Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Fullerton City Council Notes: 10/4/16

For the foreseeable future, I'll be going to every Fullerton City Council meeting, as a reporter for the Fullerton Observer Newspaper, to observe and report on what happens, what gets voted on, and other items of interest to the public.  These meetings occur every other Tuesday at 6:30pm at City Hall.  They are broadcast live on Time Warner Cable Channel 3, as well as on the City's web site HERE.  On the surface, these meetings are often quite boring, as is evidenced by the relatively few number of citizens who stick around for the whole thing (average length is 3-4 hours).  However, once you get past the bland bureaucratic setting, the general feeling of lethargy, and the legal/government speak/terminology, these meetings turn out to be hugely informative, interesting, and sometimes downright funny.  Just under the surface of banality there is a fascinating human and political drama transpiring in our city.  That is what I try to show in my report, which you can read in the forthcoming issue of the Observer.  For all you who prefer your news immediately and online, here are my latest Council Notes.  Enjoy!

Closed Session: Fire Union Rejects Labor Proposal

Before every Public City Council meeting, there is a separate Closed Session meeting, in which the City Council and City manager meet with developers, public employee union representatives, and other parties to make decisions outside view of the public. In this week’s closed session (as stated on the agenda), the City Council and Manager met with the following developers: Pacific Coast Homes (the wholly owned subsidiary of Chevron who will be developing Coyote Hills), NAPICO Entities, Jamboree Housing Corporation, and Habitat for Humanity to discuss price and terms of building projects.  In his closed session report, the Fullerton City Attorney, in accordance with a Transparency in Labor Negotiations Resolution, reported: “The City of Fullerton’s last, best, and final proposal to the Fullerton Fire Management Association [the local firefighters’ public employee union]...has been rejected by the Fullerton Fire Management Association.”

This is the first of five pictures of Fullerton Fire trucks that will appear in this post.

Presentations: Softball, Pinktober

After a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, The Fullerton Hills Softball All Stars received recognition for their excellent play this past season.  Members of the The Fullerton Fire Department, wearing pink t-shirts, gave a presentation about their “Pinktober” fundraiser, whose goal is to raise awareness and money for cancer research.  During these presentations, City Council chambers were filled, nearly to capacity.  After these presentations, the chambers emptied out to around 10 members of the public remaining to witness the regular business of the city.
 
Fire truck picture #2.
 
State College and Raymond Underpass Projects: Two More Years

A representative of the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) gave a presentation on two large long-standing projects which are certainly familiar to those who drive along Raymond Avenue and State College Blvd. These projects are to lower parts of State College and Raymond to build railroad crossing bridges, to alleviate traffic.  The State College Blvd Underpass project, which began in 2014, is projected to be completed in late 2017, at a cost of $41,974,278 by the contractor USS Cal Builders.  The Raymond Avenue Underpass project, which also began in 2014, is projected to be completed in early 2018, at a cost of $51,058,599 by the contractor Flatiron West.  For more information on these projects, visit www.ocbridges.com.
 
There are no fire trucks in this picture. Or are there?!
 
Aliso Canyon Gas Leak Update

A representative from the SoCal Gas Company (a subsidiary of gas giant Sempra Energy) gave an update on the infamous Aliso Canyon (aka Porter Ranch) Gas Leak, which was discovered in October of 2015, and declared a “State of Emergency” by governor Jerry Brown in January of this year.  The carbon footprint of this methane leak has been said to be larger than the Deepwater Horizon Leak (aka BP Oil Spill)  in the Gulf of Mexico.  Prior to the leak, the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility (the second largest natural gas reservoir in the United States) supplied natural gas to the LA Basin (including Fullerton).  According to SoCal Gas, the leak was sealed in February of this year, and the Aliso Canyon gas field is running at 20 percent capacity, pending more well inspections.  SoCal Gas hopes that this gasfield will go “back online” this month.  The only question asked by the Council was by council member Flory, who asked about an issue with her neighbor’s gas service.
 
No fire trucks here.  Just a giant cloud of methane.
 
 Public Comments

Roberta Reid, candidate for City Council, apologized that, due to an illness, she missed the opportunity to participate in recent political events, and requested an update on Coyote Hills (See Coyote Hills Update below).  A representative of Anaheim University, a local for-profit university, gave what amounted to an infomercial for their online business degree programs. Barry Levinson, former Parks and Rec Commissioner, gave a lengthy tirade regarding an unspecified agenda item involving a grant application from the September 20th meeting, concluding, among other things, that “all five city council members are basically frauds.” Tony Package, a local resident, expressed disapproval that the recent City Council Candidate Forum was scheduled at the same time as a public review of a new development on Commonwealth, stating, “Scheduling a development public review meeting at the same time as an important candidate forum is a serious breach of public confidence.”  City Manager Joe Felz responded by stating that the neighbors selected the date of the public review meeting.  Debra Pember gave her thoughts on the recent Candidate Forum, regretting the “mudslinging” she heard there.  
 
Firefighters, keeping us all safe from death by fire.
 
Report on West Nile Virus and Hillcrest Park

Council Member Flory gave an update on local cases of West Nile Virus (27 have been documented this year in Orange County, down from 33 last year).  Flory also requested a report on dead and dying trees and grass at Hillcrest Park.  City staff reported increased watering, but acknowledged certain areas where the grass has died and will require re-seeding, though sports fields are currently taking priority for this.  Staff also reported that Phase 1 of the Hillcrest Park Renovation is underway.

Looking for a fire truck picture?  Keep scrolling, buddy.

Fullerton/Brea Joint Powers Agreement

A member of city staff gave an update on a proposed Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) between the cities of Fullerton and Brea to coordinate municipal services, primarily our fire departments.  Though this JPA was originally proposed as a multi-city entity with sharing of numerous municipal services, it seems to have evolved into mainly a proposed fire department merger between Brea and Fullerton, though these two cities already share a fire command staff.  Four members of the public spoke against the proposed JPA, pointing out that it is a potential way for public employees (particularly the fire department) to protect their financial interests outside the scope of an elected City Council.  This point is particularly salient in light of the City Attorney’s Closed Session report that “The City of Fullerton’s last, best, and final proposal to the Fullerton Fire Management Association [the local firefighters’ public employee union]...has been rejected by the Fullerton Fire Management Association.” Council Member Whitaker also expressed concern, stating that this proposal is not really about savings and that “we need to be honest about the real purpose of these efforts.”  Council will likely be voting on this JPA soon.
 
Notice the blurry fire truck in the background?  Booyah.
 
Coyote Hills Update
 
City Manager Joe Felz gave an update on Coyote Hills, stating that the city has recently received a $2 million grant from the Rivers and Mountains Conservancy “for the approved land acquisition plan” for West Coyote Hills.  Council Member Chaffee noted that other grant applications are in the works.  This grant will not prevent development of Coyote Hills—it merely gives the city more funds to purchase selected parcels to be spared from the bulldozers, as per the development agreement which the Council unanimously approved last Fall.
The latest Coyote Hills Development Plan, sans fire trucks.
 
Habitat For Humanity and Courtyard Apartments
Mayor Fitzgerald “recused” herself from voting on a proposed building agreement between Fullerton and Habitat for Humanity, citing a conflict of interest between her position on City Council, and her job as a lobbyist for Curt Pringle and Associates, of which Jamboree Housing (a partner of Habitat for Humanity) is a client.  The City Council passed the resolution 3-1 (Whitaker being the “no” vote).  When Mayor Fitzgerald returned, the council voted 4-1 (Whitaker being the “no” vote) to approve another agreement between Fullerton and the Courtyard Apartments on Valencia Ave. Both of these agreements referenced further documentation which was not included with the agenda—making the substance of these agreements difficult for the public to understand.

Jennifer Fitzgerald works for a PR and lobbying firm.  She is not a firefighter.

City Wireless Agreement Renewal

City Council voted 3-2 to wait to extend their lease agreement with Cingular Wireless (aka AT&T Wireless) regarding their current cell phone towers on the “Euclid Tank Farm” which is city-owned property.  In public comment, city council candidate Joe Imbriano warned of the dangers of wireless radiation, which he claims causes cancer, and has other adverse health effects.  Council member Flory made a motion to reject the proposal to modify the lease agreement, and it was this motion that passed 3-2 (Fitzgerald and Chaffee voting no).
Fire truck not included.
 
Remodel at Fullerton Fire Station #4 and Arroyo Street Improvement
A $234,000 remodel to Fullerton Fire Station #4 was unanimously approved by the Council, which will involve adding legally mandated Separate Gender Accomodations for female firefighters, as well as a kitchen remodel.  Members of the public who spoke were divided on the issue.  Mayor Fitzgerald stated, “These remodels are sorely needed,” and Fullerton Fire Chief Wolfgang Knabe added: “We have one firestation that’s in the modern era.”  The city contract went to Corral Construction and Development.  Council also unanimously approved a nearly $1 million “sewer and street improvement” project in the Arroyo Area of Fullerton.
 
There's our fire truck! Great job, FFD!
 
The next Fullerton City Council Meeting will be Tuesday, October 18th.

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