Here’s what you need to know:

  • The Clovis City Council moved closer to putting a transient occupancy tax (TOT) on the November 2022 ballot to further fund its police department. The council based its decision on recommendations from a Citizens’ Advisory Committee and will discuss the TOT language at its June 6 meeting.  
  • In response to a letter received in 2020 alleging violations to the California Voting Rights Act, a demographer presented the council with data from the 2020 census and March 2021 election to evaluate the possibility that there is racially polarized voting in Clovis. The council decided they would wait until after the November 2022 election to make any further decisions about moving from at-large to district-based elections. 
  • The 2022-2023 annual action plan for the expenditure of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds was continued to May 16. Assistant City Manager Andrew Haussler said it was because they had not received the city’s numbers from HUD.

The Scene

The Clovis City Council meeting took place on May 9, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. According to the agenda, the meeting was made available via Webex and YouTube Live. 

At the start of the meeting, four attendees were present via Webex and two attendees were watching live via Youtube. 

Clovis City Council Members:

Jose Flores, Mayor (also Chief of Police, State Center Community College District Police Department)

Lynne Ashbeck, Mayor Pro Tem (also Senior Vice President Community Engagement and Population Wellness, Valley Children’s Healthcare)

Vong Mouanoutoua, Council Member (also External Relations and Project Development Director, Community Medical Foundation)

Bob Whalen, Council Member (also Fresno County Deputy District Attorney and candidate for Fresno County Superior Court judge)

Drew Bessinger, Council Member (also Chief of Police, Fresno Yosemite International Airport)

Bessinger led the council in the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Whalen presented a proclamation declaring May 9 to 15, 2022 as National Salvation Army Week. Salvation Army Captains were in council chambers. They were introduced and said they had worked in the community for six years, but will be moving to Washington. A new captain will be starting in June. 

City Clerk Karey Cha presented certificates of appreciation and challenge coins to several members of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee who were in council chambers. Committee Chair Chris Casado thanked the council. 

From there, the meeting was open for public comment and no public comments were made. 


  • Approved minutes from the May 2 meeting. 
  • Approved a $594,650 bid award for the Nees Avenue Widening project to Westech Systems, LLC. 
  • Approved a resolution declaring the intention to levy and collect assessments  for fiscal year 2022-2023 and conduct a Prop. 218 proceeding for Blackhorse Estates assessment district. 
  • Approved amending the 2021-2022 police department budget to reflect the award of the CalRecycle Disposal Site Abatement Grant Program in the amount of $228,140. 
  • Approved purchase of an aerial truck from Altec Industries, Inc. for $202,863. It is used for the maintenance of traffic signals and street lights in the Public Utilities Department. 
  • City Manager John Holt quickly presented a presentation on the findings and recommendations provided by the Citizens Advisory Committee regarding the Police Department staffing and funding. 
    • According to the agenda packet, a joint meeting was held between the Clovis City Council and the Citizens Advisory Committee on April 6, 2022. 
      • Chair Chris Casado and Vice Chair Greg Newman presented the findings of the committee to the council. 
      • Majority of the committee thought additional sworn police officers are needed. 
      • Agreed that it should be funded by some form of tax increase ballot measure. 
      • The last time a measure was placed on the ballot was March 2009. 
        • The proposed 1% sales tax measure failed with approximately two-thirds voting no. 
        • In order to get a measure on the ballot for Nov. 2022, all of the required paperwork would be required no later than Aug. 12, 2022. 
      • Council may consider putting less money in the emergency reserve or fleet reserve over the next two years, increasing the number of new hires from three to six per year for two years. 
      • Putting an item on the ballot for a November election costs approximately $50,000. 
    • Mouanoutoua asked how practical it is to bring on 32 new officers. “How soon can we realistically hire?” he said. 
      • Fleming said that his goal is to be full staffed at 112 by July 1 this year. He said they currently have 106. 
      • He said last year they hired 14 officers. 
      • He said it would be a challenge to hire 14 additional officers and fill openings due to retirements. 
      • He said that hiring 10-15 new officers per year is obtainable. 
    • Mouanoutoua asked a question about the funding and Holt said “I’d rather not have Curt answer that.” 
    • Holt said that they could put less money in the emergency reserves and fund police officers. He said the downside would be assigning one-time funds for ongoing costs. 
    • Bessinger asked when PERS rates go down and Holt said 2029. 
    • Ashbeck said that she doesn’t want it to come down to a tax. She said the Community Facilities District when it was approved “the intent was that it would pay its way.” 
      • She asked what a CFD tax is. 
      • Holt said it’s a Mello Roos tax and every new home in a certain area pays $275 in additional property taxes to pay for services since they are farther from the center of town. 
      • Established in 2004 for about 5,000 homes built since. 
      • “When we did that, we probably undervalued the cost,” he said. 
      • He said it would require a Nexus study and probably be a city-wide vote to approve a new CFD. 
      • Attorney says a parcel tax would be easier to implement than making a CFD citywide. 
    • Whalen asked about Measure C being on the ballot in November. Ashbeck confirmed that was the intent. 
    • Flores asked how many officers retire each year. Fleming said last year there were 14 officers, but on average seven officers. 
      • He asked if the department has the capacity to train ten new officers. 
      • Fleming said that 80% of the current 10 that they have were successful in completing training. “Just because we hire them doesn’t mean that they’ll be successful,” he said. 
      • He said they need 124 officers for the five-year plan. 
      • He said the city is the fourth fastest growing of cities over 100,000. 
      • “At the rate we’re going now, we’re going to be at .9 per capita at the rate we’re growing,” he said. 
    • Flores read one of the council questions: Does the council desire to add additional sworn officers beyond what is planned in the five-year forecast? 
      • Flores said that the Chief is saying that they can sustain a training force for 15 new officers a year. 
      • Ashbeck said, “of course we do.” 
    • Mouanoutoua asked Fleming about the urgency of hiring new officers. 
      • He said even if they move at a slower pace, they will get 10 new officers per year. 
      • “I think just seeing that there is some direction and some light at the end of the tunnel…when COVID hit and we lost nine of those vacancies it was a morale killer,” Fleming said. 
      • “People are tired, people are stressed, it takes a mental toll to go out and do this job and not make mistakes and deal with the scrutiny that comes down,” Fleming said. “But seeing a future that we’re going to grow will be a morale booster.”
      • “We’re starting to ignore things that are going to erode what Clovis is all about,” he said. He said that is one of the reasons why he felt obligated to come before the council. 
    • Mouanoutoua asked about the ten new officers and how it will help the department. 
      • “I need 32 new sworn officers today to provide the full service to our citizens,” Fleming said. 
    • Ashbeck said that law enforcement and the ER are similar. “They aren’t going to fall apart, they are going to keep going and work more shifts…it’s going to take its toll,” she said. 
    • Bessinger asked about $4.3 million in transient occupancy tax. He asked how many officers that would get them per year. 
      • He said what interests him about the utility user tax is that it can include residential and commercial users. 
      • He said that he thinks the utility user tax is more likely to get passed. “It really spreads the wealth or the burden and it includes out of town people who own large rental properties,” he said. 
      • Ashbeck asked about who would vote on it though, which would be the resident living in Clovis. 
    • Bessinger said that he is concerned about Measure C, “which is a very important proposition.” 
    • Holt said that in the staff report he included a comparison of where the city was at in 2009 when it proposed a tax compared to where they are at now. 
      • He said they are in a similar po
      • “I would be hard pressed to say we should rush to get something on the November 2022 ballot,” he said. 
    • Ashbeck said the transient occupancy tax on the Nov. 2024 ballot would put them in line with the City of Fresno. 
      • She said they could do a poll and see what happens in the war in Ukraine. 
    • Holt said a combined election in November will cost about $50,000 versus a standalone election, which costs about $300,000. 
    • Mouanoutoua said that he thinks they should plan and do it well, one time. “I think we owe the citizens a clear plan on what this money will do,” he said. 
    • “I would not recommend trying to do something in November of 2022,” Holt said. And if they did want something for November 2022, he would recommend the TOT. 
    • Ashbeck said that the citizen’s comment that “they grew without planning” isn’t true, but “it is something we need to talk about.” 
    • Bessinger asked about a hotel going in on Herndon and Clovis Avenues. Staff said they haven’t communicated their plans, but they got approval right before the pandemic. 
    • Flores said that he would be apprehensive about the “hybrid model” of proposing multiple taxes over time because they should find out which one has the best chance of success and figure out when to do it. 
      • He said doing the polling that is needed, they will run out of time for November 2022. 
      • “We can’t go to the voting public over and over again crying the same wolf,” he said. “I say let’s do it once and do it well.” 
    • Bessinger said that voters may just shrug their shoulders at a Transient Occupancy Tax. “They’re not going to balk over that,” he said. 
      • “He said can they wait until 2023 or 2024 to fund the police department, we can’t and that will get us part of the way,” he said. 
    • Whalen said that he will not participate in the discussion until he hears from the public. 
      • “I think people know where I am, “ he said. 
      • Flores asked the council if they should continue going through the proposed questions to come to some consensus so that the public can provide input then. 
    • Ashbeck said that they do want more officers, but doesn’t want to use the reserves, she thinks they should do a transient occupancy tax in November and they should do a citizen initiative also in November 2024. 
    • Mouanoutoua said that he thinks Whalen has important input, but that they should do only one tax. He said the public doesn’t understand that a transient occupancy tax would tax those coming from out of town. 
      • He thinks if a citizens group is willing to take this on and run with it for November 2022, they should do it. 
      • But if it’s the city, they should study it and move slower. 
    • Former Chief of Police Matt Basgall was in council chambers. He asked how much the occupancy tax could be. 
      • Andrew Haussler said they don’t want to raise it too much because then large groups would stay elsewhere. 
      • He said that they should be cautious about promising three officers per year because things happen like the pandemic and other needs come up. 
    • Committee Chair Chris Casado said that the public doesn’t know that they are in a “mini crisis.” 
    • Diane Pearce said a UUT probably has a lower rate of success because someone who is disinclined to put a tax on themselves is even less inclined to vote for one they don’t understand. 
      • She said that if it is a special tax that can go on an off cycle that is citizen initiated it would still need the 50% plus one. 
      • She said that she agrees it needs to be one good shot, but it is important to recognize there is an immediate need. 
      • “We want to make sure that our budgets are taking care of the top priority, first and foremost and then we work down the line,” she said. 
      • She said that a deeper dive into the budget could be part of the education process for the public. 
    • Greg Newman of the Clovis Chamber of Commerce and Committee vice chair asked what sort of explanation they need to provide the public for the transient occupancy tax. He asked if they could say it is for the 
      • Holt said that if it is a general tax then it could be used for anything and would require an explanation, but if it is specific for police. 
      • Ashbeck asked if the increase would be harmful for businesses, he said if they don’t go above the City of Fresno TOT it wouldn’t be. 
      • He said hotel users don’t even consider the occupancy tax when choosing a hotel. 
    • Noha Elbaz was in chambers. She said that she travels for business two to three times per month and the number one thing that she looks for is safety. 
      • She said that she doesn’t think it’s a hard sell to put that the TOT was to fund the police. 
    • Whalen said that what was important for him to understand is how they’ve been able to stay the safest city with no increase in officers and where did the money go. 
      •  He said that what he learned from the committee is that the police department has some force multipliers, such as community service officers and cameras/drones. 
      • He said that citizen participation in Clovis is also much more than Fresno and other cities. 
      • He said their emergency reserve is there for a reason and that they can use it for low economic times. 
      • He said that he thinks increasing the transient occupancy tax at least to the point where Fresno is, does make sense. 
        • He said when they put it on the ballot it can be called something else that is more understandable like “Hotel occupancy tax” and there is an urgent need to get it on the ballot in November. 
      • He said that he will not be on the council in January and the people on the council can study it more thoroughly. 
      • He said that he has some concerns and is not for a sales tax increase. 
      • He said that the Clovis Unified School District taxes and other taxes may make people say that they aren’t for another parcel tax. 
      • “This is a little bit of deja vu, the economy was not good, we are going through another period where the economy is not good,” he said. 
      • He said that a tax could be pretty easy to defeat with some good messaging and not much money. 
      • He said in 2009 it was bad timing. 
      • He said the residents of Clovis, “love public safety.” 
      • He said they increased salaries of public safety personnel and gave them 3% toward their retirement pension at 50 years old, which he said “nobody gets that.” “But we did that because we love our public safety and we wanted to represent that by doing something tangible,” he said. But it created a “huge CalPERS bill” that is going to continue to increase over the next five years until it plateaus. 
      • “The TOT on the November ballot seems like a no-brainer to me,” he said. “Then maybe in November 2024 that can be readdressed.” 
    • Bessinger said going for the TOT in November was the prudent course. 
      • He said that it would be very difficult for them to find a consultant that can take on the project at that time. 
    • Mouanoutoua asked about the specifics of putting a TOT tax on the ballot. 
      • Four members of the council would have to approve it if it’s a special tax. 
      • But the TOT could be special or a general tax. 
      • Holt said they would be placing an item on the ballot with limited research because they have 90 days to get it to the county clerk. 
      • “It would be absent polling,” he said. 
      • “I like the idea, but the realities on getting it on the ballot for November,” he said. 
    • Ashbeck said that she thinks most voters would think that they don’t stay in the hotel so they’re good.    
      • She says that she doesn’t think they need a consultant to put the measure on the ballot. 
      • “I think we can be successful in November 2022 with a TOT in November,” she said. “I bet we could get it if we initiated it.” 
    • Holt asked Attorney Scott Cross what it would take to get a TOT approved to go on the ballot. 
      • Cross said that the council would just approve the language and decide whether it’s special or general. 
      • He said once the language is approved then it goes to the county. 
    • Whalen said that he would recommend parallel tracks and that they don’t need to approve language tonight. 
      • He said there may be a citizen that wants to step up and provide a TOT.  
    • Bessinger said that he thinks they can make reasonable ballot language that they’d had a 300 percent increase in calls from hotels and hotel users need to pay their fair share.  
    • Holt said that he will shoot for the June 6 meeting to have something prepared that they can discuss. 
    • Ashbeck said that she thinks they should reach out to the hotel community about this, but they may champion it because they want their guests to be safe too. 
    • Flores asked for a five-minute recess before moving on to the census data presentation. 
  • Received and filed information related to analysis of 2020 Census data and March 2, 2021 election data to evaluate the possibility of converting from at-large elections to district-based elections. 
    • Presented by City Clerk Karey Cha. 
    • According to the agenda packet, on Nov. 2, 2020 the city council committed to evaluate census data and election data to “determine whether it is in the public interest to convert to district-based elections.”
    • Clovis City Council members are currently elected in at-large elections where each of the five council members are elected by the registered voters of the entire city. 
    • On Sept. 18, 2020, the city received a letter alleging violations of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) based on the city’s at-large method of election and the city’s off-cycle election. 
    • Demographer Doug Johnson presented information via Webex: 
      • She said the CVRA pushes for moving to “by-district” elections that candidates live in the district and voters live in that district. 
      • He said they don’t see any polarized voting that the law protects against. 
      • He said 200 California districts have moved to by-district elections. 
      • Map would have to be in place by next month. 
    • Whalen asked about polarization. Johnson said there is no statistical analysis that shows racially polarized voting, but there are individuals that bring challenges anyway. 
      • Whalen asked if he has data or information that shows why there is no data to indicate that there is racially polarized voting. 
      • He said they analyze precinct by precinct the amount of numbers a candidate gets and look at the percentage of precincts that is Latino, etc. 
      • “That of course presumes a fairly steady progression,” he said. 
      • Whalen confirmed that he was looking at the data from the election in March 2021. 
    • Whalen asked about the data being more helpful with higher voter turnout as expected in November 2022, or if he thought that the March 2021 election provided sufficient data.    
      • Johnson said when they get higher voter turnout, it can provide a more conclusive finding. 
    • Whalen asked what racially polarized voting would look like. 
      • Johnson said that they see it pretty regularly when there is a clear, demographic split in the precinct. 
    • Ashbeck asked about the demographic split. 
      • Johnson said, “If there is one election where there is a Latino running, then that election has a little more weight, than one where there is just non-Latino candidates.”
    • Flores asked about elections being compared, like statewide and district elections. 
      • Johnson said when you compare statewide elections then it looks more at a party split, so the law favors looking at local elections that are non-partisan. 
      • “If you end up in a court battle, we’ll end up with 20 or 30 elections thrown in saying they all apply,” he said. 
      • Johnson said local ballot measures tend to be more relevant. 
    • Cross said that it would be almost impossible to have districts in place by November, so the earliest they could have them in place would be November 2024. 
    • Cross said the maps would be drawn without the November 2022 election data and would only be in place for the November 2024 election. 
    • Ashbeck said they only get one chance to make this call and the data from November 2022 will be richer.    
      • “Fair public process can’t happen by July 5,” she said. 
      • She said she thinks they can have focus groups and community groups to discuss over the next couple years. 
    • Flores said that if they see there is racial polarization in the electorate then they will vote on that. “We’re not ignoring this question, we’re just saying we need better data and the only way to get that is to wait until after the November 2022 election,” he said. “We in Clovis don’t want to disenfranchise those protected groups who might be disenfranchised.” 
    • Whalen asked about what it would take for Johnson to say that there is “no racially polarized voting in Clovis.” 
      • Johnson said part of the challenge is that they don’t have a clear legal standing on this. 
      • Johnson said there are clear situations that have shown racially polarized voting, but it hasn’t happened in Clovis, but that’s not saying a situation won’t arise. 
      • He said it could happen if a group drives that change or group patterns change in Clovis. 
    • Whalen said do they keep studying until it shows yes, there is racially polarized voting or no, there isn’t racially polarized voting. “Our tendency is, if it’s not broke don’t fix it,” he said. 
    • Flores said that what will drive it is litigation. So do they litigate and use the data to show there is no racially polarized voting, but that the consultant said that no one has won those cases. 
      • “Do we want to go to districts anyway because we are being driven by some advocates that don’t even live in our city,” he said. 
      • “We’re earnestly trying to find reality and whether others believe that or not, they’ll litigate,” he said. 
      • “Are we going to spend millions of dollars on what we know is defensible, but the courts may not agree.” 
  • Continued to May 16 adoption of the 2022-2023 annual action plan for the expenditure of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds. 
    • Haussler requested the continuance because HUD has not provided its numbers. 
    • HUD requires the city to adopt the action plan for identifying projects for the expenditure of CDBG funds. 
    • As noted on the agenda, a total of $715,051 in CDBG funds is available for 2022-2023:
      • $125,000 for housing rehabilitation
      • $200,000 Brookhaven/Rosebrook alley reconstruction
      • $139,784 Gould Canal Trail between Peach and Minnewawa Avenues
      • $107,257 for area-based policing (code enforcement)
      • $143,010 administration
  • Approved an ordinance adding a section to the Clovis Municipal Code relating to campaign contribution limits to provide for electronic filing of campaign statements and statements of economic interests. 
    • Presented by City Clerk Karey Cha. 
    • New requirement went into effect in January 2021 to post electronic filings within 72 hours. 

Flores then opened the meeting for council comments:

  • Mouanoutoua said the Measure C committee met in person last week and will meet again on Wednesday. They will vote on the allocation formula and reach a decision on the 20- or 30-year duration. 
  • Bessinger said he returned from Germany 36 hours ago. He brought a specific type of red wine from the region he visited. He said the city he visited mirrors Clovis in population and would like them to be its Sister City. But they said they are waiting due to the war in Ukraine. 
  • Flores thanked the council for caring about him. He said he had pneumonia and was hospitalized for four days. He said he had a sharp pain that pushed him to go to the hospital. 
  • Bessinger said he was bit by a German spider. 

The council moved into closed session at 9:17  p.m. to conference with labor negotiators. He said they won’t have anything to declare after. The next Clovis City Council meeting is May 16 and noted as the budget introduction.

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