On January 6th, a 4-1 majority of the Fullerton City Council perpetrated a strange act of self-mutilation, with Shawn Nelson dissenting. It decided to revoke its policy of selecting people to serve on commissions and committees. Instead of individual councilpersons being able to choose direct appointments, they returned to the old system whereby a couple of councilpersons and a commission member conduct interviews and make recommendations for approval by the entire City Council.

So effectively a majority of the City Council chose to disempower itself by abdicating the ability to choose their own direct representatives on commissions.

Now why would politicians give up direct appointment for the diluted old groupthink process? A good question, and one only partially explained by the typical Fullerton city councilperson’s fear of actually exercising the power the electorate has bestowed upon them.

Historically, the old system of interviews meant that certain candidates could be effectively weeded out or ignored altogether. And what was the profile of these undesirables? Independence and a willingness to question the bureaucrats in City Hall were likely character traits; or, to put it another way, the process effectively ensured the type of person who was selected. The latter was inevitably chosen for his or her willingness to be a team player, to go along with the recommendations of “staff” and who could be counted on not to ask embarrassing questions and expect coherent answers.

Furthermore, since the commissioners were not directly accountable to anyone they were even more likely to identify with the staff department that oversees its respective commission, than with any elected official’s policy. This fact may comfort those who find politics distasteful, but it results in a diffusion of authority – a vacuum into which bureaucratic inertia will inevitably insinuate itself.

Appointing people who are safe who through personality type, or can be relied upon to run with the herd in order to protect their business interests would certainly appeal to Dick Jones and Don Bankhead – retired Air Force doc and cop, respectively. It was the retired bureaucrats themselves who always had a disproportionate influence in this system since they had ample time to the interviewing.

We associate this sort of corporate thinking from men once in uniform. But what of the two avowed liberal members of the Council, Sharon Quirk and Pam Keller? Liberal women might not be expected to adhere to the lockstep logic of military teamwork. To them we may attribute a liberal, process-oriented view of things in which the more convoluted an operation is in masticating its material, the more digestible the product must be.

And finally, we must note that the practical consequence of this council’s castration will be to deprive current Council pariah Shawn Nelson with the opportunity to make his own direct appointments to commissions; and since he might actually appoint people likely be independent-minded and represent the taxpayers instead of the bureaucracy his colleagues will certainly be gratified by denying Nelson this prerogative – even if it means depriving themselves of the same privilege.


  1. *The City of Newport Beach used to use the “Select your own people from your District for Commissions and such. But then,
    they needed cover. Why? Well,
    when someone give a council member big bucks at election time and then finds themselves on a cushy board..some paid in fact…well…that old “Quid pro Quo” has a tendency to raise its
    ugly head. Now there can be horse trading between council members regarding board selections and they can now say:
    “Oh, I was voted down 2 to 1!” or whatever! And still get the cash out of the constituent.

  2. The current system of commission appointments is a mess – mostly because those spineless idiots Wilson and Clesceri tried to appease all the lefties – who just love decision by committee. So they concocted a useless committee to make “reccomenndations” on at-large seats to the City Council.

    They should have reduced all standing commissions to five direct appointments and let it go at that.

    The return to the old system is even worse. The retired geezers with plenty of time on their hands – Bankhead and Jones -will manipulate it to appoint former government employees (like themselves) and keep activists off.

    The only premium will be placed on non-threatening staff stoogery.

  3. What’s funny is they kept crying about diversity. The old system never produced any diversity at all.

    Each councilman should be able to pick his own people who can report to him. That’s called responsibility. If an elected person wants to have diversity that’s his business.

  4. The old system kept the same personality “type” of person on the boards. Diversity just went out the window. Just wait and see, here come the back room deals. Guarantee the interviews will be held in the day and won’t be open to the public, unless the girls realize they are being led down a wrong way street by the old geezers, fat chance of that.

  5. What is with these people? How could there possibly be more diversity be requiring a majority vote to approve applicants? Instead of only having to gain the interest of one person to get appointed, now you need to be a member of Rotary or the old boys club to get at least three votes. Clearly Dick and Don would support this but what the hell are Sharon and Pam thinking? Do they want the three guys to be able to block all their picks? I guess you reap what you sow but this is pathetic.

    Bottom line is that Jones and Bankhead don’t trust the others to make picks they want and Quirk and Keller don’t trust themselves. Never been a Nelson fan but he is starting to look like the only one with any sense.

  6. Would someone point out where the lack of qualified people came from in the current batch of appointees? If the council has had direct appointment then we need only look at the comission members to see which council member has failed to live up to his/her responsibility. Who are the unqualified people on our comissions and who appointed them? Wade Richman comes to mind but yo should do a blog on the all stars of the unqualified.

  7. Wade Richman is a good example of how an unqualified crony got appointed – with the cover of the interview/weeding out process. Bankhead got his campaign chairman on the Planning Commission and didn’t have any personal responsibility for the appointment since “the system” spit it out.

    This sort of manuevering is what we have to look forward to.

  8. And I should have pointed out that that took place back in Wade’s first go ’round in what, 1990?

  9. Ghost, good ‘ol Wade seems to have gotten on to the Planning Commission under both scenarios.

    Why not just admit it. Our city council members and their committee appointees are mostly bona fide knuckleheads no matter how they get chosen.

  10. anaheim should annex fullerton then santa ana annex anaheim then irvine annex santa ana and orange annex santa ana and so on until we are one big happy nearly alpha city

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