The largest crowd of the local political season showed up at the Fresno4All mayoral forum Thursday night, with 300 in attendance.
But one of the two front-runners did not appear — retired police chief Jerry Dyer.
Dyer’s absence wasn’t a surprise, however. Organizers didn’t even bother leaving a name card for Dyer at the table.
Officially, his campaign offered “no comment” about his whereabouts. Previously, he told the media that he was concerned about the fairness and safety of the event.
Janz and Dyer
Five candidates participated, including the other front-runner, Fresno County prosecutor Andrew Janz. They answered questions such as how to spend transportation dollars and how to fix the city’s air quality.
Dyer’s absence didn’t preclude Janz from talking about him.
“I’ve been such a vocal proponent of going after slumlords, a special interest group put $50,000 into this race to defeat me,” Janz said, about the California Apartment Association’s contribution to an independent expenditure committee supporting Dyer.
Janz said he would not take money from “slumlords” and developers.
“There’s a candidate in this race who’s taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from developers. He’s owned by them,” Janz said about Dyer.
Janz also slammed Dyer, saying he refused to criticize President Donald Trump. Janz said he would stand up to Trump.
“I’m really disappointed at a certain other candidate who didn’t attend today,” Janz said in his concluding comments to applause from the crowd. “His campaign is about One Fresno and he doesn’t show up to listen to us talk about our issues.”
At a mayoral forum earlier in the week, hosted by the Fresno Rotary Club, neither man took shots at each other. There weren’t any questions about immigration either.
The overflow crowd at St. James Episcopal Cathedral battled with audio issues from the pulpit, but behaved respectfully.
Other participants: Floyd Harris Jr., Brian Jefferson, Richard Renteria, and Nickolas Wildstar. Bill Gates did not attend.
The election is March 3, with ballots already mailed to voters.
$1.3 Million Approved for Senior Center
The Fresno City Council voted to allocate $6.6 million that became available in the usual budget magic that makes the money available. Higher than anticipated revenues led to the windfall, thanks to “stronger growth in development activity” which led to more planning department fees coming in.
On Wednesday, councilman Garry Bredefeld had railed against the allocation plan at a news conference he called. He said the spending proposal for the extra funds would be “wasting” money. Bredefeld also called for directing the new funding to parks and sidewalk/street repairs.
During Thursday’s debate, Bredefeld was more gentle with his sledgehammer, supporting the plan for a seniors center near Fresno State, and restoring $1 million needed for the Darling rendering plant relocation project in southwest Fresno.
Among other things, the rest of the funds will go to the seniors center ($1.3 million), paving projects ($1.2 million), the council operating budget ($700,000), and census outreach ($250,000).
Soria’s Affordable Housing Math
Bredefeld, at one point, brought up the high cost of affordable housing, mentioning the $450,000 per unit price tag of the Blackstone/McKinley project under construction.
Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria defended the cost with her own metric.
“A lot of times, we get caught up in soundbites,” Soria responded. “If you think about the math … ($450,000) divided by 50 years … that means the 50-year affordability covenant actually cost us $8,000 (per unit). We have to think about the long game and the broader picture. … The real value is 88 families will not be homeless.”
Hollywood Loves Arballo
Phil Arballo proudly says he is not accepting contributions for corporate political action committees, which is true. But he has taken PAC money from unions.
The Democratic congressional candidate is running in the 22nd District against incumbent Devin Nunes (R-Tulare). Arballo raised $1 million in 2019; Nunes raised $7.1 million.
Arballo did receive a $772 contribution from a famous musician.
Phil Lesh, the Grateful Dead guitarist, hopes Arballo keeps truckin’ to Washington, D.C. The money came through fundraiser Act Blue.
Other Arballo donors include actress/comedienne Rosie O’Donnell ($1,000), actress Patricia Arquette ($500) and actor/comedian John Leguizamo ($216.50.)