Archives for category: Homeless Shelter

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

Jane Rands

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.

Sean Paden

Sean Paden

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.

Doug Chaffee

Doug Chaffee

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.

Greg Sebourn

Greg Sebourn

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.

Larry Bennett

Larry Bennett

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.

Rick Alvarez

Rick Alvarez

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.


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…

Homeless-Report-CoverIn a September 11 Orange County Register article by reporter Lou Ponsi entitled 59 Cited for Illegal Camping Fullerton Police Chief Dan Hughes attributes the recent spate of citations for illegal camping–59 since August 24–to both an increased number of homeless individuals and an increase in complaints about them. “The citations stemmed from complaints from business owners and residents, with most infractions taking place on private property,” notes the author.

But chapter 7.105 of the Fullerton Municipal Code refers to “Camping Unlawfully” as camping in public parks, public streets, public parking lots, public parking structures, and public areas in general. Camping on private property is called trespassing, addressed separately in the code, which begs the question of how someone can be cited for unlawful camping on private property when the ordinance specifically defines the infraction as applying to public spaces.

The article quotes Chief Hughes’ statement that “Homelessness is growing and impacting our communities in ways we have not experienced before,” and “Since there is no other entity able or willing to deal with the issues associated with homelessness, local law enforcement has been given the responsibility to do so.”

There can be little argument that not enough services exist for homeless people, but what is the basis for the claim that “Homelessness is growing?”

The County of Orange’s biennial homeless count came to just the opposite conclusion earlier this year. The county-wide 2013 Point-in-Time survey found that homelessness was actually down overall. Page five of the report shows that homelessness decreased in Orange County, from over 18,000 in 2011 to 12,707 in 2013.

Is homelessness growing in Fullerton while shrinking in the rest of our county? Or the whole country? The report notes that the downward trend in Orange County is consistent with the rest of the U.S. “Given the size, density and income distribution in the County, this estimate is congruent with national figures and provides a reference point with which to compare 2013 data.”

We are left to wonder how and why an overall decreasing population of homeless individuals are somehow a problem in new and novel ways in Fullerton, and why there is a need to suddenly begin enforcing an anti-camping ordinance and improperly apply it to individuals sleeping on private property.

Fullerton activist Stephan Baxter claimed that two months ago the Fullerton Chamber of Commerce instigated the crackdown on homeless people sleeping downtown by demanding that the police department do something about them. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Theresa Harvey has not responded to an email from Fullerton Rag asking for confirmation that such a request was made.

Mr. Baxter is calling for speakers to address the Fullerton City Council about the recent ticketing of homeless people downtown during the public comments period of their next meeting on September 17, 6:30 p.m.

At 8:30 that same night, Mr. Baxter and others plan to camp overnight at the Fullerton Transportation Center to protest the enforcement of the ordinance.

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