Opinion

By Bill McEwen

 

Fresno City Hall messed up big time Wednesday by skipping an important meeting of the State Lands Commission.

As a result, Mayor Lee Brand or someone from his team missed an opportunity to weigh in on the best location for a new entry to the San Joaquin River Parkway.

But instead of taking responsibility for the blunder, the mayor chose to cover his backside by blaming Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is the commission chairman.

“I am disappointed that the Lt. Governor came to Fresno to learn about this important community issue but didn’t give me, the City or the affected parties sufficient notice about the time or nature of the meeting,” Brand said in a written statement posted on the city’s website.

“I’m also disappointed that he and the State Lands Commission chose to insert themselves in our local decision-making process without soliciting and hearing all sides of the story. Neither Mr. Newsom nor anyone else on the Commission consulted with us about possible solutions we’re working on that could provide access at both locations.”

What Did Brand Want: An Engraved Invitation?

Actually, the commission posted the agenda on its website at 3 p.m. on Nov. 15, two weeks ahead of the meeting. And, in fact, anyone can sign up for the commission’s update service, which sends email notifications about upcoming meetings and other items.

Or you can get on the lieutenant governor’s email list. This is how GV Wire’s David Taub found out about the meeting. Other Fresno media, recognizing the local angle involving access to the Eaton Trail extension, covered the meeting as well. Apparently, the mayor wanted — or needed — an engraved invitation.

In addition, the mayor’s carefully worded statement masks the truth: The commission sent an email at 9:56 a.m. the day before the meeting alerting Brand and his chief of staff, Tim Orman, about the meeting and identifying the trail item.

Even if Brand’s and Orman’s schedules were fully booked for Wednesday, there are plenty of other people at City Hall who could have articulated the mayor’s preference for accessing the trail through Spano Park.

As it turned out, Newsom, along with the other two members of the commission board, unanimously recommended creating a parking lot at the end of River View Drive. Homeowners in the River View neighborhood vigorously oppose this access point, and so does City Hall.

It’s important to note that the commission’s recommendation involves just one of the 14 San Joaquin River Conservancy Board members. That board is scheduled to decide the trail access point at its Dec. 13 meeting. But who knows? That one vote could decide this hotly contested debate.

Lessons to Learn

As for Brand, I hope this experience is instructive.

One, ‘fess up to your mistakes.

Two, pick up the telephone. Just as the mayor of Fresno is busy so, too, is California’s No. 2 statewide office-holder.

Three, don’t blast Newsom and then say in the same news release that you hope to “develop a collaborative relationship with Mr. Newsom, both in his current role as the state’s lieutenant governor and in any future endeavors he may pursue.”

Talk about passive-aggressive.

Odds are pretty good that Newsom will be California’s next governor. Brand didn’t do himself — or Fresno residents — any favors by trying to paint himself as the victim in this situation.

Finally, Brand now knows how it feels to be overlooked.

Fresnans have debated the merits of citizens police advisory board since Alan Autry was mayor.

This year, when Brand made good on his campaign promise to create one, neither I nor anyone else at GV Wire received a heads-up about the news conference introducing the board members and the new independent police auditor.

The snub came despite the fact that I had asked the mayor’s spokesperson to be notified when the board members were publicly introduced.

Unlike the mayor, I’m not crying about it.

I should have found out about the news conference through other channels.

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