Archives for posts with tag: Greg Sebourn

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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.

Ass and Hole in the Ground

Two things between which the Fullerton City Council has trouble distinguishing…

Matthew Leslie

Last night the Fullerton City Council responded to a court ordered hearing over which district elections map to put before the voters in November by doubling down on their previous terrible choice of Map # 8A. No one who has witnessed any of the council’s actions in the past months could have reasonably expected any other outcome. Even in the face of legal proceedings that specifically cited the fragmenting of the downtown residential areas as being incompatible with the settlement agreement that should be governing their actions, the Fullerton City Council again chose a map presented by a bar owner that privileges the interests of downtown businesses over the rights of the area’s residents to have unified representation on the council.

Following dozens of public speakers on the subject, a motion by Bruce Whitaker to switch to Map # 11 was supported by Greg Sebourn, but failed to attract the support of any of the other three members of the council. Like Map # 8A, Map # 11 would also likely produce a 3 to 2 Republican majority on the council, but that wasn’t enough to attract the support of Mayor Jennifer Fitzgerald, who has favored Map # 8/8A from the beginning. In the end, both Bruce Whitaker and Greg Sebourn joined Mayor Fitzgerald, Jan Flory, and Doug Chaffee in a unanimous decision to stick with the map they all supported last time, the infamous # 8A, that would split up the downtown residential district five ways.

Stupid or corrupt? There are nicer ways to put it, but why bother being polite to council members who simultaneously thumbed their noses at a judge and stuck their thumbs in the eyes of multiple residents who pointed out that fragmenting the downtown residential area would deny representation to a community of interest. The council based their decision on a legal interpretation by attorney Kimberly Barlow of law firm Jones and Mayer, who represented Fullerton at the July 20 court hearing. Despite the fact that the text of the court’s Minute Order, which summarized the proceedings, clearly shows that Judge James Crandall found “some merit” in the plaintiff’s second argument, that Map # 8A “inappropriately splits the downtown region into multiple districts, thus violating community interest principles” inherent to the Voting Rights Act and the election code governing its application, Ms. Barlow argued that the judge would ultimately allow the map to pass muster.

The relevant paragraphs from the document are reproduced below, with added boldface for emphasis:

The court finds that plaintiff’s second argument has some merit, however. According to Article 21, section 2 of the California Constitution, a community of interest “is a contiguous population which shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation. Examples of such shared interests are those common to an urban area, a rural area, an industrial area, or an agricultural area, and those common to areas in which the people share similar living standards, use the same transportation facilities, have similar work opportunities, or have access to the same media of communication relevant to the election process.” Id. at subd.(d)(4). It is unclear how the division of the downtown area of the city gives appropriate consideration to this principle. If anything, division of the downtown area among the five districts in Map 8A does not honor the contiguity of the population living there, and their shared interests in that area. While supporters of Map 8 and Map 8A at the Council meetings expressed the idea that all Fullerton residents should have an interest in the downtown area, it is unclear how many of these supporters actually reside in the downtown area, as opposed to simply owning businesses there…’

‘The City contends that Section 21601’s factors are permissive, and not mandatory. While this might ordinarily be true, the parties’ Settlement Agreement requires that the electoral district map be drawn in accordance with those criteria. Map 8A would seem to run afoul of at least one of those factors, in addition to being adopted through a process completely antithetical to that contemplated by the Agreement.’

Let’s read that last line again…

“…completely antithetical to that contemplated by the Agreement”! (!!!!!!)*

And yet, the council chose to listen to their own lawyer tell them what they wanted to hear, that the court record was somehow not accurate, and that she herself was confident that the judge would allow Map # 8A to be placed on the ballot in November. Indeed, Ms. Barlow was so confident in her interpretation of the proceeding that the Minute Order document wasn’t even included in the staff report to the council members in the meeting’s agenda! We have to wonder if the council even considered the consequences of Ms. Barlow being wrong. The court is scheduled to take up the matter again during a Status Conference on August 8th, and all indications are that the judge expects to see a new map.

Even the OC Register got it right last week, reporting on the July 20 hearing: “Fullerton told to find new map for district election ballot measure.

If the old map isn’t good enough for the judge, as it wasn’t on July 20, the council will have a scant three days to choose another map to put on the ballot for the November election. Despite the well-organized opposition to it, more than one member of the council has counterintuitively argued that Map # 8A has the best chance of voter approval with the district elections measure at the ballot box. Not a single member of the Fullerton City Council favors district-based elections anyway, so I would expect them to do exactly nothing more to try to fix this mess. We’ll just have to wait for the lawyer bills to find out how much the council’s intransigence will cost the taxpayers.

 

  • !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Amerige-Heights-8A

Follow Mayor Jennifer Fitzgerald’s lucky star to find her in the middle of a district that is somehow not majority Asian American.

In our previous story, the Rag noted that the awful Map # 8A is the only one of the final four District Elections Maps that manages to create a district in the Amerige Heights area that is not majority Asian. It’s quite an accomplishment, given the largely Korean-American population of Amerige Heights and the surrounding area, but somehow the bar owners, or whoever actually drew this map, came out with a district, numbered 1 on their map, that is less than half Asian. The entire reason for establishing district maps in the first place was to settle a lawsuit brought on behalf of Asian and Latino voters, who claimed they were not represented on the council under the current at-large system of electing council members.

The other three maps all have an Asian majority in the Northwest region of the city because they don’t include gratuitous finger of land trickling into the downtown area eastward. Map # 8A, proffered by the downtown bar owners to split up Downtown Fullerton’s voting residents in order to preserve their party-town, also lessens the chances of an Asian-American member being elected to the Fullerton City Council. Conveniently enough, this district is where Mayor Jennifer Fitzgerald lives. She, like Council member Greg Sebourn, will have the opportunity on June 7 to vote for a map that gerrymanders their own homes into districts that increase the likelihood of their own re-elections. Is this what the plaintiffs had in mind when they sued the city to create a fairer system of elections?

On June 7 Mayor Fitzgerald and her fellow council members may claim that they are being objective when they vote for a final district elections map to put before the voters in November, but some of them have already compromised the process by discussing the locations of their own residences while deliberating the issue. Giving the terrible Map # 8A any serious consideration at all is enough to make voters question the motives of city council members. The credibility of all members of the Fullerton City Council will depends on who they listen to on June 7. This map should be crumpled up and tossed into the recycle bin.

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