Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

A bit of England on Kern Street

I’m behind on my walking blog. Permit me to catch up.

Tuesday was full of outsourcing and taxi regulations. But I did find time for a 25-minute, one-mile walk after Council Member Clint Olivier’s taxi summit at the Holiday Inn-Fresno Airport. Three quick points:

1.) I headed north on Clinton Way-Clinton Avenue. That took me past the city’s Airport headquarters. City Hall is still looking for a director of aviation to replace Russ Widmar, who resigned in September. Kevin Meikle is the interim director.

I got a call several months ago from a former top City Hall administrator. His point: People who know how the inside of Fresno City Hall works — and who know the importance of managerial talent to the effective operation of an asset as complex as a good-sized airport — are keeping a close eye on this vacancy. He said filling it will be a test for City Manager Mark Scott and Mayor Ashley Swearengin.

2.) I made it to Winery Avenue, then headed back to Holiday Inn. I passed a man at a bus stop. He had a walking stick. I occasionally see people with walking sticks, but this stick was eye-catching: A bit over four feet in length, thick but not too heavy, a painted billiard ball on top.

“Nice walking stick. Where’d you get it?” I said.

“I made it,” he said. “Make ‘em for sale, too.”

“How much for something like this one?”

“Oh, about $50.”

His name is Craig Tinker. He’s a Navy vet, turns 61 next month. Seemed pleasant enough. 289-5311.

3.) I made it to Holiday Inn. Two taxi-cab operators were in the parking lot, 30 minutes after Olivier’s summit ended. They were still talking about how the city regulates their business.

One thing came through loud and clear at Olivier’s summit: The pay-for-a-ride business is deceptively complex.

On one hand, you’ve got a government that has good reason to regulate the industry from top to bottom. The public’s well-being is one reason. Another is the need to maximize city revenue through fees, taxes, assessments, etc.

On the other hand, you’re talking about the motorized equivalent of herding cats. As Olivier said, anyone with a car, a portable “taxi” sign for the car roof, and no qualms about ignoring the law can become a “pirate” cabbie.

One of the cabbies at the summit said the rogues print small advertisements and tape them over the men’s urinals at bars.

That was Tuesday. I had a bit more walking time on Wednesday.

* I headed south on G Street shortly after 1 p.m. on my way to City Hall. I turned east on Tulare Street just in time for a Union Pacific train: four engines and over a hundred cars. I had a long wait.

The procession of box cars had just started when a guy came up on a bicycle. He decided he couldn’t bear to get off his bike and wait. So, he slowly rode in a tight circle.

But he does it not on my side of the lowered, flashing safety gate but on the train side! There are two sets of train tracks here. The train is on the tracks farthest from us. Still, only about 13 feet separate the two sets.

This guy rode back and forth along the unused tracks. He wasn’t the smoothest of cyclists. I could just see his tires getting caught in the tracks’ groove and tumbling into the train.

The guy insisted on crossing at the very instant that last boxcar passed him — inches to spare. Off he went, east on Tulare, at a speed only slightly faster than my pace.

* I had an armful of litter as I approached Fulton Mall at Tulare. There’s a trash can on the mall next to Los Panchos Mexican restaurant, on the north side of Tulare. There also are a half-dozen news boxes.

I’m tempted to say newspaper vending machines, but these contain no newspapers and you don’t pay to get their contents. These boxes are home to free advertisements — entertainment and real estate brochures, for the most part.

That’s fine. I’m in the newspaper business. I love the First Amendment.

But the area around these boxes was a mess. There were about a half-dozen copies of “Real Estate Showcase” scattered on the mall. Each copy had sixteen pages. The wind had messed them up. An ugly site for Victor Gruen’s masterpiece of an urban mall.

I picked up the litter and tossed it into the trash can. What most bothered me was to see another nine copies of “Real Estate Showcase” on top of one of the news boxes.

The distributor must have thought: I’ll just set 15 or 20 copies up here, in plain sight, and be on my way. Mall shoppers will eat ‘em up.

I thought: Those nine copies won’t be on that box for long. They’ll end up in the hands of potential homebuyers in the next 10 minutes or be scattered by the wind in front of Los Ponchos.

I was tempted to take the nine and toss them in the trash can, in part to save some Clean Gene from having to pick them as litter up later in the day, in part to send a message to the distributor who apparently had given no thought to the consequences of his actions.

But that might get me in trouble. The distributor would probably cry “Injustice!” So, I took one of the nine copies and left the other eight to the wind’s mercy.

* On to City Hall. I chatted with Olivier in his office. He and Chief of Staff Claudia Ruiz were busy translating the Taxi Summit into City Hall action. Olivier said he’s got three big District 7 projects on his plate: Taxi regulatory reform, a Massage Parlor Ordinance and getting the Martin Ray Reilly Park at Chestnut/Highway 180 built.

* I made a call to Council Member Lee Brand. Look for Brand at Thursday’s council meeting to pull item 1-A from the consent calendar for further discussion. The item deals with the City of Fresno pension systems’ comprehensive annual financial reports.

Brand doesn’t smell trouble. But any government defined-benefit pension program these days merits close watching.

* I headed west on Kern Street, past the New Exhibit Hall toward the mall. There was action at the Hotel Virginia, across from the Downtown Club. Susan Gonzales was busy knocking out a wall in an empty ground-floor store-front. Give her another 10 days or so, Gonzales said, and she’ll open her new Kern Street Gift Shoppe at the site.

“We’ll have a little bit of everything,” said Gonzales, who already runs a gift shop at the nearby Radisson Hotel. “We’ll concentrate in the beginning on corporate gifts and adjust once we see what the market wants.”

The site’s tall windows have a British feel, Gonzales said. Hence the use of “shoppe.”

* Time to head back the newsroom. I figured I’d get in about three miles of walking.

I headed west on Kern Mall, then turned north on Fulton Mall. I was going to turn west at Tulare, but up ahead I noticed Los Panchos.

Sure enough, the area in front of the restaurant was blanketed by litter.

“Can’t be,” I said to myself.

It was — dozens of pages from “Real Estate Showcase” scattered along the mall’s east side. The trail of trash went on for 30 feet. It took so long to pick it all up that a kid walking by looked at me and did a double-take, as if to say “Are you nuts?”

Litter everywhere in Fresno’s downtown showcase and I’m the crazy one?!

I got back to the newsroom and opened my copy of “Real Estate Showcase.” Page 2 doesn’t identify the distributor. But it did note that “Real Estate Showcase” is published for The Fresno Association of Realtors. It’s printed and produced by The Fresno Bee.



Benjamin says:

While you were walking down Winery (south from Clinton), you should have stopped in at The Discovery Center. This quiet, 6 acre park is the home of a Kids Science and Learning Center. It has a variety of reptiles, birds, and mammals for teaching. There is a distinquished cactus garden. The museum (which had been shut down for 12+ years after a fire and a “fight” with City Hall) has just re-opened and has lots of hands-on exhibits for the kids. The exhibits cover everything from aquatic life (river and sea), music, electricty, magnetism, Yokut Indian life, and more. For years, even the police that patrol this area didn’t know The Discovery Center was there. You missed a great opportunity to hang out, talk with the staff, and enjoy this beautiful place. Check it out sometime!

cg says:

Sounds like you had a nice walk. Do you ever walk down by E street, F street, G Street and H street and say Monterey or San Benito? Maybe you could do that and use the media coverage you gain by that to see if we can move the city in a right way to do something about the trash that is going on there. Its ridiculous. Be safe

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