Here’s what you need to know:
- The council approved the master services plan for the Clovis Fire Department and learned that a ribbon-cutting for the new Fire Station No. 6 will be held on September 10.
- Mayor Flores will not run for city council reelection in November. Three seats will be on the ballot with Whalen leaving to assume office as a Fresno County Superior Court judge and Bessinger is up for reelection.
- Quadrant intersections on Willow at Herndon and Peach will be eliminated, allowing left turns.
For those attending via WebEx, attendees were seen walking in at 6 p.m., the meeting start time. About 6:03 p.m., Mayor Pro Tem Ashbeck led the flag salute. Roll call followed, and when Mayor Flores’ name was called, he said, “I’m here mostly.” All council members were present, but Assistant City Manager Haussler was again absent (he was also absent from the previous meeting on July 18).
The meeting was not long, at one hour and 40 minutes and was marked by a comment from a member of the public who is well known to the council and appears often to comment about the same subjects, which are refuse in the street and a gun-range’s non-compliance with city codes.
There were five virtual attendees and an unknown number attending in-person. Meetings are held at the Council Chamber at 1033 5th Street in Clovis and are open to the public; meetings are also webcast via WebEx. All relevant links are accessible here.
Jose Flores, Mayor
Drew Bessinger, Council member
Lynne Ashbeck, Mayor Pro Tem
Bob Whalen, Council member
Vong Mouanoutoua, Council member
John Holt, City Manager
Scott Cross, City Attorney
Karey Cha, City Clerk
Andy Haussler, Assistant City Manager, was absent.
Agenda Item #1 Presentation introducing the new local Salvation Army officer, Kailah Kim. She mentioned the military terms the Salvation Army uses for its staff and talked about working on “unmet needs” within communities, such as those concerning homeless and transient populations, where she and other staff are working. Clovis, she said, had a “close-knit family feeling” and she hoped to be “a part of the puzzle.” Bessinger said that when he was with the police department, he worked with the Salvation Army and confirmed that here in Clovis “we have homeless and poverty issues.” Flores said, “Welcome to Clovis.”
Agenda Item #2 Proclamation declaring the week of August 7 to 13 as “International Assistance-Dog Week.” Bessinger read the proclamation. A commenter from the public was at the podium with his assistance dog to speak briefly about the value of the dogs and his pleasure in their recognition. He called his dog “Zern,” and Whalen remarked that it was good he called the dog “Zern” and not “Kevin,” which was not an “appropriate dog name,” to which Ashbeck replied “Yes, it is.” They shared a laugh through this mock argument, which seemed to suggest that Ashbeck had a dog named “Kevin” and Whalen was teasing her about it. As the speaker was leaving, Ashbeck asked if Zern could stay “to comfort us all.” Unintelligible talk followed.
Public Comments regarding matters not on the agenda. Flores said, addressing someone in the room, “Marcus, are you coming up to speak?” A man named Marcus who did not give his last name, approached the podium. He wore dark glasses, a face mask, cap, and held a cane used by blind people. He began by speaking about assistance dogs and said that he had attended some dog-training sessions which didn’t go well for his dog. An assistance dog “chooses you,” not the other way around, he said. But “that’s not why I’m here,” he said. He complained, as he has in the past, about trash being dumped in the street in advance of special community clean-up days, when the city collects unusual types and volumes of trash. He said that garbage from “elsewhere” (not the neighborhood) was being dumped there. He said, “I’m sick and tired of it! You’re sitting there, you’re not doing nothing!” [sic].
Marcus said that he has called for police help with the trash problem but was not satisfied with them, saying,“How stupid can these officers be?” He then commented, as he has before, about a gun-shooting range in his neighborhood. The licensing for the place is “baloney,” he said. The gun range has not been in compliance since it opened, he said. The noise is like “World War III,” he said.
Then he said that “questionable” people were coming into the neighborhood, pushing shopping carts and “dragging dead dogs” behind them. Whenever he calls the police, they arrive too late. Then, addressing the council, he said he’d be back again “because you won’t do anything.” Whalen called him back, but Marcus, continuing on his way out, shouted that “my five minutes are up” and that he’d been warned by Flores not to speak over the time limit. Whalen asked Marcus if he was exaggerating about people “dragging dead dogs.” Marcus replied that though he could not see, “they were dragging something!” Then he abruptly shouted “Bye!.”
After he left, City Manager Holt said that would give an update about Marcus’ comments. First, Holt said that Marcus “can’t prove” any of his allegations about which he has been complaining for three years. Ashbeck said that after all, community clean-up “happens in all neighborhoods,” and Flores added that “it’s a two-way street” though his meaning was not clear. “We can’t please Marcus,” he said. “Wish we could.” No mention was made of the gun range being in or out of compliance.
Next a woman who said her name was Dominique spoke. She said that she lived nearby, was 34 years old, that she takes care of her mother, and that she had bipolar disorder. She appreciated the acknowledgement of the value of service dogs, but like Marcus, that was not why she was there either. She was there to ask about homelessness in Clovis. She said that she “fellowships” with homeless people she meets in Clovis. She said that “they want to work,” but can’t without an address. Some have neurological disorders, but she “is not seeing addiction in Clovis.” They are afraid to tell her where they sleep, she said. “How do we help them?” she asked.
Public comments on items not on the agenda do not require replies from the council, per state law. Nevertheless, in this case Flores responded that the police department “partners” with “the faith community” on homelessness and suggested that Dominique tell her homeless acquaintances about a “chaplaincy” program. Churches will help them, he said, but it was unclear why he did not cite any of the available state or county programs. Ashbeck suggested she work with the Salvation Army, followed by some inaudible talk. Dominique asked about transportation, and Flores asked if the local Clovis transit was “still free.” It was. Ashbeck said that Dominique was “super-impressive” and thanked her.
Agenda Items #3-19 Approved consent agenda (items considered routine, decided on with one vote.) These include items such as acceptance of reports from local business organizations or city departments, approving routine costs for city services, approving minutes from previous meetings, and others less clear such as rejection of liability claims, such as one on this agenda concerning a Melanie Villagomez—no details given. Whalen said that he would abstain from item #18, support of Measure C renewal, because of his impending judgeship. Other items passed 5-0; #18 passed 4-0 with one abstention.
Agenda Item #20 Approved the elimination of proposed “quadrant intersections” on Willow at Herndon and Peach and amended the municipal code regarding associated development fees. Ryan Burnett of the engineering staff was present to discuss the matter. It was explained that a “quadrant intersection” is the elimination of left turns at certain intersections to allow for higher flow of traffic. The amount of traffic on the street no longer warrants such a rule, though Flores said “it made sense at the time” when originally proposed in 2001. Burnett explained that a significant amount of out-of-the-way travel is required of drivers because of this traffic rule, which outweighs its benefits.
Now adaptive signal technology is available, and there is federal funding for it, making the “quadrant intersection” approach archaic. Whalen asked about the fees collected from developers for maintaining “quadrant intersection” flow of traffic, and now they need to be reimbursed—how much? Burnett: $1 million. Whalen: Normally, we would pay them back? Burnett: Yes. Earlier Ashbeck said she had not been on the Council in 2001 when the matter was voted on, but she remembered that she in fact was. A staff person identified only as “Mike” joined Burnett to describe landscape and road changes over the years. Bessinger said that in his home state of New Jersey, the “quadrant intersection” was referred to as a “jug handle.” Ashbeck said she wanted to make a motion to undo her 2001 vote. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #21 Approved adoption of the master services plan as presented by Clovis Fire Department Chief John Binaski, who said he has been told he talks too long and would try to be brief, began by summarizing the history of the department, which dates from 1913. Creating the plan is a requirement for state accreditation. Binaski showed slides of charts which showed assessment of performance based on response time in minutes, starting from a resident’s 911 call. A goal, he said, was “continuous improvement.” He also showed slides outlining strategic plans and “goal” response time as compared with actual times. He also showed a slide mapping various average response times across the city. In 2021, he said, there were more than 10,000 calls for service, most of which (about 7,000) were for medical emergencies and about 2,000 for fires.
The new Station 6 is nearly complete; move-in day is September 8, and ribbon-cutting is September 10. In 2009, there were 68 sworn staff; in 2022, there are 67, said Binaski. Whalen said, “I like your reports.” He said they communicate effectively. He asked about when “the clock starts” when measuring response time and wanted to know the difference between goal time and actual time. Binaski said the actual time may be seven minutes, but the goal is six minutes. He said he encourages “bystander CPR” and can give effective instructions over the phone, which can save lives while the fire department is en route. The department also has auto-chest-compression devices. Mouanoutoua said, “I also like the reports.”
Then Mouanoutoua asked about sprinkler systems in newer houses and wanted to know if they put out fires in cases when the fire department could not arrive quickly enough. Binaski said that the goal in fire management is that occupants escape and that sprinklers have been effective with garage fires. He related a few garage-fire anecdotes to illustrate his point. A fire in a single-family house entails the dispatch of 16 firefighters, he said. Mouanoutoua asked more about sprinkler systems, though his questions were phrased in a way which made his meaning unclear. Binaski simply replied that sprinklers are not designed to put out a big fire. Mouanoutoua said that Binaski must have rescued “millions” of lives and that “we need to try to acknowledge that.” Binaski pointed out that it was hard to acknowledge “what-ifs” because they were hard to quantify. Ashbeck said “Peer pressure—I thought it was a good report too.” Binaski however said that his staff put the report together and cited their hard work. The master services plan was adopted by a 5-0 vote.
Agenda Item #22 Approved amendments to the executive management salary schedule as presented by Shonna Halterman, general services director. Per state law, she said, the proposed changes need to be presented to the council. City positions such as city manager, fire chief, police chief, etc, were affected. Pay scales entail five “steps” from a low to a high rate. These increases include a 5% cost-of-living increase and other increases approved by the council on July 5, 2022. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #23 Holt presented this item: designate a delegate for the League of California Cities’ annual conference, September 7 to 9, 2022. There were no resolutions to be voted on, but Propositions 26 and 27 would be discussed. The council in a previous meeting decided to oppose 26. The League is neutral on 26 and opposes 27. Both concern gambling.
Discussion ensued about which council member would attend. Bessinger couldn’t go, because he had to attend a wedding. Some inaudible talk followed, then joking about Whalen having more “conflicts” because of his impending new position. Flores said he planned to go, but the discussion about who would be the voting delegate and who would be the alternate was made with mics switched off, so the results were not audible. Clerk Cha later confirmed that Flores would be the delegate and Mouanoutoua the alternate.
Bessinger talked about Proposition 27, which he said would allow “out-of-state companies” to bring online gambling to California. He said that he had seen TV commercials in support of the proposition which say that it will help homeless people. He called the ads “annoying” and said that it was “smoke and mirrors.” He added, “We have a problem with compulsive gambling,” and he didn’t see any benefit for Clovis or California. Ashbeck said that Fresno Mayor Dyer supports it. Whalen said that the “irony” was that the group in support of Proposition 27 was promoting itself as a homeless advocacy group, but that gambling addiction often causes homelessness, and he mentioned Dominique, the woman who spoke earlier. “We should not encourage” gambling, he said. Flores said that he liked the 500 Club and called it “nostalgic.”
City Manager Comments Holt noted that regarding the consent agenda, Mouanoutoua was to have abstained from voting on #16, which concerned a contract for Ashlan Street improvements, so the vote had to be re-taken. Hence, #16 passed 4-0, with one recusal.
Whalen said that he wanted to compliment Flores for making the “difficult decision” not to run for re-election in November, which Flores had announced after the period for candidacy filing began, necessitating the extension of the deadline for filing by one week.
Mouanoutoua said nothing.
Bessinger said that he sent a photo to Holt of debris dumped on Barstow Avenue and said that it is regularly dumped there by someone in a pick-up truck. “It’s bad,” he said, but it was unlike what Marcus had described earlier, and action by the city in this case was warranted.
Ashbeck said she echoed “what Bob said,” referring to Whalen’s comments about Flores, and added, “I’m kind of mad.”
Flores said that he attended a Fresno Council of Governments (COG) meeting, which was uneventful, and that “there was no pornographic presentation,” perhaps referring to a previous “Zoom bombing,” which he had mentioned at the last meeting. Then he addressed his impending retirement from the council, to which he was first elected in 2003. “I knew I’d be mayor,” he said. He added, “I’ll always be in politics. I won’t foreclose the possibility I’ll run for another office.” He continued to muse that he also thought about going back to school. “I’ll still be vocal,” he said. It wasn’t clear if Marcus was still in the room, but if he was, he did not reply to Flores, who said, “Marcus and I will keep you guys in line.” He said that his retirement decision was “great” for his family and the city, and he noted that “we have good candidates” to step up to run to replace him. He recounted a few memories of his career on the council, such as management of the pandemic, during which he claimed to have kept shops and offices open as usual while disregarding state and county restrictions.
At 7:41p.m., Flores adjourned the meeting to closed session. There were two items for closed-session discussion, both concerning property negotiations.
If you believe anything in these notes is inaccurate, please email us at Documentersfirstname.lastname@example.org with “Correction Request” in the subject line.