 55% “yes” and the bond measure would have lost). You may also recall the mailers urging a “Yes” vote that voters received claimed that the $175 million would be spent on educating and training FUHSD students for “jobs for the 21st Century.”
Now, a 21st Century job is usually one that is thought to encompass the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. And, for one to be successful and employable for such occupations, one needs to possess a solid background and understanding of math. So, let’s look at how FUHSD math students have performed since the $175 million Measure I bond passed in 2014. At the end of each year 11th graders (juniors) in all the district’s schools are administered the state test—California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP). In 2015 at Fullerton Union High School 63% of the juniors did NOT meet the CAASPP grade level standard for Math. One would think that by 2018 the $175 million of Measure I bond money should have produced significant improvement in these students’ math scores. But, in fact, the students did worse! In 2018 67% of FUHS students did NOT meet the CAASPP grade level standard in Math. Shockingly, this worsening trend was the same at all the other FUHSD schools. Buena Park High: 76% in 2015, then 79% in 2018 not meeting the grade level standard for Math. La Habra High: 58% in 2015, then 67% in 2018. Sonora High: 55% in 2015, then 58% in 2018. Sunny Hills High: 40% in 2015, then 45.5% in 2018.
How could such a horrible worsening of the math scores occur, given that FUHSD’s top priority in 2014 was supposedly to train and educate district students for jobs for the 21st Century? A clue can be found in looking at what the district really spent the $175 million on. It turns out that FUHSD actually spent most of the $175 million on the following: a new theater at La Habra High, new stadiums at La Habra HS, Buena Park HS, and Fullerton HS, new swimming pools at Sunny Hills HS and Troy HS, and a new gymnasium at Sonora High. An actor, football player, and swimmer is not a 21st Century job! As for FSD, its students’ test scores also make for grim reading. For example, in 2018 the median English/Language Arts score on the CAASPP test was 51% of FSD students NOT meeting the grade level standard, with 6 FSD schools reporting 60% or more of its students not meeting the CAASPP grade level standard for English/Language Arts.
The Measure I 2014 property tax bond costs homeowners $19 per $100,000 assessed valuation, and is not paid off until 2039. Already a person living in a home that’s assessed at $500,000 is paying $95 annually in property taxes to the high school district. And, this same homeowner is already paying annual property taxes on the elementary school district’s Measure CC bond, which passed in 2002 and isn’t paid off until 2027. Plus, this homeowner is already paying on not just one, but two bonds that the college district (North Orange County Community College District—NOCCCD) got passed. In 2002 NOCCCD’s $239 million Measure X bond passed, and in 2014 so did NOCCCD’s $574 million Measure J bond. These two NOCCCD bonds cost $120 annually for a homeowner living in a house assessed at $500,000. When one adds up all the taxes that one is currently paying to FUHSD, FSD, and NOCCCD, if the two new bond measures that will appear on the March 3rd ballot are passed, one living in a house assessed at $500,000 will pay just to these three education districts $590!
There was a time when school districts lived within their means. If they issued a bond, they would pay it off over the bond’s 25-year period, and only after the bond was paid off would the school board then consider asking the voters to approve a new bond proposal. Clearly, those days are over in Fullerton. If the high school and elementary school districts fool enough voters to get their latest huge property tax increase bonds approved this March 3rd, what is to stop them and the college district from coming back again in 4 or 5 years with yet another bond measure? Remember, zombies keep coming back for more.
In the continuing stream of solutions to questions no one asked, one of the last actions taken by the current lame duck City Council tomorrow will be the approval of an “exclusive negotiating agreement” to build a boutique hotel in the Fullerton Transportation Center.
As everyone knows, Downtown Fullerton needs three things to be more successful:
More places to have sex
Well, here we go! A triple threat project that eliminates 200 parking spaces, probably includes at least one bar, and will be within stumbling distance for hundreds of coeds each weekend who find the alley behind Zings too piss soaked to properly canoodle.
No word if the proposed Love Shack will have vibrating mattresses, but being immediately adjacent to one of the busiest freight rail corridors in the country ought to provide plenty of stimulation.
We think the BNSF 2:30AM heading out to Albuquerque will be particularly popular with those who are DTF.
There was a crash at the Fullerton Airport this morning. By the time the media arrived, the FAA registration numbers on the tail had been carefully covered up with a tarp. Initial media reports indicate that nobody was injured and the media was instructed to start calling it a “hard landing” instead of a crash. The the rotors broke and the back fell off.
Despite the effort to deidentify the plane, an ABC7 reporter posted a photograph that shows the aircraft as a Eurocopter AS 350 with the FAA registration of N515ET. Aircraft registry websites show that the helicopter has a history of operating in Southern California.
What’s special about this bird? It was initially registered to the US Department of Justice in 2006 until its ownership was transferred in 2011, along with 14 other planes owned by the Drug Enforcement Agency, to a suspected DEA front company called Chaparral Air Group.
Well, there it is. The DEA was secretly operating out of the Fullerton Airport, and then they crashed their expensive toy. And now you’ll get to buy them a new one.
Word has got out that disgraced former city manager Joe Felz is working with Crittenton Services on a new “mixed-use” development on Harbor Boulevard. It’s hard to imagine Crittenden – that takes care of wayward and abused girls – being in the land development business so that doesn’t quite make sense – unless maybe it’s to build themselves a new corporate complex.
Is Felz working for a fee so he can profit from all those inside contacts he continues to cultivate after his (and our) municipal humiliation? Maybe he is donating his valuable time for the sake of the charity. Either way, it hard to see why Crittenden would think the services of Felz, who quit after getting popped driving off the road and trying to make a quick getaway, would be anything other than an embarrassment to them.
A little research shows that Crittenden has assembled quite a bit of real estate over the years. And curiously (or not) it is directly adjacent to the “Fox Block” monstrosity that never seems to go away.
If the city made a deal to get rid of the “useless” triangle parking lot, the rest of Crittendon’s property along with the covering of a flood control channel and the elimination of an alleyway would make a great apartment block.
And finally, I note that the Fullerton Redevelopment Successor Agency is holding on to $6 million for the Fox Block – vestigial redevelopment Monopoly money that will end up in some developer’s pocket.
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.
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?
Probably the biggest vote at tomorrow’s City Council meeting is the Red Oak development . Josh Ferguson has already discussed that issue in his excellent article here so there’s no need for me to pile on (just read it if you haven’t already).
What I do want to do is draw attention to another vote on the City Council. Agenda Item #8 includes the appointment of Fullerton’s representative to the Fullerton Water Board.
This is our current representative.
Now, while Jan Flory has come under a lot of deserved criticism from this blog over the years, and in fact supported three separate water rate increases in a single year while on the City Council, it is only fair to mention that she has been appropriately skeptical on the Poseidon development, which if approved will raise our water rates even further – although it is also only fair to point out that she has recently signaled she would be willing to support the project to maintain her position on the board.
Poseidon Water is a desalination developer that who wants to build a $1 billion desalination plant in Huntington Beach, and wants the Orange County Water District to help guaranty construction of the project AND agree to purchase 56,000 acre feet (eighteen billion gallons) for more money than the County currently pays to import water, for the next fifty years.
How much more? The specific amount has been something of a moving target, but this appears to be the current plan:
(Blue represents what we currently pay to MDW, red, green and purple represent the crony capitalism surtax)
Keep in mind that while (per their own admission) Poseidon is about twice as expensive as MWD water, water purchased from MWD is itself far more expensive than the groundwater which Poseidon would displace, which is, essentially, free, minus the cost associated with pumping and/or replacing the groundwater. Also, Poseidon is angling for a “Take or Pay” contract with OCWD, meaning the ratepayers buy their water first, even if we don’t need it, regardless of whether we have an abundance of free ground water, water in Lake Mead or water we will have to flush to the ocean because our capacity is full.
So who will the Council appoint? Bruce Whitaker (a Poseidon critic) was the City’s appointee from 2013-2014, until he was deposed for voting against the interests of a client of Curt Pringle & Associates, and Doug Chaffee sought the appointment in 2012, so he may seek it again. Flory wants it as well, despite no longer being on the council and no obvious base of support, so it seems to be between Whitaker and Chaffee. With opposition to the Poseidon plant growing at the county level this could be an important vote for the future of this project – and your future water rates.
Last week the ever helpful Fullerton City Hall scribe Lou Ponsi scribbled a story about how Fullerton needs a transit dedicated line from the CSUF area to the Fullerton “metro center.”
No, I am not kidding. “Senior” Planner Jay Eastman believes Fullerton has a metro center.
A cynic might conclude that the sole purpose of this venture is to more efficiently direct college kids into the open air saloon that downtown Fullerton has become.
Trolley? Bus? Light rail(!)? The world is Jay Eastman’s oyster, just so long as somebody else is picking up the tab. In this case the OCTA is going to pay 90% of the cost of a “study” to determine just what Fullerton needs: $270,000 worth, with us paying the other $30,000.
All of which goes to show that OCTA has an awful lot more money than they know what to do with.