Last fall, the Fresno City Council granted a media consultant a six-figure contract to engage the public on parks. Today (January 26), they took it away.

By a 4-2 vote, the council cancelled the $172,000 contract with Bertz-Rosa Strategy Creative. The move, city documents estimate, would save $150,000 (about $15,000 has already been billed to the city). The vote was led by new councilman Garry Bredefeld who felt the services Bertz-Rosa provided were duplicative and a waste of taxpayer money.

The original contract, awarded October 13, 2016, called for Bertz-Rosa to team with Fresno Building Healthy Communities and well-known Fresno PR firm Catalano Fenske & Associates to ask the public what type of parks they wanted.   That vote turned into a 90 minute debate, with councilman Steve Brandau grilling then-Mayor Ashley Swearengin (who testified in support of the contract) about the need of such services. Eventually, the council approved the deal 4-3.

Fast forward more than three months later. Lee Brand, who voted in favor of the contract, left the dais after being elected mayor. Bredefeld won election to the open seat, and spearheaded the move to cancel, along with councilwoman Esmeralda Soria. She also voted no back in the fall, citing that the money is best spent on the parks, rather than publicity about them.

During today’s council discussion, no representatives of Betz-Rosa, Catalano nor BHC were present. Bredefeld spoke passionately for nearly 10 minutes. “I think I know that people like parks and I know what they want in their parks. They want green space, they like a place for their children to play. Perhaps a basketball court or softball field. They also want their parks to be safe and they want their parks to be maintained. I don’t think we need to spend $200,000 to find that out. We probably all know that pretty well. To me, this has been a waste of money.”

Bredefeld was joined by the three who voted no last time around:  Soria, Brandau and Clint Olivier.

Paul Caprioglio and Luis Chavez voted no, wanting to keep the contract. Both cited that a deal already made by council should be respected.

E-mail David Taub

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