Local Government

City Council Notes: November 07, 2023 Meeting

Jenna Laborde accepts the proclamation certificate for Family Court Awareness Month from the Fullerton City Council.

Family Court Awareness Month

This annual observance raises awareness of one of the most important facets of our judicial system, the family court system. Family Court Awareness Month advocates for all professionals working on family court cases to be trained on domestic violence, childhood trauma, child sexual abuse, coercive control, and post-separation abuse in hopes of advancing trauma-informed outcomes that prioritize the safety and best interests of children.

You can learn more at: www.familycourtawarenessmonth.org/


A representative spoke on behalf of Groundswell, formerly known as OC Human Relations, A nonprofit organization that promotes understanding between all people.

In the past year, Groundswell has worked with schools to center relationships, co-create belonging, and expand to 12 sites for restorative school programs. They provided 79 training and workshops on restorative justice and facilitated 444 cases involving conflict in middle and high school campuses.

Groundswell helped communities find a better way to resolve conflict by engaging over 100 trained mediators to provide mediation services for OC residents. They have expanded hate crime prevention strategies by launching the Hate Hurts Us All campaign to educate the community about the importance of preventing and reporting hate activity within OC. Groundswell also assisted several cities with their DEI and Human Relations Committee. They mediated 37 court intake cases and nine community intake cases in the courts where one of the parties was a resident of the city of Fullerton in collaboration with the OC, local law enforcement agencies, schools, community organizations, and residents.

Groundswell documented hate crimes and incidences, and in Fullerton, there were two hate crimes and six hate incidents. They work to build a sense of community among Fullerton residents and staff who are continuing countrywide hate crime education, victim outreach, and support.

“Groundswell has appreciated Fullerton’s past membership in the city dues that support programs allowing us to support schools and cities, build safe, respectful communities, address community conflict and strife, and sustain a human relations infrastructure to serve cities when crises occur,” said the representative.

For more information, go to: https://groundswell.org

UP Trail Grant Update

City Manager Eric Levitt: The deputy city manager and City Manager met with two state officials from the agency that approved the $1.78 million grant. Based on the City Council’s direction, we talked to them about ways to move that money from the trail to a park. We talked about some different possibilities. It is a very restrictive grant with a lot of parameters to it. Union Pacific Park does meet those restrictions and parameters, and the agency is open to that discussion. We had to send some further documents, which we did about a week ago. They are open to the discussion of moving that money as long as it meets the criteria and the intent of the grant, and I think, at this time, it will.

We plan to return the item to the City Council with the park plan and possible movement of that funding on November 21st.

Update on Public Input on the Housing Element

Director Sue Thomas: We’re still working through some of the sections in the housing element. We’re working through the HIOZ. The HIOZ EIR was out for public review. Consultants are still working on that. We should return to the public with a workshop in January or February next year.

We’ll present what the programs will look like and gather additional feedback before the final draft is submitted to HCD for approval. The public will have ample opportunity. They can still visit staff and provide comments individually, but they don’t necessarily.

We have to have a public forum, but we encourage people to speak to staff or provide concerns and suggestions in writing if they wish, and then we can take it from there as well and provide it as backup into the HCD.

Tentative agreement between the City of Fullerton, Police Officers Association, Police Safety, and Dispatcher units

Director Manfro presented tentative agreements with the Fullerton Police Officers Association, the Police Safety Unit, and the Dispatcher Unit.

Background: the Police Officers Association Public Safety Unit represents sworn personnel—one hundred twenty-two budgeted positions, including our police officers, corporals, and sergeants. The Police Officers Association also has a dispatch unit, 19 budgeted positions, and includes non-sworn members in classifications of forensic specialist, jailer, lead forensic specialist, lead dispatcher, and police dispatcher.

The current agreements expire on June 30, 2024, but these new negotiations will supersede them. Although there are two units, the negotiations coincide. The Police Officers Association represents both sworn and non-sworn officers and has two separate agreements. The major terms common to both units would start in January 2024 and go through June 30, 2028. Salary increases are scheduled for January at 8%, July 25 at 4%, July 26 at 4%, and July 27 at 4%. There is currently a longevity step for members of 6% at six years, adding to a 10% step at the start of 10 years of service. Similar to other agreements, there’s also a provision during the contract.

Reduce the employer-paid member contribution and offset the employees’ cost sharing by 6%. There’s also been an addition of a flexible credit contribution of $350.00 per month for employees enrolled in a city medical plan. Another item pertinent to the Public Safety Unit is in July 2024, it will increase from 2.5% to 5%. The dispatchers’ unit will be calculated at 2.5% above their current.

There will be a change in the probationary period for dispatchers, which will be a lesser of 18 months or 12 months after the completion of training. Currently, the probation is 12 months from the date of appointment. The reason for that change is that the training has become more complicated with new technologies, and rather than be forced into a decision at the 12-month mark with someone who might need to complete more training, the unit and the management have agreed to an extension of time to provide for that training.

The annualized costs of the contract for the remainder of this fiscal year are 1.2 million. For the following fiscal year, it will be 2.8 million. For 25/26, it will be approximately 4 million. In 26/27, it will be 5.2 million; in 27/28, it will be 6.4 million.

The motion passed 4 to 1 (Whitaker No)

New Position Classifications

The following positions are part of a larger public works reorganization under the leadership of Director Bise.

• City Traffic Engineer • Facilities Manager • Landscape and Tree Manager • Streets and Sewer Manager

There are also new positions at the Police Department and Library that are already authorized in the budget.

• Public Service Representative • Public Information Specialist • Library Service Supervisor

Public Comments on this item

Anjali Tapadia: This measure calls for hiring several positions, including the traffic engineer. With Mr. Bise, who has done an excellent job moving into the Public Works Director position, the city is now looking to hire a full-time traffic engineer. I am requesting that the city consider hiring someone who is not just a traffic engineer but a transportation engineer in the sense of someone who is very attuned to the needs of active transportation users. Mr. Bise was very attuned to these issues, and I would like someone to follow in the same footsteps. Mr. Gamble made a good point about the need for prevention being very important for the success of our city when it comes to city design. That means enabling all users of the city’s infrastructure to navigate the city safely and efficiently. Not just people in cars, but everybody.

In California, 8% of households don’t have access to a car. Estimates about the general American population in terms of the percentage of people who don’t drive go up to about 30%. Recently, a patient came into my office, and I told him he couldn’t drive because of his vision. He was the only person in this household who was able to drive. So, some people exist in our communities who can’t drive. They have to walk, take transit, or bike. They have to. They don’t have another choice. And they all deserve to get around safely and efficiently.

I request that whoever the city hires as a new traffic engineer is attuned to the needs of all road users, not just those in a car. Extremely important for our city’s safety, efficiency, and sense of community. This is a subtle point, but it’s extremely important. This is emerging in transportation, transit traffic, and transportation engineering. Correct me if I’m wrong, but being attuned to the needs of all road users is representative of a paradigm shift in how we build our cities. It’s important for us to look into the future instead of replicating mistakes with car-centric design in our city.

The item passed unanimously.

Some clarification on these percentages printed below and in the Mid-November 2023 issue: The Observer reported on a Community Survey presented to the Council on November 7. While presented as a “Community Survey on Community Priorities,” it was mostly about support for potential taxes. However, the Observer did print a list of “top priorities” for potential projects or provisions facing the city. It should be noted that the data presented only represented the percentages of respondents who ranked  an issue as “ Extremely Important.” 

For instance, the top ranking went to repairing streets and potholes at 58%. Yet another 36 percent rated the issue as “Very Important” or “Somewhat Important,” for a grand total of 94% rating the issue as important. At the other end of the scale, adding more bike lanes was reported as having only 8% support, which was the percent rating the issue “Extremely Important.” In fact, 50% rated this as important, with 48% saying it was not too important. There is not overwhelming support, but it is better than 8%, and the majority of support (50-48%) is for more bicycle lanes.

Results of Community Survey on Priorities and Tax for Funding Options

Doctor Richard Bernard, a partner at FM3 Research, a public opinion polling and strategy firm, gave a presentation on the Community Survey on Community Priorities and Tax Options. The survey was conducted between May 19th and the 25th. It was a dual-mode survey, which means a portion was randomized. Respondents, a random sample of 461 likely 2024 voters in Fullerton, took the survey online and by phone. Residents were contacted by telephone, e-mail, and text. The survey was offered in English and Spanish, of which 5% of the respondents opted to take the survey in Spanish.

The extremely and very serious problems were aggregated and ranked. In terms of issues, homelessness is by far the number one issue, followed by inflation in the cost of living, the cost of housing, the condition of city streets, and then property crimes such as homes and auto break-ins.

Among the other items that were scored as less of a serious problem in the eyes of voters include the amount paid in city taxes and the time it takes for police officers to respond to 911 emergency calls. Note that 41% didn’t respond because most people don’t have to call the police to get a response, so they may not be clear on how long it takes, but clearly, it’s not for those people who had an opinion. Population growth also wasn’t a major problem, nor was flooding on local streets, so that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, but comparatively, it wasn’t as serious as some of the other issues.

Potential revenue measures: TAXES

The general purpose tax measure requires a 50-plus-1 vote to pass the measure by voters if a council chooses to place it on the ballot. This money goes into the general fund and cannot be promised definitively. The ballot initiative can provide illustrative examples of how the money could be used.

The one-cent tax would generate approximately $30 million annually for the general fund. Special purpose tax measure requires a 2/3 vote for it to pass. If the council chooses to place it on the ballot, the one cent would generate $30 million. However, this would be dedicated funds that could only be used for specified items like public infrastructure, such as repairing residential street potholes, upgrading St. lighting, or improving traffic flow. If there were an election today, would you vote yes in favor or no to oppose? The general purpose measure: Overall, in the initial vote, 77% said yes, 18% said no, and 4% said undecided. The definitely Yes is in a very good place for a 50 + 1 ballot measure.

The special purpose measure primarily focuses on road repairs: The response was 67% yes, 32% no, 1% undecided. Rather than the one cent that generated 30 million, what about a half-cent that generated 15,000,000? How would you vote? The survey was 71% yes and 24% no. It doesn’t suggest that the tax rate is a big issue because it’s still performed in the same statistical area overall. The data suggests that if a sales tax were on the ballot, it would not succeed.

Residence priorities:

Road repairs generated the most intensity, but other top priorities included addressing homelessness, drinking water, play in public areas, and emergency responders.

  • Repairing St. and potholes – 58%.
  • Addressing homelessness – 50%.
  • Repairing potholes on residential streets – 49%.
  • Protecting local drinking water sources – 46%.
  • Keeping public areas safe and clean – 45%.
  • Ensuring that children have safe places to play at parks – 44%.
  • Retaining and attracting well-trained police officers – 40%.
  • Investigating and preventing property crimes – 39%.
  • Retaining and attracting well-trained firefighters and paramedics – 37%.
  • Fixing storm drains to protect groundwater supply – 34%.
  • Maintaining police patrols of neighborhoods, Parks, and recreation areas – 32%.
  • Maintaining anti-gang programs – 29%.
  • Maintaining and repairing sidewalks – 29%.
  • Maintaining anti-drug programs – 28%.
  • Making sure all streets have adequate St. lighting – 27%.
  • Repairing deteriorating playground equipment at neighborhood parks – 24%.
  • Synchronizing traffic signals – 21%.
  • Improving traffic flow – 22%.
  • Fixing storm drains to prevent flooding – 19%.
  • Repairing and upgrading streetlights – 16%.
  • Upgrading and repairing the deteriorating police station – 13%.
  • Adding more bike lanes – 8%.
Public Comments:

Karen Lloreda, a former Mayor of an OC city, said that the survey presented two hypothetical ballot measure concepts. 1) A special purpose measure and 2) a general purpose measure. Either measure could add one or half a cent for city sales tax to generate additional city revenues. While none of us like additional taxes, neither do we like potholes and broken asphalt all over town, and the homeless desperately need shelter and services. Tough choices have to be made. I encourage the council to consider a special purpose half-cent sales tax ballot measure.

Should the council choose to direct staff to draft such an initiative, I strongly urge that the language must contain two conditions:

• The first condition is an absolute sunset date. “Not until ended by the voters” is too vague. It’s too easy to ignore and too difficult for the voters to repeal. Give it three to five years, and it must be re-agendized and reviewed for efficiency and success of operation if the taxpayers agree to reauthorize it for another specified time.

• The other condition language must be very specific as to which types of projects may be funded with this revenue. It cannot be Council discretion or as needed. Once control is lost on how it is used, it will disappear into the ether and be frittered away with little accountability and little much to show for the investment.

A resident said that he had suggested an Auto mall as a way to bring the city millions in revenue and did not support more taxes.

Council Comments:

Mayor Protem Whitaker questioned Dr. Bernard’s ethics, qualifications, and motivations and asked what the current expenditure on this survey is.

The City Manager said that the survey agreement was at $49K.

The Mayor made a motion to continue the survey outreach. It was seconded by Councilmember Charles.

Passed 3 to 2 (Whitaker and Dunlap No).


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