Last night, the Fullerton City Council again voted 5-0 to place on the November ballot a proposed council district map (Map 8A) that spreads the popular downtown area among all five council districts.
The second council vote was prompted by a July 20 OC Superior Court Judge James Crandall ruling that an earlier vote adopting the map was insufficient to satisfy the procedural guidelines of the settlement agreement between the city and the plaintiffs who sued to forced adoption of by-district elections.
Progressives Push For Their Preferred Map
This writer closely observed neighboring Anaheim’s long, arduous fight over council districts; the deja vu was inescapable. Just as in Anaheim, there was a strong presence of organized progressive activists who felt entitled to having their preferred map – 2B – adopted since they successfully dominated the community meeting process.
As in Anaheim, outside political groups – in Fullerton’s case, the left-wing Korean Resource Center – were heavily involved in organizing and scripting their speakers. The Korean Resource Center was significantly involved in the Anaheim districting battle, contributing tens of thousands of dollars to the pro-districting ballot measure campaign.
As in Anaheim. Progressive activists claimed their political agenda represented “the community” and was “supported by residents.”
“Map 2b was voted on and supported by the community,” said one progressive activist, notwithstanding that the former claim is untrue and the latter claim pure speculation.
Map 2B is “supported by the community, supported by residents,” claimed another in a comment typical of pro-2B activists.
As in Anaheim, the rhetoric of these activists was suffused with racial identity politics, as speakers said over and over that they wanted districts in order to effectuate the election of councilmembers of certain ethnicities – specifically Latino and Asian.
For example, 2B proponent Arnel Dino prefaced his remarks by saying the issue “really isn’t about race” – then proceeded to talk about how important he thought it was to elect Asians and Latinos to the city council and how necessary it is “for our children to see people who look like them.”
One young man gave unalloyed voice to the peculiar racism of the progressive Left. Speaking as a “person of color,” a Mr. Castaneda declared Fullerton to be “horribly segregated” and that he was “sick of the city being controlled by old white people.”
“We need to have Asians and Latinos on the city council for racial progress,” he said.
One of the progressive ringleaders, Jeannette Vasquez, even attempted to link Map 2B to solutions for housing affordability.
Several Map 2B advocates complained that Map 8A should be disregarded because its supporters didn’t participate in the community meeting process – and yet they wanted to draw ethnic-based council districts in part to compensate for the low voter participation rates among Latinos. When it comes to a political proposal they oppose, lack of participation is bad, but when the lack of participation is harmful to progressive council candidates, it must be catered to with a gerrymandered electoral system.
Unlike in Anaheim, residents and businesses were organized and pushed back against the Left. And in the end, that made the difference.
Council Refuses To Be Cowed
All five Fullerton councilmembers expressed their support for Map 8A. [Councilmen Bruce Whitaker and Greg Sebourn made a substitute motion for an alternative map – Map 11 – but that motion lost, and they joined their colleagues in supporting Map 8A].
Mayor Pro Tem Jan Flory directly addressed the cohort of progressive activists regarding the two maps:
“We haven’t seen most of you here before,” said Flory, “But we understand the dynamic of packing the council chamber.”
Flory expressed rhetorical puzzlement over their adamancy given there is virtually no difference between Maps 8A and 2B in terms of the Citizen Voting Age percentages for Latinos and Asian-Pacific Islanders in the districts drawn to advantage candidates of those ethnicities.
“Those of you saying you want a council that reflects the diversity of our population, this map (8A) does the job,” said Flory.
Pinpointing what is likely an underlying reason for the progressive activists’ intense opposition to Map 8A, Flory – who is a Democrat – noted she received an e-mail asking her to oppose Map 8A because “it had three Republican districts” out of the five districts. It’s worth noting that Arnel Dino, one of the leaders of the pro-Map 2B group, is a member of the Executive Board of the Democratic Party of Orange County.
Responding to those who overstated Judge Crandall’s ruling and claimed the court would simply toss out Map 8A, Flory pointed out that Judge Crandall was very unfamiliar with the issue. “He hadn’t read any of the city’s pleadings,” said Flory, noting the case had been “shipped off” to Crandall, who had only read the minute order of another judge before issuing his ruling.
Map 2B advocates claimed repeatedly that dividing downtown Fullerton was illegal and violated the settlement agreement. During her comments, Mayor Jennifer Fitzgerald noted that demography David Ely – who was paid by the city to run the public map drawing and review process per the settlement agreement with the plaintiff – drew a map that divided downtown among all five council districts. Ely testified at the April 2016 public hearing that “it was a legal map.”
After the council vote, the group of progressive activists – most garbed in matching “Right 2B Heard” t-shirts – filed out and gathered outside City Hall (unlike in Anaheim, where their counterparts responded to a similar situation by so loudly and violently disrupting the meeting that Mayor Tom Tait adjourned it). There they were treated to a pep talk from Democrat Sharon Quirk Silva (running against Assemblywoman Young Kim in AD65) and Jonathan Paik, the Korean Resource Center activists who was one of the plaintiffs. Both vowed to continue fighting for their map at the ballot box “or in court.”
Earlier, Councilman Doug Chaffee asked Assistant City Attorney Kimberly Barlow if it was the opinion of the City Attorney’s office that Map 8A satisfied the legal requirements of the settlement agreement and state and federal voting rights law. Barlow replied they were confident it does.
Map 8A will now go to the November ballot. If Fullerton voters decide they prefer keeping the at-large election system and reject the map and moving to by-district elections, the matter will wind up back in court and Fullertonians will have a by-district system imposed on them whether they want it or not.
In the meantime, it remains to be seen whether the progressive cohort led by Sharon Quirk-Silva and the Korean Resource Center will accept the decision of the duly elected representatives of Fullerton citizens, or seek to prevail politically via litigation.