On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

The Fullerton Observer Observing
The Fullerton Observer Observing

On March 7th 2009 people from all over the state descended on Fullerton to enjoy their right to political free speech.  Depending on whom you talk to, the crowd, that came by bus, train, bicycle and by foot, numbered in the thousands, with some accounts placing the total over ten thousand.

The “tax revolt” sponsored by popular radio entertainers Ken and John of KFI, was big news. No matter how you figure it.

And yet the non-Friends of Fullerton’s future over at The Fullerton Observer ignored the story completely. Check out their mid-March and early April issues to see if you can find a single reference to this huge event. None.

Okay, later in the month the Observer’s patron saint Obama the Good hove into Orange County and we gagged our way through Pam Keller’s giggly tribute to the event, complete with her characteristic abuse of the perpendicular pronoun. Still, not a single solitary mention of the largest crowd ever assembled in downtown Fullerton? Yet room for all the usual Observer dross?

If the crowd had assembled to support raising taxes and spending more money on government employee unions you can bet your bottom dollar that the Observer would have been all over this like flies on… well you get the point.

Update: thanks to James Crum’s comment I indeed did discover an article in the mid-March edition by a T. DeMoss; relegated to page 8, of course, under the “ObserverHeader” headline: Radio Fans In Fullerton. Hardly a clear statement of any content relating to the assembly. When I reviewed the Observer headlines I naturally missed the connection. Actually the DeMoss article was really pretty objective and kudos to him/her. But to remind our friends of the typical Observer editorial bias, a story about a demonstration by locals against cutbacks in the local schools made the front page, as usual.

Also lurking at the bottom of the second page was this gem at the end of the letters section, but not signed by anybody. Hmmm. Now this is the Observer we’ve come to know and love. Some kooks show up at an event and everybody gets painted with the same brush. Almost like racial stereotyping.

Racists at the Tax Revolt Radio Show

Among the raving fans of the selfserving Clear Channel radio talk show hosts who invaded Fullerton on March 7th were notorius members of several hate groups including KKK off-shoots and the Minute Men. How did this group get a permit for this gathering? Let’s hope they aren’t allowed back in town. To see for yourself go to http://www.youtube.com and punch in Racists at KFI AM 640 event


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


A couple of years ago I sent the following letter to the Fullerton Observer. It caused a bit of a stir among the knee-jerk educrat supporters. I hope you Friends enjoy it, too:

Dear Editor: There is an old adage that bad architecture costs just as much as good. This lesson seems to be lost on the educators over at the NCCCD. First they erect the god-awful monstrosity of the library with its overbearing size and fake historical details, right down to the false concrete formwork impressions on lath and plaster walls!

And now the Student Commons: another McSpanish dinosaur looming over innocent passersby on Chapman Avenue. With its fake “thick” walls, fake concrete columns, fake cornices, and oafish arches (see attached images) this edifice represents all that’s bad in trying to ape the design of the poured-in-place concrete structures on campus.

Had the college pursued a course of promoting original modern design they may well have succeeded in erecting buildings that would be recognized 70 years from now as historic. – buildings that were graceful, elegant, efficient, and that honestly expressed structure in form. My guess is that the WPA buildings on campus will end up outlasting these new ones.

The promotion of fake old architecture by our Board, on the other hand, is the result of confused thinking. The idea of emulating existing building’s themes so that the new ones “fit in” is meant to display aesthetic sensitivity with a nod to the ideas of tradition and preservation – concepts that they badly misunderstand. Fake old architecture honors nothing, least of all the past. The feeble attempts to copy historical detailing that present-day workers can’t do, or that the College won’t pay for, pays homage to nothing. Placing a fake old building next to an historic building will serve to make the original look better, but how much more of an honor would it be to hire a creative designer and let him or her pay tribute to the existing built environment through the exercise of creativity and talent! Isn’t that the lesson our public schools should be teaching their students?

What’s wrong with the Fullerton Observer and its Editor?

What is it about the Fullerton Observer that sparks the passions of Fullerton residents? Some hail it as a beacon of “progressive” enlightenment while others see it as nothing more than an instrument of quasi-socialist propaganda. It is certainly either of these things, depending on one’s ideological point of view – and a whole lot less.

We have come to the conclusion that people who want to see the Fullerton Observer through a political prism are missing the real nature of this “newspaper.” Why do we use quotation marks around the word newspaper? Because we don’t think it really is one. And not just because it is a completely amateur operation that fails in almost every respect to attain the ethical and objective professional standards employed by real journalists and editors; but, also because the Observer mirrors precisely the personality and temperament of its editor and publisher, Sharon Kennedy.

What characterizes the Observer’s failures? For one thing, the Observer indulges in the complete confusion of editorial comment and actual news reporting. Sometimes this is reflected in incomplete reporting, and often through inappropriate commentary introduced into stories merely for its ability to malign those people Sharon Kennedy dislikes. In this same vein we can add the gratuitous slurs, snide commentary, and innuendo aimed at those same targets for no other apparent reason than personal vindictiveness.

What are some of the other indicators of failure to meet basic journalistic standards? Kennedy routinely prints unsigned articles and anonymous letters to the editor that also engage in personal attack; and of course there is the editor’s constant need to add her own commentary at the end of letters from those she dislikes – as if her poor readers were incapable of figuring out anything without her acerbic often incoherent explanations.

Simple errors like spelling and factual mistakes can be attributed to the amateur nature of the operation. More serious is Kennedy’s seeming desire to act as cheerleader for city staff and for council members who toe the line by affiliating themselves with the bureaucracy rather than with their real constituents. So Sharon Quirk and Pam Keller get to vote for the over-development of Fullerton by supporting the Jefferson Commons and Amerige Court projects, and suddenly the issues associated with failure of environmental review slide by the Observer’s notice.

While some of its writers (Judith Kaluzny comes to mind) are really interested in reporting what’s going on without covering up for anybody, there appears to be a real effort on Kennedy’s part to avoid printing anything that might embarrass City officialdom. On the other hand there seems to be no story so unrelated to him that it can’t include a gratuitous insult aimed at Councilman Shawn Nelson.

The Fullerton Observer has got by with its sloppy, jaundiced, pique-pocked brand of reporting since its inception because it was free and nobody expected much. Very little has changed over the years except that the overheated rhetoric that resulted from spirited socialism has given way to shilling for city hall employees and using the Observer to exercise its proprietor’s bitter animus.