Documented by Rachel Youdelman
Summary: What you need to know
- The council unanimously confirmed an increase in the density range of the multifamily high-density zone district, to increase maximum density from 25 to 30 units per acre and to increase the maximum height for the same zone district from 35 to 45 feet.
- The council voted unanimously to create a city youth commission, open to high school sophomores or juniors. City staff will select up to 15 students, based upon application ranking and “commitment to actively participate in the program.” The application period is Nov. 1-Nov. 30. Selected members will be confirmed by the council. Applicants will be notified of their selection status by Dec.15, and the youth commission will begin meeting in January 2024.
- A member of the public asked why calls made to Animal Services about stray dogs were late or unanswered. It was pointed out that though the population has increased over the last 15 years, staffing levels have not matched the city’s growth.
Council and Staff
Lynne Ashbeck, mayor
Vong Mouanoutoua, mayor pro tem
Drew Bessinger, council member
Matt Basgall, council member
Diane Pearce, council member
John Holt, city manager, ABSENT
Andy Haussler, assistant city manager
Scott Cross, city attorney
Karey Cha, city clerk
The Clovis City Council met on Oct. 2, 2023, for its first meeting of the month. Ashbeck called the meeting to order at 6:01 p.m. She asked for a moment of silence in memory of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who died on Sept. 29. She noted that Feinstein was a woman of “many, many firsts,” and praised her “collaborative problem-solving.” Feinstein worked on water issues with the late Harry Armstrong, a 46-year city council member whose memory is frequently invoked by Ashbeck; and when she had occasion to visit Washington D.C, Ashbeck said, she introduced herself to Feinstein by saying that she was from “Harry Armstrong’s city.”
Mouanoutoua led the flag salute. City Clerk Cha called roll; all council members were present. Among staff, City Manager Holt was absent.
About 25 people attended in person, about 50 viewed via YouTube, and a handful via Webex. The meeting was unusually short at just one hour.
There are several ways to participate in the council’s meetings: in person, you may comment on specific agenda matters as they are discussed, or on those not on an agenda at the scheduled time. Just show up. Commenters are normally limited to five minutes each. Note that laws regarding public meetings preclude council members from making definitive responses about matters that are not on the agenda. You can also call in to a Webex when the meeting is in progress, or you can submit a written comment. Easy instructions are found here.
All council members are elected at large; none represent specific districts of Clovis. To contact any of them with questions or to comment about issues, phone 559-324-2060 (one phone for all) or email:
Lynne Ashbeck firstname.lastname@example.org
Vong Mouanoutoua email@example.com
Matt Basgall firstname.lastname@example.org
Drew Bessinger email@example.com
Diane Pearce firstname.lastname@example.org
Members of the public may attend meetings at the Council Chamber, 1033 Fifth St., Clovis, CA 93612, or online via Webex. The next meeting will be Oct. 9 at 6 p.m. Videos of past meetings and agendas are available here.
Agenda item 1 A presentation was made by Clovis Toastmasters, a corporate program (closed to the public) led by General Services Director Shonna Halterman. The group was celebrating its five-year anniversary. Toastmasters is an international organization that teaches people how to speak effectively in public, and hosts both public and private groups. Halterman, using one of the group’s teaching techniques, said that the word of the day was “develop” and challenged everyone to use the word at least once when they spoke. Staff Analyst Aaron La Mattina, taking a deep breath before speaking — the first rule of Toastmasters, he noted—talked about his experience with the group and how the speaking exercises have helped him with confidence and team-building.
Ashbeck, an experienced public speaker, said that maybe she should enroll in Toastmasters, that she could “afford to learn good skills” such as not showing emotion when speaking.
Mouanoutoua, incorporating the word of the day, said that the program would “develop” great speakers and that it was “great for our city.”
Ashbeck noted that two people had thus far used the word “develop” and asked if anyone felt pressure to join in. Pearce abruptly volunteered, saying “I’m developing my plans,” citing no context.
Public Comment This is the segment of the meeting for members of the public to raise any issue that does not appear on the agenda but is within the council’s jurisdiction. Four members of the public were present to speak about various issues.
The first speaker, Bob Gallup, who wore a black cowboy hat, was angry about the type of music being played at the senior center’s dance nights. “We” don’t like rock and roll, he said, but it wasn’t clear if he was speaking on behalf of a group or just for himself. Why was there no country and western music, he wanted to know. “We” like to “hold the ladies” when dancing, he continued. His ancestors have lived in the area since 1868, he said, and he was born in 1939. He described his ethnic make-up (“English, Irish, Swiss and Dutch”), said a few words in Spanish, then concluded that he “listened to cowboy music all the time.”
Ashbeck alerted Amy Hance, manager of the senior center, who was present, and asked her to “develop” (using the Toastmasters’ word of the day) a music program that reflects “everyone’s interests.”
The next speaker was Don Watnick, who spoke at length about a new production of CenterStage, a local community theater group. Bessinger said that he and his wife had attended a past performance, had dinner beforehand and drinks afterward and were home by 10 p.m. He “encouraged all to do the same.” Ashbeck said that “nothing says more about a community than work in the arts.” Mouanoutoua told Watnick that he was “a warrior and advocate for the arts” and that people should take their families to see the production.
Next, Tim Hulse spoke about finding stray dogs on Clovis streets and asked why it was so difficult to get the Clovis Police Department or its animal control division to respond to calls. He cited an incident of 15 years ago when response about an abandoned dog next door was immediate — this backstory would help “develop” the description of the problem, he said, careful to use the Toastmasters’ word of the day. More stray dogs were observable in Fresno, and he didn’t want Clovis to “turn into Fresno.” What happened in the intervening years to so dramatically change the capacity of the police to respond?
Though per public meeting laws, council members may not take action on matters not on the agenda, Ashbeck referred the question to Assistant City Manager Haussler, who said that the staffing had not changed over the years, but that “the community has grown, and issues have arisen,” making response to calls for service more “challenging.” Hulse asked if more community service officers (CSOs) could be hired to address the problem.
Council member Basgall said that Capt. Roberts of the police department who oversees Animal Services was present and suggested that Hulse could meet with him to help address the “serious challenges” that exist. Ashbeck wondered why so many people’s pets were running away or somehow getting loose from their owners’ property. There must be “30 a day” who escape, and if you have a pet, “hold on to it,” she said.
The last commenter was Malcolm Gibson, a retired journalist and journalism teacher, who thanked the council for using closed captioning during the meeting, which he said helped people such as himself who have hearing loss, his own as a result of military service.
Agenda items 2-8, Consent Calendar The “consent calendar” is a group of agenda items considered routine; they are decided with a single vote. A council member, staff person, or a member of the public may pull any single item for discussion; otherwise, the vote proceeds without discussion.
The council approved items 2-8 unanimously. No items were pulled for discussion, either by council members or members of the public. The list included another claim against the police, which was rejected with this vote; item 4 was filed by Lance Pehrson and alleges “defamation and malicious prosecution caused by Clovis police officers, and seeks to recover alleged monetary damages from the city. Mr. Pehrson alleges that Clovis police officers made false statements to his former employer which resulted in termination from his position of employment,” per the agenda. Why do such items consistently appear on the consent agenda, and why does no one comment about them?
Agenda item 9 The council voted unanimously to amend the density range of the multifamily high-density zone district to increase maximum density from 25 to 30 units per acre and to increase the maximum height for the same zone district from 35 to 45 feet. The item had passed at the Sept. 20 meeting with a 3-1 vote and one absence. Pearce, who has no record of having worked on behalf of any sort of housing law or of proposing any alternative housing solution, had been the sole “no” vote, as she preferred to register her “protest” in opposition to “Sacramento,” or in other words, against state housing law. The item came back to the council, requiring a second reading because of the absence of one member. This time, Pearce made no “protest” or comment.
Agenda item 11 Ashbeck switched the order of items 10 and 11. The council voted unanimously to re-appoint Michelene Golden and to newly appoint Dr. Kim Armstrong to the Fresno/Clovis Community Media Authority (FCCMA) for a two-year term. The FCCMA serves as the Joint Powers Authority for the Community Media Access Collaborative, otherwise known as CMAC, which is local public access television.
Economic Development, Housing and Communications Director Chad McCollum, made a brief presentation. Golden could not be present, but Armstrong spoke briefly. She said she was “excited to be a part of this collaborative effort” and saw it as a chance to “promote media literacy, civic engagement and cultural understanding.” It was noted a couple of times that Armstrong’s daughter was a filmmaker, but her name was not mentioned, nor was the connection to Armstrong’s appointment to the FCCMA.
Agenda item 10 The council voted unanimously to create a city youth commission.
The commission will be open to applicants who are sophomores or juniors in high school. City staff will select up to 15 students, based upon application ranking and “commitment to actively participate in the program.” Selected members will be confirmed by the council.
The application period will be open Nov. 1-Nov. 30. Applications will be provided by Nov. 1 to Clovis school district administrators to distribute to schools and teachers. The application will also be advertised via the city’s social media, and will be available on the city website for students who are homeschooled or who attend charter schools. Applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Nov. 30 via email to email@example.com. Applicants will be notified of their selection status by Dec.15, and the youth commission will begin meeting in January 2024. The youth commission will meet monthly from January through May 2024. For questions regarding the application process, contact the city clerk via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 559-324-2060.
Ashbeck said that she and Mouanoutoua had talked about how to “engage youth voices” for some time, and that there were many similar youth groups across the state. She didn’t want to “create extra work” for city staff but acknowledged the work already done, particularly by Cha and McCollum. She mentioned a “placemat” designed by them and though she didn’t cite details about it, it appeared it was a paper placemat printed with information about Clovis history that children could write on; this project did not appear to be directly related to a youth commission.
Ashbeck said that she and Mouanoutoua could serve as coaches.
Mouanoutoua talked about the matter, and said that kids could play “tic-tac-toe” (presumably incorporating Clovis history) on the placemats, which would be given to local restaurants. He was “very much in favor” of “getting youth voices” [sic]. He said that the youth on the commission would “brand” it themselves, develop bylaws and decide what they want to do. They would need to decide themselves that they wouldn’t simply “talk about football games all the time” but “we gotta make it where it’s related to the city of Clovis and civic engagement” [sic].
Bessinger said the commission was a great idea, because if kids feel they don’t have a voice, they “feel compelled to talk louder” or harm themselves. What he was referring to was unclear. He was happy to support a youth commission, he said.
Public comment was opened on the matter. David Rowell, a local attorney, said it was a wonderful idea. He noted that a small organization he belongs to has, for several years, self-funded annual “civic engagement” scholarships that are presented to several graduating Clovis seniors.
City Manager Comments Haussler spoke in Holt’s absence. He mentioned attending the Sept. 30 “Clovis Night Out,” an annual event sponsored by the Police Department. He noted that council members were presented with “Ale Trail” mugs, a reference to the several breweries dotting the Clovis walking trail system.
Basgall said he attended a North Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency meeting. He said 2023 was “the wettest year” ever. New basins for water storage had been built, he noted. Basgall also attended a Business Organization of Old Town Clovis (BOOT) meeting, and raised the issue of dim lights on Pollasky Street, which was addressed by Scott Redelfs, director of public utilities. The issue as described by him was complex, causing Ashbeck to remark, “Nothing is ever simple, even a light bulb.” Basgall concluded that “Clovis Night Out” was “awesome,” and the kids in attendance especially loved the garbage trucks.
Pearce had “two quick things” to note: she attended an event for the new superintendent of Clovis public schools, and she was “impressed by the entire event,” which was “so encouraging.” Perhaps as a result, she thought the proposed youth commission was a “fantastic” idea because “this entire community is moving on a singular path.” What that “singular path” was, she did not say. She also said she had the “privilege” of speaking at a Clovis Rotary lunch and said “so many service organizations” want to “partner” with the city. She enunciated each word slowly and clearly but often omitted context. Neither Pearce nor anyone else mentioned the new California state law (AB 1078), which bans book-banning, a matter that she had raised beginning in June regarding LGBTQ information, and which took so much of the council’s time in recent meetings.
Bessinger attended closing ceremonies for the old senior center. He also attended a San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District meeting.
Mouanoutoua began talking about trying to arrange a meeting with someone, but he was unintelligible. He then talked about attending the closing of the old senior center, thanked the staff, then said he attended a CalCities meeting where no resolutions were made. He talked about attending an event for a Vietnamese-American military person, who had a “wonderful message” for young people and veterans of “all the wars.” He continued, mentioning Pastor Binion of Fresno, who was recently made a bishop of his church, and said that Binion was in the “soul-winning” business. Last, he encouraged everyone to attend the Fresno Fair.
Ashbeck said that she also attended the closing of the old senior center, remarking that there had been so many Thanksgiving dinners there over the years. She said that at the Clovis Night Out event, all the trash cans placed for public use were “new and clean.” She mentioned that a sign notifying the neighborhood of a Proposition 218 vote was placed in a public park, something she had suggested doing, and she thanked staff for placing the sign. She invited State Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, to come to Clovis, so she can “hear from us the impact of what’s happening in Sacramento from her constituents,” even though she will likely be “powerless” to do anything. Last, Ashbeck said that she attended a Fresno Council of Governments (COG) meeting. Noting that she would be absent for the Oct. 16 meeting, Ashbeck said that she would miss the employee appreciation dinner. “I appreciate you all very much, and you can eat my dessert in my absence,” she noted.
At 7:04, Ashbeck, “with great joy,” adjourned the meeting.
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