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.
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.
On Monday, Fresno County Supervisor Judy Case said she wouldn’t seek re-election next year. In less than a day, rumors began swirling about those who were thinking about running for the seat.
By Wednesday, the rumor mill had churned out close to a dozen names. But so far, only one person had taken the first official step toward a run — Riverdale farmer Ernest “Buddy” Mendes.
He’s already formed an official exploratory committee. The paperwork is on file with the Fresno County Elections office.
Mendes, 57, said he’s thinking about running because he feels he can give the county effective representation.
He farms cotton, wheat, alfalfa, corn and pistachios and has land on both the Valley’s east and west sides. He also has a long history of public service, including the Riverdale Unified School Board (since 1993), the Southwest Transportation Agency Board (since 1996), and the Riverdale Public Utility District (since 1994). In 2011, he also served on the county’s Redistricting Task Force.
Mendes, however, says running for county supervisor is a big step up from those posts, one that would include significant campaigning and fundraising.
Case represents District 4, which covers the southern part of Fresno County, including the towns of Sanger, Coalinga, Selma, Kingsburg, Huron, Orange Cove and Reedley, among others.
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.