Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson signs a tentative agreement with the Fresno Teachers' Association to avert a strike on Oct. 31, 2023. Credit: Julianna Morano / Fresnoland

Quote of the Week

“It’s been a tough start to the school year. Our students have been the innocent bystanders wading through the difficulties in negotiations, carrying that stress. You need to know that this deal is really about you.”

– Superintendent Bob Nelson joined Fresno Teachers Association President Manuel Bonilla to announce that the Fresno Teachers Association (FTA) and Fresno Unified had reached a tentative deal.

This Week in Fresnoland

Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson signs a tentative agreement with the Fresno Teachers’ Association to avert a strike on October 31, 2023. Credit: Julianna Morano / Fresnoland

And, we have a deal: strike averted!

The agreement is tentative, Julianna Morano writes for Fresnoland. Fresno Unified and the Fresno Teachers Association (FTA) made the announcement at a joint press conference at Fresno High School yesterday morning. The deal still requires approval from FTA membership, which we’ll learn more about later this evening. It includes a 21% increase in wages over the next three years, adjusted class size ratios for every grade level and updated guidelines for special education caseloads.

Until now, Fresno Unified planned to utilize 2,300 substitute teachers to help weather the strike. While FASTA, the union representing the subs voted unanimously to act in solidarity with the FTA – i.e. they voted to refuse to cross picket lines – flops prevailed when FASTA caved to pressure from the district.They said the union is “committed to honoring our contract with Fresno Unified School District.” They left the choice to cross the picket line up to the individual substitutes.

In other labor news, the California Faculty Association – which represents faculty, librarians, counselors, and other employees across the California State University system, including Fresno State – voted to authorize a strike, demanding higher wages and other workplace protections, reports the Associated Press. The CSU Board of Trustees will hear out the union’s proposal at their next meeting on Nov. 7.

Two powerful farming companies are locked in a multi-million legal battle in Fresno County Superior Court. Credit: Image by Von Balanon/Special for Fresnoland

One of the biggest farm families in Fresno finds itself in a nut mogul’s crosshairs.

This story by Gregory Weaver at Fresnoland is a behemoth of lawsuits, backroom deals and a pistachio empire. At the center of everything is a conflict between the Assemi family and Stewart Resnick, the biggest farmer in America. Resnick, whose scientists had cloned his top performing pistachio trees, gave his super trees to the Assemi family and, later, a $75 million loan. Resnik’s super pistachio tree shared investment in the Assemis gave him the impression that he had secured their loyalty – they would grow, he would process. 

Much to his chagrin, the Assemis planted their trees on land that did not belong to Resnick while other processors benefited from the fruits of those trees. Then the Assemi family sought to build their own nut processing plant. Resnick withheld their pistachio bonus – so the Assemi family withheld their nuts. Then they filed a lawsuit, which Resnick responded to with a countersuit.

The key legal question: did the Assemi family and Resnick have a handshake deal promising their pistachios to Resnick’s processing plants or not? 

Madera Community Hospital, with its signage removed, sits idle on a rainy February day. Four months have passed since the hospital closed its doors following a failed merger deal with the Trinity Health Corporation. Credit: Omar Rashad / Fresnoland

Madera Community Hospital will sell its farmland to help settle some debts.

After creditors asked for a competitive bidding process, the acres of farmland were sold to a raisin processing company for $730,000, Omar Shaikh Rashad reports for Fresnoland. Victor Packing beat out S&K Management in the bidding war. For what it’s worth, the land was originally appraised at just $140,658 and was nearly sold for $569,000 before the bidding war. The money will help settle Madera Hospital’s $15.4 million debt to Saint Agnes Medical Center. What is that, like $14.7 million to go? 

Meanwhile, Melissa Montalvo and Erik Galicia reported for The Fresno Bee on recent data that showed that Madera Community Hospital had a series of conduct violations, which peaked in 2020, leading state investigators to conclude “The hospital failed to have an effective Governing Body responsible for the conduct of the hospital.”

A new documentary screened at Tower Theatre addresses housing insecurity and addiction on Motel Drive.

In a rare feat of arts and entertainment journalism, Fresnoland is writing about a movie this week. The article, penned by Pablo Orihuela concerns a screening of Motel Drive, a documentary about the Shaw family, who lived in and out of Fresno’s Motel Drive – a strip of rundown hotels and inns that Councilmember Miguel Arias likened to a redlight district. The Tower screening was hosted by Live Again Fresno (a non-profit aiming to support at-risk youth living in Motel Drive) and Pigeon Vision Productions.

Has car sharing really come to Fresno?

The Clean Share Mobility program, developed by the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce, provides environmentally-friendly electric vehicles and bikes, Oscar Alexander reports (Fresnoland). The cars can travel 259 miles on a single charge while the bikes can have their batteries easily swapped out. Vehicle wise, the program has 40 Chevrolet Bolts on hand, though they’re interested in expanding into the wild world of Tesla. All of this comes courtesy of the California Climate Investment grant, which gave the Chamber $7.7 million. 

Interested? There are six outreach hubs in the city, and their contact information is in the story. Even more locations are in the works. You can also email Fresno Housing for more information.

Outside the Lines

Note this write-up about an Economic Opportunities Commission’s (EOC) Weatherization Day: the EOC wants to assist low-income Fresno residents with repairs and energy efficiency. Speaking of homes: if you’ve ever been curious who owns your rental property, the San Francisco Chronicle has a tool for that.

Oh, and an anonymous complaint was filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission regarding Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias not reporting a private plane trip with the owner of Mid Valley Disposal – and didn’t recuse himself from a decision involving a contract with the company. ABC30

Block Beat

SOUTH TOWER: A community garden at Poplar and Belmont Avenues is blooming with cempasúchil (marigold) flowers in time for Dia De Los Muertos. Fresno Bee

SOUTHWEST: After Tupman Park’s new play area officially opened last fall, the park now boasts a new ADA compliant picnic area with a table, barbecue and trash can. Also! The final trees of a 420-tree urban forest project were planted this week. Instagram

DOWNTOWN: Reclaim Technologies, founded by former Bitwise employees, officially opened their business in the former Bitwise South Stadium building on Van Ness.

FIG GARDEN: No more potholes? The Fresno City Council approved $149,000 for road repairs on Shaw Avenue between Fruit and Palm Avenues at their meeting last Thursday.

REEDLEY COLLEGE: The university is starting a nursing assistant program aimed at English language learners. ABC 30

CLOVIS: Another Eureka! Location is opening at 950 Herndon Ave. in Clovis. While the menu is familiar, each Eureka! spot has local craft breweries and spirits from local distilleries. The Business Journal

Department of New Construction

FANCHER CREEK: Dutch Bros has officially filed a conditional use permit to open a new store at Kings Canyon and Phillips Avenues.

MAYFAIR: A conditional use permit was filed for a new eight-unit apartment building is proposed across the street from Yosemite Middle School on Ninth Street.

SOUTHWEST: A 84-lot single-family subdivision map was proposed on the west side of Crystal Avenue south of Kearney Boulevard.

Around Town

Fresno EOC LGBTQ will showcase multicultural tables dedicated to their Honor Our Ancestors event at Art Hop on Thursday, Nov. 2 from 5 – 9 p.m on Fulton Street. Instagram

Do you have a teen who’s a little bit indie and artsy? The Central Fresno County Public Library is hosting a Teen Zine Workshop on Saturday, Nov. 4. Zines are like mini magazines of art, writing, collage, etc. Downtown Fresno

Pierce the Veil, an emo-punk band popular with the boys I was trying to impress back in high school, is coming to the Fresno Convention Center on Nov. 5. Fresno Convention & Entertainment Center

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.