Fitzgerald’s Fiduciary Fictions

The Case of the Disappearing/Reappearing Balanced Budget

Many of you may recall that during my campaign for Fullerton City Council I wrote an Open Letter to Jennifer Fitzgerald. I’d like to revisit the issue of Mrs. Fitzgerald’s oft-repeated myth of a balanced budget.

On her website as well as on campaign literature she made the point that our budget is balanced. I offer as evidence a screen-grab from her campaign website from 22 October 2016;

I won’t re-litigate the whole letter here but suffice it to say I wasn’t happy about her Public Relations spin on our overspending by at least 43 Million Dollars during her tenure.

I’m bringing this all up due to agenda item #2 from last night’s Council Meeting. The council voted 5-0 to receive and file the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the fiscal year ending 30 June 2016. Inside the CAFR was one little nugget really stood out to me when reading the report.

Let’s see if you can spot it; (more…)

Water Rate Study Ad Hoc Committee Calls On Council to Rescind Water Tax

Last night the Water Rate Study Ad Hoc Committee voted unanimously to recommend to the Fullerton City Council that the “in-lieu” franchise fee, or “water tax” as it has become known as, should be suspended indefinitely.

Another motion was made to recommend an audit of the Water Fund. The motion failed 5-5.

Some members stated they had enough reports and felt spending more money would not provide any answers. One member even said that no matter what is discovered in the audit, it would not be enough for some.

Others, like myself, feel it is a disservice to the public to not account for the misappropriated funds. As we look to answer the question of how much was overcharged to ratepayers, we realize we cannot arrive at a fact-based answer. Instead, the city’s staff will have the Ad Hoc Committee look at what could or perhaps should be charged to the Water Fund. That may be an appropriate step going forward but without an audit we will never know where our money went.


OCFA Lights A Match

As Fullerton is forced to face our own massive pension debt this year, it’s helpful to look around to see what others are doing. And then aim higher. Much higher.

It all started in one careless moment.

The county firefighters’ union just conceded that new members will have to work 5 more years until they reach retirement age, allowing them to retire at 55 instead of 50. OK, so they still get a ridiculous 90% of pay and will retire at least 12 years earlier than the rest of us. But it’s a baby step in the right direction.

To begin addressing the deficit caused by current employees, union members will also pay their own portion of the retirement contributions, building up to the full 9% of pay as required by state law.

Both of these concepts could be applied to Fullerton police and fire contracts. Of course, they wouldn’t come close to solving our pension problems. But if the prima donnas at OCFA will volunteer these concessions, Fullerton should be able to do better. Much better.

Certainly this sets a new minimum for pension reform in Orange County. With soaring pension costs set to take escalating millions out of our budget next year, we must do something NOW.

Of course, we won’t let anyone forget that several of our council members have promised to tackle the issue.

Did I really say that?

On The Agenda – June 1st, 2010

There are three (3) items on tonight’s City Council agenda. They are: 1) the minutes from May 11 & 18 meetings; 2) November 2 call for municipal elections; and 3) the FY2010-2011 budget.

At first, I was relieved and thought I might be able to escape an exhaustive post. However, upon closer inspection I concluded that we must examine items 2 and 3 a bit closer.

Calling all candidates! Item 2, municipal election, includes language that supports putting term limits on the ballot for Fullerton voters to decide in November. The proposed text reads: “Shall an ordinance be adopted to enact term limits upon members of the Fullerton City Council, preventing any person who serves three (3) successive terms from serving again until an intervening period of four (4) years has elapsed?” Do we need term limits?

The rest of item 2 appears to be standard municipal election language. So who is running? We’ll have to wait and see. The normal deadline for candidates to file is August 6th and will cost you $1,267.00 if you want to have a candidate statement placed on the ballot. That fee alone squashes the hopes and dreams of many would-be candidates.

Moving forward to the expensive part of the agenda, item 3, we are presented with the proposed budget for fiscal year 2010-2011. I think a CPA or someone who likes playing with numbers will like details in the budget. There is some immaterial misinformation in the report signed by Julia James, but in James’ words the gist is this:

“The proposed revised budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year totals $184.4 million for the City and $54.1 million for the Redevelopment Agency, for a total proposed revised appropriations for all funds of $238.5 million. This total includes $58.5 million in capital projects in progress to be carried over. The General Operating Funds budget is not balanced, with a deficit of $3.2 million.”

So what will council cut to balance the budget? My guess is that Ol’ Doc Hee Haw and Bunkhead will vote to raise fees. Keller, not looking for re-election will go ahead with it. Quirk-Silva and Nelson will vote not to raise fees. Based on another post on FFFF, perhaps the city should stop subsidizing and start charging the Muckenthaler Cultural Center Foundation for their exclusive use of the property for weddings and private events.

Friends, there is so much right with Fullerton that these issues sometimes don’t get the attention they deserve. We are all able to live in our pleasant north OC bubble without regard for our civic duty. Unfortunately, if we keep letting the same few who got us into our current mess continue digging their bottomless money pits, things will never improve. And if you think things are going good now, imagine how good they could be if we each do our part to hold our elected official accountable. You can start doing your part June 8 at the polls and again November 2.

Come join the Revolution, Matt

After my piece here last week defending Shawn Nelson and the noble profession of defense attorney, I was criticized on Red County by Matt Cunningham, who runs that Web site. I could respond point by point, but there’s no use in doing that.

Instead, I’ve just been thinking how sorry I am that he, and so many over at Red County, are not joining what I call the Third Conservative Revolution. There’s still time, boys, to jump on board.

The First Conservative Revolution was, of course, Barry Goldwater’s run in 1964 against the ogre LBJ. Barry campaigned for sharply cutting government and restoring the Constitution.

I still remembering voting for Barry in my 4th grade class when I was nine, in those mock elections schools have. I was reflecting my parents’ views, of course. My late mother once told me how much her father, my grandfather, loathed FDR and his socialist New Deal. So I guess conservatism is in my blood.

The Second Conservative Revolution was the Reagan Revolution. I was in the U.S. Army for the first part, but by 1982 I had been honorably discharged and was in Washington, D.C. First I was assistant editor of “Conservative Digest,” then editor of “The American Sentinal,” then editorial page editor at “The Washinton Times” – all conservative publications. We worked to win the Cold War, sharply cut government and restore the Constitution.

To quote Wordsworth: “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!”

I’ll bet that’s the feeling the youngsters are getting nowadays as they back Ron Paul.

Alas, both previous revolutions were hampered by conservatives, including me, supporting a strong military during the Cold War. It was hard to cut budgets and deficits with defense spending so high.

But then the Berlin Wall fell and there was no reason for any conservative to oppose large defense cuts. During the Cold War, tradeoffs were made: “Back a strong military and we’ll fund your favorite domestic programs.” That no longer was needed.

Unfortunately, Reagan didn’t have a third term. Instead, we got George H.W. Bush, who promised, “Read my lips! No new Taxes!” – then, once in office, raised taxes. The economy crashed and we got Clinton.

In 1996, Republicans nominated Bob Dole, whom conservatives long had dubbed “the tax collector for the welfare state” for his obsession with raising taxes, such as the the “waitress tax” that took money from the gals’ tips. What a cad. Clinton won again.

In both 1992 and 1996, Pat Buchanan raised a stir in the GOP primaries, even winning the New Hampshire primary in 1996 with his calls for large cuts in spending and taxing, and for bring American troops home. It was a kind of proto-Ron Paul Revolution.

In 2000, Republicans nominated George W. Bush, with his promise of a “humble” foreign policy and limited government. Well, like his father, he gave us the opposite of what he solemnly pledged. Enough said on that.

Obama promised “Change you can believe in,” but we got no change from Bush.

So no wonder people are upset, especially young folks who are doing the dying in the pointless Bush-Obama wars and will spend the rest of their lives paying off the Bush-Obama war debts, domestic debts, and bailout debts.

Enter the Third Conservative Revolution. It’s a combination of the Ron Paul Revolution of recent years and the recent Tea Party excitement.

There’s always an affection between the very young and the very old. That’s why the avuncular Ron Paul, at 75, is a hit with the kids. He’s also authentic, as the existentialists used to say. There’s no guile in him. WYSYWIG – what you see is what you get. Unlike most Republican supporters of the Bush-Obama wars, who never served in the military — such as Dick “Five Deferments” Cheney — Ron Paul was a flight surgeon in U.S. Air Force.

So, it’s not surprising that, at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, Ron Paul won a straw poll, with 31% of the vote. In second place, at 22%, was the socialist Mitt Romney, whose Mittcare has proved a complete disaster in Massachusetts, but is the model for the Obamacare that Republicans now oppose (rightly).

Ron Paul is the future of the Republican Party — if it wants a future. More important, his ideas are surging just when we need them to saved America from Bush-Obama socialism.

Which brings me to Shawn Nelson’s candidacy for O.C. Supervisor. It’s also part of this Third Conservative Revolution. He’s an authentic, tested conservative who has voted against waste and dumb programs while on the city council in Fullerton. He’s endorsed by the man he wants to succeed, former supervisor and new Assemblyman Chris Norby, who also has a strong record of voting against waste and protecting taxpayers.

The next four years on the Board of Supervisors are going to be the most trying since the bankruptcy 15 years ago. It could even be worse, as back then the state and national economies were in a strong recovery and could pull O.C. out of its problems. Today, the federal and state economies are not recovering, precisely because Ron Paul’s policies – sound money, tax cuts, spending cuts, restoring the Constitution – are not being heeded.

I’ll leave the last words to The Bard, in this YouTube of “The Times They Are A’Changin’.” It’s good advice for anybody not yet ready to “lend your hand” to the Ron Paul Revolution and the Shawn Nelson campaign:

There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

John Seiler, an editorial writer with The Orange County Register for 19 years, is a reporter and analyst for His email:

Departing Police Chief Brings Home The Bacon

Porktacular reading material

Just in time for his retirement, our beloved police chief Pat McKinley brought home a $100,000 federal earmark for his new body armor which he designed in a partnership with seasoned police contractor Safariland, a subsidiary of Europe’s largest military contractor. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez congratulated herself for rooting up the money for the high-priced vests as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act.

What could be wrong with this earmark? It’s nothing but free money for the City of Fullerton – an unconditional gift from the federal government, right?

But the earmark qualifies as official government pork according to government watchdogs.

Citizens Against Government Waste have identified 10,160 projects at a cost of $19.6 billion in the 12 Appropriations Acts for fiscal 2009 that symbolize the most egregious and blatant examples of pork.  All of the items in the Congressional Pig Book Summary meet at least one of these criteria, but most satisfy at least two:

  • Requested by only one chamber of Congress;
  • Not specifically authorized;
  • Not competitively awarded;
  • Not requested by the President;
  • Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding;
  • Not the subject of congressional hearings; or
  • Serves only a local or special interest.
Officer Rubio shows off his new vest while demonstrating a choke hold for our unsuspecting photographer.
Officer Rubio shows off his new vest while demonstrating a choke hold for our unsuspecting photographer.

There are two sides to every slab of government pork: on one hand, earmarks return a portion of Fullerton citizens’ federal tax dollars back to the city itself. If Fullerton doesn’t grab it’s share of the pie, the money will merely be assigned to some other bloated project in some other needy town far, far away.

On the flip side, earmarks represent the very worst in fiscal responsibility and big government. Appropriations Committee members arbitrarily pick winners and losers by earmarking funds for specific recipients.  Lobbyists and their congressmen bypass authorizing committees directly for pet projects, creating a giant fiscal free-for-all that undermines the Constitution and makes states and localities increasingly beholden to the federal government. Finally, the federal deficit grows unchecked and our taxes increase via the debasement of our currency.

Pork projects have haunted this nation since our early years, but they have always been reviled by fiscally responsible citizens. Thomas Jefferson considered earmarks “a source of boundless patronage to the executive, jobbing to members of Congress & their friends, and a bottomless abyss of public money”. If Jefferson knew about the exponential increase in federal earmarks over the last decade, he would likely rise from his grave to scribe a brand new Declaration of Independence.

In the end, the chiefs’ friends at Safariland are $100,000 richer, our police have new vests that cost twice as much as the old, and most importantly, the fruits of our labor have been lost in a sea of unaccountability.