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Fullerton rings in the New Year

Fullerton rings in the New Year

As a rule, I dislike end of the year wrap-up stories, so let’s take a quick look at just a few things Fullerton has to look forward to, and to look out for, in 2015…

New Mayor

2014 ended with recently re-elected Fullerton Mayor Pro Tem Greg Sebourn being elected to serve as Mayor for 2015 by his colleagues on the Council.  Councilmember Jennifer Fitzgerald, who works for Orange County’s most prominent lobbying firm, takes over as Mayor Pro Tem.  Mayor Sebourn survived a particularly sleazy negative campaign organized and paid for by the Fullerton Police Officers Association during election season, so we shouldn’t expect to see particularly warm relations between the police and the Mayor’s office. The police needn’t worry much, however, because they still have a compliant Council majority in the form of Councilmembers Fitzgerald, Chaffee, and Flory, and most of the city’s power resides in the office of the City Manager anyway.

New Planning Director

Fullerton has a new Director of Community Development after an extraordinary two and a half year vacancy. Local resident Karen Haluza, who recently served as Interim Director of Santa Ana’s planning department began her new position this past month. On the positive side, Ms. Haluza vocally opposed the awful Amerige Court plan when it was first approved several years ago. On the negative side, she endorsed Measure W, which would have allowed Chevron’s Pacific Coast Homes plan for Coyote Hills to go forward in 2012. Three-fifths of Fullerton voters disagreed with her, soundly defeating that plan, but another is in the works.

New Way to Elect City Council Members?

Two-time City Council candidate Vivian “Kitty” Jaramillo has filed a lawsuit against the City of Fullerton, contending that Latino residents are disenfranchised by the city’s current practice of electing five at-large Councilmembers. Relief would presumably be found in an election-by-district system, where residents would vote for candidates to represent only their district among five (or more?) in the city. Arguments can be made over what system might best serve voters, or whether or not a problem even exists to correct.

New Police Officers and Promotions

The Fullerton Police Department has filled out its ranks by hiring ten new officers. Several others have been promoted to critical positions of leadership as veteran captains have retired.

Old Police Lawsuits

The Rag knows of two current lawsuits against the Fullerton Police Department. The first is the one filed by Ron Thomas over the beating death of his son Kelly at the hands of Fullerton police in 2011. A suit filed by Kelly Thomas’ mother was settled in 2012. Since no one was ever held legally responsible for killing Kelly Thomas (a jury found the officers charged in his death innocent), it may be harder for his father to collect any monetary settlement from the City of Fullerton.

The other lawsuit was filed in 2014, and alleges that a Fullerton police detective coerced sex from a woman during, and in the aftermath of, a child custody case. We’ll have to wait and see whether this lawsuit goes to trial, is dismissed, or is settled out of court. In any case, is that detective still working for the department?

New Body Cameras for Police Officers

All Fullerton police officers are expected to begin wearing body cameras this year, but it remains to be seen whether or not video recordings of contacts with the public will resolve conflicts any better than the already required audio recorders, which can mysteriously malfunction or be turned off. Officers should be seriously disciplined for deactivating cameras, and members of the public should not be prevented from making their own recordings of officer encounters.

New Drought Tolerant Landscaping for City Hall

The lawn in front of City Hall will come out sometime this year, and be replaced by some form of drought tolerant landscape. Let’s hope it becomes a showcase for California’s lush, leafy, green native plants, and not just a giant cactus garden. If Fullerton residents are going to remove their water hungry lawns in favor of drought tolerant landscaping, they need to see something more attractive than spiny succulents. And ditch the decomposed granite, there is nothing wrong with dirt.

(Even More) New High Density Housing

Everywhere, unless the people of Fullerton stand up to City Hall’s plans for more and more mixed-use retail/housing behemoths wherever they can be squeezed in. City Hall wants new tax revenues, but without additional public transportation options or long term local jobs, residents can expect to see more and more traffic on major streets and cut-through traffic in otherwise quiet neighborhoods. Watch out for what may be planned to cast a permanent shadow over your house.

New Assemblymember

Young Kim will take office as the new Assemblymember representing the 65th District, displacing Sharon Quirk-Silva, whose prospects for re-election were doomed by a dismal Democratic voter turnout last November. Ms. Kim’s campaign consisted largely of promising to protect Proposition 13 and something or other about being business-friendly. Not much to work with, really. And let’s not forget that she is a carpetbagger who moved into the district to run for office. Probably not much to look forward to from her, but we’ll see…

Negative-Sebourn-Mailer

Courtesy of your police.

Until late last week 2014’s City Council campaigns had been refreshingly free of negative campaigning, but the Fullerton Police Officers Association simply has too much money not to spend it slinging mud at its chosen targets. FPOA financed robocalls and mailers to Fullerton households focused on Mayor Pro Tem Greg Sebourn with a scattershot litany of accusations and misrepresentations about his record. The robocall ended with a hilariously over the top pronouncement that “we all” had had enough of him. (The call was immediately and predictably followed by another, this one featuring incumbent Councilmember and Curt Pringle lobbying firm employee Jennifer Fitzgerald, urging voters to cast ballots for FPOA-endorsed Larry Bennett).

The center piece of the accusations against Mr. Sebourn was his refusal to join the perennial voting block of Doug Chaffee, Jan Flory, and lobbying firm employee Jennifer Fitzgerald in voting to remove Barry Levinson from the Parks and Recreation Commission. The trio, none of whom are friendly with Mr. Sebourn, even his fellow Republican lobbyist employee Jennifer Fitzgerald, must have known that he would be unlikely to provide the required fourth vote needed to remove an appointed commissioner. And, indeed, despite publicly dressing down Mr. Levinson for his alleged behavior, Mr. Sebourn instead opted to leave the job to Bruce Whitaker, who had appointed Mr. Levinson in the first place.

Sworn to serve up the slop.

Sworn to serve up the slop.

The police union were ready and waiting, and shortly thereafter accused him of not caring about the woman who accused Mr. Levinson of intimidating and verbally assaulting her following a Council meeting, even though the District Attorney opted to not file charges in the matter. The timing of the scheduled vote, two weeks prior to an election, and the failure of the Fullerton Police Department to provide a report on the investigation until just hours before the vote itself, suggested that Mr. Sebourn had been set up royally. Sunday’s FPOA-financed pink colored door hangers aimed at female voters ham-handedly hammered home the message that Greg Sebourn was willing to abandon a victimized woman, and therefore ought not to be re-elected.

Almost nobody likes negative campaigning, but the sad truth is that it works with enough of the electorate to make it worthwhile for PACs like the one operated by the police union, who really want Larry Bennett on the City Council instead of incumbent Greg Sebourn, (or any number of other candidates in the race). Whatever individual voters think about Greg Sebourn’s tenure on the Fullerton City Council, they should consider the obvious fact that in this election cycle in Fullerton, only the city’s police are eager and willing to wallow in the mud.

Larry Bennett in 2012, trying, and failing miserably, to keep Dick Jones, Don Bankhead, and Pat McKinley from vein recalled from office.

Larry Bennett in 2012, trying, and failing miserably, to keep Dick Jones, Don Bankhead, and Pat McKinley from being recalled from office.

If you liked the Fullerton City Council before the Great Recall of 2012, then you’ll love City Council candidate Larry Bennett.  Larry Bennett’s list of campaign donors is filled with people who also supported the doomed Anti-Recall campaign, for which he served as treasurer in 2012. That effort crashed and burned under the crushing weight of inertia embodied by Dick Jones, Don Bankhead, and Pat McKinley, the three unresponsive City Councilmen swept from office by two-thirds of Fullerton’s voters. Their befuddled and crassly inadequate response to the killing of Kelly Thomas by Fullerton police officers a year earlier was matched only by the deafening silence of the trio’s indignant supporters, who considered outraged protesters in front of police headquarters and impolite speakers at Council meetings a bigger threat than uniformed police officers molesting or killing unarmed civilians at will.

Evidently eager to help restore a regime of rubber stamping puppets, many of those same supporters are now donating heavily to put Larry Bennett on the City Council in place of his fellow Republican Greg Sebourn.

Familiar names, recalled by Fuller

Familiar names, recalled by Fullerton voters.

In this veritable forest of Fullerton’s monied elite and out-of-town lobbyists, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Larry Bennett’s recent FPPC filings show:

  • $ 1,000.00 donated from none other than twice-recalled former Fullerton City Councilmember Don Bankhead himself.
  • $ 1,250.00 given by Norma Jones, wife of recalled Councilmember and Mayor Dr. Dick Jones.
  • And to round out the troika, $ 400.00 directly from retired Fullerton Police Chief and subsequently-recalled Fullerton Councilmember Pat McKinley.
  • The list goes on:
  • $ 500.00 from meddling former Republican State Senator Dick Ackerman, an Irvine resident who made robocalls on behalf of Fullerton’s police union two years ago.
  • $ 250.00 from Paul Dudley, former Fullerton Community Development Director.
  • $ 1,000.00  from Jim Blake, former Metropolitan Water District Director under Bankhead/Jones/McKinley, etc.
  • $ 1,000.00 from Heroes restaurant and another $ 1,000.00 from Roscoes, both operated by Chamber of Commerce favorite Jack Franklyn, whose downtown swilleries Mr. Bennett cited as two of his favorite places in Fullerton during a Chamber of Commerce sponsored candidate forum last month
  • $ 500.00 from Dexter Savage, who memorably made a mortifying out-of-order speech on behalf of soon-to-be-recalled Dick Jones, Don Bankhead and Pat McKinley while receiving a certificate of appreciation from then Mayor Sharon Quirk-Silva for his service on the Planning Commission.
  • $ 250.00 from Todd Priest, lobbyist for Curt Pringle & Associates, and co-worker of Jennifer Fitzgerald.

The list goes on, but one name you won’t find on the list is the Fullerton Police Officers Association, because the tens of thousands of dollars they are spending on behalf of Larry Bennett (and Doug Chaffee) are officially independent expeditures from their PAC, making a union the single biggest entity supporting the election of Larry Bennett.

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