Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Fresno supes continue stumbling in effort to make First 5 opposition official

Fresno County Supervisors Judy Case and Debbie Poochigian again this week made it clear that they are opposed to First 5 Fresno County’s plan to build a new $15 million downtown headquarters.

The issue was so pressing, they said, that an emergency addition was needed to Tuesday’s board agenda so they could discuss the matter further and make absolutely certain that County Administrative Officer John Navarrette sent a letter to the agency expressive the concerns of the board’s majority.

Supervisor Judy Case

But the request required four votes on the five-member board — and it only got three. Besides Case and Poochigian, Supervisor Phil Larson also backed adding the item to the agenda.

Supervisors Andreas Borgeas and Henry R. Perea, however, didn’t feel Case and Poochgian made their case for the last-second addition.

“What’s the emergency?” Perea repeatedly asked.

County Counsel Kevin Briggs backed that position, saying an emergency was like a fire or a flood. This, he said, was more like an urgency than an emergency.

But Case continued to press the matter, saying it was, indeed, an emergency because First 5 commissioners were moving ahead with the project, even after the supervisors expressed its dissatisfaction with the building.

Poochigian and Case have written to the commission with their concerns, but they both wanted an official letter on behalf of the Board of Supervisors.

The problem is that during an exhaustive discussion of the matter at its Oct. 8 meeting, Case offered up multiple motions opposing the First 5 building, but none of them specifically directed staff to draft and send a letter.

Supervisor Debbie Poochigian

Navarrette pointed out as much on Tuesday.

In fact, its unclear what the board approved because two similar but different motions were offered up ahead of the vote, which passed 3-1, with Perea in opposition and Borgeas abstaining.

The First 5 project will be built on agency-owned property along Tulare Street, between N and O streets, adjacent to the Fresno County Library. It is currently a parking lot. The building will include a child care center, classroom space and a community conference room in addition to First 5’s administrative offices.

Case, Poochigian and Larson think the building isn’t a wise use of funds for the agency.

The issue certainly isn’t over. The matter is already an official agenda item for the board’s Tuesday meeting, and the supervisors are likely to resume their criticism of the project — and, this time, maybe officially direct Navarrette to draft a letter saying as much to the agency.

Fresno County supervisors wrangle over federal politics

Fresno County’s wish-list for Washington, which county supervisors write up every year, probably has about zero impact on federal policy.

But the annual exercise of drafting the requests is worth something if you have doubts about where your supervisor stands politically.

During this week’s discussion of the list, incoming Supervisor Andreas Borgeas added comprehensive immigration reform to the five pages of county advocacy, which are mostly made up of mundane principles such as investment in local infrastructure and funding flexibility.

This is “a big deal” for the agricultural community, Borgeas said.

Supervisors Judy Case and Debbie Poochigian successfully pushed another hotly debated amendment: they struck “undocumented” and “homeless” from an advocacy statement for health services.

“What about the small business owner?” Case said. “I think there are a lot of people who fall through the cracks. These aren’t the only groups.”

Supervisor Henry Perea struck back: “It’s important to me that we leave that in there.”

Perea and Poochigian also jousted over high-speed rail. Poochigian wanted to revisit the county’s support for the project, but Perea didn’t.

“We’re in the implementation phase now,” Perea said. “Why are we still debating high-speed rail?”

The advocacy list was approved by supervisors and is on its way to the county’s lobbyist in D.C. and federal lawmakers — if not the Capitol Hill recycling bin.

Political Notebook: No TV in 5th Assembly race and other quick hits as Election Day nears

A few tidbits and quick hits as Election Day closes in:

The 5th Assembly District sprawls across all or parts of nine counties in the western Sierra foothills, across the highest peaks and over to the Nevada border.

There’s tons of square miles, and no real big cities.

So how does a candidate reach voters? Not by television, it seems, at least not during the general election.

Calaveras County businessman Rico Oller and Madera County Supervisor Frank Bigelow are passing up TV in favor of radio, lots of radio, as well as mailers, to get their message to voters.

“TV for that district is nearly impossible,” said said political analyst Tony Quinn, a former GOP legislative aide and co-editor of California Target Book, a nonpartisan analysis of legislative and congressional races.

The main TV markets are Fresno and Sacramento — or even Reno — but they only cover parts of the district. It’s not much bang for the buck, Quinn said.

Both Oller and Bigelow have purchased radio spots on stations in Bishop, Sonora, Fresno, Modesto, Merced, Jackson, Mammoth Lakes and Stateline and Reno in neighboring Nevada.

It’s hard to get all seven Fresno City Council members to agree on much of anything, but it appears they’ve come together on State Center Community College District trustee Richard Caglia.

Lee Brand, Andreas Borgeas, Blong Xiong, Larry Westerlund, Sal Quintero, Oliver Baines and Clint Olivier have all endorsed Caglia for reelection over challenger Kevin Hall in District 7 on the State Center board.

A few weeks ago Fresno County Supervisor Debbie Poochigian not only announced her endorsement of Jim Patterson over Bob Whalen in the 23rd Assembly District race, she also sent her constituents a letter urging them to support the former Fresno mayor as well.

Now, we know how much that cost.

Patterson’s latest campaign finance report shows Poochigian spent $3,635.52 on postage, envelopes and letters.

Otto Lee, the Bay Area Democrat who is challenging incumbent Republican Devin Nunes in the 22nd Congressional District, is now a Clovis resident.
Lee, a lawyer and former City Council member and mayor of Sunnyvale, had lived in the Bay Area during the primary. But this week his campaign said he was a Clovis resident.

Fresno County elections officials confirmed Lee changed his voter registration from Sunnyvale to a Clovis apartment in June.

Political Notebook: Supervisor Poochigian throws cash at Fresno County privatization measure

Fresno County’s least-known ballot measure in the coming election finally got an ounce of publicity, thanks to county Supervisor Debbie Poochigian.

Poochigian bankrolled a slew of mailers to county households this week, urging voters to support Measure O –- which would make it easier for the county to outsource government services.

The longtime Republican, who has been a strong advocate for privatizing county jobs as a way to reduce government spending, led efforts to get Measure O on the ballot.

Prior to the mailers, however, little had been said or done about the initiative since it was drafted last summer.

“If you support something and you believe in something, you got to put your money where your mouth is,” Poochigian said on Friday.

Financial reports due this week show that the supervisor’s campaign, through Oct. 20, spent $3,635 on the “Yes on O” mailers. That’s a drop in the bucket for Poochigian, whose campaign has more than a half million dollars in the bank, according to county records.

Labor groups have quietly opposed Poochigian’s initiative. But union officials said this week they, too, planned to spend money on the issue: $8,000 on mailers that both go against Measure O and stand in support of Measure B, the county’s library tax extension.

The local chapter of Service Employees International Union maintains that privatization decisions should not be easy for county leaders to make, arguing that politics in the near term can result in bad policy in the long run.