On Thursday, Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larson turns 80. Besides being a notable birthday, it’s also the day Larson said he’d announce whether he’d run again for his District 1 seat.
If Larson calls it a career, it will almost certainly be a hotly contested race next June.
Already, Kerman dairyman Brian Pacheco has filed official documents with the Fresno County clerk’s office that start the process to raise money and campaign for the seat.
So, either Pacheco is ready to challenge Larson, or he knows something about Larson’s plans that haven’t been publicly divulged. The answer is unknown because Pacheco didn’t return a call seeking comment.
Whatever the case, Pacheco — a former Fresno County Farm Bureau president — filed a Candidate Intention Statement and a Statement of Organization.
Larson’s decision could set the stage for a major shakeup on the five-member board. If he doesn’t run, it will mean two of the five board seats will be up for grabs with no incumbent seeking re-election.
Last month, Sanger resident Judy Case announced that she’ll step down from her District 4 seat.
Riverdale farmer Ernest “Buddy” Mendes, 57, and Fowler Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Parra, 48, have both indicated they’ll run for the seat, though only Mendes has filed paperwork with the clerk’s office.
This week, they were joined by a third potential candidate — former Reedley Council Member Steve Rapada.
In 2011, Rapada resigned his Reedley council seat after it was discovered he moved out of the district he represents.
Like Mendes and Pacheco, Rapada has also filed official paperwork.
His entry brings to three the number of people saying they want to succeed Case, but many more are expected. A dozen names are currently being floated of people who are interested in the seat.
The millions of dollars that Gov. Jerry Brown is giving to counties to manage the state’s prisoner surplus is bypassing the watch of county boards of supervisors. And some counties don’t like this.
The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors this week passed a resolution vowing to exercise final say over its share of so-called prison realignment funds, despite what Brown’s realignment policy calls for, reported Brad Branan of The Sacramento Bee.
The realignment policy dictates that panels of law-enforcement and social service officials divvy out the cash. It’s a change from the way funds are normally distributed: through elected county boards of supervisors, which oversee just about all county matters.
The Board of Supervisors in Fresno County is also raising questions about the change.
“There is a problem when supervisors cannot participate in the deliberative process,” said Supervisor Andreas Borgeas. “We are virtually irrelevant here.”
The 1½-year-old realignment policy, which has been no stranger to controversy, has put counties in charge of thousands of felons who were formerly managed by the state in an effort to reduce California’s prison population. The state is compensating counties accordingly.
The money, however – about $28 million next year for Sacramento County and about $25 million for Fresno County — is being routed in an unprecedented fashion.
The panels set up under the realignment, called Community Corrections Partnerships, decide how to spend the state funds and county supervisors then vote on the spending plan, but in a way that deprives supervisors of any real power. The supervisors need a four-fifths vote to reject the plan; in other words, only two votes are needed for approval.
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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.
It’s hard to get a straight answer from Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larson when you ask him if he wants another term on the board.
He’s in his third term now. He’ll turn 81 before next year’s November election. And though he hasn’t publicly talked about his future, some think he’s ready to leave politics.
But in what might be his clearest admission yet, Larson has scheduled a fundraiser –- for what else other than a re-election campaign.
The event is Feb. 13.
“I’m the supervisor and I’m going to stay here, and I’m going to stay here a while,” he said.
Larson’s latest campaign filings show he has no debt to pay off and some $50,000 in the bank.
The Kerman resident has been a big supporter of agriculture and has been active in the Republican Party. He represents Fresno County’s rural west side.
Last year at this time, local businessman Larry Fortune was running for Fresno County supervisor and churning out campaign literature calling his opponent Andreas Borgeas — you may want to close your ears — a “liberal.”
Borgeas, a conservative, shot back, labeling Fortune a desperate career politician. The race got ugly. Feelings got hurt.
But this month Borgeas, in one of his first moves as the new supervisor, is seeking to mend fences with his old rival by appointing him to a key county commission.
“I think it’s important that we put the campaign behind us, as fierce and as competitive as it was,” Borgeas said.
The supervisor said he asked Fortune to apply for a seat on the Civil Service Commission, a panel that helps resolve employee-employer disputes.
Fortune obliged, and Borgeas said he’ll seek approval for Fortune at the next Board of Supervisors meeting.
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.