In the first major social policy proposal of the year, the Fresno council will vote on creating an “Immigrant Affairs Committee” at Thursday’s (Feb. 14) meeting.
The idea comes from council members Luis Chavez (District 5) and Esmeralda Soria (District 1). All signs point to its passage.
Chavez said he was approached by members of the immigrant community after the council discussed water rate fines.
“They said we’d love to have a medium to address issues in the community,” Chavez said. He added that the committee would help bridge the language gap that sometimes prevents Fresnans from receiving city services.
Soria said the idea for the immigrant committee is long overdue.
“The goal establishing this committee is, how we can better integrate immigrants into the city’s social, economic and political fabric?” Soria said. “I hope that the committee sends a message that not only are we continuing to be a welcoming city, but also we recognize we are going to be intentional in moving policies that help our entire community thrive.”
The council would appoint all 15 members to the committee, whose stated purpose is “to advise the Council on issues related to immigrants.”
Seventeen groups sent letters in support of the committee’s formation. Most of them appear to be copied off the same form.
Could Legal Defense Fund Be Next?
“The goal establishing this committee, is how we can better integrate immigrants into the city’s social, economic and political fabric?”—Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria
Back in 2017, the council rejected a plan to form an immigrant legal defense fund. While Soria supported it, Chavez abstained, saying at the time he wanted a more detailed plan.
Could the creation of the Immigrant Affairs Committee lead to another attempt at the defense fund?
“I don’t think we should take anything off the table,” Chavez said. But, he added that he doesn’t foresee anything like that right now.
Soria didn’t dismiss the idea either.
“Whatever the committee brings up, I am willing to listen, to take up the issue,” Soria said.
Parking Authority Coming?
Miguel Arias (District 3) is floating the idea of creating an independent Fresno parking authority.
At the same time, Arias wants to suspend future sales of city parking garages.
Arias said other cities have similar arrangements.
“There are parking authorities that have a single purpose: to build, manage and maintain parking assets. It’s not a simple task to do that,” Arias said.
The authority, Arias said, would be similar to the board managing the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, which was created by Measure Z.
Arias’ proposal would allow the parking authority to set rates, take on debt to build new parking structures, and maintain current facilities.
The resolution, also supported by Soria, would call for city staff to study and analyze creating the authority.
Money Back Guarantee
With the amendments finally in order, the council will vote on its money back guarantee plan on Thursday.
The council approved a version of the bill proposed by Garry Bredefeld (District 6) and Steve Brandau (District 2). Essentially, if the planning department fails to meet specified timelines on projects and permits, it has to refund the applicant’s fees. That Jan. 31 vote was 7-0.
Among the amendments: there will be a six-month trial starting May 1, monthly progress reports will analyze staffing needs, and refunds would need council approval.
Granite Park on Agenda
Council will discuss in closed session the Granite Park property that was subject to an audit released last week.
The item is listed as “conference with real property negotiator” on the agenda, with the assessor’s parcel number corresponding with Granite Park. The negotiating parties are cited as the city manager and CVCSF, the non-profit that runs Granite Park through a contract with Fresno. No other details are available through the agenda.
The city conducted an audit of CVCSF, following the group’s request for Fresno to double its subsidy from $150,000 to $300,000 to help operate the sports facility. CVCSF withdrew the request after the November completion of a draft report of the audit.