An All-consuming Thirst For Education

The meeting had a hefty agenda...

Apparently at the July 27, 2010 meeting of the NOCCCD Board of Trustees there were some pretty serious issues being discussed. Not only did the taxpayers dodge a costly administrative bullet when it was announced that the district wouldn’t be filling the position for Vice Chancellor of Education (see the article in the O.C. Register by Teri Sforza for the details on that boondoggle; be sure to check out the job description in the fourth paragraph), but trustee Molly McClanahan informed the Board that the Fullerton Museum’s new exhibit, “10,000 Years of Beer Making,” will soon be on display. That’s quite a chaser!

Unser Gott! Haben Sie das job description fur die Chancellor gesehen?!

Minard Duncan and the Doctrine of Unaccountability

Minard is pleased with himself.

A few days ago on this post about Pam Keller’s blank Collaborative calendar, we received a visit from FSD trustee Minard Duncan. As is usual, Minard’s visit was vacuous and inane. Just about what you’d expect from an educrat. Minard admitted his comments were just made to “rile” us up.

But what was really interesting was when Minard dropped this spud on the Friends, unwittingly revealing a mindset that reveals all the things wrong with Fullerton’s elected representatives:

School board members do not have any power as individuals. It takes three board members out of a five member board agreeing on an issue to have authority. We are the boss of the district superintendent and no one else but not as individuals only as a collective board.

See, Minard indicates that authority (power) is only to be exercised by a majority, and, moreover, through the conduit of a Superintendent – thus effectively removing the “elected” from actually having to do much of anything except hire a single underling and ratify his decisions. And of course the consequence of Minard-think is that the responsibility and accountability attendant upon elected office is conveniently dissipated through delegation to a host of protected bureaucrats who are never held accountable either.

But whoever thought that the absence of a majority meant that a boardmember was somehow robbed of any of the authority vested in him by the electorate? While it takes a board majority to act affirmatively on a specific issue, the authority of an elected is indivisible. Minard is not just a third of a potential majority, nor does he represent only a theoretical one fifth of the property tax payers and parents – although he doesn’t seem to grasp this idea.

It is each boardmember’s responsibility to concern himself with everything that goes on in his district and to take responsibility for it.

Minard-think leads to the complete dereliction of responsibility that seems to obtain not only at the FSD, but also at Fullerton City Hall, too, where electeds delegate responsibility right along with the authority they invest in their City Manager. And of course as any honest council watcher knows, the Council, through laziness and/or inclination, is completely in thrall to the Chief Bureaucrat who is supposed to be working for them. It’s rather like the Stockholm Syndrome.

And you know what? A lot of electeds and their bureaucratic masters sure seem to like it that way.

Nickle and Dime the Public

Underwritten by the property owners of North OC

Here’s an e-mail we received from a Sunny Hills High school student that raises some good questions about the lack of communication between High School District and the NOCCCD and why FJC requires that people pay to park when nobody is using the facility.

This past Friday night, I went to the Sunny Hills vs. Fullerton H.S. School football game at Fullerton High which happens to be right across the street from Fullerton Junior College which happens to have a parking structure right across the street from the high school’s stadium.  I parked in that parking structure and ended up getting a parking ticket for not having a Fullerton College parking permit.  I did not think that at this time (7:00-9:00pm) on a Friday night anyone would be checking for the parking permit because of the event that was going on at the stadium.  There were many cars parked in the structure who were apparently also going to the game that did not have a parking permits.  The officer that gave me the ticket was named Officer Gonzalez, I believe.

Is Fullerton College really in that much of a budget crunch that they need to go out and give a bunch of high school students parking tickets to collect twenty seven dollars?  If people didn’t park in this structure we would be parking in the residential areas to the north of the stadium which would bother the residents that live near the stadium.  The group that issued the ticket is discouraging students from going to high school promoted events. Can’t someone from the High School District and the College figure out a responsible plan that would assure people can go to the football stadium, watch a football game and not get a parking ticket?

Colin Lamontagne

Fullerton Junior College Subjected to More Horrors!

Just in case you thought the North Orange County Community College District couldn’t possibly inflict any more architectural damage to what was once a quite lovely campus at FJC – you’d better think again.

The latest addition to an already overbuilt campus is this multi-storied monstrosity that bears all the hall-marks of the new bond-built FJC buildings: hollow and stuccoed walls, fake arches, and an overbearing presence that sort of sucks the life right out of you. No need to guess what’s coming:McSpanish Dinosaur!

A new monster to contemplate...
A new monster to contemplate...

Pretty soon all those wasteful hollow metal stud walls will be wrapped in lathing and then plastered to present the appearance of masonry; Styrofoam cornices will be tacked on to gratify the sort of taste that demands a hat on a mannequin; phony wrought iron accoutrements will be lagged into the plaster and then the administration can pat itself on the back for another job well-done.

Geez, that's really gonna be awful..
Another embarrassing erection at FJC...

By the way, if you look carefully you’ll notice some sort of cupola emerging on the roof. Is another foolish clock tower avec dome on the way? We’ll be sure to keep you up to date on the latest architectural embarrassment at FJC.

Did NOCCCD Bond Oversight Committee Overlook Stadium Embarrassment?

It’s a sad truth that government projects just don’t seem to have much accountability. There are always lots of impressive titles handed out, but nobody ever seems to have a grip on what’s going on.

Oh no, not again!
Oh no, not again!

Take the NOCCCD Football field-to-stadium sleight-of-hand that took place at FJC. Somehow a project was altered without any policy review, CEQA documentation, or public notification. It only became a problem when neighbors found out about the deception and loudly protested. Who approved these changes? And who is this person’s boss?  We’d like to find out who is responsible for the now very expensive and increasingly embarrassing switcheroo.


And let’s not forget the so-called Oversight Committee – a group of individuals who were either kept in the dark or who had their eyes closed. It’s hard to find anybody who really takes these committees seriously, except perhaps voters who are persuaded by the Bond Salesmen that the committee will actually ensure some sort of accountability for the public’s hundreds of millions of dollars. Nevertheless, there they are, and so they have a responsibility to the public.

In June of 2005, the Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Director, Thresa Harvey was appointed to the North Orange County Community College District  Citizens Bond Oversight Committee as a representative of a “taxpayer group.” We’re not sure what a taxpayer group is since we all pay taxes (well most of us, anyway). In any case it was and is her job to comprehend what’s going on with the bond revenue projects. Was she misled? Did she even know what was going on?

Jeez, maybe we need to do this more often...
Jeez, maybe we need to do this more often...

Things have gotten to the point where even Fullerton’s City Manager Chris Meyer has produced a letter claiming the stadium violates the City’s General Plan, and the City is demanding an EIR. This is doubly ironic, since he routinely attends Chamber of Commerce Board meetings where Harvey can usually be found; and also because the City has been signally deficient when in come to CEQA compliance of its own favored projects.

But, to return to our main story: Who is accountable for this gridiron fiasco? Will we ever know? Probably not. But in the meantime the NOCCCD is facing the increased likelihood of an amended EIR for their stadium and some fancy footwork in the backfield if they want to build it.

Hundreds of Hornet fans disguised as empty seats...
Hundreds of Hornet fans disguised as empty seats...


It Wasn't Here a Minute Ago
It Wasn't Here a Minute Ago

The trustees over at the North Orange County Community College District have seemingly done the impossible, conjuring up a new football stadium at the FJC campus out of thin air. Apparently the neighbors aren’t too crazy about this sleight-of-hand since it means noise, lights, traffic, etc. They decided to raise their own ruckus, and in a democracy that’s a damn fine thing.

What happened was that the locals discovered the District had been guilty of “mission creep” or bureaucratic metastasis, or whatever you want to call it. But rather than our going on, let’s let neighbor Ken Bane speak for himself (courtesy of another FFFF thread):

“the EIR only contemplated a “renovation” of the track field. but when no one was looking, they added lighing, a PA system, and seating 2000+. When we caught their hand in the cookie jar they agreed to be a “good neighbor” and do the required supplemental CEQA review, like someone following the law makes them worthy, when in fact they wouldn’t have unless we busted them. And frankly, we’re skeptical they’ll do it right from here anyway.”

We recall a Ken Bane who used to work for the Fullerton Planning Department many years ago and wonder if this is the same fellow. If it is, we have confidence that his narration of the environmental deficiencies of the project is pretty accurate.

Now it may come as a shock to some of you Loyal Friends, but it is the government itself that is often the biggest scofflaw when it comes to abiding by CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act). Even when they don’t get a categorical exemption public agencies often find ways of dodging the intent of CEQA that could land you or me in the slammer.

NOCCCD Tries an End Run
NOCCCD Tries an End Run

As our own Fullerton Harpoon pointed out in response to Mr. Bane, this enhanced plan will require an amendment to an approved EIR including new facts not previously in evidence. Traffic, Noise and Aesthetic EIR categories will have to be addressed, and the new document should also include alternatives to the project – in this case one alternative could be to rent somebody else’s facility as a congenial part of a “no build” alternative; maybe it could be the Fullerton High School stadium a mere quarter of a mile away.

CEQA also requires that if there are unmitigated impacts (such as in this case lighting and noise will undoubdtedly be) a statement of overidding considerations be made identifying some objective public need for building the project. In this case it’s pretty hard to see how anybody could justify the necessity of a game-day stadium, especially for the few hundred spectators that show up for a typical Hornet game.

where'd everybody go?

This may be one of the rare cases where a citizen/neighborhood group can take on a government agency – and win. We will try to keep our devoted readers up to date on this issue.


Lost in the commotion of last fall’s election excitement was a short letter to the Fullerton Observer by Tom Dalton, Fullerton Heritage’s President-for-Life. It appeared in the early September issue. It seemed to be a very belated response to the letter I had written some time before, and that I just posted here on our blog. Well, I’m posting a copy of Mr. Dalton’s letter here as well as a response I sent to the Observer’s editor. Please note that the Observer never printed my letter rebutting Tom Dalton’s, but now for the very first time, Loyal Friends, you may enjoy it here!

First Mr. Dalton’s missive:

College Buildings

Fullerton College dedicated the latest in a series of new buildings on the Fullerton campus August 15, 2008. The Classroom Office Building joins the Library and the Student Center as another example of how new construction can complement and even improve on the overall historic and architectural character of the campus complex. Period design features, proper scale and proportions, and use of appropriate materials on these buildings reflect the style and character of the original campus. And let us not forget the wonderful results of the restoration work on the Wilshire Continuing Education complex. Fullerton College President Kathleen Hodge, former District Chancellor Jerome Hunter, and the District Board are all to be commended for their steadfast commitment to honor the past by foregoing faddish architecture that others often use to make their own statements. Fullerton College has made the strongest statement of all by preserving its heritage. Fullerton Heritage salutes you! Keep up the good work.

Tom Dalton, President Fullerton Heritage

Well, Tom has had his bootlicking say, and now I will share my thoughts on the subject:


I just read Tom Dalton’s recent tribute to the wisdom of the NOCCCD Trustees for their dismal architectural failures on the Fullerton College campus, as printed in your September edition. Tom’s letter must have pleased the trustee who asked him to write it, but it left me wondering why these folks choose to defend the indefensible – rather than develop a new policy of building modern architecture on our campus. Well, maybe they ought to be defensive! Tom tells us the pseudo-historical details, the materials, and the proportions of the new buildings are harmonious with the historical structures on campus. I guess he expects us to take his word for it. But the commonsense of anyone standing in the central quad will tell him that the new library is an overbearing, out-of-scale monstrosity.

The fake concrete form patterns impressed on hollow stucco walls, the awkward fenestration, and the ludicrous cupola only add insult to injury. It’s not easy to create buildings that are both tacky and unoriginal, but whoever designed this building achieved this dubious distinction. The image and caption on the cover of your early October issue is telling: Tiles Fall off the Dome of the New Library During Storm (what storm was that, by the way?). Further comment is unnecessary.

Why does Tom admire architecture that hides its steel structure within hollow walls made of metal studs, lath, and plaster? He says this sort of thing goes well with the existing buildings, and again he seems to think we’ll take his word for it. But why should we accept the idea that boring, dishonest, clunky buildings are anything but an insult to historical structures? Because Tom says so? The new building on Chapman Avenue with its false arches assaults passersby with a sort of stubborn muteness; it is a dull, blocky, inert monument to creative bankruptcy, without a single redeeming architectural quality.

Tom piously warns us against the evil of architectural fads, by which I think we can assume he means contemporary architecture that doesn’t ape the original Mediterranean themes of the WPA buildings on campus. And so, innovative modern architecture on campus of the sort pioneered in Southern California by masters such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolf Schindler and Richard Neutra and their followers would likely be dismissed as faddish by Dalton, just as their work was scorned by philistines of an earlier time who preferred period revivals such as Stockbroker Tudor and French Provincial as safe, tasteful bets for the local gentry.

But must the public, the students, and the faculty accept fake arches, Styrofoam cornices, and hidden structural members because they gratify Tom and his like minded friends on the Board of Trustees? We should recognize a higher responsibility than weakly regurgitating forms from the past and doing even that poorly. There is no premium paid for good, modern architecture. It costs no more than the uninspired junk the North Orange County Community College District Trustees are foisting on us. And in the long run good architecture will cost less. Someone at the top must make the commitment.

There really is a bigger issue that falls outside the penlight illumination cast by Tom Dalton’s personal aesthetic sensibility. Isn’t it the responsibility of an academic institution to promote creative excellence and shouldn’t that ideal be enshrined in the college’s built environment? Timid and trite architectural expression seems contrary to the very mission of an academic institution. On top of that, it’s a waste of money.

In a few years, as the dreary McSpanish dinosaurs of my Alma Mater disintegrate into a well-deserved decrepitude, Trustees will no doubt float yet another bond to pay for their replacement. Then, hopefully, some future generation will enjoy new creative and dynamic architecture on campus.

Tony Bushala

Founder, Fullerton Heritage