While I live just over the border, much of my daily life involves Fullerton, so the politics of that town generally interest me more than my own. Until last year, the Fullerton City Council had two Democrats out of five councilmembers. Councilmember Pam Keller retired and the Democrat who would have replaced her lost a squeaker, leaving Sharon Quirk-Silva as the sole Democrat on council. Sharon and her husband, Jesus Silva, were in DC this past week and so she had not been in town to weigh in on the fatal beating of a homeless man named Kelly Thomas. (Update: Note that those are links to DKos diaries by Ellinorianne and laserhaas regarding this tragedy, each one definitely worth reading!)
(Interest declared: Sharon and Jesus are "political friends" of mine. I work in politics with and think highly of both of them, but I don't expect them to agree with the sorts of more controversial political positions I can safely express as a wild-eyed blogger. Sharon is what one wants of someone "inside the system"; I respect that that's different from blogging. You see below why I'm proud of her.)
Sharon and returned to Fullerton yesterday and put out a press release. If you've followed the Kelly Thomas story at all, you will want to read how a Democrat reacts to such a tragedy. Hat tip to The Liberal OC for publishing her remarks where I could find them.
What the Councilwoman had to say about the beating:
Dear Fullerton Community Members,
First and foremost, I extend my condolences to the Thomas family. As a member of our Fullerton community, as a member of our City Council, and as a mother, I am deeply disturbed by the events that led to the death of Kelly Thomas.
For the well-being of the Thomas family and the residents of Fullerton, I will continue to ask the questions and demand the actions that I feel necessary to make sure that justice is done.
Current status: All the officers involved in the Thomas incident have been placed on administrative leave. The city is working with the District Attorney and the FBI to ensure that a full investigation proceeds in the most transparent and expedient manner.
Yesterday, I requested that the city manager seek the resignation of Fullerton Police Chief Michael Sellers. I feel that the leadership required from our chief during this crisis was lacking. Citizens of Fullerton need to have confidence in a police chief who can not only provide expert, professional crisis management, but who is capable of being the face of the city when a police crisis occurs. I believe we were failed on both counts. All of us who are privileged to hold leadership positions in this city should be held responsible and accountable for the well-being of our city.
As we move forward, I understand that there are some things that we cannot address immediately, and for this I ask your patience. We need to wait for final reports from the D.A. and the FBI before we can make a final judgment on the officers involved (and for their own safety, I don’t feel it is advisable for their names to be released publicly at this time).
However, there is something we in city leadership can do immediately as we grieve Kelly Thomas and begin our healing: revisit our policy on the homeless in our city and county.
Homelessness and mental illness are serious and complex issues that all cities grapple with, but what can we do to better understand their challenges in Fullerton? How can we work with local and county agencies and churches to make connections for families who struggle with mental illness? How can we find necessary resources for those without a home? At the very least, we can all try to gain a better understanding of their plight (see my P.S. below).
Finally, I love the City of Fullerton! We are a loving, resilient community, and we will make our way out of this very difficult period.
Fullerton City Councilwoman
P.S. While speaking to a homeless woman named Kirsten yesterday, I asked her what she might need that could make a difference for her and others on the street. First, she said that, for a woman on the street, it would be safety and shelter. Next, she said, simply: “socks!” She wanted some socks to keep her feet warm and clean. She said that some churches and shelters used to provide a pair, but not anymore. This is a request that we as a community can take immediate action on.
If you have any extra socks and/or travel-size personal hygiene items: toothpaste, soap….please drop them off at City Hall. I will personally pledge to deliver the items to the homeless on a regular basis now and in the future. I know that socks and hygiene items will not solve the issue of homelessness or mental illness, and they won’t bring Kelly Thomas back. But our actions might allow us to better understand the Kelly Thomases who are still out there struggling to live day to day with no place to call home.
Orange County has made the national political news a lot this year. To be a progressive leader in this county, you have to be strong and you have to be good. I take pride as an Orange County Democrat that this is what my party's leaders say.
11:26 AM PT: More coverage -- OC Weekly is all over this: