Just a day after she held her first congressional fundraiser, Esmeralda Soria sat next to the man she wants to knock out of office.
Soria and incumbent 16th district Congressman Jim Costa (D-Fresno) attended a Fresno State event announcing the expansion of the Maddy Institute (see item below). The interaction was cordial, with the discussion not going past a polite hello.
On Wednesday night, about 200 people packed into Zack’s Brewing Company, a relatively new brewpub in downtown Fresno. The room was full of energy, perhaps because of La Jacka tacos and exotic beer flavors.
‘We Can’t Wait Our Turn’
“We want change,” Soria told the happy and fed audience, leading her people in the chant. “The people in this district deserve a real choice.”
She said people were tired of waiting for issues like immigration, health care, and gun control to be fixed.
“There have been some certain insiders and political pundits who have asked me to wait my turn. To wait several more years,” she told a receptive audience. “I can’t, and we can’t wait our turn. Our day is today!”
Without mentioning him by name, she said Costa is no longer effective.
“These times require more than a Blue Dog Democrat. We don’t need status quo,” she said. She also attacked Costa for what she sees as a disconnect from constituents.
Many of Soria’s criticisms about Costa’s style and record have been stated previously by his Republican opponents.
A Great Crowd … for Mayor
There were familiar faces among Fresno Democratic circles floating around. Fresno County party chair Michael Evans was there, but he emphasized he was only there to observe.
“I’m not Debbie Wasserman Schultz,” Evans said, referring to the former national Democratic Party chair accused of throwing the 2016 presidential nomination to Hillary Clinton.
Some observers wondered, though, whether the crowd was too Fresnocentric for a district that stretches past Merced to the north and past Los Banos to the west. Some noted it was a great crowd … if Soria were running for mayor.
Soria, however, noted that Madera councilman and labor leader Santos Garcia introduced her at the event. He was one of many labor leaders in attendance.
Soria’s Ag Credentials
Soria feels she is well versed in most issues that affect the 16th district, including agriculture.
“Ag is extremely critical to our local economy. I know personally what ag has provided for my family,” said Soria, who grew up in the Tulare County town of Lindsay.
“My parents were actually farmworkers. They worked in packing sheds. My parents’ livelihood depended on ag. I know there is a tremendous value there. I’m not new to the issues. I’ve worked in Sacramento on policies that impact the ag community related to water,” she said.
During her speech, Soria attacked President Donald Trump without mentioning him by name.
Afterward, Soria said she would support impeaching Trump.
“President Trump should not be in office. We need a new leader in the White House that will fix the issues that we are facing nationally,” Soria said. “He has made some very terrible choices that are impacting the residents that I represent.”
She added she feels those choices represent high crimes and misdemeanors.
There are two other candidates in the race: Democrat Kim Williams, an educator from Merced; and Republican Kevin Cookingham, a retired Clovis Unified educator.
Maddy Institute Expanding
The Maddy Institute is growing. The public policy program will expand from its Fresno State base to three other public universities along Highway 99 — CSU Stanislaus, UC Merced, and CSU Bakersfield.
The program is named after a longtime Valley legislator, the late Ken Maddy. It provides training and internships with elected leaders in Sacramento and Washington.
While the news was relatively simple, with four campus leaders and longtime Maddy booster Congressman Jim Costa speaking, the announcement took nearly an hour.
Tighter City Hall Security?
At next week’s Fresno City Council meeting the council will vote to award a contract to secure City Hall. The staff recommends hiring Los Angeles-based American Guard Services for $327,584 a year. Another $17,760 will go toward leasing equipment.
A consultant recommends a single point of entry, with the use of magnetic wands, baggage scanners, and armed security.
Four companies bid on the security contract, three from Fresno. The non-Fresno company won, with the highest bid. The staff report said two of the companies misunderstood the request and thought it was for exterior patrol. The third Fresno company, the report said, was fine but did not have enough experience.
That company, Fresno Advanced Security and Transport, shut its doors earlier this month.
Other Items to Note
Also on the council’s agenda: another attempt to place anti-panhandling signs at certain streetlights. The sign would say “Help us, Help Fresno; Say no to panhandling; contribute to the solution; give to local charities.”
The proposal failed to move forward on a 3-3 vote in April. What’s changed? Mike Karbassi will be sworn as the District 2 councilman at the start of the meeting. He says he supports the signs.
Also, District 7 Councilman Nelson Esparza will open a satellite office at the Manchester Center.
At the council meeting this week, they overrode Mayor Lee Brand’s veto on retroactive pay for employees who quit. It was a 6-0 vote without debate:
— Approved the permits and approved the environmental reports for the Darling rendering plant to move a few miles to the west. The process of building the new plant near the wastewater reclamation facility on Jensen and demolishing the current location in southwest Fresno will take two-and-a-half years.
— Approved a new plan to dispose of city-owned property through bidding, rather than other processes.
— Approved $659,298 in funding for the South Stadium project by private developers Noyan Frazier Capital. The project will include retail and housing, with some units dedicated as affordable housing. The vote was 4-1 with Garry Bredefeld voting no, and Soria recusing herself.