Thursday, June 2, 2011

BREA: FREE CONCERTS ALL WEEKEND

If you love music and food you have to come out to Summerfest 2001 at St. Angela Merici School in Brea. 

This isn't your ordinary school carnival! 



ALL PROCEEDS GO TO THE SCHOOL!  This event help keep tuition low, teachers employed, and our children educated. 

PLEASE SUPPORT OUR SCHOOL!

Water Bills: Where Does Your Money Go?

Fullerton pays a pumping tax, $255 per acre-foot or about $0.08 for every 100 gallons you use, to the Orange County Water District.  This pumping tax is collected as part of your water bill, though it isn't an itemized cost.

The Orange County Water District is a ground water replenishment agency meaning they do not directly sell water to anyone but they pump water into the ground to replenish what cities like Fullerton pump out. 

Looking at the OCWD's 2011-12 proposed budget I stumbled onto the list of memberships with organizations which Fullerton water rate payers pay for with every twist of their spigot.



Some of these organizations look like questionable lobbying groups.  Among them are the Black Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Cal State Fullerton Demographics, California Issue Forum, California Special Districts Association, Clean Water America Alliance, Independent Special Districts Association, International UV Association, Utility Branding Network, and so on! 

In all, we pay for $303,625 so that our OCWD Board Members and staff can associate with these organizations.  The OCWD website where I obtained the proposed budget does not offer any reasons for belonging to these groups. 

Is this smart use of your taxes?  Is the OCWD Board acting in the best interest of its customers? 

Controller Announces No Pay for Legislators Absent Balanced Budget by June 15 Deadline

SACRAMENTO – In response to recent questions regarding the impact of Proposition 25, Controller John Chiang today announced he will permanently withhold Legislators’ salary and per diem beginning on June 16 if they fail to approve a balanced budget in the next two weeks.

"Presenting the Governor with a balanced budget by the Constitutional deadline is the most important, if not most difficult, job of the California Legislature,” Chiang said. “In passing Proposition 25 last November, voters clearly stated they expect their representatives to make the difficult decisions needed to resolve any budget shortfalls by the mandatory deadline, or be penalized. I will enforce the voters’ demand.”

Proposition 25, titled the “On-Time Budget Act of 2010,” was approved by voters November 2, 2010. The initiative lowered the vote requirement for passing a budget from two-thirds to a simple majority. It also required members of the Legislature to forfeit their salary and reimbursement for travel and living expenses incurred from June 16 until “the day that the budget bill is presented to the Governor.” Payments forfeited will not be paid retroactively.


Recently, questions have been raised regarding whether the budget passed by the Legislature had to be balanced, or if the budget bills passed in March would suffice. The Controller’s analysis of these issues concludes Proposition 25 cannot be read in a vacuum, and must take into account the provisions of Proposition 58 (passed by voters on March 2, 2004), the intent language found in Proposition 25, and the voter information and campaign materials upon which the voters relied.

Proposition 58 states, “[T]he Legislature may not send to the Governor for consideration, nor may the Governor sign into law, a budget bill that would appropriate from the General Fund, for that fiscal year, a total amount that ...exceeds General Fund revenues for that fiscal year estimated as of the date of the budget bill’s passage.” Because Propositions 58 and 25 overlap in the same section of the Constitution and address the same topic, they must be read together. A copy of the Controller’s full legal analysis can be found here.

Placentia-Linda Hospital Failed to Report Anesthesiologist to Police

In what appears to be a complete disregard for patient safety, Placentia-Linda Hospital administrators failed to immediately report a sexual assault of an anesthetized female patient at the hands of the hospital's anesthesiologist that was reported by a nurse who witnessed the assault and alerted a director, according to the Orange County Register.

"Yashwant B. Giri, 58, of Cypress is facing one felony count of sexual battery on an institutionalized victim and one felony count of sexual penetration by a foreign object of an unconscious victim, according to a statement from the District Attorney's Office." - OC Register

Making matters worse is that the first incident that was witnessed by hospital staff occurred in 2009.

"Hospital employees reportedly witnessed Giri sexually abusing a 16-year-old girl in February 2009 and a 36-year-old woman March 18, 2011, police said." - OC Register

Another question which needs to be asked is why the employee who witnessed the sexual assault did not go directly to police immediately.  It seems reasonable that someone witnessing a sexual assault would immediately call 911.  That didn't happen in 2009 and now there are at least two victims.

Shame on Placentia-Linda CEO Kent Clayton and the nurse who failed to report the assault to law enforcement.   

Contrasts in Architecture Are Rare in Fullerton

I'm not an architect nor do I pretend to be.  At best, I notice some architecture while clearly ignoring other types.  I'm a land surveyor, not a building surveyor.  So when I see structures, I look to quantify them, not qualify them.

At least that was my modus operandi until May 11, 2011. 

On that day I was walking Independence Mall in Philadelphia and admiring the history and reflecting on what it would have been like in 1776.  As I crossed Market Street to go look at the Liberty Bell I looked left and right scanning the streets.  Then something caught my eye.  The antique cityscape had something shiny and new nestled in between two pieces of historic-looking buildings.

Those who have visited Independence Mall will agree that they are awed by Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Christ Church Burial Ground, and other important pieces of American history.  It is breathtaking for those with that certain affinity for history.

And in the midst of this structural history I find my eyes gazing on a structure unlike anything else on the Mall.  For that matter, I don't recall ever seeing anything like this structure with my own eyes. 

The structure has jutting polished metal forming right angles and contrasts sharply against the backdrop of American history.  The building's unusual placement on the Mall speaks volumes of its purpose, though no billboards announce what that may be. 

As I circle the Mall admiring the formation of our Country, my mind and camera wander back to the building, now more striking than when I saw it just moments ago. 

Nearing the building, I look for signs as to what the building is and what it represents.  Seeing none and realizing I'm now short on time, I turn away to make my next appointment.

Troubled by the mystery, I turn to the internet to find my answer. 

I find Google Earth to be a great tool for understanding our world.  Once again, the tool came through with an answer which was supported by additional sources.

The National Museum of American Jewish History stands as a monument to, as the name implies, American Jews.  Its purpose is to connect Jews more closely to their heritage and to inspire in people of all backgrounds a greater appreciation for the diversity of the American Jewish experience and the freedoms to which Americans aspire.  The architect, James Polshek, has created a striking symbol of American Jews and their story through the placement and use of materials, textures, shapes, and colors.  You can see more of James Polshek's work at http://ennead.com/#/projects/nmajh.

This experience, seeing the building on the Mall and recognizing the unusual beauty of its presence in that location has caused me to question the direction the City of Fullerton has traveled for decades. 

A recent Friends for Fullerton's Future blog post brought to light the Redevelopment Design Review Committee's selections of less than inspiring architecture. 

I used to have the strong opinion that modern designs just would not work in our downtown.  After long debates and discussions with friends and my visit to Philadelphia I am confident that it can work well. 

Entrepreneurs looking to raise the bar and make their place in Fullerton should look to innovative designs which will stand in contrast to our old and confused architecture.  More importantly, when every other building is a bar or tattoo parlor, business owners need to look at ways of setting their establishment apart from the rest of the herd. 

There is a great transcript of a debate on this architectural issue that took place at Harvard in 1982.  Click HERE and read the arguments that shape our structural world. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fullerton's Water Rates

From an article on Elk Grove's (a Sacramento suburb) skyrocketting water rates...

Chris Brown, executive director of the California Urban Water Conservation Council, said water rates nationally are rising faster than other utilities, as water systems face infrastructure upgrades without financial reserves. He said water rates are not structured to collect infrastructure reinvestment funds.

"When pipes are 50 years old, they start to fail," Brown said. "We are faced with replacing these systems and we haven't saved money for it for the last five decades."


Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/05/31/3664875/elk-grove-residents-could-face.html#ixzz1NwnwrjZX

Monday, May 30, 2011

What's in the "Capital Improvement Program"

What’s a CIP and why do we have one?
The City of Fullerton’s Engineering Department webpage does not offer an easily found answer as to what the CIP is or why one exists.  However, the currently proposed 5-year CIP or Capital Improvement Program says that “the CIP is a planning tool for short- and long-term capital improvements and development.”  The CIP continues, adding “It links Fullerton’s fiscal planning process to physical development. “  I look at it as the 5-year budget plan for the City’s infrastructure.
According to the proposed 5-year CIP, the City projects spending $46,060,450 for 2011-12 and $32,866,050 for 2012-13, with a five=year total of $206,920,550.  The Fullerton Redevelopment Agency has a projected five-year total of $6,020,000.
As you can see, these are not exactly small figures and therefore should not be taken lightly. 
The funding sources include property taxes and various excise taxes attached to services. 
More importantly, what does it cover?  What will get fixed?
One of the first things Fullerton residents and business owner’s hope will get covered are the City’s roads.  Rest assured, the roads are addressed in the CIP but not as fast or frequent as many of us might like.
To understand the road repair portion we have to look at what constitutes our streets.  There are curbs, gutters, sidewalks, asphalt, trees, and all of those utilities. 
Of the $46,060,450 for 2011-12 about $4,043,000 is to be spent on resurfacing existing roadways.  About $270,000 will cover curbs and gutters.  Last year Mayor Pro Tem Bankhead said that Redevelopment funds pay for those sidewalks around town that need repair. The Redevelopment Agency’s total planned contribution towards curbs and gutters is just $20,000.  And of the $4,043,000 to be spent on resurfacing our roads, $1,000,000 is from the Redevelopment Agency.
Now let’s consider our water system and keep in mind two things: 1) our water rates will increase at least 7.8% in just the next year; 2) the CIP does NOT include the rate increase; 3) there is 10%-11% that is skimmed from our water bills to cover general funding obligations like police, parks, and fire in the form of a franchise tax.  The tax amounted to $2.5-million last year that does not go back into our water system.   The total projected spending for the water system is $1,600,000 for 2011-12.  Now imagine taking that $2,500,000 that is diverted each year and put it back into the water system.  That would give us $4,100,000 to invest in our water system without having to raise water rates.
Now let’s look at what many taxpayers might consider pork.  Here is a short itemized list of proposed expenditures of the next 2 fiscal years:
$60,000 - Target Retrieval System for the gun range at the Police Department
$155,000 – Duane Winters Field Fence Replacement (this is the baseball field across from City Hall.  The Flyers are in negotiations to use the field for their independent league)
$350,000 – To design and install a pump to circulate water used for the spray ground at Valencia Park.
$150,000 – “Safety enhancements” at various public facilities.
$25,000 – “Public Art Program” from Redevelopment Agency
$183,000 – Replace gates and fencing at Basque Yard (Director Hoppe noted at last week’s Planning Commission meeting that the gates are poorly designed and require constant maintenance.  Nice to know we got our money’s worth!)
$158,600 – “Downtown Plaza Stage Improvements”
Taking the cake is $50,000 in my book is the item shown as “window coverings” at Basque Yard!
So, if we aren’t spending all of our CIP on roads and the water system, then where is it going?
Aside from some of the “pork” noted above $40,417,450 will go into the 57FWY/Chapman intersection ($238,000) as well as widening Bastanchury east of St. Jude ($625,000) and the grade separations ($28,800,000There is also the sewer system which will receive about $4,500,000.
Looking over all of these items and funds I am compelled to ask the question WHY?  Why are we allocating $50,000 for window coverings for one of our newest facilities while our water system is crumbling and we are looking at closing the Hunt Branch Library?
A similar question was asked to Public Works Director Don Hoppe who responded by saying that these allocations represent the standard maintenance and replacement plan for these facilities.  It’s a good answer if we applied a similar philosophy to our countless roads, waterlines, street lights, etc.  Unfortunately, it looks like we are not thinking outside the box when it comes to investing in our infrastructure.  It will take City Council Members and a City Manager with courage to take a hard look at the budget and make sensible decisions that reflect prioritized needs.  I’m not holding my breath…

Water Rates In the News

Special thanks to Fullerton tax fighter Jack Dean for directing me to these two articles.  With rates very likely to increase nearly 10% (it was going to be closer to 12% but opposition brought it down to 6% + pass-through costs) we need to be aware of water issues and how other communities are dealing with revenue shortages.

The first article is from the Marin Independent Journal.

The second is from the Sacramento Bee.

So far as I can tell from the two articles, there are several commonalities. 
  • Both have water rates based on usage and not the actual cost to operate and replace their water systems. 
  • Both have agencies which have raised water rates repeatedly over the last several years to cover budgetary shortfalls from other sources and the declining rate revenue due to conservation.
  • Unlike Orange County, both agencies have ample supply of water.
  • Both agencies have elected representatives that have apparently not sought other cost saving measures, though that is more a guess based on a lack of information.
Fullerton water rates are based primarily on usage.  The less water you use, the less you are charged despite the actual cost.  So, if you use a small amount of water such as 5,000 gallons per month, the larger users like my family 16,000 gallons-plus, have to subsidize the water fund's operations and maintenance.  As we cut back and conserve more, the water fund's deficit grows. 

Compounding the problem, is the franchise fee water rate payers pay on every bill. 10%-11% of your water bill goes into the general fund to pay for all of those things which are covered by the general fund, such as police, fire, tree trimming, and building maintenance. 

If the City Council would stop skimming funds from the water bill revenue, rate payers would not need a rate increase for another year or two.  Instead of continuing the franchise fee, have that 10% go into the water system's capital improvement program to help fund replacing the system.

Next, we need to look to the Orange County Water District which Fullerton is a member of and look for ways to cut overhead and long-term costs.  Other areas which Fullerton residents need to look to cut the costs on their water bills include the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Metropolitan water District of Orange County. 

So far as I can tell, ALL of these agencies have a stake in my water bill and all of them should be heavily scrutinized to give rate payers the most for their dollar. 

July 19, 2011 is the tentative date for the Public Hearing at City Hall to raise your water rates.  Clear your calendar now for July 19 at 6:30PM and show up to voice your concerns.

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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