Matthew Leslie

Several months ago Fullerton City Councilmember Jennifer Fitzgerald unexpectedly made the audacious suggestion that the City Council should appoint itself to the five seats on the Fullerton Library Board of Trustees instead of each appointing a constituent to it. Her comments during the recent council meeting on August 7 revealed a possible reason for her April remarks about replacing Library Board members with the council itself.

On August 7 Ms. Fitzgerald was responding to a “Receive and File” report entitled “DISCUSSION ON BUDGET STRATEGIES TO INCREASE STREET INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING” prepared by the office of the City Manager:

“What I don’t find in this staff report is any kind of, ah, recognition that we can’t do business the way we’ve always done it before. So, the conclusion here is that we have to cut services, and cut employees, and, you know, just the way that you’ve laid everything out here, it looks like you’re going to be telling us that we’ll have to lay off so many fire and police, and so, what I want to look at is doing business differently, and the only, services, the services you point out here, for contracting out are very small. I want to look at, you know, wholesale changes to the way we do business so the city can be sustainable into the future. Our library, for instance, the county runs libraries…do, should be we in the library business?

Like her move to displace members of Library Board with herself and other members of the council, the suggestion that the city shouldn’t operate its own library was left to dangle in the wind, receiving no vocal support from any of the other members of the council present that evening.

Some might argue that turning the century old Fullerton Public Library over to county library system is a valid option to explore in times of fiscal desperation, the kind presided over by Jennifer Fitzgerald during her six years on the Fullerton City Council,  but note that she is responding to the report’s recommendation to cut fire and police personnel by instead suggesting the outsourcing of IT and the library system. Of course, if she really wanted to consider all possibilities, the Fullerton Police Department, whose budget is much higher that that of the library, could be turned over to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to save money. But the last time anyone suggested even getting a bid from OCSD six years ago Fullerton’s police union set up a booth on public property in the city hall parking lot and gave out free hot dogs to rally the public against the idea before flooding the council chambers with its booing and cheering members.

If Jennifer Fitzgerald really wants to outsource Fullerton’s government to save money, how about starting with the biggest source of spending in the city? According to this chart form the city’s adopted 2018-2019 budget, the police and firefighters take up 49% of General Fund expenditures while the library gets just 4%. If she really wants to explore all options to save money, all city departments and services should be on the table, not just those without powerful unions who spend large amounts of money to support or oppose City Council candidates.

Total Expeditures City Budget

Police: and Fire 49%, Library 4%.

Oh, and “we’re getting ready to start a paid parking pilot program, hopefully, if this council votes for it in our downtown,” she concluded, so now you will have to pay to park downtown.