Documenter: Rachel Youdelman
Here’s what you need to know:
At the final meeting of 2021, the Board approved by 4-1 a final redistricting map (“County Map D2”) which will be the County’s supervisorial map for the next ten years, despite continued objection to the Board’s decision-making process. Only Supervisor Quintero voted in opposition.
Supervisor Magsig introduced a resolution opposing the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s recommendation to designate 554,454 acres of land in the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains as critical habitat for the Southern Sierra Nevada District population of the endangered fisher (Pekania pennanti), a dark-furred mammal, citing the need to “manage the forests” but did not mention that he supports developing sawmills in the area.
Board (all present)
Steve Brandau, 2nd District, Chairman
Brian Pacheco, 1st District, Vice Chairman
Sal Quintero, 3rd District
Buddy Mendes, 4th District
Nathan Magsig, 5th District
Paul Nerland, County Administrative Officer (CAO)
Daniel C. Cederborg, County Counsel
Bernice E. Seidel, Clerk of the Board of Supervisors
Chairman Brandau called the meeting to order at 10:00AM. Roll call was followed by an invocation given by Doug Spencer, director of the Riverdale Assembly of God church and founding producer of the annual drive-through “living nativity” event in Riverdale. “Doug sends me scripture every morning,” revealed Supervisor Mendes. Spencer neglected to turn on his microphone, so much of his speech was inaudible, though he was heard to pray for “the protection of our elected officials.” Flag salute ensued. The meeting was accessible in person or via Webex; video and audio were clear.
Agenda Item #1 Approval of agenda.
Agenda Item #2 Consent agenda, including items #18-89. No items were pulled for discussion. Approved 5-0.
Agenda Item #11 Supervisor Quintero asked that item #11 (appointments) be moved up in the schedule, as one of his appointments was in attendance and needed to leave the meeting early. Quintero appointed James Martinez to the Foster Care Oversight Committee. Supervisor Magsig made three appointments to the Clovis Cemetery District; Mendes made appointments to the Coalinga-Huron Cemetery District and to the Foster Care Oversight Committee. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #3 Retirement of Karen J. Hurley, Probation Dept. Kirk Haynes, her boss, was there to warmly praise her, as were other colleagues. The Probation Dept has been a “wonderful family,” said Hurley. Brandau joked, “Thank you for keeping Chief Haynes in line.” A group photo was taken.
Agenda Item #4 Resolution to commend the partnership between the Department of Social Services and the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) for establishing the John R. Lawson Fresno County Truck Driving Program. Lee Ann Eager, President/CEO of the EDC, appeared to tearfully rhapsodize about the recently deceased John R. Lawson. She recounted Lawson’s struggles with state government, particularly regarding high-speed rail, and praised the success of Lawson’s truck-driver school. Brandau interjected an anecdote which revealed their common political partisanship: when Brandau wanted to “protest” the construction of high-speed rail, Lawson permitted him the use of a truck on which to stand and bellow his concerns. Brandau continued with another anecdote: as the owner of a carpet-cleaning business, Brandau had employed a man whom he paid $30,000 annually; the employee complained that he could not live in Fresno on that salary. Brandau introduced the employee to Lawson, the employee became a truck driver, and he now earns $85,000 per year. A lingering question was why Brandau as a business owner was unable to pay his employees a sufficient wage. A group photo was taken. The resolution passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #5 Magsig introduced a resolution opposing the United States Fish and Wildlife Service recommendation to designate 554,454 acres of land in the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains as critical habitat for the Southern Sierra Nevada District population of the endangered fisher (Pekania pennanti), a dark-furred mammal similar to the marten. Magsig made the argument without evidence that designating the land as protected habitat will lead to fires and hasten the extinction of the fisher. He did not mention that he supports developing sawmills in the area. No comments were made by any supervisor, but one woman who made a public comment misunderstood the issue and asked, “What about the fish?” The resolution passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #6 Resolution to adopt a final supervisorial re-districting map. At the 16 Nov Board meeting, “County Map D” was selected as the final draft map; some minor revisions were made to this map, now called “County Map D2” in its final form, as detailed by John Thompson of Public Works, who gave a brief presentation on the matter. Thompson asserted that the map contained “three Latino majority-minority districts,” that it keeps communities of interest (COIs) intact, and that it does not favor a particular political party. Magsig pointedly asked Counsel Cederborg if the Map D2 met all legal requirements and stated that “we want to go above and beyond the law,” though why it was necessary to create a perception that the Board was “beyond the law” was unclear. Cederborg said that “the numbers look very positive” regarding voting rights and noted that “the Board has fulfilled its obligations if it adopts this map.”
Brandau opened public comment on the matter, warning that each person (there were seven who appeared) would have a limit of two minutes to speak. Among them, Luis Huerta-Silva, Central Valley Redistricting Organizer for California Common Cause, complained that the Board had adopted a new map which was the same as the one adopted in 1991. He said that the Board had appointed a partisan advisory committee and made minimal changes to boundaries to ensure their own re-election with a “status-quo” map. As powerful people, Board members “placed their thumbs on the scale,” he noted. Next, Pedro Navarro Cruz, a local community organizer, noted that the advisory committee appointed by the Board was partisan and called for the establishment of an independent redistricting commission. He said that Magsig and Brandau wanted to pick their own voters and that Mendes’ preference was for his own “political convenience.”
Next Michael Evans, resident of District 2 and a recent Chair of the Fresno Democratic Party, approached the podium to express disappointment at the lack of consideration of community-driven input and suggested that an independent redistricting committee should be convened so that 10 years from now, we will be better able to manage the work fairly. He also suggested a resolution “that no taxpayer dollars be spent in support of the motion you passed here today” and later clarified that the Board should resolve not to use any government funds to fight lawsuits regarding the final map of their choice.
Other commenters said that the Board seemed intent on ensuring their own re-election, and that they had failed their constituents, who want to “feel represented.”
Brandau closed public comment, and Magsig made a point of patronizingly thanking the public despite their “differences of opinion.” He again defended the Board’s position as one which was “within the law,” though his frequent mentioning of legal clearance only raised questions about why mentioned it so often. He quickly moved to approve Map D2. Quintero was the sole dissenter, commenting that his concerns had not changed; other maps were “community-driven” and he could not support Map D2. Pacheco, one of two Democrats along with Quintero, was silent. Brandau thanked John Thompson, consultants, the redistricting committee, and “the public.” He added, “I know everybody is not happy today, there is always a debate, no map is perfect . . .” and other such platitudes. The resolution to adopt the map passed 4-1. “That concludes our re-districting for the decade,” announced Brandau.
Agenda Item #7 Application for alcoholic beverage license for a location in Prather. Approved 5-0.
Agenda Item #8 William M. Kettler, Division Manager of Dept of Public Works, gave a brief presentation regarding a proposal to extend the authorization for urgently needed temporary housing (eg, trailers, tiny houses, etc) for people displaced by the Creek Fire. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #9 Continued from the 2 Nov Board meeting. Property owner at McCall and Kings Canyon Rd had applied for variance on the height of a commercial sign. The current ordinance allows for a maximum height of 35 feet; the applicant originally wanted a sign 75 feet high but was willing to compromise at 55 feet. Results from a “line of sight” study were presented. Discussion ensued. Settlement on height of 55 feet (and a wider than usual sign face) passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #8.1 Also continued from the 2 Nov Board meeting. Out of order because Board waited for applicant to arrive to the meeting. Per agenda, “appeal of Planning Commission’s approval of unclassified conditional use proposing to allow the development and operation of a restaurant, convenience store and gas station,” or in other words, a strip-mall development near Mendota. This item concerned parking and infrastructure issues. At the previous meeting, there was confusion regarding parking rules: could an electric vehicle (EV) park in a spot planned for a gas-powered car, and was the opposite acceptable? Another question concerned how much and who or what entity would pay for infrastructure in the area, such as roads, traffic mitigation, traffic lights, water, and sewage. There are 74 spots marked for EV cars and 63 for non-EV cars; at the outset of a long discussion, it was clarified that a gas-powered car was permitted to park in one reserved for an EV, per statutory law. At the last meeting, Brandau was eager to critique the state government: “The state says you can’t park there!” Now he was proven incorrect. Pacheco noted that he had met with both applicant and appellant; Magsig said he had met with opponents, as did Brandau. A number of people appeared to speak on the matter when public comment was opened, including the applicant, the project’s civil engineer, and the appellants’ attorney. Will Kettler of Public Works guided the conversation and answered questions. For example, he clarified that a developer would pay a portion of the cost to erect a traffic signal (total cost $300-500,000) while the County would “find funding” to pay the remaining cost. The applicant felt that he had been denied what he wanted to build, but Kettler explained that “nothing was denied” because only a “pre-application review” had been received. Pacheco said he was concerned with “equity and fairness” and concluded that there was a misunderstanding on the part of the applicant. Yet the applicant claimed to “have it [a denial] in black and white.” Kettler clarified that what the applicant had was simply information he had requested and that staff cannot make a denial, that only the Planning Commission or the Board can issue a denial. He explained that an independent project is an amendment to the master-plan and is not to be considered the master-plan itself. Public comment was closed at this point, and Pacheco summarized: all requirements needed by the applicant have been met, the parking situation has been clarified, and in the interest of fairness, the applicant can’t be denied. Mendes agreed. Hence Pacheco moved to deny the appeal and approve the project conditionally. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #10 Supervisor comments
Magsig attended the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) where he gave a presentation on Fresno County’s management of homelessness and “networked.” On Sunday, he attended “Trek to the Tree,” an annual Xmas-tree event sponsored by the Sanger Chamber of Commerce and held in Sequoia National Forest, where he was one of many speakers, though only his speech was explicitly religious. He said that he took the opportunity to talk about “the true meaning of Christmas,” which he said was the birth of “our” lord and savior, seeming to presume that everyone shared his religious outlook. Moving on, he noted that 7 Dec Pearl Harbor Day “was not lost on him,” and he concluded by thanking Brandau for his “leadership” in 2021.
Quintero also attended CSAC and congratulated Mendes on his appointment as chair of the CSAC Urban Caucus. He then congratulated the new CAO, Paul Nerland, who was “sitting there in the chair” on the dais at his first Board meeting. Quintero then mentioned his annual coat drive and said that 250 coats for adults and children had been donated and would be distributed among three charities.
Mendes commented that his appointment as chair of the CSAC Urban Caucus was an “F-Troop” moment, referring to a 1960s television sitcom, famous for a running gag in which volunteers were selected from those who were not savvy enough to take a step backward when a group of recruits was asked to indicate willingness to perform a task by stepping forward. Perhaps he was just being modest. However, he complained about having “another meeting to attend.”
Brandau wished everyone a merry Christmas.
Pacheco had no comment.
Agenda Item #12 Public comment regarding items not on the agenda.
First, Eric Rollins, an antiques dealer in Clovis and the founder of a reactionary group he calls “Constitutionalists for California” approached the podium to quote “my hero” Ronald Reagan and to promote an upcoming event featuring Peter McCullough, “a world expert on COVID” [sic], at the Tower Theater on Friday. McCullough has been criticized for spreading false information about COVID-19 and vaccination, was fired by and has been served with a restraining order by his former employer, and has appeared on reactionary media platforms such as Fox News.
Next Riley Talford, SEIU 521 Fresno County Chapter President and Supervising Juvenile Correctional Officer for Fresno County, spoke about using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to pay bonuses to County workers; he presented 650 signatures in support.
Melissa Griggs, a County Eligibility Worker in the Dept of Social Services, spoke about County staff overwork and suspension of raises, which she said has continued throughout the COVID crisis. She wondered why they were considered good enough to take on so much additional work but not good enough to merit a pay raise. She noted that some of her colleagues were facing homelessness because their full-time salaries are insufficient to cover rent and other expenses in Fresno. She concluded that she and colleagues are paid wages based on 2011 rates.
Heather Evans, who has frequently appeared before the Board, also spoke about insufficient County employee salaries. Evans has previously spoken in decidedly angry tones but today was measured though firm. She said that she was a library worker and a union leader. She said that the County is not doing enough to promote self-sufficiency among Fresno families, noting that Fresno is 57th of 58 California counties in child poverty.
Sean Burdine, a regular attendee at Board meetings who often seems to position himself as last when public comments are made, thanked the Board “first and foremost” for nothing specific. He then asserted that he was “impressed” by the Board’s handling of “the barrage of insults,” presumably heard on that day, although no insulting comments were made by anyone throughout the meeting. He then urged the Board to attend the COVID-denier doctor’s event on Friday, mentioned earlier by commenter Rollins. “I will be there,” he promised. Brandau responded that he was busy that day and could not attend but very eagerly suggested that Burdine “see to it that it gets recorded.”
Pacheco noted that the public comment period was not a Q & A session, but he addressed Griggs and Evans, the County employee commenters noted above, and said, “We are listening, we hear you.”
Brandau then announced that the Board would go into closed session, and the Clerk attempted to interject a comment. Brandau demanded, “Speak up, Bernice!” She clarified that there would be no reporting from the closed session and that Brandau should note that for the record. Brandau responded by inappropriately admonishing the Clerk, “There you go, Bernice, call Governor Newsom and tell him you did your job.” At 12:25PM the public portion of the meeting ended.
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