Dysfunction Junction

Denial is a fairly common human condition, but normally it involves interpersonal relationships and fact isn’t always that easy to ascertain. It is also quite common in politics where one’s emotional beliefs and prejudices are set against somebody else’s. And then there’s the case when bald facts are staring you in the face and you just can’t allow the cold truth to intrude upon your fantasy.

Nowhere is the latter situation better seen than in the City of Fullerton’s attitude and actions involving the “downtown” area.

Business is booming…

It’s not real complicated. The City has known for almost two decades that downtown Fullerton was a money loser. A big money loser. And yet nary a word of complaint or criticism of the booze culture of downtown Fullerton has been uttered by the bureaucrats and politicians.

The most recent analysis was essayed 7 years ago. Here’s the money shot:

In 2017, the taxpayers of Fullerton were subsidizing the bar owners to the tune of almost $15,000 per liquor joint, each and every year. Three quarters of a million a year. Of course this was just for “public safety” as noted:

We focused on the public-safety facets of this study alone, and did not include the development and maintenance services costs Fullerton audited. We illustrate below Fullerton taxpayers were effectively subsidizing bar and restaurant establishments – to the tune of about $15,000 per establishment – all to cover the costs of police, fire and rescue services provided to the establishments and their patrons.

We know that maintenance and code enforcement and the legal services of Dick Jones and his I Can’t Believe It’s a Law Firm jack up the cost to well over a million bucks – $1.4 million being the overall cost previously discovered. And there are now over 50 bars.

Another award!

Think of it. During hard times and good, the taxpayers of Fullerton subsidize the likes of the Florentine family and the Marovic mob and the Poozhikala posse, while they make a fortune peddling fish bowls of booze to out-of-control miscreants and ignoring the law.

And still City staff insists on describing downtown Fullerton a glowing success story, a triumph to be built on; of course they aided and abetted in the charade by city councils that are marked by political cupidity, stupidity and a desire to look like they have accomplished something. Anything. For decades these people have crowed about their achievements in DTF, even as they desperately crammed more and denser housing blocks in and around main streets – hoping a captive audience would somehow help. It didn’t, and by the early 2000s the City decided an open air saloon was just the thing. And then the restaurants morphed into bars and then the bars morphed, illegally at first, into nightclubs.

I can keep this up all night…

As things got more lawless, and even some like Dick Jones lamented the “monster” he had created, the only thing that happened was that things got worse. Blasting noise, random violence, sexual assaults, human waste, mayhem, shootings, sadistic and pervy cops – you name it – caused no retrospection in City Hall about what had, and what was happening. It was all a big victory, and you don’t second guess a victory.

Well, things are looking glum fiscally for Fullerton according to last years budget projections and we will be told Ahmad Zahra and Shana Charles that we must bear the burden of a new sales tax jack-up in order to keep the creaky old jalopy going.

I say fix the financial sinkhole that is downtown Fullerton before you stick your hands in our pockets.

The Cost of Calamity

The trail was expensive, but it sure was short…

Something that nobody has talked about when discussion of the controversial “Trail to Nowhere” occurs, is the inflation of construction cost in the 5 years since the grant application was submitted.

what’d that scary man say?

ENR cost indicies show a construction cost increase of 27% percent since December, 2019. It’s very fair to apply the same percentage for soft costs as they tend to closely follow the trajectory of hard construction cost. Ditto the cost that in-house “contract management” add to the budget, since that is a fixed percentage. This means a likely cost increase of $540,000 on the original estimate of $2,000,000 for the Trail to Nowhere, give or take.

Off we go, into the Wild Blue Yonder…

And the project still requires detailed working drawings and all the necessary permits. Then the mess has to be let out to bid, undergo bid review and contract award. Of course, if the bids blow the budget out of the water, more delay will ensue.

Abandon Ship!

Since the State Resources Agency grant allocation can be assumed to be fixed, this means that the City of Fullerton’s Park Dwelling Fund will be on the hook for over $800,000, with a concomitant hit to other, real park facility construction/improvements. And of course these numbers presuppose an accurate project budget to begin with, a presupposition I wouldn’t place a bet on.

Children at play…

Our City Council doesn’t seem to take this sort of thing into their thinking about the silly trail that no one will use, but it’s the kind of thing that should be ever-present in their minds. The problem is not only maintaining the linear park strip (as the City has proved completely incapable of on Phase I), but now of building Phase II at all.

The Park To Nowhere?

Maybe the less said, the better…

Back in August when they voted against accepting State grant money to build the now infamous “Trail to Nowhere,” Fullerton City Councilmen Jung, Whitaker and Dunlap voted to take down the barrier around the fenced-off Union Pacific Park. I thought that was a pretty good idea for a trial run.

But wait! Was there a tacit decision to redesign and reconstruct a new park? Must have been, although there is no funding to do it. Not yet, anyway, although at the last meeting City Manager Eric Leavitt said he was meeting with the State Natural Resources Agency to see if the “greening” grant money that was supposed to go to the trail could be diverted toward building a new park where the old UP Park is located. The proposed park looks a lot like the old one – without toilets or shade structure to accommodate the borrachos.

Pickleball for the community…

This would be a political victory for Jung, Dunlap, and Whitaker who have been defending themselves with the argument that the grant funds might be repositioned. But this is really irrelevant if spending the money ends in failure. The trouble with reopening the park, if it happens, is that Fullerton, sadly, would likely only be repeating the failure of the past. And an expensive failure it was. A complete waste of several million dollars back in the early 2000s.

When the original UP Park was built it had no community support. It was the brainchild of the Parks Department Director, Susan Hunt, and funded with Redevelopment and Park Dwelling Fee play money. After it was opened it was found to be contaminated; and after the contamination was cleaned up, the park was soon closed. It seems that it had become infested with drug addicts, homeless, and gang members. And there it has languished for the better part of twenty years.

Children at play…

So what has changed to make this a workable idea now? There are more homeless than ever and Fullerton Tokers Town hasn’t gone anywhere, either. Will anybody be responsible when this new facility follows the trajectory of the old one? Nobody was ever held accountable for the failure of UP Park #1, so that seems pretty unlikely.

This scheme has been drawn up and is going to the Parks Commission tomorrow night, to be rubber stamped and passed to the City Council for their November 21 agenda. There seems to be a big rush to get this going, and I certainly hope someone on the City Council raises the same pertinent questions that they raised when they axed the Trail to Nowhere. Here are some ideas:

  1. How much is it going to cost to maintain?
  2. Why has there been little to no maintenance of the adjacent “Phase I” of the trail?
  3. Who will be responsible for the success/failure of the reopening plan?
  4. Who, exactly, do they think will be using this facility?
  5. How will the UP Park be any different this time around?
  6. What will the neighbors on Truslow Avenue think about reopening the park?
It doesn’t matter how it turns out. It’s the gesture that counts.

It will also be fun to see how the Zahra Parade will react, especially if the trail money is used. All the same silly arguments and generalities used to support the trail could be used to defend the UP Park reopening: trees, green grass, fresh, air, playground for the ninos, etc. And ironically, just a couple years ago Zahra tried to privatize the park into an events center, proving that he is not the least bit interested in the healthy community script he has bamboozled his followers into reading.

The Trail to Nowhere Grant Application

The trail didn’t go anywhere, but it sure was short…

Curious Friends have been asking about the grant application the City of Fullerton submitted to the State of California Natural Resources Agency to build the now infamous “Trail to Nowhere.” Why? Because the plan, as conceived by parks employees as a make-work project, was so obviously useless, flawed and ill-considered. Reflect on these facts:

  1. Nobody ever used the allegedly successful “Phase I” except drug addicts and the homeless.
  2. The City has been unable or unwilling to maintain Phase I which is a trash-strewn, urine soaked disgrace, making the question of maintenance (below) perfectly reasonable.
  3. Phase I doesn’t even line up with the proposed “Phase II.”
  4. The scheme was going to cost Fullerton $300,000 to build; nobody would say what the running costs would be.
  5. The proposed “trail” was to run though an unsafe area of heavy industry, junk yards, a plating facility, an asphalt plant, parking lots and myriad used tire and auto repair places. It would have run parallel to the BNSF mainline track with no buffer for a third of its length.
  6. Carncinogenic trichlorethylene (TCE) had been identified years ago on an adjacent property by the EPA/Department of Toxic Substances Control that described an underground “plume” moving south across the path of the “trail.”
  7. Two requests for information regarding environmental investigation on the “trail” site, via the Public Records Act have been obviously stonewalled by the City of Fullerton.
  8. “Trail” advocates have been disseminating false information about connectivity to the Transportation Center and Downtown Fullerton, and positing future connections to the west that are completely implausible.
  9. And probably most importantly, no one could describe a potential “trail” user except by using generic data irrelevant to the actual site. The users would be the “community”

The grant application itself isn’t to be found in any City Council documentation, because they never approved the actual application, only allowed the application to be made behind the scenes on their behalf. But it turns out that copies of the document are available, possibly leaked by City Hall employees appalled at the whole mess.

Well FFFF has it.

Mario’s “Bump Out” Heist Subject of Litigation?

This item popped up on tonight’s City Council Closed Session Calendar.

Could this relate to the northwest corner of Commonwealth and Harbor? If so we are dealing with one Mr. Mario Marovic, who opened two bars on this property that he owns at this corner. Why anticipated litigation? What claim did he make against the City? Let’s review a bit of history, shall we?

Sit down and grab some sidewalk, fratello…

By now the Friends are well-familiar with the Saga of the Florentine Stolen Sidewalk, one of Fullerton City Hall’s more egregious and embarrassing fuck-ups, a high bar to clamber over, indeed.

Back in 2003 the Florentines purloined the public sidewalk on Commonwealth Avenue by putting a permanent structure on it without permission. The whitewash was that the City would now lease the land under the building addition to the Florentines. And the Florentines owned the addition, not the owner of the adjacent building to which the addition was attached! In the lease the Florentines were held responsible for removing the addition at the City’s discretion.

But the underlying problem of who owned what and who was responsible for what, never went away.

The comic opera took a new turn in 2020 when the Florentine Mob bugged out, abandoning their addition and their responsibilities for their sidewalk leasehold. Who owned the “bump out” as the encroachment was now charmingly referred to? Why, the people of Fullerton, of course. We assumed ownership, and responsibility. But this didn’t stop the owner of the attached building, Mario Marovic, from trespassing into the bump out and from beginning to modify it as he was remodeling the rest of the old Florentine establishments for his new bars.

Meet the new proprietor, same as the old proprietor…

What a mess, all predictable and all avoidable had the City staff and the City Council done the right thing back in 2003. Well, if the Queen had…never mind.

The most recent twist became public last fall when, behind the scenes, our feckless City Council made deal with Marovic. He could assume the Florentine ground lease, and open his new establishments; in return, he would be responsible for removing the encroaching structure from the City sidewalk, and all would be well with minor embarrassment to the City. Marovic’s deadline to start demolition was the last week of March 2023, to be complete by July.

Still crazy after all these years…

Well, March came and went. So did April, May, June, July, August, September, and now October; and nothing has started. Nada. Marovic has been in breach of the agreement for seven months, reaping revenue from his saloons and from our property, too.

I really hope this item about a claim made by Marovic because it will inevitably raise the issue of his delinquency, although if it is, and this being Fullerton after all, I suppose the Council will end up letting the scofflaw keep renting our bump out on our sidewalk and maybe even pay him for the honor. It would be yet another effort to keep the City from more institutional embarrassment. Can’t have that, can we?

Here’s what should happen since the City has inexplicably decided not to go after the Florentine Mob for damages. The City should suck it up: cancel the existing ground lease with Marovic, demolish the bump out once and for all, and replace the open wall with whatever was there before this whole damn thing started.

If You Build It…

The other night I watched an old movie from the 80s called Field of Dreams. Somehow I managed to get through an hour and a half of the worst Hollywood schmaltz imaginable. Some guy hears voices and builds a baseball field in the middle of an Iowa cornfield. And guess what? Magic happens! Long dead baseball players show up to knock the old horsehide around.

Today I realized that 90 minutes of my life hadn’t been wasted after all.

“If you build it, he will come…” He did, and he did. I noticed the same blind faith in principalities of the air in those who kept, and keep yammering about the Trail to Nowhere.

These folk believe that simply building something will cause users to show up on their field of dreams. Somehow. Sometime. Even though they never bother to identify who those users are going to be. And I suspect that this one practical effort is dutifully avoided because at some visceral level they don’t even care if the trail is used by anybody.

Field of Dreams is all about the suspension of reality if you really, really, really just wish it hard enough.

As has been pointed out by several FFFF commenters, there is a mindset that cherishes gesture, not effectiveness, good intention over good outcome. And when this is compounded with the old liberal attitude of happily patronizing minorities (ahem, underserved populations) by granting them government largesse, the recipe is complete.

It might work…if you build it…

Anybody who has been along this strip of real estate knows a few things. They can’t figure out who on earth would want to use this as a trail and that the so-called Phase I has been at utter failure in use and design as a recreation facility – even when its terminus, Union Pacific Park, was open. The proposed Phase II runs through desolate industrial buildings, used tire stores, plating and asphalt business; it traverses junk yards parking lots with junk cars. Somehow this bleak, linear experience offers a golden shower of dreams to government employees with too much money and their do-gooding camp followers who seem to think that spending money is more important than spending it well. See, it’s the thought that counts. Just build it. You’ll feel good about yourself.

Friends Around the Country: What Happens in Arkansas Stays in Arkansas. Or Does It?

Diamonds and chickens…

When people bother to think of Arkansas at all, an image of Ozarks hillbillies plucking Tyson chickens springs most readily to mind. Apparently folks there also seek opportunity by digging up diamonds out of the dirt; in fact the old state nickname was “The Land of Opportunity.”

There are all sorts of opportunities in Arkansas, I suppose, although not all may be of the sort one would want to share in their origin narrative with others. Of course the same thing could be said of California, too.

Meet the Zahras

One of our correspondents in Fullerton’s District 5 received a piece of political junk mail from Ahmad Zahra the other day. It was full of the usual Zahra bullshit about all he has accomplished – which in reality has been nothing much more than photobombing events organized by other people.

But we are interested in one photo on the mailer, a nice family photo I share, below.

How precious…right out of central casting.

So c’mon, Zahra. How sad and cheap. Insta-family. Everybody knows you’re a divorced gay man, and there is no wife and no kids in your brand narrative. This just smacks of desperate cynicism. But from a compulsive liar and malignant narcissist, not surprising. “Dad.”

Fake Bomb, Fake Candidate

145lbs of trouble

It transpires that phony 5th District candidate, Tony Castro – the boob set up by the OC Democratic Party to siphon votes away from Oscar Valadez to help Ahmad Zahra – got into a wee bit of trouble last year.

What sort of trouble? Well, here’s the court Case Summary:

Well, that’s not very good, is it?

Warrant. Fugitive. Complaint. Falsely reporting planting of a bomb. Falsely reporting an emergency. And my favorite – Telephone calls w/intent to annoy. Of course there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation, I’m sure.

Tony stopped by our blog a few weeks back and left a hundred fake comments that really suggested the pathos of his campaign – and his life.

The Thief is Back!

Yes, your honor. That’s me…

For some strange reason, Paulette Marshall (Chaffee) thinks that she should be elected something. Once again, she is giving it a go, again running for the OC Board of Education. She got wiped out last time, coming in third – 5,000 votes behind Vicki Calhoun who spent half a million dollars less.

Here is Paulette’s ballot statement, just oozing sympathy for the traumatized victims of COVID and offering her special brand of boohoo bullshit.

A moral paragon speaks…

For starters, Paulette is not a teacher and non-profit boardmember is not a job. But expecting the truth from a Chaffee is like expecting rain in the Sahara. Plus this office has very little to do with those 600,000 kids, so she either doesn’t know the job she’s running for, or is just lying – again.

In the past FFFF has shared how, in her desperation to get elected, she has created or paid to advertise in phony websites. I guess she thought this was somehow a winning strategy, because she’s doing it again, with a feminist flair, here.

Paulette Stolen Sign
Crime doesn’t always pay in Fullerton…

Of course Paulette’s bios never mention an extremely embarrassing, and telling, fact: when she ran as a fake carpetbagger for the Fullerton City Council in 2018, she was caught on video – twice – stealing campaign signs, a crime for which she pled guilty.

Poor Paulette. You almost have to pity somebody who is so desperate to get elected something. Well, here at FFFF we try to help folks with self-improvement whenever we can. And here, I suppose, we’ll have to keep trying to teach Paulette that there are more important things in life than being elected to office. One of them is being honest.