City of Fullerton residents had the opportunity to hear candidates’ qualifications and reasons of why they should be appointed as the new member of the Fullerton City Council last week.
Neighbors United For Fullerton hosted the Fullerton City Council Vacancy Applicant Forum event in the conference center of the Fullerton Public Library.
Neighbors United For Fullerton (NUFF) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit community organization that provides information about local issues, concerns and government activities. The group also offers free public forums to discuss subjects related to community interest and civic involvement.
The event was broken down into two phases, the first of which gave the applicants 90 seconds to introduce themselves and their qualifications. The second phase was described by NUFF Chair Josh Newman as a “lightning round of questions” that were deliberately framed to get short distinct answers.
The applicants answered questions involving issues such as approval and location of a home for the homeless, city sales tax and whether or not to allow development on the West Coyote Hills land.
Of the 26 applicants for the open seat, 18 were present for the evening and had backgrounds that ranged from law and the city’s planning commission to teaching and even former members of city council.
Applicant Omar Siddiqui listed a number of qualifications that included his career as a trial lawyer fighting for Coyote Hills to remain undeveloped, helping the city save millions of dollars by suggesting to put clay pellets in Laguna Lake and working as an advisor to the FBI on national security and counterterrorism.
“I think naturally by my background and trade, I’m a problem solver, and I think that’s what our city needs right now is to get great backgrounds,” Siddiqui said. “Background in law, background in engineering, background in national security and law enforcement and bring those problem solving skills to council.”
Chris Gaarder, Chairman of the Fullerton Planning Commission and policy advisor for Orange County, said he feels that his position as chair helps his argument for why he should be appointed to the open seat. He emphasized his knowledge of the city’s issues such as roads, the budget and economic development.
“I would say we need more housing in general, particularly for students near Cal State Fullerton, so we can get them close to class so they’re not trying to come in early and sleep to get a parking spot,” Gaarder said.
Arnel Dino, a business consultant and 36-year resident of Fullerton, said that one of the issues he would address if appointed to the seat would be to rebuild the trust between the city of Fullerton and its residents.
“We’ve been through too many things and we have issues like infrastructure, like homelessness that definitely need to be issued, but I think first off is regaining the trust of our residents and our neighbors,” Dino said.
Fullerton resident Donald Kinda said that all of the candidates sounded interested and dedicated to the community. Kinda pointed out Siddiqui as someone he was impressed by among the candidates.
“I was very impressed with his credentials,” Kinda said. “He’s involved in law, engineering and he’s fighting for Coyote Hills.”
The city council decided to appoint Jan Flory at their Jan. 29th meeting, but the 25 other applicants could be potential candidates in 2020.