Feb. 7, 2023 — Fresno County Board of Supervisors
Documented by Rachel Youdelman
Here’s what you need to know
- At its Feb. 7 meeting, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors voted to end a declaration of emergency which had been in effect since Jan. 3. It was prompted by the closure of the Madera Community Hospital, even though Fresno’s hospital overcrowding has been chronic for years and may not have been significantly affected by the Madera closure.
- The board approved the Fresno County federal legislative platform and authorized the CAO to work with the county’s federal representatives to support or oppose legislation per the county’s platform, a plank of which is “support for the oil and gas industry.”
- A number of members of the public were present to advocate for services for individuals experiencing homelessness and for higher wages for In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) caregivers.
- A local group which offers marriage counseling, but which has explicitly religious affiliations with local churches that have been identified as anti-LGBTQ, was honored and recognized with a proclamation declaring Feb. 7-14 “National Marriage Week.”
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors held its first meeting of the month on Feb. 7 at 9:30 a.m. All board members were present. The room was full, and several members of the public were present to comment on a variety of matters. The meeting started on time and was preceded by an invocation given by Stuart Jones of Caruthers Nazarene Church, introduced by Supervisor Mendes. Jones said, “We just ask that you be with us, lord, as we do the job you called us to do. In the name of Jesus, we pray.” He then led the flag salute, flubbing a line. The meeting was held at the Fresno County Hall of Records, 2281 Tulare Street, Room 301, and was also live streamed. Agenda and meeting video may be found here.
Brian Pacheco, 1st District
Steve Brandau, 2nd District
Sal Quintero, 3rd District, Chairman
Buddy Mendes, 4th District
Nathan Magsig, 5th District, Vice-Chairman
Daniel C. Cederborg, County Counsel
Bernice E. Seidel, Clerk of the Board of Supervisors
Paul Nerland, County Administrative Officer (CAO)
Agenda Item #1 The board unanimously approved the day’s agenda.
Agenda Item #2 The board approved the consent agenda (routine items grouped together and decided with a single vote), items #19-36, with the exception of item #22, which was pulled by the county auditor, and item #21.1 which was pulled by Supervisor Mendes, for later discussion before voting.
Agenda Item #3 Retirement of Tammie Denise Allen-Vital from the Department of Behavioral Health after 34 years of service. A plaque was presented to the retiree and a group photo was made. Department heads were present to praise her; she was said to have “embodied the guiding principles” of the department.
Agenda Item #4 The board approved a resolution introduced by Vice-Chair Magsig to proclaim Feb. 7-14 “National Marriage Week.” Magsig introduced a group of people from a Fresno organization called “Healthy Marriage Coalition.” Magsig said he wanted to “express and share” how important marriage is to children. Magsig said he wondered what was causing all the ills of society. Magsig said he has seen “blessings” come from “loving homes” because “relationships, fidelity, and identity” are important things that matter.
Magsig introduced Ron McClain from the group, who said that since 2004 he has held classes and counseling sessions with the goal of lowering divorce rates and otherwise helping couples. “By the grace of god, we’re here,” he noted, adding that the organization has recently received a $100,000 grant, though he didn’t identify its source. He emphasized that the group was not an agency of Fresno County though he felt they “represented” the county.
Dave Belden, McClain’s colleague, spoke next. He said, without citing specific sources but noting that he “read it in a book,” that the real divorce rate is only 25-30%, not 50% as often described. He had more statistics: 80% of married couples were “happy.” He added that there was “too much negative stuff going on.” Magsig read the proclamation aloud and Belden shouted, “Are you happy?”
Their wives were also present at the lectern, but neither of them spoke. Per the group’s website, the group is “male-friendly,” and all of the meetings and counseling sessions take place in affiliated evangelical churches.
McClain is a pastor at Clovis Christian Church. The “Healthy Marriage Coalition” group began as an affiliate of Marriage Mentoring Ministries, Inc., according to information found on its website. At least two of the churches listed as affiliates on Healthy Marriage Coalition’s website are signatories to an anti-LGBTQ statement made in response to Fresno Pride events in June 2022 and signed by about 50 Fresno and Clovis pastors and supporters.
Agenda Item #5 The board voted 5-0 to send letters of thanks to Representative Jim Costa and Senator Alex Padilla for their help in securing federal funding for fiscal-year 2023 projects, including $1 million for street repaving in Tranquillity (Senator Padilla) and $4 million for street construction in Calwa (Senator Padilla and Representative Costa). The item was presented by CAO Nerland. The funding was part of a $1.7 trillion omnibus bill, which was signed into law as the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 by President Biden on Dec. 29, 2022.
To which, Mendes said, “this is just a letter to thank you for doing your job.” Then he mentioned another project for which Representative Valadao had secured some funding, but CAO Nerland told him that there was nothing recent enough to warrant sending a letter of thanks now.
Agenda Item #6 The board approved the recommendations of Fresno County Federal Lobbyists David Wetmore and Laura Morgan-Kessler of the firm Carpi and Clay in Washington D.C., for the Fresno County federal legislative platform and authorized the CAO to work with the county’s federal representatives to support or oppose legislation per the county’s platform.
Deputy CAO Samantha Buck gave a brief introduction, and Wetmore and Morgan-Kessler attended via video conferencing. They gave a presentation, an overview of their work on behalf of the county. They talked about their advocacy efforts, their work as a liaison between the county and local federal representatives, the federal congressional delegation for Fresno County, key dates for 2023, and what to expect in the near future. Part of their work entails bi-weekly calls with county staff to provide updates and drafting the county’s legislative platform.
Brandau made a point of saying that he was glad to see that “support for local oil and gas industry” was added to the legislative platform, under “Energy/Air Quality.” He said that there was now a “political” attack on natural gas, “that wonderful product,” adding that “not all of California is against the wonderful products, oil and gas.”
Among the legislative issues included in the meeting agenda, for example, the board opposes the “decriminalization of marijuana crimes,” supports “federal reimbursement for county costs to incarcerate, prosecute, defend, and supervise criminal aliens,” support “legislative efforts to strengthen locally-driven election and redistricting processes and oppose legislative efforts that usurp local control in these processes,” and opposes “mandates or orders that usurp local and state authority requiring health or vaccination status as a condition of employment or access to services.”
Mendes thanked Buck for her work and for adding the water diversion “deal” to the platform (“support legislation, regulations, and policy that allows flexibility to reduce/divert water flows into alternate water systems as needed in support of reducing flooding impacts as a result of atmospheric river conditions”), because, he said, the “feds” didn’t divert water to the Kings River during the recent flooding, even though it would have been “easy.”
Agenda Item #7 The board voted unanimously to terminate the local emergency regarding local hospitals. Director of Public Health, David Luchini, spoke briefly in favor of ending the emergency, though he said the crisis isn’t over; hospitals are still over-capacity, even though Covid and flu cases are down. There are “a lot of health issues in this county,” Luchini said. He added that the emergency declaration had been effective in drawing the attention of the state government. Discussions continue, he said, about the Madera hospital closure, and his department will continue to work with county agencies to “decompress hospital crowding.” Numbers of admitted patients are “status-quo,” he noted.
Before a vote was taken, Brandau commented that he would be “supportive of removing the state of emergency” because it had already served its purpose by acting as a “red flag.” He said that behind the emergency declaration was a bigger crisis, because hospitals are not getting reimbursed at sustainable rates. “A lot of poor folks need a lot of support when they go to the hospital,” and other hospitals will be “under challenge,” such as Selma’s, where he was born, Brandau added.
Mendes said that the problem has been chronic for over 10 years.
Luchini pointed out that “we’ve got to do a better job” of managing public health so that people won’t habitually wait till they are in crisis to go to the hospital.
Magsig said, without saying where he got the statistics, that 83% of patients in local hospitals are on Medi-Cal or Medicaid and 17% have private insurance; he said that people on private insurance are “subsidizing” those on “government care.” He asked, “What do other hospitals look like?” Then he said, “I hear it’s 50-50.”
Nerland said, “We stand with the hospitals,” and added that his office had issued a press release on the subject.
Public comment was opened on the item. Seven members of the public spoke, including Dr. Danielle Campagne, who said that help was needed in keeping other hospitals open, such as Tulare’s, so they don’t close and further over-burden the crisis here. She noted that extending the emergency declaration by as much as one or two years would not make a difference.
Brandau asked, what was the “actual solution?” Campagne said multiple factors were involved—more people want to go to medical school than schools have room for. We need more of everything medical, she said. Campagne’s colleague Robyn Gonzales, CEO of Community Hospital, said that Community Hospital is going to open a nursing school and partner with rural schools to encourage people to work in health care. She also said that the state’s Covid emergency will end this month but that they are asking for a waiver so they can maintain tents used to treat non-admitted patients, so they can continue to treat them. Also, she said, traveling nurses with out-of-state licenses will not be permitted to work after the end of Feb. without waivers.
Other members of the public talked about critically needed medical care for homeless people and the difficulties of advocating for them.
Pacheco remarked that the emergency declaration was designed to draw attention to the problem, and it had. He has spoken with State Senator Anna Caballero, who was working on the issue, he said.
Agenda Item #8 The board voted 3-2 to approve a request for liquor license for a grocery-store operator in Shaver Lake. Ron Alexander from the CAO’s office made a brief presentation. It was pointed out that there are already 10 licenses in the area. The applicant was present and made his case: his grocery store would be open later than other stores in the area, and liquor sales would be a part of his grocery sales and support his market. He would give a percentage of his profits to the community. A neighboring merchant was present to speak in support of the applicant; he said that there was racist opposition to the applicant because he was of South Asian or Indian descent.
Public comment on the item was opened. Jaime “Carlos” Loza, who often appears to speak about various matters but is often incoherent, said “I’m for the liquor license,” and rambled about how hard it was to get a job.
Suzanne Motte, who said she was a 15-year resident of Shaver Lake, was opposed. She said that stores don’t stay open late because there are no customers, so “it’s not necessary.” Then she explained that “I do a lot of entertaining at my home, and I plan ahead.” She added that her son-in-law is a policeman, and he says there are a lot of DUIs. She remarked that “99% of tourists bring their own stuff.” She didn’t want to see the community “taken over” by this kind of business, because it wasn’t “beneficial.”
Three more members of the public commented. One remarked that it was convenient to “pick up a bottle” while shopping for groceries. Another said that if licensees had to give 20% of their profits to Alcoholics Anonymous, there would be fewer requests for liquor licenses.
Magsig said that he spoke to people and per his “principles” and the “testimony” he had heard, he could support the request.
Pacheco and Quintero were “no” votes; the other three supervisors voted “yes.”
Agenda Item #21.1 The board voted 5-0 to adjourn in memory of Gonzalo Carrasco, Jr., a Selma police officer who was killed in the line of duty on Jan. 31. Mendes had pulled this item from the consent agenda for discussion. Mendes said it was the first time Selma had lost an officer on duty. Brandau said he “stands with our DA [District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp],” who blamed Governor Newsom for the shooting death. Pacheco offered his condolences to the officer’s family and to the community. Magsig said that “laws need to change, there is evil in this world, and we need to act.” He called for putting pressure on the state legislature, but he didn’t say how. Quintero offered condolences to the family of the officer.
Agenda Item #22 Oscar Garcia, Auditor-Controller/Treasurer-Tax Collector, had pulled this item from the consent agenda because there were a couple of corrections in the Annual Comprehensive Financial Report (ACFR) for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, which he wanted to bring to the attention of the board. Passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #9 Supervisor reports
Magsig praised the Public Works Department for clearing snow in the Shaver Lake area.
Quintero said that the Marjaree Mason Center will sponsor a “teen dating-violence prevention” program. He also mentioned that there will be a “day of remembrance” on Feb. 19 at the Fresno Fairgrounds to commemorate the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
Mendes had no comment.
Pacheco had no comment.
Brandau had no comment.
Agenda Item #10 Board appointments. Mendes made three appointments, Magsig seven, Pacheco three, and Brandau one to various community boards.
Public Comment regarding items not on the agenda. Nine members of the public made comments about various matters. Homeless advocate Dez Martinez spoke over the allotted time of five minutes about emergency housing issues and details of its mismanagement. Quintero told her, “You said a mouthful.”
Another advocate for the homeless, Bob McCloskey, spoke about the murder of a disabled homeless woman. He said street outreach was needed and that an audit of funding for homelessness was needed.
A man whose first name was Arnold also pleaded for help with homelessness. He said a general concern for human beings was needed. He remarked that the Bible says “help the poor.” He concluded, “Have a heart.”
Apolonia Valencia spoke via a Spanish-to-English translator about the need for higher wages for in-home supportive-services workers. She is the caregiver for her husband, a stroke victim and former employee of the city of Clovis.
Dillon Savory of the Fresno-Madera-Tulare-Kings Central Labor Council spoke on behalf of “the folks in purple,” members of SEIU 2015, a labor union of long-term caregivers, several of whom were in attendance, wearing purple T-shirts. He said there were 19,000 in-home service workers in Fresno County who, along with the clients they serve, were living in poverty. He called the salary structure and the “25 cents above minimum wage” a “Ponzi-scheme to the bottom.” He asked the board to please support the workers. Three caregivers and union members also spoke about the need for a higher salary.
Jaime “Carlos” Loza again approached the lectern to say that “god told me” to look into what he said was a case of carbon-monoxide poisoning of his children five years ago. He then talked about “corrupt cops” in Sanger and said repeatedly that “Sanger is out of control.” He said he grew up in Selma and pointing to Brandau and winking, said “Brandoo, what’s up?”
Attorney Cederborg said there would be no report from the closed session, so Quintero adjourned the public portion of the meeting at 11:48 a.m.
If you believe anything in these notes is inaccurate, please email us at email@example.com with “Correction Request” in the subject line.