Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Patterson, Bigelow seek audit of high-speed rail land acquisition

A pair of freshman GOP lawmakers from the Valley want the Legislature to examine how the California High-Speed Rail Authority is going about getting the property it needs for right of way.

Jim Patterson

Frank Bigelow

Assembly Members Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, and Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals, submitted their request to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. The pair want to know what policies or safeguards are in place to ensure that property owners receive fair offers for their land, and whether there is a process for landowners to appeal appraisal values before eminent domain or condemnation takes place.

Like many other Republican legislators, Patterson and Bigelow have been outspoken critics of the rail agency and its plans in the San Joaquin Valley. As a member of the Madera County Board of Supervisors, Bigelow was among a board majority that voted to sue the rail authority last year over environmental approval of  the Merced-Fresno section. The authority hopes to begin construction on the first 30-mile stretch of the planned statewide rail system, from northeast of Madera to the south end of Fresno, later this summer. But the authority can’t build on land if it doesn’t own the property.

“We cannot allow the authority to continue a reckless, headlong pursuit of high-speed rail that results in taking as much property as they can for the least amount of compensation,” Patterson said in a joint statement he issued Tuesday with Bigelow. “Private property owners nee to be treated fairly and adequately compensated for the loss of their land and business.”

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Gov. Brown appoints Nevarez to Bigelow’s Madera Co. Supervisor seat

Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday appointed Manuel Nevarez to replace the departed Frank Bigelow on the Madera County Board of Supervisors.

Nevarez, a Madera resident, will face re-election in June 2014. That is when Bigelow’s current term expires.

Bigelow, of O’Neals, won a seat last November in the state Assembly.

Nevarez has been an account executive at PMAC Lending Services Inc. since 2010 and owner of ACN Inc. since 2008. He is registered as “no party preference,” which used to be known as “decline-to-state.”

But between 2007 and last September, he was registered as a Republican. Through the early part of last decade, he was registered as decline to state.

Bigelow is a Republican, and the district — which covers places such as Madera Ranchos and Yosemite Lakes Park — leans GOP.

In addition to his work in the financial sector, Nevarez is a member of the Madera Community Action Network and chairman of the Madera Unified School District Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee.

The position, which does not require state Senate confirmation, pays $71,515 per year.

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: Big money political interests again weigh in on Bigelow-Oller Assembly race

It’s seems there’s a lot of wealthy groups and individuals in California who really want Madera County Republican Frank Bigelow to win the 5th Assembly District seat. Or, just as likely, they want Calaveras County Republican Rico Oller to lose.

Or both.

Leading up to the June primary, a group called the Mother Lode Taxpayers Association Political Action Committee For Bigelow Assembly 2012 was formed, and then raised $235,000 to support Bigelow and oppose Oller.

Almost all the cash came from the California Dental Association Independent Expenditure Political Action Committee and the California Real Estate Independent Expenditure Committee.

The November general election has now brought an even bigger boost for Bigelow.

It is another independent expenditure, this time from the California Senior Advocates League. The group has raised more than $1.7 million this year, of which it appears more than $300,000 went to support Bigelow and, mostly, to oppose Oller.

The group has weighed in on several state Assembly and Senate races around the state in addition to Bigelow-Oller, as well as giving money to a few other organizations such as the Inland Empire Taxpayers Association.

As with the primary election Mother Lode IE, the California Dental Association is a huge contributor to the California Senior Advocates League, as is Republican Charles Munger Jr.

Munger has garnered a huge amount of publicity because he’s contributed millions to defeat Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative, Proposition 30, and to support Proposition 32, an initiative that would limit the political clout of unions in California.

A group called Reform California Now has also contributed close to $1 million to California Senior Advocates League.

Among the contributors to Reform California Now are the California Real Estate Independent Expenditure Committee, California Farm Bureau, Chevron Corp. and Philip Morris USA.

It appears a good part of the cash in the Bigelow-Oller race is going toward radio advertisements, though mailers have also been purchased.