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At last, Tuesday’s explosive hearing, the council tabled the Mayor’s Office proposal to fulfill Councilman Jim Madaffer’s angry demand to kill Fox Canyon Neighborhood Park and creek restoration. The matter was continued until March 27 thanks, in part, to my playing some recent video coverage by Mike Turko on KUSI.com. Turko has aired five, five-minute segments beginning on February 5th covering the “Fox
(For a quick update on what this issue is all about, and why Madaffer is piqued with the Friends of Fox Canyon Neighborhood Park for resisting his behind-closed-doors efforts to park-jack a people’s park, you can view any or all of the segments here. No. 1 is the best overall summary. No. 3 is labeled “Parks in Peril,” No. 1 and No. 2 precede that. No. 4 and No. 5 covered last Tuesday’s hearing. No. 4 aired on Feb. 27 and No. 5 on March 1. Entries are made in reverse chronological order. Hey, KUSI — could you please put the airdate as part of the link name, pretty please?)
In brief, Madaffer wants to transfer a $2.3 million California State Parks grant away from the approved site for Fox Canyon Park. Why would he attempt such a switcheroo? Retribution against citizen watchdogs who sued to stop him from gutting the park by running a road through it to serve future development. The money threat: “If I don’t get my road, you don’t get your park.”
After the council delayed any decision, according to TV coverage, Madaffer bolted from the hearing room. I personally experienced his furor downstairs in City Hall, when he bellowed at me across half of the lobby: “Congratulations Carolyn.” As one of the aforementioned citizen watchdogs fighting the park-jacking of Fox Canyon, I had the clear sense that this wasn’t your usual congratulatory remark.
Madaffer also appears furious at City Attorney Mike Aguirre for issuing his “Interim Report No. 14: The Ontario Avenue Connection and Fox Canyon Park.”
The report documents how mid-city park funds were misspent on the road. The tabled (for now) proposal also includes moving those charges to the Gas Tax fund. A better source no doubt, but I question the wisdom of misappropriating gas tax funds instead of misappropriating park funds. In sum, the road has never been approved for any expenditure from any funding source, city or state, nor would it compete well against other street-related projects needed for traffic, maintenance or repairs.
Madaffer is also undoubtedly mad at the Park & Recreation Board who also questioned the road and especially board member attorney, Bob Ottilie.
Ottilie devoted his free time to following the money and filed a Public Records Act request to gain access to relevant documents in Madaffer’s office. That’s got to be scary for the councilman. Even scarier: Ottilie has pointed out that it’s possible to recover misappropriated funds in a civil suit against the individuals responsible.
Madaffer’s angry words at Mike Aguirre during the hearing defended his efforts to pave the road as only trying to “serve his constituents.” As with too many politicians, that’s only half the truth. More of the truth is that Madaffer sought to fulfill a campaign promise to some of his constituents at the expense of others — while abusing city staff, the city charter, and the state grant process.
There are right ways and wrong ways for politicians to pursue a pet project. Throughout, Councilman Madaffer chose the wrong ways by using the power of his office to bully staff into spending funds on a project without due process.
I hope that some of his anger is also directed at another party responsible for the situation: himself.
And the park is not out of the woods yet. Next entry: adventures in real estate.