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Did Chavez Mislead on COVID-19 Testing? Supervisor Mendes Says Yes.



Composite image of coronavirus and Fresno County Supervisor Buddy Mendes
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Mayor Lee Brand said one of his goals when he took office in 2017 was to have a strong relationship with his county counterparts.

When while both city and county leaders since then have said their relationship is fine, their words sometimes suggest a different story.

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David Taub

Politics 101

Also in Politics 101:

  • Mendes snaps at state, too
  • Will playgrounds, parking lots at parks reopen?
  • City council rewind

At a news conference Thursday, Fresno City Councilman Luis Chavez said the county didn’t have enough testing when the pandemic broke out.

“The fact that Fresno County did not ramp up their testing early on is why you’re seeing (positive case) numbers trend upwards,” Chavez said.

Fresno County Supervisor Buddy Mendes stung back, speaking with Politics 101. Mendes, who is the board chair, said that no county in the state had sufficient test kits when coronavirus broke out.

“Let me tell you something. They don’t know what the heck they’re talking about. They never meet with the Department of Health. We meet with (County Health Director) Dave Pomaville and (interim county health officer) Dr. (Rais) Vohra privately for an hour every week. There were not enough test kits in the state of California to get started originally. So that’s uninformed people running their mouth. You guys (media) shouldn’t believe in stuff they tell you. Because, you know they’re lying because their lips are moving,” Mendes said.

A Shot at the State As Well

Mendes questioned why it took so long for the state to approve the county’s request for a variance. The county turned in its request on Tuesday. Two days later, the state granted permission for the county to move deeper into Stage 2 reopening.

Mendes said state health officials help up the approval with rounds of seemingly unnecessary questions.

“The state actually towards the end was calling (Vohra), asking him questions. It was like ‘how did you do your math?’ So I don’t know if the state was stalling or what was going on, but they had three or four different completely separate conversations … before we finally got the clearance and I find that to be pretty odd,” Mendes said.

Will City Park Playgrounds/Parking Lots Open?

Despite the lifting of Fresno’s shelter-in-place order effective Tuesday, parking lots and playgrounds will remain closed, according to city spokesman Mark Standriff.

The parks themselves remain open.

“Playground equipment is closed by state order, regardless of what the city says. Park parking lots are closed by City order because nothing in the latest emergency order supersedes the previous directive,” Strandiff said.

The state Department of Public Health says it doesn’t have specific playground guidelines. “Check with local authorities for the status of outdoor spaces managed by your county or city,” a department spokesman told Politics 101.

The city’s newest Emergency Order 17 says it supersedes Emergency Order 16. Order 16 specifically said that park parking lots and amenities (like playgrounds) are closed. The new order isn’t as specific.

Standriff clarifies that even without an order, the city has a right to close the parking lots and playgrounds. He says it is done in an abundance of safety, to promote physical distancing.

Other city facilities like Selland Arena, the Convention Center, and the Fresno Chaffee Zoo will remain closed as well.

Council Approves Animal Shelter Construction, PD Gear

While the big news yesterday at City Hall was the announcement that the shelter-in-place order is ending, the city council did engage in other city business. A recap:

— As part of the consent agenda, it unanimously approved a $14.5 million contract with Northstar General to build a 34,500 square foot animal control facility north of the airport. Council President Miguel Arias called it, “One of the most significant actions this council will take.”

The facility is scheduled to open in July 2021. The city’s animal services contract with Central California SPCA ends June 30. Arias says it is likely they will extend it a year.

— Approved an amended contract to double the litter pick up along its highways with Landscape Maintenance of America, from once a month to twice. The extra cost is $78,000 a month.

— Approved 7-0 a $4 million contract to purchase 556 body-worn cameras and 556 TASER weapons for the police department.

— Delayed a vote until June 11 on a five-year contract extension with ASM for management of the Fresno Convention Center.

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