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 spar over how to deal with city

Not only are the city of Fresno and the county struggling to get along, but county leaders are now at odds over how to deal with the city.

Incoming Fresno County Supervisor Andreas Borgeas, the former city councilman, proposed this week the creation of a joint city-county task force to try to settle common issues that the two sides don’t agree on – building a new animal shelter or high-speed rail or regional growth. Pick a topic.

Sound simple? It wasn’t.

The plan garnered just one supporter at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting –- Judy Case — and perhaps more tellingly, the plan gave the new supervisor a preview of the pushback he’s apt to get from his veteran colleagues over the next four years.

Supervisors Phil Larson and Debbie Poochigian said they’d seen task-force ideas like this tried before without success: “We’ve kind of been there and done that,” said Poochigian.

And Supervisor Henry Perea had a plan of his own, which Larson was quick to support: demand the city drop its lawsuit against the county (over development) before any discussion begins. “We’ll start the conversation there,” Perea said.

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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.