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.

Appointed Fresno Co. clerk Orth says she’ll seek election to post

Brandi Orth has been around elected officials for a long time. Now, she’s going to try and become one herself.

Orth, 57, announced Wednesday that she will seek the post next year of Fresno County Clerk, a job best known for voter registration and overseeing county elections, but one that comes with other tasks as well, including conducting civil marriage ceremonies.

Fresno County Clerk Brandi Orth

And, yes, it’s true: Orth already holds the job.

But she was appointed — and not elected — by a unanimous vote of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors in January 2012. Her selection came a week after former Clerk Victor Salazar unexpectedly resigned.

At the time, Orth was a policy analyst who worked for the county administrative officer — a position that worked closely with the five elected supervisors. Before that, Orth worked for a decade in the clerk’s office.

“I realized all the work experience and career path had prepared me for this job,” she said Wednesday at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in downtown Fresno after being introduced by Supervisor Phil Larson.

So this will be Orth’s first run for elected office.

Still, she had to hit the ground running after her appointment, as 2012 was a presidential election year. This year — normally a quiet off year in the election cycle — has proved to be equally busy, with three unscheduled elections.

The big question in whether Orth will get face any challengers for the post, which currently pays $121,442 annually.

Like Orth, Salazar was appointed to the post to replace Susan Anderson, who left the office after winning a seat on the county Board of Supervisors.

That was in January 2001.

The next year, Salazar had an opponent — and beat him. But in 2006 and 2010 re-election bids, Salazar was unopposed.

On eve of Larson announcement, candidate emerges for his supervisor seat

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.

Brian Pacheco

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.

Phil Larson

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.

Supervisor Larson shows interest in another four years in office

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.