Quote of the Week

“Not guilty? Look what you’ve done. You can’t even look us in the eye.”

– Julian Ramos, former manager at Bitwise, shouted this at Bitwise co-founders Irma Olguin Jr. and Jake Soberal as they left the courtroom. Both are charged with various white-collar crimes after they unexpectedly furloughed over 900 employees and declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. 

If you love Fresnoland, donate today! Through December 31, all donations to us will be tripled, thanks to our friends at NewsMatch, the Central Valley Community Foundation, and the James B. McClatchy Foundation. And for a limited time, Fresnoland t-shirts will be available for anyone who becomes a member for the next year at $10/month. Visit fresnoland.org/donate to help local journalism thrive!

This Week in Fresnoland

Fresno City Council sued after Fresnoland investigation

Three months after a Fresnoland investigation, two government watchdog groups are suing the City of Fresno for allegedly violating California’s open meeting laws.

Before filing suit, ACLU and FAC sent Fresno a letter demanding the city stop crafting its annual budget in secret. However, Fresno City Attorney Andrew Janz brushed off the claim and doubled down on the city’s secret meetings.

“We’re disappointed that Fresno is choosing to keep its budget committee secret,” said David Loy, legal director at the First Amendment Coalition.

The investigation led by Fresnoland’s Omar Shaikh Rashad also examined the budget process used by all 10 of California’s largest cities. Omar found that only Fresno claims its budget committee is not required to follow the Brown Act.

City officials didn’t immediately respond to Fresnoland’s request for comment regarding the lawsuit.

Bitwise Industries co-founders surrendered to authorities and face years in prison if convicted. 

“They swindled investors,” U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert said, in this report by Crescensio Rodriguez-Delgado and Esther Quintanilla for KVPR. Bitwise co-founders Irma Olguin Jr. and Jake Soberal surrendered to federal authorities last week. Multiple agencies have charged them with deliberately fabricating bank statements; lying to investors by inflating Bitwise’s revenues, cash balances and property holdings; using their buildings as collateral for loans, and providing false financial information to their board of directors. Both pleaded not guilty and face up to 20 years in prison, if convicted.

For further context, note this second report by Esther Quintanilla about how unsustainable the Bitwise business model actually was, according to Will Dyck, the landlord of all three of the Bitwise buildings in Fresno.

Crossroads Village will be converted into affordable housing. Do you qualify?  

The project, located at Blackstone and Dakota Avenues, was first fashioned into emergency rapid rehousing in 2020 with the help of Project Homekey funds, but will now become permanent housing, Pablo Orihuela writes. Since 2020, owners UPholdings have received nearly $60 million for the project from various local programs in Fresno County. The units will be available to those Fresnans who make 30% of the area’s median income, which The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reports as $79,400.

How can you get help? Well, it’s not an application process, but rather a selective process called Coordinated Entry, a HUD mandated system which is run by the Fresno Madera Continuum of Care (FMCoC).

Anyone experiencing homelessness or seeking housing would go to any of their access sites (full list on their website) and request navigation services, whereby a designated navigator would assess the situation and guide the individual to their best options for housing. 

Designed with equity in mind, Coordinated Entry tries to prioritize those with greatest need, assist in proportion to that need and refuse those who don’t qualify or don’t qualify enough. “…Considering the unbelievable amount of people who need help, we attempt to have some equity in the process and not let someone in that maybe doesn’t need it quite as much as someone else,” Katie Wilbur, member at large for FMCoC, said.

An unbelievable, staggering amount of people really do need help; the California Housing Project’s annual Affordable Housing Needs report found that renters need to earn $25.23 per hour (1.6 times the minimum wage) to afford the average monthly rent of $1,312.   

Housing insecure students are far more likely to be suspended than others, report finds. 

The EdSource report by Mallika Seshadri says that California school districts are more likely to suspend students in precarious living situations, per a report by the UCLA Civil Rights Project and the National Center for Youth Law. These situations include homeless students, but also foster youth. 

Inequity is also apparent across racial lines: for every 100 Black foster youth enrolled, 121 days were lost, while homeless Black youth lost 69 days of instruction. Homeless students overall missed 26 days. Students with disabilities lost 23.8 school days per 100, a rate higher than the general population. 

The report shows a variability in suspension rates from district to district. At Kern High School District, 23.3 days of instruction have been lost per 100 students, while in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), only 0.7 days of instruction were lost. What accounts for this discrepancy?

Back in October, Fresnoland reported that Fresno Unified, the third largest school district in California with 70,000 students, suspended homeless students at twice the rate of other students. 

Fresno Unified teachers scored a salary deal compared to other local school districts.

Speaking of school, we have a story from Fresnoland’s Juliana Morano about the result of the strike negotiations: Fresno Unified teachers wages will grow 16% by 2026, and their starting and maximum salaries will surpass what’s currently offered at other large districts in Fresno County. There are additional bonuses activating across the span of years, and ultimately the average teacher will have a salary over $105,000.

Fresno Unified pays teachers on a salary schedule: the longer you stay the more you make. Starting, teachers will make $65,414.22 by 2026, and if teachers work in the district for 14 years and obtain 75 postgraduate units, they’ll make $118,634.21. 

Previously the starting salary was closer to 56k and maxed out at just $104,631.74. Clovis offers a lower starting salary at $60,822 – as someone who grew up in Fresno, I am ecstatic about this news: eat it Clovis – and a max of $116,907. Central Unified is even lower at $57,263 starting, but has a higher ceiling than Covis at $108,591.

Outside the Lines

A coalition is pitching the San Joaquin Valley to the California Jobs First Program. Per this Fresno Bee report from Erik Galicia and John Holland, a potential $600 million from the program could be earned and invested in the valley. The state is awarding funds to 13 regions, and some of them have banded together: Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties are working under the name North San Joaquin Valley coalition, or North Valley Thrive while Fresno, Madera, Tulare and Kings counties have banded together under the Central San Joaquin Valley coalition. 

More trouble in Fresno State’s Title IX program: a story from Robert Kuwada at The Fresno Bee lays out some chilling claims from an affidavit.
I have two KVPR stories for you today: this one about Fresno’s Hindu community observing Diwali, and another about the potential of cannabis to combat the opioid crisis.

Block Beat

CLOVIS: The new Clovis Senior Activity Center officially opens on Nov. 20. There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony on Nov. 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Twitter

DOWNTOWN FRESNO: The free FresnoHOP trolleys began service on Nov. 9. Twitter

PARKWAY DRIVE: Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula presented a $1 million check of state funds on Tuesday for nonprofit Live Again Fresno to purchase land for a new community center to serve unhoused children and families, according to a press release.

CENTRAL FRESNO: Desk to Dusk, a woman-owned work and occasion wear storefront, had its grand opening over the weekend at 4774 N Blackstone Ave. Instagram

FRESNO STATE: A new Habit Burger location has opened up on campus. KMPH

Department of New Construction

EAST SUNNYSIDE: The California Armenian Home has filed a development permit to expand their footprint.

COPPER RIVER: A vesting tentative tract map has been filed to build a 194 lot single-family residential subdivision near Willow Avenue and Silaxo Road.

Around Town

I learned from the @FresnoFAX that there’s an Aerozone Trampoline Park on Ashlan and Cedar. Park hours are Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. Children under 12 can ride FAX for free. Twitter

SCCD has a career fair Thursday at the Guarantee Savings Building starting at 5:30 p.m. Downtown Fresno

Also, @Strummers has the GIMME GIMME DISCO party, which celebrates Abba, Donna Summer, BeeGees and, y’know, all things disco. Check it out this Friday. Instagram

Next Week in Public Meetings

Support our nonprofit journalism.


Your contribution is appreciated.

Tommy is the author of Toplines, the Fresnoland newsletter curating the top stories in the Central Valley. He thinks he's very funny.