It’s always nice to know who is who. And when somebody gets up in public to opine on a subject, it’s particularly useful to know what relationship exists between the speaker and somebody – like a staff member, or a city council member- who is promoting a specific item on a public agency agenda.
While we are always promoting the importance of what is said rather than who said it, there’s no denying the fact that having people get up and speak, no matter how stupid or uniformed they are, helps sway councilmanic opinion; and when the council persons aren’t the brightest bulbs on the tree to begin with, it’s just that much more effective.
Here’s a story: somebody named Lee Chalker showed up at the hearing for the Redevelopment expansion hearing and spoke in favor of the expansion. She even got her name in a Barbara Giasone article on the subject here . Now, none of us had ever heard of Lee Chalker before despite her having lived in Fullerton for 35 years. We wonder if she really knew what she was talking about since her stated concerns about bad roads and drainage suggest current deficiencies in the Engineering Department rather than Redevelopment issues.
A little research on Lee Chalker reveals a member of a church called “University Praise” that is affiliated with an organization called OCCCO. What is that? The “Orange County Congregational Community Organization” – a group with a fairly nebulous remit, but that seems to organize its efforts around helping poor folks organize to get things from the government.
What’s really interesting about OCCCO is that in 2007 it was a major beneficiary of Pam Keller’s “Fullerton Collaborative.” In fact, the Collaborative forked over $25,600 to OCCCO for something called “community organizing.” Well, that makes sense, we suppose, since a “Community Organization” should have something to do with community organizing. What they did for the $26K is less important than the connection with Pam Keller herself, who was able to vote on the Redevelopment expansion only after City staff redrew the boundaries around a piece of property that Keller has some sort of interest in. And of course she voted in the affirmative.
We also note that in the Collaborative’s facebook page here we find that Chalker was being installed as a new board member in the Collaborative at just about the same time.
So did Collaborative Executive Director Pam Keller mobilize a gaggle of her pals in the Collaborative and/or the OCCCO to attend the meeting and shill for the illegal Redevelopment expansion? Who knows? Sure looks like it.
The larger point here is to understand the interrelated nature of all sorts of groups in Fullerton who actually have a very small number of aggregate members, but who can be relied upon to show up periodically at hearings to promote some cause or other near and dear to the heart of some bureaucrat or councilmember. Their numbers give moral support to councilmembers who either lack conviction or are afraid of standing alone.
Is there anything wrong with this sort of mobilization of support? No. But when some of the members of these claques have financial interests at stake (which happens all the time, too) it gets a little dicey. People who want to understand what’s going on are well advised to figure out who these people are and why they are there. In the end it is the content of what they say that counts. But it’s fun to know who the players are. And if you happen to see a procession of people march to the podium to sing the praises of this or that project, you can bet that they were asked to be there. And you have to wonder: if applauders are dragooned into service to help promote some scheme or other, just how good or necessary is it really?
Need a program to tell the players? We’re working on it.