Here’s what you need to know:
- Brandau voted “no” to adding federal funding to the Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) budget, accusing the organization of being an “activist” organization because the phrase “social justice” appears on its website.
- Plans to increase staffing for code enforcement are progressing; candidates for 12 new staff positions will be recruited.
- The Board authorized the County’s sale of landfill gas as renewable energy, in a revenue agreement with Toro Energy of California. The deal will purportedly generate about $135 million for the County over 25 years.
Brian Pacheco, 1st District, Chairman
Sal Quintero, 3rd District, Vice-Chairman
Steve Brandau, 2nd 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 Pacheco called the meeting to order at 9:31AM. Clerk Seidel called roll; all were present. The room was about half full of attendees. Supervisor Mendes introduced Jessie Gira, a pastor from Sanger’s Grace Community Church, to give the invocation; she said that “the lord” had “hand-picked” each supervisor “to serve” and was explicit about citing “Jesus” in whose name, she said, the meeting was to be conducted. A flag salute followed. The meeting was relatively short at about one hour and 45 minutes, though the public portion was followed by a closed session. No report from the closed session was made. Audio and video transmission for remote attendees was very clear. Videos of this and past meetings can be found here.
Agenda Item #1 Approval of agenda. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #2 Consent agenda; items #20-48. Item 23.1 was pulled by Supervisor Quintero; item #32 was pulled by Brandau. Discussion of these two items followed discussion of item #5 of the regular agenda.
Agenda Item #3 Presentation of plaque commemorating retirement of Javier Gomez after 32 years with the Department of Social Services. Gomez joked about “going to work to rest” because “home is crazy.” He said he will miss his “family” at work. Indeed, ten family members were in attendance, and all posed for a group photo. A second photo was taken with office colleagues. Pacheco commented that he and Gomez were friends, and both were members of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men’s organization.
Agenda Item #4 Mendes introduced a proclamation declaring April 24-30 “National Crime-Victims’ Rights Week.” Kirk Haynes, Chief Probation Officer, was present with about twelve of his staff of victim advocates. Assistant Deputy Chief of the James Rowland Crime Victim Assistance Center, Karen Roach, spoke briefly about the Center, which provides services for about 8,000 annual victims of human trafficking, elder abuse, domestic violence, and other crimes. It was noted that the Center’s namesake, James Rowland, a former chief probation officer of Fresno County and internationally known victim advocate, died earlier this month. No opposing votes. A group photo was taken.
Agenda Item #5 Proclamation introduced by Magsig declaring April 25-29 “Save Today Week,” a campaign designed to encourage employees to contribute more to their retirement accounts. A representative from the County’s Human Resources department spoke briefly on the matter. No opposing votes.
Agenda Item #23.1 (from consent calendar) Quintero spoke briefly about the death of Pauline Echevarria (99), “a very special lady.”
Agenda Item #32 (from consent calendar). This item proposes an amendment to an agreement with the Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) to include funding from Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CARES) and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), retroactive to Jan 2022. Brandau pulled the item for discussion, accusing YLI of being an “activist” organization which, he asserted without evidence, was “hyper-political.” He objected to terms used on the organization’s website, such as “social justice,” “gender,” and “racism.” He didn’t like the “mindset” behind these words, though he was unclear regarding why. He puzzlingly appeared to try to connect the clients of YLI with criminals who sell fentanyl and claimed, by this logic, that “we” are “admitting to schizophrenia” if youth issues are seen through a “social-justice lens.” Nevertheless, Magsig appeared to understand, saying he “appreciated” issues Brandau raised. Funding, observed Magsig, should be “apolitical,” giving the impression that the funding and the organization itself were “political,” though neither he nor Brandau could demonstrate a specifically objectionable connection. Magsig asked if the YLI had been following funding guidelines or following an “agenda”; Susan Holt, Director of Behavioral Health, said that the YLI does not receive County funding. Funding is from the federal level, but Board approval is needed for spending, which is only for stated purposes. That silenced Magsig. CEO Patricia Barahona was present to respond: “Yes, we do social-justice work,” she noted, “because young people should help to shape their communities.” She continued, saying that the YLI was an established leader in the County as well as in the state and the country in its programs for reducing teen access to alcohol and other drugs. She noted that teenagers living in neighborhoods with “easier access to liquor stores than to healthy foods is a social justice issue.” She briefly described programs which discourage substance abuse and terms regarding evaluation of effectiveness. “We believe deeply in this work,” she said. Quintero noted that he worked with YLI “for years” when he was on the Fresno City Council. He addressed a question to CAO Nerland: “Can a disclaimer be added to a contract” with a service provider to restrict use of funds for purposes described in the contract. It was unclear why he asked the question since no assertions had been made regarding inappropriate use of funding or violations of contract terms; Nerland replied that work described in a contract would need to remain within the scope of the contract. But could the language be made “super-clear?” asked Quintero. Pacheco asked Holt to respond; she said that regular meetings, written evaluations per department metrics, internal and external evaluations take place with all contractors, and she reminded the Board that this agenda item was an amendment to add the new federal funding sources to the contract. 4-1 vote, with Brandau voting “no.”
Agenda Item #6 CAO Nerland and Will Kettler of Public Works gave an update on the staffing plans for improved code enforcement. Direction given by the Board on 8 March was recapitulated, including summary of resources needed, number of new positions to be added, increases in fines for violations, and current litigation. Kettler said that there would be recruitment for one Senior Planner position, five Planner positions, five Program Technician positions, and one Office Assistant position, all full-time. Training in code-compliance functions and law would be given to successful applicants. Quintero asked what the timeline was for the hiring of the new staff. Kettler said that depending on the recruitment process, he expected it to take about six months. Mendes said that the additional staff has been long needed, “since way before me and Brian got elected.” He noted that unincorporated areas of the County are suffering most from the lack of timely code enforcement. Magsig asked for confirmation that the subject would return to the Board in May, and Nerland said that it would.
Agenda Item #7 Salary reclassification of one position and reinstatement of another in the Behavioral Health Department. Susan Holt, director of the department, spoke briefly on the matter. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #8 Public hearing to authorize the County’s future sale of landfill gas as renewable energy. Dan Amman, a Public Works employee, gave a brief presentation about the matter, a revenue agreement with Toro Energy of California, which purportedly will generate about $135 million over 25 years via sale of landfill gas at the American Avenue Disposal site. The item was opened to public comment; Kevin Hall of Fresno, who publishes a website on climate matters, spoke. He summarized his background as an agriculture reporter and his long involvement with issues of global warming and said that schemes such as the one under consideration don’t work because they don’t help the problem of reducing greenhouse gases. This was an instance of “making money off climate change,” he said. Next a man named Mark Reed of the Sierra Citizens for Sensible Waste Management, said that part of this plan was to “ship Oakhurst residents’ green waste to Kerman” and asserted that “that can’t possibly reduce greenhouse gases.” He requested that the Board not consider the matter until they conducted further evaluation. Magsig asked staff if any financial burden would be taken on by “the taxpayer” if revenue projections don’t “materialize.” Amman replied that 100% of the capital is the responsibility of the developer—“We’re not putting up a dime.” Discussion about financing and capital costs ensued. Equipment maintenance is the responsibility of the developer as well, Amman noted. The item passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #9 Proposal for conditional-use permit to add a gas station to a mini-market located at southeast corner of West Olive and North Valentine Avenues. Kettler of Public Works explained that the matter concerned an expansion of an existing development. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #10 Receive testimony on proposed County Community Development
Block Grant program and approve an amendment to the 2019-20 Annual Action Plan to update planned uses for Community Development Block Grant funding, under the CARES Act. The County had received a one-time allocation of $3,176,888 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds per CARES. This allocation (“CDBG-CV”), provides funds for CDBG-eligible projects to address COVID-related needs, and specific uses have already been approved by the Board. This action will revise the planned activities and update funding amounts among approved projects, to ensure timely expenditure of CDBG-CV funds across the County. An employee of Public Works gave a brief presentation and read into the record some written comments received. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #11 Supervisor committee reports/comments:
Magsig encouraged all to attend the Clovis rodeo. He did not mention that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is opposed to rodeo events involving animal suffering.
Pacheco mentioned the recent death of prominent raisin- and wine-grape grower Randy Rocca and said that mention of the death would appear on the Board’s 3 May agenda.
Brandau, Mendes, and Quintero made no comment.
Agenda Item #12 Board appointments: Quintero made one, Pacheco two. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #13 Public comments for items not on agenda: Kevin Hall, who spoke earlier, spoke this time about Measure C renewal (a tax which funds public transportation), a subject he has covered for some time in a variety of media. He suggested that Brandau, an opponent of public transportation, “stop appearing on ‘Unfiltered’,” a video feature of GV Wire on which he is a regular, and which Hall accused of practicing “fascist intimidation.” Another regular on the show, Darius Assemi, a local real-estate developer, donated over $200,000 to right-wing politicians last year, said Hall, and “now’s the time to stop.”
The next speaker, a middle-aged man in a white T-shirt who was stretching while the previous speaker talked, did not identify himself and began by saying, “I’d like to apologize for my unaccountable behavior downtown.” He continued, “I yelled a lot, and I’m going to explain why.” However, what followed was generally incoherent. He said that “I’d like to file a lot of complaints” against the County’s security guards, who “called him names” and accused him of using racist language. He seemed to admit some culpability when he said, “When my mouth goes off, it’s for a reason,” but the context was unclear. He finished speaking within the three-minute limit.
The Board went into closed session at 10:49AM to discuss existing and potential litigation, labor negotiations, and real-estate negotiation. There was no report from the closed session, after which the meeting was adjourned.
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