So I’m watching the council meeting on Tuesday and at one point listened in disbelief as Ahmad Zahra lectured his colleagues about their unethical activity. I don’t know what he thought he could get people to believe was unethical, but that’s not the point.
The point is that this petulant, preening, prissy popinjay would have the nerve to refer to somebody elseas unethical, is quite remarkable.
We have been following the career of Mr. Zahra on this blog and the only thing he seems to be any good at is self-promotion to the gullible – in the same sort of way Pam Keller used to before being exposed by FFFF in 2010
Well, okay, being a prima donna and a camera hound isn’t exactly unethical – just annoying. But then there was the instance we caught him publishing under his own name water articles in the incurious Fullerton Observer that were actually written by some Water District staffer. He even got former Councilwoman Jan Flory to promote his bona fides as a water expert (or something) under the cover of that lie. Zahra may think this plagiarism and prevarication are just the prerogative of an elected, but boy is he wrong.
Let’s not forget his convenient claim that he was a “fan” of settling the City’s vindictive, expensive and humiliating lawsuit against FFFF & Co. No, that’s a lie, too. Along with Quirk-Silva he dug in his heels because he wanted to avoid personal humiliation by Joshua Ferguson and FFFF. What the Hell. It wasn’t his money that was wasted in the huge settlement.
And then there’s the case of the Disappearing Battery and Vandalism Case, in which Zahra was tuned up by his own cops and charged by the District Attorney. The case vanished and Zahra made a public declamation of his alleged “exoneration.” But word soon leaked out that he wasn’t exonerated at all; but, rather that he pled guilty, did some sort of community service, and had his record expunged. What’s the truth? I’m not sure, but I know one thing: if the case against Zahra were truly dropped he would have shared some evidence of that.
No, Ahmad Zahra is not one to cast stones of aspersion about unethical behavior at anybody. His glass house won’t stand it. Spouting liberal clichés and pretending to care about anything except yourself will only work for so long. 2022 is an election year for Zahra. And if he thinks pouting and pontificating and drumming up Astroturf support at council meetings by women pretending they can’t speak English will keep him on the city council, he has another think coming.
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.
It’s taken well over thirty years, but apparently the Family of Tony Florentine is calling quits in downtown Fullerton. Normally, such an occasion would be cause for gratitude, reflection, fond memories, etc., etc., ect.
But not in this case.
The reason nobody is indulging in kind reminiscence is simple. Over the years the family has been in on, and accused of some very shady stuff. Forget about shitty food and consider the following fun events, documented right here on the pages of FFFF, even if ignored by City staff, the Fullerton Police Department and the Fullerton Fire Department.
It’s hard to say what other misdeeds and actual crimes have been committed by the Florentines, over the years. Stories abound. But what we know gives us plenty of reason not to consider their departure with any sort of remorse.
And the very continuation of the bad behavior gives us plenty of reason to ruminate on the political climate that permitted the ongoing flagrance and fraud. Decision makers in City Hall have been running interference for, enabling, and diligently looking the other way through this little reign of terror. Does anybody care? The old City Councils never did. Will the new one?
Word has seeped out from the once hermetically sealed walls of City Hall that we may not have Richard “Dick” Jones, Esq. to kick around much longer. It would seem, if the rumors are true, that Good Ol’ Dick has had enough of screwing the taxpayers of Fullerton with his pettifogging, self-serving legal advice and is “retiring” with all of his ill-gotten spoils.
Well, possibly not all his spoils, because he must believe his “I Can’t Believe Its A Law Firm” will have some residual value after Mudslide oozes off.
Now I don’t know about you, Friends, but a collection of lawyers that includes Kimberly Barlow and Gregory Roosevelt Palmer doesn’t seem like it could be worth very much to me; but Jones is supposedly pitching the continued services of his collection of miscreants, so he must plan on keeping his name on the letterhead and probably receiving revenue thereby.
Will our city councilcreatures keep this gang on retainer? After the abysmal performance of Jones in the pas it’s hard to imagine anybody wanting them around, at all. Of course this is the same gaggle that has kept Jones, et al., on the clock for over twenty years – and that’s a lot of bungling and cover-ups.
If someone takes the time to review the history of Fullerton over the past forty years, one thing becomes shockingly clear: when it comes to building things, maintaining things and planning for things, the City government just can’t do much of anything right. And yet over this long history, the City and the public seem to have the shortest of memories.
For the denizens of City Hall, the fact that the jalopy has no rear view mirror makes perfect sense. After all, if you’re pulling down well over a hundred Gs, with a trampoline retirement coming your way, why spoil things with strange notions like accountability and responsibility? It’s so much easier to pretend nothing bad has happened.
The people who live here on the other hand, have no such incentive; quite the reverse, in fact. So how come constant repetition of the disastrous lessons from the past are tolerated? Is it easier to just ignore the millions upon millions wasted in foolish vanity projects, make-work comedies, and deteriorating infrastructure? Maybe.
But I hope that by continuing the drumbeat started on this brave blog 11 years ago, sooner or later the populace will wake up to the ineptitude and dissimulation by its highly paid, and so far untouchable masters of disaster.
And so join me Friends as I take you on trip down memory lane, Fullerton style.
Today almost nobody remembers the comical City endeavor to transform Harbor Boulevard in the early 80s by removing on-street parking, adding medians, spike-laden, pod-dropping floss silk trees, and bizarre concrete peristyles along the sidewalks. Comical, did I say? It would have been funny except that it doomed the businesses along Harbor to slow entropy. The ridiculous peristyles were soon removed but the rest of the mess lasted for decades and many of the hideous trees and broken sidewalks are still there as a reminder that the City is perfectly willing to waste millions on hare-brained, concept-of-the-day tomfoolery that gives them something to do.
The Allen Hotel, was Fullerton’s first foray into “affordable” housing back in the late 80s. It was a slum, alright and thirty years after the City’s bungling acquisition, the site is just begging for more “redevelopment.” Will it get it?
The CSUF Stadium & Fundraising Fiasco of 1990 ought to give plenty of pause to those contemplating Big Projects with public money. The brainchild of slimy City Councilman and later slimy State Senator, Dick Ackerman, the idea was to build a permanent home for the CSUF football team. Only trouble was that the $15,000,000 stadium was completed the same year the plug was pulled on a dismal gridiron program. In typical fashion, the City invested in a fundraising plan in which a company was hired at a cost of several hundred thou to raise money, and didn’t. Oops!
The horror story “Knowlwood Corner” is a veritable textbook case of government bureaucratic misfeasance, from start to finish. The story started in the early 90s and dragged on for years and years; when the signature building was finally built, the missing second floor became a perfect symbol for this misadventure. From stupid economic micromanagement to horrible architecture, this one touched all the bases – and it took seven years to do so.
The Bank of Italy Building was another disaster from the early 90s, but one that actually gutted an historic building. Millions in public money were wasted to pay for something that never should have been undertaken in the first place.
The North Platform remodel of 1992-93 proved that no matter how bungled things were in Fullerton, it could always get worse. A landscape architect was hired to place as many impediments between passengers and trains as was humanly possible. Some of the citizens got wise, and half the crap was ripped out. Heads rolled in City Hall. Oh, wait, no they didn’t.
Few folks now remember the Fairway Toyota dealership expansion fiasco from the mid-90s that required threatening an old lady with eminent domain and then closing off Elm Avenue forever. The City’s investment disappeared like an early summer morning’s dew when the dealership took off for Anaheim a few years later. After years of housing a used car dealership, the City permitted the development of another massive cliff dwelling along Harbor Boulevard. The losses were never accounted for but at least the neighbors got a nice view and early shade.
Fullerton’s Corporate Yard expansion was a mid-nineties project that left the City gasping for air. Despite hiring an outside construction manager and paying him a couple hundred grand, the project dissolved into a litigation mess that only escaped public embarrassment because nobody on the City Council gave a damn. Settlement details vanished into the haze.
The so-called Poison Park on Truslow Avenue may set the standard for Fullerton incompetence, although admittedly, the competition is fierce. In the late 90s, the City had Redevelopment money to burn and just couldn’t wait to do so. So they bought a piece of industrial property and built a park that nobody outside City Hall wanted. Cost? $3,000,000. Of course the site attracted gang members and drug dealers as predicted. Worse still, the land was contaminated and the “park” fenced off. It’s been like that for almost 15 years. And Counting.
No story of Fullerton calamities would be complete without once again sharing the tale of the Florentine Sidewalk Hijacking, in which a permit for “outside dining” was transformed one day by the Florentine Mob into a permanent building blocking half a public sidewalk. The Big City Planner, Paul Dudley, said everything was peachy. He was lying, of course, but did anybody really care?
Some people might conclude that the majority of Fullerton’s disasters can be laid at the feet of the Redevelopment Agency (really just the City Council) and well-pensioned, inept managers like Terry Galvin and Gary Chaplusky. When they weren’t slapping brick veneer on anything that didn’t move, they were screwing everything else up, too. But when we regard the history of Laguna Lake we enter into the realm of Fullerton’s Parks and Engineering mamalukes. After spending a small fortune on renovating the lake, the thing leaked like a sieve. Hundreds of millions of premium MWD gallons were pumped into the thing to keep it full. The public and council were left in the dark, even as citizens were told to conserve water in their homes. Did anyone in charge give a damn? Did anyone ask how much money and water were squandered over the years? Of course not. This is Fullerton. We could ask Engineering Director Don Hoppe for details, except that he is now comfortably retired and pulling down a massive pension.
Our professional planners, have been knee deep in Fullerton’s morass. Over-development (see example, above) has been fostered and nowhere was this better seen than in the Core and Corridors Specific Plan. This idiotic plan wasted a million bucks of State money without a backward glance after the whole thing was finally dumped on the QT – too stupid even for Fullerton. Did anybody ask for their money back? Nope. And yet a link to a blank web page titled Core and Corridors still exists! Hope springs eternal.
The 2000s proved that nobody in City Hall or out, was learning anything, even after the expensive failures of the 90s. The “West Harbor Improvement” project in 2009, was an endeavor so unnecessary that it could only be proposed in Fullerton, where government “place making” has never succeeded. The alley is a barf zone behind a bunch of bars that only needs hosing down every Sunday morning.
This litany of disasters, follies and debacles brings us to the Pinewood Stairs at Hillcrest Park which put on display the incompetence of the designer, the city staff, the construction manager, and a contractor who couldn’t build a sand box to code. Wasting $1.6 million is bad enough; permitting the code violations and construction deficiencies go unfixed is even worse. Barely two years old, the ramshackle structure moves more than the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
And over all these years Fullerton’s “leaders have neglected our aging infrastructure and permitted zone changes allowing for massive new development that has lined the pockets of developers and political campaign coffers, and left the rest of us with even more traffic and more burden on our roads and pipes.
Friends, here’s some more fun Jonesiana, a video compiled some years ago by the FFFF Moving Pictures Division. Enjoy the HeeHaw, oxytoxins, coughs and croups – and control, control control, Dick Jones-style!
In the wake of the Kelly Thomas murder at the hands of the FPD, two different yet eerily similar tactics emerged for deflecting responsibility away from the cops.
Fullerton’s antique liberal crowd quickly banded together so that society itself could be blamed, not the FPD: the problem was not murderous, corrupt or even incompetent cops. Oh, no. The problem was one of homelessness and the solution was to provide a homeless shelter! Why Kelly would probably even be alive today!
On the other hand, the anonymous cop-protectors keep insisting that the problem lay with poor parenting for Kelly’s death, as if a schizophrenic, 35 year-old man was somehow the responsibility of his parents, and as if that somehow exculpates the six cops who beat him to death and stood around laughing as he died in a pool of his own blood.
Of course both groups relied heavily upon a completely comical whitewash of the FPD Culture of Corruption by paid-for opinion of Michael Gennaco.
When you are in charge of the City’s bureaucracy, it’s really easy to get what you want. You simply hire a “professional” opinion to validate your own desire. Good God, it happens so often and yet they continue to get away with it.
For fun, lets’ consider the case of the City of Fullerton’s illegal water tax tax. In 2011 the City was finally caught with its pants down. And what was revealed wasn’t pretty: an illegal 10% tax stuck onto the annual cost of selling water to the ratepayers of Fullerton. In an attempt to stall the inevitable and obfuscate the obvious, the comatose council handed the job of analyzing the tax to an ad hoc water rate committee that had been previously established.
Now we all know that a citizen’s committee is incapable of figuring out things on its own and so staff helpfully hired one of those paid opinion consultants to help out; one of those consultants whose sole mission is to validate whatever the staff wants them to do. In this case the mission was to keep as much of that 10% as possible. After all, that 10% was a much necessary ingredient for for keeping up CalPERS payments and sending Pam Keller and Don Bankhead and Doc HeeHaw to four star hotels in far off Long Beach.
True to form, the City Council’s “consultant” returned with a helpful finding that the water fund owned the City between six and seven percent annually, principally on the weird fiction that the water utility owed the City rent for land that the water reservoirs and pipes sit on.
Naturally, nobody bothered to explain the embarrassing fact that the land in question had little or no commercial value; or that the water utility could have bought that land for virtually nothing fifty years ago had a true arms-length distance actually existed between the utility and the City that was milking it like a rented cow.
An, worst of all, nobody had explained the self-serving nature of this sudden discovery of a true distinction between the water utility and the City, particularly in light of the fact that the utility had supplied the City with free water for decades.
That’s right. The very mechanism lade upon you and me to “incentivise” conservation, was deemed unnecessary when the City itself was wasting water. How many hundreds of thousands of acre feet of water has been used for free by the City in the past fifty years? Of course nobody knows. But the value is worth millions.
It’s funny, in a sick sort of way, but the very types who used to bray the loudest about the need for “social justice” have been virtually silent in Fullerton in the wake of the Kelly Thomas murder at the hands of members of an out-of-control police department.
The graying establishment Democrats had been hiding behind their drawn chintz curtains, curled up in an intellectual fetal position on their plastic slip-covered Naugahyde sofas. It was just too scary and, well, controversial to say anything, let alone actually doanything.
Fortunately, others, such as Stephan Baxter, Marlena Carrillo and Lauren Becker are willing to keep up the pressure.
Here is a link to Becker’s website that reminds us exactly what a Culture of Corruption can do, and try to get away with, when left to its own devices. It also reminds us what we can do to push back against an entrenched system.
Democrats like Jan Flory, and Molly McClanahan and Pam Keller didn’t say a word in the aftermath of the murder. No, they only got outraged when people outside their cozy little circle took the reins of government out of the hands of three incompetent old fools.
These people are a lot more worried about the fate of the bureaucracy than they are about the people of Fullerton. All of them.
I just picked up these missives from the FFFF in-box this morning. First this:
Hey, FFFFsters, I just want to point out the obvious. Jan Flory just got fourteen grand, cash, from the corrupt cop union. She also got ten grand from some land developer named Phelps. The rest of her dough came from “retired” individuals, most of them former public employees.
Cops, developers, massively pensioned government workers. Wow. Talk about special interests!
– Sick of BooHoos
Good point, S.o.B. And then this:
I was driving along Chapman a few days ago and saw Pam Keller on the corner of Harbor. She was holding up a sign promoting the candidacy of Rick Alvarez, a Republican! Here’s what I want to know. Why won’t the establishment Dems in this town support a real good candidate like Jane Rands? Why the Hell not? What is wrong with Keller, and Quirk and Flory and their ilk?
Are they so in bed with the FPOA thugs and baboons that they can’t recognize an authentic progressive? I guess that question answers itself.
– ACLU Mom
Good point, Mom. The Old Guard liberals in Fullerton don’t stand for anything, of course, except for the prerogatives conferred upon the department heads in City Hall (see first letter, above). Please address you questions to Keller herself and see if you can get an intelligible answer. Or you could ask this gentleman: