Archives for category: Larry Bennett
Sam Han

Grace Ministries Pastor and Republican State Senator District Director Sam Han, going to bat for the map the bar owners want.

Matthew Leslie
“My name is Sam Han, I’m a resident of the City of Fullerton. I’m also here representing Grace Ministries…,” said Samuel “Sam” Han to the Fullerton City Council on the evening of May 17, speaking during a public hearing about which district elections map to send to voters in November. After noting his service as a former Planning Commissioner, he offered a series of observations about the Korean-American community in Fullerton before stating “we don’t believe that the downtown area should just be monopolized by one member.” He continued, eventually offering support for the efforts of Downtown Fullerton’s bar owners to have all five proposed voting districts converge at the intersections of Harbor Blvd. and Chapman or Harbor and Commonwealth. This opinion, supporting the bar owners’ Map # 8, was offered “on behalf of the five thousand members of our church,” a sizable, primarily Korean-American church located on Commonwealth and Brookhurst, where Mr. Han serves as an Associate Pastor.

GMI Exterior

Grace Ministries…why do it’s 5,000 members care about what Fullerton’s bar owners want?

I’ve transcribed some of Mr. Han’s comments below so readers can try to follow the slender, meandering thread of reasoning he followed to reach his conclusion that a megachurch should take a position on a city’s district elections map, and, in particular, make a specific recommendation to have the district that would contain their church rub up against alcohol-saturated Downtown Fullerton.*

‘…over the years as we’ve worked together with the city council we’ve come to find that you have been receptive, at least to our voice, and some of the needs we have in our community. I will say that the district, unfortunately, creates a situation where you have one city council member who may be more interested in the voices of their particular constituency as opposed to the rest of the city. Koreans don’t just live in one district, we live in multiple districts throughout the city, and we would hope that rest of the members of the city council, even if we’re not a majority in your district, that you would still be attentive to our voices as well. With that being said, as a former planning commissioner myself, I’ve worked though many decisions on the dias, working with business owners downtown…”

And finally…

“I feel the map 8 would actually do a better job at representing a lot of our voices because the downtown area should be considered by all the members.”

We heard the same counterintuitive approach voiced by council candidate Larry Bennett, who replaced Mr. Han in 2014 on Fullerton’s Planning Commission as Mayor Jennifer Fitzgerald’s appointee. It didn’t sound any more convincing coming from Mr. Bennett, which is perhaps why Mr. Han took such a long and circuitous path to try to sound persuasive. He didn’t.

Slidebar-Alley

Outside the Slidebar: What Would Jesus Drink?

Readers will rightly wonder why two successive Planning Commissioners, both appointed by Ms. Fitzgerald, would rush to support a badly drawn map offered by, of all people, Jeremy Popoff, drummer for the band Lit, and owner of Downtown Fullerton’s Slidebar. The Slidebar is a popular place, but I’m guessing that on any given night it is probably not much populated by very many of the “five thousand” members of the Grace Ministries congregation.

To answer the question of why a megachurch whose congregants certainly don’t all live in Fullerton would send a representative to speak on behalf of a bar owners’ proposed map of the city’s possible election districts, we might refer to Mr. Han’s other gig as District Representative for 68th District Sate Senator Donald P. Wagner, a Republican.

Sam Han Collage.jpg

Sam Han didn’t mention his day job…

As noted in our post about Larry Bennett’s support for this ridiculous map, three of Map # 8’s five districts have Republican majorities, leaving only two districts with Democratic Party registrant majorities. Perhaps it just sounded better to have bar owners argue that everyone should “touch” a piece of the action downtown and have a pastor from a megachurch agree with them than it did to have two Republicans appointed by Jennifer Fitzgerald argue for a map that would likely preserve that party’s majority on the Fullerton City Council.

*(Maps #2B  and Map # 11 both group GMI with a west-side district that doesn’t reach downtown; Map #10 includes GMI with all of the downtown).

Larry Bennett Kissing Up to Bars

Larry Bennett, standing up for bars over residents.

Matthew Leslie

When Slidebar owner Jeremy Popoff presented his ridiculous district elections map to the Fullerton City Council on May 17, Planning Commissioner and city council candidate Larry Bennett was there to support him over downtown area residents. As we saw in our previous post, Popoff’s gerrymandered Map # 8 would split downtown five different ways, relegating each strand of it to little more than an afterthought within their respective districts. Not caring much about a large part of the city’s residents, Mr. Bennett was ready and willing to side with the bar owners, who already enjoy the benefits of subsidized parking, redevelopment improvements, and taxpayer-funded extra policing.

During the public hearing over which maps to consider adopting for the planned November district elections ballot measure, Mr. Bennett first made clear that he was “not wild about going to district elections.” He went on to tell the City Council that he was afraid that, in essence, districts would “give us one vote, instead of five votes,” following a standard line of argument against the adoption of the new system to be put before the voters in November. However, after acknowledging that California’s Voting Rights Act is steering cities into adopting district-based elections, he stated a preference for a set of districts that “respects our historical sort of boundaries.” He then cited Harbor Blvd. as the “right place for the districts to come together,” even though such a plan would bisect the downtown residential district in the middle of the city, sacrificing its historic status as the original townsite area of Fullerton while ignoring both the geographical and socioeconomic commonalities shared by its residents, all for a convenient line on a map, and all without offering a single reason to back up his opinion.

Public Submission 08 numbers

Map # 8, submitted by a bar owner–a contortionist would be proud.

Referring to comments earlier that evening about the disenfranchising effect dividing downtown into different districts would have, Mr. Bennett preferred to cling to the illogical notion that somehow dividing the whole area up into five relatively insignificant portions of larger districts would give the area “more representation.” Mr. Bennett, or course, doesn’t live anywhere near the downtown neighborhoods, preferring a comfy home far away up in the hills.

Asserting that the professional demographer hired by the city to conduct the months-long process to develop a map didn’t know Fullerton “like we know Fullerton,” Larry Bennett then hilariously called Map # 8 “an easily understood map,” even though its district boundaries are easily the most convoluted and eccentrically shaped of any submitted. Is it only fealty to a bunch of downtown bars that leads a man to blithely state the opposite of what is sensible with no evidence to back up his baseless claims? Or is it the fact that Map # 8 has a 3 to 2 Republican majority in the way its districts are drawn, unlike Maps # 2B and 10?

Appearing to read from notes, he repeated talking points about the Pasadena experience, where that city’s downtown was split up into several oddly shaped districts. What he didn’t mention was that it was done over the objections of the Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association, who were dead set against the idea. It seems that the residents of Pasadena’s downtown area also understood the disenfranchising effect fragmenting their historic district would have on its residents.

Downtown Pasadena

Pasadena, where residents opposed dividing their downtown the way Larry Bennett wants to divide Fullerton.

Mr. Bennett thinks that our downtown and Pasadena’s are “very similar,” and that “we” would “benefit from following that model as well.” Who would benefit? Not the downtown residents of Fullerton, who would have their district split up five ways, diluting their collective influence over their own region of the city. This last point is critical, because it isn’t just the downtown bars that affect the area’s residents, it’s also the recent high density development projects. By splitting up the most attractive areas for developers into five different districts, any collective voice of the residents most affected by the seemingly endless proposals for multistory apartments along major corridors like Harbor Blvd., Commonwealth, etc. would be lost. Make no mistake, the bar owners’ Map # 8 is a dream for developers, and developers and their advocates contribute to Larry Bennett’s campaigns.

His 2014 campaign filings show contributions from the Waterford Group, The Building Industry Association, the Engineering Contractors Association, Pacific Coast Homes (Chevron)’s Jim Pugliese, and others. Oh, and $ 1,000.00 each from downtown “restaurants” Heroes and Roscoes. Jennifer Fitzgerald’s appointed Planning Commissioner Larry Bennett seems to have no shame in advocating for a map with contorted district boundaries that favor bars and developers over residents, and preserves a Republican majority on the council. Voters should remember where his loyalties are during the November city council elections.

 

Public Submission 08-2 detail

Downtown: Divide and Conquer…

Matthew Leslie

Obligatory Intro…Tuesday night, May 17, the Fullerton City Council was scheduled to choose the single map that will break Fullerton into separate districts to put before voters in November. Under this new system, each of (probably) five districts would elect a single member to the City Council, replacing the current system of electing all council members at-large across the whole city. A settlement agreement with the plaintiffs who sued the city on behalf of underrepresented minority groups (Asian and Latino) requires that the City Council choose a map of district divisions for approval by the voters along with the proposition itself to adopt the district-based system. If the initiative is defeated at the polls, the mapping process would likely be sent to a judge.

For more than eight months the city’s hired consultant demographer held public workshops, met individually with residents, and updated the City Council on the process. The city even put software online that allowed people to directly create their own maps. The goal of these exercises was to create a map of  voting districts of equal populations that didn’t fracture neighborhoods or other obvious “communities of interest.” At the May 11 council meeting, four of the eleven publicly submitted maps received support by members of the public, often the authors of the maps themselves, who spoke to the council during the public hearing. The council decided to narrow the number of maps for consideration down to these four maps. They are numbers 2B, 8, 10 and 11. The council will make a final decision on June 7.

And now, the story…# 8 of the 11 maps submitted was by Jeremy Popoff, owner the SlideBar, located on Commonwealth Avenue, just east of Harbor Blvd. His map is remarkable for having been designed for the expressed purpose of having all five districts meet in Downtown Fullerton. How do we know? Because Mr. Popoff and his bar owner friends expressed this wrongheaded rationale in force last Tuesday as they tried to convince the City Council that it was somehow in all of Fullerton’s interest to gerrymander a voting districts map for 135,000 or so residents around their businesses.

Popoff

SlideBar Owner Jeremy Popoff, because it’s all about the bars…

 

One after another the owners of Branagan’s, Florentine’s, Joe’s, etc., explained that when people thought of Fullerton, they thought of our tiny downtown entertainment district, but instead of giving that district its own representation, it should be split five ways so every district has a piece of it. According to their backwards logic, the downtown area is so important to everyone in Fullerton that everyone in Fullerton deserves a voting district that “touches” downtown. What they mean by downtown, however, is a few small blocks surrounding the intersections of Harbor Blvd./Chapman and Harbor/Commonwealth, where their lucrative bars are located. What they don’t mean by downtown are the many neighborhoods surrounding their businesses—the homes of the residents who actually have a stake in the area because they happen to live there, and suffer the ill effects of the bars on a regular basis. These are the residents the bar owners are desperate to split up into the narrow fingers of five different districts literally stretching to every border in the city. (One tortured district implausibly stretches over the entire south border of Fullerton—just look at the map).

Downtown residents would be inappropriately lumped into one of five voting districts that would contain Cal State Fullerton, Amerige Heights, St. Jude Medical Center, Hillcrest Park, Fullerton College, or some other major institution, fracturing their historic neighborhoods into minority slivers, easily overlooked by council members concerned with other issues in their respective districts. The hubris of the bar owners was matched only by their collective myopia, in arguing that when people think of Fullerton, they think of its downtown, just as they do with Pasadena (!). Really? When I think of Pasadena I think of Caltech and  JPL, the Huntington Library, stately old neighborhoods with landmark Craftsman homes, Art Center, The Norton Simon Museum that escaped Fullerton…and maybe where to eat downtown.

The Slidebar owner’s Map #8 is such an egregious example of exactly what district maps are not supposed to do—split up neighborhoods within a defined geographical area—that it could, and probably would, be challenged in court, or so warned one of the plaintiffs last Tuesday night. But the map’s obvious inadequacies didn’t sway other speakers—notably Planning Commissioner/Council Candidate Larry Bennett and Grace Ministries International’s Sam Han from rushing to sell out Fullerton’s voters to support the bar owners in their self-serving cause. What was even more surprising was that members of the City Council took it seriously enough to include in their final four maps.

Public Submission 08 numbers

A map so bad it’s probably illegal

 

Bar owners in the Restaurant Overlay District who already benefit from city and OCTA subsidized parking, additional police, infrastructural upgrades, and other taxpayer-funded improvements love to host fundraisers for their candidates of choice, many of whom have been subsequently elected to the current City Council  The Fullerton City Council has a responsibility to propose a sensible map that serves the whole city. They should listen to downtown residents who want a unified voice about what happens in their region of the city, and not to the narrow interests of bar owners who like to throw parties for them in election season.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: