Archives for category: District Elections

The empty seat on the Fullerton City Council should be filled by election, not by appointment.

Diane Vena

(Reprinted from the Fulleton Observer and the Voice of OC)

When Jesus Silva was sworn in as the District 3 Fullerton City Council Member at the December 4 City Council meeting, he vacated the remaining two years of his at-large seat on the Council.  At the December 18 meeting, the new City Council should schedule a special election for the Fullerton voters to determine who will fill the remaining two years of his at-large seat rather than appoint his replacement.

On November 6, a majority on the Council approved a change to the Fullerton Municipal Code that no longer requires a special election to fill a vacancy on the City Council. The revised code still allows for a special election, but it also now gives the Council the power to appoint a council member for the second half of a four-year term without an election.

Residents who were able to attend that Council meeting while the polls were still open on election night, spoke in opposition to this change and expressed concerns that the Council was making this change just in time so that it could appoint a replacement if Silva won his bid for District 3.

Council Member Fitzgerald dismissed the residents’ concerns saying, “We are not having that debate (about whether the Council will appoint a replacement).” She and Council Member Whitaker each stated that the change was simply to align with a new state law – enacted in 2015.

But Fullerton’s code prior to the Council’s changes, last updated in 2011, was not out of synch with the latest version of California Government Code 36512. While the state law does allow a city council to appoint a replacement for the second half of a council member term without a special election, it does not require a city to adopt that option. Section (c)(1) explicitly states that “a city may enact an ordinance that requires that a special election be called immediately to fill every city council vacancy.”

When this important decision comes before the Council on December 18, the argument in favor of appointing will likely be that the cost of holding a special election is too much. When City staff introduced the ordinance at the October 16 meeting to change the code, they estimated a cost of $391,532- $428,150 to run a special election and $224,055 – $260,866 for an all-mail ballot election, which the City might be able to hold if it meets specific criteria in Elections Code Section 4005.

But how much is “too much” when the rights of voters to determine one of five people to represent a city of 130,000 for two years is at stake?

When the Council considers what our voting rights are worth, hopefully it will also consider the opportunities at which it failed to avoid the potential need to fill a council vacancy during the transition to by-district elections. The Council made the decision that created the potential for this vacancy when it chose to place District 3 on the ballot in 2018 knowing that there were two current council members residing in that district and that both would likely run and if the more recently elected was to win, he would have to vacate his at-large seat.

If the Council then argues that it had to put District 3 on the ballot in 2018 to “be fair” to Council Member Sebourn who, upon nearing the end of his at-large term in 2018, would otherwise not be able to run for re-election in his district, that problem was also created by the Council. In August of 2016 it chose the district boundaries. To avoid placing then Council Members Chaffee and Sebourn both in District 2, it approved a map that cut-out a small segment of District 2 to put Council Member Sebourn into his own district, District 3, where no other council member lived until Silva was elected in November 2016.

Voting rights are priceless and should not be taken away to fix any of the problems the Council created. We elect a council member to be one and only one representative on the Council. Making an appointment would give the council members more representation than they rightfully have. The Council makes important decisions that have far-reaching and long-lasting effects on all who live in Fullerton. Those decisions should only be made by voter-elected representatives.

It is unfortunate that when Fullerton is trying to increase voter representation on the Council through a change to district elections, there is now a move to decrease it, which is what would occur if an appointment rather than a special election is used to fill the vacancy on the Fullerton City Council.

Distrcit-3-Roster-2018-Image

Left to Right, Jesus Silva, Greg Sebourn, Nickolas Wildstar

Matthew Leslie

Fullerton is transitioning from at-large elections to district-based elections this year. Candidates are filing to run for Fulleton City Council in specific, discreet districts, two of which (3 and 5) are up for election in 2018. Candidates are required to live in the district they intend to represent at the time they file for office. The final day to turn in the required signatures for Fullerton City Council was August 10.  Following the submission of signatures by candidates, Fullerton’s City Clerk must certify that the signatures are valid, using the data of the Orange County Registrar of Voters.

The 2018 Fullerton City Council Candidate Filing Log shows that three candidates have qualified to appear on the ballot in November for District 3. I have listed them below in the order they appear on the city’s filing log.

Jesus Silva is an incumbent Fullerton City Council member. He was elected to an at-large seat in 2016, and can continue in that office until 2020. However, since his residence is now in the same district as that of Greg Sebourn, on the council in an at-large seat since 2014, he would not be able to run again until 2022 when that district is again on the ballot. So, Jesus Silva has chosen to run for the District 3 seat, which is sort of a no-fault decision. If he wins, he will occupy that seat through 2022; if he loses, he will be no better or worse off than he is now. If he wins, there should be a special election to fill the remaining term of his at-large seat.*

Mr. Silva’s ballot designation is “City of Fullerton Councilmember / Teacher.”

Greg Sebourn is currently Mayor Pro Tem of Fullertona largely ceremonially title, which, like Mayor in Fullerton, is awarded annually by the council itself, generally on a rotational basis. Greg Sebourn was first elected during the Recall Election of 2012, filling the seat left by successfully recalled Don Bankhead. Mr. Sebourn was re-elected in 2014.

Greg Sebourn’s ballot designation is “Mayor Pro Tem.”

Nickolas Wildstar ran for Governor of California this year, placing 17th in the primary (only the top two candidates advance to the General Election in November), which may explain why his website refers to statewide issues, and the word “Fullerton” does not seem to appear anywhere on it. A July 30 entry on his Facebook page urges voters to make him the “Next Mayor of Anaheim.”

Nickolas Wildstar’s ballot designation is “Recording Artist.”

A fourth prospective candidate, Mohammad Abdel Haq, pulled papers to run on August 9, but did not submit them, and so will not appear on the ballot.

*During a recent public presentation about the new district-based election system, our City Clerk suggested that if Mr. Silva wins the District 3 seat, the City Council might simply choose to appoint Greg Sebourn, who would then be off the council, to fill the remaining two years of Mr. Silva’s at-large seat. Such an action, in the opinion of The Rag, would be undemocratic, to say the least, and should not be taken by the City Council. If this election results in a vacant two year at-large term, a special election should be held to fill it.

Marshall 501 Copy

Matthew Leslie

Paulette Marshall Chaffee, wife of current Fullerton Mayor Doug Chaffee, is evidently so desperate to get elected to the Fullerton City Council this year that she has filed papers of intent to run in District 5. As far as I know, Mr. and Mrs. Chaffee reside in District 2. Ms. Marshall Chaffee filed both a Form 501 Candidate Intention Statement and a Form 410 establishing a candidate committee called “Paulette Marshall Chaffee For Fullerton City Council 2018 District 5.” Candidates may not actually file for the office until this summer. According to law, candidates must be registered to vote in the district in which they intend to run for office.

Fullerton voters adopted district-based city council elections in 2016, but were given only one map, divided into five districts, to approve. One of the lawsuits that prompted the change specifically cited the difficulty Latino candidates have historically faced in at-large elections. Although severely flawed, the map the council ultimately recommended to the voters did at least include a district with a Latino majority—District 5.

Despite Doug Chaffee’s best efforts, District 2, where the Chaffees live, was not selected by the Fullerton City Council as one of the two districts scheduled to appear on the ballot in 2018. The at-large terms of both Doug Chaffee and Greg Sebourn end in 2018.

The question of which two districts would be selected to go on the ballot in 2018 was taken up by the city council last year. On February 21, 2017, Doug Chaffee voted in a majority with Jesus Silva and Bruce Whitaker for Districts 2 and 5 to be up for election in 2018. However, then-Mayor Bruce Whitaker re-agendized the item for the following council meeting. Less than three weeks later, on March 7, he brought the same item back for reconsideration by the council. This time, Districts 3 was selected, instead of District 2, to appear on the ballot in 2018 along with District 5. Jesus Silva and Doug Chaffee opposed the change.

During public comments preceding the March 7 vote, I asked council members to divulge whether or not they were aware of any members of their households who might be planning to run for election to the council in 2018 so the public might consider whether or not any such plans might have a bearing on the decision scheduled to be made that night. No council members responded.

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