Community Voices

Community Outraged as Council Majority Sends Back $1.78 Million Grant Meant for Union Pacific Trail

Doctors work under the guiding principle, “Do no harm.” Those we elect as our leaders should as well.

At the Fullerton City Council meeting on August 15, during the discussion and vote on Item 19, Union Pacific Trail Phase Two Design, three members of Council (Jung, Whitaker, and Dunlap) not only did not follow this principle, they did the exact opposite. They did much harm. The saddest and most depressing part is that they do not know the damage they did. Their insensitivity and lack of understanding are tragic.

For years, the community had meetings, planned, and worked hard for this trail that is desperately needed for the surrounding neighborhoods, individuals, families, and children. Open space trails are not available close by for these people’s physical and mental health to get outside, into nature, exercise, and have fun and relax. 

The Parks and Recreation Department and the Parks and Recreation Commission worked on this trail for years. St. Jude helped with applying for a grant from the California State Natural Resources Agency Urban Greening Grant Program, and the City received $1.78 million with a required matching fund of $333,000, available from Park Dwelling Fee funds. The trail would have been paid for without further funding from the City’s budget. 

When this was first considered on 11/2/21, and 8/15/23, almost everyone spoke in favor of the trail, and many begged for this much-needed trail. Yet, rather than genuinely listening to the people, understanding their needs and what their lives are like, these three members of the Council listened and gave undue weight and consideration to bordering property owners, some of who have future developments planned, and to their own wants and voted against this trail only plan and to return the grant money.

Their comments are telling:

“There is crime there.” 

Response: Build a beautiful, well-used trail, and crime will go down.

“Few people walk it now.” 

Response: Why would they? As it is NOT a trail but undeveloped and unattractive.

“It will not be maintained and cleaned.” 

Response: This has not stopped park and trail development in other parts of the City.

Dunlap said this is an example of why he is against districts, as it puts one area of Fullerton against another rather than looking at the City as a whole.

Response: This is precisely why districts are needed. Three Councilmembers did not hear the voices and needs of the people.

Whitaker said he and his wife live in south Fullerton and can use north city trails. He truly did not hear/understand the needs of the people and said that using the grant money as a reason to vote for the trail was letting the tail (grant) wag the dog (trail approval).

Response: Quite the opposite. The trail was in planning for years. The three on the Council, who came in at the end to squash this beautiful trail, are denying the trail by their decision.

Jung said he has been trying to get the right away from Union Pacific Railroad for two years.

Response: The right away for THIS trail is already secured. 

After voting against the trail, he voiced opening Union Pacific Park right away. This does not justify or make up for voting against the trail.

After much insensitive discussion to justify their votes, the council voted 3:2 to stop the trail only option and return the grant money.

A woman who had spent a lot of time going to meetings and spoke passionately about her neighborhood’s need for this trail, became very upset and cried out to the Council that they were racist and did not care about them. Mayor Jung called, “Order, Order, Order,” and asked for the city attorney’s help, and someone escorted the distraught woman out.

Witnessing this was very painful. Even though we need order in our meetings, public comments are only allowed BEFORE Council discussion and vote.

Who did more harm here? A distraught, brokenhearted woman who worked on the Union Pacific trail for two years and whose voice went unheeded along with the vast majority that supported the trail or the three members of Council who gave more weight to their own opinions and the few bordering property owners who opposed it)?

HARM WAS DONE by this Council majority:

• Community needs were denied.

• Opinions of a very small group of people were given undue weight to make a decision that goes against the health and well-being of the community and a trail favored by a vast majority of people.

• This unfair process shattered trust.

• True harm was done to individuals, families, and children who will grow up without what this needed trail would have given them.

• I (and a large number of others) have been very upset and depressed since witnessing this and realizing what was lost and the harm done to the people and our community.

Contact your council representative:

• District 1: Fred Jung Mayor (714) 738-6311

• District 2: Nick Dunlap Council (714) 738-6311

• District 3: Shana Charles Council (714) 738-6311

• District 4: Bruce Whitaker ProTem (714) 981-8474

• District 5: Ahmad Zahra Council (714) 738-6311

I urge everyone to watch the videos of the City Council meetings and make up your own mind. If you agree, please do not let this decision “go quietly into the night.” Voice your opinion and work to rectify this very harmful decision, showing those who have worked so hard and long for this desperately needed trail that you support them, hear their needs, and honestly care about them.

Video links:

• Click on agenda item #19 August 15, 2023:

• Click on agenda item #18 November 2, 2021:

If you like this story you might like this: Student group People Above Things calls for a Protest on September 19

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41 replies »

  1. This article is an opinion piece thinly disguised as news. The homepage should clearly label which articles are news and which are opinion, and when I say labeled as opinion, I don’t mean “community voices”.

    I don’t have a strong opinion one way or another on this, but I don’t want any project which is going to eventually cost the city money for upkeep and maintenance when the city doesn’t have the money for upkeep and maintenance of streets.

    If the writer/backer thinks there is such broad community support for such a trail, then get it on a ballot through a Measure or organize voters to not vote for certain council members in an upcoming regular election (because a special election for something this trivial is ridiculous). There are so many budgetary needs in this city and not enough money to go around, especially for something which would quickly be taken over by the homeless (speaking of which stop funding shelters they only attract more homeless).

    • I’m curious, did you oppose the recent opening of the much-larger West Coyote Hills Trail in the Robert E. Ward Nature Preserve earlier this year, since that also requires regular maintenance?

    • Dear Broken Axle – (good name for you) This article both tells what happened accurately and is opinionated. I see you had no problem seeing that. The majority of people and businesses in the surveys done and the public comments at meetings over the years support option 1 green trail paid for with the $1.78 million grant which can only be used for an urban trail. How does sending that money back make sense? Other passive trails in the north side of town and this one are designed for minimal maintenance. And just have to laugh at your idea that if we don’t build homeless shelters the homeless will disappear.

  2. The vote was 3-2. The three councilmembers who voted was Councilmember Dunlap, Mayor Pro Tem Whitaker AND Mayor Jung. Mayor Jung was NOT the ONLY vote in this, so why is he the ONLY one getting criticized and trashed for it? Fullerton Observer is not a newspaper who writes about news within the community but instead is an Opinion blog. Seems to me there are many Zahra bots behind this so called article.

    The community complains that the parks are not maintained now, there is trash everywhere, it is unsafe, on and on and on complaints, but they rather have the city build an expensive trail and not use that money to maintain the parks that are already within that area? How does that make any sense?

    • ” have the city build an expensive trail and not use that money to maintain the parks that are already within that area”

      1.78M that isn’t available to us now was rejected by Council with this vote.

      It won’t be going to “maintenance” or a wider plan or anything.

      It will go to some other city that knows how to say yes to a grant.

  3. Those apologetic to the council majority’s vote seem only to use gaslighting as a way to divert from the facts. Here are the facts:

    1- Council majority voted 3-2 against a trail that was needed in one of the poorest areas in town. No legitimate reason was presented.
    2- Trail was funded through a $1.78 mil State grant and majority is essentially rejecting this money.
    3- Community members from those neighborhoods advocated for this and even testified to state for the grant. Members were in attendance and were crying and heartbroken at the vote.
    4- Commissioners on Parks & Rec voted unanimously to approve it, even those appointed directly by council majority. Staff also recommended this and have been working on this for years.
    5- Bushala owns a few properties in that area and is only owner to oppose it. He is on record in previous meetings and at Parks & Rec meeting stating that. Him not showing up at that council meeting only shows that the vote was already decided.
    6- Bushala has shown intentions to develop and attempt to lease one building to a brewery there according to his own testimony at previous meetings.
    7- Bushala owns that infamous blog (his address is on it even) that uses anonymous names and gaslighting methods to spread disinformation and attack those who go against his interests, lately Zahra taking the brunt of it.
    8- Bushala owns a political action committee and has spent 10s of thousands in campaign support to Jung and the other two and had even recently donated many thousands in Nov 2022 to support Jung’s reelection campaign (interestingly it was before the new state conflict of interest law took effect in Jan where electeds have to recuse themselves if they take over $ 250)
    9- Jung is a known friend of Bushala
    10- David Zenger is a known associate of Bushala (employee according to public record)
    11- Jane Rands who spoke against Trail at meeting works for Jung as his campaign treasurer according to public records.
    12- Jung shut down discussion on trail—not first time, often insults Zahra and snaps at Charles. He also insults or talks back at members of the public in their attempts to speaks, most notably Curtis Gamble. This is all on video.

    Anyone interested in facts should watch video and contact the city clerk and pull form 700s (economic interest) and 460 (campaign contribution) for Jung and Bushala’PAC called Fullerton Tax Payer for Reform.

    • 1. Randy knows a lot of information on Jung and Bushala.
      2, Are there photos of them taped to the walls of your room
      3. Nice trail would have been nice
      4. Argue that and you’d have a point

  4. More opinion pieces disguised as news. Same old Fullerton Observer propaganda for the comrades.

    • It’s opinionated, and I’m not seeing any kind of disguise.

      It’s also correct.

      Turning down 1.78M grant where the cost is trail maintenance is simple failure

      • John. Objective writing appears in the news section and doesn’t reflect the author’s personal views on the topic. Editorials appear labeled clearly so it’s easier for the reader to tell the difference. This is an informative article, but it is not objective writing.

  5. As a longtime Fullerton resident, I find myself increasingly frustrated with the content provided by the Fullerton Observer. Rather than delivering objective news, it often presents pieces that not only leans heavily towards personal opinions – but outright crosses that line. In a time when the very essence of our democracy is at stake, it is concerning to witness the blurred line between factual reporting and individual perspectives being labeled as “news.”

    It would command more of my respect if, right from the outset, a clear indication was provided that what follows is an “OPINION” or an “OP-ED.” However, it appears that the writer and this publication’s editors intention is to present these pieces as authentic news stories, which raises red flags regarding this entire publication’s authenticity and credibility.

    The Fullerton Observer as “Fullerton’s Only Independent Newspaper” is failing in every way when it comes to journalistic integrity. The potential consequences of this blurring are indeed concerning for the integrity of our democratic society. In an era where accurate information is vital, it’s imperative that the Fullerton Observer maintains the distinction between objective reporting and subjective viewpoints.

    • I agree with the perspective that the news should present objective facts and let the public decide how they feel.

      I disagree with your other comment regarding Mayor Jung’s behavior. He is generally cordial and professional. However, I have noticed a trend wherein he shuts down discussion on agenda items, particularly where Councilmember Charles wants to pursue further discussion. This meeting was particularly disturbing: Councilmember Charles asked to discuss Option 3, which Mayor Jung proposed and on which the council ultimately voted. In response, Mayor Jung simply stated, “No.” He then asked the city attorney how to proceed; a vote was required; the three city council members who voted against the project voted to disallow further discussion.

      Even if Mayor Jung did not feel that further discussion was warranted, I believe he should have permitted it, especially given the public’s confusion and disappointment regarding the outcome. The purpose of city council meetings is to promote transparency and allow the public to be involved in public discussions. I felt that Mayor Jung’s behavior constituted bullying, and this was at least the second or third time he had precluded further discussion. To me, such behavior is not professional.

      Another time, he stated to a member of the public, who commonly criticizes him at meetings: “What is wrong with you?” He lost his temper, as any human being would, but I would expect more from a mayor. And yet several other times, he indicated to another routine public commenter, “Keep it brief.” All members of the public are given three minutes to speak. Such behavior is inappropriate and suggests that the Mayor does not welcome commentary equally from all speakers.

      This is not meant to serve as commentary on his policy decisions (although I obviously disagree with his vote on the UP Trail project), but only to disagree on your assessment of his conduct at city council meetings.

      • Entirely. Thank you, Sarah for eloquently explaining that. While I do wholly disagree with his vote on UPTrail, I’m simply pointing out his :character flaws: that ERODE public trust.

  6. HAHAHA I often get asked why I “dislike” this CouncilMajority so much.

    It’s semantics. It’s not a matter of like/dislike. I have no respect for liars. The CouncilMajority have ALL lied on public record. Furthermore, not only does FredJung like to emotionally lose his temper, cut people off, and not even hear out his fellow dais members; this CouncilMajority actively destroys our City and public trust. Their shameful behavior is ALL available on the City website/public record. The way these three clowns behave is repulsive and quite shameful…ESPECIALLY for someone who self-identifies as a: District representative (role model for children), a youth football coach (responsible for children), and a father of five (responsible for children). His narcissism is bonkers.

    I’ve said this on public record, and I stand by it: Their actions are shameful and the polar opposite of what instills public trust.

    • If you have no respect for liars then your backing the wrong boy with Zahra.

      • This is hilarious. I have YET to hear :ONE: single piece of salient evidence of your claims. I repeat, ALL of their awful and shameful behavior can be found on PUBLIC RECORD (ie City website). Click on ANY CouncilSession, and It’s just a matter of minutes before FredJung looses it and behaves childishly.

        This is VERY different from that conspiracy blog’s google-page-14-search-results “deep dive” with ZERO evidence.

        C’mon, David. This is the “City of Education.” Legitimate academic research :REQUIRES: citing of proof/evidence. I repeat: I have YET to hear :ONE: single piece of salient evidence of these absurd accusations against CMZahra.

        Please. Please stop your baseless attacks on CMZahra. I woulda liked to think that we, as a City, are “better than this”; but this CouncilMajority :CLEARLY: demonstrated by their actions, that they are, in fact, NOT. :face_palm:

        • I wonder if David Zenger just Tony Bushala’s online alias. His writing style is similar to the inflammatory language used on the Friends for Fullerton’s Future blog, and he often espouses the same views.

          • David, tone often gets lost in electronic communication. I am NOT upset, but this is :not: the proper forum/place for discussion. I’m sorry FullertonObserver.

            David (and whoever else), I will be more than happy to discuss this in-person. You can find me on the 1st/3rd Tuesdays, sitting in the front left corner of Chambers.

          • I’m sorry, FullertonObserver.

            David: this is not the proper forum/place for discussion. Tone often gets completely lost in electronic communication. I am :not: upset, and I am :more-than-happy: to discuss this in-person. You (and whoever else) can find me on the 1st/3rd Tuesdays, sitting in the front left corner of Chambers.

          • Zenger and Bushala came up with a plan for the area a couple of years ago. I remember a map but no details and still after all these years no details. Why not put the plan to the public along with the details?

    • Dear Mr Bernard,
      As someone who watch council meetings to understand what is going on locally, I must say, with all due respect, it is you whose behavior is repulsive and quite shameful (using your words). It is you who seem to exhibit a lack of decorum. I don’t have a dog in the fight nor do I have any sides. I along with 90% of Fullerton residents, just want what is best for our city. The petty political squabbles and behind-the-scenes maneuvering hold no allure for us; all we demand is tangible progress and efficient governance.

      Your unwavering support for Councilmember Zahra is evident, and it’s commendable that he has earned your loyalty. Conversely, your scathing critique of Mayor Jung is your prerogative. Yet, as a part of the overwhelming 95% who couldn’t care less about political bickering, your relentless onslaught against Mayor Jung has had an unexpected consequence—not a second thought about Mayor Jung, but rather a skeptical glance towards Councilmember Zahra.

      In the face of relentless insults hurled meeting after meeting, Mayor Jung emerges as the epitome of grace, professionalism, and courtesy, extending these virtues even to Councilmember Zahra. It’s peculiar that the only one consistently losing their temper appears to be YOU.

      If I were a sitting councilmember, I would find it hard to justify having one of my supporters stand at public comments, supposedly to “defend me,” while launching verbal attacks at my fellow council members. In all honesty, your public diatribes provide me with a glimpse into Councilmember Zahra’s character, and regrettably, it reflects more negatively on him than on the Mayor. It’s high time for a recalibration of your approach, lest you inadvertently reveal more about the person you staunchly support than you’d like.

      • Rob: Apparently, you haven’t been paying attention. As I stated above: This is not the proper forum for this discussion. Again, I welcome an in-person discussion.

        • Rob (and for anyone who STILL doesn’t get it): It’s basic symbolic logic. A -> B (If A, then B).

          If you don’t like B, stop doing A.
          If this FredJung doesn’t like my comments (B), he should stop his foul behavior (A).

          My comments are simply a :RESPONSE: to his actions. So, if his feelings get hurt because I keep calling him out, maybe he should consider: NOT behaving poorly and leading by example.

          • Again Mr Bernard, I am paying attention and so are other Fullerton residents. Based on my observation and that of others who have no dog in the fight, it’s plain to see the one dancing poorly on the stage of decorum and “foul behavior” (using your words) is not Mayor Jung, but rather the one who points fingers. Yet, the irony is palpable. The one who raises the banner of civility, who demands it from others, seems to have misplaced it in their own actions. It’s a curious case of advocating for values that are seemingly elusive in your own conduct.

            So here’s a reality check: before you keep pointing fingers, I implore you to take a look at your own conduct. Fullerton is watching.

          • Again Mr Bernard, I am paying attention and so are other Fullerton residents. Based on my observation and that of others who have no dog in the fight, it’s plain to see the one dancing poorly on the stage of decorum and “foul behavior” (using your words) is not Mayor Jung, but rather the one who points fingers. Yet, the irony is palpable. The one who raises the banner of civility, who demands it from others, seems to have misplaced it in their own actions. It’s a curious case of advocating for values that are seemingly elusive in your own conduct.

            So here’s a reality check: before you keep pointing fingers, I implore you to take a look at your own conduct. Fullerton is watching.

  7. This decision by Council was absolutely shameful. I hate to think the worst of the Council majority, but I cannot help but wonder whether private interests had something to do with their decision. This trail was widely supported by the community – for OVER A DECADE, funding had been secured, the land had been acquired, and the plans had been drawn up. All that was required was Council’s approval. The reasons for the council majority’s opposition are specious and unfounded.

    This article does well to link to the videos of the council meeting. I encourage everyone to watch them, even if you don’t normally watch council meetings. This meeting was bizarre and heartbreaking. I am deeply grateful for the work of the Fullerton Observer and I hope a large regional newspaper picks up the story soon as well. I hope this injustice will not go unrecognized.

  8. Tony Bushala, whose family owns about 30% of the property along the proposed trail has been a repeated public speaker against the trail. Why did he want the trail #2 option which included a one-way road at an initial expense of $1 million in city funds (not to mention ongoing pavement upkeep)? It does not seem that a natural trail with trees would be a problem for his recent plan for a new bar to replace the rail cafe at the train depot or his SOCO apartment residents. Can the paper ask him what he has in mind for the area? Really hope it is something good since he appears to have Jung, Dunlap, and Whitaker in his pocket.

    • Bushala didn’t speak at the meeting, but of course if he had he probably would have argued for area-wide planning, not the half-assed, piece by piece nonsense perpetrated by Parks staff over the past years – like the private events center on the UP Park. What he has in mind for the area was serially ignored by the City until they stole the idea and the name and tried to ruin it with prison block, high density housing.

      Now for some facts: Bushala isn’t replacing the the depot cafe with a bar, so that’s just an outright lie. He has no connection to the individuals who own townhomes in the SOCO Walk, so that’s another lie. No apologies will be forthcoming from you, but I wouldn’t be asking him for any more favors.

      • Why not show the public the Bushala/Zenger plan for the trail and area? Maybe it’s a good idea. But how will anyone know if you don’t reveal the details?

        You might be right about the bar – it is a restaurant/bar – not just a bar that will take over the train station cafe and loading docks. That plan was in the consent calendar backup council materials a couple meetings ago re Bushala’s /city lease coming to an end in 2024.

        And Bushala’s are the reason SOCO exists – they bought up the property for it from small homeowners many years ago – they also manage SOCO if they don’t still own it.

        Favors? What’s that about?

      • “he probably would have argued for area-wide planning”

        Disproportionate negative to power in action.

        Because big projects are harder to get done than small projects.

        So if your goal is to kill the trail, it makes perfect sense to feign support for going bigger. Meanwhile killing significant funding already lined up for the trail.

        I’m sure there will be plenty of momentum from the anti-trail majority for a Big Area Wide Plan. Especially now that they turned down the funds, and have no plan whatsoever waiting in the wings.


  9. After years of surveys are done, comments from the public at council and park & rec meetings are received, and committee and commission recommendations are made, people wonder why certain members of council completely ignore them. Really terrible to return the hard-won grant for what would have been an improvement to the south side of downtown. Can this poor decision be reversed?

    • Unfortunately, Sharon, more than likely not (Re: Reversal). Dr.Charles was :ENTIRELY: correct when she explained the nature of grants. When you :RETURN GRANT MONEY: (again, semantics. It’s a GRANT.), the likelihood of receiving future similar grants, decreases exponentially. Basically, this CouncilMajority actively wasted YEARS of hard work by our CityStaff and residents, and perpetuated the punishing of SouthFullerton residents, and in essence guaranteeing a difficult time securing future grants.

      …but District representation is bad, right?