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Council Wants Answers on Fires, Homeless, and Trash on Highways
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 5 years ago on
July 31, 2019

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For weeks, Fresno councilmen Miguel Arias and Garry Bredefeld have sounded the alarm on social and broadcast media about trash and homeless encampments along Caltrans property in Fresno.

“This will be a come to Jesus conversation for everyone.” — Councilman Miguel Arias
A conversation on the topic was supposed to come to City Hall via a special Fresno City Council meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday.
But Fresno City Council President Paul Caprioglio canceled the special meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Instead, Caprioglio, Arias, and Bredefeld will meet Thursday with staff from the mayor’s office and local state lawmakers, as well as representatives of Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol.
They will all gather at 9 a.m. in the media room at City Hall. The meeting is open to the public.
“This will be a come to Jesus conversation for everyone,” Arias said.

Recent Brush Fire Near Homes and Chemical Plant

Arias said the tipping point was a recent brush fire along Highway 41 at Ventura and R streets in the vicinity of homes and a chemical processing facility.
“We literally had field techs next to the building in danger,” Arias said. “We can’t afford this kind of fire hazard next to houses and industrial.”
Arias also tweeted about a grass fire this week on 41 near Herndon and Bullard avenues.

Caltrans Will Wait Until After Meeting to Comment


“Caltrans hasn’t met that responsibility for decades. Enough is enough. It is a disgrace. It won’t be tolerated anymore.”Councilman Garry Bredefeld
Arias said he is frustrated by Caltrans’ failure to respond to city requests to clean up its properties. Both he and Bredefeld threatened litigation if the state’s transportation agency fails to act.
“Caltrans hasn’t met that responsibility for decades. Enough is enough,” Bredefeld said. “It is a disgrace. It won’t be tolerated anymore.”
A local Caltrans official said the agency would reserve comment on the situation until after Thursday’s meeting.
Arias also puts the blame on lack of maintenance on the board that oversees Measure C, the county-wide sales tax funding transportation projects. According to Arias, because highways are used by all county residents, Measure C should chip in.
“They have failed to set up money to maintain them. That’s not something we can go to Sacramento for. That is something we are responsible locally,” Arias said.

Joint Pilot Program Underway

The city and Measure C are engaged in a pilot program started last year to deal with litter removal. Each side put in $100,000 and Caltrans contributed $200,000 according to Mike Leonardo, executive director of the Fresno County Transportation Authority. Measure C also has a similar deal with the city of Fowler.

Official portrait of Buddy Mendes
“That’s not what Measure C does. (Arias) doesn’t even know what he’s talking about.” — Supervisor Buddy Mendes
Leonardo said the deal does not specifically cover weed abatement but doesn’t preclude it either.
Fresno County Supervisor Buddy Mendes, who chairs the Measure C authority, took offense to Arias’ assertions.
“That’s not what Measure C does,” Mendes said of his group’s role in weed abatement and homeless cleanup. “(Arias) doesn’t even know what he’s talking about.”
Leonardo added that when voters approved the continuation of Measure C in 2006, it was to build roads and other transit projects, not to maintain them. That job, he said, falls to Caltrans in the case of highways.

The Future Cleanliness of Fresno Highways

Arias expressed concern that if these problems aren’t fixed now, they might not ever be addressed.
“We are at the peak of economic activity in Fresno. If we cannot maintain the freeways in a way that is not a fire and health hazard now, we certainly cannot do it during the next recession,” he said. “That speaks of incompetence and lack of ownership by all of us at the table, and all of us responsible for taxpayers’ dollars in the maintenance and development of freeways.”
Bredefeld wants to hold the feet of the state’s top elected official to the fire.
“I ask that Gov. Newsom follow through on his pledge to the Central Valley that we will not be forgotten,” Bredefeld said.
 
 

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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