I was pleasantly surprised at Fullerton’s City Council meeting last night and that rarely happens. I was surprised because Ahmad Zahra stood his ground on the principle of Democracy being the preferred way to settle our current council vacancy caused by Jesus Silva. He withstood Fitzgerald’s venom laced claws and boxed Silva in so much that Silva had to contradict himself by claiming to believe voting is important except, you know, with regards to, uh, the vacancy he created in playing musical chairs.
I had heard going into the meeting that Jan Flory had lobbied 2 if not 3 of the current council members to be appointed to the vacant seat. I had also heard and believed that Fitzgerald and Silva were going to push for an appointment process to get the Flory ball in motion. I also knew, just from historical context, that Whitaker would vote no on that because he and Flory are opposites on most items and he gains nothing by supporting her. I did not know how Zahra would act or vote despite allegedly meeting with and being lobbied by Flory. Owing to Zahra’s campaign and his coziness to people I believe to be ethically challenged I didn’t hold out much hope and assumed he might go along to get along.
Then Zahra showed up to play ball and stomped on my assumptions.
The gist of the issue from FitzSilva was summed up when Fitzgerald complained about a deadlocked council and needing to get things done and that eight months without a full council was too long.
Let me stop right here and make a point – good ideas and sound logic shouldn’t need brute force to pass. If your ideas are fiscally sound and solidly reasoned then there is no reason why Zahra or Whitaker won’t vote along with FitzSilva. It’s only a possible deadlock on issues if you know, for sure, that you cannot count on a third blind mouse to follow you along into the mousetrap.
Fitzgerald needs a third vote to go along with her and Silva because she refuses to work with (R)s or to come up with common sense solutions or legislation. She doesn’t want to do business, she wants to control business. If she wants to do business she just needs to work with people she disagrees with for a change.
Or to quote Zahra;
I think we demonstrated today that business can be done. I think if we have the will to do business, we will do business.
Speaking specifically to the issue of lobbying by and for candidates, which Fitzgerald praised, Zahra stated:
I have some concerns about lobbying for a candidate, or candidates lobbying for themselves, prior to us making a decision whether we’re going to go one way or another. The issue of qualified candidates – it says here “appoint a qualified individual”. That is a legal term and does not mean an experienced candidate because if that was the case I wouldn’t be up here, I have no past experience in government. So I find it rather offensive that people would come up and say we need an experienced council member.
This is about judgement, it’s not about experience. You can have experience and poor judgement. We’ve seen that in the past.
Damn. Right. We’ve seen too much of that in the past and we have too much of it currently.
Zahra said some great things, including how important voting was considering his background, but this was my big takeaway;
“My decision is going to be contingent upon us making sure that the appointment process is fair and open and transparent. So until we can make that decision, I don’t see how we should take votes away from people.
“The question is, is there a fairer and open and more transparent process than voting itself? Can we come up with that? Can we come up with something better than what the Constitution come up with? That is my question for the council. I’m leaving my decision until I hear other council members.”
After council comments FitzSilva got the game started by putting a motion on the floor and seconding it to start the appointment process. Some discussion was had with Zahra having questions and concerns.
Zahra asked how an appointment process would work and the cost and process for advertising it. Fitzgerald claimed it should be the same as the appointment process for commissions, one that notoriously nearly nobody in the public knows about and that fewer people actually apply to fill. Again, Zahra used logic and reason to try and suss out the process and the transparency therein.
Then Whitaker put a substitute motion on the floor to continue the item to the 15th of January and nobody seconded it so it failed by default. Then the FitzSilva motion to start the appointment process came back and went down 2-2 (FitzSilva v Ahmad/Whitaker). Some strange bedfellows were had that night.
Can the council come up with a more transparent process than voting?
According to Fitzgerald:
“This process that we’ve outlined tonight is time efficient, it is also open and transparent and everyone will get to see how the sausage is made. I’m sure in this town, many people will be interested in that.”
Let’s put this into the context of Jan Flory lobbying for the seat, that isn’t even legally up for appointment yet, and her bringing people to lobby for her AND for Jennifer Fitzgerald essentially lobbying for Flory from the dais.
The very idea that Flory’s Budget Busting Brigade showed up and that she had some council support, which only could have been arranged in meetings clearly behind closed doors proves, without question, that the deck was already being stacked and that at least 1 council member, likely 2 counting Silva, had already made a decision before the process was even begun.
THAT is how the sausage is made in Fullerton. Corrupt, sneaky and with a dash of superficial transparency thrown in for good measure. Bake on high until the taxes rise.
Thankfully Zahra held his ground on voting no regarding moving forward with applications for an appointment. He at one point mentioned they were having a “difference in philosophy”. FitzSilva blanked at that talking point I’m guessing because the very idea of a political philosophy is foreign to those two craven opportunists.
Judgement. Philosophy. Who is this man?
It should be pointed out that Silva kept looking at Fitzgerald for guidance as though he was her whipping boy on the dais. It was a truly sad sight, so sad that I couldn’t tell if he was incompetent or just in her pocket. Truly Silva was anything but his own man with his own voice so if this continues it will be a fun year with Fitzgerald as proxy-Mayor having Silva stammer through her talking points and agenda.
Which takes us back to Zahra and my being pleasantly surprised.
There was quite a bit of back and forth before Zarha doubled down and put a motion on the floor to hold a special election. Again 2-2. Same players on the same sides. Deadlock. I needed popcorn last night was so good.
Finally the item was continued to the 15th of January when FitzSilva realized they hadn’t succeeded in shaming, cajoling or outsmarting the “inexperienced” council member sitting next to them.
Now I fully expect Zahra to disappoint me on council with some, possibly many, of his votes. Heck, that happens and happened with Whitaker and Sebourn. Also I realize that Zahra and I likely don’t see eye to eye on much. However – if Zahra from last night sticks around I’ll be glad to have him on council. It was refreshing to see somebody stand up to Fitzgerald with the will and power to shut her down. Whitaker deserves credit for his votes last night as well but this game was all in Zahra’s court and he played the game well.