Documented by Kristina Mansfield
Here’s what you need to know
- Confirmed (5-0) the city manager’s appointment of Chris Ekk to the position of fire chief.
- Approved (3-2) a resolution amending the general government services budget in the 2023-2024 Community Investment Program (CIP) budget to include the Senior Center Tenant Improvement and authorized expenditures from the fund in the amount of $1.5 million. This will allow the city to move some staff into a tenant space in the senior center after Saint Agnes backed out of a lease agreement that would’ve brought in $100,000 annually.
- Approved (4-1) a list of City Council protocols, finalizing policies and procedures of matters such as the use of the city letterhead and the presentation of proclamations. The matter had been continued from the Sept. 11 and Oct. 12 meetings, when the council decided to draft a limited handbook after council member Diane Peace made a Facebook post about books at the Clovis Library.
- What topics will be included in Mayor Ashbeck’s children’s book about the history of Clovis?
- Are there any ramifications if a city council member goes rogue and uses the city letterhead in bad faith?
- Will there be any long-term consequences to the service shut-off at Blackhorse Estates?
Council and Staff
Lynne Ashbeck, mayor
Vong Mouanoutoua, mayor pro-tem
Matt Basgall, council member
Drew Bessinger, council member
Diane Pearce, council member
John Holt, city manager
Andy Haussler, assistant city manager
Scott Cross, city attorney
Karey Cha, city clerk
The Clovis City Council meeting took place at 6 p.m. in the Council Chamber at 1033 Fifth St. in Clovis on Nov. 6, 2023. It was standing room only for the first half of the regular meeting, as residents turned out to discuss two major issues on the agenda: the confirmation of new Fire Chief Chris Ekk and the public hearing regarding various items associated with Blackhorse Estates.
Regular council meetings are held on the first, second and third Mondays of the month and are open to the public. There are many ways to participate and detailed instructions on how to do so can be found on the meeting agenda here.
Ashbeck called the meeting to order at 6:01 p.m. and led the flag salute. Cha called roll; all of the council members were present.
Item 15. Noting the large crowd of firefighters in attendance, Ashbeck suggested the council pull item 15 (Confirmation of City Manager’s Appointment of Fire Chief) for immediate discussion. “I’m pretty sure if there was a fire right now, that would be bad,” Ashbeck said, “and this way, all of you can go back to work.”
City Manager John Holt gave a brief presentation of Ekk’s qualifications. The city council then unanimously approved (Ashbeck made the motion) Ekk’s confirmation as the new Clovis fire chief effective Nov. 16.
“It is my privilege to say to you: these are important milestones in our city,” said Ashbeck. “We take our public safety and our fire safety particularly seriously here … thank you for choosing to come to Clovis and thank you for your willingness to step into this role.”
Ekk said he’s humbled to be named fire chief. “I’m very humbled to be the next fire chief of this amazing department and take this opportunity seriously,” he said. “I will do my best to uphold the city’s mission and to maintain the Clovis way of life.”
The meeting segued into the public comments portion. This section of the meeting is set aside for members of the public to address the city council on any matter within its jurisdiction that is not listed on the agenda. Speakers are limited to three minutes each.
Three members of the public were present to comment on items not on the agenda:
Jennie Fran, a resident of Clovis, gave a comment about the ongoing Martinez v. City of Clovis case. The Martinez v. City of Clovis case, an affordable housing case the city lost, lost on appeal, and lost in its request to depublish the decision, was on the closed-session agenda again this week. “I’ve noticed that almost every meeting for weeks, almost a couple of months now, the Martinez v. Clovis case has been on the agenda. It’s been on so much that the community really does deserve some information about what’s going on and why it is being discussed so often.”
Malcolm Gibson, an 80-year-old-resident of Clovis, made a comment about the public’s perception that the city of Clovis is dragging its feet on two issues: voting by districts v. at-large elections and affordable housing. “I do believe those on staff and council are sincere in their perspective that the city is not dragging its feet but I assure you that for most citizens interested in those issues, that simply is not the case. For them and for me, the perception says otherwise.” Gibson said perceptions are truths to those who hold them and challenged the city council to keep the public more informed on items with active litigation (such as affordable housing).
Steven Trevino, a resident of Clovis, said that he watches the city council meetings every Monday on YouTube and on the city of Clovis website and that you can’t see what’s going on in the meeting. He also requested a camera be positioned so at-home viewers can see the council and the number of people attending the meetings in-person to allow for a better idea of the impact of the meeting.
ORDINANCES AND RESOLUTIONS
CONSENT CALENDAR, Items 1-10, 14-15
The “consent calendar” is a group of items considered routine in nature that are passed with one vote unless a council member, staff member or member of the public requests individual discussion. Ashbeck said Items 11 and 13 would be pulled for discussion. All other consent calendar items carried 5-0.
Item 11. After a lengthy back-and-forth, the city council approved (3-2) a resolution amending the general government services budget in the 2023-2024 Community Investment Program (CIP) budget to include the Senior Center Tenant Improvement and authorized expenditures from the fund in the amount of $1.5 million.
John Holt discussed potential uses for a 4,000-square-foot tenant space located within the senior center building at the Landmark Square site. The planned tenant, Saint Agnes, backed out of the lease agreement, leaving the tenant space open. He proposed adding a Senior Center Tenant Improvement project to the 2023-2024 Community Program budget that will allow for the Tenant Improvements (TIs) needed to move staff into the tenant space.
Basgall agreed with Holt about needing the space for employees but questioned whether the board had considered the potential loss of revenue by moving in staff in lieu of leasing out the office space to a revenue-generating tenant. Holt acknowledged that “the city will incur the cost of doing TIs (Tenant Improvements) for the space to relocate (Personnel and Risk Management staff) and will also lose the revenue of any future tenants.”
After the back-and-forth between council members continued for several more minutes, focusing on the timeliness and urgency of the project, Ashbeck brought the council back to a vote. Bessinger moved to approve, and the motion carried 3-2. Ashbeck and Basgall voted against the motion.
Item 13. The council voted 5-0 to continue the item – requesting the council approve and authorize the city manager and police chief to execute a memorandum of understanding MOU with the city of Fresno for the Organized Retail Theft Prevention Grant Program – to a date uncertain.
Item 16. The council conducted a public hearing, and closed the election regarding an Assessment Increase in Clovis Landscape Maintenance District (LMD) District No. 1, Benefit Zones 2 and 5 for the fiscal year 2024-2025 levy. After a presentation from Assistant Public Utilities Director Paul Armendariz and Parks Manager Eric Aller, Ashbeck said tonight’s meeting will suffice for the public hearing and instructed staff to tabulate the election results the following day. There were no comments from the council or public. Mouanoutoua made a motion to continue the item until the Nov. 13 meeting to report the results of the election; motion carried 5-0.
Item 17. The council received an update on the Blackhorse Assessment District (Area 1 – Renaissance) and heard available options and processes to potentially dissolve it. The city has previously threatened to suspend services if homeowners in the area do not increase fees to cover the associated costs. The homeowners had questioned the city’s use of their collective funds and had requested a financial breakdown. In order to increase the fees homeowners are required to pay the city; a Proposition 218 vote is required.
Sean Smith, supervising civil engineer, presented. Blackhorse was formed under the Benefit Assessment Act of 1982. Proposition 218 dictates the process to increase assessments. There are no specific unwind processes outlined in either. Smith said there were two options: decline services (such as removing the gates and landscaping) or unwind Renaissance (Area 1) with a council vote, not a homeowner vote.
About 20 residents from Blackhorse Estates attended the meeting in person. Several gave public comments:
- Stephen Dougherty, a resident of Renaissance, requested the council do another Proposition 218 vote. “I’ll give my perspective on what’s changed. In regards to the finances, one of the serious questions we had was a question of water billing. That question was what was the community being billed for and what was the city taking on. A lot of the community members were concerned that if we provide more funds, how will those funds be managed … we want to push back, we want to see what the city comes back with.”
Dougherty said that they appreciate the efforts the city has made but that the information still isn’t clear. “It’s basically a data dump where we have to claw our way through masses of receipts; a lot of information posted on a website. It’s still not entirely clear. There’s no happy medium with just enough detail.”
He went on to say that the realities of not having the funds and the need to continue the basic upkeep of the community is what swayed the residents since the last vote. “It makes more sense to keep the gates, to keep our community, to just keep going, even though it may not be managed to our exact liking,” he said.
Ashbeck then asked the room how many residents in attendance agreed with Dougherty’s sentiment. The majority of residents in attendance raised their hands.
- Sam Reed, a resident of Blackhorse Estates, reiterated that many neighbors didn’t initially understand how expensive Proposition 218 votes were to execute. “I want to make sure everyone understands that we’re on the same side,” Reed said. “We like where we live and want it to look good and we want to do it right.”
- Doug Stawarski, another resident of Blackhorse Estates, agreed. “This was really a catalyst for us to come together and realize we needed to do something different.”
- Paul Shadow said he owns two properties in Blackhorse Estates and enjoys the community because of the neighbors. “We actually watch out for each other, you know all of your neighbors,” he said. “Wholeheartedly I think we all tried to work with Sean [Smith, supervising civil engineer] because we care. As long as there’s some transparency with where we’re going, we’re fine with it.”
- Frank Stafford has been a resident of the Renaissance since 2014 and said he’s in the community because of the gates. “There are obvious benefits; everybody that I’ve talked to is in the community because it’s a gated community. The 36 signatures we’ve got accept the increase and accept the association.”
- Another resident of Blackhorse Estates, Brennan Younger, agreed with Stafford. He said he appreciates the gates because they help keep the traffic patterns slower. He has lived in the neighborhood for a year and a half.
After hearing from several residents that attended the meeting, the council voted (4-1) to direct staff to perform a Property Owner Protest Balloting (Proposition 218 vote) for the Renaissance area of Blackhorse Estates for fiscal year 2024-2025. Mouanoutoua made the motion to approve.. Ashbeck was the dissent, and said “it’s unfair for the city to continue to accommodate one specific neighborhood when they don’t do this for anyone else.”
Item 18 – The city council voted (4-1) to approve the revised version of the City Council protocols. The matter was continued from the Sept. 11 meeting, when the council decided to draft a limited council member handbook. These were the sections included in the approved handbook:
- The Role of the Mayor
- Communication with Staff
- City Council Meeting Agenda Preparation
- How City Council Members May Have Items Placed on City Council Meeting Agendas
- Placement of Proclamations on Agenda and Presentation of Proclamations
- Certificates of Recognition
- Waiver; Amendment; Rescission of Protocols
- City Letterhead and City Seal Use Policy, and Allowed Use of City Letterhead and City Seal (as approved by City Council on May 15, 2017)
There were no comments or questions about Sections 1, 2, 4, 6 or 7. The council had a spirited discussion about Sections 5 and 8, regarding the presentation of proclamations and the use of city letterhead, respectively.
In comments about Section 5, Ashbeck said, “The last line says ‘Certificates of the city may not be used in whole or in part in any advertisement, endorsement, or commercial promotion.’ I believe we should also add ‘political interest.’” Ashbeck added she felt it was important to call out that the city is not giving out proclamations to “other kinds of political interests that certainly may not reflect the city.”
Ashbeck asked for clarification regarding the use of the city letterhead and presented several scenarios for discussion. “If we send a letter that says ‘the City Council of Clovis says ‘this,’ I think it should be 5-0,” she said. “I don’t know that we have any history saying the council has taken this position, or that position, when it’s not the majority, so I just want to be very clear that per this section, three people can send a letter saying ‘The Clovis City Council says ‘this.’”
City Manager John Holt and City Attorney Scott Cross were quick to counter. “A 3-2 vote is the city council. On any matter. Any matter,” Cross said. “The way the policy was adopted in 2017 is that if three council members say they’re sending a letter, that letter gets sent from the city council. The majority of the council has spoken at that point.”
After more back-and-forth from the council members, Ashbeck brought the item back for a vote. The council then approved (4-1) the list of city council protocols, finalizing policies and procedures of matters such as the use of the city letterhead and the presentation of proclamations. Ashbeck was the dissent and said, “I don’t think having written rules is going to make us any better or any worse. It’s my protest vote.”
City Manager comments
Holt had none.
City Council comments
Pearce attended an event last month where she participated in serving dinner to employees. Bessinger went to a meeting at Pine Flat Dam. “The elevator that goes eight stories down was not working,” he joked.
Ashbeck requested a Measure C update be added to the agenda for the Nov. 13 meeting and attended an event with Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer at the US Conference of Mayors. She also mentioned plans for a book about the history of Clovis. She said Bryce Vidmar sent an email saying there has been another accident and asked about the city’s speed bump policy. Lastly, she questioned the status of construction at the intersection of Fowler and Ashlan avenues and was told it should be reopening by the end of the week.
Mouanoutoua attended an event at the Veterans Memorial District and the swearing-in of six new police officers, among others.
The meeting adjourned to closed session at 8:26 p.m. There was no reportable action.
The next regular meeting of the Clovis City Council is scheduled for Nov. 13 at 6 p.m.
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