March 28, 2023 — Fresno County Board of Supervisors
Documented by Rachel Youdelman
Here’s what you need to know
- Several members of the public spoke in protest of the board’s recent decision to sue the state of California for changing the name of a town now called “Yokuts Valley.”
- The board terminated the “severe drought” local emergency status.
- The board approved a mid-year budget status report for fiscal year 2022-23. All departments were at or below their budgets, except for the Sheriff’s Office and the Public Health Department.
- The board approved the annual general plan progress report, a new feature of which includes attention to environmental justice.
- Mendes unsuccessfully sought an unlawful amendment to the law regarding green-waste disposal—he wanted to prevent the distribution of green trash bins to residents of rural areas, so they would be forced to opt out of the new sanitation laws, but they already have that choice.
Brian Pacheco, 1st District
Steve Brandau, 2nd District
Sal Quintero, 3rd District, chairman
Buddy Mendes, 4th District
Nathan Magsig, 5th District, vice-chairman
Daniel Cederborg, County Counsel
Bernice Seidel, Clerk of the Board of Supervisors
Paul Nerland, County Administrative Officer (CAO)
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors held its last meeting of the month on March 28 at 9:30 a.m. All board members were present. Quintero opened the meeting promptly, and Magsig introduced Kirk Haynes, chief probation officer of Fresno County, to give the invocation. As usual, the invocation was explicitly evangelical Christian, and Haynes mentioned his pastor and his church by name, the Mount Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church in Fresno, whose motto is “one lord, one faith, one baptism.” Haynes addressed “heavenly Father” and referred to “your darling son, Christ Jesus.” What were Jesus’ preferred commandments? Love God and love your neighbor, Haynes said. He concluded his remarks with “in the mighty name of Jesus we pray,” and then led the flag salute.
The meeting was about 2½ hours long and covered a range of issues. Several members of the public were present to protest the recently announced intention of the county to sue the state for removing the word “squaw,” which is widely regarded as a slur for “woman,” in the town name of Squaw Valley, which has been changed to “Yokuts Valley.” The meeting was held at the Fresno County Hall of Records, 2281 Tulare St., Room 301, and was also live streamed. Agenda and meeting video may be found here. The next meetings are scheduled for April 11 and 25.
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To contact your supervisor about any of the issues, call or email with your opinion or question:
Pacheco District 1 District1@fresnocountyca.gov (559) 600-1000
Brandau District 2 District2@fresnocountyca.gov (559) 600-2000
Quintero District 3 District3@fresnocountyca.gov (559) 600-3000
Mendes District 4 District4@fresnocountyca.gov (559) 600-4000
Magsig District 5 District5@fresnocountyca.gov (559) 600-5000
Agenda Item 1 The day’s agenda was approved 5-0 with the following changes: item 9 was deleted and would return at a later date, per Clerk Seidel.
Agenda Item 2 Consent agenda (items #24-58) These are items which are routine or administrative, grouped together and decided with a single vote. Items 26 and 53 were pulled for discussion by Mendes; all others were approved unanimously.
Agenda Item 3 A retirement plaque was presented to Gerald W. Schiebelhut, who served for 19 years with Internal Services. Sheri Walden of the Internal Services Department made the first of several introductions throughout the meeting. Schiebelhut worked in several capacities and was promoted over the years. Chief ProbaHaynes praised him, calling him his “right-hand man.” Schiebelhut said that to cynical new staff in the juvenile probation department, he would suggest that they attend the department’s graduation ceremonies to witness the progress of participating youth. Quintero thanked him. A group photo was made.
Agenda Item 4 The board unanimously approved a revised meeting schedule: the June 11 meeting was canceled and another scheduled for June 18.
Agenda Item 5 The board approved with a 5-0 vote a proclamation to recognize the service of Senior Security Officer Carlos Perez. Walden made the introduction and called Perez “our hero.” Walden explained that Perez saved the life of a constituent by administering CPR until an ambulance arrived. Chief of Security Romeo Magbanua, quoting Martin Luther King, Jr., said that “not everyone can be famous, but everyone can be great—and greatness is determined by service.” Perez said that he was humbled. He encouraged everyone to receive CPR training, because “you may need it for a friend, a family member, or a stranger.”
Magsig said to Perez that he “extended” someone’s life and that Perez was “what was best in Fresno County.”
Agenda Item 6 The board unanimously approved the recognition of 15 Internal Services Department staff members for their work on the Juvenile Justice Campus’ solar array project. Magsig noted that the project will save the county about $20 million over the years, money which he said could be spent on homeless services and the like. Several other Internal Services Department staff were present to praise the 15 who received the recognition. After the vote, Quintero said the motion passed “magnanimously,” a witticism he has repeated before.
Agenda Item 7 The board voted 5-0 to proclaim April 3-9 “National Public Health Week.” David Luchini, director of the Department of Public Health, said that it was the first time since 2019 that the National Public Health Week had been recognized, so we were “back to normal.” He added that the proclamation was a means of recognizing and thanking providers, including pandemic workers and those dealing with the effects of natural disasters. Luchini said that some populations continue to experience disparities in health and that there would be educational programs for staff which would include the subject of health equity.
Agenda Item 26 (from consent agenda) The board approved this item 5-0, an adjournment in memory of Melanie Ruvalcaba, former Division Manager of the Health Policy and Wellness Division at the Department of Public Health. Luchini spoke about the late Ruvalcaba and her key roles within the Department of Public Health. He described her as “a major advocate for community health and explained that she oversaw many programs. As he spoke, his voice broke, and he dabbed at his eyes with a tissue. Members of her family were present; her mother spoke and described how her co-workers “never forgot her” throughout her 11-month illness, visiting often with food and the like. Before her illness, Ruvalcaba, who ran several miles every day, was “the healthiest person she knew,” her mother said.
Brandau told the group of co-workers and family members that “it’s important to all of us that you are here,” and to Luchini, “David, I’m moved by your emotion.” He added, “Our hearts are with you.” Pacheco said that he was “pleased to hear what the department did to help your employee.”
Before going to the next agenda item, Clerk Seidel said that she had just been informed that item 27 (purchase of a drone camera for the Sheriff’s Office) had been deleted; and the board voted 5-0 to confirm the deletion.
Agenda Item 8 The board approved 5-0 the terms of a first hearing for an ordinance that amends a fee from $161 to “actual cost” for the work of locating interested parties who may have a claim in the sale of tax-defaulted properties. The second hearing will be on April 11.
Agenda Item 9 was deleted and will be brought back at a later date. It called for the approval of the sheriff department submission of an online grant application to the U.S. Department of Justice for the funding of body cameras.
Agenda Item 10 The board received a report (no vote required) on its 2021-22 financial audit on the county’s Children and Families Commission from the commission’s executive director, Fabiola Gonzalez. First 5 Fresno County is the public organization administered by the Children and Families Commission and which provides services to young children and their families. Pacheco serves as one of five commissioners.
The First 5 Fresno County Commission, per county ordinance, conducts annual audits and state reports to measure performance, contracting and purchasing. Gonzalez reviewed fiscal year 2021-22 revenues ($11,430,939) and expenditures ($7,558,983) and presented highlights from a First 5 Fresno County Commission’s State Report: children aged 0-5 served totaled 6,612; primary caregivers and childhood professionals served totaled 3,042. Audit committee members included supervisors Quintero and Magsig, CAO Nerland and
County Counsel Cederborg.
Mendes pointed out that funding for First 5 per the original legislation comes from revenue generated by tax on tobacco sales. As tobacco sales have declined, so has the funding. Gonzalez said she was figuring out ways to manage declining revenue, and Pacheco remarked that the commission is now “leaner and meaner.”
Agenda Item 11 The board unanimously approved a mid-year budget status report for fiscal year 2022-23 presented by Greg Reinke of the CAO’s office. Reinke said that all departments were at or below their budgets, except for the Sheriff’s Office and the Public Health Department. Countywide, revenues are expected to exceed budget estimates.
The largest source of the county’s revenue is from property taxes; the next largest is from sales tax, Reinke said. Sales tax revenues are expected to flatten through fiscal year 2024, though for the first half of 2022-23, revenues from sales taxes were 9% over the previous year.
In 2023-24, operating costs are expected to increase because of higher negotiated salaries, increased costs of supplies, higher risk rates for liability insurance and increased jail and health-contract costs for juvenile hall. However, operating costs will be offset partly by lower retirement rates.
Reinke said that countywide, revenues are projected to cover operating costs funded with net count cost (NCC).
Showing slides featuring traffic “caution” signs, Reinke expressed concerns for fiscal year 2023-24 and beyond. The housing market has cooled, he said, which could result in little or no growth; sales tax is also forecasted to remain flat for some time. He added that Gov. Newsom’s budget is projecting a $22 billion budget deficit and could be more, which will be reflected in the governor’s May budget revision.
Despite the projection that revenue will be sufficient for the county, a conservative approach for 2023-24 spending should be used, Reinke advised.
A recommended budget will be presented to the board on June 20, and final budget hearings will take place on Sept 11.
Mendes shared some of his economic ideas, repeating the word “deal” several times. He suggested that there should be some money from the state and “the feds” for flood relief.
Pacheco, referring to the “caution” sign images in Reinke’s slides, said he “thought he was in traffic school.” He wanted to know about the two departments that were over budget: how much? The sheriff’s department is about $2 million over budget, while the public health department is about $100,000 over its budget.
Magsig said that the budget picture is “healthy,” unlike the state budget which is facing “up to (a) $40 billion deficit,” even though the figure just quoted by Reinke was half that.
Nerland commented that inflation is still going up, so it was important to cut costs where possible. “The next few years are critical,” he said.
Agenda Item 12 The board voted 5-0 to terminate the “severe drought” local emergency status. Nerland presented the item and cautioned that the end of the emergency status was “not the end of issues.” He wanted to emphasize this caution, hence he placed the item on the regular agenda rather than the consent calendar.
Mendes shared his opinions about returning to a “normal” status: “Normal is just statistics,” and “Normal isn’t normal.” Then he said that the drought and recent storms have “always happened in this state,” and cited as he often does, the flood of 1863 which was preceded by “many years” of drought.
Pacheco said the emergency status could be back in a year.
Brandau said that “not a day goes by when I’m not reminded of the abject failure of the state to [ensure] water security.” He continued, speaking in an angry tone and scowling, that “with every raindrop” he feels “the failure of the state!” However, he did not elaborate or specify any particular issue.
Mendes mentioned the high-speed rail project and said that money spent on it could build the Temperance Flat Dam, a controversial project that was abandoned by the California Water Commission in 2018.
Agenda Item 12.1 The board voted 5-0 to confirm the authority of the director of the Office of Emergency Services (CAO Nerland per ordinance) to mitigate the 2023 storms, which have affected communities with flooding, power outages, heavy snow in some areas, and the like.
Pacheco pointed out that because of melting snow, flooding would likely continue through June. He said that the communities of Tranquillity, Firebaugh, San Joaquin, and Mendota should specifically be noted in this item because they were at high risk.
Nerland praised the Office of Emergency Services, who “check their egos at the door” when they go to work. Pacheco noted that they work well with other agencies such as Cal Fire.
Agenda Item 13 The board approved 5-0 the first hearing to amend the ordinance regarding parking for county employees who work downtown. The proposal, to summarize, is for the county to pay for employee parking. There was complaining about the lack of sufficient parking space, and Pacheco and others suggested that the county acquire land and construct its own parking structure downtown. Nerland said that “the conversation had started.” Quintero wanted quarterly reports on progress. No one mentioned public transportation.
Agenda Item 14 The board agreed by a 5-0 vote to add a staff position to the probation department, a deputy probation officer to work with DUI defendants. Defendants in DUI cases who plead guilty to DUI charges may be able to enter the DUI Treatment Court rather than being incarcerated. Haynes made the brief presentation.
Agenda Items 53 (from consent agenda) The board approved several amendments to various service-provider agreements for solid waste disposal, including organic-waste disposal per the recently implemented aspects of SB1383, the Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction law, which requires separation of organic waste, so it won’t go to landfills. Mendes pulled this item from the consent agenda so he could object to the requirement for residents’ use of green trash bins to collect organic waste such as food scraps and garden trimmings. He said he wanted a provision added which would let people in rural areas “opt out, period.” He insisted, “I want it added to this deal.”
Bernard Jimenez of the Department of Public Works and Planning said that rural areas are already permitted to opt out. Mendes said that he didn’t want residents of rural areas to even have a green bin. Then he complained that “Sacramento” was the “Supreme Soviet,” another oft-repeated phrase of his, because the state government was “taking away” decisions from locals.
Jimenez showed a map, and the areas of the county requiring mandatory separation of organic trash appeared to be under 10% of the total area. Mendes without explanation said that the maps “don’t make sense.” Attorney Cederborg said that Mendes was requesting something other than what the law allows. Mendes said, smirking and looking at Cederborg, that he was “not going to put the sheep in the trailer,” though what he meant was not clear. Cederborg shrugged. Magsig said he would support the item because the residents in the areas in question can opt out if they want to.
Public comment was opened on the matter, and Gloria Hernandez of Mothers Helping Mothers, spoke: “Why would you not want to encourage people to have green bins?” she asked. “You need to look to the future,” she added, concluding, “Think of your grandkids.”
Agenda Item 15 The board accepted (5-0) the 2022 general plan annual progress report. The report, per state law, will be submitted to the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research and the California Department of Housing and Community Development.
Bernard Jimenez of Public Works made the brief presentation. Brandau asked what the biggest changes were in the report; Jimenez replied that each city within the county must address “environmental justice”— the general plan must now “straddle” public health vis-à-vis land-use policy, said Jimenez, such as air quality, which can be affected by the decision to zone a particular neighborhood for a potentially polluting factory, for example. Brandau wanted to know if environmental requirements were “super-detailed” or were they “up to us?” Jimenez said that his office was doing “positive” work with the attorney general and other state agencies on that subject. To reach goals, requirements were “specific enough.”
Brandau asked if the general plan addresses unincorporated areas. Jimenez replied that infrastructure needs will be evaluated and that the plan’s housing element will require rezoning to meet “low-” and “very low-” income categories for affordable housing.
Magsig asked Counsel Cederborg if the progress report meets appropriate standards and incorporates the implications of new state laws. Yes, was the answer, it was “exemplary,” and Cederborg praised the Public Works staff.
Jimenez added that there are new state laws every year and that the general plan is updated to meet all state requirements, hence the required annual progress report.
Public comment was opened on the item — one person commented. Radley Reep of Clovis said that the general plan was not compliant with state law on air quality and that it was “a tremendous problem.” He cited AB170, which became law in 2003 and which “requires cities and counties within the jurisdiction of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to amend existing elements of their general plans to include goals, policies and strategies for improving air quality.” Reep said that these terms have never been included in the general plan. “Don’t tell me you are compliant,” he said. There was some applause from the audience after he spoke.
Agenda Item 16 The board approved (5-0) a plan and contractor’s bid to replace the Dry Creek Bridge. Engineering staff were present and said that the bridge needed to be replaced because it was 100 years old. The winning contractor’s bid was for about $4.8 million with change orders authorized at $420,000.
Agenda Item 17 Supervisor reports
Pacheco said he was working with the Public Works Department on a pilot program for trash collection in Mendota.
Magsig said that on March 29 there was an event at the Veterans Memorial District in Clovis to honor Vietnam veterans.
Mendes said he needed someone with “political pull” with the Army Corps of Engineers to protect communities near the Kings River, presumably because of flooding, though he did not clearly say so.
Brandau was absent from his chair with no explanation.
Quintero had no remarks.
Agenda Item 18 Supervisor appointments. Mendes, Pachecoa and Quintero each made one appointment to various local committees. Approved 4-0, one absence (Brandau had not returned to his chair).
Agenda Item 19 Public comment about issues not appearing on the day’s agenda. Four members of the public were present to speak in protest of the board’s recent decision to sue the state for changing the name of a town now called “Yokuts Valley.” The name change from Squaw Valley followed recent federal and state law to replace derogatory place names. Yokuts Valley is in Magsig’s district.
A woman who lives in Yokuts Valley said she was glad the name of her town was no longer a “slur” and that she was “outraged” and “appalled” by the board’s lawsuit, a 3-2 decision with Quintero and Pacheco the “no” votes. She said that she and other residents had asked for meetings about changing the name “for years,” but that Magsig would not hold a meeting about something he disagreed with.
Another Yokuts Valley resident thanked Quintero and Pacheco for voting “no” to the lawsuit and asked that taxpayer money not be spent on it. Money would be better spent on keeping warming centers open longer, he said, describing an experience he had taking several homeless people to a warming center and finding it closed early in the day. The county’s “needs are great,” he said, so “don’t waste taxpayer money.” He concluded, “I urge you to stop misleading the public, Mr. Magsig.”
A man who lives in Yokuts Valley pointed out that the state law mandating the name change (AB 2022) passed unanimously (75 yes, 0 no, and 5 “no vote recorded”) in the state Legislature, a bipartisan agreement, not a “supreme Soviet” decision, repeating the phrase which Mendes is fond of using. He urged the board to reconsider the “expensive lawsuit.”
Quintero asked Cederborg if there would be a report from the closed session; the answer was no. The public portion of the meeting adjourned at 11:51 a.m.
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