Here’s what you need to know
- At the Fresno County Board of Supervisors meeting on October 11, 2022, by a vote of 3-1 (1 “no” and 1 absence) the board passed a resolution to submit the results of Supervisor Magsig’s survey regarding changing the name of the town of S___ Valley, expressing opposition to the already final federal decision to change the names of all locations entailing the derogatory word “squaw.”
- 31 members of the public showed up to comment on the S_Valley matter, 14 against the name change and 17 supportive of it.
- Four members of the public spoke asking for increased wages for In-Home Supportive Services caregivers.
- A recent fatal bicycle accident engendered a call for a public-information campaign for road safety.
Chairman Pacheco was absent. The reason for his absence was unclear, since the audio function of the livestream failed, as Vice-Chairman Quintero appeared to be speaking but was inaudible for a few moments, opening the meeting at 9:32 a.m., before which he was heard to say, “Good morning, everyone. I see all your smiling faces . . .” The audio resumed in the midst of the invocation, which was given by Cam Lamanuzzi, a former football player for the Fresno State team and Christian-religion advocate. “Father, I pray you’ll use us all despite our sin. Father, thank you for creating this day. In the name of Jesus we pray,” he said, quickly followed by the pledge of allegiance to the US flag.
The room was full, and almost every seat was occupied by an attendee. The meeting was notable for the heated comments and discussion about the impending name change of the town “S__ Valley”; the meeting lasted about 2.5 hours and most of it entailed this discussion.
Brian Pacheco, 1st District, Chairman (absent)
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
Agenda Item #1 The days’ agenda was approved 4-0 (one absence).
Agenda Item #2 The consent agenda (routine items not requiring individual attention) was approved 4-0. No items were pulled for discussion.
Agenda Item #3 Retirement of Stephanie Gibbs from 26 years with the sheriff’s department. Gibbs was absent, so Clerk Seidel noted that the commemorative plaque would be mailed to her.
Agenda Item #4 Retirement of Vang Yang from 20 years with the behavioral health department. Department Director Susan Holt and Yang’s supervisor, Brian Arkelian, were present to praise him. Arkelian said that Yang was compassionate, empathetic, calm, humble, able to “connect,” reliable, respectful, and trustworthy. Yang thanked his colleagues and the board and summarized his career over the decades. “I decided to retire and enjoy my life,” he noted.
Brandau commented that all of Yang’s experience was “tied together by serving people,” and that “people have all kinds of crazy needs.” Yang pledged to volunteer his time in retirement “if the community needs help.” Quintero told Yang, his co-workers, and his family members present, that he would be “honored” to pose for a group photo with them.
Agenda Item #5 The board passed 4-0 (one absence) a resolution proclaiming October “Infant Safe-Sleep Awareness” month. Fabiola Gonzalez of First 5 Fresno was present to speak about the initiative and introduce members of the Central Valley safe-sleep coalition and the Black Wellness and Prosperity Center, Ta-She-Ra Manning and Christa St James, who described the details of their advocacy of “safe sleep” for infants.
Quintero thanked them for “bringing this forward” and asked how many deaths in Fresno County annually there were from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). They did not have the county statistics, but it was noted by Quintero that there are 3,500 such deaths annually across the United States.
Agenda Item #6 The board approved 4-0 (one absence) a first hearing for an ordinance to amend a section of the master schedule of fees, setting the second hearing for October 25, 2022. The county counsel was designated to prepare a summary of the proposed ordinance, and the clerk to publish the summary per government code.
“You don’t look like Oscar,” Quintero said, when a woman whose name was unintelligible stood in for Oscar Garcia, county auditor.
The county auditor’s office, having completed a review of its fees, has determined that there should be revisions to the current fees to ensure 100% cost recovery for salaries, benefits, and indirect costs.
Additionally, the Auditor-Controller/Treasurer-Tax Collector proposes deleting the service-fee for a hard copy of the tax-rate book, because there is no demand for this service, and the tax rate book is currently available to the public online without charge in electronic format.
Agenda Item # 7 The board passed 3-1 (one absent) a resolution to submit the results of Supervisor Magsig’s “unscientific” survey regarding changing the name of the town of S__ Valley. Quintero said that Magsig asked to place this item on the agenda and that the decision to change the town’s name has already been made by the federal and state governments. The new name has not yet been determined.
Magsig said he’d keep his comments brief, that he would share the results of his survey, and asked that public comments be “constructive” and that “threats would not be tolerated.”
Magsig said that the letter from the Department of the Interior regarding the town’s name change and seeking input for a new name was dated September 25 (a copy of the letter was distributed with the day’s agenda, and it is dated August 25), received in “early October,” and asked for a response by October 21.
“I’m one who believes in ‘local control’,” said Magsig, without defining exactly what he meant. He added that the name-change movement has been around for about ten years but that it “had not gained traction.” He added without clarifying that “change should be ‘organic,’” and that “your views matter to me.”
Magsig mentioned the “community meeting” about the name change which he held on September 20, and which he said was attended by “hundreds of individuals” and at which “opinions were exchanged” for and against. Magsig sent 1,435 “ballots” which he said was from a list of names of residents based on the 2020 census, soliciting a yes/no on the name change (despite it not being debatable) as well as preference for a new name.
Magsig repeatedly said that his method of gathering data was “unscientific” and that it was “not possible to know” how many people qualified to respond to the survey lived at a given address. Only about 600 replies were received. Despite these starkly evident shortcomings, Magsig insisted that “87%” were opposed to changing the town’s name.
Before Vice-Chair Quintero opened the public-comment portion for this item, Magsig said that each commenter would be limited to two minutes each rather than the usual three. At the same time, he said, “I want to hear from everyone.” “The floor is yours, Mr. Public,” he said, then quickly corrected himself, “Mr. and Mrs. Public.”
There were 31 commenters; 14 were against the name change and 17 were supportive of it. Opinions were solicited despite the fact that the law, AB2022, has been signed by the governor, so the name will be changed despite objections.
The first person to speak was Lonnie Work, a realtor who lives in S___ Valley. He began speaking slowly, not seeming to be aware that he had only two minutes to make his point. He said he was from an “original settler” family and had been on a planning committee in the 1970s and was now “chair” of a “Save S___ Valley” committee. He said without evidence that “the vast majority” oppose the name change.
The two-minute bell sounded, but Work kept talking. Magsig said he could wrap it up in another ten seconds, after which Work began to solicit the donation of other attendees’ two minutes; three or four hands went up, but Magsig told him he needed to conclude his statement. “This wasn’t our decision,” said Work; “this is a 10th Amendment issue,” he added. “It’s not in the Constitution,” he said. He concluded, “We don’t approve of being treated like a pimple on a butt.” Applause ensued.
The next commenter was Roseann Dominguez, who said that her family in the area dates from “the Spanish conquistadors” and that “we are upset that our community wasn’t given a voice.” She recognized that a majority of “native folks” found the word “squaw” offensive, but “we have never run across that issue.” She added that if “folks are riled, that’s their choice.”
Craig Cooper commented that he’d lived for 42 years in S___ Valley. “You just heard from someone who was there,” referring to the previous commenter. “Her grandparents named it,” he said, adding, “I challenge you to look in any dictionary” to confirm the word is derogatory, he said. It is “woke insanity” to say that the word is “vulgar.” He continued, “You can’t just go around changing names! When does it stop?”
The next commenter, Joyce Berube, also cited the 10th Amendment and complained about not having received one of Magsig’s “ballots.” Current actions are “nugatory.” She was against a name change.
Donna Standard, an attorney in S___ Valley talked about the “huge financial hit” a name change would entail. The governor is “not in charge of offensive words,” she said, and by renaming the town, Indians would be “wiped off the face of the earth.” She called the matter a “First Amendment issue” and said that there was a “climate of communism” which was driving such changes.
Scott Walker was the next commenter. He said he was a “proud citizen of S___ Valley.” He agreed with the previous commenters and added that the name of the town was a way of “honoring women.”
A woman who did not give her name spoke next. “Hello, board of supervisors. Thank you for your service, and I hope you appreciate our ‘services’,” she said. She had lived in the area since she was 10 years old and was now 74. She was “irritated” that she had not heard about the name change until a couple of months ago. She complained about a previous name change from “Dunlap” to “S___ Valley” and said her mortgage was in “Dunlap” and her fire insurance in “S___ Valley” and waved her papers around.
Next Jocelyn Hayes commented that she was “related to a ‘founding family’,” and that “people don’t name their community after women’s genitals.” She had attended a school in the area which had “involvement” with “tribes” and that men from the “tribes” told her and her classmates that the town got its name because Indigenous women were often left alone when men were “hunting.” AB2022 was “counsel [sic] culture,” she said. She called it “cultural assimilation” of Indigenous culture, which she thought should be preserved by means of keeping the name.
Ronan Anderson commented that he was born and raised in “the town in question.” When people ask where he is from, he simply says “Fresno” because he is “too embarrassed” to say the town name, a “derogatory word that hurts people.” It’s not “some insane woke agenda,” he said; “it’s understanding history.” Such a hurtful word “should not be a town name,” he concluded. Some people against this opinion groaned loudly, and Magsig asked the audience to keep quiet.
Bayard Taylor reminded Magsig that he had spoken with him previously and noted that the name of the town was made “after genocide” of Indigenous people. He cited an 1856 campaign against Native people in which 25 cents was offered as a bounty per native “scalp,” and an increase to $5 by 1860. He turned around to address the audience, but Magsig cautioned him not to do that. He continued that the town was named by the perpetrators of these atrocities. He favored the new name “Yokuts Valley.”
Linda Tubach said she was a long-time resident of S___ Valley. To add to the “history lesson,” she said, “by 1868, the Valley had been de-populated” of Indigenous people. She was for the name “Yokuts Valley” and wanted a “genuine” public meeting, since the only people who attended Magsig’s meeting were his “Facebook followers.” She complained further about Magsig’s meeting, where there was “no civility,” she said. The “ballots” for his survey were not “legitimate,” she added.
A woman identifying herself as Michael Phillips said she was new to the town, had purchased her mother’s house there, and was opposed to the name change.
Delaine Bill said he was a “full-blooded” Indigenous person and described how his father and other elders had opposed the current name, which he said, using explicit language, was equivalent to other racist and sexist slurs and expletives. He objected to using images of Indians as mascots in signage: “How twisted is that?” he said. “Leave us Indians out of your history, your calendars,” he added. He mentioned “some of these half-breed Indians here” who favor the current name and questioned where they were from.
Gloria Hernandez referred to Magsig’s oft-used phrase “local control”—that’s “your control,” she said. Addressing Magsig, she said he had given “no credence” to Roman Rain Tree, the leader of the movement to change the name. “Yes, there’s a history,” she said, “of genocide and extermination.” She said that the First Amendment guarantee of free speech doesn’t permit hate speech and is not a defense. It’s not just a “local issue,” she said. “It’s international. You need to grow up. It’s wrong to be racist.”
Bob McCloskey said “I agree with Gloria.” He pointed out that our federal and state governments had already made the decision to remove the offending word and a name change was hence inevitable. Regarding dictionaries, he said, correcting the earlier speaker, Webster’s and Wikipedia say “squaw” is a derogatory word. As for Magsig’s “so-called survey,” which gave the choice of keeping the name, “it can’t be done,” and suggested that people make a comment via the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN).
A young man identifying himself as “Jonah” said that “life is better with mutual respect among neighbors.” Now that people know that “the name is insulting, change it.” A new name “will be beautiful.”
Billy Melton, a resident of S___ Valley, complained about all the changes a new name will entail. “I pay my taxes,” he repeated a few times. “They used to ‘camp’ right where I live,” he said, presumably referring to Indigenous people who preceded him and other descendants of Europeans as residents of the valley. He said the name change issue came “out of the blue.”
Rafael Gomez said, “This is a nation of laws.” He pointed out that in addition to the state and federal government, there is tribal sovereignty. He said that his Indigenous grandmother told him that “a white man” tried to “buy” her and that the name of the town reflects a “love of slaughter” and sexual assault. “Our stories are not told,” he said.
Brandi Nuse-Villegas complained about Magsig’s meeting and said that no people who supported the name change had been allowed to speak. She said that in the past, there was similar opposition to the civil-rights movement.
April Parker said that she was a Seneca “squaw” and that people who want the town name to change “should not have moved there.” She was “ashamed” of Roman Rain Tree, who she said should just avoid S___Valley, and “if you don’t like our name, too bad.”
Paula Decurtis said that the word “gay” now means something it didn’t used to, and if the “matriarchal tribe” (she didn’t identify it) doesn’t mind the word use, who should? She complained about the paperwork a name-change would entail. She said that “it’s a word,” and complained about Roman Rain Tree. She asked Magsig how many signatures he got from his survey; he replied that 635 “ballots” were returned. He also cited a 500-name petition and mentioned that proponents of the change “also have a petition” but he mentioned no numbers (36,617 signatures as of Oct. 12).
A woman identifying herself as “Patty” said that her grandmother called her “her little squaw” and that her grandmother would never say that if it were derogatory. “I am deeply offended!” she said. She added that she “greatly enjoyed” Magsig’s meeting.
Ted Geske said that he had “greatly enjoyed” Magsig’s meeting, and that “since the dawn of creation, ‘everyone’ has committed atrocities . . . OK?” He said that because of “things done 100 years ago,” there was now a problem, and that “people from the outside are bringing it up, OK?” Then he said that Bismarck, North Dakota, had a questionable name, and “why don’t you go to North Dakota” and change that name. “It doesn’t matter,” he said.
Jim Grant said that “words are important” and that “this country” needs “a reckoning.” He conceded that implementing the name change will be an economic issue. He said that Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland is helping people to understand history. A new name will give a “new life” to the town, he said. The change needs to happen, we want to be proud, he said. Some hecklers were admonished by Magsig to be quiet.
A man calling himself “Ronnie” said that “we are all humans” and that he was a proud Indigenous person. “S___” is racist, sexist, and dehumanizing he said. “My existence is my resistance.”
A woman who did not give her name tried to get the attention of Magsig, who was not on camera during this portion of the livestream, but based on the woman’s speech, he could have been focused elsewhere and not looking at her. She said, addressing Magsig, “Any time you’re ready.” She cited a letter which her husband had sent to him regarding their lives being threatened at his meeting. “You called us liars,” she said, adding, “You’re the only liar!” Some of the people who had threatened her life were in the room now, she said. She said that Magsig’s survey had a low percentage of participants; “For $160,000 a year, you can’t figure it out?” she asked, referring to Magsig’s annual salary. Then she complained about the composition of the board, all males and all but one white, and said “You all need to go now!”
A man whose name was Ron Kitchen objected to the disparaging references to the term “woke” and said, “This generation should be woke!” If just one person finds the town name offensive, it should be changed, he said.
A woman in braids and a red T-shirt who did not give her name said that the history display in the meeting hallway was “not my history” and complained that, looking at the board members, she did not see women or people of color. She saw the YouTube video of Magsig’s meeting and said that Magsig “did nothing” when Roman Rain Tree was mocked and heckled. “If the colonizers never came, we’d never be fighting about this.”
Jenny Varens said that she was at Magsig’s meeting and was “appalled” at what was allowed to happen. She witnessed harassment and threats of violence, she said, for which Magsig should “take accountability.” She supports the name change to “Yokuts Valley.”
Sean Burdine said he was “deeply concerned” about the power of the federal and state governments as well as that of what he called “woke mobs.” He complained about California state housing and redistricting laws. Then he cited Magsig’s claim that “87%” wanted to retain the town name, and “how often” do you see such a “remarkable” number? He added that “they” are “whittling away” the “self-autonomy” of “local government.”
A man who had spoken previously approached the podium, but Magsig told him he had already had his turn.
Julie Geske read a quote which she said was made by an Indigenous woman who said that the town’s name was not an “offensive” word and is a corruption of an Algonquin word meaning “woman.” It is also a Mohawk word meaning “vagina,” she said with an anxious laugh. She “likes” that the word “refers to women,” who “keep the fires lit at home.” She added, “I regard that as a form of respect.”
Quintero at this point closed public comments on the item, and Magsig asked for his colleagues’ remarks. Brandau said the discussion was “interesting, to say the least.” He said that “valid points” were made on both sides, “some more than others.” But he scowled and said that the person who referred to others as “half-breeds” was “really bad!” Brandau then said that he was of “mixed identity” and that “as the nation progresses, we’ll all be mixed.”
Brandau went on to say that the founding of the country was “beautiful and flawed.” He said that “power had been given closest to the people” but that now, “power resides in D.C. and sometimes Sacramento.” He added, “That’s all been taken from us.” Now, he said, “ ‘other people’ are telling us how to live.” We are “bleeding local control.” He didn’t want to be told “how to live.”
Brandau said that the word “squaw” had not been “proven” to be “terrible,” like the “ ‘n’ word.” He concluded that residents should decide the town name, because “local control” was paramount.
Someone named “Bob” shouted from the audience, questioning why state Assemblymember Jim Patterson, a Republican, voted in favor of AB2022. Magsig reminded him that public comments were closed.
Magsig said, “I try to listen to everyone,” and that his survey was “informal” and may not be recognized as legal. But he was “OK” with it as a survey which provided a “recommendation.” He would prefer to put the question on the ballot in an upcoming election, but he wanted to consult with Counsel Cederborg first.
Magsig said another alternative would be to change the county charter to allow for “local control” in town naming. “I want more power in Fresno County than in D.C. or Sacramento,” he added. He pointed out that today’s decision was not final.
Mendes said that “all we’re doing here is pontificating” and was otherwise quiet.
Magsig then spoke again. He “fully supports” the public’s right “to criticize me,” but he criticized proponents of the name change for not having held a “community meeting” themselves and for “wanting it to be ‘my’ meeting.”
Magsig repeated that the processes he used over the last five weeks were “not scientific” but that he was pressed for time, having received the letter from the Department of the Interior relatively late. He repeated that he used the 2020 census tract to obtain a mailing list for his survey. He also permitted email responses, he said, and over the last six weeks had “interacted” with “lots of people.” He added, “In my opinion, the ‘other side’ has not done as much.” However, no representative of “the other side” was present to counter Magsig’s claims.
Then Magsig noted that his “oath” was to the federal and state constitutions but that he had an obligation to his residents who, he concluded despite lack of evidence, “do not want a name change.” This stance was in contrast to his recent position on redistricting, when despite public opinion, he said that “he and other board members were elected by all of the voters, so they will make the decisions.”
He noted that the board could not pass a law over the authority of the state or federal government, so “legal recourse” may be needed. He then read aloud the resolution and reiterated the unproven claim that “87%” wanted to keep the name. “ ‘Local control’ has been usurped,” he said, even though, he repeated, his survey method was not “100% scientific.”
Mendes directed a question to Cederborg: Can the state or federal government “do whatever they want?” Cederborg: Yes. The federal and state governments are responsible for naming places. The public can submit comments to the BGN, said Cederborg, adding that today’s board decision regarding a name change is not definitive.
Magsig said that he has “tried to stay neutral” but that he “took offense” at some of today’s comments which called his credibility into question and mentioned accusations of threats. Referring to the letter mentioned by a commenter who did not give her name, he called accusations therein “patently false.” Then he reiterated the position that his job was “to carry out the will of the residents” of S___ Valley. He moved to approve the resolution.
Quintero asked Cederborg, “What power do we have by approving” the resolution? Cederborg repeated that the federal government had already made the decision to change the name and that the BGN had solicited public comment. This resolution, he said, was just information about Magsig’s “survey.”
Quintero responded that “realistically,” we can send the resolution to the federal government, and they will say “so what?” Then Quintero concluded without explanation that “the federal government has chosen to divide us.”
Quintero related an anecdote about how hard it was to make a decision “if both sides are right.” He had been advised by a former colleague to “hear both sides, thank them, then pray,” and finally “hit the middle ground.”
Quintero reiterated that “government is trying to divide us” and that “we’re powerless.” He then quoted Ecclesiastes: “To everything there is a season.” He had told Roman Rain Tree that he supported a name change, but now he’s “heard more,” he said without elaborating. But he repeated, “We’re powerless, we’re powerless.”
Brandau wanted Magsig to clarify if “87%” would be added to the language in the resolution. Yes, it would. No one questioned the admittedly “unscientific” process by which that number was reached. “ ‘Others’ have made decisions for us,” said Brandau. But, he noted, there was “a place for dissent, and that’s what this resolution is about.”
Brandau announced that he “was able to support” the resolution because “there is a lot of dissent” here in S___ Valley.
More shouting from the audience ensued, but Quintero reiterated that public comments were closed.
Magsig said that he “always looks at multiple perspectives” but that he “likes to get to the truth.”
The vote was 3-1 in favor, with Quintero the sole “no” vote, and one absence.
Agenda Item #8 Supervisor reports. The audience began filing out, so board members took a short break.
Magsig spoke about a fatal bicycle accident in his district and said that drivers and cyclists need to be careful. He asked if the Public Information Office could create some safety promotional materials.
Mendes said he would attend a California State Association of Counties (CSAC) meeting and that he had “frustration” with CSAC policies which were not “in line” with the San Joaquin Valley counties.
Brandau said that he and Mendes had attended a breakfast for Habitat for Humanity and that they both received recognition there. He then said that he attended a dinner in Fig Garden and hinted that there will be “good news” in the coming weeks. He also attended a meeting at Malloch Elementary School regarding crime in the park across the street from the school.
Quintero said that he attended a gala for Exceptional Parents Unlimited, an event at Hmong Village in Sanger, and spoke about online education programs available at the Betty Rodriguez branch of the county library. He mentioned the death of Jeanne Contel, a “special lady,” first woman to be principal of Fresno High School and 1950s women’s softball team member.
Agenda Item #9 Appointments. There were none.
Agenda Item #10 Public comments regarding items not on the agenda. Byron Lopez, a representative of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) spoke about raising hourly wages for in-home healthcare workers.
Ofelia Ochoa, through a translator, spoke in Spanish about raising wages for in-home healthcare workers.
A woman who identified herself as Patrice spoke about being a striking worker at the Sunnyside Convalescent Hospital; we deserve “dignity, benefits, and respect,” she said.
Next Sonya Krantz and her disabled son Adam, whose caregiver she is, spoke in favor of a wage increase for in-home healthcare workers.
Finally, Jaime “Carlos” Loza, a frequent commenter, said that “Del Rey reminds me of ‘Horton Hears a Who’” and that he had heard nothing “for the city of Del Rey” where he lived for 7 years. “Pom Wonderful is run by a lot of gangsters from Sanger,” he said, adding, “You guys know me; I’m not going to let this go.”
The board adjourned to closed session at 12:05 p.m. No report from the closed session was anticipated, per Cederborg.
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