As a rule, I dislike end of the year wrap-up stories, so let’s take a quick look at just a few things Fullerton has to look forward to, and to look out for, in 2015…
2014 ended with recently re-elected Fullerton Mayor Pro Tem Greg Sebourn being elected to serve as Mayor for 2015 by his colleagues on the Council. Councilmember Jennifer Fitzgerald, who works for Orange County’s most prominent lobbying firm, takes over as Mayor Pro Tem. Mayor Sebourn survived a particularly sleazy negative campaign organized and paid for by the Fullerton Police Officers Association during election season, so we shouldn’t expect to see particularly warm relations between the police and the Mayor’s office. The police needn’t worry much, however, because they still have a compliant Council majority in the form of Councilmembers Fitzgerald, Chaffee, and Flory, and most of the city’s power resides in the office of the City Manager anyway.
New Planning Director
Fullerton has a new Director of Community Development after an extraordinary two and a half year vacancy. Local resident Karen Haluza, who recently served as Interim Director of Santa Ana’s planning department began her new position this past month. On the positive side, Ms. Haluza vocally opposed the awful Amerige Court plan when it was first approved several years ago. On the negative side, she endorsed Measure W, which would have allowed Chevron’s Pacific Coast Homes plan for Coyote Hills to go forward in 2012. Three-fifths of Fullerton voters disagreed with her, soundly defeating that plan, but another is in the works.
New Way to Elect City Council Members?
Two-time City Council candidate Vivian “Kitty” Jaramillo has filed a lawsuit against the City of Fullerton, contending that Latino residents are disenfranchised by the city’s current practice of electing five at-large Councilmembers. Relief would presumably be found in an election-by-district system, where residents would vote for candidates to represent only their district among five (or more?) in the city. Arguments can be made over what system might best serve voters, or whether or not a problem even exists to correct.
New Police Officers and Promotions
The Fullerton Police Department has filled out its ranks by hiring ten new officers. Several others have been promoted to critical positions of leadership as veteran captains have retired.
Old Police Lawsuits
The Rag knows of two current lawsuits against the Fullerton Police Department. The first is the one filed by Ron Thomas over the beating death of his son Kelly at the hands of Fullerton police in 2011. A suit filed by Kelly Thomas’ mother was settled in 2012. Since no one was ever held legally responsible for killing Kelly Thomas (a jury found the officers charged in his death innocent), it may be harder for his father to collect any monetary settlement from the City of Fullerton.
The other lawsuit was filed in 2014, and alleges that a Fullerton police detective coerced sex from a woman during, and in the aftermath of, a child custody case. We’ll have to wait and see whether this lawsuit goes to trial, is dismissed, or is settled out of court. In any case, is that detective still working for the department?
New Body Cameras for Police Officers
All Fullerton police officers are expected to begin wearing body cameras this year, but it remains to be seen whether or not video recordings of contacts with the public will resolve conflicts any better than the already required audio recorders, which can mysteriously malfunction or be turned off. Officers should be seriously disciplined for deactivating cameras, and members of the public should not be prevented from making their own recordings of officer encounters.
New Drought Tolerant Landscaping for City Hall
The lawn in front of City Hall will come out sometime this year, and be replaced by some form of drought tolerant landscape. Let’s hope it becomes a showcase for California’s lush, leafy, green native plants, and not just a giant cactus garden. If Fullerton residents are going to remove their water hungry lawns in favor of drought tolerant landscaping, they need to see something more attractive than spiny succulents. And ditch the decomposed granite, there is nothing wrong with dirt.
(Even More) New High Density Housing
Everywhere, unless the people of Fullerton stand up to City Hall’s plans for more and more mixed-use retail/housing behemoths wherever they can be squeezed in. City Hall wants new tax revenues, but without additional public transportation options or long term local jobs, residents can expect to see more and more traffic on major streets and cut-through traffic in otherwise quiet neighborhoods. Watch out for what may be planned to cast a permanent shadow over your house.
Young Kim will take office as the new Assemblymember representing the 65th District, displacing Sharon Quirk-Silva, whose prospects for re-election were doomed by a dismal Democratic voter turnout last November. Ms. Kim’s campaign consisted largely of promising to protect Proposition 13 and something or other about being business-friendly. Not much to work with, really. And let’s not forget that she is a carpetbagger who moved into the district to run for office. Probably not much to look forward to from her, but we’ll see…