Clovis City Council member Diane Pearce appears in a video posted to her Facebook account following a decision at the May 8 meeting to maintain the city's current policy regarding flag-raising on city-owned properties.

Documented by Rachel Youdelman

What happened: Clovis Mayor Lynne Ashbeck reprimanded Councilmember Diane Pearce at the July 10 Clovis City Council meeting for discouraging the public from visiting the Clovis branch of the library during Pride Month.

Pearce had taken to Facebook to object to a display of LGBTQ books for children during Pride Month in her official capacity as a council member, with the city logo in view.

“In the last 45 minutes, we didn’t make a road better, we didn’t make a street safer, we didn’t hire a police officer,” Ashbeck said on July 10. “To me, the distractions, in transgender kids and track meets, in ‘socialism is equity,’ those culture issues, haven’t done anything to make us a better community at all, and in fact have driven deeper wedges in the community, and have offended our staff who are really just trying to do their job.”

Ashbeck also expressed dismay over other behavior exhibited by Pearce that she regarded as inappropriate, such as her insistence on pressing the issue of whether the city should establish a policy on which flags could be displayed. 

Ashbeck told Pearce that councilmembers should only comment on issues within their purview, and that members should always have each other’s back, as she said they always have in the history of the council.

“We are good (as a city), because we stay in our lane,” she emphasized.

The Clovis library is a branch operated by the Fresno County Public Library, not the Clovis City Council. The issue was not on the agenda for the meeting.

Ashbeck also said that Pearce had offended city staff, some of whom are Black or gay or have trans kids.

The city’s jurisdiction covers road paving, 911 emergency responses and your toilet flushes, said Ashbeck, “and that’s about it.” Pearce was free to express herself as an individual, but not as a duly elected representative of the city, she added. 

Several members of the public attended to give their opinion on Pearce’s post, with most criticizing her.

At the meeting, Pearce shot back in a prepared statement in which she said she “would not stand by and be silent” while children are being “sexualized.” She said she had received “countless” private messages of support from residents, who feared speaking out because of the “vitriol” directed at them.

Pearce said she was merely trying to let the disapproving people know about the presence of the books as a public service, so they could make “an informed decision.”

A bit of background: On June 28, near the end of Pride Month, Pearce posted photos of the children’s pride books displayed in the Clovis branch of the Fresno County Library on her Facebook page. She said that Clovis residents “Might want to wait until June is over to take your kids to the Clovis Public Library.”

The lone person who spoke in favor of Pearce’s post encouraging a boycott of the library was Bill Drake, who said that the display was like placing “a box of rattlesnakes” in the library. He said that “they are trying to pass laws” to “force their agenda” on people, and children should be out riding bikes instead.

Those who criticized Pearce’s social media comments as a sitting council member included Tracy Bohren, a 20-year Clovis resident, parent and member of the Clovis LGBTQ+ community; Jennifer Cruz, a longtime Clovis resident, parent and manager of the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission (Fresno EOC) LGBTQ+ Resource Center; Jeni-Ann Kren, a retired Clovis resident and president of the Clovis Democratic Club, who noted that a letter to the council had been submitted on behalf of the club; and, David Rowell, a resident of Clovis since 1991.

“Its your duty to represent the diversity of residents and perspectives in the community, and this responsibility extends to all members of the community, irrespective of their sexual identity,” Bohren encouraged the council.

Matthew Vang, 25, who called in via Webex, said “as a queer young person growing up in Clovis and Fresno, it’s incredibly validating and life-saving to see the strides that libraries and community spaces have made to properly hold space for LGBTQ+ communities.”

City absolves themselves of liability after pedestrian death: Councilmembers rejected a general liability claim through a unanimous vote on the consent calendar, filed by family members of Lisa Booth, a 56-year-old Clovis woman who was hit by a van and killed while walking across Peach Avenue near Nees Avenue, in January.

And also: during the closed session the council discussed the city’s lost appeal regarding their affordable housing lawsuit. The city is attempting “depublication” of the loss, which would mean the case could not be cited as precedent and could create the perception that the decision has been censored.­

Up next: The next meeting of the Clovis City Council is August 7 at 6 p.m.

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The Fresno Documenters are a group of local residents who are trained and paid to attend and take notes at local public meetings where officials decide how to spend public money and make important decisions...

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