Fullerton’s Cozy Relationship with Discovery Cube

[Ed. Note: From time to time we will be cross-posting pieces from the newly revamped Friends for Fullerton’s Future (FFFF) blog, which is now back under new proprietorship.  Today’s piece, which has been very lightly copy edited, comes from David Curlee.  OJB is not porting over the comments from FFFF — this story already has reached double digits there — so if you’re a fan of that sort of thing then you can click the link.]

The Discovery Cube is a pretty neat venue for kids of all ages.  Anyone who has driven the 5 freeway through Santa Ana can’t miss the place.

We got your “discovery” right here, Cube!

Discovery’s VP of Sales Lobbying Sean Fitzgerald is married to Fullerton Lobbyist-Councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald. City money began flowing to Discovery Cube within a year of Sean taking the job.

Following a promotion in 2014, this press release described Sean Fitzgerald’s new position:

“As Vice President, Sales and Strategic Development, Fitzgerald works directly with the Center’s leadership on a variety of growth-related initiatives. This includes developing new strategic partnerships with municipalities, corporations and other non-profits and serving as a key member of the team working to open DSC’s new Los Angeles facility later this year. In addition, Fitzgerald oversees a sales team working to fulfill the Center’s sales goals in field trips, outreach programming and partner education programs.”

CalRecycle awards Beverage Container Recycling Grant money to municipalities every year for various recycling programs.  Public education is one of several options with which to spend the money.

Since 2012, the City has been paying for thousands of FSD sixth graders to learn about recycling at Discovery Cube to the tune of $27 per kid.

The Eco Challenge Contract

At the December 6, 2016 City Council meeting, Parks & Recreation staff [and, presumably, Jennifer Fitzgerald, though she did recuse herself] wanted the council to approve a 3-year contract with Discovery Cube to continue this partnership. Councilman-elect Jesus Silva questioned the wisdom of sending this money to groups outside of Fullerton. He proposed other options, such as Fullerton non-profit All the Arts for All the Kids Foundation to develop a recycling program of their own. All the Arts’ costs would be considerably lower since they don’t have lobbyists earning six figures on their payroll.

Speaking of lobbyists: the Fitzgeralds, apparently unhappy with Silva’s idea back in December, made sure to sell this idea to the Parks & Recreation Commission at last night’s meeting with the help of another Discovery Cube lobbyist.

Not once in the Parks & Rec agenda materials, and not once at the meeting, did Hugo Curiel or Alice Loya voluntarily mention Jesus Silva’s idea as an alternative to the Discovery Cube’s sales pitch. They didn’t say a word until I called them out on it during Public Comments.

At that point, Parks & Rec Director Hugo Curiel reluctantly admitted that All the Arts would be a possibility for the third option (below):

Mr. Curiel then offered a bunch of excuses, essentially making a case against All the Arts. He questioned whether they could develop a recycling program fast enough. The City has 18 months to spend the remaining funds, so that reasoning seems rather weak.

While Mr. Curiel may have been correct about the All the Arts, why not invite them to the meeting? Questioning their abilities, without them being in attendance, seems rather tacky.  Do you suppose they were asked to make a proposal of their own like Discovery Cube was permitted to do? I doubt it.

This was not a level playing field with equal consideration given to every option. Not at all. Another option (barely mentioned by staff) was purchasing park equipment. City staff’s only real recommendation was the one that benefits the Fitzgerald family through Sean’s sustained employment. Isn’t that a surprise?

Like him or hate him, Donald Trump has said much about draining the swamp of lobbyists and outside influence peddlers in Washington.

Fullerton has a swamp of its own, and it needs to be drained just as badly.

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"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.