Seven candidates, including two incumbents, have filed papers to run for two open seats on the Fullerton City Council. The election takes place on November 4, with vote by mail ballots available a month earlier.
The field consists of Jane Rands, Sean Paden, Doug Chaffee, Greg Sebourn, Larry Bennett, Rick Alvarez, and Bill Chaffee.
Let’s take a look at who they are and who they are likely to serve if elected, ladies first.
Jane Rands is a software engineer who was the top vote getter of candidates not funded by either developers or the police or fire union in the Nov. 2012 General Election. Other than Doug Chaffee, she is the only candidate in this race with a record of opposing 2012’s Measure W, Chevron’s plan to develop Coyote Hills. She is a board member of the Friends of Coyote Hills.
She is also a co-founder of the Police Oversight Proposal Committee (POPC), who formulated a plan for civilian oversight of the Fullerton Police Department in the aftermath of the killing of Kelly Thomas by FPD officers.
She was recently a member of the city’s Downtown Core and Corridors Specific Plan (DCCSP) Advisory Committee, but is working with Friends for a Livable Fullerton‘s Jane Reifer to organize residents and business owners opposed to the plan’s fast-tracking of high density development in some parts of Fullerton. Jane Rands currently serves on and is a past chair of the Bicycle Users Subcommittee, where she has worked to ensure that the city holds true to a vision of increased mobility and safety for cycling on Fullerton streets. She opposed the closing of the Hunt Branch Library. She has contributed stories to the Fullerton Observer.
Former Planning Commissioner Sean Paden, who also ran in 2012, is a construction attorney known for his critical stance on the city’s unfunded pension liability. His refreshingly direct statement calls out the city for increasing water fees while water pipes “burst from neglect.” He suggests instituting a 401K retirement plan for future city employees as a solution to the current budget busting pension plans. He is a current member of the Design Review Committee.
Sean Paden has also been active with POPC. He was instrumental in drafting and presenting an proposed civilian oversight ordinance, ultimately rejected by the City Council, available as a separate page on the Rag. He contributes to the Fullerton Association of Concerned Taxpayers (FACT) website. He supported Measure W in 2012.
Currently serving as mayor for 2014, Attorney Doug Chaffee ran three times before finally being elected in a recall election he did not seem to support. He opposed Measure W in that election, and is the only member of the City Council who actively supports saving Coyote Hills from development (or “overdevelopment,” as he has frequently said in the past). No other current Council member has shown leadership on the impasse between Chevron’s continuing plans for residential and commercial development on the site and the decisive vote against development by over 60% of Fullerton voters two years ago.
Doug Chaffee has also championed the need for a local homeless shelter, working with county officials to open one just over the border in Anaheim. However, he has resisted any meaningful oversight of the troubled Fullerton Police Department, preferring instead to outsource the job to the Office of Independent Review, and going so far as to don a police union sponsored “I (Love) Fullerton Police” t-shirt on the Council dais in 2012.
Current Mayor Pro Tem Greg Sebourn, a land surveyor, ran as a no-nonsense guardian of the public treasury in 2012, one of three candidates backed by the Recall election’s organizer and financier Tony Bushala. Mr. Bushala has since declined to support him, largely over his vote against seeking an outside bid for police services from the OC Sheriff’s Department shortly after taking office (Mr. Bushala appears to have effectively exited the entire political scene at this time). The position endeared Mr. Sebourn to the police union at the time, but it’s hard to imagine them backing him for office when there are other more pliable candidates in the race. Later, he voted with the majority to contract with the Office of Independent Review to provide periodic audits of the police department when it became obvious that there were not enough votes to adopt POPC’s civilian oversight ordinance.
Greg Sebourn opposed the water rate formula (supported by Council members Jennifer Fitzgerald, Doug Chaffee, and Jan Flory) that was designed to retain an inflated portion of the illegal water surcharge that had been funneled into the general fund for years. He also opposed closing the Hunt Branch Library, along with Bruce Whitaker, while the aforementioned trio supported temporarily leasing the facility to neighboring Grace Ministries International. He supported Measure W in 2012.
Former Planning Commissioner Larry Bennett, a financial planner, is essentially an old guard candidate endorsed by many of the same people who tried to keep Don Bankhead, Dick Jones, and Pat McKinley in office two years ago. Voters can decide for themselves whether or not his management of the disastrously ineffective Anti-Recall campaign lends credibility to his administrative abilities, although he can hardly be blamed for losing an election on behalf of such an unpopular and oblivious trio. He pledges to fix Fullerton’s roads and sidewalks and to make pensions sustainable, but is endorsed by the same recalled Council members who helped to cause these same problems. He supported Measure W in 2012.
Current Planning Commissioner Rick Alvarez, who owns a security business, has recently been spotted at both Republican and Democrat meetings looking for support. In 2012 he bizarrely suggested that warehouses ought to be built on West Coyote Hills instead of houses, offering a solution that pleased nobody. It’s hard to figure out exactly why he is running, but he has gained the support of the Fullerton Firefighters Association (union), who have so far contributed $5,000 to his campaign. He was backed by the police union two years ago to the tune of $30,000 in independent expenditures on his and Jan Flory’s behalf. He supported Measure W in 2012.
(Sorry, no picture of Bill Chaffee available)
Bill Chaffee, who lists no profession and did not file a statement, is the brother of Doug Chaffee. It is anyone’s guess why he is running for a City Council seat, although he has publicly criticized his brother in the past. There will be conspiracies about people putting him up to it to confuse voters, to be sure, but the Rag hasn’t seen or heard any evidence to support any theory other than that he decided to do it on his own. His stance on Measure W in 2012 is unknown.
We’ll follow these campaigns in greater detail in the weeks to come, but the best advice the Rag can give is to pay close attention to who is funding each candidate. Can a Council member be objective about a development proposal if they’ve accepted campaign contributions from a landowner or builder? What about signing off on a labor agreement with a union that has contributed money?
With the apparent exit of Tony Bushala from politics, the only real kingmakers now are the police and fire unions, developers, and wealthy landowners who generally want zoning changes like the DCCSP that allow for more development on their properties. Elected officials like Ed Royce and Sharon Quirk-Silva also play a role by offering endorsements that carry weight with different swaths of the electorate, as do the endorsements of the OC Register and the Fullerton Observer.
If you want to see someone succeed who isn’t beholden to big monied interest groups, then be prepared to contribute time and money to that candidate or risk getting an unresponsive City Council more interested in pleasing the special interests who finance their campaigns than listening to Fullerton’s residents.