Friday, December 3, 2010

Week In Review

Here is a quick review of this week's posts:
I started off with a post on Monday regarding my son, Wyatt, who was suffering a broken arm due to a bone cyst.

On Tuesday I was fired up over the Fullerton Redevelopment agency's redistribution of tax revenue.

Wednesday I was reminded of a 200-year old lesson on the failings of communism. 

Thursday was busy. 

Friday's post was simple.  I shared an event flyer for the Orange County Chapter of the California Land Surveyors Association.  We're putting on a great scholarship fundraiser which includes amazing food, fun casino games, and cool raffle prizes.  Come out and join us if you can for just $40! 

Have a great and safe weekend.

Gamble for the Kids

Thursday, December 2, 2010

OC DEPUTY ARRESTED FOR PENETRATING A MINOR

In a press release issued today by the OC Sheriff's Department, Deputy Scott Cole was re-arrested for "289 (h)".  The press release ommitts what "289 (h)" is so I offer the following answer below:
289 (h) Except as provided in Section 288, any person who participates in an act of sexual penetration with another person who is under 18 years of age shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison or in the county jail for a period of not more than one year.
Below is the text of the release:


PRESS RELEASE
DEPUTY CHARGED WITH FELONY

Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Cole appeared in court today after the District Attorney filed charges based on accusations that led to his initial arrest in June.

He has been charged with violation of Section 289 (h) of the Penal Code and will be held at the Orange County Jail until his arraignment before a judge.

The Department publically reported his arrest in June and he has been on administrative leave since then. He had posted bond and was released from jail.

Assistant Sheriff Mike James said of the re-arrest today:
“Today is a very difficult day for us as we arrested one of our own for a crime that is the worst violation of public trust. This arrest stems from a very thorough, five-month long investigation we conducted with the Orange County District Attorney’s office. I cannot comment on the specifics of the investigation except to say that the Deputy worked in North Patrol and was put on administrative leave the same day we received the complaint.
Sheriff Hutchens and the members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department will not tolerate any of our personnel dishonoring our badge. The public should be assured that we will use whatever resources are necessary to bring this case to justice.”

For further information contact Assistant Sheriff James at 714-647-7042.

Permit 'expediter' Jen jailed on fraud charges

(Thanks to my good friend, Greg Letts, for bringing this to my attention via his blog, Survey Landmarks.)
by Jaxon Van Derbeken, Chronicle Staff Writer

An unlicensed civil engineer and notorious  San Francisco permit "expediter" faces more than 200 felony charges for allegedly creating bogus documentation for about 100 construction projects in the city, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Jimmy Jen, 56, who has repeatedly been cited for violating building codes, was allegedly involved in "massive fraud" over two decades, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris said during a news conference.

He was jailed on $50 million bail following his arrest on Tuesday and is expected to be arraigned Friday on 232 separate felony counts. Harris said Jen is considered a flight risk.

Jen's employee, Jian Min Fong, was being held on nearly $2.3 million bail on charges that he was involved in the scheme, which raised questions among prosecutors about the city's approval process.

A former plan checker for the city of San Francisco, Jen was well known in construction circles for his ability to push permits through building inspectors and for his close friendship with the agency's former deputy director, Jim Hutchinson, who left the post in 2005.

Jen is not a licensed surveyor and only had an "on again, off again" civil engineering license as part of his Delta Design and Engineering Systems business, prosecutors said.

He is accused of using the names of licensed engineers and even making fake rubber stamps with their names on them in a variety of projects submitted for approval since 1990.

Prosecutors said he took the name and replicated the stamp of a licensed surveyor and engineer, Ching-Liu Wu, starting in 1990. Wu actually does not do surveys, he is an engineer for Bechtel, prosecutors said.

Jen nevertheless used Wu's name on surveyor maps of 26 properties from 1990-95, prosecutors said. Then, from 2000-07, he used Wu's engineering stamp on 60 residential projects.

Wu has said he never worked for Jen on any projects, let alone those ones, Harris said. Prosecutors believe that Jen had no license, but did the work while masquerading as Wu to get approval.

Jen is also being accused of claiming that licensed engineer Tai-Ming Chen had done work on 10 projects, notably the pending proposed renovation and other work on the landmark 1923 Alexandria movie theater.

The investigation began in November 2008, when a land surveyor raised questions about a lot subdivision in one of Jen's projects on Madrid Street. He contacted Wu, triggering the probe.

Harris said the investigators soon realized that there were "very obvious" discrepancies between the approval stamps and engineers' signatures compared to the ones Jen submitted. One "curious" circumstance, she said, was that no building inspectors ever asked any questions related to the surveys or engineering plans in any of the projects. Had they done so, they would have discovered that the engineers had no role in creating the plans, she said.

"We are curious about that," Harris said, noting that prosecutors are seeking to find out how 500 bogus documents could be reviewed by the Department of Building Inspection without a single question asked.

"We will find out exactly what was going on," she said, about how the documents could make it through "these offices and that office in particular over the course of two decades without notice."

Bill Strawn, spokesman for the Department of Building Inspection, said that so far no project mentioned by prosecutors has been found to be problematic.

"We are working with the D.A. on this," he said.

Strawn said his office reviews 60,000 applications a year, signed under penalty of perjury as valid, and would not typically verify every detail of a submission.

Jen, who faces $1.5 million in fines to the city for code violations on one of his projects, was named as a target of an arson investigation involving a San Francisco home, owned by his former wife, that caught fire in February 2009. He denied setting the blaze and was never charged.

E-mail Jaxon Van Derbeken at jvanderbeken@sfchronicle.com.
This article appeared on page C - 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/08/04/BADI1EOQ8C.DTL#ixzz1701BwKmo

Wyatt Sebourn

Dear Family and Friends,

First we would like to humbly thank you all for your tremendous amount of prayers and support. The love you have shown us, not only got us through these scary times, but proved that no matter what happens, God has a plan. When it felt like things were spiraling out of control, we just had to surrender and trust God, comforted knowing that our family and friends were here to help hold us together.

Second, Wyatt was a champion and made it through surgery with excellent results. His doctor said it was indeed a massive bone cyst (and nothing more). The doctor drained it with a needle at one end of the bone while pumping a synthetic bone-like material into the other other end. We will follow up with an appointment next week and we're sure he will have more Xray's to check on his handy work.

Wyatt is in a lot of pain, but we're sure every day he will feel more like himself.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you family, thank you friends, thank you for your prayer chains all the way to heaven, thank you to Wyatt's guardian angels, and thank you God!

With Love,
Stacey, Greg and especially Wyatt

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Robin Hood and the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency's Wealth Redistribution Program

The Fullerton City Council is responsible for the redistribution of wealth within their City Hall. 

The Fullerton City Council will oversee about $300-million in expenditures for fiscal year 2010-2011.1  One-third of the budget is allocated for Redevelopment Agency use, while the remaining 2/3, or $200-million, are for the general operation and maintenance of the City. Let’s look at that one-third or $100-million.

The City budget breaks down the source of the Redevelopment Agencies money into two areas.  First is the beginning balance rolled over from last year, which is $86.1-million.  The roll-over is from the previous year’s tax-increment (that portion of property tax revenue above what was typically collected before the establishment of the Agency’s zone), and bond revenue.  The second source of revenue is this year’s tax-increment, estimated at $16.6-million.

Those sources are very non-descript and deserve a little more attention.  Let’s look at who pays the tax-increment and why.


Fullerton Redevelopment
Project Area 3

John Smith purchased a home in 1995 and was paying the standard 1%+2% property taxes on the home until 2000, when the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency rezoned his property which was in an area designated as blighted.  At the moment the new zone was created, the property taxes on his property which were going to the local agencies were frozen.  Any INCREASE in his property taxes caused the additional revenue to be diverted from the local agency (City Hall) and into the hands of the Redevelopment Agency.  The diverted portion is the tax-increment.  This is detrimental to the overall well being of the City because it robs Peter (the police, fire, schools, and infrastructure) to pay Paul (the Redevelopment Agency). 

As if that wasn’t bad enough, it gets worse.  Let’s look at Fullerton Redevelopment Agency’s Project Area 3. This area is bounded on the North by Rolling Hills Drive, on the West by State College Blvd, on the South by Chapman Ave., and on the East by the 57 FWY and portions of Placentia Ave.  Most of the area is Cal State Fullerton property under the jurisdiction of the State, not the City of Fullerton.  That means there is no property tax collected on the State-owned portion.  There are a number of large homes which are considered blighted.  Or are they? 

I believe that nearly ALL of the homes in Project Area 3 are very nice and were only included in the zone so that the Redevelopment Agency would have a stable source of tax revenue.  Now that the project areas have been consolidated into one massive redevelopment project, it begs the question, what does the Redevelopment Agency need the money for?


Notice the homes in the north and westerly areas of this image. 
Most of these homes are in the $500,000-$1-million range and yet they
are all blighted. 

According to the Revised Adopted Budget for Fiscal Year 2010-11, the City Council acting as the Board of Directors of the Redevelopment Agency will spend $2.5-million on salaries and benefits for the Agency’s seven employees.  It will also spend $13.6-million on what the budget describes as “maintenance and support”.  I wonder if that includes conferences in Las Vegas…?  The Agency will also spend $10,000 on “Operating Capital Outlay”. So far, that brings the total to $16.1-million in expenditures.  The budget breaks down the remaining funds into two categories:  current capital projects ($13.9-million) and capital projects in progress ($24.3-million).  That leaves $49.5-million in the bank.  And yet the City Council felt the dire need to use the taxpayer's credit card to pass a $29-million bond in October!  The budget doesn’t go into sufficient detail on appropriations and allocations beyond that.  To find those details, one has to search the Redevelopment Agency’s records.  Save that for another post. 

The objective outlined for Project Area 3 is simple: Cooperate with Cal State Fullerton in efforts to enhance the Arboretum and in university district planning.  So, prior to consolidation, the tax-increment collected from all of those nice homes would go to supporting an arboretum and university district planning.  I had to write that a second time to get it to sink in.  All of those home owners paying property taxes to support those two endeavors.  Many of those homes were built after the Project Area was created, meaning that all or nearly all of the property taxes collected will go to the Redevelopment Agency and NOT to police, fire, education, and infrastructure.  Now that the project areas are merged into one mega project, the property taxes collected from those nice homes in the hills are going towards funding low- to moderate-income housing programs as well as small business loans. 

What makes things worse, yes worse, is that on one hand Redevelopment Agency staff is saying we have a shortage of low-income housing and on the other hand we are pushing low-income families out of the City. 

I have written and rewritten about the Orange County Register’s story on the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency blowing $22.7-million to redistribute Fullerton wealth many times.  You can read the original OC Register story here.

In essence, the Agency evicts families from very low-income and low-income apartments, bulldozes the apartments, and rebuilds nice condos for qualified moderate-income families.  It would be much like rounding up all of Fullerton’s homeless, giving them some money, and dropping them off in another city.  It’s unethical and doesn’t actually solve the problem. 

The Fullerton Redevelopment Agency is now a lumbering beast of debt and growing power that robs from the tax payers and gives to companies specializing in redevelopment projects.  The Agency is constantly growing its sphere of influence but for what purpose?  Officially the Agency exists to remove blighted conditions. Blight exists because the City of Fullerton has long ignored the graffiti, crime, and slum conditions.  The City of Fullerton should have been citing land lords at the first sign of a violation of the municipal code.  The City of Fullerton should have maintained the streets, sidewalks, and parkways.  The Police Department should have been more proactive in preventing crime. 

Of course it’s easy to sit back and Monday night quarter back the path our elected leaders have been taking us down for years.  Determining the best path out of this mess is a little more problematic.  It will first require that our City Council realize that it is time to pull the plug on the redevelopment machine.  It will require strong leadership from people who care about the long-term wellbeing of our city and are not afraid to walk alone. 

It will help to have the support of the public employee associations which should be easily garnered since they stand to directly benefit the most from the dismantling of the Redevelopment Agency.  The Agency has been bleeding the other departments for years.

Borrowing from Lincoln, City Hall should be a government of the people, by the people, for the people.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Wyatt Update


Fall, 2009
 Thank you all for your many prayers and kind words.  Wyatt is headed back to school today.  He has many follow-up appointments including a biopsy and reconstructive surgery of his arm.  If you feel like you missed something, maybe you did.  I tried to keep my friends and family posted via Facebook. 

As a parent, you give life to a child and spend the rest of your life worrying about every sneeze, cough, and boo-boo they get.  You never imagine your world can go upside down in a split second. 

Fortunately, we have many kind and thoughtful people praying for Wyatt.  He still needs your prayers and kind words.  As a thirteen-year old you think you are invincible, or at least smarter than Mom and Dad.  And all you want to do is hang out, play video games, and text one another -even if they are sitting three feet away in the same room.

Greg Sebourn

Orange County Bail Bonds

The Beauty of a Storm

The Beauty of a Storm
Orange County, Ca.

My Grandma - A Eulogy

LET'S TALK ABOUT 1914 FOR A MOMENT.



FOR STARTERS, GRANDMA WAS BORN TUESDAY, DECEMBER 22, 1914 IN HER FAMILY'S ATWOOD RANCH HOUSE.



IT IS WORTH NOTING THOSE ALSO BORN IN 1914:

JACK LALANNE

JOE DIMAGGIO

DANNY THOMAS



AND WHO DIED IN 1914:

JOHN MUIR, THE FAMOUS NATURALIST FOR WHICH NUMEROUS ROADS, PARKS, HOTELS, AND NATURE RESERVES ARE NAMED.



IT IS ALSO WORTH NOTING THAT IN 1914 WOODROW WILSON SIGNS MOTHER'S DAY PROCLAMATION AND BABE RUTH MAKES HIS MAJOR LEAGUE DEBUT WITH THE RED SOX. MOTHER'S DAY AND BASEBALL- TWO OF MY FAVORITES!! (PERHAPS HER NICKNAME "BABE" CAME FROM BABE RUTH???)



GRANDMA WAS BORN INTO A PERIOD OF TIME FILLED WITH TURMOIL. IN JUNE OF 1914 ARCHDUKE FRANZS FERDINAND WAS ASSASSINATED. WITHIN ONE MONTH WORLD WAR I RAGED ACROSS EUROPE. TWO DAYS AFTER HER BIRTH HOWEVER, GERMAN AND BRITISH TROOPS INTERRUPTED WWI TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS. (PERHAPS THEY PAUSE KNOWING THAT A GREAT WOMAN WAS BORNE) WORLD WAR I CONTINUED UNTIL THE TREATY OF VERSAILLES IN 1919.



ALTHOUGH SHE WAS ONLY 5 YEARS OLD, SHE SAW THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS CREATED AND THE 19TH AMENDMENT WAS APPROVED BY THE U.S. CONGRESS GUARANTEEING THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN TO VOTE.



SHE LIVED THROUGH MANY NOTABLE EVENTS. LIKE THE 1933 LONG BEACH EARTHQUAKE OR WHEN ATWOOD FLOODED ALONG WITH MOST OF ORANGE COUNTY IN 1938 AND THE FLOOD-WATERS CLAIMED MORE THAN 50 PEOPLE, 43 OF WHICH WERE FROM ATWOOD! ALL OF THIS DURING A TIME THAT WE READ ABOUT IN SCHOOL AND KNOWN AS "THE GREAT DEPRESSION". SOMEWHERE IN ALL OF THAT SHE FOUND THE LOVE OF HER LIFE, GRANDPA LEO, GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL, GOT MARRIED, AND HAD KIDS!



THEN THERE WAS WORLD WAR II. FROM PEARL HARBOR TO HIROSHIMA, GRANDMA WAS RAISING MY UNCLE BOB AND MOM ARLINE. WITH AIR-RAID SIRENS AND BLACKOUTS SHE WAS A WIFE AND MOTHER. WHAT A TIME TO RAISE CHILDREN! I BET GRANDMA'S PARENTS WERE ABEL TO TELL HER A THING OR TWO ABOUT RAISING KIDS IN WARTIME.



GRANDMA WAS THERE WHEN THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA HELD THEIR 3RD ANNUAL NATIONAL JAMBOREE IN 1953. SHE SAW AIRBASES OPEN IN '42 AND CLOSE IN '99. SHE WATCHED WALTER KNOTT START UP HIS BERRY FARM AND WALT DISNEY TURN ORANGE GROVES AND STRAWBERRY PATCHES INTO DISNEYLAND!



SHE SAW THE HORSE AND CARRIAGE FADE AWAY INTO HISTORY AND SPACE TRAVEL EXPLODE BEFORE HER WITH THE FIRST LUNAR LANDING. JUST IMAGINE HOW MUCH TECHNOLOGY HAS CHANGED OVER THE LAST 100 YEARS. FROM TUBE RECTIFIERS TO SUPERCONDUCTORS; FROM TRANS-ATLANTIC TELEGRAPH CABLES TO SATELLITE TV.



SHE SAW MORE IN HER 93 YEARS THAN MOST OF US WILL EVER READ ABOUT, LET ALONE LIVE THROUGH!



OF THOSE 93 YEARS IT IS MY HONOR TO HAVE BEEN HER GRANDSON FOR 35 OF THEM. SHE WAS MY MOTHER WHEN MOM HAD TO WORK. SHE WIPED MY NOSE AND PUT FOOD IN MY MOUTH. SHE LET ME PLAY WITH GRANDPA EVEN THOUGH SHE NEEDED HIM TO TAKE HER TO THE STORE. SHE WAS MY GRANDMA AND I WILL MISS HER IMMENSELY.



JUST LOOK AROUND THIS ROOM; SHE DID THIS. SHE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR BRINGING SO MANY GOOD PEOPLE INTO THIS WORLD AND TOGETHER TODAY. THIS IS HER LEGACY.



A Dedication To My Loving Wife, Stacey. Thank you for all you do for me!

Brad Paisley - I Thought I Loved You Then


I remember trying not to stare the night that I first met you
You had me mesmerized
3 weeks later in the front porch light taking 45 min to kiss you goodnight
I hadn’t told you yet but I thought I loved you then

Chorus
Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then.

I remember taking you back to right where I first met you
You were so surprised
There were people around
But I didn’t care I got down on one knee right there
And once again I thought I loved you then

Chorus
Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then.

I can just see you with a baby on the way
I can just see you when your hair is turning gray
What I can’t see is how I’m ever gonna love you more
But I’ve said that before.

Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Well look back some day at this moment that we’re in
And I'll look at you and say I thought I loved you then
And I thought I loved you then...

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