On October 9th, the the League of Women Voters hosted a candidate forum at Fullerton City Hall, in which candidates for City Council were allowed to introduce themselves and answer questions from the audience on important local issues. Dr. Jodi Balma, a political science professor at Fullerton College, served as moderator. Also, the event was recorded by the city and is available on a the city’s web site HERE
District 3 Candidates Introduce Themselves
Jesus Silva said after growing up the son of immigrants and now being elected to the city council, he is “Living the American Dream.” His top issues are finding grant funding for the Fox Theatre, saving the Hunt Library and Coyote Hills. As a council member he was the only one who voted to accept the $15 million from Senate Bill 714 to help purchase West Coyote Hills. He said he is waiting to hear from residents at a study session scheduled in 2019 before determining how to best to fund road repairs.
Nickolas Wildstar said he is a Hip-Hop recording artist who has lived in Fullerton for five years. He was a Libertarian candidate for Governor. He described himself as a community activist who attends protests and rallies. He is running to “represent disenfranchised” people. He supports budget cuts and 3D printed houses for homeless people that cost $5,000 each.
Greg Sebourn said he is a third generation Fullertonian who has been on city council for six years. Over his tenure he said he has opposed bonds, refunded water ratepayers, and opposed the 10% transferred from the water fund to “backfill pensions.” He said he opposes selling the Hunt Library and the Fullerton College Stadium project. He identified his accomplishments as providing bodyworn cameras for police, consolidating the fire command staff with Brea, overseeing grade-separation projects, coordinating city and county projects to pave portions of State College and Yorba Linda Blvd, and consolidating “The overly bureaucratic commissions and committees.”
District 5 Candidates Introduce Themselves
Amad Zahra described himself as an immigrant who has been here 22 years. He said he and his spouse, who is Mexican, are a bicultural family–diverse, like much of the community. Ahmad was a neuropathologist before coming to the US where he now owns an educational filmmaking company. He said he established “Ahmad’s School Drive” to deliver school supplies after seeing two little girls digging for recyclables in a dumpster. He said ending child poverty is his “passion.” His plan includes business development, housing for every income level, lowering fees charged to access the community centers and after-school programs, and lifting up every corner of the city.
Vicki Calhoun grew up in District 5 and attended public schools in Fullerton. She said that residents in her district have been neglected and “lack a voice.” She said she “will listen and speak” and fight on their behalf. She said she will prioritize infrastructure and provide equal access to Fullerton services. She identified the budget deficit, homelessness, and the need for safe water as problems.
John Ybarra said he is a realtor with a business in District 5, who grew up “speaking Spanish like the majority of residents in the district.” He said District 5 roads, parks, and water are neglected. He says he is “the most qualified” candidate for city council because he says he has the most business experience.
Candidates Sabrina Narain and Paulette Chaffee did not participate in the forum.
Candidates Respond to Audience Questions on Local Issues
How would you fund road repairs?
Ms. Calhoun said she would work with state and county representatives to get funds. Mr. Ybarra said that Domino’s Pizza could fill the potholes and put their logo on it, an idea originally brought up by Wildstar. Mr. Zahra said that the city should generate more revenue through economic development and questioned the fairness of how road repair priorities are set. Mr. Silva said he is opposing Proposition 6 to retain SB1 funding for roads and infrastructure. He also said the city is selling surplus assets to fund roads and there will be a study session in early 2019 to ask the public what they want to do. Mr. Wildstar said commercial drivers and public transit agencies should pay to fix the roads and that road projects contracts should be available for workers not under labor agreements. Mr. Sebourn said the “one-time” funds from surplus property will be used for roads and the city will need to find more grant funding.
When asked whether the candidates had accepted any contributions from developers, each gave a one-word answer. Mr. Sebourn said, “Yes.” Mr. Silva said he needed to check whether one of his contributors had any development business. All others said, “No.”
All candidates said they support civilian police oversight – but to varying degrees. The two who are currently on City Council, Mr. Silva and Mr. Sebourn, said the City Council already provides oversight. Mr. Zahra said the commission should be made up of professionals who understand law enforcement and those who are civil rights attorneys. Ms. Calhoun and Mr. Wildstar said they supported oversight by residents, stating that they had personally experienced unfair treatment by police. All said that employee discipline records are not public by state law, but Mr. Silva pointed out that there are efforts at the state level to make police officer discipline records public.
The candidates were asked if they preferred five or seven districts or whether there should be a mayor elected at large. All said they liked the five district system. Mr. Sebourn said he liked that candidates can now run a campaign on $5,000 to $10,000. Mr. Wildstar and Mr. Silva noted that the boundaries were gerrymandered and all agreed they were poorly drawn. The District 5 candidates agreed that there were more important issues to work on now and that the district boundaries could be fixed later.
High Density Housing
Where is high-density housing appropriate and should there be height limits?
Mr. Ybarra said there are impacts to existing residents like visibility into people’s yards. Ms. Calhoun said people were not aware of the project on Harbor north of Costco until it was being built, and questioned why all of the affordable housing is being built in her district. Mr. Zahra, said there is a “housing crisis” and a need for affordable housing. He said that the starting rent for new apartments in his area is $2,000 a month and it is causing other rents in the area to increase. Mr. Wildstar said it was “counterintuitive” to restrict high density housing while discussing the need for affordable housing.
All the candidates supported Fullerton having a Youth Commission. Mr. Silva said he has already requested a Youth Commission that will be established in 2019. Mr. Sebourn said he has supported high school internships at city hall. Mr. Zahra said that as the “Education Community” there should be more coordination between the city and schools to provide opportunities for local jobs. Ms. Calhoun recommended opportunities like she had to work at the library, Maple School, and Independence Park as a youth. Mr. Ybarra said the city should “help impoverished areas” because wealthy people don’t need help taking care of their children.
Creating New Business
When asked how to bring new business to the city, there was consensus that city processes should be made easier for new businesses and industrial and manufacturing zoning should remain in place. Mr. Silva said he expects process improvements now that there is a new Community Development Director. Ms. Calhoun said that Fullerton “has the workforce” to attract technology businesses. Mr. Ybarra, said the city needs a “business liaison expert.” Mr. Zahra said the city should recruit green energy and biotech businesses, downtown should be more than a “bar scene,” and the Orangethorpe corridor should be made “more attractive” to attract customers to existing and new businesses. Mr. Wildstar said that the city should be open to all businesses including recreational marijuana for adults.
New FC Stadium
All candidates were sympathetic to neighborhood concerns about the noise, light, and traffic impacts anticipated from the Fullerton College stadium project. Mr. Silva who lives two blocks from the college said he has realized after campaigning in his neighborhood this year that, “We need to re-look at the stadium.” Mr. Zahra who is running in a district not impacted by the stadium took a more wait and see perspective saying that he wants to see impact studies before taking a position.
Would you support the College Town project if it were “brought back” and do you support closing Nutwood?
All the candidates were in support of student housing at the site. But, they all seemed surprised that the project could come back. Ms. Calhoun said student housing should be located at the Kimberly Clark site when it closes in three years and that public transit could tansport students to and from campus. No one supported closing Nutwood, though Mr. Zahra said it could make sense in the future if traffic demands were decreased.
Budget Cuts and Revenue
Name three budget cuts or new sources of revenue that you support.
Mr. Zahra, Ms. Calhoun, and Mr. Silva said that there was nothing more that could be cut from the budget and recommended more economic development as a source of revenue. Mr. Ybarra said he would “find the poor producers” to cut in the city budget. Mr. Wildstar said that fire captains are costing too much and pensions should be transferred to an insurance company. Mr. Sebourn supported business development and said that the city should also “reformulate the pension structure.”
To watch the full video of the candidate forum click HERE.