Fullerton Lies to Fight Transparency – Airport Edition

I’m not sure why Fullerton is so dedicated to being lying liars telling lies to just to tell them but that’s how they do.

Recently somebody put in a Public Records Request to find out if the City of Fullerton was in violation of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Grant Rules and risking a financial headache.

This all stems from Hanger 21 and their non-aeronautical use holding parties instead of making sure the space in question is used for actual aeronautical use as required by the FAA.

Public Records Request number 19-272 asked, and I quote;

“Please provide me with a list of non-aeronautical and aeronautical hangars at the Fullerton Airport.”

The response from the city was;

No Records Available

“The City does not maintain a list, and the Public Records Act does not require the City to create records in response to a request.”

Oh really.

Weird. This email from Airport Manager Brendan O’Reilly seems to say otherwise.

Non-Aero Uses at Airport

“Here’s what I wrote up for the eviction of the twelve non-aero tenants, along with the letter I sent out last February as a warning.”

So there’s a list of non-aeronautical tenants when the city needs it but not one when the city is required to disclose it? It sure seems that Brendan O’Reilly is making things up at his convenience to suit his immediate needs.

Oh Lying Liars and the Lies they tell.

This isn’t the first time that O’Reilly has been caught lying. He previously lied to the city about the airport having a waiver for non-aeronautical uses which the city doesn’t have. He got away with it because our council and staff are lazy, incompetent or both.

In the end, these lying liars who lie are going to cost you, the taxpayers, millions.

It’ll cost you when AirCombat wins their lawsuit because the city is illegally renting an aeronautical facility to a non-aeronautical user at below market rates AND the city purposely disqualified two applicants (including AirCombat) from the lease because Hanger 21 could pay more. BUT we rented to H21 at below market rate (if it wasn’t on an airport) because they could pay more than the tenants who would actually use the space for aeronautical uses which the city is legally required to prioritize.

Then it’ll cost you once more when Hangar 21 sues the city for estoppel for damages they incurred after the Feds force H21’s eviction from the property due to an illegal lease.

Oh. And don’t forget that the airport wasn’t even zoned to allow for Hanger21’s business when they were approved. Again, per Airport Manager O’Reilly:

Hanger21 PL Zoning

“After our EDAT meeting on October 5, it seems that we won’t be able to get CC approval for the item because of the PL Zoning issue.”

This is the bullshit Fullerton’s Council tolerates. This is the bullshit they will continue to tolerate because they don’t know any better. This is the bullshit we get to pay for because our City Council is too spineless to ask a single pointed question, let alone demand compliance with our own laws.

It isn’t going to get better until voters hold these nitwits accountable and make them responsible for their actions. Good luck getting that to happen.

DEA Helicopter Crashes at Fullerton Airport

There was a crash at the Fullerton Airport this morning. By the time the media arrived, the FAA registration numbers on the tail had been carefully covered up with a tarp. Initial media reports indicate that nobody was injured and the media was instructed to start calling it a “hard landing” instead of a crash. The the rotors broke and the back fell off.

Despite the effort to deidentify the plane, an ABC7 reporter posted a photograph that shows the aircraft as a Eurocopter AS 350 with the FAA registration of N515ET. Aircraft registry websites show that the helicopter has a history of operating in Southern California.

What’s special about this bird? It was initially registered to the US Department of Justice in 2006 until its ownership was transferred in 2011, along with 14 other planes owned by the Drug Enforcement Agency, to a suspected DEA front company called Chaparral Air Group.

Well, there it is. The DEA was secretly operating out of the Fullerton Airport, and then they crashed their expensive toy. And now you’ll get to buy them a new one.

On the Agenda – January 19th, 2009

In a closed session King Rob Zur Schmiede will attempt to beat up a few property owners in his relentless quest to spend your money and expand his kingdom. Tuesday, he will be targeting several properties along West Avenue and Ford Avenue.

The municipal code change for commission appointments is to be approved. Hopefully, we don’t have another scene like we did at the last meeting where all the old guys go nuts. (Item 2)

There is a change in regulations for taxi operators… (Item 3)

Item 4 will be the financial statements for October and November of 2009. Let’s see just how badly we pissed away our kids’ future.

The Engineering Department hopes to protect their investment with an agreement outlined in Item 5. It makes sense…sort of.

There are several sewer projects on the table, which, if managed correctly, will allow for fecal matter to continue to roll down the hill to the sanitation district. It’s a lot of money but probably necessary considering how poorly we have maintained our infrastructure for the last 40-plus years.

The council is being asked to approve a public alley abandonment. Not surprising, this is related to the King Rob stuff in closed session. (Item 9)

There are a few airport items which you pilots might review. (Items 10 & 11)

Item 12 caught my eye. It appears the James Wernke’s family (for those living in a cave somewhere far away, Wernke was the young man who lost his life this past December) would like to name a trail after their son/brother. But the Parks Department scratched their head and are now asking for the council to direct the Parks commission to look at a policy for naming trails. I suggest the council by-pass the commission and just name a portion of a trail after him. Designate a section of trail in the Brea Damn Recreation area as the James Wernke Memorial Trail. Done. Fire the Parks Director and get a leader..

Item 13 is an amendment to the City’s municipal code relating to permitted parking. As I recall, this has to do with the overflow of students parking on public street and residents not being too happy.

Items 14 and 15 fall under the heading of REGULAR BUSINESS. 14 covers moving our money hither and dither in a shell game related to trails. 15 discusses a Budget Review Process.

On the Agenda: December 15th, 2009

City-Council-AgendaThe Fullerton City Council has just released their agenda for December 15, 2009 and it’s a fat package!

Something near and dear to me is baseball so I take a little more interest when the subject shows up on the agenda.  Item 2 of the closed session is a conference with the real property negotiator concerning 304 W. Commonwealth Avenue.  It would appear that the Orange County Flyers of Fullerton want to move to downtown Fullerton to be closer to City Hall.  In fact they want to have the baseball field across the street where many a young man played pony league baseball.   The Duane Winters Field just might be the sight of the next Golden Baseball League Championship.  In March 2007 the team gave up being the Fullerton Flyers because the new partners wanted to be more marketable.  Hmm, sounds like an Arty Moreno stunt!  So the changed to the Orange County Flyers.  I have a t-shirt that says “Top 10 Reason’s To Be a Fan: …Reason #4: They aren’t the L.A. Flyers of Fullerton.”  That’s true; they’re the O.C. Flyers.  So, will Parks and Rec Director, Joe Felz, give them the field?  We’ll see…

Also in the closed session is another real property whiz-bang.  Rob Zur Schmiede is working on 655 W. Valencia.  In 2007 this was a 63 unit condo by John Laing and the project was in plan check.  3+ years later, what could they be discussing?  Price and terms with C&C Development’s Barry Cottle, according to the agenda.

In the open session you can look forward to a presentation by MWD  and a few awards to people like Quirk-Silva, Dick Waltz, and – drum roll please – The Golden Bell Award, Fullerton Union High School District and (another drum roll please) Fullerton School District!  How ya like dem apples?

Make sure you fill out your blue card before you yell at the council – which you will want to do…

There are a few appointments being made to the Library Board of Trustees.  Your favorite Mayor, Don “Don’t Mess With Me” Bankhead and Shawn “See Ya Later Alligator” Nelson.  Their terms are to expire December 31, 2012 – if they last that long.

We have a busy consent calendar to cover so hang on tight.  In the mix is the amended landscaping ordinance, group insurance for city employees, the employee’s deferred compensation, more sewer replacement, a bunch of Redevelopment stuff, air pollution, SALE OF THE ORANGE COUNTY FAIR GROUNDS (seriously – item 11),  Raymond Avenue grade separation, Fire Management Association agreement, Bastanchury/Valencia Mesa bike path.  There is too much for me to cover here so I’ll expand a little on just a few.

First, there for Redevelopment.  Item 6’s title should tell you everything you need to know… “Redevelopment Agency’s Annual Determination That Planning And Administrative Expenses Are Necessary For The Production, Improvement, or Preservation of Low and Moderate Income Housing”.  Yep that’s all you need to know so don’t look into it or question it.  I suggest that if you ever had a beef with Redevelopment, this is a chance for you to SCREAM at your elected officials.  This “determination” is the justification for wasting your money.  Because if that isn’t enough reason, read item 7, the Redevelopment Agency’s annual report.  This the RA’s justification for existence to the State and Feds.  If it doesn’t dazzle you with brilliance, rest assured, it will baffle you with bullshit!

Ok, enough with the Redevelopment Agency, let’s get down to real business.  According to item 8, it’s time to modify the signals at Orangethorpe and Highland, as well as re-stripe the area and add some signs.

Air pollution shows up 9th on the list.  It’s actually a MSRC grant for $450,000 for a compressed natural gas station.  I wonder how much money we will throw at it to get the gas station operational.  How much will we sell the gas for?  Are there enough customers to make it profitable or are we, the tax payers, suppose to subsidize CNG vehicle owners?  I’m sure the details are all there waiting to be found.

Don Hoppe gets an appointment as the Public Works Dispute Hearing Officer.  Will he get paid extra for the job?

And then we have the Fairgrounds.  It appears that the council would like to request the Governator to not sell the O.C. Fairgrounds.  I’m sure Arnold will read the letter and quickly cancel the whole sale.

The Raymond Avenue Grade Separation is getting a change order for AECOM.  Their fee is $2,450,000.  It is unclear from the agenda or staff recommendation just how much the change order will cost us, if anything.   According to the recommendation, there is $63,739,000 for the project.  That’s a lot of money!

Skipping ahead to the Public Hearings we have some more Redevelopment doozies.  The first one, item 15, is for 524 and 530 S. Richman Avenue where the Olson Company wants to erect 34 moderate income housing units.  I believe the Honorable DR. Jones said we “…absolutely have to build these. It’s the law!”  Well, sort of…not really.

Also, item 16 is the Five-Year Implementation Plan for Redevelopment Agency.  The item is on the agenda so that a request can be made to have a public hearing on it and consider adopting the plan.  What a racket!

Here is an interesting one.  Item 17 is an appeal to install a nature/wildlife habitat along a portion of the Juanita Cooke Greenbelt (known to many who are not as up to date on official trail names as “The Equestrian Trail Behind the Court House that goes to Laguna Lake”).  After looking at what they wanted to do and where, I’m not sure why the City didn’t take advantage of the situation.  Here are a couple who want to improve the trail where it runs along their backyard.  They wanted to make it wilder (I guess) on the slope NEXT TO the path.  The fix could have been to enter into an agreement whereby they can install certain pre-approved plants in a pre-approved manner, the total costs of which would be paid by the applicant.  The City could have the homeowners maintain it until such time as the agreement is cancelled in which case the homeowners could be on the hook for removal/restoration costs.  The cop out from Parks that the trail has two paths and this would confuse people is silly.  Are people really that stupid?  Also, from what I have seen, the encroachment would be onto the slope.  I don’t think the mountain bikers are on the slopes nor are the walkers or horses.  So what’s the problem?

The city will also be looking at parking permit fees in certain areas. (See item 18)

Moving on to Regular Business (I said this was a big package), we have a few reports on the City’s financials as well as the Airport.  Also in the Regular Business is the Commission/Committee At-Large Appointment Process.

I urge you to read through all of the supporting documents for the agenda.  That is where you might find some nuggets of truth that should be brought forth.  I simply don’t have enough hours in the day to do it.  Thanks for reading and feel free to point out other topics that I missed or are important to you!

On the Agenda: December 1st, 2009

Fullerton City Council AgendaThe Closed Session has something very interesting. Item 2 is noted as “Portion of Tentative Tract Nos. 15671, 15672, and 15673 – West Coyote Hills, Fullerton, CA”. Yep, more Coyote Hills for those that just can’t get enough.

Among other items on the consent calendar, Item 5 is going to change the appointment process for at-large commissioners.

Item 6 is so that the Parks and Recreation folks can apply for a grant that would be used for the Union Pacific Trail Phase II. The total cost is estimated at $1,345,000 which in one way or another comes from public coffers.

Hill Crest Park is 7th on the consent calendar. There is a 113 page back-up document which includes an agreement for landscape architect services. Also in the motion is a request to transfer $60,000 from Redevelopment to Parks and Recreation. (Ed.: One concern that has been voiced by many is the poor maintenance of the parks. Whether from vandalism or neglect, the parks and playgrounds are in need of some TLC.)

8th on the list is the landscape ordinance. In the name of water conservation, let city staff decide what plants are “aesthetically appeasing and environmentally beneficial”. The cost is shown as “None”. Shouldn’t it be a cost saver for the city? Otherwise, why implement it?

Want to know who will be our next mayor? The answer is in the council’s decision on Item 9.

The January 5th meeting is to be canceled per Item 10 because there just isn’t anything for them to do. At least that’s what the staff report says.

Not on the forefront of our minds is who will serve on the Vector Control Board? Jones’ term is up. Can you imagine how he has been representing Fullerton at Board meetings? I would imagine he rambles on about…who knows what.

City staff has recommended several changes related to restrictive parking on public streets. Read Item 12 for details.

Lastly, look out for the December 15th meeting. There are a lot of topics which will likely bring a large turn out. Tentatively they are:

  • Annual Financial Report (A – City/RDA) & B – Airport Update
  • October Financials
  • Contract Renewals for Group Insurance Programs
  • Public Hearing – 5 Year Implementation Plan
  • Adopt Landscape Ordinance
  • Update Deferred Compensation Plan
  • Sewer Reconstruction Project 09/10 Carol/Magnolia Area
  • Public Hearing – Appeal – Encroachment Permit Denial
  • Presentation – Certificate of Appreciation – Dick Waltz
  • Closed Session – Property Negotiations – OC Flyers
  • Public Hearing – Parking Permit Fees
  • Adopt Ordinance – Permit Parking
  • Direct Appointments – Library
  • Public Hearing – Olson Housing Project
  • Contract Award – Raymond Grade Separation
  • RDA Annual Determination Re: Low & Moderate Housing
  • RDA FY 08/09 Annual Report
  • Signal Modification – Orangethorpe/Highland & Signing/Striping – Orangethorpe
  • Presentation – MWD Update

New Blight Report: “Fullerton Airport Unsafe”

"Breaker breaker there 1-9...it's unsafe to land here, over"

Lawyers for the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency have a tough job in trying to defend the bogus blight findings that have been so effectively demolished by County Counsel Attorney James Harman and Friends for a Livable Fullerton‘s & FFFF Attorney Robert Ferguson.

They just came out with a weak 14 page response to the blight objections, in preparation for the scheduled hearing this Tuesday, June 16 (Item 14). If the council has any sense, they’d shelve this turkey project now.

"but we need the money"
but, we need the money

Imagine, Fullerton Council Members, some of whom have been in office since the 90s, spending public money to prove that blight in Fullerton is growing. Blight growing on their watch!

One Page 11 of the Agency’s response, the report reads “Significant improvements are needed at the airport and its vicinity, including safety upgrades. The airport is affected by the lack of safety upgrades…”


Admitting that its own airport is unsafe opens the City to serious liability. And if it is true, upgrades should be paid for by internal airport revenues (leases, tie-down fees, etc.) Property tax increment shouldn’t pay for airport upgrades, any more than for municipal golf course improvements. The airport is setup as an enterprise fund—self supporting.

The report clearly asserts that Fullerton Municipal Airport is blighted—and dangerous. If true, who allowed this to happen? If the airport has to be subsidized by redevelopment, than perhaps it should be shut down and sold off.

SoftLand met SoftLand TS 024.jpgOn Page 12 of the report, the crack Agency legal minds write: “Sam’s Club—This store is completely surrounded by properties with at least one significant condition of physical blight.”

Well, tell that to the Home Depot, which is adjacent to Sam’s Club, and one of the City’s biggest retailers. The City’s biggest home improvement center is now a source of blight!

The report is so full of blanket and sweepingly false statements that is difficult to fathom the legal minds behind it. But, then, if the facts aren’t on your side, you have to make them up!

Where’s the Blight?

map1At its May 5 meeting, The Fullerton City Council will consider expanding the city’s redevelopment area by 1,165 acres. This would place nearly 25 % of the entire city under the redevelopment agency, with its expanded powers to use eminent domain, divert property taxes and subsidize development.

State law allows the creation or expansion of redevelopment areas for only one reason—blight.

Blight is a legal requirement. Without it, a redevelopment area can be thrown out by the courts, as has been done with the cities of Mammoth Lakes, Temecula, Glendora and Diamond Bar. Judges are loathe to allow more revenue diversion unless the law is respected. The proposed expansion would place much of Southeast and Southwest Fullerton’s commercial areas under redevelopment. Are they blighted?

picture1The allegedly blighted area abuts my College Park neighborhood, along Raymond Ave. It includes a new Walgreen’s, the original Polly’s Pies and the Albertson’s where I shop. South of the tracks lies the newly-built Valencia Industrial Park, leased to near capacity, and the bustling Home Depot. It includes multinational distribution centers such as Yokohama Tire, UPS, Alcoa Aluminum and the Kimberly-Clark plant.

The council is being asked to declare as blighted all 167 small businesses along West Commonwealth, stretching from Euclid to Dale. All of these business owners must realize that a blight designation automatically makes them subject to possible future eminent domain.

atnip1Also blighted would be the new Fresh’n’Easy shopping center at Euclid & Orangethorpe. The proposed blight includes the Fullerton Municipal Airport and adjacent aviation businesses. It includes unique regional specialty retailers on Orangethorpe like Bob Marriott’s Fly Fishing Store and the Harley Davidson Center, both the largest of their kind on the West Coast.

Urban Futures Inc. conducted the city’s blight report, which studied conditions in the proposed expansion areas. It found that out of 629 buildings, only 5% were deteriorating. Less than 2% of the all parcels are described as incompatible. In the proposed project area, sales tax revenues grew 50% faster than in the rest of the city. There is no blight to legally justify the expansion.

fishing-storeExpansion means the agency will divert even more property tax funds from local government. Statewide, 10% of all property tax revenues are diverted by redevelopment agencies—that’s $5 billion annually. Most of this is at the expense of public schools, which then must be backfilled from the state general fund. But the state is now broke, and the backfills can’t be maintained without the massive new tax hikes proposed for the May 19 ballot. Redevelopment also diverts funds from the city’s general fund with an estimated $100 million loss to the municipal budget over 45 years.

Here in OC, RDAs now consume 15% more property taxes than all of county government. The County of Orange has lost $190 million to redevelopment agencies since 1990. This translates into real cuts in public services. We must defend our public revenue stream against future diversions.

With these funds, RDAs typically assemble land (under threat of eminent domain) and subsidize new retail development. Costco alone has received $30 million in public money just in OC, while Walmart has gotten over a $1 billion nationally in tax subsidies. The promised revenues rarely materialize as sales taxes are simply shifted from one area to another. Subsidized corporate big boxes soak up the sales that used to go to small businesses.

In 1998, the respected Public Policy Institute of California conducted a comprehensive study of redevelopment areas throughout the state. This groundbreaking report “Subsidizing Redevelopment in California” found no net economic benefits that justified the huge public expenditures.

fake-2nd-floor3392135869_b2ae8a32751Compare the three shopping centers at Harbor and Orangethorpe: Metro Center and Fullerton Town Center received massive public subsidies, while Orangefair was built and recently improved with purely private money. Compare the Knowlwood complex at Harbor and Commonwealth (with its fake second story), built with $510,000 in RDA subsidies, next to privately built Stubrik’s and Slidebar.

RDA funds can be used for purely public projects. While a member of the Fullerton City Council, I did vote for redevelopment funding for infrastructure, parks, libraries and the Maple School rehab. maple-school3392113811_21cf1eec3eBut the temptation to get involved in purely private commercial ventures makes city government a major developer and landowner.

Because of site-based sales tax allotment, cities typically use redevelopment to subsidize new retail centers. Auto malls, shopping centers and multiplexes have all been built with public funds. With retail centers now overbuilt and languishing, where is the market for all these new taxable sales? With property values plummeting, when will any additional property tax increment materialize?

Fullerton’s current RDA areas were created when blight standards were vague and unenforced. Subsequent laws require blight to be definitively proven. Judges have little tolerance for city governments simply seeking to expand power and revenue at others’ expense.

As a county official, I’m concerned about redevelopment’s impact on public services. As a Fullerton native, I’m concerned about an official declaration that 25% of my hometown is blighted. If redevelopment really has cured blight in our city, why does it continue to grow after 35 years? If there is no blight, why are city officials so eager to flout the law and denigrate Fullerton’s true condition?ns3392235153_c2af9988b52

At our June 17, 2008 meeting, the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to oppose the proposed Fullerton RDA expansion. The opposition was based on the feared loss of County revenues and County Counsel’s opinion that there is no blight to legally justify the expansion.