Fullerton Observer Interns Present The Road to Ruin: A Documentary of Fullerton’s Failing Infrastructure

Have you ever pondered the reasons behind the current state of Fullerton Roads? The Fullerton Observer Interns proudly presents a documentary delving into the web of Fullerton’s roads. Through reflective dialogue, we navigate the historical journey that led us to this point and illuminate the potential pathways for a brighter future. Crafted by dedicated volunteers and passionate interns from the esteemed Troy Tech Program.




Fullerton Observer’s Summer Intern Mentor Adrian Meza did an outstanding job mentoring the six interns who participated in researching, script writing, videography, interviewing, communicating through email, and learning about city politics.

Directed by: Jason Hwang and Adrian Meza

Communications by: Krish Gupta

Head of Research: Jason Hwang

Written by: Zara Shah, Hellen Cui, Jason Hwang, and Adrian Meza

Narrated by: Adrian Meza

Production Assistants: Zara Shah, Britany Alcantar, and Colin O’ Malley

Special thanks to: Colin O’ Malley and Britany Alcantar

Edited by: Adrian Meza

60 replies »

  1. Why are the articles that were previously posted are being posted over and over again?

    It makes no sense to keep on posting the same opinion piece!!

    Go do some research on REAL FACTS AND NEWS!!!

  2. It’s easy to always look at the shortfalls and never at the progress. These roads are much improved from a few years ago. Euclid, Commonwealth etc. Repaved. I love to see this progress. Now safety blinking crosswalks& ADA improvements at crossings and intersections. These are great life saving improvements not to mention the proposed sidewalk and lighting proposed for n.Harbor to st.Jude hospital . Sometimes I feel these articals in the Fullerton Observor are unfair and biased designed to damage candidates from future elections. This kind of journalistic harassment, rather than reporting indiscriminately…has got to stop…

    • Disagree. It’s absolutely legitimate to continuously shine a light in this. There are not sufficient funds on the table to catch up with the backlog. You’re right that road work is constantly ongoing. And that’s real, positive and necessary. But I wouldn’t characterize it as progress against the actual goal of the roads *throughout* Fullerton being considered acceptable.

      For that you have to clear the backlog of maintenance and given revenues versus the backlog no one believes that catching up is on the table. Every once in a while we get a spurt of state or federal funds but that is not sustained ongoing.

  3. This is really well done. Informative, in depth. Would love to see more of this form of storytelling in the FO.

  4. There is no mention of the fact that the vote to tax was likely not approved by the voters BECAUSE it did not earmark the funds exclusively for road repair and reconstruction. Potentially, 2/3 of the voters would have approved of a tax specifically for roads. A tax not specifically targeted for roads would be like giving the council and city manager a blank check in the minds of many Fullerton residents — not a sound idea. And, no surprise, nobody liked the idea.

    • Yes, the Citizens Infrastructure Review Committee (now INRAC) recommended a tax limited to funding infrastructure only. This proposal was never forwarded by staff to the council. Finally, a member of CIRC resorted to reading the proposal to the council during public comments, and was completely ignored. Instead the council chose to put forward Measure S on the 2020 ballot, which was, as you suggest, a blank check, which was resoundingly rejected by the voters.

    • I doubt there are 2/3 of voters for allowing council members regular potty breaks. For a tax increase? Straighten up and get serious.

  5. How do you reconcile that the council majority changes from vote to vote? Or do you only care about holding people accountable for votes that don’t agree with your values? Do you give equal credit to this changing majority when the vote aligns with you? Or are you just a whiner and complainer who has no clue on recent history in the city you supposedly live in. A council tried to push a tax increase less than 4 years ago and the Fullerton voters killed it. Period. By definition!

    • I guess you’re talking to me Michael since you quoted my post.

      “How do you reconcile that the council majority changes from vote to vote?”

      The majority depends on the particular vote, yes. So? Reconcile? With what?

      “A council tried to push a tax increase less than 4 years ago and the Fullerton voters killed it. Period. By definition!”

      “A council” Yes. Voters, yes. Everyone knows this. And I blame Fullerton voters for their poor choices across the board… its votes on bond issues and on the balance of power we’ve created on the council.

      If we want the roads fixed faster, we’re going to have to put far more funds toward it. It’s that simple. And if it couldn’t be done on a 50+1 majority, certainly not going to happen on a supermajority.

      It’s not surprising at all that the makeup of council is reflects the anti-tax views of Fullertonians generally.

      Enjoy the still ruined roads.

  6. Districting in our city has proven to be a deeply flawed system that has had far-reaching negative consequences. Instead of directing criticism towards a supposed “council majority,” our scrutiny should be squarely aimed at the very division of our city into districts. This partitioning has led residents and leaders to become overly fixated on their own narrow districts, overshadowing the broader interests of the city as a whole. The result has been a detrimental lack of cohesive city planning, glaring disparities in resource allocation, and a persistent failure to address critical, city-wide issues. When complaints arise about resource imbalances, such as the South part of Fullerton not receiving its fair share, we must recognize that the root causes are twofold: the inherent shortcomings of districting and the ineffectiveness of individual councilmembers in forming majorities to advance their districts’ interests. Blaming a supposed “council majority” is a diversion from the real problem – ineffective leadership.

    As a resident of District 5, I am profoundly frustrated by the way Zahra has allowed our community to be marginalized. Instead of taking responsibility for his own failures, Zahra and his supporters have constructed a scapegoat, which they call the “council majority.” It’s time to reevaluate our approach and consider returning to at-large elections, where we have five councilmembers who are directly accountable to the entire city. We should no longer accept ineffective leadership that can’t even navigate basic coalition-building and worse yet, can’t count to three. It’s time to stop the complaints and start demanding stronger, more effective leadership from our one elected representative.

    • Rodrigo – districts were formed in an effort to end the longtime inequity between what is offered to residents on the south side of town compared to the north side. The idea was residents with their own representative on council would have more of a voice. And the theory was that campaigning amongst your neighbors for a seat in a district would be more attainable to those with good ideas but not enough money to run citywide. All council members are responsible for their individual decisions. I agree districting has not solved the problem. It takes three votes to get anything passed and it is clear that this council majority has something other than the south side residents in mind when they do vote – especially when the councilmembers themselves call south side residents “special interests” and “politically motivated”when they speak up for this trail which would benefit everyone.

      • “Blaming a supposed “council majority” is a diversion from the real problem – ineffective leadership.”

        No, no, no. We are a democracy. The majority is ALWAYS the de facto coalition deserving of blame for decisions.

        Period. By definition!

        The council majority voted down the trail with no realistic alternative. The council majority is not pushing for tax increases to accelerate repair of the roads.

        Let’s put blame exactly where it belongs. Well also of course with the citizens since they vote on balance for the representatives that make up that majority. Our government is us.

      • The initial intentions behind creating districts, as you’ve outlined, were noble and aimed at providing better representation. It’s disheartening to observe that despite these good intentions, the reality of districts has not produced the expected results. One still needs to count to three to get anything done. If you feel that the council majority has something other than the south side residents in mind, then perhaps changing the paradigm to where they are incentivized to care – incentivized by way of votes.

        In this context, it’s also worth noting that our elected representative has failed in representing the interests and needs of the south side residents, leading to the disenfranchisement of our constituents, as has occurred in District 2.

  7. I want to applaud the student interns who worked on this project for their hard work. This documentary had the potential to be truly exceptional, offering valuable insights on what led to the failure of Fullerton’s infrastructure. As an educator, this would have been a great video to show my students because the lessons learned could be applied to universally. However, it all fell apart at the end when bias crept in, leaving me as a viewer completely bewildered as to what was happening. The filmmaker allowed personal opinions and agendas to influence their work. It distorted the my understanding of the subject matter and eroded the credibility of the entire documentary. The injection of bias disrupted the coherence of the narrative, making it difficult to discern the truth from a skewed perspective.

    I felt I was watching two different documentaries – one about Fullerton’s failing infrastructure and another about a trail with what looked like a podcast in between the two stories. It just completely fell apart. What started off as a solid documentary ended as one sided propaganda hit piece.

    For the students who are reading: the power of documentaries lies in their ability to shed light on complex issues, inspire critical thinking, and facilitate constructive dialogue. However, your mentor’s bias compromised these ideals, leading to misinformation and reinforcing pre-existing beliefs rather than encouraging open-minded exploration of diverse perspectives.

    • Although I reached a different assessment from yours, I still appreciate your thoughtful and reasoned comment here, and I can understand how you came to your assessment. I think comments like yours can help us all understand one another better.

    • Very thoughtful comment. I hope the student interns take your advice. Their “mentor” has clearly failed them.

  8. This is a good student movie. Why the director Adrian Meza is hiding behind interns is weird. The movie is your movie. If there is criticism, learn to accept it. Man up.

  9. This first half of this video is about the roads being fixed and the history of infrastructure for Fullerton. I have seen more streets being fixed in District 5 (Zahra) than any other district.. so what’s the problem Zahra?

    The second half is mainly about the “trail to no where”. What does that have to do with fixing the roads?!? Nothing! Also in the video you see the same Zahra bots who are at every council meeting. Coincidence? And Why wasn’t Councilmember Dunlap or Mayor Pro Tem Whitaker interviewed for this video?

    Zahra talks about the cuts of the museum, lack of staffing, cuts here and cuts there, etc, yet him and Charles want to spend a grant on a trail that makes no sense and with no staffing to maintain it. Option 3 was to return the grant money OR reproach the agency to use it in a different project which was Mayor Jung’s motion was to use it towards reopening Union Park. So really the grant money wasn’t given back.. it is being redirected to something that makes sense! Good Idea Mayor Jung!!

    • It seems like anytime something comes up that doesn’t vehemently oppose Zahra, the Bushala bots come out in droves. I’m so tired of them.

      The disingenuous “trail to nowhere” phrase gives it away, as it is repeated ad nauseum on Bushala’s blog and parroted by his supporters.

      Can you see how it might be possible that those voicing their opinions at the last council meeting spoke on their own behalf and genuinely wanted the trail for their community?

      • I agree with you as it is a repeated ad nauseum regarding this trail that ZAHRA and his bots have made a video regarding it. They are the only ones in the video discussing it, the only ones interviewed regarding it and really the only ones who keep making it a fact to have this so-called newspaper write about it. I’m tired of that! So to answer your question, NO i do not see that it was possible for them to voice their OWN opinions on their OWN behalf but only on behalf of Zahra.

        • I think we’ll need to agree to disagree. I’ve spoken directly with those at the city council meeting who supported the trail, including the woman who tearfully protested the council majority’s vote. After speaking with them, it is clear that they want the trail for the community, they have been looking forward to it for years, they are truly disappointed by this outcome, and their views are not influenced by politicians. If you speak with these residents, I think you will agree.

          • Many community members from every district have said that they thought the vote was a shame and that they are going to protest. Many of them thought that it was obviously going to be approved, so they did not bother going to city hall.

            • Again, what does that trail and how much staff gets paid have to do with what the video is really about which is the roads and infrastructure? NOTHING!

            • Again, what does that trail and how much staffing gets paid have to do with what the video is really about which is Roads to Ruin? NOTHING!

              • I believe that the interns were trying to give an example of the city council majority not listening to the people or valuing the time, energy, and effort of the people and staff, how they mishandle funds (opting to spend $1 million instead of using money that was already granted), and going against the already council approved plans. There are other examples. This is just one.

                • Nothing was mishandled or opted out when they voted for option 3 to reapproach the agency to use the money on a different project which is reopening Union Park, also something the community has been wanting to happen. Again, what does this have to do with the roads and infrastructure?

                  I believe the interns need to stick to their subject on Fullerton Roads. the video is called “roads to Ruin” … Again, a lot of roads have been fixed. This is another opinion piece from the Observer!

                  • ” option 3 to reapproach the agency”

                    Jeff, did you notice the council majority refused to actually give any discussion time to whether reapproaching the agency with a non-existent plan has any possibility of success.

                    There is absolutely no reason to believe that Option 3 is a real option. Any more than there is any reason to believe that council majority’s lip service to preferring to vote on a bigger picture parks plan is real in any way at all.

                    It’s just fake happy talk to placate the middle that might fall for that as somehow reasonable.

                    If council majority preferred some bigger picture parks plan they would have had a proposal ready to back. There isn’t anything like that, so it’s just a rouse.

                    “a lot of roads have been fixed.”

                    You’re not getting it. Real road maintenance is ongoing constantly, of course. Roads are being fixed. But we’re in a deep hole and the fixes will NEVER catch up with the problem unless more money is dedicated to the purpose.

                    The road to ruin is accurate. It’s about how we got here. And it’s a reasonable call to action given that there is no solution on the table to catch up the backlog of work.

                    • Hello Jeff, I was the mentor for this project. I would just like you to know that Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Whitaker was contacted to be interviewed for this project by the Head of Communications from this project who was an intern. He was selected for his long-lasting tenure up on the Fullerton City Council. He did not reach back to us.

                      The research that was done for this project was understanding how roads are created and maintained, anything that was added to the script was not approved just me but was vetted and debated by all the writers and sometimes the production staff that was involved with this project.

                      I would like to point out that, I personally find it insulting that you do not believe that a group of teenagers could not have done a project like this by themselves. These are smart kids that learned more about the inner workings of a city government, than most adults will know in their entire lives, and for all intent and purposes, I was just there to make sure they were on task and doing what they were doing and not playing Robloxs.

                  • It seems to me that you did not see the city engineers and Mayor Jung interviewed. This was a summer intern project. They discovered the information by talking to people all over the city and at city hall. They watched city council meetings and took video of various streets in every district. I think they did a fantastic job. I am proud of them all. I am not sure why there are trolls here if they dislike the Observer so much I would think they could do better things with their time than harass teenagers.

                    • Why didn’t these interns interview Council-member Dunlap and Mayor Pro Tem Whitaker? When you are an intern you always have a superior or leadership teaching and looking over your work so if the information that these interns gathered from “all over the city” regarding roads and infrastructure which I’m sure most likely was approved by the superior/leadership at the Observer, what does that say about the Fullerton Observer?

      • Explain to me why Observer and Zahra boogeyman Tony Bushala cares at all about this trail. If he owns property there, a trail nice or not, increases his property value. Option 2 which gives a road increases value even more. Explain how doing nothing helps this guy. Surplus land act prevents anyone from selling it to him so explain your theory that he is behind this like Dr. Evil.

        • Doing nothing is better than doing something in the wrong direction, the people are mad as ever right now. As much as you want to think Zahara is behind this or whatever I found out about this trail from students at a coffee shop and then I read about this trail and as someone who lives on the south side it was a no brainer to put a trail there. So, if they agreed to put a road there, I would have donated my social security check to a recall effort. Seeing as they didnt, it leaves it up to hope for both sides, they understand that putting a road there would hurt them and lose the little power they have left (council majority). So saying “we will talk back to the agency” is a way for this guy to still have power, and not push the people too hard for a recall effort.

          I don’t really care about local politics but this is now going to get me more involved, and from reading the comments I guess that makes me a Zahara bot.

          Also this was made by teenagers, give them some credit and stop harassing them.

    • “So really the grant money wasn’t given back.. it is being redirected to something that makes sense! Good Idea Mayor Jung!”

      No, it isnt. It’s aspirational at best. But it’s clear to me that it’s just a ruse to deceive folks. Reasonableness is always nice.

      But they didn’t want to discuss whether that option 3… idea… was in any way likely or reasonable. They voted against discussing it.

      Does that give you a warm fuzzy that they didn’t want to discuss the likelihood of “reapproach the agency” working at all?

      It probably won’t. The most likely result is we gave up the grant and it will stay given up. And that’s the city’s position. The city didn’t vote to just discuss the grant. It voted to give up the grant (the city can do that) or reapproach the agency. We have no control of the agency’s decision, and we’re at the end of the grant making process… it just isn’t how it works. You don’t win a grant in competition with other cities and start over. The most likely result is some other city that applied if only because they’re now further along than we are.

    • Whitaker and Dunlap are the only two council members who did not respond to the interview request.

  10. Kudos to the interns for what I felt was a pretty well balanced and well produced informative piece. I voted against the tax because based upon past history the city can’t be trusted to spend it wisely. I understand that the threshold for a specific-use tax may be a higher hurdle, but it’s a much easier sell to the residents than a sales tax increase which goes into the general fund. It’s also a tax that an anti-new-taxes guy like me would vote for as long as there was a reasonable sunset date. Everyone can see and feel the deteriorating roads.

    Stop bashing the interns. Watch the piece. It’s not an opinion piece masquerading as news like much of the stuff here.

    • I couldn’t agree more, I didnt vote for anything 2012-2020 but im sure I would have voted against a sales tax. Being on a fix income is hard enough, but looking around I believe a quarter here and there would have a positive outcome. But if not then we will need to recall those council members who advertised a tax, because then its being misused, but seeing as Fullerton is on its last leg and managing the services they have now with the budget and deficit they have now is crazy to think it wouldnt.

      And seeing all these comments harassing kids, I didnt know who Bushala was until recently but I dont think harassing a student project is gonna get me on his side

      • What makes you imply that Bushala is behind anybody harassing kids or their project? And BTW, if kids want to enter a public forum, especially as some kind of opinion makers, the first thing they need to understand is criticism. And that’s not harassment, no matter how you try to spin it.

  11. Hey John. Let’s start with the title which is hyperbolic and click bait. Next is the final third. Nothing more than a political hit piece about employee benefits and some trail that has nothing to do with streets and roads. You also conveniently leave out the fact that employees just got a huge 25% salary increase by the council majority you consistently slam. Use facts John. It helps too.

    • The title is fine, can’t argue with it. And the latter part of the video was certainly opinion… but a reasonable, well argued one.

      I will absolutely credit you on giving your own argument this time.

    • Dear “Funny” whoever you are – You are mistaken.
      The documentary was made by high school and college interns of the 45-year-old independent Fullerton Observer Community Newspaper as is clearly stated. In the documentary the statements of the three Fullerton City Council members who accepted invitations to be interviewed on the topic of our town’s failing infrastructure are featured. None of those councilmembers had anything to do with the production. The young people did a great job. You should watch it before commenting.

  12. Extremely informative and well-presented video. Thank you for this deep dive into Fullerton’s infrastructure history. Even though it is frustrating to watch, all of us in the city need to see it. I appreciate this team’s blunt message. You had the courage to say things aloud that a lot of others prefer to whisper about, and I applaud you for that.

    It was especially hard to rewatch the city council meeting on the UP Trail, but it really drove the point home.

    Thank you for this outstanding reporting and for advocating for the betterment of our city.

  13. Excellent explainer and convincing point of view.

    It seems to me it’s a matter of decision by Fullerton citizens. Until we decide to fix the roads, they won’t be fixed. And the simple reality is “deciding” means raising the funds to do it.

    Instead, for some time, Fullerton has been electing people that will tell them yhat we can cut our way to good roads.

    Clearly we’re going to have to bounce along a cracked, pot-holed rock bottom for a while longer before the citizens grow up, face reality, remove the current council majority and raise the necessary funds.

    It’s not rocket science. It’s just a learning process.

  14. I didn’t hear any mention of vast areas of the city being illegitimately declared Redevelopment zones, resulting in diversion of critical funding away from general maintenance. How did we get a $20 million community center while our streets crumbled?

    • History ist sehr verboten! Unless it’s been sanitized by Fullerton Heritage and City Hall.

    • A community center that directly enriches the lives of local residents of all ages seems like a valid use of funds. I myself have directly benefited from many programs through the Community Center and am grateful for its existence.

      This video suggests that funding doesn’t have to be one or the other. It seems like we could have maintained and improved our roads without sacrificing funding to the programs that make our city worth living in. What good are roads if there’s nothing worth driving (or walking, or bicycling) to?

  15. What a joke! You used impressionable high school students on your pet propaganda project. Aren’t you on a committee? Pathetic.

    • How is it propaganda, we are just trying to inform the community of the facts.

    • Hey I missed where you used any convincing factual arguments. Maybe it’s just me, but I think you could set a better example for the kids with your criticism.

      Use your words.

      • John – try watching again for the factual arguments you somehow missed the first time.
        I do agree that the doc could have been presented in several parts rather than one. However, the different parts are connected.
        1) When you fail to budget for an adequate number of employees you don’t have enough employees to do the work of fixing roads, water main breaks, or provide other city services;
        2) When you vote to send back a $1.78 million grant dedicated to building an urban trail (or to use it for something else which can’t be done according to grant language) and prevent discussion on whether that option is viable, you do the city damage.
        3) Calling the overwhelming number of residents working for years on the trail plan, and those speaking in favor of the trail a “special interest group” is especially short-sighted and makes residents wonder who you are really working for.

        • “John – try watching again for the factual arguments you somehow missed the first time.”

          I think you misunderstood my post. I wasn’t referring to the video, which I think is fine. I was responding to Jim.

          • John – oh so sorry- I misunderstood that.
            Agree with you that the kids did a good job on the film.
            There is so much unhelpful criticism – apparently really attacking Zahra and district 5 residents as the council majority are fond of doing.

  16. Watch out for the holes! They are everywhere. For some reason, the city believes just a patch will do. That is costly for filling holes on our streets considering it takes a crew of 6 or more men times X dollars/hour

    • “For some reason, the city believes just a patch will do.”

      No one believes this. Certainly not the city. They are patches, that’s all. Better than nothing.

      If you watch the video it’s absolutely clear everyone on council believes the roads need to be fixed. It’s clear how it got this way, and it’s clear what the problem is: we the citizens wouldn’t support raising sufficient funds to pay for it in the past, and we won’t now.

      The real fix requires money and time. Are you on board for raising taxes to pay to expedite it? Fullerton couldn’t muster a 50+1 majority for it. Doesn’t seem like we want it fixed.