Here’s what you need to know:
- The board’s meeting calendar for the last three months of the year was revised: new meeting dates are October 11 and 25, November 8 and 29, and December 13.
- Significant salary increases were approved for county department heads.
- The board advanced a tax measure, known as the “stadium” tax, to benefit California State University, Fresno for inclusion on the November ballot.
- The Low-Income Household Water Program (LIHWAP) will provide financial assistance to low-income county residents to help pay outstanding water or wastewater bills. Funds are available by application on a first-come-first-served basis.
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 a few minutes after the starting time of 9:30 a.m. Clerk Seidel called roll; all were present. Supervisor Quintero introduced Keith Bergthold of multi-denominational non-profit Fresno Metro Ministry, who gave the invocation. Quintero said that Bergthold was an old friend who had “white hair” even when they first met. “Lord, you were born in a little town,” Bergthold said, praying for “all who serve our local communities” and a spring snowpack. Clerk Seidel led the first few words of the flag salute, following the invocation. The meeting lasted a little over two hours and was accessible in person at the Hall of Records building or via livestream. Agenda and video are available here.
Agenda Item #1 This item concerned approval of the day’s agenda, which was approved with some changes: Item #11 was continued to a special meeting to be held on August 12 at 3 p.m. This item concerned placing the renewal of Measure C, a one-half percent sales tax to be used to fund transportation projects, on the November ballot. Clerk Seidel later explained that the item needed to be postponed pending the Fresno City Council’s vote on Thursday, August 11. Further, Item #19.1, a closed-session matter regarding existing litigation, would be continued to the next regular meeting on August 23. Approved 5-0 with changes as noted.
Agenda Item #2 Consent agenda, Items #20-62 (routine matters decided upon with one vote), was approved with some changes. Seidel said that Item #28 had a correction regarding the districts affected by a special tax, and that Item #42, concerning a contract with a solar-energy company, was deleted from the day’s agenda but would be continued at a later date.
Agenda Item #3 Retirement of Joy J. Moreno from the Department of Social Services, where she worked for 32 years. Moreno was absent and had asked that the plaque to be presented to her be mailed instead.
Agenda Item #4 Retirement of Armando Hindman, a 26-year employee of Internal Services. Director of Internal Services, Robert Bash, gave a brief speech, calling Hindman “a fixture of Security” and said that he was identifiable to all by just his first name. Rick Aguilar, another colleague, spoke; he quoted co-workers who said that Armando was “dedicated, humble, a father-figure, a brother, a friend,” but also “a pain in the ass.” Approaching the podium, Hindman said simply, “The end.” His wife, a 39-year county employee, and two daughters, one a county employee and one an employee of a non-profit which works with county agencies, were present. Quintero said that Hindman’s family owned a “legendary” restaurant, Mexico Café, in Chinatown. Hindman “always has a lot to say whether you ask him or not,” Quintero noted. Hindman said he had “seen supervisors come and go” but that “this is one of the strongest boards I’ve seen.” He advised, “Keep your employees happy” and remarked that “children today are the grown-ups of tomorrow.” Everyone posed for a group photo.
Agenda Item #5 Proclamation declaring August 7-13 Assistance-Dog Week. Supervisor Brandau presented the item. He said that he doesn’t “do a lot of proclamations,” but he welcomed any chance to bring a dog or cat into the meeting. Then he introduced Ed Crane, appearing with his assistance dog, Zern, who was trained by Canine Partners for Life. The two had recently also accepted a similar proclamation at the Clovis City Council meeting. Crane spoke about goals of the proclamation, such as raising awareness of the work the dogs and their trainers do. Crane has a “daily battle” with his own body, he said, because of epilepsy and other conditions, and Zern helps “restore a sense of normalcy” to his daily life. Brandau said that with Crane’s permission he would explain Zern’s training: Zern can detect via scent about 20 minutes before Crane has a seizure, which happens daily. Then the dog nudges Crane’s knee to remind him to lie down, thus preventing a fall. Such falls are typically the cause of serious injury. Everyone posed for a group photo; applause from meeting attendees ensued.
Agenda Item #6 The board approved a change in the October, November and December meeting schedules. The old meeting dates were October 4 and 8, November 8, December 6 and 20. The revised meeting dates are October 11 and 25, November 8 and 29, December 13. Chairman Pacheco said that the change was on the agenda (“full disclosure”) to ensure that the public won’t miss anything, as such changes in the annual meeting schedule are very unusual. Magsig noted that the meeting on August 12 is a special meeting, to be held at 3p.m., to vote on Item #11 as mentioned above. A member of the public, Gloria Hernandez of Mothers Helping Mothers, asked if any meetings would be held in the evening. She didn’t turn on the mic at the speaker’s podium, so the rest of what she said was unintelligible. Pacheco said that there would be no evening meetings.
Agenda Item #7 The board approved Director of Human Resources (HR) Hollis McGill’s request for “salary adjustments” (raises) for county department heads, “to address retention and recruitment” issues, McGill said, adding that higher salaries would make Fresno County more competitive as an employer. Magsig asked “for the public’s sake” how HR “benchmarked” the salaries. Hollis said they used the “bronze, silver, gold” model, without elaborating. She did explain that a study was made of salary scales of other Central Valley cities and counties, which helped them determine the rate increases. Magsig asked how Fresno County’s salaries ranked with other counties; McGill cited Stanislaus County as equal to Fresno. The proposal passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #8 The board accepted the certified statement of vote for the June 7, 2022 election, presented by James Kus, County Clerk/Registrar of Voters. Kus summarized the successful certification: he said that 136,114 voters participated in the consolidated election. A manual audit was conducted, Kus said, of about 1% of the electronically tabulated results; no errors were found, aside from one write-in error. The audit was complete on June 27, but a week was allowed for the “curing” process, which gives voters whose signatures don’t match or who forgot to sign their ballot envelopes time to correct them. Kus said that five candidate statements had been inadvertently omitted from voter information booklets; in those cases, fees were refunded. Kus said that in the past, voters complained that their signatures were exposed on the envelope, and disabled people wanted something tactile so they could feel manually where the signature line was. For the latter issue, small holes were punched in the envelope. For the former, a “privacy flap” over the signature was added. Candidacy filing period for the November election is underway; deadline for filing is August 12, Kus mentioned.
Mendes asked Kus to explain what “curing” is. Kus replied that if a signature is missing or challenged as being authentic, a letter or call to the voter is made with a method for fixing it. 1,400 voters cured their ballots this election, he said. Magsig asked about a state law which he said requires that paper ballots be preserved for 22 months. Kus said that rule was for federal elections. Magsig asked if the audit was exactly 1%. Kus explained that there were several groups of audits, ranging from 1 to 3%. He said that the minimum was 1%. Magsig then asked Kus if he was working full-time. Kus replied that he has been full-time for the county clerk’s office for six years and has 20 previous years in election work. Then Magsig said, “I know there has been scrutiny of the Dominion systems, but ours are not connected to the internet. [Since] Dominion, are things better or worse?” In fact, voting systems are closed and do not use internet connectivity. Kus said that in his ten years of election-audit experience, since implementation of the new Dominion voting system, there has been a “massive improvement” in electronic tabulation. There has been “not a single mis-read” with the new Dominion system. With the old system, a few ballots were mis-read, he said.
Quintero asked how people can update their signatures, which could change because of age or illness. Kus replied that it was best to simply re-register with a new paper registration card, which can be mailed to anyone and mailed back without postage. Registration cards are also available in any county agency. “I need one of those,” Quintero said with a smile. There were no public comments on this item, which was accepted with a 5-0 vote.
Agenda Item 8.1 The board accepted a “certificate of sufficiency” presented by County Clerk James Kus for a citizens’ initiative petition which would put a tax measure on the November ballot, a tax designed to fund “facilities” at California State University, Fresno. The proposed tax is popularly known as the “stadium” tax. Mendes asked what the name of the measure will be. Kus replied that it will be something like “California State University Fresno Facility Improvement Measure.” Magsig asked how many signatures had been collected. Kus said that over 39,000 signatures had been gathered and that just over 25,000 were needed. Among the total gathered, about 28,000 were confirmed as meeting necessary criteria to qualify the petition to reach this point.
A public comment was made by Tim Orman, Republican Party political consultant and former chief of staff for Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer. Orman wore a large electronic device on his right ear and said without explaining that the measure will “take Fresno State from good to great.” Another commenter, Kevin Hall, said that he wasn’t there to speak about this item but wanted to comment that the process for adding this measure to the ballot didn’t include community input and that it was a “forever tax” which will primarily fund football games. He was aware, he said, of homelessness among Fresno State students, suggesting money would be better spent on such needs. “Don’t rush this,” he said. Dez Martinez, another commenter, said that she “backs up” what Kevin (the previous commenter) said and reiterated that students need housing.
Brandau spoke up: “I’m going to support this today!” He said he wanted to “honor” the hard work that the petition’s proponents did to promote the measure’s appearance on the November ballot. He quickly added that he wouldn’t support anything “bizarre or extreme” even if hard work was similarly involved. After all, his “base” was “anti-tax,” he said; we are “taxed enough already,” he added. He didn’t want anyone to interpret his support for this measure to mean that he supports taxes, he said. “Voters can choose,” he concluded. The item passed 5-0 to submit the measure as-is to voters in the November election.
Agenda Item #9 The board approved a direct-payment agreement for the county to receive direct payments from Horne LLP, an accounting firm, for the benefit of county residents who have county-maintained water systems and qualify for the Low-Income Household Water Program (LIHWAP), which provides financial assistance to low-income residents to help pay their outstanding water or wastewater bills. Department of Water and Power staff person Chris Bump introduced the item. Shortly after he began speaking, the public-comment “time’s up” buzzer sounded, causing laughter. Pacheco said with a smile, “Sal [Quintero] says we like to test you.” After Bump’s presentation, Pacheco called on Brandau by mistake when Magsig wanted to comment. “I’m the new and improved Brandau,” said Magsig. Magsig asked if low-income families can also receive “weatherization” materials. He called out to “Gilda” in the audience with this question, to which she replied, “Yes.”
She was later revealed to be Gilda Arreguin, Community Services Director, Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission (EOC). Quintero asked her for phone numbers he can share with constituents who want to apply. Then Gloria Hernandez again commented: she was glad the program was expanded from an initial six communities to the entire county. She wanted more publicity for it and wanted the board to let non-profits know about it as well. She thanked Pacheco for his work on the matter.
The next commenter from the public was Mariana Alvarenga of Leadership Counsel, who said that she supported the board’s approval of this item. She and others from the Leadership Counsel have long been advocating for relief for residents of communities such as Cantua Creek and El Porvenir whose residents have burdensome water debt despite not being able to use the local water, because it is severely contaminated. Residents are ready to apply for this program, she said. She asked for a longer-term solution: that the debt be converted to a loan and then forgiven, that American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds be used for the water debt, and that the matter be placed on a future board-meeting agenda. She emphasized that the debt has accumulated because of operating costs, not because residents haven’t paid regular bills.
Gilda Arreguin, at the podium, then commented that it was a state program and that she looked forward to working with the county in administering it. “Marketing” will entail the use of social media, she said. Pacheco thanked her and other EOC staff who brought the matter to his attention. He then contacted the Department of Public Works (DPW) and the county counsel and worked to expand the program beyond an initial six communities. Addressing Alvarenga, he said, “Mariana, this is part of your request for Cantua Creek—help them fill out the paperwork.” He said he looked forward to her work with the residents of that community to make sure every one of them registers for the program. “It takes a team effort,” he added, thanking the EOC, the DPW, and attorney Cederborg. He noted that the program was “first-come, first-served.” Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #10 The board approved a partial cancellation of an agricultural land conservation contract. The request was to remove about six acres from a 79-acre agricultural parcel which is governed by the terms of the Williamson Act. The six acres removed from the parcel, which is near Lanare, would be for residential use. Manager of Development Services Will Kettler presented the item to the board. Kettler said that the planning commission approved the variance on April 28. When the item was opened for public comment, Gloria Hernandez again approached the podium. “Williamson Act land has been my pet peeve half my life,” she said, and asked for an audit because the land is “subsidized by taxpayers.”
Next Jamie Bledsoe, the applicant, spoke in defense of the request. The land in question has not been used for agriculture for some time, he said. He has planted pistachios, he said, as a “legacy” for his children, and the family currently residing on the land manages the orchard. It “keeps the Lanare riff-raff out,” he said. Some laughter followed this statement, but it wasn’t clear if he was joking or serious. Mendes, whose district the land is in, commented that “Jamie” was “totally correct,” though about what he did not say, and that he was “totally in support” of the request. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #11 This item was continued to a special meeting on August 12 at 3 p.m. Pacheco asked counsel Cederborg to explain why the item would be continued. Cederborg said that a percentage of city councils need to approve the plan as adopted by the Council of Governments (COG) before the board could consider it again and that the percentage had not yet been reached. Pacheco, joking that Cederborg’s language was too lawyer-like, summarized that they were simply waiting for the Fresno City Council to pass the resolution when it meets on Thursday, August 11.
Agenda Item #12 Supervisor reports:
Magsig said that he serves as chair of finance on the National Association of Counties (NACo) and at a recent meeting, eight resolutions were passed, including support for HR5735, which would make use of ARPA funds more “flexible,” and a resolution to encourage Congress to allow more “local control.” Magsig complained, without specifying anything in particular, that “the federal government wants to get involved in the local level.” He also said that he would hold a district meeting at 6 p.m. at the Foothill Elementary School on August 10.
Quintero offered an update on Cherry Avenue “illegal” street-vendors, who line the road leading to the Cherry Auction grounds. Two visits were made with law enforcement and county officials to teach the vendors how to apply for licenses, and a third visit was made for the purpose of enforcement, to issue citations and tow vendor vehicles if necessary. However, there were only three vendors present on the third visit, and Quintero didn’t mention any towing or citations. He thanked the various county departments involved for their help. He also spoke about clearing a large homeless encampment at 302 South Peach and thanked Sonia de la Rosa, Deputy CAO, for her work with the property owner to “clean up” the camp. People were offered housing and services, he said.
Brandau took the opportunity to “relay concern” with “the direction of the American economy.” The Inflation Reduction Act, recently passed by the US Senate, would “do the exact opposite” of what it says it will do, he said without explaining how. He said “political reasons” were behind it and that it was sure to be “very damaging.” He warned county employees that “tough times were ahead,” and said they should eliminate personal debt, create a personal emergency fund, and “add to the long-term food supply.” He added, “People can help themselves.”
Mendes echoed Brandau’s sentiments: “The Inflation Reduction Act is using a flame thrower to put out a fire.” He added no further details.
At this point, Quintero addressed CAO Nerland and asked if “folks” shocked by high utility bills from PG&E could be given a phone number they could call about it. Nerland replied, “Absolutely.” He was willing to compile a list of helpful phone numbers which supervisors could share with constituents. Quintero asked that the information be shared with community-based groups as well. Magsig noted that LIHWAP could also be a helpful resource. Nerland said that he didn’t want to see available funding go unused.
Nerland then said that John Thompson, Assistant Director of Public Works, would be leaving his position to join his family in Minnesota, his native state, and he wanted to publicly express thanks to Thompson for having been “a hard worker, loyal to the county.” This was Thompson’s last board meeting. Mendes commented that Thompson’s job “never had an ‘easy’ button.” Magsig mentioned Thompson’s help with the Creek Fire and said, regarding the move, that “family is always first.” Thompson thanked the board.
Agenda Item #13 Board appointments were approved 5-0. Brandau made two; Quintero and Pacheco each made one. Mendes spoke with his mic off, so what he said was inaudible.
Agenda Item #14 Public comments regarding items not on agenda:
Kevin Hall asked the board to please consider public concern regarding putting the Measure C tax proposal on the November ballot and suggested waiting until 2024. The process, he said, has been error-ridden because of “laziness.” Regarding the Inflation Reduction Act, “you are missing the big picture,” he said. “Manure is worth more than milk,” he said, regarding methane mitigation. He added that he shared the board’s forest-management concerns and said, “Rather than fund bio-mass, let’s fund sawmills” to promote carbon sequestration. Magsig interjected, “You’re singing my praises! The heavens have opened up!” Hall, dampening Magsig’s enthusiasm, said that no, what caused businesses to move overseas aside from environmental regulations was the “freeing up of capital.” He added, “International trade and emissions go hand in hand.”
Next Dez Martinez, a local advocate for the homeless, asked if flyers publicizing county services could be made available. She described feeling frustrated at seeing children and their families “on the streets” and wanted to do some outreach to let them know, for example, about LIHWAP. She described the details of a particular family who used hotel vouchers after an eviction and suggested they were in Pacheco’s district. Pacheco said jokingly, “We get blamed for everything.” Magsig told her to call Sonia de la Rosa, who always gets results “within hours,” and her “top priority” is to help kids.
The next commenter was a young man whose first name was Matt read a prepared speech in support of forced pregnancy. He appealed to the board “as a human being made in the image of god.” He said that “commandments were out of vogue” but his god still liked them. He referred to the religious invocation made at the beginning of the meeting and said that “ ‘babies’ are allowed to be murdered in our county.”
Gloria Hernandez spoke again and first noted that she was thankful for the separation of church and government. She asked for an audit of the matter discussed earlier involving the Williamson Act. She reiterated that board meetings should be held in the evenings so that more working people could attend. Then she noted, regarding Measure C, that the board has said it could “tweak” agenda items “from the ‘diocese’ ” (a slip; she meant “dais”), suggesting that it was not too late to revise the terms of the measure. She also asked that public criminal records be “cleaned up” and advocated for using Measure C funds for worker transportation to packing-house jobs in Kingsburg and other communities and not exclusively to fund highways.
The next speaker was Jaime “Carlos” Loza, someone who has been appearing in person for many weeks and speaking about issues which are not always clearly defined. “I think a lot, guys,” he began. He was in Del Rey where, he said, he observed sheriff’s department employees “practicing” on land owned by POM Wonderful. He did not say what they were practicing. He said the sheriff’s department should have its own land where they could “practice” in front of an audience. “See you guys later,” he concluded.
A second young man, who did not give his name, spoke in favor of forced pregnancy. He referred to the other speaker on the same subject as his “friend.” The U.S., he said, does not look like “a nation blessed,” but it would be if it “honored the lord.” He said that “the unborn” are made in god’s image and that god prescribes “capital punishment” for “man-stealing.” The Holocaust’s victims were “only” six million, he said, but in the U.S., 60 million “children” have been “murdered.”
The board went into closed session at 11:38 a.m. Cederborg said that there may be an item to report about, so Pacheco announced a recess until a later “time uncertain,” but by 5:30 p.m., the meeting had not resumed.
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