June 20, 2023 — Fresno County Board of Supervisors
Documented by Rachel Youdelman
Here’s what you need to know
- The board approved a recommended budget for the period between July 1 and Sept. 11, when the final fiscal year 2023-2024 budget will be adopted.
- Following receipt of votes from residents in El Porvenir, the board approved annual increases in water-service fees, which the county expects to be offset by State Water Board funding. A rural community of low-income farm workers, El Porvenir is in debt for water it must purchase but which is not drinkable. Though an advocate for the community said the residents did not want the increase, only two of 59 residents’ ballots were returned, registering opposition.
- Several members of the public were present to repeat false statements about voting machines and elections.
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)
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors held its last meeting of the month on June 20 at 9:30 a.m. Chairman Quintero opened the meeting promptly and asked clerk Seidel to call the roll; all board members were present. Remarking that he “needs no introduction,” Quintero introduced Jim Franklin, pastor of Cornerstone Church and the primary signatory to an anti-LGBTQ statement made in response to Fresno Pride events in June 2022; the letter was signed by about 50 other Fresno and Clovis pastors and supporters, some of whom have since been invited to give invocations at board meetings. Franklin thanked “heavenly Father” for “the men who serve on the board of supervisors.” He concluded “in the name of Jesus.” He then led the flag salute.
The meeting was only sparsely attended. Six members of the public were present to repeat false claims about election results and processes.
The meeting was relatively short, ending at about 10:40 a.m.
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 welcomed. 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, live stream and meeting video may be accessed here. The next meeting is scheduled for July 18 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
Item 1 The board approved the day’s agenda with a 5-0 vote. Seidel noted that item 5 (a petition for partial cancellation of a Williamson Act contract) was deleted but would return on a date uncertain.
Agenda Item 2 The board approved with a 5-0 vote the consent agenda, items 19-87, with the exception of item 85, pulled by Quintero so he could vote no on it. The consent agenda is a group of items considered routine and not warranting examination, unless they are pulled for discussion by a supervisor or a member of the public. Later in the meeting, Quintero explained his no vote. The item concerned approval of a contract with United Health Centers for mental health employability services; Quintero expressed concern that only one agency was contracted for these services. Director of Social Services Sanja Bugay approached the lectern and offered to answer questions, but Quintero declined to ask any. Supervisor Mendes, grinning, made comments, but his mic was off, so what he said was unintelligible. The vote for item 85 was 4-1, with Quintero the sole no vote.
Item 3 The board unanimously approved a recommended budget for the period between July 1 and the adoption of the fiscal year 2023-2024 final budget on Sept. 11. Greg Reinke of the County Administrative Office made the presentation, and explained that CAO Nerland suggested that rather than adopt the final budget in June, adopting the recommended budget now and waiting until September to adopt the final version gives them a chance for a more accurate estimate of year-end balance of funds and a clearer picture of the state’s budget impact on the county’s. Meanwhile, with the recommended budget formally adopted, all county departments will have the necessary appropriations to operate until then. There was no discussion following the presentation.
Item 4 The board unanimously approved a resolution regarding issuance of bonds by the California Municipal Financing Authority for the benefit of the Family HealthCare Network to finance the construction of health centers in Reedley and Selma. The approval was necessary to satisfy the requirements of the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act (TEFRA). Reinke made the brief presentation; there was no discussion.
Item 5 was deleted and will return at a date uncertain. The item concerned a petition for partial cancellation of a Williamson Act contract.
Item 6 The board unanimously approved an increase of $256 in the annual assessment for County Service Area 34, Zone D, No. 34, Zone D, Renaissance at Bella Vista, which includes 106 households. A staff person from Public Works explained that on Dec. 5, 2017, a Proposition 218 proceeding was held when property owners had a chance to protest. There was no majority protest, and at that time the board approved an assessment which incorporated inflation increases for seven fiscal years, including that for 2023-2024. There was no discussion or comment.
Item 7 The board unanimously approved an increase of $308 in the annual assessment for County Service Area 2, the Tenaya Park Assessment District, which includes 142 households. A Public Works staff person explained that on June 17, 2014, a Proposition 218 proceeding was held when property owners had a chance to protest. There was no majority protest, and at that time the board approved an assessment formula which incorporated adjustments for nine fiscal years after 2014-2015. There was no discussion or comment.
Item 8 The board voted unanimously, following the receipt of votes from residents receiving water service in County Service Area 30 (CSA30) in El Porvenir, to approve annual increases in the water-service fees for surface water and for groundwater (after new groundwater wells are completed and are in service) beginning July 1 this year, through June 30, 2028, pursuant to the terms of Proposition 218. Chris Bump of the Public Works Department presented the item. The new rate will be about $287 per month, at least initially.
The above summary is a simplified version of a very complex and long-running issue. In March this year, El Porvenir rejected an increase in monthly water rates, a slightly smaller increase than the one approved today, at $264 per month, increasing from $104.21 to $287.58 per month and increasing 2% annually. El Porvenir is a rural community of low-income farmworkers, and the community is burdened by water debt.
According to previous reports from SJV Water and the Westlands Water District, El Porvenir’s water has been purchased by the county via the Westlands Water District, a state agency, since 2006. Though rates to purchase water are variable, they are relatively high, because the cost of the water is shared by several different agencies and depends on factors such as drought. Revenue from residents’ payments is still insufficient to cover El Porvenir’s debt (as of September 2021, it was over $245,000), which continues to grow. The water is shipped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and is not potable, because even after treatment (a county responsibility), it contains by-products of chlorination, so residents get bottled water for drinking and cooking from another source. New groundwater wells have been under construction since 2018.
After Seidel read the agenda item, discussion included a question from Supervisor Brandau, who said he “glazed over” when she read the very long agenda item and asked if the proposal entailed a raise in the fee charged to residents. Bump said that yes, it did, but that if state funding is available, the fee could be reduced. Though El Porvenir is in Supervisor Pacheco’s district, he made no remark.
During public comment, a woman who did not identify herself asked if the residents affected regard water as a human right or expect the board to “reach out” to keep residents informed.
Mariana Alvarenga, a policy advocate from the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability who has appeared frequently before the board on behalf of the residents of Cantua Creek and El Porvenir, said that the increased rates will be a hardship for residents, who fear that the state assistance dangled in front of them may not materialize. The community water debt, she added, is not a result of failure to pay bills. As she has many times at past board meetings, she asked the board to convert the debt to a loan and then to forgive it. She asked for affordable water rates once the debt is forgiven.
The board skipped to agenda item 9 while the El Porvenir residents’ votes were counted. Bump reported that of 59 eligible votes, only two were returned and were no votes.
At the time of meeting, State Water Board funding of $891,418 was pending, but required the approval of new water rates as proposed by the county. According to a flier that was distributed to El Porvenir property owners and residents at community meetings, the funding will be used to offset costs for residents over a five-year period, reducing residents’ costs to approximately $111 per month.
Item 9 Supervisor reports
Brandau had no comment.
Pacheco had none.
Magsig said that it was questionable if the retirement board’s investments would earn a 6.5% return. Magsig is a member of the retirement board.
Mendes reported that the likelihood of flooding of the North Fork Kings River was now diminished.
Quintero had no remarks.
Item 10 Board appointments to various committees and boards. Quintero mentioned that one appointment he made previously had been declined. No other appointments were made.
Item 11 Public comments about items not on the agenda. Six people repeated false claims about “election fraud” and proposed that the county get rid of its Dominion voting machines, which they falsely claimed have the capacity to “switch” votes, spontaneously connect to the internet, and the like. They made these statements despite the results of the recent defamation lawsuit, in which Dominion won a $787 million settlement against Fox, a right-wing cable TV company who made false reports about the accuracy of the machines and election results. Today’s commenters repeated conspiracy theories, cited “reports” and asked that elections in the county regress to a single day, paper ballots only, with results made available in the evening of election day. Four of the speakers were women; two were men.
One man, who gave his name as Joe Russomano, said he wanted to speak to the board “man to man,” and talked about his father, who he said had been a prisoner of war in World War II, was “banged up,” lost an eye, was “shot in the butt,” and so on. How could Germany, which produced the Reformation and other theological landmarks, have “turned into Nazis,” he asked. “Everybody I talk to,” he said, “thinks it’s a fascist world again.” “Life turns gray,” he continued, because “we have lost voting,” and the U.S. “is like 1933 Germany.”
A woman who gave her name as Glenda Green said she was a “representative” of the state of “New California,” a right-wing fringe group with its own website. She said that the board of supervisors “must prioritize national security,” something which is not within their jurisdiction as a county body. She said that “components” of voting machines are made by “adversaries of the U.S.” She also noted that she hosts “Liberty Lunch Club” events in Clovis; Liberty Lunch Club is affiliated with “Liberty Coalition,” a membership group described on its website as a group of “individuals and organizations who want to take back and keep our constitutional rights in America, [providing] a lunch and networking meeting that allows like-minded patriots throughout Fresno County to come together for support and encouragement” at a cost of $600 per year. Green’s group’s website further notes that they believe in a “biblical Christian imperative” and that “God established civil government in order to restrain evil.”
Another commenter, Sean Burdine, said that he attends many public meetings, but he sees a lot of “hope” only at the board’s. At past meetings, he has often similarly praised the board. He was focused on “election integrity,” he said, and echoed some of the previous false claims. He said he was “nonpartisan” and not affiliated with any group; however, he is introduced as the “election chair” of another fringe group called “Constitutionalists of California,” in a video posted to the group’s website, which says that they “battle the insane policies of the County and State.” As the meeting adjourned, Burdine and Brandau greeted each other and shook hands.
At this point, Seidel told Quintero that 17 minutes had passed, two minutes over the “15 minutes per topic” policy. One more woman, who gave her name as Gina DeLara, waited to speak; she was told she could speak but not on the same topic. Her topic was different, she said, then she launched into a repetition of the same points made by the others. Quintero tried to stop her, but she insisted that she would say something different. She complained that the “burden of proof” of claims she and others made of voter fraud was on “we the people,” and she didn’t want that. Former Sheriff Mims wanted “100 pieces of evidence,” and now Zanoni wanted “200-250,” she said. She wanted the board to “become knowledgeable.” Her three minutes were up, but she continued to speak. Quintero reminded her that her time was up; she replied, “Did you listen to me?”
Items 12-18 Closed session. There would be no report from the closed session, said attorney Cederborg. The items for closed session concerned litigation, labor negotiation and real estate negotiation. For item 18, the board sat as the In-Home Supportive Services Public Authority Governing Board for a conference with a labor negotiator on behalf of SEIU-Local 2015.
The public portion of the meeting ended at 10:40 a.m.
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