Here’s what you need to know:
- After a long and contentious discussion, the Board approved a renewal of the Measure C transportation tax plan.
- Brandau wanted a revision of Administrative Policy 75 (AP75), to make it easier to spend district funds in small amounts, but was opposed by the other Board members.
- Sheriff Mims presented statistics regarding numbers of jailed persons who were transferred to ICE, to criticism by immigrant advocates.
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 promptly at 9:30 a.m. Clerk Seidel called the roll; all were present. Pacheco introduced the person giving the invocation, B.T. Lewis of the Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church of Fresno. “Master, bless this room,” said Lewis. “May justice run down like a mighty stream.” He hoped that decisions would be “tempered with compassion and asked “God, cover us with your divine power and authority.” “In Jesus’ name we pray,” he said. Then the flag salute ensued.
The room was full of attendees, with extra folding chairs to accommodate everybody. Only a handful of people wore face masks. The meeting was long at nearly four hours and was marked by some contention. The meeting was accessible to the public via in-person and virtual attendance. Video and agenda available here.
Agenda Item #1 Approve agenda. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #2 Consent agenda, items #25-59. A member of the public asked to pull item #43 for discussion. Remainder passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #3 Recognition of retirement of Richard Hernandez, who worked for 19 years with Public Works as an engineering technician. He was described by a co-worker as “the most kind and helpful man I’ve ever met.”
Agenda Item # 4 Chairman Pacheco introduced this item, declaring July 11-15 as the Department of Social Services “Eligibility Workers, Job Specialists, and Appeals Specialists Appreciation Week.” Director of DSS Sanja Bugay was present with several of her staff, a total of 1,189, who she said continued serving the public throughout the pandemic, responding to tens of thousands of calls and applications for service.
Pacheco said that honoring this staff reflects his chairmanship’s theme of showing support for employees. However, during the public-comment section of this agenda item, one of the job specialists on staff, a union member, spoke: she complained about “excessive workloads” and “high turnover.” She said, addressing the Board, “We are pleading for your help; we are drowning,” noting that seven workers had quit last week alone. She described department staff as “overworked and underpaid” and said that some staff had even become clients. Staff were not “public servants” but “public peasants,” she said and asked that the Board show appreciation with action rather than words.
Next, union rep and probation department employee Riley Talford asked about classification and compensation (“class and comp”) study results which were due last month and asked the Board to bring the employees up to the level expected by the community, to applause. A third commenter, Gloria Hernandez of Mothers Helping Mothers, said that the DSS staff “keep people from dying of hunger.”
Pastor Lewis, still in the room, got up to speak as well, mistakenly addressing the Chair as “Pastor Pacheco,” and thanked the Board for responding to the controversy which ensued after the DSS building was relocated from southwest Fresno to Clovis. Brandau thanked the DSS staff present for their “hard work” and said that the Board was taking a “strong look” at the department. Raises, he said, were being “eaten” by inflation. “We hear you; we’re working on it,” he added, referring to the complaints about working conditions. A group photo was made.
Agenda Item #5 Brandau and Magsig introduced this resolution to recognize Tim Sarquis and Brandon Johansen for their Emmy-nominated documentary “Killer High: The Silent Crisis” and Emmy-winning documentary “Mountain Strong: Surviving the Creek Fire.” Magsig said it was “so important” to have “media partners” like ABC30 because “we can’t get accurate reporting out on our own.”
District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp, said Brandau, had asked him for help promoting the “Killer High” film which concerns teenagers’ use of fentanyl, hence the appearance on the day’s agenda. Brandau asked Smittcamp, who was present, to “come forward” after trailers for the two films were shown. She was “honored” to be there “for Brandon and Tim.” She talked about a press conference about drug abuse to which the filmmakers were invited. Subsequently, “Tim and Brandon came to law enforcement and said ‘we want to help’,” she said. The drug-abuse film has been shown in local school districts and beyond, even drawing notice from one person in Finland, said Smittcamp. Sarquis & Johansen were present and thanked Smittcamp and the Board. A group photo was made.
Agenda Item #6 Certificates of recognition were presented to three delegates of the American Legion Auxiliary Girls State. Quintero said that “this is the rewarding part of sitting on the dais” but thanked those who raised issues about “challenges.” A representative of the American Legion, Grace Solis, was present along with two of the three teenaged girls who received the certificates; Solis recounted the history of the establishment of the Girls State (and the Boys State which preceded it) in reaction to developments in Europe leading to World War II—how could young people be “trained to become Nazis and fascists?”
Boys State and Girls State are intensive training programs in how to run a democratic government. Famous Girls State graduates are Liz Cheney, Jane Pauley, and Ann Richards, Solis said. One of the girls present said that the program taught her how to be a responsible citizen and how to manage civic engagement not just by running for office but by participating in other kinds of activities, such as appointed positions or via journalism. Quintero was thanked for having donated to the organization. The third girl did not attend the meeting because she got lost and could not locate the building.
Agenda Item #7 Proclaim July 17-23 as “Pretrial, Probation, and Parole Supervision Week.” Quintero introduced “the legendary” Kirk Haynes, Chief Probation Officer. “I’m a legend in my own mind,” said Haynes with a smile. He then asked his staff present to approach the podium, and most of the attendees in the room stood up.
“Restore trust, create hope” was the motto of his department, Haynes said. Juvenile corrections officers (JCOs) worked overtime during the pandemic, Haynes said. Haynes then asked each of about 20 staff members present to say their names and job titles, most of which was inaudible because they were speaking without microphones. Haynes thanked the Board for their support, and a group photo was made.
Agenda Item #43 Pulled earlier from the consent agenda. Riley Talford, county employee union rep and staff probation officer, approached the podium and noted that two cell phones had been left behind, which Clerk Seidel took. Talford asked the Board to consider making one-time supplemental payments to more departments than what they were currently planning.
Agenda Item #7.1 Brandau proposed a new process for using district funds, in this case for the purpose of hiring a trash-hauler to help with clean-up of a section of a roadside in his district. He wanted to spend between $700-$1,000, and he brought the issue to the Board because he felt a “need to revisit the process” to get these kinds of things done.
He proposed maintaining a list of vendors for relatively small jobs such as tree trimming and trash hauling so he can “execute quick clean-ups” with just “a phone call.” Referring to himself in the third person, he said, “This is not Steve choosing people he knows.” He said that Administrative Policy 75 (AP75) needs to be “re-visited” and that it appears to be “married to political expenditures.”
He wants to trim a tree, “but this policy talks about me giving $5,000 to the NRA.” He distinguished between small projects and Public Works projects. He wanted to be allowed to trim trees with the understanding that (again referring to himself in the third person), “Steve, you can’t give district funds to the NRA.” He asked that “Paul” (CAO Nerland) undertake a study of the policy, but why he wanted these changes was ultimately unclear.
Pacheco had no objection to the use of the funds as described but said he did not support the suggestion for revision of AP75, noting that Public Works already has a list of approved vendors for small projects. Mendes began to speak with his mic off then said it was “probably good you don’t hear me.” Magsig asked if there was any way to do what Brandau wanted without changing AP75. Nerland said that what Brandau wanted was “doable” within the current policy terms. Quintero asked the CAO if “we can get something on paper,” to which Nerland answered yes, but it was unclear what Quintero wanted in writing. Brandau amended his request to cover just the request for the use of funds, which passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #8 As required by law, Sheriff Margaret Mims was present to give a report on statistics regarding “immigration and customs enforcement access provided to incarcerated individuals in the county jail during 2021.” Mims said that of about 23,000 bookings, there were 136 ICE detainees and 44 inmates transferred to ICE. “We transfer those we can legally transfer,” she said. She listed the types of crimes for which arrests were made: child abuse, sexual assault, arson, and the like.
Public comment on the item was opened. Gloria Hernandez of Mothers Helping Mothers said that Mims’ department was “separating families” and that “our people have been deported even if they are citizens.” She said that some inmates were being punished twice for the same crime and that double jeopardy was illegal; however, she offered no evidence nor did she cite particular cases. Next a woman identifying herself as “Brandi N.” said that this public hearing did not have enough advance notice and said that the public needs more time. She then said that the ACLU had reported on the sheriff’s department “collusion” with ICE and said that Mims was “sidestepping laws and separating families.” She asked for an end to transfers to ICE.
Next Rocio Madrigal of Clovis spoke; she said that she was an outreach worker with affected families and that the sheriff’s department’s actions “go against what Mims promised” and said that the number of transfers to ICE was far greater than 44, though she offered no proof. She said that the sheriff should concentrate on repeat offenders and wondered why a Clovis repeat DUI offender was permitted to continue to drive, especially after critically injuring someone, suggesting the reason was because the offender was a citizen so was allowed out on probation. She said that families in Sanger and Parlier told her that sheriff’s cars are waiting to arrest agricultural workers when they finish work in the fields.
Brandau said he felt that “what rips families apart is these criminal predators that get involved in human trafficking, putting fentanyl on the streets of Fresno County.” So, he said he was “very supportive” of “any other” law enforcement that “hears about the misdeeds” of “individuals.” If it leads to deportation, Brandau said, “I’m really extra-good with that.” He said he appreciated the sheriff and wanted her to “put these bad guys behind bars” for “as long as possible.” He then added without clarifying his meaning, “And there’s even better options” [sic], “but I don’t want to talk about that today.”
Magsig said that he had always found Sheriff Mims to be “very reliable when it comes to numbers.” The allegations made by the public commenters need evidence, he said, and he “encouraged” them to provide it, even though one of them had mentioned the documentation in the ACLU’s report on the matter.
Agenda Item #9 Proposal to renew the Downtown Fresno Property and Business Assessment District. Christopher Jones, staff analyst, was present to briefly discuss the matter. Pacheco pointed out that the Board is usually neutral on the matter. Quintero asked Jones if there had been any calls or comments from organizations which work with downtown Fresno merchants. No, there weren’t. Board voted 5-0 to abstain from voting the Downtown Fresno Property and Business Assessment District Ballots.
Agenda Item #10 Proposal to add one attorney and one paralegal to the Public Defender’s office. Public Defender Antoinette Taillac was present to briefly make the case for the staff additions. She pointed out that there was no net cost to the County. Pacheco said, “We generally like ‘no net cost.’”
Public comment was opened; a man who is a frequent commenter and has identified himself as a felon approached the podium and said he’d “had the pleasure” of being represented by the public defender. Gloria Hernandez then spoke again in support of the proposed hiring but this time said she was from Fresno Stolen Lives—“I wear many hats,” she remarked.
Magsig said that “Antoinette is doing a great job” and that he was “happy to support this.” Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #11 Hearing to consider protests regarding annual assessment for the cost of park maintenance costs in Tenaya Estates and adopt resolution approving and levying the annual assessment for park maintenance. Julie Zimmer, analyst with Public Works, was present to briefly discuss. No protests were received; both actions passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #12 Proposal to adopt plans for shoulder improvements in a specified road area (Placer Avenue to Madera Avenue), hear bid protest from second-lowest bidder, Cal Valley Construction, and award contract. Erin Higginson of Public Works presented the matter to the Board. There was no one present from the protesting entity, so Pacheco closed the protest hearing.
Troy Yarbrough of Yarbs Grading and Paving was present to clarify the objection raised by Cal Valley. Passed 5-0 (contract awarded to lowest bidder, Yarbs Grading and Paving).
Agenda Item #13 Steve White, Public Works director, was present to introduce this item, a proposal to approve a Measure C renewal. The ensuing discussion was long, detailed, and combative. Steve White was joined by Mike Leonardo, executive director of the Fresno County Transportation Authority (FCTA) and Tony Boren of the Fresno Council of Governments (COG).
Leonardo said that work on the renewal had been ongoing for the past 18 months, and that as reported in local news media, the COG approved by an 11-4 vote a version of the renewal which had been crafted at the last minute, allegedly privately, and presented to COG members shortly before the meeting. Thus, this version of the transportation tax measure, which when enacted will be in effect for 30 years, was created with little community input, though it had long been solicited, and passed the COG over the protests and objections of scores of people who showed up at the July 7 meeting.
Leonardo summarized how the money generated by the tax would be distributed, preceding this information with some background regarding polling: 80% of those polled supported renewal, and 80% said “fixing roads” was their priority. He called these numbers unusually high, but later a public commenter pointed out that the poll questions were framed in such a way as to ensure a positive response. Leonardo added that a clause for flexibility (also called “local control”) was added so that municipalities or local governments could have discretion in spending decisions. Half of the funds would go to fixing roads, and public transit would receive only 12% (down from 19% in the last version of the measure). Leonardo said that despite the lower percentage, the “dollar amount” would be double, because the “starting base” is “much higher.” Also, he said, with the “flexibility/local control” clause, jurisdictions could move some money to public transit. Bikes and pedestrians would receive just 1% of the tax revenue, and 2% would be reserved for environmental sustainability. He then said that “it sounds small” but that “getting roads paved helps the environment.”
Pacheco wanted to know how the two versions of the funding allocations—the FCTA/COG version and the City of Fresno “alternative”—were different, because the percentages were exactly the same in each one. Leonardo tried to explain: Fresno wanted to “change some numbers,” he said; they wanted to increase transit allocations and decrease that of “local control.” Leonardo and Boren told Fresno their suggestions were inconsistent with agreed-upon plans and told them their plan was “not appropriate.” Just before the COG meeting of July 7, Fresno came up with a new plan, leaving the allocation percentages the same but changing other things. Within the pavement rehabilitation program, sidewalks could not be repaired—those should be repaired from the “local control” allocation. However, this request for flexibility to repair sidewalks was later approved. The second change, regarding pass-through funds, said Leonardo, was based on a formula using 75% population and 25% road miles. Fresno County has the highest road-mile rate in the state—the city of Fresno wanted to change that formula. As 53% of the county population, they were receiving 43% of the funding. They wanted the number to be closer to the population. They settled at 78% to 22%, having started at 80/20.
Mendes broke in at this point and said that Fresno had made their calculation with an incorrect “N” number. Leonardo said the FCTA uses a particular formula for identifying population and road miles and has used it for 15 years. The city “might have used the same database” (CalTrans for road miles and Department of Finance for population) but that
Fresno was using “older numbers.” So the FCTA changed the numbers to better reflect accurate counts. At this point, Brandau broke in and said that the city tried to present this adjustment as a “compromise” when in reality they took an arbitrary number (80%) and didn’t know what the accurate number was, because it would have given them far more than the $185 million that they did take. The miscalculation, which Leonardo corrected, was “a flaw in their last-minute presentation,” added Brandau.
Magsig asked if allocations would change based on population growth or if cities would be “locked into” percentages over the 30 years of the tax measure’s life. Leonardo said the numbers are adjusted annually.
Leonardo addressed Brandau’s point again: the city of Fresno was not really compromising, but they were willing to go from 80% to 78% because they understood that they wanted the number to be based on population. “I think it was somewhat of a compromise,” Leonardo said. Brandau responded, “You’re spinning this as a compromise; it was not a compromise. It was an error in the formula that would have given them more money beyond what they thought they were asking for.” Brandau raised his voice and said, “You spotted the error, but don’t give me this crap that it was a compromise!”
Mendes tried to interject and said Leonardo didn’t call it a compromise, but Brandau pointed out that he in fact did just say it. Brandau repeated in a heated tone, “It’s being spun as a compromise and it’s not a compromise!” Mendes said, “Let’s just make a point that there was no compromise,” to which Brandau replied, “Bingo.”
Leonardo said he was not “advocating” for the city of Fresno. “We don’t represent the county, and we don’t represent the city of Fresno,” he said. “We represent the area as a whole.” The city of Fresno would have opposed the plan without the changes it presented on July 7. The plan, he added, “was not perfect, but it was good.” If it does not pass in the November 2022 election, it would not likely pass in 2024 either, he said, without offering a reason. He defended the plan, saying that it would “fix roads,” which is what polling indicated people wanted.
Public comment on the item was opened. Marianne Kast, president of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, pointed out that the results of the opinion surveys were misrepresented. She said that the outreach was not “robust” (there were 6,000 responses from 1.1 million surveys sent), that the phrasing of survey questions was problematic. Further, the plan entails long-term spending with no attention to climate change. She said that public transportation needed to be prioritized.
Veronica Garibay of the Leadership Counsel said that for years residents of unincorporated areas have been asking the Board for basic road repair, which this plan won’t address. The plan has insufficient allowance for pedestrians and bikes and none for environmental enhancement. She urged the Board to consider waiting until 2024. As she spoke, Mendes and Brandau could be heard sotto voce complaining that the public-comment buzzer was not working.
Ashley Werner, a Leadership Counsel attorney, expressed legal concerns about the plan. Contrary to the FCTA’s assertions, the plan is subject to environmental review, she said. She raised the issue of potential Brown Act violations, suggesting that there were “serial meetings” among and/or between COG, Fresno City Council, and other parties. She said that the FCTA should “get it right legally.” In response, Magsig said that the plan was not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and had Werner asserted the same for Measure P? Werner said she could not comment on Measure P because she had no documentation for reference. Then Magsig, regarding the Brown Act, said that “I’ve had no meetings” and asked Werner to “present evidence” to the County Counsel that such meetings had taken place. Werner said she would make a Public Records Act request.
Mariana Alvarenga from the Leadership Counsel said that “the big piece is climate change,” which the 30-year plan did not address. “If it passes today, we may not even be here in 30 years,” she said.
Nobody showed up to speak in favor of the plan. Seven other members of the public spoke against it, citing bad opinion polling, complaints about the hastiness of the plan adoption, need for the plan to address climate change, more money for public transportation, money for bike and pedestrian lanes, and the like. One commenter complained that some Board members were on their phones while people were commenting.
Unaccountably, Magsig repeated his question which he asked earlier about changing population numbers, and Leonardo reiterated his answer.
Mendes then spoke without his mic turned on, so his comments were inaudible.
Brandau complained that “activists” had “demanded” to be part of the planning process and were “allowed” on the executive committee, then when they “didn’t get what they wanted, they quit” when just one meeting remained, so their complaints now are “disingenuous,” he said. “They let the process take place, then they rejected it all,” he said in a heated tone. Then he complained about the city of Fresno, saying it was a “shit-show” when Fresno went “behind the scenes” to re-configure the plan. Regarding Brown Act violations, “no one called” him, he said. He went on at length: he didn’t mind cases of “tweaking from the dais” but this was a completely different plan. He continued, giving a minute-by-minute account of the unfolding of events the day of the meeting on July 7. He said, “The County was not at the table, because we were on the menu!” The city of Fresno “played fast and loose” with County money, he said. He was “not bashing” colleagues who think differently, he noted, adding, “I’m not going to support this new plan. This is a fiasco I can’t support.”
Quintero asked Steve White why the County could not repair Britten Avenue; this subject had already been discussed in a previous meeting. White replied that the road is private, and the property owner is responsible for the repair and maintenance. Quintero said that a meeting had been held about the road repair, and when the property owner found out he would have to fund it, he left the meeting, giving the impression that Quintero already knew the answer to the question he asked White. Regarding the commenter who questioned the assertion that repairing potholes would lead to clean air, Quintero said that the COG provided a “fact sheet” on the subject.
Boren said that a plan that allows for “just fixing roads” is good enough. If we wait till 2024, inflation will be so bad, everything will cost more. Though he conceded, referring to the COG meeting on July 7, that “Thursday was crazy to say the least,” if the measure doesn’t pass, roads won’t be fixed.
Quintero asked Leonardo, “Are we losing $187 million?” Mendes said, “We’re not gaining it.” Leonardo explained that the County would receive about $1.1 billion over 30 years. Quintero then said he had more questions for Leonardo: How does the measure benefit the County? It’s more money than in the past. If it doesn’t pass, how will we repair roads? Maybe community block grants, or partner with Fresno. Does the new measure conform to original goals of the 2006 measure? Yes. Quintero pointed out that the final decision would be the voters.
Mendes said that there were “a few things he didn’t like” about the revised measure. “What the hell was the city of Fresno doing?” he asked. He said that “the mayor’s office wanted something different” after the process was over. He said it was “comical” that the city had suggested the 80/20 plan when they didn’t have the numbers right, and he repeated a few times that “he knew math.” He agreed with “Sal” [Quintero] that the Board should approve the plan and then let the voters decide. “This gives us a chance to fix roads,” he added. The city of Fresno was “not paying attention till the end,” he said; they “bullied their way through,” they were “sleazy.” Then he blamed the public commenters who spoke earlier in opposition to the new plan, because, he said, they “enabled” the city of Fresno in their objectionable behavior, though he did not explain how.
Pacheco, addressing Leonardo and Boren, said “I don’t envy you.” He said that Brandau was often “a little hard” but he agreed with a lot of what he said. Then, invoking religion, he said that it was his “god-given right” as a Board member to “make changes on the dais.” He said it was “his duty” to identify what was “important now”—that was “road repair.” He said that the previous iteration of the measure focused on creating projects while this one was about maintenance. He called the Fresno city government “disingenuous” and didn’t appreciate them taking a “Santa Claus” role. He said he would “take emotion out” of the matter, because “it could have been a lot worse.” The process was flawed, he said. Today is just one step, he noted; ultimately it would be up to the voters. He liked the “sausage analogy”—you don’t know how it’s made, but you eat it.
A roll-call vote was taken: Brandau was the sole “no” vote. Passed 4-1.
Agenda Item #14 Resolution approving amendments to groundwater sustainability plan for Fresno County. As the clerk read this item, Mendes and others could be heard talking over her. After the lengthy and contentious discussion preceding the final items on the agenda, Board members were loath to spend time on discussion. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #15 Resolution approving amendments to the groundwater sustainability plan for the Westside Subbasin. No discussion. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #16 Resolution approving amendments to groundwater sustainability plan for San Joaquin River exchange contractors, groundwater sustainability agency/groundwater sustainability plan in Delta-Mendota Subbasin. No discussion. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #17 Board comments.
Magsig said he had no comments. “Bless you,” responded Pacheco.
Quintero mentioned the follow-up he conducted with unlicensed street vendors on Cherry Avenue. Most vendors were compliant with licensing requirements, though some were “stubborn.” There was excitement when a churro cart’s tire exploded, he said.
Agenda Item #18 Appointments. Magsig made one appointment, Mendes made two, and Pacheco one. Approved 5-0.
Agenda Item #19 Public comments regarding items not on the agenda. Mariana Alvarenga of the Leadership Counsel asked the Board to consider paying water debt owed by residents of El Porvenir and Cantua Creek. The water is contaminated, and residents can’t use it, though they continue to owe fees for it. Residents and advocates have made this request of the Board multiple times, to no avail. Alavarenga made the case yet again for using ARPA funds to pay this debt, a total of $40,000. Esther Ramirez, a resident, also made the same request. A Spanish-speaking woman made the same request; Alvarenga translated.
Next a frequent commenter, a middle-aged man usually dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, and who often talks about being a felon, appeared. Pacheco referred to him by name: Jaime Loza. “I like going by ‘Carlos’,” he said. “My probation officer helped me,” he began. “I’m on parole, to do whatever I want—to hang myself,” he said. He complained that he did not see the community of Del Rey on the chart which showed where the Measure C money would go. “Them road people didn’t put Del Rey on there,” [sic] he said. He then said that Fresno County had “closed so many welfare departments” but that the security guards were still milling around the empty office spaces. He said that the guards were “disrespectful” and “out of control.” He concluded, “Have a nice day.”
Closed session Agenda Items #20-24. Item #22, initiation of litigation, was deleted, so there was no announcement from the closed session.
The public portion of the meeting ended at 1:14 p.m.
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