It’s easy to see why Fullerton residents love their city. This wonderful place is where I have dedicated my life as a public servant working for the City as a maintenance worker in the Water Department. I have worked for the City for 20 years and have seen so much change and growth.
Significant progress has been made since the town was founded in 1887 from land secured on behalf of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway. In those days, agriculture was king and by the 1920s, acres of Valencia oranges fed the jump to food processing, oil extraction, and manufacturing. From the mid-1940s through the late 1990s, Fullerton was home to a large industrial base made up of aerospace contractors, canneries, paper products manufacturers, and is said to be the birthplace of the electric guitar thanks to Leo Fender.
Today, Fullerton has a population of more than 141,000 residents and 6,500 businesses. As a transportation hub, Fullerton has thousands of daily commuters and the City’s municipal airport has 67,000 flights annually. Forward-thinking City Councils approved the construction of colleges, universities, and hospitals.
Fullerton’s elected leaders tended to embrace the conservatism of the 1980s. But with that came the false notion that government – even municipal government closest to the people – should be viewed with suspicion, even hostility. City services were consistently defunded. Calls to run local government “like a business” remain a rallying cry, even when it comes to services like parks, libraries, and infrastructure. Proponents of the business model left out sound business practices, like ensuring there is enough revenue to provide the services our residents need.
Where has the political ideology of “government is the problem” led the City? You have only to drive on Fullerton’s crumbling streets to find the answer to that question. The City has a demoralized workforce suffering from burnout due to a lack of resources. Critical assets, like public safety, water mains, storm drains, sewers, and sidewalks that benefit every Fullerton resident are being neglected on purely misguided political grounds.
In recent years, those in Fullerton who have demonized local government have tried to convince everyone of the continued need to “cut.” This belief is rooted in a political ideology that harms our residents and businesses. During this critical time in Fullerton’s history, we need to rise above divisive politics and address the complex needs of residents with adequate resources based on sound metrics and capable public administration.
When the solution to the City’s challenges are “cuts,” remember that means cutting support staff in the Police Department. That means cutting maintenance in our 52 parks and the community programs that serve our kids, teens, and seniors. That means cutting library services and museum access. That means cutting our quality of life.
We need our City Council to lead. We need our City leaders and administrators to bring our workforce, infrastructure, and services up to par and to develop a plan to get critical resources online. We also need our leaders to have faith in the citizens because all we want is what is best for our families and for Fullerton. If we continue the fictitious narratives that “government is the problem” and that “deficit-driven cuts are unavoidable,” all we will have are overgrown parks, shuttered libraries, and more potholes.
Ed Bargas is a 20-year City of Fullerton worker and president of the Fullerton Municipal Employees Federation. The membership is comprised of a wide range of workers who repair water mains, roads, staff libraries, work in finance, and process evidence for the police department. The FMEF is an affiliate of the Orange County Employees Association.
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