Opinion by

David Taub

Is Steve Brandau worried about losing his conservative street cred?

How else would you explain his excoriating of legal advocates for the poor from the city council dais?

Thursday night (Jan. 25), the Fresno City Council debated whether to approve a 2 million-square-foot industrial park project. The result was so obvious, even the New York Times could accurately predict it.

The only drama that remained was whether it would be a unanimous vote (it was, 7-0).

“To Ashley Werner and the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, which really to me, those are poverty pimps.” — Councilman Steve Brandau

But then Brandau created a new kind of drama that generated one of the most heated arguments seen in a long time on an otherwise congenial city council.

“To Ashley Werner and the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, which really to me, those are poverty pimps. That organization is poverty pimps. They play on people’s fears. They come down here constantly, now, standing in the way of the very thing folks need. And, our community needs more importantly,” Brandau said.

Werner, an attorney for the advocacy group, appealed the city’s preliminary approval of the project on Central Avenue. The location is across the street from the site where Amazon is building its e-commerce facility. Leadership Counsel says the city failed to properly conduct an environmental report.

Talk about kicking the poor when they are down. Disagree with Werner and the other Social Justice Warriors all you want. But calling them “poverty pimps?” It’s not like she is Al Sharpton.

(UPDATE, MARCH 1, 2018

Brandau also said at the meeting that Werner purposely provided the state Department of Justice with incomplete information about the land’s zoning. He also said that Werner asked for that area to be zoned industrial in meetings about the Southwest Fresno Specific Plan.)

Is Compassionate Conservatism Dead?

Whatever happened to compassionate conservatism?

“I apologize for the comments that are disrespectful.” — Fresno City Council President Esmeralda Soria

Council President Esmeralda Soria harshly scolded Brandau, two seats to her right. All Oliver Baines could do in the middle was rest his chin in hand.

Soria termed Brandau’s remarks inappropriate and uncalled for. The two then argued, raising their voices over each other.

“I apologize for the comments that are disrespectful,” Soria said.

“Well, I don’t apologize for those comments,” Brandau snapped back.

Brandau didn’t like that Soria apologized on behalf of the council.

“I’m apologizing on my behalf, because I do represent this council,” Soria said, anger rising in her voice.

“Fine. I represent this council,” Brandau retorted. “She is not apologizing for me.”

Question Put to Werner

After the meeting, I asked Werner if she was a poverty pimp.

“I don’t even understand what that means,” Werner said. “What he did tonight was shameful.”

Brandau, however, felt good about the exchange. In fact, he was darn proud of it. Not since the WWE’s Barry Horowitz has someone patted himself on the back so vigorously.

He either tweeted or re-tweeted GIFs and memes demonstrating his bravery.

But as the wise pro wrestling legend Gorilla Monsoon once said, a pat on the back is 12 inches from a kick in the pants.

Anyone Notice a Trend Here?

Maybe Brandau is taking the lead from Mayor Lee Brand.

He told Tim Sheehan of the Fresno Bee:

“The poor need advocates, but they need to choose their battles, and this isn’t the right battle to pick. These advocates are empowered by poverty. My job is to get people out of poverty. This is an opportunity to get people out of generational poverty.”

Our City Hall leaders like to pick on the people who stand up for the poor.

Who’s next? The crippled?

4 Responses

  1. Nancy Flynn

    What’s next well…let’s see the homeless might be up for another good kicking to the curb considering they are down for the count already. This kind of meanspirited rhetoric continues to create division in our community. No civility or humility just bravado.

  2. Craig

    If Ms. Werner truly does not understand the term “poverty pimps”, then why did she say that what Councilman Brandau did was shameful?

    Think before you open your mouth in front of the camera, Ashley. A competent “attorney” should know better.


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