Update: This story includes an additional response from Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office that came in after the story was originally published.

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra has filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit attempting to reverse the approval of a major industrial project by Caglia Environmental.

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Politics 101

David Taub

In January, the Fresno City Council approved the 2.1 million-square-foot industrial development at Central and Orange avenues in south Fresno. A group called South Central Neighbors United sued, charging that the city failed to perform a proper environmental review (also known as CEQA).

Now, Becerra’s office wants in.

“This case is part of the Attorney General’s ongoing commitment to protecting low-income, disadvantaged communities that have historically borne the brunt of industrial pollution,” his office said in a statement.

“The industrial project which is the subject of the lawsuit is proposed to be located in a community suffering from high pollution. However, the facility was approved without adequate study of how the massive facility, including the 7,000 daily truck and automobile trips it will attract, will impact the local residents and schoolchildren attending the nearby elementary school.”

The Fresno Bee first reported the story Monday.

Becerra’s office did not address what motivated the intervention in this case. “We do not comment on our investigations, including sources,” his press office responded. He also declined, through his office, a GV Wire interview request.

When asked if the attorney general has been involved in similar suits before, his office said, “We have been involved in several CEQA-related matters, including submitting comment letters on environmental analysis and filing CEQA suits.”

The office sent GV Wire a link to the CEQA portion of his website. However, the most recent case mentioned took place in 2016, before Becerra became attorney general.

It should be noted that his wife, Dr. Carolina Reyes, was born and raised in Fresno.

Developer Richard Caglia said that the project positively serves Fresno residents.

“This development will provide jobs and economic opportunities that this lawsuit claims that it will harm and holds our neighbors hostage from improving their lives and off of welfare and back to work,” Caglia said in a statement. “I believe that the interest groups involved, and the unusual intervention of the Attorney General’s office also want the same thing, so I hold hope of working on an amicable solution together.”

Fresno County Superior Court Judge Mark Snauffer will consider the attorney general’s motion July 12.

Brand Delivers State of the City

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand joked at the start of his State of the City speech that he hoped his speech was updated from last year. His humor didn’t stray far from the truth.

The annual event hosted by the Chamber of Commerce drew political and business elites. Brand followed his usual formula during his 25-minute speech: thanking a long list of names, providing optimism on the city’s finances and public safety, while touting his accomplishments.

The mayor promised new initiatives to combat human trafficking and homelessness. He talked about a plan to staff a special police task force to combat illegal marijuana and other drugs.

What Brand did not mention was that task force would be funded by potential tax revenue from the legal sale of cannabis in Fresno. Brand also didn’t share his thoughts on regulating cannabis sales, or the pending November ballot initiative to allow for such taxation.

While many in this town talk about parks, Brand did not. Supporters are gathering signatures to place a sales tax to benefit parks on the fall ballot.

Unlike prior comments on public safety, Brand did not mention his goal to reach 1,000 police. During budget hearings, Police Chief Jerry Dyer said 900 would meet his needs. Brand cited numerous metrics on how Fresno is becoming safer — fewer gang crimes and the fewest stolen cars in decades.

The effort to reduce homelessness teams up the city and Fresno County and will be called the Street 2 Home. Brand praised Fresno County Supervisor Sal Quintero for his support on forming the program.

The initiative is seeded by a combined $100,000 donation from Saint Agnes Medical Center and its chief executive officer, Nancy Hollingsworth, and the Edward and Jeanne Kashian Family Foundation, Brand told the crowd.

Hill’s Lead Increases

In the latest vote update for Fresno City Council District 3, Tate Hill increased his lead to six votes over Daren Miller, 768 to 762.

The winner will take second place in the vote and meet Miguel Arias in the November general election. If Miller and Hill finish tied, both men would advance making it a three-way election.

County Clerk Brandi Orth will issue final certification prior to the July 5 deadline. Any voter may request a potential recount five days after certification.

Miller said he is preparing for a recount.

Convicted Felon Loses in Mariposa County

Convicted felon Tony Amundson lost his bid to become the next Assessor/Recorder in Mariposa County. Amundson served time in the 1970s in Minnesota for second-degree murder. In the 1980s, he was imprisoned in California for assault and kidnapping.

Vincent Kehoe won the open seat with 66% of the vote.

Amundson works as an appraiser in the Fresno County assessor’s office.

Rivera-Hernandez Reconfirmed

The Senate Rules Committee today (June 20) reconfirmed Cathryn Rivera-Hernandez to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board for another five-year term. She has served since 2002.

Many members of Pick Justice, a farmworkers advocacy group, publicly opposed her reconfirmation.

The committee voted 3-1 to approve along party lines, with Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), who represents western Fresno County, voting no. Committee member Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto), who represents parts of Fresno, did not vote.

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