What Council Is Up To (2023-02-07)
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 (1-8)
Item #1 is a continuation of Grace Ministries trying to buy a Right of Way adjacent to 1747 Commonwealth Avenue, [HERE]:
Item #2 is the ongoing appeal between Air Combat USA and the City. This is the case where City Council & the City Attorney A-OK’ed the illegal removal of Air Combat from the Fullerton Airport so a glorified bar/venue (Hanger 21) could take their coveted hangar space.
The last we checked in on this case a jury had awarded Air Combat $1.2 Million for their troubles. It’s been on appeal for the last two years in various forms. This is probably just another update where Jones & Mayer will somehow justify, AGAIN, being both decision maker (those responsible for the legal decision that cost Fullerton that $1.2 Million) AND defense council to cover up their mistakes.
The fact that Fullerton STILL doesn’t have a separate litigator for times when Jones & Mayer screws up is unbelievable. They make bad decisions, which we pay for, and then we pay them for all of their billable hours to endlessly defend those bad decisions in court. Every time they double down on being wrong, they win. Amazing.
Items #3-8 are various people suing the City of Fullerton for various reasons and it’s early in the year so these might just be case updates. Most of them look like personal injury lawsuits… trips and falls.
Consent Calendar (Items 1-10)
1. JANUARY 17, 2023 MEETING MINUTES
Approval of the minutes for the prior meeting.
This is a recurring piece of nonsense where the City files a resolution, every single month, to say that they’re complying with “remote meeting” guidelines that were put in place because of the lockdowns. It really should be moved to yearly at this point because remote access probably isn’t ever going away.
3. An Electronic Billboard on Harbor Blvd and the 91 Freeway.
This is the second reading of an ordinance, which is required by law, before proceeding with actual approval of the electronic billboard being built at 1604 South Harbor Boulevard (near the Shoe City sign).
4. Quarterly Treasurer’s Report.
A report that nobody bothers to read because it contains almost no useful information. For those interested; “The City’s operating portfolio ended the quarter with investments totaling $191.69 million.”.
This money is tied to specific funds and no it cannot be pilfered away for pet projects or salary increases. The report goes into the most basic of basic information. It might be interesting if it told us what funds, specifically, Fullerton was invested in and how they performed and included any policy positions - but alas no.
5. City Investment Policy
This goes with Item #4 and explains what rules exist for City investments. It’s largely much ado about nothing and pro forma nonsense. There’s a power authority addition that has been added (via redline) that I need to dig more into to fully understand and I would expect Council to do that as well, but alas they shoved this onto the Consent Calendar precisely so they don’t have to read these things and/or ask questions.
6. Fire Department shuffling of chairs.
Some job titles and descriptions are changing and the currently admitted to fiscal impact is an additional $27,000. There is no mention of how many employees this impacts in the future or what other costs it entails (pension, OT, whathaveyou).
7. Update to Airport Runway #6
Last year staff got Council to approve a project to replace the approach lighting system on runway 6 that was going to cost $250,000. Now, about a year later, it’s going to cost $495,647.
The reasoning for the almost doubling of the price?
“based on completed plans and current construction costs.”
That’s not an answer for getting something that wrong. This is a terrible staff report that doesn’t explain how we went fro $250k to $500k.
The good news, locally, is that 95% of this is going to be paid for with tax money from other agencies (90% federal, 5% county) but it still reads like graft and corruption. Somebody is still getting that additional taxpayer money with no justification.
Despite the Airport fund being on the hook for only $27,347 of the $496k, it still should be explained properly.
8. Tobacco Grant
The State is awarding $702,271 of tobacco tax money to something something fight smoking when in reality it will largely be eaten by Police Officer payroll and OT. There is no explanation, at all, for how this money actually helps anything (payroll notwithstanding) and with all of the public panic over flavored vapes I’d dare it’s just tobacco tax money being spent to spend it.
9. “Request to Change Enterprise Resource Planning Consultant”
This one caught me a little off guard because it sounds benign but doesn’t seem like it upon further reading.
In October of 2021 Staff convinced Council to hire KOA Hills to consult on some network and computer integration projects. Now they want to change consultants by firing KOA Hills and hiring Glassbox Technologies, Inc.
Glassbox is the company who Staff ran to after the City’s system “was hacked” (ie somebody clicked a link on the website that went to Dropbox.com) and Council proceeded to dump literal millions into the coffers of Glassbox for something something infrastructure and security.
Never once were we told what was wrong, how it got so bad and why it was now costing so much to fix. Never once was anybody held accountable for the years of malfeasance and/or incompetence that necessitated Glassbox even being considered as a viable solution to the unspecified problems.
I don’t trust Glassbox because they seemed to profit off of a fake panic over our network systems and I don’t trust Staff to be honest about why we need them or what they’re going to do (besides bill us) based on their own lack of accountability.
Especially when the Staff report contains gems like this;
Staff believes the City would achieve economies of scale if GlassBox provides consulting support…
For context, when KOA Hills was hired in October of 2021 the budget for the project was $482,275 with a “contingency” of $96,455. That just means a budget of $578,730.
We’ve paid KOA Hills $40,275. Now let’s look at the chart in the staff report;
The project WAS and IS the same cost. Where is the “economy of scale” coming into play?
The best I can figure out is that Staff mischaracterized the project to Council in October 2021 and are just figuring it out now. That’s best case scenario. Worst case is that Glassbox has gotten their hooks into some Staffers and are just doing everything they can to claw as much money out of Fullerton for themselves as possible.
10. More Consultants
The City is planning to replace water mains in the Hollydale area and they changed the way they plan to do it. The Staff report quite literally implies that Staff had some impractical plans on how to replace water mains because reasons.
Staff re- evaluated the proposed improvements and proposed a more practical alternative that maintains a majority of improvements within public right-of-way.
Those impractical plans being changed required more surveys and paperwork to the tune of $37,040.
It should be noted that this consultant was originally being paid $75,800 so we’re talking about a 50% increase in costs. And this just consulting - not one inch of water main is being fixed yet.
This item isn’t simply an ask to increase the funding by that $37,040 though, instead it’s asking for an $81,900 budget transfer. Nowhere in the Staff report is the remaining $44,860 explained. It’s only money, why explain it.
This week’s Consent Calendar totals $1,885,548 bringing the year’s total to $8,521,152.19.
Regular Business (Items 11-15)
11. Increasing Firefighter Pay
Council is going to vote to pay the Fullerton Fire Department more. This is predicated on the proposal from the Orange County Fire Authority where it was stated the we don’t pay what OCFA pays.
Items like this are why I have zero respect for the City Council. You can love or hate the Fire Department. You can think they’re heroes or grifters. It doesn’t matter.
What does matter is the dishonesty on display here. When Council voted to spend your tax money on that proposal from OCFA this was the plan. For starters, that proposal should have been funded by the Fire union because it only benefited their own talking points - as evidenced by this item being on this agenda specifically based on that proposal.
And Council, after meeting after meeting of Closed Session negotiations, is now coming forward with a plan to spend between $500k (2022-2023) and $3,849,790 (2026-2027) with no plan to fund it.
They mention nothing for how they plan to come up with the additional $1,867,125 needed in next year’s budget (which they’re already starting working on mind you) based on this vote. Nor the $2,832,330 the following year and on and on and on. No plan whatsoever.
Oh I’m sorry. My mistake.
“Staff will incorporate subsequent fiscal impacts when developing future budgets.”
This is a backdoor tax.
This is contractually spending the money first and then cutting everything else (parks, street repair, the museum, you name it) in order to sell people on the now needed tax to fund these pay increases for a preferred union.
This was always the playbook for Jung, Zahra and Silva (now Charles). To agree to spend taxpayer money they can’t account for in order to backdoor the same tax that voters rejected in 2020.
It’s shameful and it’s dishonest.
Council could have put a new tax on the ballot in 2022 to justify this spending. They refused for political reasons.
Now they’re rushing to change the “Memorandum of Understanding” four months ahead of schedule to get as much distance between this vote and the inevitable vote to add a tax to next year’s election cycle hoping you won’t notice.
Yearly budget study sessions usually start around April and the budget gets approved in June - the same time the Firefighter MOU actually comes up for renewal - and we can’t have you seeing why the inevitable cuts need to happen at the same time.
12. Fire Management Side Letter
This reads almost entirely like deck chair shuffling and title changes with some job requirement changes that comport with changes in law.
13. Traffic Update
I actually loathe this Staff report more than anything on the agenda (except the backdoor tax in item #10), specifically for this line:
Division will look at transportation within Fullerton with a new lens and implement safety initiatives that have multi-modal benefits.
The bureaucratic techno-speak is ridiculous. Basically the entire department has changed and they even lost their consultant and we know how little staff can accomplish without their beloved, and well-heeled, consultants. Now they need to start over because apparently nobody knows anything anymore.
The bad news, and only useful part of this staff report, is that traffic on major streets is going to get worse.
Staffs plans to extend the length of time when all lights are red simultaneously. This is being done for safety because people like to run yellow lights. To stop them from getting hit for doing this, we’re going to make every signal change longer (during the all-red moments) therefore making your time at each red light longer. Yay.
It will probably stop some rear-end collisions as it will have the opposite effect of red-light cameras which compel people to slam on the breaks, to avoid a ticket, and get hit from behind.
The rest of this Staff report is going over the things that have already been approved at prior Council meetings but not completed (flashing beacons, crosswalk changes, etc) so it’s mostly a report in futility.
14. Second Quarter Financial Report
This is mostly budget adjustments. The General fund budget went up by $305,515 and the IT budget went up by $155,515.
$18k of that IT budget change is for software licenses for laserfiche, which is where the City stores a ton of documents and it’d be nice if we got our money’s worth for that nonsense. It currently doesn’t support any form of proper searching such as boolean searches (searching for things in “” for accurate results) and finding things on there is just painful.
The most interesting line item increase for the General Fund was $150k for “homeless encampment cleanup”.
“These services were not included in the FY2022-23 Budget. Critical encampment cleanup services are needed to address homelessness in the City.”
Did it not occur to anybody on Staff that you might need to clean up the homeless areas that are constantly filled with trash (or worse)?
Are Staff and Council REALLY telling us that they’re shocked, shocked I tell you, to find out that this needed to be budgeted for these days? How many times have we had to clean up such areas in the past, what did it cost and why is it now $150k? What are we getting, precisely, for that money?
This is just a resolution to start the process for the lottery to sell fireworks (the process starts in March).
I’d like to see Council further clarify who is qualified to sell fireworks because there are some serious allegations that one vendor who won in prior years had nothing to do with local groups (sports, scouts or otherwise) and just gamed the system. Not once, but allegedly twice.
Worse, who is considered a youth sports “Partner League” really needs to be redefined and enforced because that system and designation has been abused beyond recognition for decades.
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.