Mark Standriff, the city of Fresno’s director of communications and public affairs, used a racial slur on Twitter on Sunday, when tweeting about the final College Football Playoff poll.

“Here’s what I’m most confused about on Selection Sunday – how does the Committee leave the MAC Champion 11-2 @ToledoRockets out of the final Top 25??? The Boise Factor has now adversely affected two of my favorite teams. #jipped.”

“Jipped” is considered a derogatory term against the Romani community. Some refer to them as “gypsies.”

Standriff serves as Mayor Lee Brand’s top spokesman when dealing with the media. He is a carryover from the prior administration, where he served as Ashley Swearengin’s spokesman beginning in 2014.

“My reaction is torn between sadness and anger,” says Morgan Ahern, founder of Lolo Diklo, a Seattle-based Romani activist group. She considers the term a slur.

“Why can’t you say someone cheated me or ripped me off?” Ahern tells GV Wire. “There is not another ethnic group he would get away saying that about. He would never say ‘they Jewed me down.’

As his Twitter feed indicates, Standriff is a sports fan. He is also a former resident of Toledo.

John Ellis, the city’s government affairs manager, liked the tweet.

Dictionary.com  says of the word:

(jip) in the meanings “to swindle” or “a person who swindles” is sometimes perceived as insulting to or by Gypsies, since it stereotypes them as swindlers. However, gyp has apparently never been used as a deliberate ethnic slur, and many people are unaware that it is derived from Gypsy.

Said Ahern: “I would like to see him apologize and give him a lesson on why ‘jip’ is not an acceptable term.”

University of Texas professor Ian Hancock, director of The Romani Archives and Documentation Center, told NPR in 2013:

“I encounter a lot of people who tell me that they never knew the word ‘gypped’ had anything to do with gypsies, or that it’s offensive — especially when the word is heard not read. My response to them is, That’s okay. You didn’t know but now you do. So stop using it. It may mean nothing to you, but when we hear it, it still hurts.”

Standriff did not return a call from GV Wire seeking an explanation for his use of the term.

How Should Fresno Fix Its Parks Problems?

The city of Fresno is floating its Parks Master Plan through two agencies this week. On Monday afternoon, the Airport Land Use Commission (an agency convened by the Fresno Council of Governments) gets the first crack.

The major takeaway from staff reports: The city needs to spend $5 million just to maintain parks it has now.

Other observations:

  1. An additional 1,113 park acres are needed to meet population needs.
  2. Parks are in “poor condition that suffer from lack of investment, lack of adequate maintenance, and public safety concerns due to inappropriate activities.”
  3. “Parks are highly valued.”

The city wants to use school and ponding basin sites and prioritize park renovation in areas short of parks.

The Fresno Planning Commission will hear the plan Wednesday (Dec. 6) and the City Council will take it up Dec. 14.

Afternoon update: the airport commission approved the plan.

Fire Department Settlement

The Fresno City Council meets in a special meeting Monday (Dec. 4). One item is on the agenda: a potential settlement in a lawsuit that pitted the North Central Fire Protection District against the city. The two parties have been at odds over the last year over a service agreement in effect since 2006.

The fire district covers areas of unincorporated Fresno west of Highway 99 through Kerman, serving 46,000 residents. The agreement allowed Fresno firefighters to help service and staff the district area. But, money got in the way, which led to the lawsuit.

If the council approves a settlement, the two agencies will agree on a temporary 18-month contract beginning Jan. 1. The city will receive monthly payments of $600,000.

Afternoon update: the council approved the new contact, 7-0.

Fulton Update

The city’s Capital Projects Oversight Board meets Monday night to receive an update on the Fulton Street project. According to city documents, change orders in contracts have increased costs 12%, bringing the project to $22 million. However, it is still within the budget of $24 million.

Another Liquor Store on Planning Commission Agenda

In a slight twist of a common theme at the Fresno Planning Commission, city staff is asking for the commissioners to approve a new gas station/office building complex that includes a liquor store.

Kulvir Sekhon wants to build the 14,556 square-foot complex on the southwest corner of Clinton and Blythe avenues in west-central Fresno. The city received a request for an appeal from a neighbor, Muskan Food & Fuel Inc., which operates a nearby Johnny Quik store. Among other things, they claim the proposed new store is too close to existing liquor sellers and too close to schools.

That appeal was denied by planning director Jennifer Clark. She found that the location of the proposed store was far enough away from other stores and schools. The police department lodged no objections to the project as well.

Unlike previous recommendations of denial of the liquor component on other projects, staff is asking for the commission to uphold Clark’s decision and approve the convenience store that sells liquor.

And the Schools Wait

Last week, Fresno Unified announced that the fact-finding panel won’t release its report until Jan. 18.

School board member Carol Mills recently told my colleague Randy Reed that she hopes the district will avoid a strike and continue negotiating for an agreement. But, if a strike does happen, schools will remain open, she says.

There are no meetings scheduled, a union rep told GV Wire on Monday.

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