As the friends already know, Last fall Fullerton Councilman Ahmad Zahra was arrested by his own cops because of some fracas he got himself involved in. He was charged by the DA with battery and vandalism.
Hmm. Of course justice never quite runs the same course for elected folks as it does for the rest of us and we are left wondering what went on the scenes to make this record simply vanish. Was it a political deal? DA Todd Spitzer and his underling Shawn Nelson have never been known for their ethical behavior. On the other hand it may well be that the other people involved in this set-to have been persuaded that they wouldn’t make very good witnesses.
Last week the Voice of OC published an opinion piece by a gentleman named Ed Bargas. Mr. Bargas is head of the civilian employee union in Fullerton, and if he wrote this drivel, then I’m the Pope.
You can read about how Bargas believes Fullerton is at a crossroads – meaning that the City leaders must choose between the welfare of his union members and the citizenry at large. Of course he doesn’t put it like that. He complains that the City Council is embracing the conservatism of the ’80s in which government is viewed with suspicion, even hostility. To this all I can suggest to Mr. Bargas is to read the pages of this blog, and after reviewing the litany of incompetence, corruption and cover-ups, reconsider whether or not suspicion, even hostility is justified.
Bargas makes the mistake of starting of his long list of threatened city functions with public safety, forgetting to remind his readers that it is the very public safety pensions laid out by supine politicians like Ahmad Zahra and Jesus Silva & Co. that have brought financial crisis to Fullerton.
Of course the Big Problem is lack of revenue, and Mr. Bargas was no doubt a cheerleader for the ill-fated Measure S on last November’s ballot that went down in flames, falling victim to honesty and common sense. Maybe he thinks that somehow the new majority of responsible councilmembers can be persuaded to try that scam again. Well good luck with that.
An item on last week’s Closed Session council meeting just caught my eye. The item identified the southeast corner of Pomona Avenue and Santa Fe, location of the previously discussed “boutique” hotel proposal. I last reported it here, when the Council voted 4-1 to let the unsolicited, single proposal issue get a time extension. As usual the lone no vote came from Bruce Whitaker. The July 6th item just says “terms and price” so that it can be hidden behind the Brown Act exemption.
When the City Attorney emerged he declared that this harebrained idea was moving ahead on a 3-2 vote to authorize a Letter of Intent to approve a development agreement. Hmm. We know that Jesus Quirk Silva would go for it. After all, he already changed his vote once to move this along – way back in December of 2018 as a parting gift to Doug “Bud” Chaffee. And Ahmad Zahra is always a reliable vote to support some stupid government giveaway or overreach.
So that leaves councilmen Nick Dunlap, Fred Jung and the aforementioned Whitaker. It is really hard to believe that Whitaker would suddenly change course 180 degrees from a previous commonsense, conservative position. Dunlap and Jung have so far shown unusual sales resistance when it comes to ridiculous bullshit so it’s hard to see either one going for this. But obviously, one of the three did. Who was it, and why? We were not told by the City Attorney and the minutes do not include such potentially embarrassing things.
And this will be a giveaway. You and I own that parcel of land that is currently providing popular parking for Transportation Center commuters. What is the land truly worth? If the Council continues on this reckless course to support a massive public subsidy to for an idea that has no basis in market demand, we may never know.
The days of the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency writing checks to fly-by-night developers, scammers, and other corporate welfare queens is over; but the so-called Successor Agency is perfectly capable of handing over real estate and getting nothing in return. And that looks likely to happen as the story of Fullerton’s unsolicited boutique hotel lurches forward.
By now all the Friends know that our former Mayor-for-Hire, Jennifer Fitzgerald, has crammed all the loot she could stuff into her bags and is hightailing it for a state that has no extradition treaty. But her name still resonates, of course – a symbol of government treasury looting.
Well, here’s something interesting- a FitzySpark story that has several layers, each one suggestive of fraud.
For the past several years Fitzgerald reveled in the title of “Vice President” of Curt Pringle and Associates, an elevated title that suggests she was a valuable employee. But was she?
Here’s a snap from a report showing that Fitzgerald received a little government stimulus cheese to help out “payroll” for her little influence peddling operation “CL& Communications.”
Hmm. So she’s working for Pringle for years and yet collecting PPO money? And of course her little one man show has been around a lot longer than 2 years or less. In fact, here is some helpful corporate info on Fitzy’s biz:
Please notice that CL7 Communications has been around since 2009. Has the government been defrauded? I don’t know. You could try asking Dick Jones. Notice also that this business continued to exist through the years when Fitzgerald was supposed to be an officer of Curt Pringle Associates.
Now for more fun, kindly observe:
Well at least Pringle’s been around longer than two years so there’s a rare bit of honesty from the greasiest lobbyist in Orange County. He got $175,000, also for “payroll” and one wonders if that included 1099 payments to Jennifer Fitzgerald, who gives every indication of not being a Pringle employee at all, but rather a contractor. And if that’s true, Pringle and Fitzgerald have violated California employment labor law and the Federal tax Code. See, the IRS wants employers to pay for stuff like Social Security and Medicare through withholding; and the State wants to make sure employees are not being exploited, and that Worker’s Comp insurance is in place by the business.
Now I don’t know that SparkyFitz wasn’t a real employee of Pringle; and I don’t know if Pringle was faking it to dodge paying taxes. But something smells here, and it isn’t overripe government cheese.
The Word out of City Hall is that the “Community Development” Director, Matt Foulkes, is hitting the road. All the way to neighboring Buena Park, a city half the size of Fullerton. This is not a lateral move.
Foulkes no doubt saw the proverbial handwriting on the wall and realized the long, long era of incompetence and no accountability in the Fullerton planning process was over.
The last straw may have been his ass-backward proposal to convert a park into a private event center masquerading as a aquaponic farm.
But Foulkes was by no means simply in over his head. He was part of The Fitzgerald and Domer team that deliberately ignored code enforcement downtown and who actually looked the other way when Joe Florentine forged an official city application document. And then there was the documented theft of the “Fullerton Rail District” name for his own secret plan that envisaged stack n’ pack housing to appease his SCAG overlords, and of course, the now-departed lobbyist, Jennifer Fitzgerald.
Maybe the next Director will be somebody capable of explaining things without a long string of jargon, nonsense and outright lies. It seems unlikely, but the Friends can always hope.
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.
An institution, namely our City Council, that has been moribund/and, or corrupt and cowardly for at least 40 years has finally sprouted a few darling buds, raising hopes that our future is no longer simply a matter of waiting for mental and moral entropy to render our city into a puddle of putrification.
Well, what happened? you ask. Last night the City Council pronounced a loud no to bureaucracy- driven nonsense. Let me explain.
Yesterday evening the Council took up the matter, again, of extending an “Exclusive Negotiating Agreement” or ENR, with some guy who wanted to put a non-profit aquaponic farm on the site of our embarrassingly fenced off Union Pacific Park on Truslow Avenue. The biggest trouble (among many) was that this type of venture is thoroughly dependent upon the financial kindness of strangers and can’t possibly sustain itself.
No problem there! said our Planning Director and incoherent word salad shooter, Matt Foulkes. The aquaponic farm shall be surrounded by a fence and a hedge, and a private event center to pay for it all! In true staff fashion a last minute “letter of intent” from an event coordinator was offered up yesterday afternoon to show the marvelous potential of converting a park into a private facility – open now and then to the public – at the convenience of the operator.
Councilman Ahmad Zahra was in fine fettle – drumming up a handful of forlornly ignorant boosters; and his hapless colleague Jesus Silva stammered and stuttered support for this nonsense as well as his limited ability permits. He moved for an extension of the agreement
But then the fun started: several speakers pointed out both the idiocy of making a deal with a single, impecunious guy. Other pointed out the hypocrisy and nonsense of permitting an event facility that has no parking.
Mayor Bruce Whitaker cogently and patiently explained his rationale for offering a substitute motion to end the deal then and there: the park is part of a much larger Specific Plan area being developed (behind closed doors) and it made no sense to pursue piecemeal development with a single individual on the 1.7 acre site.
Councilman Nick Dunlap echoed that idea and observed, kindly, that the aquaponic guy already had 18 months to work something out with nothing to show for it. Like Whitaker he suggested an RFP process to determine ideas for the site.
Finally Councilman Fred Jung unloaded on the hot mess, decrying the City’s inability to address the park over the years and the arrogance of city staff thinking it could determine what was best for “the community.”
In the end Whitaker’s substitute motion carried the day 3-2 with Zahra and Silva trying desperately to defend the honor, competence and integrity of a planning staff that hasn’t got any of those qualities.
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.
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.”