May 23, 2023 — Fresno County Board of Supervisors
Documented by Rachel Youdelman
Here’s what you need to know
- The board passed the first hearing for a new flag ordinance limiting which flags may be flown at county facilities; final approval will happen June 6. The text of the ordinance is “Only the flags of the United States of America and the State of California shall be permitted to be flown on the official flagpoles of county facilities.” The ordinance follows the response of local religious and political conservatives to the Fresno City Hall raising of the gay pride flag in 2021. Dolores Huerta was among those attending to protest the ordinance.
- Seven members of the labor union SEIU2015, the in-home supportive services (IHSS) workers organization, were present to plead for a salary increase during the public comment period.
- The board received a report from Sheriff John Zanoni regarding how many incarcerated people were referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2022. The report is required per the TRUTH Act (AB 2792) of 2016, whose purpose is to prevent law enforcement’s abuse of incarcerated immigrants. Zanoni recently replaced former Sheriff Margaret Mims, who was suspected of under-reporting the number of immigrants, according to news reports, transferred from the county jail to ICE.
Brian Pacheco, 1st District
Steve Brandau, 2nd District
Sal Quintero, 3rd District, chair
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 last meeting of the month on May 23, 2023, at 9:30 a.m. Quintero opened the meeting promptly and asked Clerk Seidel to call the roll; all board members were present. Brandau introduced Jermaine Jackson, an evangelical Christian, to give the invocation. Brandau called him a “special pastor” at Northwest Church, where Brandau is a member and a volunteer “greeter.” Jackson said, “I pray, Father God, for every leader in this building” and that “we win by heavenly standards,” concluding “in Jesus’ name.” He again said, “Let us pray,” but caught himself and said, “Let us flag salute” [sic]. In a direct connection to the day’s agenda, Northwest Church is notably one of about 50 churches and pastors who condemned the raising of the pride flag at Fresno City Hall in June 2021, an event which led to the appearance on today’s agenda of the new county flag ordinance introduced by Brandau.
Magsig, though he talked about the new ordinance reflecting “inclusion,” is pictured in news photos accompanying stories about the churches and anti-pride flag rally. Several members of the public were present to speak for or against the new flag ordinance. Dolores Huerta, co-founder with César Chavez of the National Farmworkers Association, was spotted seated in the audience in a straw hat and pink blazer.
The meeting lasted 2.5 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 plan to 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 otherwise accorded time for live public comment as they are introduced. Meetings are live streamed; agendas, livestream and meeting video may be accessed here. The next meeting is scheduled for June 6 at 9:30 a.m.
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 with a 5-0 vote. Agenda item 7 was deleted, said Seidel, and would return at the June 6 meeting. Item 7 concerned the county’s public information staff receiving awards from California Public Information Officials (CAPIO).
Agenda Item 2 Excepting item 51, which was pulled for discussion by Brandau and Pacheco, and item 32, which Seidel said was deleted but would return at a later date, items 18-54 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 voted unanimously to declare May 21-27 “Public Works Week.” Quintero introduced the item. Steve White, director of public works, and Bernard Jimenez, deputy director of planning, made a presentation and showed video of staff at work at a variety of tasks. They described the various sub-departments — solid waste and recycling, water and natural resources, forest management, transportation planning, development and capital projects — and said that they would “continue to do what the board asks us to do, every time.”
Mendes remarked that an employee named “Augie” was well respected “anywhere in water world.” Magsig described a resident of his district being rescued by members of the public works staff; that resident sent a “handwritten” note of thanks. Pacheco said that District 5 (Magsig’s district) had been a “high-maintenance” district but that he was thankful for the roads and other work done in his own rural district which includes unincorporated areas, such as Cantua Creek, which has new water infrastructure, and Firebaugh, which has ongoing flood management. Brandau held a public works poster aloft and said jocularly that there was “nobody bald-headed” pictured in it. He thanked Steve White and staff “from the big things to the small things.”
Quintero mentioned that Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, had helped secure a federal grant of $4 million on behalf of the public works department for street repair.
Everyone posed for a group photo.
Agenda Item 4 The board voted 5-0 to declare June Elder and Dependent-Adult Abuse Awareness Month. Sanja Bugay, director of social services, said she wanted to acknowledge that DSS “takes care of elders, too.” The Adult Protective Services (APS) department, which partners with police and other agencies, receives about 5,000 reports of elder abuse annually, about 1,500 of which are substantiated.
Oralia Gomez, a deputy director of DSS, spoke about a representative case, in which a 77-year-old woman’s son, despite being under a restraining order, took over his mother’s house while she was hospitalized; the APS intervened and was able to return the house to the woman and repair the damage the son did to the house.
Also present were staff from the Fresno Madera Area Agency on Aging (FMAAA), director Hillaree Bennett, and long-term care ombudsman, Jessica Diaz. Diaz noted that nationally, 1 in 10 elders are abused annually. It’s “up to us” to do something, she said. Brandau mentioned that he was on the FMAAA board and recently met with officials at the DSS. Magsig said that he attended the same meeting.
Quintero asked if there was a hotline for people to call to report urgent matters — though Bugay said that there was a 24-hour phone line, she did not give the number. How about publicizing services, Quintero asked; yes, Bugay said, we could do more, but neither she nor anyone else mentioned any phone number other than 911, nor did Quintero ask. Per the APS website, “If you suspect or know of an elder or dependent adult who is currently the victim of any type of abuse, neglect or exploitation, please contact the Fresno County APS Careline at 559-600-3383 or 800-418-1426.”
Everyone posed for a group photo.
Agenda Item 5 The board voted 5-0 to recognize the 25th anniversary of a zoo called Project Survival Cat Haven, an item brought by Magsig. Dale Anderson, founder of the zoo located 15 miles west of Kings Canyon National Park and which exhibits a variety of wild cats, was present and showed a video. Anderson talked about what he said was the focus of the zoo, to educate people about endangered cat species and to raise money for conservation projects in the wild. Per the zoo’s website, it is not a sanctuary. Per the images Anderson showed in the video, the animals are rented out for photo shoots, including erotic photography, and taken on leashes to be exhibited at schools.
Brandau wanted to know, did Anderson display a Pallas’s cat? Brandau speculated that his housecat, Speckles, would win in a tussle with one of those. Magsig took “his boys” to the zoo when they were younger, he said.
Everyone posed for a group photo.
Agenda Item 6 The board declared May Community Action Month, an item brought by Supervisor Pacheco. Emilia Reyes, CEO of the Fresno Economic Commission (EOC), was present with several of her staff to speak about the community action the EOC is engaged in. The EOC’s bi-annual Community Action Plan (CAP), which outlines plans for using Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) grants, is open for public comment from May 15-June 15. The many services coordinated by the EOC, Reyes explained, include Head Start, services for seniors, energy assistance, weatherization, education, employment services and more. The EOC’s work “tripled” during the pandemic lockdown, Reyes said, and thanked the board for their support.
Agenda Item 7 was deleted, to return at the June 6 meeting.
Agenda Item 51 The board voted 4-0-1 (Quintero recused himself) to delay for 120 days a stand-alone tax-sharing agreement between the city and county of Fresno regarding a proposed land reorganization that consists of about 80 acres at the East California Avenue alignment and S. Willow Avenue, 37 of which would be developed with a 199-lot residential subdivision. This item was pulled for discussion from the consent agenda. County Administrative Officer Nerland said that this was a “one-off” tax-sharing agreement
Discussion ensued. Brandau asked Nerland if the roads would be included in the annexation. The answer was yes. Brandau said if that was the case, he would support the proposal.
Pacheco said he wanted to pull the item from the consent agenda because discussion about it was warranted, and it should not have been included on the consent agenda, grouped with routine matters decided with a single vote. Nerland replied that the 199 units of housing on the property would generate revenue for the county. This proposal “makes sense,” Nerland said, because the city will annex all the contiguous county roads.
Pacheco countered that “we need a master agreement” for such annexations so “we don’t have to pick and choose winners and losers.” Therefore, he would not support this proposal, which “needs to come to the full board” and not be hidden in the consent agenda. “I don’t like that at all,” he added.
Mendes asked if the city had anything outstanding left to resolve before it met the necessary terms. “They are behind the eight ball on this one,” Nerland replied. Magsig said that, yes, a master agreement is needed but that he would support this one.
Pacheco wanted to know why this proposal was so urgent and that while he said he respected his colleagues’ remarks, he pressed for the need for a master agreement; no proposal should be approved until one is in place, he said, after which Brandau suggested continuing the item, even though he “supports all annexations.”
Though the land in question is in Quintero’s district, he lives close to it, so he recused himself from voting. Attorney Cederborg asked him to leave the dais. Magsig chaired the meeting in Quintero’s absence. There was no representative from the city of Fresno present to comment.
Agenda Item 8 The board unanimously passed the first hearing for a new flag ordinance regarding which flags may be flown at county facilities. The second hearing, when final approval is anticipated, is scheduled for June 6. The text of the ordinance is “Only the flags of the United States of America and the State of California shall be permitted to be flown on the official flagpoles of county facilities.”
The agenda says, “There has been an increasing number of controversies over specialty flags being flown at government facilities at both the local, state, and national level. Some agencies have been accused of promoting divisive and ideologically motivated speech on public property. Other agencies have been put in the unenviable role of picking and choosing winners among potential flag-raising events.” But the subject follows local right-wing conservatives who objected to a ceremonial raising of a rainbow pride flag at the Fresno City Hall in June 2021.
A year later, a group of about 50 local evangelical pastors and others rallied against pride events and signed a statement in which they called homosexuality an “ideology” and declared their “deep disapproval of our Fresno City Hall being used to publicly endorse the ‘pride’ flag and create deep division among our citizens.” By raising the pride flag, the letter states, government leaders were “promoting an ideology that fundamentally opposes vast numbers of their constituents” [sic]. In a photo accompanying the Fresno Bee story about the rally, Magsig is pictured, as is Clovis City Council member Vong Mouanoutoua. GV Wire reported that Brandau was in attendance as well.
Rather than refer explicitly to the activism of this right-wing group, of which he was a participant, Brandau said that lately he had “noticed increased controversy involved specialty flags,” which show “favoritism,” and that was why an ordinance was needed to limit flags flown on county property to just the U.S. flag and the California state flag, and no provision for any ceremonial flags flown temporarily or occasionally. Magsig likewise cited “the times we live in” and said that there are “no flags more inclusive” than the U.S. and California flags. Pacheco asked attorney Cederborg about the legal process for changing the ordinance; Cederborg confirmed that the previous ordinance would be deleted. Mendes and Quintero were quiet.
Public comment on the matter was opened. Dolores Huerta, a co-founder with César Chavez of the National Farmworkers Association, was spotted sitting in the audience in a straw hat and pink blazer; she approached the podium and asked that the board reject the new ordinance. She said the Central Valley community was diverse and that flags should be flown to affirm and acknowledge that diversity. Such flags should be flown for a day, as the pride flag was at the City Hall, an event which she called “amazing” and “joyous” because it acknowledged the LGBTQ community. Huerta continued that “small-minded haters” would like to “pretend that some groups of people do not exist.” She admonished the board to “be open-minded — we need this now more than ever” and to “promote friendship and caring.” Quintero said, “Thank you, Dolores, good to see you.”
Three others spoke against Brandau’s flag ordinance. One of them was Hrair Messerlian, who said he “100% supports Dolores” and that the board should craft a more inclusive policy. He noted that last month on April 24, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, Magsig was present and “spoke eloquently” at Fresno City Hall as the Armenian flag was raised. The city of Fresno, said Messerlian, has a policy for raising ceremonial flags which stipulates that a council member must be a sponsor. He said the board was now being “xenophobic, lazy, exclusionary,” and pandering for votes in the next election.
Three people spoke in support of the board’s new flag policy. Tammy Richardson said she supported the board “100%” and that “no one is more patriotic than I am.” Rose Wynn said that if a “Christian” flag is flown, then there would be a “Muslim” flag, and next a “Marxist” flag.
Quintero said that in Courthouse Park there are a variety of statues representing different ethnicities and contingencies, such as the David of Sassoon statue by Armenian sculptor Varaz Samuelian; he cited several others. “Support for our brothers and sisters,” Quintero said, comes from “our hearts.” He applauded Fresno’s Mayor Dyer, who supported raising the pride flag and said that there were already existing places to show support. By way of this explanation, he said he would “go ahead” and “support this first hearing today.”
Agenda Item 9 The board voted 4-1 to continue this item to the June 20 meeting. The petition is for partial cancellation of an agricultural land contract to remove about 2.5 acres for residential use from a 43-acre parcel. The parcel is located eight miles east of the city of Clovis near Watts Valley Road and Bull Run Lane. Will Kettler of the Public Works and Planning Department said that the applicant had received notice and a reminder of the meeting but was not present. Magsig suggested holding the matter for 30 days, but Pacheco said that the applicant had plenty of time and voted no.
Agenda Item 10 The board received a report from Zanoni about statistics regarding how many incarcerated individuals were referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2022. The report is required per the TRUTH Act (AB 2792) of 2016, whose purpose is to prevent law enforcement abuse of incarcerated immigrants. It is against the law, for example, for law enforcement personnel to detain a prisoner for referral to ICE without probable cause.
Zanoni recently replaced former sheriff Margaret Mims, who was suspected of under-reporting the number of immigrants, according to news reports, transferred from the county jail to ICE.
Zanoni said that in 2022 a total of 18 people were transferred to ICE. He described the types of crimes committed by the prisoners: crimes against persons (14), sex crimes (1), property crimes (1), felony drug crimes (2). Magsig wanted to know if the drug crimes were “cartel related.” Zanoni said they had methamphetamine for sale.
There were no public comments, though in the past the subject has attracted many. No vote was required.
Agenda Item 11 Supervisor committee reports and comments:
Mendes reported that he attended the Kingsburg Swedish Festival and participated in the parade. Attorney Cederborg, who typically does not speak unless a member of the board asks him a question, interjected, “Did you eat lutefisk?” Mendes also said that he was scheduled to participate in the Coalinga Horned-Toad Derby later in the month.
Brandau said that he attended the opening of a new district office of Kings View Behavioral Health which would oversee a suicide-prevention call center. He mentioned that the Chaffee Zoo would feature a temporary butterfly exhibit, which would be “really cool.”
Pacheco had no remarks.
Quintero talked about racist social media gossip directed at a local Thai restaurant that affected their business. He said that the local chapter of the Restaurant Association would donate funds to support the business.
Agenda Item 12 Board appointments. Quintero made two appointments.
Public Comments about items not on agenda. One person commented about the victimization of the Thai restaurant owners mentioned earlier by Quintero: “It was a hate crime — use the right language.” Seven people, most wearing purple SEIU2015 T-shirts and representing the union of long-term caregivers, were present, as they have been for many months, to ask for an increase in salary. Several protested the county’s offer during contract negotiations to replace health insurance benefits with an 85-cent addition to the hourly salary. One commenter cried; Seidel handed her a tissue.
Agenda Items 14-16, Closed Session Quintero asked Cederborg if there would be any report from the closed session; the reply was no. Closed-session items included labor negotiation (item 14) and litigation (items 15 and 16).
The public portion of the meeting ended at 11:45 a.m.
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