$1.6 Million Stairs to Nowhere

Comically happy rendering by overpriced design “consultant”

The City’s budget is a total disaster and so are our streets. But Fullerton’s Parks and Rec visionaries would like us to know that construction is underway on a brand new set of 3 stairs. From Lion’s Field to Hillcrest Park. The cost is $1.6 million worth of small change that fell into the cushions of Joe Felz’s municipal couch, and that interim City manager  Allan Roeder will no doubt tell us isn’t worth worrying about.

Not Roeder’s first rodeo…

Here’s a PR article in the Register.

A typical bureaucracy driven idea that nobody wanted – a very familiar tale indeed for poor, neglected Hillcrest Park. The most idiotic part of the story is a quotation from Hugo Curiel, the drone in charge of the City’s parks:

“They can use (the stairs) leisurely, also for exercise, in a positive way. The stairs will open the floodgates from Lions Field into Hillcrest Park.” 

Apart from the hilarious malaprop (floodgates don’t open to release anything uphill!) the idea that there is a line of people waiting to somehow access Hillcrest Park from the fake turf playing fields of Lions Field is ridiculous.

But if you read the article you will find something a bit more sinister: city staff blaming the state of Hillcrest Park’s botany on the drought. That is an outright lie. The park’s dying plant life and the resultant erosion on the north and west flanks of the hillsides have been going on since the 1980s –  even as the City under the “guidance” of Susan Hunt and Joe Felz wasted all sorts of money on “studies” and an event center and other useless projects.

A pile of dirt symbolized the effort.

A moronic stair way from Lion’s Field that nobody is going to use is the last thing Hillcrest park needs. Are you reassured by the fact that our visionary  “leaders” believe we have $1.6 million lying around to pay for this nonsense?

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.

Scrutinize Every Detail — Part One

 

The sad part about Joe Felz’ retirement is that running over a tree, while likely under the influence of alcohol, might have actually improved his legacy as City Manager.  How is that possible? Easy. The tree incident is a convenient distraction at an optimal time. Except for the anonymous letter penned by City employees a couple weeks ago, few people are talking about his actual job performance which deserves just as much scrutiny.

One of his biggest failures is that he not only tolerated, but actively participated in deceiving the public through various means, be it omission, obfuscation, or just outright lying to people.  He wasn’t crafty about concealing it either – agenda letters and staff reports sent to the City Council and others were chock full of half-truths, non-truths, and other nonsense designed to mislead the public.

I think we ought to be forgiving in the case of legitimate mistakes or typos.  None of us are perfect, so transposed digits, or maybe a missing word here or there, isn’t the end of the world provided it doesn’t materially influence a decision. The point where it ceases to be a “mistake” or “typo” and, thus, becomes completely unacceptable, is when people offering up this information stick to their guns and defiantly defend such errors as being gospel.

In case you missed the last installment of the Brea Dam fiasco, one point of contention concerning the golf course was converting the Lease to a Management Agreement with American Golf.

Parks and Recreation Administrative Manager Alice Loya went before the City Council in November 2010 and said American Golf would receive a $500,000 “Management Fee” with 1% annual increases.  Minus payment to a couple American Golf managers, this constitutes guaranteed profit to American Golf, a perk they never enjoyed in the past.

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Brea Dam: Crony meet Capitalism

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and said to yourself, hey, I’m going to take out a new mortgage to pay for sprinklers on property I don’t even own?  Yeah, me neither.

Joe Felz, circa 2010

That’s exactly what the City of Fullerton cooked up in 2010 with one minor difference. Instead of a mortgage, they sold municipal revenue bonds, but that distinction is, for the most part, a moot point.  Debt is debt.

You see, the Fullerton Golf Course, located northeast of Harbor Blvd. and Bastanchury Rd. (near St. Jude) sits on nearly 75 acres of land owned by the Federal government.  The City of Fullerton is simply the lessee on a long-term lease granted by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

American Golf (and it’s predecessor) was the contract operator of the Fullerton Golf Course beginning in 1979.  They operated the course as if they owned it outright, and gave the City of Fullerton 20% of the golf and 8% of the concession revenue. This was not a bad arrangement for the City considering it was in American Golf’s best interest to run a lean operation and generate as much revenue as possible.  They also assumed responsibility for golf course operating costs, liability, and capital improvements.

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Planned Parenthood

The wife and I were having a discussion over dinner about the pros and cons of Proposition 30, and its claim to save education from a devastating blow of the budgetary axe. Then I remembered this post I’d uploaded some time ago in 2011 about the NOCCCD’s “School of Continuing Education”, and decided to re-post it. So if you happen to be sitting on the fence with this one, well, I won’t tell you how to vote, but it might help to keep in mind how tax dollars have been spent in this particular scenario. Enjoy!

The North Orange County Community College District (NOCCCD) is the proud parent of Fullerton College and its younger sibling, Cypress College. But apparently the nest wasn’t quite complete, as NOCCCD decided years ago that it wanted yet another baby, and popped out the abundantly productive School of Continuing Education (SCE) on Wilshire Blvd., across the street from Fullerton College. Amazingly, SCE has no academic courses, but has new buildings, deans and even its own Senate like a regular university!

Well, the Senate has to meet somewhere, right?

And what does this seemingly well-greased, finely-tuned bureaucracy manage to provide for the taxpayers? A substantially rich offering of classes, such as (read this carefully):

  • How to Sell on eBay
  • Digital Scrapbooking
  • Blogging for Beginners
  • Toddler Fitness
  • Raising Caring Kids
  • Bartending Workshops
  • Latin Cardio Blast
  • Journey Back into Time for Older Adults
  • Needlecrafts, Knitting, Crochet for Older Adults
  • History of Comedy and Humor for Older Adults
  • Beginning Drama for Older Adults
  • Draw and Paint Animals (ages 5+)
  • Making Yummy Snacks (ages 6-10)
  • Sing and Learn Chinese for Parent and Child (ages 0-6)
  • Cheerleading (ages 4-7)
  • Public Speaking for Children (ages 8-12)
  • Career Exploration (ages 9-12)
  • Please Pass the Manners (ages 5-7)
  • Teen Etiquette (ages 13-17)
  • Puppetry and Storytelling (ages 3-6)
  • Readiness for Kindergarten (ages 4-5)
  • How to Be a Best Friend (ages 5-8)
The bartending workshop is the best in North Orange County!

Okay, just in case this list hasn’t left you completely baffled, keep in mind that the SCE’s course offerings are funded by the North Orange County Community COLLEGE District! Do these classes have ANYTHING to do with college? Don’t offerings like these really belong in the domain of something like parks and recreation?

Meet the new freshman class of SCE!

Despite the inappropriateness of these course offerings, the Chancellor of the NOCCCD, Dr. Ned Doffoney (one can only imagine what kind of salary the title of “Doctor” delivers) continues to cradle the SCE as a fresh newborn, giving it his support and blessing as only a chancellor can do.

Meanwhile, administrators at the colleges are suggesting the cancellation of 46% of the courses that were offered this year, a move that is likely to prevent significant numbers of students from graduating and moving on to university because they need classes in chemistry, calculus and business. Well, at least we can all take comfort in knowing that senior citizens will fully comprehend the History Of Comedy, or that toddlers will know how to make Yummy Snacks!

Did somebody say Yummy Snacks?

What Could Be Worse Than a McDonald’s in Hillcrest Park?

How about a taxpayer-subsidized McFullerton to compete with non-subsidized local eateries. It’s Fullerton. it’s Redevelopment. It’s not impossible.

Seriously, could our city council really be contemplating  a commercial restaurant in Hillcrest Park as part of the new Master Plan?

Well, why not? They’ve shown a total disregard for the park an historic resource over the years; for the Community Services Department Hillcrest Park “revitalization” has merely been an exploitation opportunity over the years, much as Downtown Fullerton has been for the Redevelopment Agency employees. So why not?

Sunday In The Park With AD, Nelson and Berardino

I received a call this morning from our 4th District County Supervisor Shawn Nelson asking if I would be willing to help coach a youth football clinic at Craig Park. Supervisor Nelson, aware of the fact that I played high school and Division I college football and that I had coached high school and Pop Warner football, needed someone to fill an unexpected vacancy on his coaching staff.  My Sunday alternatives were to either spend the day helping 6 to 17 year olds learn a bit more about football or make more No McKinley signs. No brainer. I dusted off the old whistle and off to the park I went.

The event, billed “OC Parks and Sports Day,” was packed with eager kids with more energy than the energizer bunny. My day was not only fun and rewarding but a lot more interesting than I expected. During a break in the action I met the legendary Anthony Davis, but also the not so legendary OCEA union boss, Nick Berardino. Both were entertaining characters: AD reminisced of the days when he played smash mouth football at USC, and Berardino reminded me about the days he spent a million dollars bad mouthing Nelson in the last election,  how that million bucks only moved #2 (Harry Sidhu) up 6 percentage points, and how he still got his as kicked by 12%.

Bernardino went on to explain to me that they (the employee union) were afraid of Nelson, but have learn that Nelson is not the monster they though he would be. Nick further explained that the problem in the county is corruption in upper management and the county employees (the worker bees) are the only ones that actually pay into their retirement and the people that are on Easy Street are the upper level managers including county CEO Tom Mauk who’s package equals around $350,000 per year (while collecting over $100,00 from his retirement pension from the city of La Habra). Nick and I both agreed that it’s always the little guy that gets dumped on and the corruption in the county needs to stop. Amen to that!

Kicking back @ Craig park

Supervisor Nelson tells me that he will start checking into the pay and benefits of mid to upper management, and also find out if they actually do anything except shuffle paper back and forth to each other.

Jessica’s Law Enforcement Ordinance Comes Up For A Vote

This just came in from city council candidate Barry Levinson:

This Tuesday night at 6:30 PM, September 21, 2010 at city hall, the culmination of 7 months of hard work by my wife Susan and myself should result in a victory for all children and their parents and grandparents, etc. in the city of Fullerton.  An ordinance presented and recommended by the Fullerton Police Department will be brought before the city council for a vote. The ordinance will make it a misdemeanor crime for a convicted pedophile to live within 2000 feet of a school, park or day care center.  The penalty is up to one year in jail!  Almost 4 years to the day that the voters in California spoke through their support of Proposition No. 87, known as Jessica’s Law will there be an actual penalty attached to the above actions.

This is just the start. I have been working with and getting the cooperation of the County District Attorney’s Office to make sure that a similar law is presented to our Orange County Board of Supervisors. We want the same protections for our kids throughout the County.

Please attend the Tuesday night meeting! Send a firm and clear message to all our current council members. A full house will provide leverage to make sure that the council does the right thing by passing this ordinance to provide additional protection for the weakest and most vulnerable among us, our kids.

-Barry Levinson

‘Tree City’ Decapitates Trees

Todd Warden wrote in to tell us how the unsightly drainage ditch along Malvern/Chapman avenues is becoming further uglified by the city without regard for the surrounding neighborhood or the health of the landscaping.

He awoke one morning to find that the city had ordered the 30 foot tall trees hacked down to about 6 feet, while randomly selected shrubs were cut to the stump. The fully developed trees had been shielding motorists view of the ugly flood control channel and it’s rusty chain link fence for years.

Just a little off the top.

“In the past they have always just trimmed the trees back and kept the height leaving a swell green belt and noise buffer in contrast to other areas of the Malvern/Chapman eyesore,” wrote Todd. The city told him that they had no money to replant new trees and shrubs, but the mature trees were taken out anyway.

I’m no arborist, but hacking a 30ft tree by 80% seems like a great way to kill it. If the city doesn’t have the funds to replace prominent landscaping features, they ought to just leave them alone or trim them as reasonably necessary. Together, Malvern and Chapman form one of Fullerton’s main east/west arteries, and it’s a disgrace for our city to destroy what little aesthetics it has left.

A fresh view from the beautiful grounds of The Muck.

It’s worth nothing that Fullerton frequently boasts about its 29-year title of “Tree City USA” as bestowed by the Arbor Day Foundation.

That's not very good either.

As for the future of the flood control channel, Todd has some ideas:

“What about replanting the entire strip of the canal that literally splits the entire city from Buena Park to Harbor Blvd. Tall palms or low water use flowering hedges would beautify the city for residents and visitors that use the artery. Another idea would be to cover the ditch for a bike path that would allow residents and visitors to reach downtown and the Buena Park Metrolink station.”