Sunday, March 12, 2017

Fullerton City Council Flip-Flops to Protect Council Member Sebourn

The following will appear in the "City Council Notes" section of the upcoming issue of the Fullerton Observer Newspaper, our only local, independent paper.

Last election, Fullerton voters approved a change in our election system from an “at-large” to “district” election system.  At their February 21st meeting, City Council voted to have two districts up for election in 2018 (Districts 2 and 5), and to have the remaining three districts up for election in 2020.  At the recent March 7th meeting, in an unusual move, Mayor Bruce Whitaker, Council member Fitzgerald, and Council Member Sebourn voted to change their vote and instead place districts 3 and 5 on the next ballot, a decision which would directly benefit Council Member Sebourn, who lives in district 3 and therefore would be allowed to run again in two years. 

Council Member Greg Sebourn.

Recently-elected Council Member Jesus Silva, who also lives in district 3, will be adversely affected by this decision.  He must now choose to remain as an at-large candidate until 2020, or (if he wants a political future), run again in 2018 (two years shy of the term to which he was elected). Silva voted against the change, stating that “It’s grossly unfair,”  and, “We’re doing the old flip-flop here,” suggesting that bringing back items already voted on sets a bad precedent.  

Mayor Whitaker responded by saying, “It’s not really a flip-flop.  It is a change of evaluation.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Chaffee, who voted against the change stated, “The first thing that is wrong with this action is we have government favoring itself, by creating a favorite person to run in a district that’s already here…we should not have that conflict of interest…From my own personal sense it ethics, it’s wrong to favor an incumbent.”

Vivian “Kitty” Jaramillo, one of the plaintiffs on the lawsuit which alleged that Fullerton’s at-large voting system violated the California Voting Rights Act by disenfranchising minority communities, and an advocate for district elections, spoke out, criticizing the fact that this City Council already approved a “gerrymandered” map that benefitted incumbents (map 8A, not the more publicly vetted map 2B), and now (largely due to the election of Jesus Silva, the council’s only Latino), they want to change things again. “Originally, you guys are the ones who gerrymandered that map for Sebourn and Chaffee,” she said, “and now you’re wanting to change it again…it’s just not right…Instead of the spirit of the California Voting Rights Act, you guys are making it all about Sebourn.  How does that make you look?  Now, again, it’s being gerrymandered, manipulated, whatever you want to call it…that’s what it is.”

The "gerrymandered" map 8A.  Both Silva and Sebourn live in District 3.

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