Dick Jones the Developer?

Late last year three downtown properties along E. Amerige Ave. were purchased for $1.3 million by a trust named after one Richard Jones and what is presumably his wife. Hey, that’s the same name as Fullerton’s long-time city attorney of the firm Jones and Mayer.

New homeowner

Yes, it’s the same guy. He bought these three lots for $1,300,000 last last year. That’s a $100 per sq ft, which is kind of pricey for bare dirt. Fortunately the property also contained two old homes. Which one is Dick moving in to?

He never had a chance. Last week a Friend noticed that the two homes had quietly been bulldozed and the 1/3 acre lot stood bare. In preparation for what, we don’t know.


What we do know is that Attorney Jones has been hankering to build some high density commercial property somewhere near downtown. We also know that these properties are in several special parking districts, which means that Dick may be able to erect a structure that forces the burden of parking onto his neighbors or on to public lots and streets, exacerbating Fullerton’s parking problems.

Now that Dick is ready to build up, will years of swapping favors for city staff and kicking up dust to camouflage the city council’s failures finally pay off? We already know that he has no problem ripping off his clients for millions of dollars in unearned pensions. Are there any more ethical lapses or conflicts of interest looming alongside Dick’s road to riches? We’ll find out.

Fullerton’s Leadership Void

Fullerton has a serious leadership void. No, I am not talking about our electeds telling us our budgets are balanced when they clearly aren’t and I don’t mean that we have a culture of corruption/cover-up with different rules for different people.

Those are well documented issues which will continue to be explored. No, today I’m talking about our actual leadership void.

Since last year Fullerton has lost City Manager Joe Felz, Police Chief Danny Hughes, Library Director Maureen Gebelein and now according to public 700 disclosure forms our Deputy Fire Chief Julie Kunze as well as Museum Director Dannielle Mauk.

That leaves a yearly compensation package of $1,245,302.21 on the table for those 5 positions so get your resumes ready.

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.

 

While We Were Away: The Embarrassing Fullerton Bike Share Story

An acquaintance reminded me the the other day of the ridiculous OCTA “Bike Share” program of a couple years ago – one of the most embarrassing boondoggles on record, and proof that regional government agencies are just as bad as our own city when it comes to throwing our money away.

The OCTA is always ready, able and willing to waste money – some of it comparatively small amounts, and some of it (think ARTIC) monstrously large. The common theme is that hardly anybody knows about it before the dough is blown, or after because the mainstream media is so good at keeping government unaccountable.

This is the tale of Bike Share, a supposedly “green” initiative, and thus free from the constraints of economic common sense.

The Roll Out. Nelson assures a skeptical Flory that the bike is up to the task…

Back in 2012 OCTA invested in a program where people could rent bicycles from a public rack and return them. To somebody it seemed like a plausible idea. The OCTA chose our city as the test lab because of all the college kids who like to take a commuter train to Fullerton.

Pringle’s Krew: It’s dirty work, but someone’s gotta do it…

Surprise! Bike Nation, a client of Curt Pringle and Associates (the current employer of Council-lobbyist Jennifer Fitzgerald) got the contract to run the program. Better qualified vendors were rejected by the OCTA Board. And the cooperative guy who made the motion to approve Bike Nation and proceed with the program?  None other than our own 4th District Supervisor Shawn Nelson. According to the Voice of OC, the cost of the program was $700,000; the per bike ride subsidy was an astonishing $800.

The forced, painful smile betrayed the awful truth: the bikes were made for political posing, not for riding.

At the end of a couple years the magnitude of the Bike Share stupidity became clear. Almost no one signed up for the membership subscription and almost nobody was using the bicycles, bikes that were heavy and unwieldy. Some of them broke down after they had been washed.  The vendor blamed the OCTA, the OCTA blamed the vendor; but we paid for it.

And Nelson? He didn’t return a Voice of OC call asking for comment.

Parks and Wreck

Sometimes what our City Hall doesn’t say can be almost as illuminating as their press releases.

On Wednesday, November 16 at about 9:00 PM, a Fullerton Parks and Recreation vehicle collided with another car at the intersection of Highland and Chapman. Ouch.

Sure looks like somebody ran a red light, then blammo!

What’s odd about this unfortunate accident is that the City never said a word to the public about the horrible-looking incident. Who was involved? Was anyone badly hurt? Who caused the accident? Why was a Parks and Rec employee driving around late at night? So many questions, and no answers.

What’s the big secret? Maybe there’s a reason for the radio silence.

It makes one wonder if this accident might not be the fault of a government employee, perhaps even driving a city-owned vehicle after hours. If so, look for big damages coming our way.

The High Cost of Bad Development

The Thing That Ate Fullerton courtesy of Orange Juice Blog.

Someone once advised that bad design costs just as much as good.

This is particularly true of development that squanders resources, overloads infrastructure, gobbles up energy and foists snarled traffic on the rest of us.

So how come Fullerton has gone head over heels for massive, five-story (and more) apartment blocks the past five years?

At first I thought it was because there was no planning director and that in this void stuff was happening without any sort of adult in the room. Then Karen Haluza came along. Yes, the same Karen Haluza who, as a private Fullerton resident and council candidate, opposed the Amerige Court (now Commons) monstrosity back in 2008. But now Ms. Haluza seems to spend all her time pitching the same ridiculous monsters that were approved when nobody was in charge.

Then it hit me.

These huge projects are moneymakers, and not just for the out-of-town developers that rake in the dough and move on. They are one-time bonanzas for city staff that haul in huge developer fees and massive park dwelling fees. These fees run into the millions.

Now, let’s say that you are a garden variety city manager such as Joe Felz. You have mismanaged the City of Fullerton into a string of unbalanced budgets amounting to over $40,000,000 in just four years. Wouldn’t you be groping for any source of revenue you could find?

Apart from the physical cost of these horrible projects, there is the obvious budgetary problem of relying on one-time sources of revenue to make your budget shortfalls look less bad. But to acknowledge that problem would require honesty and a degree of professional integrity.

Planned Parenthood Blows Wad

Remember that old Zakie Farmer’s Market building down on Orangethorpe? Yesterday my greasy broker called with an interesting discovery. This odd building was quietly sold to Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties in 2006 for $3,375,000. They had credit and they wanted to build one of those women’s clinics here in Fullerton.

Planned Parenthood spent three years submitting plans to the city but abruptly gave up in 2010, leaving the property to sit idle for a total of nine years. They finally sold the property in 2015 for $1,750,000. That’s a $1.6 million direct loss, excluding any opportunity costs, mortgage interest or property taxes. Our team of crackerjack financial analysts estimates the total loss at $3.4 million. That would be more than the original purchase price!

This was a major screw up by any measure. So what caused PP to buy this overpriced pad, kick it around for a few years and then leave it to las cucarachas?

And why does any of this even matter?

It doesn’t.

Unless you are a donor to Planned Parenthood, in which case you might like to know where your money went. Or it might matter if you’re a taxpayer. Planned Parenthood receives about $550 million a year in government subsidies, making each of us some sort of stakeholder in this giant misadventure.

The Finest of Farewells

It is common for government to bury waste carefully, neatly hidden away from the citizens who pay for it. Other times, they shove it right in your face like an ether-soaked rag.

That’s what happened at Chief Danny Hughes’ grand farewell party on November 10th. Fortunately, one neighbor filed an hour-long interactive grievance and shared with us the highlights.

Helicopter overhead, fire engines, barricades, officers, SWAT trucks, oh my!

The cast of characters does not disappoint. Look carefully for the appearance an oblivious “Patdown” Pat “I hired them all” McPension. Watch the FPOA thank Hughes for staying “on course” through “the lowest parts” of FPD history (when their constant misdeeds were finally exposed to the public). Listen to Jan Flory offer a cringe-worthy come-hither to her “Big Boy” Hughes, warn him of the “five-headed beast” that is the city council, and then trumpet her slavish dependence on city staff. Don’t forget to note Stan Berry, the OCDA investigator and FPD buddy boy who was first charged with looking into the Kelly Thomas murder. I’m glad he was able to maintain good relations.

If you were able to retain your lunch through all of that, congratulations. Now think about the hundreds of Fullerton commuters and residents who were caught in the traffic blockades on two major roads during rush hour. The police force parked their equipment and their posteriors in the middle of the roadway for this pointless pomp and circumstance, holding the public and its safety in complete disregard.

Of course the most comic part of this display of flags and armaments (think Soviet May Day parade) is the fact that just two days before, Mr. Integrity ordered his boyz to give City Manager, Joe Felz a free ride home with no Breathalyzer test after having careened though a sleepy Fullerton neighborhood after an evening of partying in the gin mills of downtown Fullerton.