Archives for category: Fullerton School District

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Matthew Leslie

On May 15 the Fullerton City Council voted to form Library Ad-Hoc Committee to consider recommendations to explore future uses of the Hunt Branch Library. The library is currently closed, and leased out to neighboring Grace Ministries on a month-to-month basis. Although the Library Board of Trustees seems generally to favor retaining the Hunt as a city facility, opinions on that board differ about what can, and should, be done with it. The City Council is more sharply divided, with two members, Bruce Whitaker and Jesus Silva, voicing support for keeping it in city hands, while Mayor Doug Chaffee has openly advocated selling it. His position is evidently shared by Council member Jennifer Fitzgerald, who was quoted in a May 24 OC Register story as speculating that a sale of the property could help fund library services on the east side of the city. Mayor Pro Tem Greg Sebourn remains uncommitted on the matter. Although some of his comments in the recent meeting could be taken as encouraging by anyone advocating for the Hunt to remain a city asset, he has not ruled out a sale.

Formation of the ad-hoc committee was ultimately approved on a 4-0 vote during the May 15 meeting (Jennifer Fitzgerald absent), but only after extensive discussion by the council. The city staff report proposed a committee of seven that would include two members of the city council, but just one library trustee, in addition to one member each from the Fullerton Parks and Recreation Commission, Fullerton Heritage, and the Fullerton Planning Commission, and the Fullerton Public Library Foundation*. Council member Jesus Silva, who had suggested establishing the committee at an earlier meeting of the City Council, objected to populating the ad-hoc with “a lot of ‘inside players,’” and suggested expanding it to “include some members of the surrounding community” because they would ultimately be most affected by whatever plans were eventually made for the property. Mr. Silva also said he wanted to include representatives from “cultural and educational organizations to see if we can really generate some ideas,” referring to the possible use of the Hunt as a center for cultural and education programming.

Council member Bruce Whitaker agreed, saying that it was “time to step back and take a wider view as to what the beneficial use of this city-owned property might be over time. And that would be the effort of the ad-hoc committee—to bring people who are creative and who might help forge partnerships that would allow us to renew that facility in a part of town where we need that, where we don’t have much in the way of city facilities.”

Mr. Silva suggested reducing the number of city councilors on the ad-hoc to one, and adding a member of the elementary school district board, another library trustee, and members of the public. Mayor Chaffee objected to including any library trustees at all, stating “I hear way too much bias when I listen to that group.”

Mayor Pro Tem Greg Sebourn called the ad-hoc an opportunity for “getting the community engaged.” He supported including a mix of public members, and didn’t see the need to include a member of the city council. His motion to get the committee started by having each member of the council simply appoint a person of his or her choice was the plan eventually adopted at the meeting. These five initial appointments are expected to be announced at the June 3 meeting of the city council. Library Director Judy Booth will be included as an ex-officio member.

Once convened, the new ad-hoc will appoint four additional members. A link is present on the city’s website for applications for the committee, but does not yet lead to an actual application. Interested parties are encouraged to call or email the City Clerk’s office to find out how to apply at (714) 738-6350 or CityClerksOffice@cityoffullerton.com.

Though not technically required to do so, the new ad-hoc will proceed in accordance with the Brown Act, announcing meetings in advance, and open them to the public, and keep minutes. Rather than the sixty days recommended by city staff, the committee will continue for at least ninety days. During this time City Manager Ken Domer will contact “educational and cultural arts organizations interested in utilizing the property” in advance of an anticipated City Council Study Session later this year.

Some of the many members of the public who spoke to the issue that night didn’t see the need for the formation of an ad-hoc committee at all. Elizabeth Gibbs recalled that another such committee had already existed five years ago, whose recommendations had been adopted by the Fullerton Library Board of Trustees. Others agreed that the trustees themselves were the appropriate body to explore options for the Hunt, but Mayor Chaffee characterized the Hunt as “a building owned by the city without any purpose or restriction on it,”

Area resident Maria Hernandez recalled visiting the Hunt Branch Library frequently with her children, and told the council that if they “converted Hunt Branch library into a cultural center, (they) would be creating jobs, family activities, and come to the rescue of a historic site…” 

Library Trustee Ryan Cantor, who was himself a member of original 2012 ad-hoc  committee, took issue with the agenda item’s reference to the Hunt as a “former library,” as did current Fullerton Library Board of Trustees President Sean Paden. “It’s not the former library, it is the library. It’s closed, but it’s still our library,” said Mr. Paden.  In response, the  city council agreed not to refer to the Hunt Branch in those terms from that point forward. Trustee Cantor recommended issuing Requests for Proposals from interested community groups who might be able to provide funding and/or programming for the Hunt, something also discussed during Library Board meetings.

Nine days later the Library Board itself considered several items regarding the Hunt during their regular May meeting. Rather than meeting in the small boardroom in the west part of the building, the May 24 meeting was held in the Main Library’s Osbourn Auditorium to accommodate the unusual presence of nearly forty public observers. The trustees adopted a document intended to “Define the Intent of the Gift of the Hunt Library.” 

As requested in their previous Special Meeting of May 5, a representative from the office of the City Attorney was present in the person of Deputy City Attorney Kim Barlow for consultation about legal actions the trustees might choose to take over any proposed sale of the Hunt. Ms. Barlow promised to respond to questions in a confidential email to the trustees.

*The Fullerton Public Library Foundation is a non-profit that raises supplemental funds for specific library projects, and is distinct from the Fullerton Public Library Board of Trustees, and from the Friends of the Fullerton Public Library who organize periodic book sales and operate the library’s book store.

Fitzgerald-New-Year

Happy New Year

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”

(Note: Dan Hughes was actually hired in 2012)

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…

Judith blog

Judith Kaluzny, perhaps enjoying the park she saved from having a road built through it.

Attorney, mediator, and journalist Judith Kaluzny has debuted her blog recounting her experiences as an activist in Fullerton. The first entry on My Fullerton History touches on her role in establishing the Community Open School at the Maple School site in the early 1970’s. We look forward to reading more stories about the history of Fullerton through one the city’s most dedicated and insightful longtime residents.

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