Who’s Who In The Zoo

There's a lot more to me than meets the eye...
There's a lot more to me than meets the eye...and a lot less, too.

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.

20 Replies to “Who’s Who In The Zoo”

  1. Lee Chalker, “We want a voice in how and where redevelopment funds would be spent.”, could not get more self serving than that.

  2. Great point Jack. These people aren’t driven by principles or actual need; they just want their own piece of the handout pie. I have a feeling that they are being set up for some real disappointment.

  3. So how different is Lee Chalker than that Marty Burbank bozo who stood up to pimp for Redevelopment expansion even though he admitted he didn’t know if it was even legal.?

  4. Knowing that Keller was the decisive vote on the redevelopment expansion, things are not looking good for Keller right about now.

  5. unfortunately, community organizing in fullerton has been corrupted by self-serving persons. If you buy rental property in fullerton, then you ensure the rent on it when you organize the city council to create and fund a useless fullerton municipal department that hires your friend who then just happens to rent his or her income property. where is the loci of this government corruption? Look long and hard at all the people who attend fullerton’s city council meetings.

  6. So my Fullerton Collaborative membership dues are being given to other groups such as OCCCO for “community organizing”. I thought they were being used by the Collaborative itself for its programs (obesity?) and services..I didn’t know this! I haven’t renewed my membership for 2009-2010 although notice to renew went out about two weeks ago.

  7. fullerton harpoon, take your suspicions to public records and look at the sale of fullerton houses between 1999 and 2005

  8. You’ve got to love it when the far left liberal dedicated to supposedly helping those who cant help themselves has paid off the voices before the council. At least when Bankhead and Jones’ friends come in front of the council either from rotary or the chamber, we all know what is up and they are not PAID from Dick and DOn to be there.

    Imagine the meeting at OCCO before the redevelopment vote. “Alright guys we can go and do what Keller says and get our $26,000 or we can do what we want and go out of business. Now remember, Jones isnt that smart so just look desperate and say we need the money. Whatever you do, dont mention the $26,000”

  9. So Hollis, what is this Marty Burbank stooging for? He’s stooging for support from the go-along crowd for his Council campaign. Almost all those Chamber types who get up have some angle or other.

    It’s true that some of them are just flunkies by nature and do it to feel important.

    The point of this post was not to go after the Collaborative/OCCCO per se, but to use the story as an illustration that people from a relatively small circle of interrelated groups do most of the high-stepping for City-favored projects – and not all of them are just well-intentioned citizens.

  10. Poon:

    Its always be the case that groups known to insiders show up at council meetings masquerading as average citizens. That is worthy of exposure on it’s own for sure.

    OCCO takes it to a whole new level where they are being paid off by a sitting councilmember. Listen to the meeting. They show up, Kellar votes for them and there is immediate talk about giving them money. How long till some special OCCO project is before the redevelopment agency called a “community center” or community “clinic” of some type and Pam sits right there and votes on it.

    1. Apart from opposing the whole Redevelopment expansion, I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem with that. Better than subsidizing a developer, right?

      OTOH, if Keller were to be found approving and subsidizing projects that donors to her Collaborative were pursuing, then we would be talking about a pure and unadulterated conflict of interest. Why? Because these people are responsible for paying her salary.

  11. good grief! looked up OCCO and was shocked to see any collection of clowns can call its group a “community service” and shake down my tax dollars from all levels of the government money tree. FFFF needs to sprout a shoot and call itself friends for fullerton fiscal social justice. If anyone in fullerton wants to pretty up the streets or organize themselves then they need to earn the money to do these things instead of funneling tax dollars away from needed public services.

  12. I, for one, resent the implication that any member of the Chamber would support a project merely because they had an economic interest in it. Not going to happen.

    Was there any economic interest in supporting Fullerton as the “Education Community?” No, of course not, but the Chamber was behind that 100%!

  13. Anonymous :

    So my Fullerton Collaborative membership dues are being given to other groups such as OCCCO for “community organizing”. I thought they were being used by the Collaborative itself for its programs (obesity?) and services..I didn’t know this! I haven’t renewed my membership for 2009-2010 although notice to renew went out about two weeks ago.

    anonymous, do our community a big favor and let your friends know about “who’s who in the zoo”!

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