Quote of the Week

“What you deem as inappropriate — it is not up to you to decide for me; it is not up to a committee.”

–Michelle Gordon, who worked at Fresno County’s libraries for nine years until she resigned in September as a result of the county’s efforts to create a new oversight committee.

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This Week in Fresnoland

Could Fresno County’s new library review committee violate the First Amendment?

Fresno County Supervisor Steve Brandau led the charge this week to establish a new 11-person committee that can remove library books from the children’s section, Omar Shaikh Rashad reports for Fresnoland. The bylaws and guidelines this committee would abide by do not yet exist. However, we know from the supervisor’s comments that the books particularly at issue contain “complex and controversial gender issues.” Controversial not with the scientific, pediatric, or psychiatric communities but with Brandau and supporters.

While Brandau is adamant that the books won’t be removed from the library, that claim should be critically examined. A book that drew the committee’s ire would be summarily removed from the children’s section and placed in a separate section. Further, children wouldn’t be able to check out the removed book; a parent or guardian would have to do it for them.

Critics, including the ACLU, say the policy violates the First Amendment and will have a disparate impact on books about gender identity, sexual orientation, and reproductive health.

The City of Clovis is bending over backwards for the Assemis’ and their housing plan. 

Yesenia Amaro at The Fresno Bee learned from hundreds of emails that the city is cutting the Assemi family, the wealthy local developer behind Granville Homes, a series of deals for their proposed 250 single-family homes, 64 townhomes and up to 400 apartment units on Alluvial Avenue near Temperance. The trick? Zone the housing as student and faculty housing to support the nearby California Health Sciences University, a for-profit medical school also owned by the Assemis.

The development falls within the city’s 355-acre Research and Technology Park, which includes zones for research and technology uses, residential zoning to accommodate homes that predate the park’s creation, and mixed-use commercial zoning. The city has initiated zoning changes that expand the research and technology bits to absorb the mixed-use and residential zones. If the zones were strictly residential or mixed-use, other home builders could get in on the action. But since this is a special case where the homes are basically an aspect of the university, that means that the university has a strong say in who builds any of the housing.

Residents criticize effort to rezone part of southwest Fresno

Southwest Fresno residents this week slammed a proposal that would revert 60 acres at the corner of Elm and Annadale Avenues from mixed-use zoning back to allowing industrial uses, Fresnoland’s Gregory Weaver reports.

The southwest Fresno rezoning would enable industrial businesses to potentially expand their operations.

Residents said the southwest Fresno rezone proposal walks back one of the most essential parts of the Southwest Specific Plan, replacing industrial businesses with housing, a community college, or retail.

“The only way we will improve is if we get industrial out of our community,” said resident June Safford. “I want it to be businesses, new residential, or maybe a school. But I want industrial gone.”

But supporters say the Southwest Specific Plan’s complete move away from industrial zoning threatens the land values of the city’s recently developed industrial parcels. The rezone is needed, they said, because the neighborhood’s existing zoning “makes it really hard to lease out new tenants.”

Critics said the rezoning proposal fails to account for the long legacy of premature death in southwest Fresno. The lifespan in the area is 30 years less than Fresno’s wealthiest neighborhoods, according to UC Berkeley. Black women in southwest Fresno face infant mortality rates as high as North Korea, Algeria, and Iraq, according to U.S. government data.

More court cases for Ex-Bitwise CEOs Olguin Jr. and Soberal

In what the lawsuit describes as a “fraudulent scheme,” ex-CEOs Jake Soberal and Irma Olguin Jr. allegedly provided “false and fraudulent financial information” that did not reflect losses “likely to total in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” Tim Sheehan reports for The Fresno Bee. The suit is brought forward by former Bitwise directors Joseph Proietti and Ollen Douglass, who are asking the court to bar Scottsdale Insurance Company from footing the legal bills for Olguin and Soberal and former company President Bethany Mily. All three are facing a bunch of lawsuits and legal issues. Proietti and Douglass are also defendants in some suits, and they would like the court to entitle them to coverage under the $5 million Scottsdale policy.

The allegations are similar to those in the July case. The November lawsuit alleges that Soberal, Olguin, and Mily: “engaged in numerous acts of fraud … to the point that they ultimately destroyed the company … leaving hundreds of others to suffer consequences of their misdeeds.”

The Fresno Community Hospital’s request for federal aid?

Per Jesse Vad at SJV Water: The Community Regional Medical Center is one of several facilities owned and operated in Fresno and Clovis by Community Medical Centers, a non-profit. Supposedly, they need FEMA to run them $1.23 million for X-ray rooms, according to a FEMA data sheet that supplied information on more than 400 requests from various agencies.

While most requests are very normal given the flood conditions from last winter, this request struck SJV Water as strange – where are these X-ray rooms? What needs to be repaired? How were they damaged during the floods?

Outside the Lines

The Hop, Fresno’s new free trolley system, connects Fresno residents downtown courtesy of the nearly $300 million investment from California, The Hop will use three trolley buses to connect passengers to Fresno’s downtown, according to this story by Diego Vargas (Fresnoland).

Ninety-five percent of the California Faculty Association voted to authorize a strike of CSU faculty a week ago. Key issues include: a 12% pay increase, paid leave and other safety accommodations.  

Plus, homicides are down 50% from last year, reportedly making Fresno one of the safest cities in the U.S, according to the chief of police.

Block Beat

TOWER DISTRICT: Note the litter abatement and power washing schedule for the Tower District which will run through this week. Instagram

TOWER DISTRICT: Fresno City Councilmembers Miguel Arias and Annalisa Perea donated 80 bicycles this past weekend as part of their bicycle and helmet giveaway event to celebrate the completion of the Class IV protected bikeways in the Tower District. Instagram

EAST FRESNO: The Public Works Team has completed a number of slurry seal projects – preventative road maintenance measures throughout District 7. Instagram

CENTRAL FRESNO: Fifteen dead cedar trees have been removed from near Cedar and Ashlan Avenues. In the same area, irrigation system repairs, tree replacement and tree trimming are underway. Instagram

EAST FRESNO: The Fresno Animal Center is waiving adoption fees in celebration of National-Shelter Appreciation Week. Fee-waiving deals will last through Thursday, Nov. 9.

Department of New Construction

CENTRAL WEST: A plan amendment and rezone has been filed to convert county property to single-family, medium density residential on Ashlan Avenue, east of Bryan Avenue.

EAST SUNNYSIDE: A 30-lot single-family residential subdivision has been proposed on the south side of Belmont Avenue between Armstrong and Temperance Avenues.

PARKSIDE: The Golden Charter Academy has filed a development permit to build a new K-8 educational campus.

Around Town

The Wakehouse is hosting a harvest festival said to feature brunch, mimosas and music by DJ Toe Knee at 10 a.m. on Nov. 12. Thanksgiving-themed attire is encouraged, and I don’t know if that means buckle shoes or turkey costumes or what, but hey. Instagram

The annual Kearney Renaissance faire is this weekend from Nov. 11 – 12 at Kearney Park. Instagram

Also this weekend, the Central Valley Veterans Day Parade at Fresno City Hall. Opening ceremony is at 9:45 a.m. on Nov. 11. Instagram

And don’t forget about the Fulton Farmers Market, every Sunday including this Sunday Nov. 12. Downtown Fresno

Next Week in Public Meetings

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