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Conservative Appointee Lasts Just 15 Hours on Fresno Immigrant Rights Committee

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A well-known Fresno conservative was about to join a committee that would advise the city council on immigrant issues.

David Taub

Politics 101


Also in Politics 101:

  • Immigrant committee searching for its purpose.
  • City protection for immigrants proposed.
  • Police commission’s deadline unlikely to change.
  • City budget tidbits.

Michael Der Manouel Jr. — an insurance broker by day — sat in on the city’s Immigrant Affairs Committee meeting last night as an appointee of councilman Garry Bredefeld, who represents northeast Fresno.

Less than 15 hours later, Der Manouel changed his mind.

“I contacted @GarryBredefeld this morning to withdraw my appointment to #Fresno Immigrant Affairs Committee. After attending Zoom meeting, thought everyone very well intentioned, but given plethora of immigrant rights groups in our area, I don’t believe this committee necessary,” Der Manouel wrote on his Twitter feed.

Bredefeld nominated Der Manouel to replace another conservative voice, Elizabeth Heng, who left the committee. No reason was given for Heng’s departure.

“(Der Manouel) expressed since many organizations already exist in Fresno advocating for immigrants, doesn’t feel (immigration committee) necessary at this time. Appreciate his input. Will make new appointment,” Bredefeld wrote on Twitter.

The new pick doesn’t necessarily have to live in District 6 where Bredefeld serves.

There is also a second vacancy which would be selected by District 2 councilman Mike Karbassi to replace Manuel Cunha, president of the Nisei Farmers League.

Committee Searching for Its Purpose

“I guess we still don’t know why we’re here.” —  Member Guillermo Moreno

The Immigrant Affairs Committee, which met for the first time in five months because of the coronavirus pandemic, is trying to find its purpose.

The committee did not vote on any recommendations for the council but did form a subcommittee to articulate the 15-member committee’s vision.

Conservative radio talk show host Guillermo Moreno — Bredefeld’s other pick — questioned the committee’s purpose.

I guess we still don’t know why we’re here,” Moreno said.

The committee asked Fresno Unified school board member Veva Islas her thoughts on goals. Although not a committee member, Islas made a guest presentation on how the immigrant community is dealing with COVID-19.

She talked about immigrant contributions to the agriculture economy.

“It seems fair to me that as a result of that abundance and wealth that is created due to their labor, that we should have an equal investment back into them, into their well being and their health,” Islas said. “So I hope that conversations like that are being explored. We do need to break cycles of poverty.”

Things got slightly heated when Moreno expressed frustration with not receiving statistics on the number of immigrants in Fresno. Other members told him to Google it.

“Why do we have to spend time on this? If you don’t want to be a part of this committee thing, drop out,” member America Hernandez said.

Eventually, a staffer for councilman Luis Chavez — who is tasked with organizing the committee — told Moreno the information he was seeking for would be provided.

Legal Help for Immigrants?

During the approximately 90-minute meeting, Hernandez proposed funding a “Department of Accountability” to look into violations of employment and housing laws.

I think that we need to have as a simple place where people can go report any violations or discrimination,” Hernandez said.

Before a full discussion could take place, chairman Sam Molina tabled it because of the state’s open meeting laws. Items must be placed on the agenda before action is taken.

The committee is scheduled to meet again on Aug. 12.

Police Commission Deadline Unlikely to Change

Several members of the Fresno Commission on Police Reform publicly expressed a desire for more time to complete the group’s work. The committee has until Aug. 31 to make recommendations to the Fresno City Council.

Politics 101 is hearing that an extension beyond the original 90-day mandate is unlikely to be granted.

According to the commission’s bylaws, members are supposed to file a financial conflict of interest form. As of today, the city clerk has not published the required Form 700s, other than for those members who have already filed because they serve on other committees.

Budget Tidbits

During last month’s budget hearing process, council members asked city staff a variety of questions about how departments are run. Here are some selected interesting tidbits:

— Last year, the city collected 1,074 tons of trash from homeless encampments. For 2020, through mid-June, it was 253 tons.

— The city’s police department no longer watches surveillance video in real time. The part-time employees who used to monitor the videos were let go in 2019. Thus, the Real Time Crime Center has not been in operation this year. Video is still being stored and can be viewed later by detectives, council members were told.

— The largest deferred maintenance parks project on the city’s critical improvements list is Lions Skate Park — on Marks Avenue south of Shaw Avenue — at $7 million. That includes the repair and lifecycle replacement of its facilities.

— The FresGO 311 call center has doubled its calls from last year already. In 2019, the center received 70,000 calls; as of mid-June, that number increased to 139,000.

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