Last week Fullerton City Council Member Jennifer Fitzgerald sent an email to selected Fullerton residents wishing them a Happy New Year, along with “some of the highlights of the past year.” These highlights are listed below, with commentary by the Rag, along with a couple of other highlights she forgot to mention.
“Hired Police Chief Dan Hughes”
Former Captain and Acting Police Chief Dan Hughes was promoted to Chief of the Fullerton Police Department without considering any other candidates for the position and without having in place any system whatsoever for oversight of the troubled FPD.
Months later, 4/5 of the council, including Ms. Fitzgerald, voted to hire Michael Gennaco’s Office of Independent Review to periodically audit the FPD rather than to even seriously consider a Police Commission comprised of members of the Fullerton community to ensure local accountability.
“Returned of millions of dollars in water fee overcharges”
Rather than acting as an advocate for the taxpayers, Jennifer Fitzgerald accepted the city’s own unreliable and senseless account of how much it supposedly costs the municipality to deliver water to households and businesses.
In doing so, she accepted as fact the notion that the city should charge it’s own water department to lease space for storage at a premium rate, even though such lease arrangements were not documented anywhere before. Instead of challenging the city’s transparently self-serving attempt to retain as much of the refund as possible, Ms. Fitzgerald significantly reduced the amount of money returned to ratepayers for the illegal tax. In doing so, she helped to enshrine into practice a higher set of fees for Fullerton ratepayers for years to come.
“Increased funding to fix bad roads and aging water pipes”
Budgeting more money to fix the crumbling streets and exploding water pipes was a critical necessity overlooked, and exacerbated, by underfunding by previous councils. Restoring funding was an obvious move, but at least we should commend Jennnifer Fitzgerald for not opting to sell bonds to finance the decades long project to fix the water system. No wonder she didn’t want to give back all of the illegally collected water tax fees.
“Filled 1,000 backpacks for Fullerton children through Give Back(Packs)”
An admirable volunteer effort to help children in need, but does this activity have anything to do with her position on the Fullerton City Council?
“Created the City’s new Economic Development Commission”
The Economic Development Commission was created to replace a similar one attached to the now defunct Redevelopment Agency. It’s membership includes the Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, an organization already paid by the city to promote business here. Some of the other members work for churches, quasi-governmental organizations, or operate businesses that have benefitted in the past from redevelopment contracts.
“Celebrated the addition of over 100 new jobs with the opening of the largest CJ Foods manufacturing facility in the United States”
Well, let’s celebrate. At least she doesn’t claim any credit for helping to locate this new dumpling factory in Fullerton. Oddly, the City of Fullerton’s website sets the number of new jobs at “over 200.”
Here are two items Ms. Fitzgerald might also have celebrated from 2013, but left out of her list:
Defunding and leasing out the Hunt Branch Library
Even though she ran for office as a supporter of “core services, including police, fire, streets, parks and libraries…” she voted for a budget that defunded the Hunt Branch, keeping it closed indefinitely. She later voted to lease the facility out to a nearby church for nearly two years, leaving low income residents in the area without library services. The rationale for closing the Hunt Branch was that it needed a rest before being reopened as a better facility, but no plans exist to tell us how that is supposed to happen.
Voting to locate a county homeless shelter next to an elementary school
Over the objections of both the Fullerton School District and neighborhood parents Jennifer Fitzgerald voted to accept the county’s plan for a shelter near an entrance to an elementary school, even though residents had proposed other possible locations away from schools. The State College site was chosen by the County Board of Supervisors after being brokered by Vanguard Commercial Real Estate, whose owner is a close friend and supporter of 4th District Supervisor Shawn Nelson (who endorsed Ms. Fitzgerald for city council in 2012). Other members of the city council objected to both the location of the site and the county’s failure to involve the elected officials in the process of choosing it, and voted it down.
Meet the New Year, same as…