Explaining Fullerton's Council Agenda (2023-03-21)
A rundown of what's on the current Fullerton City Council Agenda
I go through the nonsense happening during this coming week's Fullerton City Council meeting so you don't have to and it's as tedious as ever.
This week's agenda features the following items:
Closed Session (1-5)
Item #1. Conference with Labor Negotiator.
Staff wants more everything.
Item #2. Property Negotiation - CSUF / Marriott
Cal State University Fullerton (CSUF) is trying to renegotiate the deal the City has with them over the Marriott hotel near the campus.
In light of the fact that the Marriott property situation has been a bad deal for Fullerton for three decades AND CSUF’s hostility in wanting to change the name of the Arboretum due to their “ownership” claim, the City would be wise to play hardball.
Councilmember Charles will need to recuse herself here owing to her employment with the college.
Item #3. Property Negotiation - Dyer 18 LLC
This is regarding the Illumination Foundation property that was on the agenda a month ago.
Item #4. Property Negotiation - Fullerton Museum Center Association
From what I’ve heard about this item, nobody knows who really owns the property that the Fullerton Museum sits upon because nobody in government knows how to process, file or store paperwork.
Item #5. Employee Evaluation - Chief of Police
Council is going to lick Chief Dunn’s boots clean. He may even need to bring an extra pair just for good measure in case Council wears the leather out. This council bends over forwards and backwards for everything the Chief wants - up to and including handing over the IT Department - entirely because the City Attorney / Staff were too inept to figure out Dropbox - AND despite the fact that he can’t even manage to oversee a functioning website. You can expect no accountability or useful goals here.
I don’t usually talk about “Presentations” because they largely amount to public relations and vote pandering by councilmembers AND there’s never anything related to them to go over as the presentation materials aren’t included in the agenda packet for whatever reason.
HOWEVER - this week we’re getting a presentation on the Orange County Power Authority (OCPA).
That’s right, after endless questions and countless people raising concerns… our Mayor is going to stay silent and let staff give a presentation where no questions will be asked or answered and, if past is prologue, no details of import will be forthcoming.
Council members vie, campaign and cajole to get seats on boards such as OCPA (or the Water Boards or or or) and when it comes time to actually tell we the people what these Council members do with their time and how their presence benefits us, they delegate the work to staff.
Councilmember Fred Jung won’t give an update himself on OCPA because he’s too busy being a PR shill for them, the same way Councilmember Ahmad Zahra was a shill for the Water Board when he passed off their ghost-written propaganda as his own writing in the Fullerton Observer.
Consent Calendar (Items 1-6)
Item #1. March 07, 2023 Meeting Minutes
Approval of the minutes for the prior meeting.
Item #2. Monthly Committee Activity and Attendance Report
What committee meetings took place and which appointees attended is supposed to be found here. For January more committees reported what happened so that’s an improvement over last month’s report.
This month’s highlight comes to us from the Infrastructure And Natural Resources Committee (INRAC);
“Committee recommended funding roadway improvements with SB1 for FY 2023-24”
Brilliant work there team, recommending using money that is legally required to be used for roadway improvements to fund… roadway improvements. I’m so glad they met to recommend following the law.
Item #3. January 2023 Check Register
Want to know who the City writes check to? Check this item each month. They wrote checks totaling $13,545,722.24 in January.
You can find out how much we paid The Fullerton Historic Theater Association ($10,689.58) or City Attorney Jones and Mayer ($38,791.82) amongst other things.
Item #4. July 4th Meeting Cancellation
A meeting falls on the 4th of July this year so they’re getting a jump on cancelling it.
Item #5. FEMA Fire Gear Grant
This is a FEMA grant for $93,694.20 with a matching component of $9,369.43 for a grand total of $103,091.63 in order to replace:
“antiquated Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) Air Compressor / Fill Station / Cascade System with a new federally compliant system for filling SCBA bottles.”
That the word “antiquated” is in the agenda report is a bit weird and this reads like hyperbolic nonsense. The way it’s worded it implies that the “antiquated” SCBA system ISN’T “federally compliant”.
Do you mean to tell me that the Fire Department has been putting personnel at risk (on the exceedingly rare occasion they actually fight a fire) because they couldn’t justify buying a “compliant” SCBA system? One would think that would have been a higher priority than the $68,000 we burned on behalf of the fire union and OCFA.
Item #6. Side Letter of Agreement between the City of Fullerton and the Fullerton Management Association (FMA)
There are currently 8 positions that qualify for a specific type of emergency pay. This would make that pay apply to “A bargaining unit employee” with no qualifier in the side letter or agenda materials explaining how many people that includes.
This also expands the definition of “emergency” to mean just about anything;
“Emergency: An unforeseen situation that calls for immediate action, or an urgent need for assistance or relief, in order to provide or maintain the continuity of essential services to the public.”
“Emergency Duty: Duty by an employee required to report or return to duty, or required to be held over beyond the employee’s normal end of shift, in order to meet an emergency at a time that the employee would not ordinarily have been on duty.”
Staff is claiming this will have a fiscal impact of about $42,000 per year but with a truck sized hole in the that word “emergency” I wouldn’t bet on this being even remotely near reality.
Item #7. Microsoft Software / Subscription Renewals
Despite this saying “Microsoft” in the title, it’s actually through Dell Computers and it’s a bunch of licensing totaling $1,143,194.97.
What struck me as odd is that it includes Microsoft 365 (and Defender Endpoint) for 800 users.
Why 800? The last time I counted there were only about 460 or so employees with email addresses. Even if we round that up to a cool 500 people, at $31.40 (M365) & $4.40 (Defender), that’s $17,900 that makes no sense.
For a City that always cries about being in the poorhouse, Staff and Council sure do spend money like they have it to just throw around.
Item #8. More Temporary Staffing Problems.
We have some staffing issues and apparently Meg McWade spent $1 below the financial threshold to hire somebody (somebodies?) and now the department wants a “change order” to add $125,001 to that total.
For reference the purchasing limit is $50,000 without going to Council or getting bids.
“The Public Works Director approved the existing $49,999 purchase order under the Purchasing Authorization Approval Limit. The requested $125,001 change order would support temporary staffing services for Public Works Equipment Division.”
Frustratingly I’m not sure how many people are being temporarily hired based upon how poorly this agenda item is explained.
“The Equipment Division obtained temporary staffing services to support lack of personnel and strove to provide necessary service levels. The Division has six Mechanic II positions budgeted with four current vacancies. Staff employs two mechanics through Advance Resources and seeks a third mechanic.”
What does that mean?
Does that mean we have 2 Mechanic IIs and an additional 2 currently employed through Advance Resources, LLC? Or does that mean we have 0 actually employed (which would mean every position is technically vacant) and we only have 2 people in that job title who are supplied by the staffing agency?
Are we trying to get a 3rd or 5th person on the job until we can hire more people? Does this change order account for a single additional person or possibly three that are supplied on a “temporary” basis?
It’s an important distinction due to the math;
“Staff anticipates that the Department will need temporary staffing services through the end of Fiscal Year 2022-23 at a $175,000 cost.”
Fiscal Year 2022-23 ends in June so this increase of $125K would fully fund at least 2 level II Mechanics for a year according to the city’s salary schedule;
The top of that pay scale is approximately $5K/Month, so with a mere 3 months left in Fiscal Year 2022-23, that $125,001 would cover 8 employees in that job title over that amount of time. This seems a bit excessive without proper explanation.
This agenda item likewise doesn’t tell us when the original $49,999 contract was signed.
While I realize that Meg McWade was technically within policy to spend $1 under the policy limit, I’m not sure something would or should qualify when it requires a “change order” that was inevitable and more than triples the cost. This just reads like bad, and dubious, management that happened to pop up immediately AFTER she sought employment elsewhere.
Item #9. Water Rate Progress Report (2022).
This progress report is supposed to tell us if the City is managing to do the repairs they claimed they were going to do when they raised our water rates in 2019. The short answers is “kinda, not really, get ready for another sales tax vote” without honestly stating that upfront.
The City’s new “acting public works director”, now that Meg McWade has left to re-join former City Manager Ken Domer elsewhere, is trying to sell a win with some fuzzy math.
“The report discusses rate revenue and successful implementation of projects to provide for the eleven-mile pipeline replacement goal (4.17 miles replaced in FY 2021-22 with another 3.57 miles in construction and 4.99 miles replaced in previous years) and other water system improvement projects during FY 2021-22.”
Sounds good unless you spend a few hours trying to find the infographic from 2019 that you remember seeing back when the rate increases were first being discussed. Which of course I did.
That’s what was sold to INRAC and us by extension to justify the water rate increases. Zoom and Enhance!
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but 4.17 miles is NOT 5.11 miles. That’s a .94 mile deficit in FY2021-2022. Staff is blaming Covid and “the subsequent price increases” for not meeting their goals in 2021-2022 AND yet somehow they think they’ll meet the 2022-2023 goal but will totally miss the 2023-2024 goal. So we can afford this year’s increased prices but not next year’s.
“Staff projects seven miles of construction for FY 2022-23, but does not expect to meet the nine-mile goal for FY 2023-24, due in large part to the unanticipated cost increases previously stated.”
The report, which is based upon rate increases that took place in the latter half of 2019, also counts about 2.25 miles of water main repairs that were started (and funded) before those water rate increases existed so that’s fun. As I stated, fuzzy math.
Item #10. Vactor Hydro Excavator Vacuum Truck Purchase.
This item is confusing because staff doesn’t seem to know how to get their details or facts straight. This week staff is claiming that Council approved a $550,000 truck because the Water Operations Department doesn’t have this equipment and really could use it but the costs went up since the purchase was approved.
They don’t mention when that purchase was approved, instead we get this;
“The cost for this new vehicle has increased to $608,178.71 due to due material cost increases, delays due to COVID-19 impacts and additional equipment needed for the truck.”
That alleged $500k approval took place a year ago in April of 2022 and the details from then don’t match up at all with this week’s claims;
“Award $604,023.87 contract to Haaker Equipment Company for a new Sewer Vacuum Truck (CNG Vactor 2112i plus Sewer Cleaner) to replace the City’s current diesel Hydro-Jet Truck.”
I checked both quotes and they differ by about $4k. Here’s last year (that included training);
Versus this year;
Perhaps more interesting, after doing a 2 minute search I found that both Coachella and Exeter City bought Vactor model 2112 trucks last year with Exeter paying $519,983.78 while Coachella paid $484,657.99. Coachella’s purchase number (Sourcewell Cooperative Purchased Agreement Contract #101221-VTR) is even the same as ours.
Be nice to know if we’re replacing a truck or buying equipment that is borrowed but not owned AND why even a year ago we were paying $100k MORE than other CA cities.
Item #11. Fullerton Pooch Park Relocation
I nearly lost my mind when I read this agenda item, immediately shared it with Erik who then posted about it because it needed it’s own post;
How moving some fences went from about $250-300k (in line with what Anaheim spent to build one of their pooch parks) to $1.2Million is beyond me. That it landed on the consent calendar without justification is despicable.
This week’s Consent Calendar totals $3,279,320.31 bringing the year’s total to $12,416,472.5.
Regular Business (Items 13-17)
Item #13. Letter of Support for a SoCal Edison “Social Justice” Initiative
SoCal Edison is asking the Utility Commission to allow them to raise your electricity rates to something something fight climate change but specifically to do it in a “social justice” specific way (emphasis added);
“The program specifically designates about one-third of incentive funds, equaling about 81,000 electric heat pumps, and at least 40% of funding for electrical upgrades for income qualified customers and environmental and social justice designated communities.”
It’s not just going to be subsidized for “income qualified” folks. No, they had to add the euphemisms for every favored victim group in the State in their quest to bilk us out of money while pretending to “Go Green”.
I lost interest long before the cultural war language because they had the audacity to say they were going to install “future proof” electrical panels. Please. There is no such thing as “future proof” electrical equipment. It’s temporary at best.
Item #14. Recycling from Home Pilot Program
This is both PR for a private company and the City obligating itself to do PR for that company after this is approved. Think of this company as a Reverse DoorDash for your cans and bottles. They come and pick up your recyclables and then cut you a check (or a Venmo/PayPal transfer) a day or so later.
Staff says Recycling from Home will arrange a time with you, while the company’s own presentation says that once people sign up they’ll setup “pickup routes” and what look like drop boxes.
The City Manager claims staff reviewed their business plan and “found it acceptable” but of course Council isn’t given a copy which means neither are we so we’re just supposed to take Levitt’s word that the plan makes sense.
I don’t like granting companies exclusive rights to things, especially not when they’re newish ideas. This pilot program might make some sense if we knew the actual financials (where is “Recycle at Home” getting their money?) and if it wasn’t for a three year term.
Item #15. City of Fullerton Noise Regulations are Back
The “Downtown Noise Zone” is back because like a bad penny it just won’t go away. The local bar owners have been salivating at the prospect of turning Downtown Fullerton into a noise pollution free-for-all for well over a decade now and this dumb idea pops up every few years.
They and Staff who does their bidding want to raise the allowable noise levels until 0130 in the AM for amplified sound in downtown.
Think about it this way - Council recently approved a “boutique hotel” on top of the train station and now they want the entire parking lot to be blaring music, keeping those guests wide awake, until bar closing time. This plan might actually be worse than in previous iterations because now it contemplates nuking noise levels for all “commercially zoned” areas in town.
Years ago a now former Community Development Director walked with me through part of downtown and when I pointed out that half of the bars were in gross violation of the municipal code already regarding this and other stuff and thus there was no reason to believe they’d follow the newer, more lenient rules, I was told I was being mean and “needed to offer solutions”. Apparently “do your job” wasn’t enough of a “solution”.
Item #16. City Council Rules of Procedure and Decorum
This one might be my fault.
Councilmember Jung is quite the tyrant from the dais and he convinced the council majority to, amongst other things, nuke the ability of members of the public to pull (and therefore talk about) Consent Calendar items.
This means that if Council shoves a bunch of nonsense into the Consent Calendar - like say, a $1.2Million Pooch Park that was supposed to be 1/5 that price and grant funded - you have to pick and choose what to use your single 3 minutes of allotted time to address. I get it, some people waste as much time as possible repeating the same things on every topic. Welcome to an annoyance of a free society. If you don’t want to listen to the public, don’t run for PUBLIC OFFICE.
Alas, Council largely hates when people talk because it can drag a meeting out for hours.
Wait. No. They hate it when The Public is allowed to talk. They’ll sit patiently and politely when staff is fellating a developer’s project or while reading a 40-page powerpoint presentation with all of the enthusiasm of a sloth on Xanax.
Council themselves will wax poetic endlessly over this, that, or any other triviality but heaven forbid YOU get your extra 3 minutes because that’s just too much to bear.
Then we have the entire “you have to register to speak” nonsense which I’ve been told prompted this agenda item;
Sorry not sorry.
Item #17. Council Meeting Start Time
This is tied to item #16. Last year City Council moved the start time of meetings from 630pm (1830) up by an hour to 530pm (1730). The goal was to allow Council and staff to leave earlier (even if that isn’t the stated goal, it’s the real goal) but the problem is that many people who work for a living can’t be at the meetings in time for them to start which makes general public comments almost impossible. I’ve missed them a few times owing to this time change.
Even if you work banker’s hours you would have to leave work and race to City Hall to get there in time to make the start of a meeting. Thus, I fully support it going back to 1830.
And that's all there is on the agenda this week. If you want me to keep doing these, share it and let me know on social media. Subscriptions are always appreciated.
Fullerton.City News is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Fullerton.City News is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
If there weren't so many grants and incentives floating around, our city would be much less stupid and less corrupt. Taxation is the root of all evil, I guess.