So Who Does Fullerton’s Chamber of Commerce Really Represent?

Our good friend Joe Sipowicz asked a really good question today on another post. Asked Joe:

How many Chamber board members have received subsidies, favors, or looks-the-other-way by the police in the past? Does the Director owe her job to the influence of City Council members? Inquiring minds want to know.

 Well, Joe, we have inquiring minds too, and decided to check out the Chamber’s board of directors. And what we found ain’t pretty:

A 21 member board. Lets review some of the members, who they work for and see what other telling associations we can discern (in no particular order):

1.Albert Napoli – MWD ( a government sanctioned utility monopoly)

2. Mark McGee – MG Disposal (sole garbage contractor for the City of Fullerton)

3. Burnie Dunlap– St Jude Hospital (former member Brea Redevelopment Agency!)

4. Daniel Kang – Grace Ministries (non-profit Church; beholden to City for gobs of entitlements)

5. Ron Hurst– Fullerton Marriot (Hotel originally built by money put up by the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency

6. Chris Reese – CSUF (a government educrat!)

7. Pat Butress – So Cal Edison (government sanctioned utility monopoly)

8. Jack Franklyn– Heroes (well-known recipient of City look-the-other ways for non-permitted construction and out door amplified music, etc.)

9. Kerry Stock – Costco (Fullerton’s original big-time redevelopment project)

10. Ryan Dudley – The Cellar (son of former Develpment Services Director, Paul Dudley – hmm THAT name sounds familiar!)

11. Cameron Irons – Vanguard Investments (and former partner in downtown restaurants operating out of Redevelopment subsidized buildings)

12. Leland Wilson – Realtor (former Mayor and Chairman of Fullerton’s Redevelopment Agency!)

Okay, we’ll stop there since we are way past a board majority; a majority of folks who have connections to redevelopment, government, family ties, or lots of reasons to be grateful to the City of Fullerton. And we mention in passing their Executive Director, Theresa Harvey, former director of the Fullerton Boys and Girls Club (non-profit operated in building owned by City, etc., etc.).

Please note that we have also passed over a couple of downtown bankers (that relationship needs to be explored), some sort of political consultant, and a lawyer. It appears as if the Chamber board is almost devoid of anybody actually making and selling anything. But, boy do they have ties to the Fullerton City government, government in general, or operate in government sanctioned monopolies.

Is there really any wonder why this crew supports Redevelopment expansion – the greatest anti-business threat in Fulleron’s history? Most of them are connected to the government, and hardly any of them are really in the kind of real, honest-to-goodness retail or manufacturing businesses of the sort that Redevelopment preys upon.

Redevelopment Sidewalks: Adding Futility To The Simple Pleasure of Walking

Several Friends have recently asked that we share with you our Loyal Readers some images of the ridiculous Redevelopment sidewalks in downtown Fullerton. The question that comes to mind is: what sort of ninny would design something so impractical and expensive, other than a Redevelopment bureaucrat, of course; and why?

meandering sidewalk
East side of Malden, between Wilshire & Whiting. Slide, step, slide.
meandering sidewalk2
Sidewalk at Wilshire Promenade - a special mindset revealed
meandering sidewalk3
Police station, Highland & Amerige. Okay, single file now

Discovering the answers to the questions posited above is actually intriguing if you are the sort of person who is interested in the study of the abandonment of critical thought in homo sapiens. People who like this sort of sidewalk have made the foolish and perhaps even unwitting mistake of jettisoning simplicity in the confused belief that anything that is more complicated – in this case a broken versus a straight line – must be an aesthetic improvement. Others have seen in these pointless meanderings an aesthetic “softening” that comes when you replace the rectilinear with the curvilinear (although please note that ours aren’t even curvilinear) a weird idea that can trace its legacy way back to the anti-grid urban movements of the late Nineteenth Century.

F. Paul Dudley, former Director of Development Services (and prominent member of the $100,000 retirement club) once defended his knee-jerk support for these practical monstrosities by taking a different tack, but one guaranteed to win the hearts and minds of ponder-free tree boohoos. He claimed that these zigzag paths actually increase the area available for landscaping next to buildings downtown. Wrong!  As any 10th grader taking geometry knows, a straightline is the shortest distance between two points. If you increase the length of a sidewalk through pointless meandering, you necessarily increase the amount of concrete needed to build it. Increase the concrete and you necessarily decrease the amount of adjacent area available for landscaping! That’s pretty simple. Well, this is Fullerton, after all, but still, you have to wonder how Dudley managed to hang on to his job for so long.

Finally we have to wonder what it’s like for somebody in a wheelchair to have to negotiate these sidewalks.

FFFF’s tip of the day: If you walking somewhere in downtown Fullerton, remember to budget some extra time because it will take you twice as long to get where you are going.

(images thoughtfully provided by Travis Kiger)

The List – Fullerton’s $100,000 Pension Club

Fullerton taxpayers are looking down the barrel of a major increase in pension payments next year. The CalPERS agency has lost as much as 37% of its assets in the stock market crash and taxpayers are contractually obligated to make up the difference.

Our Friends at the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility just released a report called the CalPERS $100,000 Pension Club. In their handy database, we located the annual pensions of 26 City of Fullerton employees who are bringing home over $100,000 a year post-retirement at our expense. We believe in an open government where the residents of Fullerton know what they are paying for — so here is the list:

Name Annual Pension Position
JAMES “JIM” REED $163,512.96 Fire
MICHAEL MAYNARD $137,565.84 Police
DANIEL CHIDESTER $136,680.84 Fire
FRANK PAUL DUDLEY $131,197.20 Development Services Director
ALLEN BURKS $131,152.92 Police
ANTONIO HERNANDEZ $124,902.12 Police
H HUNT $124,157.88
RONNY ROWELL $122,712.12 Police
STEVEN MATSON $121,586.16 Police
GEORGE NEWMAN $120,332.76
MARK FLANNERY $118,563.48 Director of Personnel
DAVID STANKO $117,924.00 Police
ROBERT HODSON $117,606.60 Director of Engineering
DANIEL BECERRA $114,625.56 Police
PHILIP GOEHRING $112,821.12 Police
BRAD HOCKERSMITH $111,957.96 Fire
JEFFREY ROOP $111,382.32 Police
NEAL BALDWIN $110,694.12 Police
ROBERT “BOB” RICHARDSON $107,643.48 Police
DONALD “DON” PEARCE $105,858.00 Police
CAROLYN JOHNSON $105,078.48 Library Director
PAUL TURNEY $103,674.36
RONALD “RON” GILLETT $103,431.72 Police
ARTHUR WIECHMANN $102,113.88 Police
JONATHON “JON” MCAULAY $100,036.32 Fire

Though we did our best to identify the contributions these individuals made to our city, some of the names do not ring a bell. Perhaps our loyal audience can fill in the blanks for us.

Say Fran... we really stuck it to those taxpayers, huh?
Say Fran... we really stuck it to those dumb taxpayers.

We are not against paying market rate for talented and motivated professionals to run our dear city — our disdain lies with the cloud of financial uncertainty that pension plans represent to our taxpayers. Historically, pensions are gleefully spiked in rosy times, with little thought given to potential long-term risks.

Out in the real world, we often use a calculation called “Total Compensation” — the sum of all salary, health benefits, taxes and retirement contributions for a given employee. This number allows both the employee and the employer to calculate the exact compensation of the employee and to ensure that it is comparable to that of similar jobs at other businesses. Businesses can see exactly what they are paying for an employee and thus how that will affect their budget for years to come.

With pensions, no such calculation is possible because an employer is making a future commitment based on unlikely investment forecasts stretching 50 years into the future. As we are about to painfully learn, those forcasts can be incredibly wrong. If we don’t change the way we compensate city employees now, we will continue to foot the bill for a very long time.

Fullerton’s City Lights – FUBAR From The Word Go – Chapter The Fourth

Loyal and Patient Friends, our long narrative of the City Lights SRO is coming to a sordid climax, and a merciful denouement. We have witnessed incompetence, vindictiveness, cultural vandalism and bureaucratic usurpation of authority, But we’re still not finished. The SRO project appeared dead. The elected representatives had killed it. Democracy at work! But as long-time city-watchers know, the project is only dead when staff says it’s dead, and none of the architects of this disaster – City Manger Jim Armstrong, Planning Director Paul Dudley, or their puppet, Redevelopment Director Gary Chalupsky, wanted it dead. Because that would be an admission of what everybody else already knew – they were largely incompetent.

What The Hell Are Those Guys Smoking?
What The Hell Are Those Guys Smoking?

We left off with Dick Jones at a March, 1997 meeting waxing voluble about drug users and their nefarious ways. Nuh-uh, not in my city! Unfortunately, Jones discovered that getting the foot into the mouth is a whole heckuva lot easier than extracting it.

Need some barbeque sauce?
Need some barbeque sauce with that?

Jones was not  acute enough to pick up on clues that the City Manager, Flory and Bankhead were not going to let this die. He should have been clued in during the March meeting by the Agency attorney, who,  at the insistence of Flory, Bankhead, and a clueless Julie Sa, gave a legal opinion in public stating that Mithawalla could have a case against the Agency. Here’s where the story gets a bit murky, culpability-wise, and who orchestrated what, so rather than accuse anybody we’ll just let you – the Friends of Fullerton – draw your own conclusions.

It Ain't Over 'Till We Say It Is....

A civil rights lawsuit was adventitiously filed against Jones and the City by some guy nobody knew, claiming that the targets of Jones’ tirade were protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act; Mithawalla was waiting in the wings to go after the City for breach of contract – although clearly no contract had been established. With enough proper coaxing from people who wanted this project to live, Dick Jones, the Big Man with The Big Mouth suddenly experienced a case of shrinkage.

It Gets Soft When You Add Water...
It Gets Soft When You Add Water...

A new hearing was held in May 1997. The stage was re-set to take up the SRO project one more time. It didn’t matter that the Council majority had already spoken. The City Staff, the Redevelopment Attorney, Flory and Bankhead were determined to have the last word in order to remind everyone who really runs the City of Fullerton.

Read the rest of “Fullerton’s City Lights”: Part 1Part 2Part 3 – Part 4 – Epilogue

The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Downtown Sidewalk

If You Turn Sideways You Can Just Squeeze By
Warning: Sidewalk Narrows Ahead!

The twisted narrative of how the Florentine Family’s “Tuscany Club” managed to expropriate a public sidewalk is yet another tale of woe showing how badly our elected officals and their alleged professionals have manged to screw up Downtown Fullerton.

Back in 2003 the Florentines made an agreement with the Redevelopment Agency and City for an “outdoor dining” lease on the Commonwealth Avenue sidewalk at the intersection with Harbor Boulevard (forget for a moment that any outdoor patrons there would have to spend their time looking at the architectural monstrosity across the street).

Now, outdoor dining to you or me would suggest an open air space surrounded with a moveable fence or rope, and with furniture that could be picked up and taken inside. Well, that’s not what it meant to the Florentines who started construction of a foundation and a masonry wall in the public right-of-way! Sure, there were outcries of anger and dismay among the community over this blatant grab of public property, but these seemed to fall on deaf ears and the construction kept going until in the end the whole thing was completely enclosed. A private room addition right there on the public sidewalk!

Many months passed by, but the issue refused to die quietly. Finally, a big hearing was held, ostensibly to explain the situation to an outraged group of citizens. Mr. Florentine proclaimed his innocence – a victim of circumstance! The Director of Development Services, an obviously affronted F. Paul Dudley, stood  up to say how he had been in control the whole time, had done nothing wrong; and that if he had to do it all over again he would do the same thing!

The only problem with this near-tearful oration was that Dudley had no authority to let any one put a building on public property. Only the Agency and Council could do that – after a public hearing. So the building was an encroachment into the public’s right-of-way, and the offending structure should have been immediately removed. Naturally the Fullerton City Council went along with the sham. After all, nobody really expects accountability or responsibility in Fullerton, right?

First You Stake Out Your Turf
First You Stake Out Your Turf. If You Wait Long Enough They May Give It To You!

Sometime later the terms of the lease of were officially (and very quietly) modified, effectively whitewashing the whole sorry mess; but not before some valuable lessons were learned by careful observers about how things work in Fullerton.