Archives for category: Jennifer Fitzgerald
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Should we even try to fill in the blank?

Matthew Leslie

“The City of Fullerton is pleased to announce the Neighbors United For Fullerton will be hosting a public forum with Applicants for the City Council Vacancy at the Fullerton Public Library Conference Center at 6:45 p.m. on Monday, January 28, 2019.”

So reads a city press release advertising a hastily scheduled forum for the twenty five candidates who have submitted applications to fill a vacancy on the Fullerton City Council resulting from now-Mayor Jesus Silva switching from an at-large seat to one in District 3 in the November election. The forum will also serve as one of NUFF’s familiar meet-and-greet opportunities for candidates to speak directly to the public.

Awkward, a little? Perhaps, given that so more than two dozen people are asking the four members of the current council (or three of them, at least) to appoint them to fill out the rest of the at-large term that extends through 2020. It’s difficult to imagine how anyone will have time to properly evaluate so many candidates in such a short time frame. The forum itself is only happening because NUFF moved aside the program originally scheduled for this date and time to accommodate the City Council’s need for a meagre appearance of public process literally the night before possibly appointing one of these lucky Fullerton residents to the seat on Tuesday night, January 29 in during a Special Meeting called for that purpose.

To its credit, the city is live-streaming the forum on its Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/CityofFullerton

but no single forum can adequately serve even the four members of the council themselves in making an appointment that comes just days after the close of the application deadline. Most council members will no doubt simply ignore at least three quarters of the applicants, or more, in a tug of war to form a developer friendly majority for the next two years, with newly elected Ahmad Zahra holding the swing vote power to make it so. Let’s hope Mr. Zahra understands that joining forces with the likes of Jennifer Fitzgerald and Jesus Silva in supporting a candidate like Jan Flory or Larry Bennett will instantly relegate him to an insignificant minority voice on the council for the next two years.

Our best hope is a deadlock to force an election in November, but, meanwhile, enjoy the pretense of democracy tonight before the circus tomorrow night.

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.

Goldberg Library Variations

By staff consultant Rube Goldberg

Matthew Leslie

The Fullerton City Council is having another go at the Library Board appointment process Tuesday night, October 2. “Based on community input on September 18, 2018, the Mayor requests that the City Council discuss, and members of the public to provide input, into an alternate process for appointing members of the Library Board of Trustees“ reads the Staff Report accompanying the Agenda (reproduced below).

While it is true that the community criticized the City Council for not asking the volunteer library support groups Friends of the Library or the Fullerton Library Foundation for their respective opinions on the idea of needlessly changing the Trustee appointment process, as far as we know, nobody ever asked for an alternative process in the first place, other than City Councilmemeber Jennifer Fitzgerald. On May 1 she unilaterally suggested that the City Council appoint themselves as Trustees and create what would essentially be a subservient and powerless Library Advisory Board. What the community did two weeks ago at the last City Council meeting was to roundly reject this idea the Council making themselves the Trustees when we said to just leave the Library Board alone. The community did not say to try to solve a problem that doesn’t exist by terminating a perfectly clear and functional process by which members of the City Council each appoint a Trustee from the community to serve as Trustees.

Like the last agenda two weeks ago, this one does not specify anywhere why any change at all to the Library Board appointment process is needed. As far as we can tell, it is just another solution–and probably a bad one–looking for a problem.

The Staff Report continues…“Such a process could include stakeholders in the Library to include the Friends of the Library, the Library Foundation, and local school districts. A panel of stakeholders could then make a recommendation to the City Council for appointment as Library Board of Trustee appointments become available.” One would hope that members of the City Council were already consulting with these groups when considering appointments to the Library Board, but if it must be codified that people who know a thing or two about the library ought to be listened to, then such an action  seems harmless enough…

…unless, the whole thing is just cover for a majority of the City Council to control the Library Board outright. As it now stands, each Councilmember appoints a single Trustee to a five member Board. This arrangement ensures that the balance of the Library Board reflects the balance on the Council, which is as balanced as the electorate collectively sees fit to make it. If another process is adopted whereby the entire council must approve appointees recommended by the Library Foundation or Friends of the Library, a bare majority will be able to make all five appointments. This is not a strategy for making the Library Board more “independent,” as Mayor Doug Chaffee suggested during his attempted damage control at the last meeting.*

One possible method of adding informed voices to the Library Board would be to allow the Library Foundation and the Friends of the Library each an ex-officio seat on the Board, but allowing them to directly appoint members with voting power changes the way the library is governed, and any such change should be justified somewhere in an agenda report, but isn’t at this time. It’s still a mystery why this entire issue is being bought forth in the first place.

*And since when does Doug Chaffee care so much about a more independent Library Board? He objected to any member of the current Library Board serving on the 2018 Library Ad Hoc Committee, claiming they were too “biased” about what to do with the Hunt Branch. The 2012 Library Ad Hoc Committee included all five Trustees as members.

100218 ADM Library Board Appointment Process Agenda Report

100218 ADM Library Board Appointment Process Agenda Report2

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