The Monday morning changing of the guard at city hall in the council chambers was well-attended. Photographers, videographers, well-wishers for those leaving and for those coming. After the council certified the dis-election of three-fifths of them, they left, and their supporters left–most of the room was cleared.
As I had taken my seat after the prayer and the flag salute, I noticed three women in the front row, women with white hair and dressed in white shirts. “The three graces,” I thought, with a vague memory of something literary. Then I noticed there were four, four snow-topped snowy-clad women. “The four furies,” I thought, literally again. None of them rose to speak.
No, I realized, these four were the Ghosts of Fullerton Past. They represented the Fullerton old guard, the people with whom Fullerton lives on as a city of colleges, of trees, of schools, of art, of gentle, polite elections.
The old guard failed to take any notice of, and cannot perceive, the gradual deterioration of our city. Former mayor Buck Catlin said in 2001, regarding the central business district regulation, “We wanted the downtown to remain the center of the city.”
Well, the center has rotted out. We are in the midst of nearly a city meltdown. Think of the lawsuits pending and settled–the sexual harassment cases, seven complaints ignored. One settlement in the Kelly Thomas case, another suit filed. Many citizens last summer and fall told the council of abuse by police officers, verbal and physical.
I say the council-created downtown partyhood enables behaviors so deadening to any feelings a police officer might have that this directly leads to an atmosphere in which a man can be beaten mercilessly, relentlessly, by two police officers while at least four others stand by to watch, hardened by the Fullerton downtown regular mayhem they deal with.
Police Capt. Greg Mayes said in 2008 that officers suffered “extreme grief” on patrol downtown between 10:00 p. m. and 2:00 a. m. “There are refusals to comply with requests, insults, flipping off, groups starting fights when officers are right there. One Sunday night, four guys jumped one man on the corner of Wilshire and Harbor. The man was in the hospital four days. With college kids, we did well. Now it’s the party circuit, a different town every night.” What toll on the officers, that “extreme grief?”
What we have is also a seedy-looking center of our city. A young resident told the mayor at one of her meetings that he does not bring his family downtown because it is not safe, and it looks unsafe with all the window gouging. Nearly every last window on Harbor between Chapman and Commonwealth. Other people have told me of the filth on a Saturday or Sunday morning if they walk downtown for breakfast.
But the old guard defended to the end those long-elected council members who created this blot on our civic landscape in 2002, and the police department aiders and abetters.
Photo by Jane Rands