May 9, 2023 — Fresno County Board of Supervisors
Documented by Rachel Youdelman
Here’s what you need to know
- The board voted to direct staff to write a new ordinance about which flags may be flown at county facilities. The item was proposed by Supervisor Steve Brandau and follows objections by area conservatives after a Pride flag was flown in 2021 at Fresno City Hall.
- The board approved the activation of the county Sheriff Office’s grant to purchase body-worn cameras. The funding was approved in September 2022, but time to process the award and develop the policy resulted in a delay for the item’s placement on the agenda.
- The board approved an amendment to the county’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to provide for remodeling of the Poverello House kitchen, which provides on- and off-site meals every day to a variety of people in need. The funds had originally been allocated for about 20 trailers to be used as shelter for homeless people; the trailers will be used for that purpose, but the original funds were re-designated because of delays in finding locations for the trailers and in resolving title problems.
Brian Pacheco, 1st District
Steve Brandau, 2nd District
Sal Quintero, 3rd District, chairman
Buddy Mendes, 4th District
Nathan Magsig, 5th District, vice-chair
Daniel C. Cederborg, county counsel
Bernice E. Seidel, clerk of the Board of Supervisors
Paul Nerland, county administrative officer (CAO)
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors held its first meeting of the month on May 8 at 9:30 a.m. Quintero opened the meeting promptly. Seidel called roll; all board members were present. Supervisor Brandau introduced Pastor Lawrence Clinkscales of the Second Baptist Church in Fresno, the oldest African-American church in the county, who gave an invocation. Brandau said that he “shared concerns” with Clinkscales, because they both believe that in the “last days” the “love of many will go cold.” The shared concerns appeared to be of a religious nature, because Brandau did not cite any related civic matters. Clinkscales prayed to a “most gracious master” on behalf of each supervisor. “Master,” he said, take away “hatred in the room.” He concluded, “in Jesus’ name, we pray.” Without a pause, he led the flag salute.
Quintero said that though it was not on the agenda, he wanted to wish a happy birthday to the deputy clerk, Kelley Hancock. Brandau also remarked on a matter not on the agenda, the death of H. Spees, a local evangelical pastor and community advocate, who died suddenly in Florida after a fall. Brandau described Spees’ “passion” for helping homeless people and said that he would add a formal acknowledgement about him to the next meeting’s agenda.
The meeting lasted almost three hours.
Meetings are open to the public and are held at the Fresno County Hall of Records, 2281 Tulare St., Room 301. Public comments on matters on or off the agenda are welcome. If you make a comment in person on an item not on the agenda, note that this portion of the meeting is always last on the agenda. Each agenda item is accorded time for live public comment. Meetings are livestreamed; agendas, livestream and meeting video may be accessed here. The next meeting is scheduled for May 23.
Each supervisor represents one of five districts. Who is your county supervisor? Find out here.
To contact your supervisor about any issues or agenda items for a particular meeting, 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 board approved the day’s agenda 5-0.
Agenda Item 2 Excepting item 35, which was pulled for discussion by a member of the public, items 27-51 on the consent agenda (items considered routine or administrative, grouped together and decided with a single vote) were approved unanimously.
Agenda Item 3 The board acknowledged the retirement of Cathleen Leyva, who worked for the Behavioral Health Department for 25 years. Director of Behavioral Health Susan Holt made one of many appearances at the meeting, this time to introduce Leyva’s supervisor, Luis Aguilar, who introduced the retiree. Leyva thanked God and said that “we need to give back what God has given us.” She received a plaque; everyone posed for a group photo.
Agenda Item 4 Retiree Sonya Lara, who worked for the social services department for 18 years, was not able to attend the meeting. Clerk Seidel said a plaque would be mailed to her.
Agenda Item 5 The board unanimously declared May Mental Health Matters Month, with a proclamation sponsored by Quintero. Holt was back to say a few words. “The work is not easy, but so honorable,” she remarked and introduced a new deputy director, Emma Rasmussen. Holt said that the theme of the month of recognition was sharing personal stories of mental health struggles, which was a “stigma-busting” activity. She also introduced Brian Bishop, the department’s communications director and the producer of a documentary called “Experiencing HOPE: Stories of Resiliency.” Holding a camera, Bishop said that “telling stories gives people hope.” Bishop also manages the Fresno County branch of Directing Change, a filmmaking program for youth. “Experiencing HOPE” was screened at the Tower Theater on May 3; Holt said that there would be a screening for county staff, and Quintero asked that the film be shown at libraries.
Agenda Item 6 The board unanimously declared May 1-7 Maternal Mental Health Week. Holt introduced the item sponsored by Quintero. Lori James, clinical supervisor in the department, and Dr. Alexandra Addo-Boateng, director of perinatal mental health at California Health Collaborative, were present to speak briefly on the subject. A maternal mental health program they developed is now followed in several other counties. Fathers participate as well “when they are willing to come in,” James said.
Holt described “cross-sector” participation of several county and nonprofit agencies who work together for a common goal in this endeavor. She noted that early intervention to manage postpartum depression “can change health outcomes for generations.”
Magsig commended them. Public comments were opened on the item, and a man named James Marshall approached the podium and began to complain about someone he described as a homeless man. Quintero reminded him that his comments should address the agenda item; he stopped commenting and returned to speak later.
Agenda Item 7 The board proclaimed May National Historic Preservation Month. The item was sponsored by Brandau, who noted that the building in which the meeting was taking place, the Fresno County Hall of Records, was a historical building. He cited a few more structures, such as the Pinedale Water Tower and some buildings in the Fig Garden area. Then he said that some of the local historic sites are “under attack” by current state law. He was likely referring to SB9, known as “by-right” and which permits subdividing single-family residential lots into two. However, a requirement of SB9 is that such projects cannot be located in a designated historic district, on a historic site or on a landmark site (unless allowed by the city).
James Sponsler, an appointee to the board’s Historic Landmarks and Records Commission, was present to say a few words on the matter. He mentioned a few historical features of Fresno County, such as the invention of the “scraper,” an agricultural tool, but didn’t mention any places other than Coalinga which had the state’s first “oil gusher.” He complained that “too often, in the history of the state, Fresno County gets left out.”
Agenda Item 8 The board proclaimed May Foster Care Month. This item was sponsored by Magsig. Sanja Bugay, director of the Department of Social Services (DSS), was present to speak briefly on the matter. She said there were about 2,600 children in the foster care program and emphasized that qualified “resource parents,” or foster parents, were always urgently needed. She and Dalvin Baker, deputy director of Child Welfare Services, described the Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI), a six-month training program for prospective foster parents, or “quality caregivers,” as they are referred to in the program guidelines.
A foster father was present to say that he had graduated from the QPI program. Also present were Wilma Hashimoto of CASA and a senior member of her staff, Angie Martinez. They spoke about the collaboration of DSS with other agencies. Hashimoto mentioned that her staff is trained in evaluating adverse childhood experiences, known as “ACE,” an important factor in determining health outcomes into adulthood. “Trauma will impact [kids],” Hashimoto said.
Magsig asked Bugay about the number of children in foster care; she said that about 93% of a total of 2,600 kids were placed in a family setting and that they want 100% to be placed. Children need “quality parenting and a home every day,” she remarked. Magsig, who often cites statistics and numbers, said that there were 391,000 foster children total in the country, and that for 2,600 of them to be in Fresno County was a high percentage.
Brandau thanked Magsig for adding this item to the agenda, and Quintero told a story about a successful alumnus of the foster care system who was now a college student and a scholarship recipient.
Everyone posed for a group photo.
Agenda Item 9 The board proclaimed May Lyme Disease Awareness Month. This item was sponsored by Magsig. Jody Hudson, who is the grants and philanthropy director for the aforementioned CASA, was present to talk about Lyme disease, an illness caused by ticks, and her teenage daughter’s recent death from the disease. Hudson talked about the tragic course of her daughter’s disease, which was not diagnosed accurately for some time. Hudson said that she wrote a book about her daughter, whose “faith journey” she said was more important than the progression of the illness. Hudson brought copies of her book but offered no information or resources about Lyme disease. Per the Centers for Disease Control, prevention steps include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides and reducing tick habitat.
Agenda Item 10 The board also proclaimed May Water Safety and Drowning Prevention Month, sponsored by Mendes. Brandy Swisher, representing the Water Safety Council of Fresno County, was present to read a letter from Dr. Mark Simonian, a founding member of the Water Safety Council. The letter cited a need for barriers around bodies of water, such as canals and ponding basins, and the need for teaching children how to swim.
Agenda Item 35 The board voted 5-0 to approve an amendment to the county’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to provide for the funding for kitchen remodeling of Poverello House, which provides on- and off-site meals every day to a variety of people in need. The new kitchen will increase its efficiency and the volume of daily meals it produces.
Public comment on the item was opened, and two people expressed objections to the transfer of the funding from the maintenance of about 20 trailers that are now sitting idle, though they were to have been made available to house homeless people with these ARPA funds.
Brandi Nuse-Villegas, a local advocate for the homeless, spoke first and said she was disappointed that the trailers were not being used in spite of a housing shortage.
Desiree Martinez, also a local advocate for unhoused county residents, said that she had been “beating the city upside the head” about the trailers for a year, then she discovered that the county owns them. She wanted the trailers used to house people who have no place to live but had heard that the trailers would be used to temporarily house flood victims only (there have been no floods recently, but they are anticipated as snow melts in the Sierras). She said that Poverello House has the funds to pay for its own kitchen and that 125 people, including children, could be housed in the trailers. There are 5,000 kids listed in the Fresno Unified School District as homeless, she said. “Dude, we need it,” she concluded.
Magsig explained that the original plan was to find a location for the trailers, with the city of Fresno providing sewer and water, but every proposed location was rejected because there was no sewer or water availability. He added that the county is working on a plan to ensure that the trailers are used for the intended purpose and that maybe by the next board meeting there would be a plan in place.
Magsig said that the trailers had been used during the COVID pandemic to isolate infected homeless people. The county will work with other nonprofits to put the trailers to use, he said. This project was “top priority” for the county. Complicating matters was the need to rebuild the title to the trailers. Administrative Officer Nerland repeated much of what Magsig said and added that sewer/water hookups were needed, but so was proximity to services.
Pacheco asked how many trailers there were. Nerland said that there were 28, now there are 24. One was stolen. The proposal was for a total of 20. Pacheco wanted to know how the ARPA funding matter moved from the trailers to the Poverello kitchen. There was $1 million for infrastructure associated with the use of the trailers; how did that transfer to the Poverello kitchen? Does Poverello House own the trailers? Nerland replied that the money had been redesignated.
Agenda Item 11 The board voted 5-0 to direct staff to write a new ordinance about which and how many flags may be flown at county facilities and to delete the ordinance now on the books. The item was proposed by Brandau. The proposal follows objections by local conservatives after a Pride flag was flown in 2021 at the Fresno City Hall. Brandau said he wanted the new ordinance to prevent “disruption.” He cited the current ordinance, drafted in 1971, after an individual who took down the U.S. flag and raised another as an act of protest. Brandau wanted to bring the matter back in two weeks and vote on a new ordinance that would limit the flags flown to those of the U.S. and the state.
Magsig said that “some flags divide communities,” though he didn’t say how. Mendes agreed that the old ordinance should be eliminated. Quintero asked Brandau for his draft wording, which was short. Attorney Cederborg said that a “holistic cleanup” of the ordinance could be undertaken.
Public comment on the matter was opened. A man who did not give his name said he supported flying flags on commemorative occasions, such as the Mexican flag on Cinco de Mayo or the Armenian flag on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. James Marshall, who had tried to speak about his problem with a homeless man earlier at an inappropriate time, said he heard Brandau on KMJ, but “maybe you left the military out.”
Jennifer Cruz, Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission (Fresno EOC) LGBTQ+ Resource manager, was next to speak. She said she was glad all the supervisors got to work safely and that no one shouted slurs at them on the way. Quintero asked her to stick to the subject; “I’m getting there,” was the answer. To prohibit flying the Pride flag just before Pride Month was inadvisable, she said. The Central Valley is unsafe, she said, and a Pride flag is a message of hope and inclusion, she said.
Brandi Nuse-Villegas said she agreed with the previous two speakers. Flags are powerful tools for community-building, she said, making people feel seen. The supervisors weren’t listening, she said.
Brent Burdine, who frequently shows up to comment, was in support of Brandau’s proposal. Any other flag but the U.S. flag or the state flag “causes dissension” he said.
Agenda Item 12 The board unanimously agreed to advance the Sheriff’s Office grant to purchase body-worn cameras. The funding had been approved by the U.S. Department of Justice in Sept. 2022, but time to process the award and develop the policy caused a delay in this item being placed on the agenda earlier. A representative of the Sheriff’s Office made a brief presentation. Among the points he made was that “video is truth” (quoting county District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp) and that video evidence “usually exonerates the officer” in claims made against law enforcement.
Public comment was opened on the matter, and Marshall came to the lectern for the third time. This time he brandished a business card he said he got from a county sheriff who was present in the room. “He’s gonna give me a hand with my problem,” he said.
Agenda Item 13 The board voted 5-0 to add a staff position to the Behavioral Health Department. Holt appeared once more and said that the new position was related to the national multimillion-dollar opioid settlement.
Pacheco remarked that the department suffers from staff vacancies, and if Holt has suggestions for next year’s budget, to let them know. He was curious about what they could do to get Holt’s department more funding. He hoped that recent equity adjustments would help recruit clinicians. Holt said that Fresno County has been rated among the least desirable places to work in the behavioral health field.
Agenda Item 14 The board unanimously approved a rezone request for a 17-acre parcel from “limited agricultural” to “rural residential.” Will Kettler of the Public Works Department made a brief presentation; he noted that the Planning Commission had unanimously approved the proposal. Owen Hunter, the applicant, was present. He said that he “just wanted to make sure it’s approved.”
One person who gave his name as Eric Nitzac showed up to express opposition. He said the project would exacerbate a “major groundwater problem” and that “we don’t care for the type of people who move from the city to the country” because “they drive like a bat” and they “bring too much of the city to the country.” He complained about the opening of an unspecified “venue” in the area, presumably the work of migrants from the city.
Magsig said that he wanted to balance private property with other interests and that “my office is available” if there are any problems. Kettler said that a study determined that there was adequate water for the site.
Agenda Item 15 The board approved with a 5-0 vote an agreement to remove a 40-acre parcel from a Williamson Act contract to build a solar-generation facility. The Planning Commission had passed the request unanimously. A representative of White Pine Renewables, Evan Riley, said they were working with the County Counsel’s office and the Planning Department to resolve a couple of outstanding requirements, but all other conditions have been met. The land in question is in Pacheco’s district; he noted that the project had the approval of the Planning Commission and all necessary conditions had been met.
Agenda Item 16 The board voted 5-0 to approve the 2023-24 Annual Action Plan in application for the county’s allocation of entitlement funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The money will go to the county’s Community Development Block Grant, HOME Investment Partnerships Grant and Emergency Solutions Grants. Jennifer Kish Kirkpatrick of the Public Works Department said that a public comment period had opened on April 7 but no comments had been received. There was no discussion among the board or members of the public.
Agenda Item 17 Supervisor committee reports and comments
Brandau attended the Peace Officers Memorial on May 4, and the blue ribbon badge he was wearing was from that ceremony. It was “nothing short of a very honoring event,” he said.
Magsig repeated the news of the death of H. Spees, the local Republican religious activist whom Brandau talked about earlier. “He was a pastor,” said Magsig, “a man of faith,” and Magsig admired above all “his relationship with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Magsig said he could “hear God saying ‘well done’,” concluding that Spees was “in Paradise.”
Mendes remarked on the snowpack but said that it was “nowhere near ’69 and ’83.” He added, grinning, “This is a controlled wreck, and we’re in control.”
Quintero also talked about the recently deceased H. Spees: “He embraced Fresno, Fresno embraced him.” Then he mentioned that Calwa had received $7 million in federal funding for street improvement, and he thanked Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, for his help in securing the money.
Agenda Item 18 Three supervisors made appointments to various committees and boards: Pacheco one appointment, Brandau one and Magsig one.
Agenda Item 19 Public comments about items not on agenda. Three people from the labor union SEIU2015, the in-home supportive services (IHSS) workers organization, were present to plead for a salary increase. One of them spoke in Spanish with a translator. Two of them mentioned that an offer had been made to them that entailed eliminating their health insurance benefits so they could have an 85-cent per-hour raise in lieu of the insurance. Another asked why the Clovis Rodeo had been prioritized (they were given $200,000 in ARPA funds) over them. One said that she voted for Brandau and campaigned for Quintero, and now she felt betrayed.
At 11:38 a.m., the board went into closed session. There were nine items on the closed-session agenda, some concerning existing litigation, including a case involving a member of the Fresno City Council (County of Fresno v. Garry Bredefeld, et al., Fresno County Superior Court Case No. 23 ECG 00814). Attorney Cederborg said there would be no action to report from the session.
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