The Abdication

Lots of Indians, but no chiefs…

I’ve been watching Fullerton politics and governance for for a long time – since 2008 or 2009, in fact. One thing that has consistently struck me is the way in which Fullerton’s elected officials have completely and almost happily abdicated their responsibility to determine the direction of policy.

It has always been the goal, in principle if not in practice in modern representative democracy, that policy would be established by electeds, and administrated through a protected civil service bureaucracy.

Determining policy – the philosophical direction you want the town to take – isn’t easy in the “City Manager” form of government, a form deliberately created to remove any sort of executive authority from elected representatives. But with that set-up came something else, too: the difficulty of people’s representatives in establishing policy direction, and doing it without violating the Brown Act strictures on open meetings.

Nevertheless, the responsibility is still there, even if it easier to have photo ops, and ribbon cuttings and the like. Sadly our electeds have failed; failed with remarkable banality and complacency. Former Councilman and Fullerton Police Chief Pat McKinley once illustrated the point when challenged for his “failure to lead.” He exclaimed that councilmen weren’t there to lead – that was the City Manager’s job.

Lately the policy role abdication has been seen with the regurgitated, spit out, re-consumed and regurgitated again noise ordinance, an ongoing embarrassment that has plagued honest citizens for over fifteen years. I read the staff report on the recent noise effort, a report that justifies a decision to actually increase acceptable levels, protect offenders by including an ambient noise mask, and locates the noise metering away from the source whence it can be muddled by an equally noisy neighbor.

The staff report is nothing but a list of events that have occurred since 2009 when the City Council last expressed a coherent position. Nowhere in the staff report is there any discussion on the policy decisions behind any of the activities. Why not? Because there weren’t any. In the same way that the incredibly costly, drunken binge known as Downtown Fullerton has escaped any intelligent policy conversation, the noise nuisance issue, a subset of the former, has evaded policy discussion as City staff – behind the scenes – has diligently avoided doing anything to enforce existing code, and worked very hard to reduce the requirements.

So what has happened is a vacuum in which each new action seems disembodied from policy conversation; that’s because it is. And our council steadfastly refused to have an open and honest conversation of what it wants, abdicating its responsibilities.

One size fits all…

There is a long list of issues that our elected representatives should be addressing from an overarching policy level and aren’t. This sort of thing takes thought; and some hard work in ascertaining whether your city employees are really doing the thing you want; or not, as in the case of the Trail to Nowhere. It’s easier just to ram through the Consent Calendar on the nod, rubberstamp the ridiculous, clean your plate like good kids, and move on to the photo ops and the trophy ceremonies.

43 Replies to “The Abdication”

  1. Pretty good essay, although you left our a key ingredient. What do the following people have in common?

    Don Bankhead
    Buck Catlin
    Doc HeeHaw Jones
    Chris Norby
    Mike Clesceri
    Sharon Quirk
    Pam Keller
    Pat “Patdown Pat” McKinley
    Bruce Whitaker
    Jesus Quirk Silva
    Sheena Charles

    All full-time public employees at one time or another.

    Then there are:

    Molly McClanahan
    Jan Flory
    Bud Chaffee
    Ahmad Zahra

    All following the liberal, “City Hall is the heart of Fullerton” formula.

    Then you have the class of ’02:

    Shawn Nelson
    Leland Wilson

    Just lazy yakkers.

    The only real outliers would be the fixer Jennifer Fitzgerald and Julie Sa. Fitzgerald’s job entailed getting the things she wanted done, trading favors, etc. Hence the existence of Joe Felz and Ken Domer as City Manager (not that the recent conga line is an improvement). There was no policy from her, though, other than picking winners and losers, and deciding who got to violate the municipal code with impunity.

    And let’s not forget the unspeakably useless Julie Sa who didn’t have a clue what was going on, didn’t live in Fullerton, and used her title to get influence in Korea (North and South) and China.

    What a crew!

    1. Yes, that’s quite a list of nogoodniks. Not one decent councilman. Norby tried but he got almost nothing accomplished. Sort of like Whitaker, accomplishment-wise, except that Whitaker hasn’t even tried.

  2. You could make the argument that Fullerton’s councilmembers aren’t qualified to create policy and you’d get no argument from me.

    Let’ em hand out awards and certificates. It’s not hard and they like it it.

  3. The city council is no better than average people. Pull five folks off the corner of Harbor and Commonwealth and you’ll get the same result.

    Every now and then you’ll get Jennifer Fitzgerald who really worked hard – feathering her own nest and manipulating the Jan Florys and Doug Chaffees and Jesus Quirk-Silvas and Ahmad Zahras and Felz/Domer. Not “policy,” unless you count graft and influence peddling as policy. But at least she put some effort into it.

    1. In AA they say any bum off the street could manage your own life better than you have.

      Of course, you’ve got to hit rock bottom to get that kind of wisdom. Fullerton ain’t there yet.

  4. One name you don’t see there is Travis Kiger. In his few months on the council, he tried to make changes to the status quo. But the voters went with Jane Flory again.

  5. Travis tried to get a sheriff bid when the police department was full of criminals. Union put money into opposing his reelection. Might be wise to make a list of council worst to first. Gives Fullerton Historian something to do.

  6. Dr. Zahra and Dr. Charles tried to address the noise ordinance and your 3 blind mice voted to kick the can down the road. Bushala’s influence on his manservants might be disappearing.

    1. Sure is easy to get Dr. in front of your name. Zahra just calls himself one. And Charles is a “doctorate”? in public health? That’s some rich irony there.

    2. What did the erudite “Doctors” have to say? Not a Goddamn thing. Only; “I support the Ordinance as written”. Not ONE word was said about any substantive term in the draft ordinance. I’ll bet anything that neither of them read even a sentence in it. There are plenty terms that should be debated. Maybe one or two Commissioners will do their job and look at the actual words and numbers and try to understand the implications of the noise level standards and measurement technics and the (complete lack of) enforcement mechanisms. Don’t give Staff another excuse NOT to do their Job. We need to create a legitimate, thorough, thoughtful and enforceable Noise Ordinance. Only fools should believe that the ‘fly by the seat of their pants’ Staffers give a shit about anything but their pensions.
      Credit to Mayor Dunlap for sending that garbage back to the PC.

      1. In other words the “doctors” were just trying to cover up for years on incompetence/indifference from staff to the problem. Neither one of those two boobs will ever tell the truth. Why? Because they want staff to do things for them – like the moronic fish farm and then the Alice Loya insubordination on the Trail to Nowhere.

  7. The trail is the bureaucracy doing exactly what they were told to do, by council. Just because current council majority couldn’t be bothered to understand the bicycle master plan is a matter of incompetence of a subset of the elected, not as implied here a runaway bureaucracy.

    1. No that’s a lie.

      They were told to review multi-modal options in the context of a wider area. They refused and stuck to their original fraud-laced application. Worse than that, they connived to drum up fake community support among Fullerton’s boohoos.

      In the end the three just caved in.

      1. “They were told to review multi-modal options in the context of a wider area.”

        Not in any comprehensive or actionable way like you have with the Bicycle Master Plan which went through a thorough process.

        “they connived to drum up fake community support”

        Did they? What proof do you have that the bureaucracy is capable of driving community activism? Occam’s Razor (and lack of evidence from you) says it was real community support, not somehow manufactured by the bureaucracy.

        “In the end the three just caved in.”

        Indeed, it does look like they simply failed, as opposed to came around to the rational, planned policy the public wanted. Their anti-policy policy couldn’t survive scrutiny.

        1. How hilarious. The bike “master plan” is just some lines drawn on a piece of paper by Vince Bike and five other numbskulls. It was approved to make them go away. No one has paid any attention to it ever since. Not even the creep Zahra who relied on fat ninos grannys to promote the boondoggle.

    2. Your dumbass master plan can’t even be built. Only a fool would hold it up as a goal. So I guess you are a fool.

        1. Um, ever actually read the plan, dipshit? The lines are drawn across built up housing – SOCO Walk. But you can’t read maps n’ such because you are so fucking stoopid.

          1. Johnnie Cakes probably drank from the same mother’s tit that the simple-minded bike lady who wants to name the Trail to Nowhere Good the Nuczzi Highway. Both are insufferable. Both are boring. Both need to move to a more bike city. Cause that ain’t us dummies.

  8. Exactly John! The council prioritizes cars over bikes. Recall those who don’t understand that Fullerton should be like Portland not Santa Ana. Si se puede.

    1. Yes because so many people are driving cars to go to work, shop, take kids to school. WE CAN DO IT ALL BY BIKE! MAOIST CHINA, IN FACT.

      1. Huh, I wasn’t aware we were making a choice between all bicycling and all cars in Fullerton. Maybe because we aren’t.

        I am more of all of the above when it comes to transportation.

        But you can’t make the choice to ride for a given trip when there isn’t safe infrastructure for it.

        1. And how many people do you see cycling to work or to get groceries in southern California daily? The assessment of you by others who post here is 100% correct; you are an insufferable twat.

          1. “And how many people do you see cycling to work or to get groceries in southern California daily?”

            Is this blog about Fullerton’s future or Fullerton’s status quo?

            I used to cycle to work about every work day. What made it work was the contract I had was just off the SART in Corona. Great ride. I generally drove my bicycle via car to/from Yorba Regional because Fullerton sucks for safe routes.

            If we had a network of safe routes more people would ride. The better the network the more people will ride. You can look at any city in the world that has built out their cycling infrastructure. We have great weather it would work as well here as anywhere else.

            The status quo is a shit/ near non-existent paved trail network connected by shit roads. You think driving over our broken roads is bad in a car, try a road bike with skinny tires.

            “The assessment of you by others who post here is 100% correct”

            Well I’ll let you all know when I care what you think.

            But insufferable is certainly not accurate, since I’m still here, and you and the other assessors haven’t fucked off yet.

            1. You’re not only a dummy, you’re boring which is even worse.

              That’s what happens when an dumb person thinks he is smarter than he is and won’t shut up.

              1. This is called the Dunning-Kruger Effect: what happens when an individual overestimates his intelligence and wades into the deep end of the pool without his water wings.

                1. JRH’s intellect is, at best, a shallow puddle. His cognitive bias and ineptitude are staggering to even those of average intelligence.

    1. Yes, and it’s hard to say which one was the worst. Gotta be Julie Sa, I guess. That Mike Clesceri sure was useless. So was Leland Wilson. Of course old Doc HeeHaw used to insult people he didn’t like. For pure vindictive spleen you’d have to go with Gin Flurry who just showed utter contempt for the people of Fullerton.

      But in one way or another they all did what they were told, played figurehead and posed for Chamber of Commerce mixers with Miss Teen Fullerton.

      If you go way back you run into Dick Ackerman and Linda Lequire, two rather odious humans, but at least they knew who was in charge.

      1. Jan Flory has been bitter about democracy her whole, repeated tenure around the Fullerton track. I’ve never seen anybody who hated regular people more.

        “By my lights the department heads are the heart of the city.”

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