The Fullerton City Council voted 3-2 on Tuesday to change the electoral sequencing of newly-established council districts – undoing the sequencing the council had approved on February 21 (also on a 3-2 vote).
The re-vote was agendized by Mayor Bruce Whitaker, who state he had “made an error in judgment” and wanted to change his vote on which council districts will be on the 2018 and 2020 ballots – when Fullerton begins electing its council from districts.
On February 21, Whitaker voted with Councilmembers Jesus Silva and Doug Chaffee to place District 2 and 5 on the 2018 ballot, and Districts 1, 3 and 4 on the 2020 ballot. Councilmembers Jennifer Fitzgerald and Greg Sebourn proposed putting Districts 3 and 5 on the 2018 ballot instead.
As reported previously by OC Daily here and here, Whitaker’s vote had the effect of forcing Councilman Greg Sebourn off the council. Sebourn and Silva both live in District 3, but Sebourn is up for re-election in 2018, while Silva doesn’t face re-election until 2020. Putting District 3 on the 2020 ballot effectively prevents Sebourn from running for re-election and saves Silva from having to battle another incumbent for the right to be the first official District 3 councilmember.
“I believe that vote on districts on February 21 needs to be re-considered or as the city attorney said, actually changed – and for these reasons,” said Whitaker. “Upon reflection, the outcome is not fair or just, and I believe it needs to be re-visited. My deliberative process failed to provide ample weight to an additional, unintended outcome.”
“The unintended result of the vote that we took at our last regular council meeting – perhaps there are thousands of voters who might support continuation of Councilmember Sebourn on the council,” Whitaker continued. “And they’ve been disenfranchised by not being allowed to vote for him as a result of that selection. Not choosing District 3 as one of the first two district to begin this process has the effect of terminating an incumbent councilmember’s term. We already have term limits in effect for councilmembers in the city of Fullerton.”
Councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald, who had originally proposed placing District 3 on next year’s ballot, welcomed the opportunity to vote again.
“I thought it was unfair that we effectively prohibited one of the city council members from seeking re-election. Mr. Chaffee talked about District 2 being without a representative for the next two years because he has said he not going to run,” said Fitzgerald. “I would submit that the vast majority of our city councilmembers over the past decades have come from District 2. And two years without a member of the council coming from District 2 isn’t going to be a disenfranchisement for them.”
When the time came to vote, Whitaker joined with Fitzgerald and Sebourn to change the sequencing to put District 3 and 5 on the 2018 ballot. This sets up an election battle between Sebourn and Silva for the right to represent District 3. There’s a silver lining for Silva: even if he loses to Sebourn, he can still serve out the remaining two years of the at-large term to which he was elected in 2016. If Sebourn loses in 2018, he is out.