Here’s what you need to know:

  • The Board directed the County’s legislative lobbyists in Sacramento to oppose legislation proposing the creation of an independent redistricting committee, fossil-fuel divestment in public employees’ retirement systems, mandatory vaccinations for school attendance, and COVID vaccination for minors without parental permission. 
  • The Board directed the Public Works Department and Administrative Office to draft a proposal to reform policies and procedures for enforcement of penalties for violations of zoning ordinances and building codes.
  • As the pandemic lingered, collaboration between the Fresno Fair and the Department of Public Health to promote safe, in-person attendance at the most recent Fair resulted in the receipt of the Merrill Award, bestowed by the Western Fairs Association.

Board (all present)

Brian Pacheco, 1st District, Chairman 

Sal Quintero, 3rd District, Vice-Chairman

Steve Brandau, 2nd District 

Buddy Mendes, 4th District 

Nathan Magsig, 5th District 

Also Present

Paul Nerland, County Administrative Officer (CAO)

Daniel C. Cederborg, County Counsel

Bernice E. Seidel, Clerk of the Board of Supervisors

The Scene

Chairman Pacheco called the meeting to order at 9:30 a.m. Roll call (all present) was followed by an invocation given by Janet Grimson of the County Sheriff’s chaplaincy, for a second consecutive time. “Join me in prayer this morning,” she began, explicitly addressing “our father” and explicitly invoking “Christ Jesus, our lord.” “There is never a night without a day,” she advised in a more sectarian spirit. “Teach us to follow you and give you wisdom” [sic], she added. “Remember homes and lives in Ukraine,” she asked, alluding to the current war. Flag salute followed. Several times throughout the meeting, as Clerk Seidel read the agenda items, supervisors were heard talking over her. The protective plexiglass screens separating each supervisor seat on the dais were gone, signaling that the COVID-19 pandemic was regarded as over. No one wore a mask. The meeting was accessible via live-stream and in-person attendance. Video and audio transmission were clear, with a variety of camera angles. A video recording of the meeting is found here.

Agenda Item #1 Approval of agenda. Approved 5-0.

Agenda Item #2 Consent agenda, Items #18-37. None pulled for discussion. Passed 5-0.

Agenda Item #3 Retirement plaque presented to Laurie Little, who worked for the County library system for 19 years. Her former supervisor praised her for her many innovations, particularly her work with autistic schoolchildren. “She’s served us well,” he remarked. Chairman Pacheco invited Little to the dais for a photo, which he said would be “the first without plexiglass in two years.”

Agenda Item #4 Proclamation naming March 2022 as “Red Cross Month.” Laurie Wilson from the Red Cross was present as were two volunteers. Wilson praised the entire volunteer staff: “Not me—them,” she said, naming those responsible for the success of the Red Cross. 

Agenda Item #5 Recognition of an award received from the Western Fairs Association by the Big Fresno Fair, the Merrill Award, called the “Oscar” of California county-fair awards. Stacy Rianda and Lauri King, Deputy Managers of the Fair, and others from the Department of Public Health were present, including Director David Luchini, as the health and safety public-outreach campaign to promote attendance at the Fair despite the pandemic and in cooperation with safety precautions, was a collaboration between the two County agencies, whose goal was to support in-person attendance at the Fair. Both agencies promoted a public-service announcement (PSA) campaign for television, held health and safety press briefings, and mounted a campaign to promote public safety for Fair attendees. Public-relations tagline was “Be smart, play safe, stay healthy.” There was on-site COVID testing at the Fair, managed by the Health Department. Luchini explained that Dr Rais Vohra, pictured in many of the public-relations materials shown, and per Luchini, “heavily involved” in the program, could not attend the Board meeting that morning because he was busy. (Dr Vohra has been the object of anti-vaccination critique not only from public commenters who show up at Board meetings, but some supervisors themselves have undermined Dr Vohra’s public-health guidelines by refusing to wear masks.) Rianda presented certificates of recognition to each supervisor as a means of thanking them for their input in the process.

Supervisor Quintero mentioned that Pacheco’s father was the 2021 president of the Fresno Fair’s board of directors. Supervisor Brandau remarked that he “had a blast” at the Fair.

Agenda Item #6 The County’s lobbyists for State legislation, Paul Yoder and Michael Corbett, were present to provide a summary of current legislative actions. Mendes called Corbett, who spoke without notes, the “rain man” of legislation. Corbett noted that the State legislature wanted to “fast-track” the budget, so some decisions were still to be finalized at the May revision. He did say that the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan is in place, as is the governor’s homelessness proposal, as well as some other unspecified matters. 

What he termed an “early response budget” allowed for retroactive sick-leave and $5.5 billion for small-business grants, all in response to the consequences of COVID-19. It was noted that the budget included Governor Newsom’s proposed “CARE Court,” a program which per a State press release “connects a person struggling with untreated mental illness, and often also substance use challenges, with a court-ordered care plan for up to 24 months. Each plan is managed by a care team in the community and can include clinically prescribed, individualized interventions with several supportive services, medication, and a housing plan. The client-centered approach also includes a public defender and supporter to help make self-directed care decisions in addition to their full clinical team.” The school mask mandate as of Friday, March 11 shifts from “required” to “recommended,” Corbett said. 

However, Corbett said, the “light at the end of the tunnel” could be a “train coming at us,” referring to other legislative proposals in response to COVID such as allowing vaccination of teenagers without parental approval; sanctioning of doctors who circulate vaccination misinformation; and a COVID-vaccination mandate for school children.

Yoder said that Governor Newsom may mention some of these issues in his “state of the state” speech that night at 5:00PM and that “we’ll watch it for you, so you won’t have to,” he said grimacing. There was laughter in response. Yoder said, regarding the CARE Court proposal, that Newsom was “attempting to cross-walk” between conservatorship laws and that County workers assigned to clients would cause costs to “add up,” and offered other criticisms of this proposed program, mostly based on what he called high costs.

Yoder further cited a county-specific fund for local governments and said that Fresno County was qualified to apply. The County would be in charge of managing funds received. Among 2,000 other new bills, Yoder wanted to give a “shout-out” to Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson regarding his sponsorship of a bill to revive the Williamson Act. He also noted that there would be a meeting with the Governor in two weeks, when board chairs of each county would have an opportunity to speak with the governor himself. Finally, Yoder noted that budget sub-committees have been meeting but have paused until mid-April while policy committees meet; budget revision will take place in May.

Supervisor Magsig commented that “the stock market is torn to pieces; there is war in Europe; oil prices are through the roof.” He then asked if Yoder or Corbett have been hearing from “folks” who want to know that if we continue these trends, will there be a “big deficit” as a consequence. Yoder replied that in his “state of the state” address later that night, the governor would likely say that he is concerned and would recommend “caution.”

Brandau enumerated the legislative items he opposed and requested lobbying against them: teenagers’ vaccinations without parental consent. Frequently clearing his throat, he declared that the family was still the “best system” we have. He also didn’t like the “concept” of mandatory vaccinations for public-school students. Among other proposed legislation he was “worried” about was AB2030, introduced by Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, which would establish an independent redistricting committee. Currently Brandau and his fellow supervisors are responsible for managing redistricting, and they were widely criticized for allegedly maintaining the status-quo in the most recent redistricting of only months ago. “We’re very opposed to the Arambula redistricting bill,” Brandau said, looking in Pacheco’s direction; Pacheco affirmed that the Board supported “local control.” Though “local control” is largely considered a reactionary or right-wing rallying cry, Pacheco, a Democrat, seemed to affirm it, while Quintero, the other Democrat on the Board, said nothing. Quintero was the only Board member who voted against the redistricting plan of 2021.

Brandau further expressed opposition to SB1173, introduced by Senators Scott Wiener and Lena Gonzalez, which would stop the Public Employees’ Retirement System and the State Teachers’ Retirement System “from making new investments or renewing existing investments of public employee retirement funds in a fossil fuel company. The bill would require the boards to liquidate investments in a fossil fuel company on or before July 1, 2027,” because, per the bill’s language, “The combustion of coal, oil, and natural gas, known as fossil fuels, is the single largest contributor to global climate change,” and “Fossil fuel companies’ plans to expand production, public relations campaigns, and efforts to obstruct climate stabilization policies are incompatible with California’s climate goals, and our obligation to current and future generations.” Brandau called the proposed bill “an attack on our oil and gas industry,” which he asserted “we see being played out on the streets of Kiev today” [sic]. He advocated support for AB1599, which would repeal Proposition 47

Quintero asked Yoder and Corbett to look into funding for senior housing, for which he said there was an urgent need. “We’ll inquire,” they promised.

Magsig said it was “frustrating” to build housing because of scarcity of building materials and water. He expressed a wish for an assemblyman or state senator who sees things his way and then mentioned one of his oft-mentioned subjects, forest-thinning as fire-prevention, wood from which he said could be used for building. “We need more water, more ag!” he added, with emphasis.

Yoder remarked that there are “Republican caucuses” which advocate making one-time investments in water storage and other water projects, but he was not specific.

Agenda Item #7 Adopt recommended changes to the County’s State legislative platform. CAO Nerland said that “things identified as priorities” have been added to the platform or “are mentioned generally enough.” Brandau, saying he is “concerned,” that the Board had passed several resolutions supporting the oil and gas industry, and he wanted to make sure the lobbyists present understood him, reiterating that the Board does not support CalPERS divesting from oil and gas funds, that they oppose the Arambula bill, and that they support modification of Proposition 47. He added that he wanted to express support of “parental control of minors,” referring to the proposal to permit teenagers to be vaccinated without parental consent.

Mendes, referring to groundwater, said, “It was becoming pretty obvious that we’d get cleaned out by clean-up legislation, but the Department of Water Resources has decided that they are going to regulate us to death . . . they’ve rejected all the plans. I think they are going to put everybody on probation, then they’ll come in and try to regulate. They are pretending it’s 2040 when it’s 2022. They want all the agencies to already be at the 2040 standard. I think our water policy might be broad enough, because this is going to come up. I hate to be a bearer of bad news, but that’s what’s going on. I doubt any plans from this part of the Valley will be accepted. I think they’ll all be rejected again” [sic]. Nerland appeared to understand what Mendes was trying to say and responded that the policy language was broad enough to cover Mendes’ concerns. Mendes went on, “When you talk to some of the old-timers who have been in this deal for years, they admit that the State isn’t even following the law now” [sic], but he did not define what he meant by “old-timers” or “this deal.”

Magsig commented further about rejection of plans, presumably water-management plans. He said that without water storage, housing could not be built. Then he said that the State of California wants to “concentrate land-use authority” and they would do that, he seemed to be suggesting, by controlling water. Mendes added, “It’s basically taking a Soviet system, concentrating it in Soviet headquarters in Sacramento” [sic]; neither offered any alternative solution. 

Magsig warned about “unintended consequences” of “Senator Wiener’s bill” which would divest CalPERS of fossil-fuel accounts. He said he believed fossil fuels were used to make many good things, such as fertilizers, clothing, plastics, medication, adding, “I don’t know if his intent is to limit individuals who need medication so they can survive, or to limit people from having clothing . . . I imagine the next step is that no fossil fuels can be used” [sic] for these purposes, he said. He “didn’t know of any materials” typically found in all households which are completely free of fossil-fuel by-products. Even “my shoelaces” were made from fossil fuel by-products, he said. Magsig wanted a letter written to Senator Wiener which itemized all the ways he asserts fossil fuels are used, and as a final point, he said that he “learned in school” that a mere 40% of oil is used for gasoline and the rest of it goes to “all those other things.”

The legislative platform was approved 5-0.

Agenda Item #8 Proposal to include a measure on the June 7 ballot to extend the Measure Z sales tax for a 15-year period. The Fresno Zoo would benefit but would pay for the cost of the election. Present were John Dolan, CEO of the Fresno Zoo, and Michelle Roman, Zoo Board president. They asked the Board to continue Measure Z on the June ballot. Brandau commented, “People pay taxes and it’s questionable if they get their money’s worth,” but this proposal was good. “Very legit,” he added. Mendes asserted that now the zoo is “world class” thanks to Measure Z. “Even ‘no-tax’ people on the Board like it.” Passed 5-0.

Agenda Item #9 Proposal to add one staff position to the CAO’s office. Sonja Dosti, Public Information Officer, was present to make the case that she needed another staff person. She showed a short public-relations video which introduced Fresno County government staff for a general audience. She emphasized the need for creating PSAs, instructional videos, and job recruitment. Mendes said he supported the proposed hiring. Quintero asked if the new hire would be bi-lingual, to which Dosti said she hoped for a multilingual staff. Passed 5-0.

Agenda Item #10 Bernard Jimenez and others from Public Works were present to discuss and receive direction from the Board about the need to improve zoning- and building-code violation enforcement, a subject which has come up at recent meetings. Issues long plaguing the County are illegal trash dumping, storage of inoperable vehicles, substandard housing, and the like. Brandau asserted that “societal breakdown” is leading to all of these offenses. Currently remedies are three-fold: fines, litigation, permitting (the latter when violators try to resolve problems legally). Fines, it was noted, were too low, as were intervals between warnings and escalations. Litigation was too slow. 

Currently the County employs four full-time and two part-time staff who work on addressing these violations of which there are now 2,419 outstanding. By contrast, the city of Fresno employs 75-80 full-time staff. 

A range of comments and observations were made: 

  • Dumping is rampant on the West Side
  • A $100 fine is ineffective—it must be raised
  • Enforcement needs to be speeded up
  • Fixing this is a “captain obvious” (Mendes)
  • Supervisors receive a “massive” number of complaints about illegal trash dumping
  • Lack of staff is the bottleneck
  • Need to shorten time of enforcement process

Steve White from Public works said, regarding police enforcement, in an unspecified place where trash was dumped, and only the day before several tons of trash had been removed, that the sheriff’s office “went out and had some fun with some people.” what did he mean by “fun”?

Other suggestions raised were the creation of a task force and the creation of district-based administrative staff to handle complaints. Pacheco asked the Public Works staff to present a full report proposing reforms at the next Board meeting on 22 March.

A member of the public, Peggy Lee Ailanjian, was present, along with Debbie Christian, president of the Sunnyside Property Owners Association, to comment about what they described as the many code violations of her next-door neighbor. Ailanjian said she had been complaining since 2016 to no avail about absentee landlords, butchering of goats, the 75 inoperable vehicles parked on the property, innumerable people coming and going at all hours, noisy roosters, semi trucks coming and going, a former resident of the house next door (now incarcerated) who committed many building-code violations before leaving for prison, and other violations. “He’s in prison and he gets more than I do,” Ailanjian said, not specifying what she meant by “more.”. Magsig claimed that his staff had been “calling, calling, calling” about this property, but he. Will Kettering of the Public Works Department, said that many of the issues raised were law-enforcement issues, not code violations. He said that his staff found out that all of the vehicles parked on the property were operable and some were quite new. He did say that the permit for the stable structure on the property had expired. The rooster complaint should be made to animal control. There was no safety issue that his department could determine; there is no occupancy limit, so the number of people at the house cannot be addressed, and their conduct is beyond the scope of code enforcement.

Ailanjian said that she was “insulted” by Kettering’s summary analysis. “No one here would live next to that,” she said, repeating that the many parked vehicles on the property were inoperable and that the incarcerated man had built the unpermitted stables. When Kettering began to defend his position, Pacheco interjected, “This is not a debate.” Christian said, referring to the offending neighbors, that “These people don’t give a damn,” and that there should be consequences for their violations and misconduct.

Pacheco reiterated that a report was expected next week from Nerland and Public Works regarding how to move forward.

Agenda Item #11 Supervisor reports

Magsig: Went to a Ukrainian flag-raising. His middle son is turning 16; he wished him a happy birthday.

Quintero: Spoke of a County employee who recently died.

Brandau: Spoke of a recent controversy regarding the replacement of a Superior Court judge who resigned before his term expired and said there will likely be litigation. He preferred an election and would like to “see if the governor wants to sue to stop it.” He was likely referring to Bob Whalen, Clovis City Council member and Deputy District Attorney who appeared later to make a public comment about the matter.

Mendes: Addressing Magsig and his son’s 16th birthday, said, “Wait till they’re in their 30s and 40s!” He also mentioned the recent death of a former supervisor, then complained about the price of “diesel,” taking the opportunity to blame the federal government, which he said “really screwed up” but as he habitually does, refrained from offering details or clarification.

Pacheco: No comments.

Agenda Item #13 Public comments for items not on the agenda. The aforementioned Bob Whalen was present to complain about his predicament: he had decided to run for a Superior Court judgeship after an early resignation created an opening. The election is to be held in June 2022, and as Whalen was to have run unopposed, he was assured of the position, which would begin in January 2023. “My dream of becoming a judge had become a reality,” said Whalen. Congratulations flowed. He celebrated with his family. Then came the blow: After County Clerk James Kus had confirmed with Whalen that he was on the ballot, Kus received a call from the governor’s office telling him that state law required the governor to make an interim appointment, until the next election in 2024. 

“The governor is wrong,” Whalen declared to the Board, expressing his disappointment. He has sought legal help from a law firm in Sacramento which represents the California Republican Party. Whalen wondered, “if action [by the governor’s office] was withheld to see if the person on the ballot was not to the governor’s liking,” it would “nefarious,” but he was “not saying that.” Nevertheless, he asserted, the effect was the same, and he expressed his desire to say “no” to the governor. An updated report in the 9 March Fresno Bee noted that Kus had decided to allow the election to proceed after all.

At this point, 11:58AM, the Board went into closed session, after which they adjourned. Before video and audio transmission stopped, Mendes was heard to say to Whalen, “Thanks, Bob, for coming.” Whalen replied, “You got it, Buddy.”

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