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Will Soria Jump on High-Speed Rail Executive Position?



Side-by-side panel images of Esmeralda Soria and a bullet train ide p0
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Last week, Caltrans announced it hired Diana Gomez as director for the region covering Fresno County and the Central Valley.

Gomez left her position as the Central Valley regional director of the High-Speed Rail project.

Photo of GV Wire's David Taub

David Taub

Politics 101

Multiple sources have told Politics 101 that Fresno councilwoman Esmeralda Soria might be a fit for the high-paid, newly vacant position.

According to Transparent California, Gomez received a salary of $185,230 as the bullet train’s regional director in 2019. In comparison, Soria made $84,683 in 2019 on the city council.

Soria tells Politics 101 that others have spoken to her about the job, but she hasn’t had time to consider it. She said she’s too busy worrying about COVID-19 and her regular council duties.

The job listing, first posted on July 1, is still listed on the HSR website. It will remain open until filled.

Also in Politics 101:

  • Will a new county leadership position entice a wider pool of candidates, including Quan?
  • Arambula pressures county supervisors for spending on vulnerable.
  • Another tense confrontation between Arambula and Mendes. 
  • Clovis council rejects raises.
  • Obama endorses some Valley congressional candidates, not others.

A Job Created for Fresno’s Quan?

The Fresno County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to establish a new management position, that of chief operating officer. The post will be second-in-command to County Administrative Officer Jean Rousseau. The vote was 3-2, with Steve Brandau and Sal Quintero opposed.

Could this position be created just for current Fresno City Manager Wilma Quan? Sources say Quan is looking to jump to the county. And, one person inside the Hall of Records said the COO position was “tailor-made” for her.

Board chairman Buddy Mendes, however, said the position — with an expected higher compensation package than an assistant CAO — is meant to draw more candidates, including department heads.

“We’ll get a good pool of people to pick from,” Mendes told Politics 101 prior to the meeting.

When Politics 101 previously reported on Quan possibly leaving for the county, City Hall spokesman Mark Standriff said, “We don’t comment on gossip.”

Arambula Continues Pressure on Supervisors in COVID-19 Efforts

Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula continues to pressure Fresno supervisors to spend money on the county’s most vulnerable residents.

Speaking during public comment at Tuesday’s meeting, Arambula called for the board to spend more on rental and food assistance, personal protective equipment, and testing for workers mainly living in rural communities.

“This is a once-in-a-century crisis. Their health and lives depend on the decisions that you make,” Arambula said. “Give them hope and assurances that their voices are being heard. We are in this fight together. Do your job and protect our community.”

This has been at least the fourth time Arambula has brought the issue forward, either in public or in front of a camera, to the board in the last 30 days.

A U.S. Treasury Department report showed that the county incurred costs of nearly one-third of its federal allotment of more than $80 million in federal stimulus money through June.

Supervisor Brian Pacheco announced he would introduce programs to aid minority- and women-owned businesses, as well as a housing-retention program focusing on essential workers in the agricultural communities.

Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula told the Fresno County Board of Supervisors he wants more spending in vulnerable communities. (Fresno County Board of Supervisors)

Tension Remains Between Arambula, Mendes

The tension between Arambula (D-Fresno) and Supervisor Buddy Mendes remains.

Prior to the meeting, Arambula and other community leaders met with select members of the media outside the Hall of Records in downtown Fresno.

Arambula then tried to speak during a discussion about COVID-19 spending at the jail. He wanted to make general comments, which were scheduled for later in the meeting.

“You’re making a political statement. … Go sit down. If you want to give a public comment, give it on item six (about jail testing),” said Mendes, who is well known for keeping meetings on a tight schedule.

Thank you for being a public servant,” Arambula replied.

Obama Likes TJ Cox, Harder

Two Valley Democrats have won the support of former president Barack Obama.

In a tweet Monday to his 121 million followers, Obama endorsed Josh Harder (D-Turlock) in the 10th Congressional District race and TJ Cox (D-Fresno) in CD 21. Both are incumbents running against Republicans Ted Howze and former congressman David Valadao, respectively.

“I’m proud to endorse this diverse and hopeful collection of thoughtful, empathetic, and highly qualified Democrats,” Obama said.

Obama didn’t endorse every Democrat running. Notable Central Valley absences include Congressman Jim Costa (D-Fresno) in CD 16 and challenger Phil Arballo (D-Fresno) in CD 22.

Costa, running for his ninth term, faces Republican Kevin Cookingham. Arballo hopes for the upset against conservative superstar Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare).

Obama did say this was his first wave of endorsements, implying subsequent waves could come.

Clovis Council Says No to Raises

The Clovis City Council voted unanimously, 5-0, to skip a pay raise.

The five members earn $1,455 a month. A proposal from city staff would have raised the pay by 4%, the same as other city employees received recently, or the 10% maximum allowed by state law. The council’s last raise was in 2018.

The city’s uncertain finances because of COVID-19 influenced the decision to turn down a raise.

“This doesn’t seem quite right to take a raise, even if it’s really small,” councilwoman Lynne Ashbeck said.

Councilman Bob Whalen said the economy factored into his vote.

“I don’t know what to expect over the next couple of years,” Whalen said. “We are not making a living off of this. To forego the increases is a very minor sacrifice for us to make.”

David Taub has spent most of his career in journalism behind the scenes working as a TV assignment editor and radio producer. For more than a decade, he has worked in the Fresno market with such stops at KSEE-24, KMJ and Power Talk 96.7. Taub also worked the production and support side of some of TV sports biggest events including the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and NASCAR to name a few. Taub graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email