New Well. Same as Old Wells

A new testing well has recently appeared on Walnut Avenue next to the source of trichloroethylene contamination at 311 South Highland Avenue. Friends may remember that this contamination has been monitored by the Feds and the State agency responsible for tracking such things. Here’s the drill rig crew hard at work installing the well casing.

Of course FFFF has already noted the existence of the contamination of the property and its neighbors in the context of the dismal $2,000,000 Trail to Nowhere, pet project of Ahmad Zahra and his colleagues on the City Council; FFFF also identified ten testing wells on the trail site, plus a couple more in the middle of Truslow Avenue. Apparently testing is now taking place to the north, on Walnut Avenue, too. That’s not very good, is it?

The City of Fullerton claimed and still claims that there is no problem with their trail site and apparently the State Natural Resources Agency, the bureaucracy that doles out grant money, remains incurious as to why no mention of trichloroethylene has ever been made by Fullerton’s environmental consultants in their reporting.

Meantime the City continues its silence about the growing plume that could be moving northward, too.

Of course public employees are indemnified for their activities, no matter how incompetent or based in misfeasance. It’s the public that gets to pick up the check.

Revenue Enhancement

M. Eric Levitt. Will he save us from ourselves?

It seems like every few years Fullerton City Councils are presented by the bureaucracy with a new “fiscal cliff”: It’s done slowly, tentatively, and then with an ever-increasing tone of persuasion, the argument for “revenue enhancement” unfolds.

Revenue enhancement means taxes or debt – one way or another. And so it is in 2024.

With time running out to put a tax increase on the November ballot, the urgency from “staff” is getting more direct. Time has run out for soft-sell concepts like phony push polls of unwitting citizens. At Tuesday’s council meeting our esteemed City Manager is presenting ideas for raising money.

Well, it might work…but, then again…

TOT Tax. What is a TOT tax? Transient Occupancy Tax is a tax levied on visitors who stay in Fullerton hotels. The staff report tells us that several million can be raised with a slight increase and that hopefully we will remain competitive because we are so close to the Anaheim “Resort.” No on can prove this one way or another, but it seems like becoming comparatively less competitive is a poor way of raising revenue. The positive thing about a TOT increase, says the staff report, is that Fullerton taxpayers won’t be affected (unless, of course the concept turns out to be a money loser).

Sales tax. We have already seen the sales pitch on how a general sales tax only needs 50%+1 to pass. We are told that a “1%” increase (from 7.75 to 8.75) on sales tax is being pursued by cities up and down California, etc, etc. Of course they think we’re too dumb to know that this isn’t a 1% increase, but a 13% increase. As with a TOT increase, it’s hard to see how becoming comparatively less competitive is going to make money. The sales tax issue seems DOA. 4 votes are needed to put this on the ballot and Whitaker and Dunlap aren’t going for that.

POBs. And then we see the concept of Pension Obligation Bonds, in which bond revenues are deposited with CalPERS to buy down the actuarial unfunded liability. The idea is that the interest rate on the bonds is lower than the return CalPERS will give us and the difference is all gravy. This idea was floated back in 2021 by then Interim City Manager, Jeff Collier. FFFF covered the proposal, here. One upside is that this scheme is not constrained by the usual debt ceiling limits placed on local governments by the state. Great. More gambling.

Well, there she goes. Don’t worry. There’s more where that came from…

Mr. Collier was kind enough to visit our humble site to educates us on POBs. Friends immediately pointed out the risks involved with POBs, and the lack of skin in the game Collier and his pals had. And that was three years ago when market interest rates were way lower. The equities market is now going through the roof so the idea looks appealing to our bureaucrats, but not to California pension system observers who note CalPERS ever-declining return assumptions and remember the disaster of 2008. Will the City Council approve this gambit? It’s possible, and a public vote is not required.

Hey, you down there…

These various options involve raising taxes or encumbering property to some extent. That’s risk with a speculated payoff. Ahmad Zahra is bound to support anything risky and foolish so as to protect his friends in City Hall. So is Shana Charles, another liberal torchbearer who will tell us this is for our own good; or for the urban forest; or for boutique hotels, or something else nonsensical. Whitaker won’t go for any of this nonsense. Dunlap? Who knows these days. And then there is Fred Jung who had the opportunity to be the third vote to shut down talk of revenue enhancement last year and didn’t.

Hero. Deserve.

A problem with any tax revenue increase is that the increase, such as it were, will immediately be snatched up by the so-called “public safety” employees, whose unions have the clout to grab what they want and everybody else be damned. That’s exactly what happened in Westminster a few years when the cop union pounded the pavement for a sales tax increase, got it, then gobbled it all up. And Westminster is right back where they were before.

It’s Coming For You…

The other day the Fullerton Harpoon posted a brief synopsis of Fullerton’s Fiscal Year 24-25 budget, suggesting that the “workshop” to present Fullerton’s dire economic situation was just another step in the process of trying to get the City Council to put a sales tax increase on the November ballot.

Of course Mr. Harpoon is right about this. Not only have we seen this play before, we noticed that the process of collecting manipulated information started last year. Of course it’s still ongoing. But the pro-taxers in City Hall are running out of time for 2024 since some acceptance of tax inevitability will have to be discussed during the budget formalization in June.

After that there’s only about a month until the 2024 ballot cutoff.

To be sure, the tax increase doesn’t have to be on the ballot in the fall. And the reality is that there may not even be the votes to do it. This makes the 2024 District 4 election more important.

She wants what you have.

District 4 candidate and former City parking ticket hander outer, Vivian “Kitty” Jaramillo would no doubt be only too happy to apply a regressive sales tax on her “underserved” constituents, just like Ahmad Zahra was in 2020. If the votes are there a special election in 2025 might be tried.

In any case, our tax dollars would undoubtedly be used to propagandize us about how our quality of life is determined by how many happy public employees we have bumping into each other in City Hall. Even worse we would be scolded about our lack of civic responsibility, etc. etc.

It will never occur to the would-be taxers that a lot of folks in Fullerton don’t feel like having taxes raised as a response to years and years of fiscal imprudence on the part of liberal councilmembers and incompetent city managers.

Our message to our would be overlords in City Hall, the “heart of the City” as Jan Flory called them, is clear.

The Fiscal Cliff

The Fullerton City Council is holding a special meeting tonight – a 2024-25 Budget “workshop.” No work will get done but there will be shopping going on as staff begins its formal press to raise a sales tax.

There is a lot of self-serving verbiage about how well our City staff has performed its tasks up ’til now, but then the hard reality hits because budget numbers can’t pat themselves on the back.

There are some harrowing numbers in the proposed budget – including a $9,400,000 draw-down from strategic reserves. This means of course, that the budget is no where near balanced as City Hall apologists like Jennifer Fitzgerald and Jan Flory claimed when they ran the place into the red almost every year.

M. Eric Levitt. Will he save us from ourselves?

Let’s let our City Manager, Eric Levitt tell the tale:

Financial Stability. The City has been able to over the last two years (for the first time in recent history of the City) to reach and maintain a 17% contingency reserve level. This budget maintains that reserve level; however due to an operating deficit, we will be utilizing one-time excess reserves this year and coming close to that 17% level in FY 2024-25 and below that in years beyond next year

Read. Weep.

The overall picture gets even worse as the levels of reserves slowly dwindle away. After this year Fullerton continues to be upside from $7.5 to $8.8 million each year until the end of the dismal decade. We are not favored with the running reserve funds balances.

Infrastructure is supposedly a big deal. Which reminds me of a quotation attributed to Mark Twain: Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it. But this year we are told, we can push get going on our deteriorating infrastructure along by borrowing! Once again let’s heed the words of Mr. Levitt:

I have also put together a strategy to increase that funding level to closer to $14 million over the next four years through the use of financing. However, there are both upsides and downsides to this approach which will be discussed with you in more detail at today’s presentation.

Now this should be a red flag: borrowing to perform maintenance, a basic accounting no-no. And what form will the borrowing take? Not a municipal bond, you can be sure, It would likely be by selling certificates of participation or some other dodge to avoid municipal debt restrictions. Here’s the table that shows our Maintenance of Effort (MOE) shortfall without financing.

Now we all know that interest payments are made by somebody, somewhere, and that somebody is you and me. We get to pay the interest on debt incurred by years of municipal mismanagement by people like Joe Felz and Ken Domer and Jeff Collier who get to sail off to a glorious and massively pensioned retirement at 55 years of age.

And finally, to circle back to the story lead, here’s a distasteful nugget carefully slipped into the City Manager’s report:

“Staff recommends City Council review options over the next year to stabilize the budget and ensure the City remains financially sound.

Jesus H. There it is. Not quite explicitly stated, but we know very well where this is going. Another general sales tax effort, just like the ill-fated Measure S of four years ago. The seeds for this have already been planted, of course, in a nasty little taxpayer-funded fishing expedition in the guise of a community survey. Last November I regaled the Friends with this slimy maneuver, here.

How did things get so bad?

By the way, this is exactly the same process City Hall rolled out four years ago. And we will be told By Ahmad Zahra, Shana Charles and Vivian Jaramillo that if we don’t pony up we will be morally deficient.

Well, good luck Friends. This is going to be a long year and you can bet the farm that we will be asked to pick up the check – again.

Jaramillo High on Retail Pot

Green means green. One way or another…

You heard right, Friends. Very high.

Wanna ganj?

Earlier today, one of our Friends shared a couple Vivian “Kitty” Jaramillo posts from the Next Door site sharing her views on the subject of marijuana tax revenue. Jaramillo says she’s running for the Fullerton City Council, and has big plans for solving the budget problem.

I don’t know when the lightbulb will go on for our current council majority that our city is dying. We have been pinching penny’s for much too long and our city’s infrastructure shows it. If they would put on their thinking caps and allow legal dispensaries they could be the super heroes of Fullerton. Vote only candidates in favor of legalizing

Responding to something called Legalize Fullerton Dispensaries, Jaramillo shared:

Thank you for your continued interest in legalizing marijuana dispensaries in Fullerton. Unfortunately we still have the same 3 councilman, Whitaker, Jung & Dunlap, who voted against this issue. So let’s be sure when any of these 3 are up for re-election to show up and vote them OUT! Our city is losing millions of dollars each year that dispensaries are not allowed. We all know how desperate we are for a stronger budget……

I can’t guarantee that these are genuine comments made by Jaramillo, but when you consider the poor grammar and punctuation, they have the ring of genuineness. And of course, Jaramillo’s world view, “pinching penny’s” (sic) is the problem, not excessive pay and pensions to thousands of employees over the years.

Her stake-out makes sense if she she believes the Long Beach Cannabis Cartel can be a source of political fundraising; and, of course her political soulmate, Ahmad Zahra, has long been known a wannabe player in the legal dope store game. Zahra supported the proposed ordinance that could have resulted in legalized dispensaries within 100 of your house. Zahra has also been associated with the “consulting” work of one Melahat Rafiei who recently pleaded guilty for conning a would-be dispensary operator in Anaheim out of hundreds of thousands that were meant as payouts to officials, and to trying to bribe Irvine City Council members.

Now, it could be that Jaramillo really believes that dispensaries are an economic salvation for Fullerton, and the more the better, and any negative impacts are worth the price of happy public employees and timely CalPERS payments This may put her at odds with the Fullerton Police Department that has a long-standing opposition to this sort of thing; she must be counting on the cop union to paver her way to office.

Kitty Throws Hello Party For Self

A couple weeks ago FFFF posted about Fullerton’s 4th District Council election this fall. Incumbent Bruce Whitaker will be incumbent no longer – finally termed out. One of the subjects was the candidacy of Ms. Vivian “Kitty” Jaramillo, a former City employee, former council candidate, and most recently an annoying presence at City Council meetings.

Well, it turns out the wheels of another Jaramillo candidacy were indeed in motion. Here’s an invite to her coming out party. Oops. Somebody doesn’t use spellcheck.

“Appetisers” for all…booze is extra.

Josh Newman and Sharon Quirk-Silva are taking time out of their busy schedules messing up California to be there, so Ms. Kitty must have the backing of the OC Democrat operation, although this time there will be no fake candidates created to protect an incumbent.

So the first battle line is drawn: do we want another former public employee on the Fullerton City Council? Do we want one who will certainly be willing to raise our taxes to support her pension? Do we want Ahmad Zahra to have a third vote to promote stupid vanity projects that will promote his “brand?”

The 2024 4th District Election

As the Friends know, Fullerton’s First, Second and Fourth City Council District representative jobs are up for election this fall. And while it’s a little early to speculate on who’s going to run and what the outcome might be, it’s fun to do a little introductory review.

Dunlap-Jung

Incumbents Fred Jung and Nick Dunlap are incumbents in the First and Second Districts, respectively. If they want to run again, and I haven’t heard they won’t, the power of incumbency is hard to beat.

Going, going, gone…

The Fourth District, currently represented by Bruce Whitaker will be wide open. Whitaker is termed out after 12 long years on the Council and his replacement will decide the balance of the Council if Dunlap and Jung run, and are re-elected. The current 3-2 division is based on ideological difference, the difference is between looking out for the taxpayers – at least once in a while – and doing whatever idiocy the bureaucracy wants to perpetrate.

Yes, I do so live here.

At this point the candidate pool seems weak. Last time Whitaker squeaked by past a dude named Aruni Thakur, a school board member who didn’t live in the district. Could Thakur do the (fake) carpetbagger routine? He had the full support of the unions and the County Democrat Party four years ago, but it wasn’t enough for poor Aruni, who was hammered with his carpetbaggery. With no incumbent this time around his political greed might pull him in.

Vivian “Kitty” Jaramillo

Then there is a woman named Vivian “Kitty” Jaramillo, an individual who has made a nuisance of herself recently attacking the Council majority with the usual feigned outrage. Ms. Jaramillo is retired from “work” as a life-long municipal employee whose professional career started in Fullerton handing out parking tickets and graduated into being a code enforcement busybody. She would be a perfectly reliable yes vote for anything floated by city staff, and just the sort of running buddy Ahmad Zahra dreams about to support a sales tax. Word on the street is that the OC Dems are already behind her candidacy, which would preclude the aforementioned Thakur from getting involved.

Jaramillo ran for the City Council in 2012 and came in 7th in a city-wide election. Two years ago she was appointed to the redistricting committee where she championed the failed, ridiculous district map meant to keep the lamentable knucklehead Jesus Quirk-Silva in office.

Jaramillo’s other claim to fame, besides pestering the City Council these days, is suing the City in 2015 to create city council districts – very likely so she could run herself someday when Whitaker termed out.

So far no one from a more responsible philosophical perspective has raised their hand in D4, but as noted above, it’s still early in the year and filing doesn’t take place for almost another five months.