In three Zoom meetings held on September 21, 22, and October 3, Fullerton City Council candidates took stands on a number of issues facing Fullerton voters, including road repair, budget balancing, the Measure S tax increase, policing, homelessness, and development. The first Zoom Q&A was hosted by Neighbors United for Fullerton (NUFF), the second by the Fullerton Observer, and the third by the League of Women Voters of North Orange County. Click HERE to watch the Observer’s forum.
The eight candidates who participated in these forums are running in the November 3 general election for City Council seats in Districts 1, 2, and 4. In District 1 the race pits Andrew Cho against Fred Jung. In District 4, Aaruni Thakur faces Bruce Whitaker. District 2 features four candidates: Mackenzie Chang, Nick Dunlap, Faisal Qazi, and Chuck Sergeant.
Not sure what district you reside in? Visit the City Clerk’s page HERE or look at the sample ballot you received in the mail, which will include only candidates running in your district.
Here we present a summary of the candidates’ positions on various issues, as expressed in the different forums. This is not a transcription, but rather an attempt to capture the essence of their answers. Because not all candidates participated in every forum, they did not answer all questions asked.
What is Fullerton’s biggest challenge?
Cho: By 2025 the City’s reserves will be depleted. As a bankruptcy attorney I want to help the city avert insolvency. We’ve got to raise revenues with creative thinking.
Jung: The COVID pandemic. Citizens are sick and dying. We must recover from that before facing other problems.
Chang: Deficits. The council can’t find sufficient revenue to fund the city. The source of that problem is overspending, specifically on police and firefighter pensions.
Dunlap: Roads. The city must address its spending in other areas to find money for roads, and ought to apply for transportation and other grants from county and state to use to build and repair.
Qazi: Roads and infrastructure. These are needed to sustain any future economic development. We must look for state funds.
Sargeant: The streets. To fix these we need money and someone who can bring it in by bringing in business and generating a tax base.
Thakur: Infrastructure, but also people struggling to get their next paycheck and scrambling for housing. I would use Measure S to build roads.
Whitaker: Streets and infrastructure. However, we can’t solve that by fundraising through taxes on already overburdened companies.
Do you support the sales tax initiative, measure S?
Cho: No. There is no sunset provision and it would encourage people to shop outside of the city. The way to stay out of bankruptcy is to increase city income.
Jung: No. It would make our sales tax the second highest in the County.
Chang: No. It’s a regressive sales tax. To balance the budget we should focus instead on renegotiating police and fire pensions, as the 2013 California Supreme Court decision proved is possible.
Dunlap: No. S is a regressive tax that disproportionately impacts low-income people. We need economic development to increase revenue, like the plan for the Kimberly Clark property that could bring thousands of jobs.
Qazi: No. In a recession I do not think voters will approve it because it is not solely focused on infrastructure.
Sargeant: No. I will focus instead on increasing city revenues by bringing in new businesses, namely auto dealerships.
Thakur: Yes. Too many cities have kicked the can down the road regarding infrastructure. If S doesn’t pass Fullerton residents will likely have fewer services than they’re used to.
Whitaker: No. I don’t want Fullerton to be a high-tax city, unfriendly to residents and businesses. City council salary raises have contributed to our current budget shortfall and must be part of the solution.
Would you repair the roads, and how would you pay for that?
Cho: I would reprioritize expenditures for city service delivery. I acknowledge repair would be difficult using current revenues.
Jung: I led my HOA to repair roads and install fiber optic. I would make repairing Fullerton roads a priority because residents recognize that the “D” we received in the outside assessment of our roads was unacceptable.
Chang: I would love to be able to generate more revenue through economic development, but we can’t be sure of that. We need a backup to make sure that our spending isn’t too high, so that we can build better roads in the future.
Dunlap: My daughters can’t even drive their Power Wheels around the block because they get caught in potholes. I believe we ought to apply for County and State grants for transportation, which have so far gone untapped.
Qazi: I wants to redirect any future revenue to provide the maximum feasible amount toward road repair. Economic stimulation will be priority number 1, but we also need to secure matching transportation grants from OCTA and others.
Sargeant: I would generate revenue by inviting in businesses like Northrop. I have helped bring business to Fullerton in the past.
Thakur: Whitaker has been soaking up city funds by taking the highest salary of anyone on the Council, including salary, from his position on the Water District. Whitaker hasn’t been serious about repairing roads in his 10 years. I want to repair pipes and roads together.
Whitaker: I made roads my top priority starting with my term as mayor in 2013 and as a Councilmember in 2017, though the follow-through on those repairs has not been sufficient. The City has prioritized payroll, pensions, and perks over pavement.
Do you support a civilian oversight board for the police? How do you promote justice in policing?
Cho: I am agnostic on issue of civilian oversight board. I believes there are laws on the books to keep police accountable, but I do support further training on excessive use of force.
Jung: I am not in favor of defunding police. I like the current reform efforts, including the national police chiefs’ board.
Chang: I want an oversight board. The wounds of the Kelly Thomas incident won’t heal quickly. Reports recently published in the Observer were damning about how training affected the outcome in that incident.
Dunlap: I will fully fund the police department. I believe in community policing, increasing training, and civilian oversight.
Qazi: I believes there are both technical and social aspects of policing that need addressing. We have a good chief, and a civilian oversight committee would help.
Sargeant: The FPD’s training is the best in the entire United States. I believe we might better keep track of performance of sergeants and lieutenants in overseeing forces.
Thakur: I want greater civilian oversight. I secured the fire endorsement but did not seek police endorsement because I want to maintain my independence in reviewing police policies.
Whitaker: I have always supported some oversight. It’s important to have outside eyes looking in. I was the only council member to demand a complete airing of the facts in the Kelly Thomas incident.
What is the right response to homelessness?
Cho: It’s not simply a policing issue. Dispatch for calls on mental health, for example, should include social workers as well. It’s also good to make temporary housing available for those willing to use it.
Jung: Disneyland had laid off 3,500 people. 200 have died in Orange County this year due to being homeless. We need shelters, navigation centers, and safe parking. We need to prevent homelessness by increasing the number of affordable homes.
Chang: I have worked with vulnerable populations who were forced into homelessness. This doesn’t happen overnight. We must address long-term problems of such people with compassion.
Dunlap: We must help the needy but also enforce anti-camping and loitering laws. Public-private partnerships like partnering United Way with social services can help solve problem.
Qazi: Policing isn’t the solution. It took a judge to teach us not to criminalize homelessness. We must commit to recuperation centers, as we have in our 13-city partnership. And we must work to create permanent housing for people without homes.
Sargeant: We ought to put people to work, as Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico have done. People are bussed to jobs where they earn money for food.
Thakur: Government and nonprofits must both help. Regional leadership is needed. The armory in District 4 has served hundreds. Navigation Centers are part of the solution.
Whitaker: Counties are trying to shift the burden onto the cities, where it does not belong. Judges like David Carter have been involved in this effort.
How would you meet Fullerton’s moderate and affordable housing goals?
Cho: I would allow high-density development in the center of the City near transit, but not in other neighborhoods. I would seek out developers to develop housing.
Jung: A few properties could be turned into higher density development, including the CVS on Euclid and Rosecrans. I supports transit center housing and an increase in accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and rental units that can be built in the back yard for single-family homeowners.
Chang: I am opposed to public action on this. I laughs at the idea that state housing assessment can predict how many people will want to move to Fullerton.
Dunlap: I views the housing problem as a supply and demand issue to be solved by increasing the supply of homes, including ADUs, while also developing commercial and retail space.
Qazi: I support affordable housing, and am in favor of mixed-use development and in-line development, including senior communities.
Sergeant: Mixed-use development didn’t work. The California government should step out and let Fullerton leaders make their own plans.
Thakur: I supports cutting fees for ADUs. I am open to high-density developments like those that have been successful in neighboring cities.
Whitaker: I regret the loss of older housing stock that offered affordable dwelling. I believe we must increase peoples’ incomes so they can afford homes.
Following are questions to which only some candidates gave answers because not all of them attended all the forums.
What is your position on short-term rentals?
Jung: Opposed. I would cite unacknowledged costs of rentals that fall on the city, such as infrastructure repair.
Chang: In favor. People use rentals to generate needed additional income.
Sergeant: Opposed. They destroy the peace and quiet of neighborhoods.
Thakur: I would distinguish between whole-house rentals and single-room rentals, which I find reasonable. I am against the use of short-term rentals as “party houses.”
Whitaker: I support as a property rights issue. Unwanted side effects such as excessive noise can be dealt with through code enforcement.
Development vs. preservation of open space at Coyote Hills and Bastanchury Tree Farm?
Jung: I am in favor of preserving both as open space.
Chang: Criticized the current development plans for both.
Dunlap: I believe we need a balance of open space and development. I want local, not state, control of how the space is developed.
Qazi: I am not in favor of the current development plans for either one, preferring to keep both open for children. I do believe Fullerton needs to prioritize new housing for seniors.
Sargeant: I oppose development unless homeowners oversee it 100 percent. I want to make sure the city has the funds to maintain open spaces to which it allows public access.
Thakur: I understands that Coyote Hills won’t be coming back to the Council for a vote, but I support the efforts of community organizations to buy the land outright from Chevron.
Whitaker: This property has been sealed for decades because of people’s lack of willingness to compromise. I like that open space remains, but regret that it’s currently unavailable for citizens to use for housing or for open space, since the City needs both.
Should government help families stay in rental homes during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Jung: Yes. Shelter is a human right, and the Centers for Disease Control has designated eviction as a public health crisis.
Chang: I am opposed to the Fullerton City Council ruling on what property owners can do with their own property.
Qazi: Yes. I have personally helped deliver food to underserved communities, and have been told that every little thing helps.
Sargeant: Putting residents back to work is the best long-term fix to the problem, but I am in favor of looking into The City of Fullerton offering financial aid in the short term.
Thakur: Yes. My opponent (Whitaker) opposed the eviction moratorium. Evicting renters during the pandemic could cause an explosion in the homeless population.