Twilight Zone Kick the Can

“This is tough one, better wait until after the election…”

When we last left the Downtown Core and Corridors Specific Plan it was August, and the City Council voted to postpone a decision on the controversial 1,300 acre plan until “a date uncertain.” That date uncertain now seems to certainly be sometime after the November City Council elections. When the DCCSP was scheduled to be considered by the City Council on August 5 the Rag pointed out that both Mayor Doug Chaffee and Council member Jennifer Fitzgerald would need to recuse themselves from voting on it because each had a financial interest in separate properties located within 500 feet of the plan area.

The City Attorney suggested that all council members would be able to vote on the plan because it was of such importance that it would override conflicts of interest the two aforementioned council members might have. The City Attorney’s logic was completely backwards, of course. The primary problem with the DCCSP is that it is inherently too large and comprehensive a plan for anyone other than perhaps the voters themselves to consider. Suggesting that it was of overriding importance is ludicrous, when the plan could easily be broken up into smaller constituent parts that would obviate the need for Council Members to recuse themselves in most cases. To assert that a plan for development is somehow of such importance that it overrides a clear financial conflict of interest on the part of some Council members is also a measure of what passes for important these days.

“Too Big to Mail” were the words of Friends for a Livable Fullerton founder Jane Reifer, who objected to the city’s failure to effectively alert property owners and local businesses of the impending vote. Mayor Chaffee and the rest of the City Council quickly decided that a study session was in order and that thousands of residents in the draft plan area should indeed receive letters notifying them about the DCCSP before any action by the Council should be taken. No date was set, but the month of October was mentioned. However, the DCCSP doesn’t appear anywhere on the forecasts found at the bottom of the latest City Council agendas, leaving the Rag to conclude that no study session and no vote will be heard until after the Nov. 4 election, although “Conflict of Interest Code” update does seem to be scheduled for October 21.

Fullerton Project Logo2

Why it will have taken the City Attorney two and a half months to update the City Council on what properly constitutes a conflict of interest as defined by state law is unclear, but the timing of the update suggests that the DCCSP could be heard right after the election.

Waiting until after Nov. 4 will save two incumbent candidates from alienating either the developers, who want to see the DCCSP approved to streamline high density residential projects over much of the city, or voters, who are rightly concerned about what impacts these developments may have on their neighborhoods. The outcome of the election could also change the balance of power on the council, making it either harder or easier to pass the plan with new members in place. But if the DCCSP vote is taken right after the election and the Council decides that conflicts of interest-be-damned and everyone can vote, then the plan’s backers can have their cake and eat it too because they can probably count on a three vote majority to pass it following the election even if one of those three isn’t re-elected because a new council would not be seated for another two meetings.

In one sense, voters will have the chance to weigh in on the plan by choosing who to elect in November. Kicking the can down the road may be convenient for some candidates now, but anyone running for Fullerton City Council should have something substantive to say about the DCCSP one way or the other, or they shouldn’t be in the race. And if the City Council membership does change after November 4, then a vote of this magnitude should not be taken until a new Council is seated.

It’s been five days since the OC Weekly’s Gabriel San Roman broke the news of the most recent lawsuit against the Fullerton Police Department. The suit accuses a now former Detective from the FPD of coercing sex from a woman in exchange for favorable testimony in the woman’s custody case. The suit also alleges that other FPD officers tipped off the detective to an attempted anonymous complaint by the plaintiff, and alleges that the detective threatened the plaintiff as a result. We don’t know if any of these accusations are true, but one would think that the county’s only daily newspaper would have noticed the story by now.

The Orange County Register found the time to publish a story about a new anti-loitering ordinance just adopted by the City Council, and one about the new, expensive body cameras Fullerton Police officers will now be required to wear, but nothing at all about allegations that an FPD detective may have done some seriously ugly and abusive things to a woman, or about how much money it could cost the city in damages paid to her if a jury decides in her favor.

Late last year the Rag pondered the relationship between Cornerstone Communications, a public relations firm that counts the City of Fullerton as one of its clients, and the OC Register. Cornerstone Communications provides police-friendly stories under the heading Behind the Badge OC to the OC Register, content that used to appear on the now defunct website Fullerton Police News. In that 2012 story we wondered how much Fullerton’s taxpayers were paying a PR firm to write positive stories about our own police department to have spoon fed back to us online and in print. Well, it’s even worse if serious stories about the police are being ignored because the Register relies on this PR firm for some of its coverage of the subject, because you can bet that Behind the Badge OC won’t have much to say about the lawsuit.

Fracking Historial Oil Banner

UPDATE: See below for more information about attending or watching the event.

A program entitled “Symposium on the Impact of Oil Extraction in Orange County” has been scheduled for Tuesday, September 23, 6:00 p.m., at the Titan Student Union, Cal State Fullerton. The stated purpose of the event is to “provide local policy makers and the public objective, impartial information about the environmental impact of oil extraction in north Orange County.”

The symposium comes at a time when many in North OC and elsewhere across the country are rightly concerned about the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and the acidization of oil and natural gas wells by the drilling industry. Both processes utilize chemical mixtures and large amounts of water to loosen and extract deep oil and gas deposits in an attempt to wring the last usable fossil fuels from the earth. The controversial practices have been linked to groundwater contamination by proprietary chemicals and natural gas and to earthquakes.

Documentaries like Split Estate and Gasland have chronicled the damage done to homes and lives near fracking sites in other parts of the country, where water has been so polluted that it’s actually flammable.

The fate of Fullerton's groundwater?

The fate of Fullerton’s groundwater?

Earlier this year Fullerton’s Director of Engineering Don Hoppe deflected concerns about water contamination by stating during a meeting of the City Council that drilling occurs well below the water table, but he evidently did not consider that the old concrete lining well shafts will inevitably crack, leaving the ground around it vulnerable to whatever chemical laden water is left there, years after the drilling activity has ceased.

Fullerton residents are encouraged to attend the symposium on Sept. 23, but keep in mind that no critics of the controversial processes were invited to take part in it as part of the panel.

UPDATE;  Here are details about the event from the organizers, including links to a parking map, instructions for registering for attendance, and how to watch it live at home…

Doors open at 5:30pm and the program will begin at 6:00 pm.

Register:

To guarantee a seat please R.S.V.P. Closing on Friday, September 19th, 5PM.

Audience members are encouraged to submit questions to the panelists. Questions can be submitted in advance via this website, or may be emailed directly to frackingsymp@fullerton.edu.

Parking:

Free parking will be made available in the State College Parking Structure (SCPS) located on State college two blocks north of Nutwood Ave. This structure is the nearest to the TSU and parking opens at 5pm. If the structure is at capacity, you will be redirected to Lot A (see map). You are strongly encouraged to carpool.

http://www.fullerton.edu/campusmap/CampusMap.htm

 Live Video Streaming:

Live video stream available on September 23. http://titancom.fullerton.edu/broadcast/LiveWebTV_comm_flash.html
And with mobile device using the iFullerton app for Android and Apple devices.
This program will be also cablecast live on the Titan channel:
Time Warner Cable channel 15-202 (in Fullerton) and some of the participating cities in Orange County (Check with T.W.C.)
AT&T-Uverse (Southern California) Channel 99/City of Santa Ana/TitanTV Channel CSUF

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