Now that the City of Fullerton’s retaliatory lawsuit against FFFF bloggers Joshua Ferguson and David Curlee has finally done its inevitable Zeppelin Hindenburg act, some folks who promoted and nurtured the despicable assault on freedom are already trying to rewrite their participation.
Kimberly Barlow, Esquiress of the lamentable law firm of Jones, Mayer and Gecko is saying she’s just “happy the City got its documents back” another disingenuous swipe at Ferguson and Curlee who never deprived Barlow of anything; her “happiness” is costing us $750,000, at least , but she forgot to tell the reporter this inconvenient fact.
Then there’s Sharon Kennedy, the (former, supposedly) proprietor of the Fullerton Observer. In a comment string at their blog, Kennedy is now denying her involvement defaming our bloggers and pretending that her involvement was strictly objective. Unfortunately for her, the facts suggesst a slimy collaboration with the City and Jones, Mayer and Gecko. Her “expert” who claimed that she hired him, produced an opinion that was a joint statement to the Observer and an official Declaration to the Court in the case. How that happened and who, if anybody remunerated this self-styled expert is unknown – so far, but it looks suspicious as all Hell. Commenters are questioning Kennedy, but she isn’t answering. And naturally, the expert conveniently backed up the long-since debunked statement of the City’s own “expert.”
Kennedy can claim innocence all she wants, but her track record of venom toward this blog and really toward anybody else whose honesty threatens the well-being of government employees is well-known, and the malice might be pretty easy to prove in court if anybody cared to hold her accountable.
Well, the rats can scurry off the SS Jones, Mayer and Gecko as quick as their little legs will hurry them along. But the facts are incontrovertible and somebody, and soon, is going to have to pay the proverbial piper – just like the taxpayers are going to have to pay for the horrible and intentional malice of City Hall and its lawyers.
Yesterday, in a special meeting, the City of Fullerton officially bowed to the inevitable and settled its retaliatory lawsuit against Joshua Ferguson, David Curlee, and this blog. The vote was 3-2 with Bruce Whitaker, Nick Dunlap and Fred Jung voting to end the bloodletting. Jesus Quirk Silva and Ahmad Zahra, who started the lawsuit and have stubbornly kept it alive, voted no. Whether they were laboring under the sunk cost fallacy or if it was simply a childish aversion to admitting their own culpability in the mess, will never be known.
It doesn’t happen very often that honest citizens can prevail against their government. In fact it almost never happens – a tribute to the tenacity of the courageous FFFF bloggers and their attorney, Kelly Aviles.
After a year and a half of lies, defamation, obstruction, incompetence, buffoonery, temporizing, more lying and running up huge legal bills the City has given up. Here are the main points:
$60,000 in compensatory damages to Ferguson and Curlee;
A public statement absolving Ferguson and Curlee of any culpability;
Legal fees for Kelly Aviles amounting to $230,000.
The winners here are justice (deliberately stalled, to be sure) and journalistic freedom against prior restraint; and, of course, any people who want to be able to get information that their own government is legally obligated to provide.
The losers, once again, are the taxpayers of Fullerton who are on the hook for $350,000 plus how ever much the legal team of Jones and Mayer have racked up – a sum estimated to be approaching $500,000.
Well, Friends, you can add as well as I can. At least three quarters of a million bucks to pursue this hare-brained retaliation against bloggers whose only desire was to get information from their own city government.
And so it is particularly amusing to consider the stammering, babbling statement from Jesus Quirk Silva that he was voting against the settlement because of his “fiduciary responsibility” to the people of Fullerton.
Too bad the other two vindictive and profligate architects of this disaster have conveniently exited from our political stage: Jan Flory has resubmerged herself into whatever nasty swamp will have her; and our former influence peddling Mayor-for-hire, Jennifer Fitzgerald, is fleeing the state entirely, having feasted on the Fullerton carcass until there was no more meat on the bones.
You have to hand it to government bureaucracies. They never give up on stupid ideas. But why should they? With all the time in world, huge amounts of money given to them by others, and with zero accountability, what is there for them to lose?
Specifically, I am talking about an item on the May 4th Agenda, dutifully approved by the City Council, to take $1.8 million in State grant money and $330,000 in Fullerton park money to design and build what they are pleased to call The Union Pacific Trail, Phase II.
Of course we all know that Phase I was a total waste of money – a weird “equestrian trail” (complete with pony railing) that has never seen a horse, that was attached to the poisoned and fenced off UP Park that dies a merciful death at Highland Avenue.
Our crack Deputy Parks Director, some person named Alice Loya pitched the item to a less than bedazzled Council, making sure to point out that the area was disadvantaged, an irony certainly lost on City bureaucrats whose job it has been to un-disadvantage this neighborhood over the past 50 years.
Let me share a paragraph from the staff report, that, as usual, is so full of lies to rationalize the scheme that one wonders if the City staff would ever pursue this nonsense if they had to use City funds to pay for it:
The proposed project will transform an existing 50 to 80 foot wide, blighted corridor into a greenbelt trail providing alternate transportation, linking the Transportation Center and several parks, including Independence Park at its terminus. This proposed trail aligns with the Hunt Branch Library to the west, providing potential future linkages. The total cost of the project is estimated at $2.1 million.
Lie Number One: Alternative transportation? What the Hell does that even mean? Walking?
Lie Number Two: the trail would not link anything to the Transportation Center since it would terminate at a narrow sidewalk behind the Ice House that includes a 90 degree turn. And of course just a week ago, or so, our very same staff tried to sneak through an idiot scheme to cut off the UP right-of-way completely with their private event center on the Poisoned Park site.
Lie Number Three: the proposed extension does not link “several” parks. It would indeed terminate at the Independence Park parking lot but the only other “park” it would touch is the fenced off Poisoned Park that nobody even wants.
Almost as good as a lie Number Four: the proposed trail would be virtually impossible to link to the “aligned” Hunt Branch Library, nearly a mile away, because gosh darn it, the rail siding is still being used by…the railroad. But what the Hell let’s throw out the chimera of “connectivity” to fool the dopes on the City Council, right? It’s always worked just fine in the past.
Almost as good as a lie Number Five: when has the City ever built anything on time and on budget? That proposed cost would sky rocket, of course, as Fullerton’s army of staff, consultants, and design professionals hump the “greenbelt” into submission. Remember the wooden steps at Hillcrest Park and the elevator-from-Hell at the Depot?
But what wasn’t said was much more important than the propaganda ink spilled to promote this idiocy:nobody will use this “trail” since it passes through sketchy industrial zoned property, completely empty at night, and would remain, just like it is now, an attractive nuisance that the taxpayers will be on the hook to maintain out of the General Fund.
On the bright side, members of the new Council commonsense majority pointed out that Staff was already devising a top-secret Specific Plan for the area, and gee, wouldn’t it make sense not to piecemeal things like Planning Director Matt Foulkes tried to do on the ill-fated aquaponic farm/event center? They did treat the item as still very provisional, but FFFF knows better – we know that government money once available, will be spent, most likely on something nobody outside City Hall wants.
Naturally, Councilman-in-search-of-camera-opportunity, Ahmad Zahra scrounged up some of his usual misguided acolytes to beat the drum for this utter waste of $2.1 million bucks. After all, this project would be mostly paid for with “free money” of the sort “progressives” love to accept, then waste. We need look no further than the $1,000000 Core and Corridors Specific Plan, paid for by the State Sustainability Commission, that was quietly abandoned, never to see the light of day. And ironically, the old UP Right of Way passes right through the middle of two of the C&C Specific Plan Areas, suggesting to me, at lest, that the City is not, and never has been interested in the well-being of the part of Fullerton accept as something to play with.
Friends, you may be excused for not knowing who Elizabeth Hansberg is. Very few people know, or care who is on their Planning Commission. But it matters.
Elizabeth Hansberg is our current Planning Commission Chairperson, appointed by the egregious Ahmad Zahra. “So what?” I can hear you saying. Well, contemplate this: she says she is an urban planner, and boy, does she have an urban plan for Fullerton: 13,000 new housing units is the plan, a concept that would increase our population by as much as 33%, upward of 200,000.
“What’s this?” you ask. Here’s the deal. Ms. Hansberg is a “housing advocate” which means jamming as many apartment blocks as is possible into Fullerton. The non-profit she started – People for Housing, now affiliated with something called YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) lobbies government agencies to build housing units. And lots of them. The website brags about lobbying the Fullerton City Council with images of yet another Planning Commissioner in tow – some political opportunist weenie called Jose Trinidad Castaneda,
Their mission is to pursue the current philosophy current in Sacramento to build hundreds of thousands of new units no matter the impact on the current property owners, the infrastructure or the environment. Slow Growth and sustainability advocates are her nemesis.
Naturally this has raised accusation that her movement is nothing but a pawn of the big development interests who are desperate to sink their shafts into the mine of cross-zoning in-fill housing monstrosities. Her cohorts deny this charge, but it still rings true. Why? Because she actually solicits opportunities from developers to engage in political advocacy on their behalf. It’s right there on the website. It gives every indication of being little more than a self-congratulatory shake-down effort.
So who does fund People for Housing, and what are the implications of having this person on our Planning Commission?
Late yesterday afternoon the City of Fullerton announced that City Manager Ken Domer is quitting. Observers have noted a growing dissatisfaction by a majority of the council with Domer’s lack of management ability.
The City press release quotes Domer, thus: “I really can’t stay any longer. It used to be so easy to do the things I do, in the way I do them. Now I have to try to answer embarrassing questions all the time. It’s not supposed to work like that.”
Most recently Domer tried to get the council to go along with privatizing the business registration function – a move that would actually cost the City money, and, by relocating an existing employee, maintain the current employee headcount. This item was rejected by the City Council in a 3-2 vote, now a familiar trend.
In the press release, Domer continues: “I will always value my four years in Fullerton. Working with Jennifer Fitzgerald and Jan Flory was so rewarding for me. And I mean that literally. And of course Jesus Quirk Silva and Ahmad Zahra always had my back, and I had theirs.”
In his brief tenure as City Manager Domer will be remembered for unbalanced budgets, a failed sales tax scam, crumbling infrastructure, lack of code enforcement, bending over backward for downtown bar scofflaws, ridiculous vanity construction projects and many other accomplishments. But he may be best remembered for the City’s reckless lawsuit against this very blog, and the incredibly corrupt decision to approve Joe Florentine’s forgery of an official city planning document.
When reached for comment, former councilperson Jennifer Fixgerald noted, “Ken Domer is a real treasure; a pleasure to work with; worth his weight in gold.”
One of our eagle-eyed Friends happened by Casa Jennifer yesterday and sent in this image. Hmm. Is our former Councilcreature-for-hire getting ready to jump ship now that there’s nothing left to squeeze out of us?
When people talk about “government circles” you can believe they mean it: some things just keep circling around and around yet, like when you have a clogged sewer liner, the circling flotsam never goes down the drain.
And so it is with the City of Fullerton’s hapless Community Development Department that can’t seem to adopt a plan and stick to it; that can’t be honest and straight forward; that refuses to enforce its own code; and as we shall see in this final installment, steadfastly refuses to notify the public of what it’s up to.
When I left off, I noted the odd three-month hiatus of the latest noise go-round that was once again being disguised within broader land use code update In February 2019, the Planning Department was again convened to review the matter, after two opponents of amplified outdoor music had been conveniently removed from the Commission. By this time the new and soon to be former Planning Director, Ted White, was directing the charge to push for the noise free-for-all, likening the impending racket to the noise blast known as Broadway Avenue in Nashville – but in a good way.
But this time there was another problem. The hearing hadn’t been properly noticed to the public as should have been the case, particularly since the noise issue has such an impact on the citizenry. George and Tony Bushala lawyered up and informed the City that it had failed to notify the public about what it was doing. Mr. White declared that the downtown noise issue would be removed from the discussion that night. But it wasn’t – not entirely – as other code sections that pertained to noise slipped through.
A compliant and complaisant Council adopted the zone code changes in April, 2019.
But the story was not over, because, well, Fullerton. The bar owners still needed to be pacified and the bar still needed to be lowered. By November 2020 Ted White was gone only to be replaced by an in-house lackey named Matt Foulkes who had been part of the ongoing mess since 2015, and knew exactly which side of his toast had the butter on it.
So the downtown noise mess was brought back to the council again, where lame-duck members Jennifer Fitzgerald and her puppet, Jan Flory were guaranteed yes votes. But alas, once again the City failed to properly notice the public, and this time there was no way to hide the incompetence in a broader mish-mash of code changes.So the hearing was continued until…well, who knows when? Apparently Jeremy Popoff has fled the scene to Nashville to enjoy whatever douchebaggery he can find there, and Covid has silenced DTF – for now.
But one thing is certain. The City’s downtown creation, AKA Dick Jones “monster” will continue to suck millions in resources out of the General Fund even as the bureaucrats continue to admire the mess they did nothing to stop and continue to characterize a liability as an asset. And because of that complete disconnect with reality, they will continue to push for a noise-a-palooza – no matter how long it takes.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if government bureaucracies do the things they do because of incompetence, venality, or favoritism. In the never-ending story of Fullerton’s noise regulation all three seem to be uniquely intertwined.
What is inescapable is that the City of Fullerton has striven mightily to separate the issue of nuisance noise emanating from downtown outdoor areas from both enforcement and illegality.
In 2011 the ridiculous Transportation Center Specific Plan finally made it legal to propagate amplified outdoor music, thus making Jeremey Popoff’s Slidebar appear honest, although he still didn’t have a legal Conditional Use Permit. But the new regulations for noise had no more effect than Popoff’s missing CUP because the City – cops and code enforcement – refused to enforce the regulations.
What to do? Hmm. What about throwing the issue into a miasma of bureaucratic paper shuffling so that nobody would notice what you were doing, and downtown scofflaws could actually be absolved, de jure as well as de facto?
In August, 2014 the City tried this pitch with the idea that the Noise ordinance would be updated along with great swaths of the existing land use law to make thing, you know, easier to figure out. But downtown noise played a prominent part in the discussion, if not really in the staff report. The council approved noise studies as a mechanism, a cynic might say, to avoid cracking down on Popoff, Jack Franklin’s Roscoe’s, and their ilk, because that is exactly what happened.
2015 rolled around and the Community Development “professionals,” led by newly minted Director Karen Haluza, were again yakking it up about revising the Code. Well, these things take time, you know, and in the late summer of 2016 the City Council finally got around to passing Ordinance 3232, a revised Code, still, with intent of instilling commonsense and clarity. The definition of amplified music was scratched out pending future action.
But whatever the motivation, the ever-shifting sands of sound gave the bureaucrats, aided and abetted by the perpetual dishonesty of City Attorney Dick Jones, the pretext they needed to bat away complaints about the illegal noise – because the issues was under study and consideration!
The vicious circle took yet another revolution in June of 2018 when the Council was persuaded by yet another new planning director, Ted White, to pass a Resolution of Intent to once again revise the land use codes in the interests of commonsense and clarity. Of course the Noise Ordinance and downtown noise was actually a key driver in this conversation, too. Mr. White took it upon himself to introduce a new downtown noise map where any outdoor sound would be permitted; but, the standards – 70 decibels outside and 65 decibels inside – were not to be applied to the source, but to the sensitive receptor, and the burden of proof was clearly laid at the feet of the victim, not the perpetrator of the nuisance. The bureaucracy seemed oblivious to the Armageddon of Noise they were trying to create or the sensibilities of residents adjacent to the riot zone.
The Planning Commission was finally scheduled to review the latest iteration of musical chairs in November, 2018; but the discussion was mysteriously continued for three months until February, 2019 by which time two opponents of amplified music, Nick Dunlap and Ryan Cantor had been removed from the Commission. A coincidence? Who knows? Stay tuned…
Okay. What have we learned so far about Fullerton’s long and corrupt attempt to avoid addressing the problem of amplified outdoor music?
First we have learned that Fullerton’s “experts” in the Planning and Code Enforcement divisions have been serially uninterested in enforcing their own laws in an effort to appease and placate scofflaw bars in the financial sinkhole known as downtown Fullerton.
Second we have learned that you can’t make government bureaucrats do their jobs if they don’t want to do them.
Way back in 2009 City Hall knew it had a problem on its hands as the metastasizing and illegal clubs began sharing their good times with everybody else. A “consultant” called Bon Terra was engaged to to a noise study and the City Council, at the time, voted to maintain the existing code that prohibited outdoor music.
But saying something and doing something about it reflects a mammoth void in Fullerton, and the bureaucrats in City Hall don’t give up on an issue until one way or another, they get what they want.
And in 2012 they got a friend, Jennifer Fitzgerald, who was more than happy to run interference for people who had no qualms about violating the noise and land-use law.
And so, over the next seven years, the Noise Nuisance continued, most notably at The Slidebar, a club that was illegally operating without a CUP. And even as the nuisance continued, the City embarked on a campaign to eliminate any restrictions at all. Complaints were invariably batted away by Planning Directors Karen Haluza, Ted White, and Matt Foulkes who, along with our egregious City Attorney, Dick Jones kept citing studies and new plans, and whatever else they could use as a pretext for doing nothing.
Finally by 2019, it became apparent that the goal was to permit an acoustic free-for-all in downtown Fullerton.
In the past 10 years or so, Fullerton has had four different planning directors: Al Zelinka, Karen Haluza, Ted White, and most recently an individual named Matt Foulkes. Pop quiz: what else do these folks have in common?
Time’s up. Answer: none of them enforced the city’s noise ordinances, and each seemed to be dedicated to ignoring zoning and land use regulations in downtown Fullerton. We’ll get to the “why” of it in a later post. For now I want to point out the trajectory of this mess. As scofflaws like Jeremy Popoff’s odious Slidebar and the Florentine Mob’s various enterprises refused to comply with our laws, the Planning Directors noted above began an ongoing project to lower and lower the legal bar until even the lowest nematode could wriggle over it.
Now if we contemplate this downward spiral of our “experts” in the Planning Department and Code Enforcement we notice that it hit a virtual rock bottom in January 2019 when Matt Foulkes pretended that he didn’t know what a property owner was and approved the submission of an official document forged by Joe Florentine pretending that he, Florentine, was an “owner.”
Of course all of this malfeasance was amply documented here on the FFFF blog. And guess what? Nobody in City Hall cared; or to be more precise, nobody cares, still. See, in Fullerton incompetency and blatant corruption are so common on the part of our City Attorney, Dick Jones and the cadre of drunk, venal and just plain dumb City Managers and staff that our threshold for outrage is as low is almost worn away.
But not quite. Stay tuned for noise. And by noise I mean the noise generated by city staff to ignore, dilute, obfuscate and dodge the Noise Ordinances.