Against Doug Chaffee for Supervisor.

What a dismal choice the north-county 4th Supervisorial District is faced with this year, between the two candidates vying for termed-out Shawn Nelson’s place on a Board of Supervisors that desperately needs change.  Any notable change seems unlikely with the Republican candidate, garden-variety conservative La Habra Mayor Tim Shaw – although the OJ is going to interview him next week.

But our Democratic candidate, wealthy development heir and Fullerton Mayor Doug Chaffee, who inched past slightly-better Democrat Joe Kerr in the primary with the magic of money and dishonest attack mailers, has been nothing but a disappointment in Fullerton these past six years on nearly every issue Democrats and progressives care about.  A stick in the mud, a promise-breaker, and an aid to the powerful.  Some Democrats are voting for Shaw in protest, some are leaving the space blank (or attempting to write in Cynthia Aguirre, which I don’t think will be possible), and some are glumly muttering, “Maybe if we get someone good into Todd Spitzer’s seat later [huge maybe] they’ll be a good influence on Doug.”  Me, I’m gonna wait till I interview Tim to make my decision.  But, as a Democrat, I hate to see people like Chaffee elevated and have the world say, “That’s what a Democrat is.”

I brought up four of these five concerns (I didn’t ask him about his blowing off the homeless) when Doug came to the Anaheim Democratic Club a couple weeks ago.  The aged, ambitious-wife-driven, corporate lawyer answered each concern forcefully but unconvincingly, and sometimes with “pants on fire.”  Here we go:

1. Useless on Kelly Thomas and Police Reform.

One of the more memorable, iconic images in the year following Kelly Thomas’ gruesome videotaped murder by Fullerton police was that of Councilman Doug Chaffee, wearing his usual blue “We Heart Fullerton Police” t-shirt over his suit, and pumping his fists in the air in triumph.  This disturbing display was only indirectly related to the Kelly incident – Doug was celebrating the council defeat of a motion, for just requesting an analysis, of replacing the scandal-ridden FPD with the county sheriff. 

Chaffee stubbornly remained silent about the murder, and his regular wearing of the police-loving shirt in the murder’s aftermath was a shameless advertisement of indifference to both that tragedy and numerous other abuses, a statement that he backs these cops NO MATTER WHAT THEY DO.  Doug went on to oppose any efforts toward police reform or oversight until that effort finally died down, and also voted against awarding any money to Kelly’s father.

Unquestioning and dumb-looking support for the FPD (while seated next to a good Democrat who DID work for justice and reform.)

That brings up one of Bax Baxter’s Chaffee anecdotes:  Bax, a Democrat, had backed his neighbor Chaffee in his first few, unsuccessful Council runs, because Doug seemed like a nice Democrat who cared about the environment.  But when Kelly Thomas was murdered and Chaffee refused to utter a word about it, or a word critical of Fullerton police, Bax switched his support to independent reformist Matt Rowe, and videotaped himself throwing his Chaffee sign into the trash and replacing it with a Rowe sign.  Late that night, Chaffee’s high-strung Lady Macbeth-like wife Paulette showed up at Baxter’s door – not for the last time either!  – cursed him out for his disloyalty, and rescued her hubby’s sign from Baxter’s trash can.

When I called Doug out for “celebrating” the outrageous not guilty verdict for the two cops (Ramos and Cicinelli) most responsible for killing Kelly, he didn’t deny it, but said he was mainly glad that Fullerton could not be sued for the murder.  And he told me that *I* should be glad that the two cops were fired, and were no longer on the force.  This is the extent of his statement, and feelings, about the cold-blooded fatal suffocation and face-bashing of a frail and harmless mentally ill homeless man which put Fullerton into the worldwide news for years, and demonstrated firmly that there is no justice under DA Tony Rackauckas.

All of this made it seem extra hypocritical, during the June primary, when we received Doug’s “INSENSITIVE” attack mailer against his supervisorial opponent Lucille Kring – blasting her for joking about the fatal 2014 police shooting of Robert Moreno that “it saved us the cost of a trial!”  Ironically Doug’s mailer included quotes from my wife, talking to the Register about Kring’s callousness and ignorance.   The attack on Kring was well-deserved.  But Doug is no better than Lucille.

2. Useless on Protecting West Coyote Hills from Chevron Development

One of the most contentious issues in Fullerton this past decade has been the effort to prevent Chevron from developing – building homes on – Fullerton’s last remaining open space, West Coyote Hills.  A classic situation pitting open space and the environment against over-development and a big oil company – and liberals, good Democrats and progressives knew right where they stood on it;  even honest conservatives like our Ryan Cantor could see clearly how Chevron was scheming to hurt and rip off the people of Fullerton.

When I called out Doug (not entirely sure of myself yet) for not helping defend this property, he protested that, on the contrary, he was “one of the first backers of Measure W.” Wait, did he misspeak? Measure W was what environmentalists opposed – it consisted of giving the developers a lot of what they wanted – 760 homes on the western hills “because it’s the best we can do,” and it was opposed by the Friends of Coyote Hills, and defeated 60-40 (with the help of my late great friend Gus Ayer.)

It may be that Doug misremembered what exactly W was, because from the beginning the defenders of Coyote Hills were under the impression that he was on their side – that’s a big reason he won in 2012! But once in office he quickly became a double-speaking compromiser. For a while he set himself up as an unofficial mediator between environmentalists and Chevron, sometimes screwing up accidentally (or not) in that capacity (such as when he claimed Chevron would allow more time than the too-short time they had agreed to for the sequential purchase of “neighborhoods” otherwise proposed for development, which turned out to be false.)

Eventually, with the HARD work of Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva and later (the now tragically recalled) Senator Josh Newman, the state provided more than $18 million to buy the territory for a park … but Chaffee and his colleagues double-crossed them, making all their work much more difficult by voting to approve a compromise Tract Map (“VTTM”) to allow development on the western part of the area after all, like Chevron always wanted, all the while bitching like a Republican about “state interference.” (A lawsuit was filed by Friends of Coyote Hills against this VTTM of Chaffee’s, lost, but was appealed just days ago, and is showing signs of success within 90 days … and Chaffee is hopping mad about that!)

In retrospect environmentalists believe that Chaffee has been playing both sides of the fence for a few years now, in preparation for his current Supervisorial campaign – angling for support, not from Chevron whose money he doesn’t need, but from the developers (Pacific Coast Homes) who still want to build 760 homes on the west side.

Defender of Coyote Hills? NOT.

3. Weaselly/Dishonest on the Poseidon Desal Boondoggle.

Readers of this blog know that there are a host of reasons – fiscal, environmental, and moral – to oppose the Huntington Beach desalination plant being pushed by the Canadian hedge-fund group Poseidon, and their local government enablers on the OC Water District board.  And the costs and impacts of this HB plant reach throughout that district, along the Santa Ana Aquifer, all the way up to Fullerton.  

Hence Fullerton has a member on the OCWD, and when Poseidon opponent Jan Flory had to give up her seat, the choice for Sharon Quirk-Silva’s husband Jesus (newly on Council) was either to cross party lines to support Republican Bruce Whitaker (a longtime Poseidon opponent) or to join klepto-Repub Jennifer Fitzgerald in backing his undependable fellow Democrat Chaffee who had at least spoken positively about the boondoggle.  (I rubbed it in, to Doug, that I had helped urge Jesus to pick Bruce over him.  Oh, and to those of you who doubt Sharon’s opposition to Poseidon, remember this episode.)

Bruce. I trust him.

Doug bitterly responded that he had always opposed Poseidon, but that he’d been unable to say so to his fellow councilmembers because it woulda been a Brown Act violation.  Really?  First of all, the one time anybody ever remembers him talking about the boondoggle is when Poseidon folks were in the audience and he boasted about how, AS A SCUBA DIVER, he could attest that desalination plants, like even the ghetto-rigged one Poseidon wants to foist on us, have no negative impacts on the ocean or marine life.  Doesn’t sound like much opposition to me.   Furthermore, Whitaker responds, “Brown Act?  What a crock!  There is nothing wrong with either prospectively speaking out in favor or in opposition of any proposal or policy.”

But Doug made it even worse that afternoon at the Anaheim Democrats Club by adding, “You wanna know who DID vote in favor of Poseidon?  BRUCE WHITAKER.”  Now, THAT was a flat-out lie.  Bruce has ALWAYS steadfastly voted AND spoken out against the boondoggle.  With this statement, Chaffee gets downgraded from double-talker and promise-breaker to out-and-out liar.

Jennifer – possibly the worst.

Bruce adds, “The best protection from any candidate’s later double-crosses is a consistent track record of keeping campaign promises.”  OUCH as that applies to Dougy.  And more ouch:  “Doug and [Pringle-employed klepto-repuglican] Jennifer Fitzgerald have the highest correlation of policy positions and voting records on the Council.  That doesn’t show much independent thought or action.”

4. Useless on Homelessness.

Say what you will (including, perhaps, arrogant, brusque and scheming) about Shawn Nelson, the termed-out Supervisor whose seat Chaffee and Shaw are vying for, but he DID make SEVERAL very serious efforts throughout his two terms to provide the County with much-needed homeless shelters, and was knocked down every time (or, in his terminology, “had it shoved up my ass”) by NIMBYs and the politicians who fear them.  When he tried way back in 2012-13 to build one in a perfectly out-of-the-way location in Fullerton, Doug Chaffee was the deciding vote against it.  Too bad, if it weren’t for Doug, the north county would be that much further along in dealing with this crisis which has done nothing but grow in the six years since.

Jesse LaTour holds a Bax poster, at a sleep-out protest for the homeless, Baxter in background.

Time for another Baxter anecdote – in the wake of the Kelly Thomas tragedy, the beloved local activist became really involved in not only police reform but homeless advocacy.  In his attempt to meet with each councilmember to communicate his thoughts and ideas about the crisis, he managed to get a 15-minute meeting with Councilman Chaffee promised by Chaffee’s aide.  Doug sat there nodding, appearing to listen to Baxter, for EXACTLY 15 minutes, then looked at his watch and without a word strode to the door.  “WHAT?  Did you hear anything I said?  Do you agree?  You’re just going to leave like that?”  “I have another meeting across town, I have to get to.”  Baxter followed the fleeing councilman, whose gait accelerated to a near jog, to his car, and then past it.  “Hey, Doug!  You just passed your car!”  Just a little peek at Doug’s notion of accessibility, accountability, and caring.

Fast forward to right about now.  The homeless crisis is bigger than ever, and OC cities are under Judge Carter’s orders to come up with both emergency beds and permanent supportive housing solutions.  The good news is, a group called Pathways to Hope has a great proposal called “Keystone on Commonwealth,” 70-80 units of Permanent Supportive Housing in an out-of-the-way industrial area.  Just what we need.

The bad news is, you guessed it, Doug was again the deciding vote against the project, caving into a crowd of angry and ignorant NIMBYs and breaking his promise to Fullerton’s homeless advocates.  Recently he told them, “I’ll vote for it if and when it comes back, but more of YOU people need to show up!”  Two of his colleagues (asking not to be named) laugh at that – “He’ll use every procedure he can to keep that from coming back for a vote until after the election – then he’ll either be Supervisor or at least termed out, and will never have to take that vote.”  I hope to be wrong, but I’m putting my money on THAT.

5. Hypocrisy on Carpetbagging Wife and Kerr Attacks, and more!

Another stunningly hypocritical attack mailer Chaffee put out during the June primary was the one blasting his Democratic rival Joe Kerr for carpetbagging.  It was true, Kerr had, in order to run for what looked like a winnable North County seat, allegedly ditched his mansion and family down in ritzy Coto de Caza in order to inhabit a place in Fullerton, I mean Placentia, so humble that he invited bloggers to come meet him at the local firehouses instead.  You can see why many suspect that this was a FAKE residence – the OC-style fake carpetbagging which Todd Spitzer has promised to prosecute if he becomes DA.

Paulette drops into district 5; image by Matt Leslie.

Why “stunningly hypocritical?”  Because now Chaffee’s tireless wife Paulette is doing the SAME THING, having rented herself out a condo in Fullerton’s Latino 5th district in order to run for council there while her hubby runs for Supe, spreading a web of Chaffeedom across the land.  If anything what Paulette Marshall Chaffee is doing is even worse than Kerr, given that she is sabotaging the whole idea of district elections which Fullertonians fought so hard for – the idea that each area should be represented by someone FROM that area who’s familiar with that area’s concerns firsthand.

Doug is all, to me, “No, she really DID MOVE THERE.  And it’s LEGAL.”  And when I asked “Are you guys still married?” he bristled, “I’m not going to talk about personal matters.”  Oh – I nearly forgot to mention – during the district map vote, Matt Leslie, having gotten an inkling of what was up, asked twice at council whether any members had any family members who were planning to run in the new districts… and Doug remained stubbornly silent.

Speaking of the new maps, Doug happily voted for the crappy Slidebar map that Fullerton is stuck with now, a map shilled for by the downtown bars because it dilutes the power of nearby residents, and a map that is also very unfavorable to Democrats.  

Hunt Branch Library, Fullerton’s fifth district

And speaking of that district 5, Chaffee has long wanted to give away its Hunt Library to the creepy, cult-like and ultra-political Grace Ministries International – a move highly damaging to, and opposed by, that district’s Latino residents, but which should help him with the high-propensity-voting Korean-Americans.

And speaking of Democrats – if any of you Democrats are feeling some kind of loyalty to this fellow because he is registered as one of you-all, remember this:  Sharon and Jesus backed Chaffee when he ran for council in 2012, but when Sharon really needed his help in her difficult 2014 re-election run against Young Kim, Chaffee refused, saying “I’m on council now and I don’t want to get involved in partisan fights.”  And Sharon lost that year.

So there you have it – stick in the mud, bad Democrat, promise-breaker, aid to the powerful, and occasional bald-faced liar.  Is Tim Shaw any better?  We’ll try to find out in our next installment when the Orange Juice interviews him.  But I do know one thing Tim did – help kill the Disney streetcar while on the OCTA board – that’s better than anything I know of Doug doing.

Stay tuned (and let me know anything you’d like me to ask Tim!)

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.