Perea, Catalano Pull in Big Money, Endorsements in Hot Council Race
In less than two months, voters in the city of Fresno will chose members of the city council in four districts. Only one — District 1 in west Fresno — is for an open seat.
Four candidates are campaigning for the post, but Annalisa Perea and Cary Catalano are commanding virtually all of the attention.
Perea, who is a State Center Community College District trustee, holds the early financial advantage. Through the last reporting period of Dec. 31, Perea had nearly $250,000 cash available. She’s raised $11,500 in large donations since (candidates have to report contributions of $1,000 or more before the next overall reporting period deadline of April 28).
Cary Catalano, a small business owner and marketing professional, entered the year with nearly $127,000 in cash and has raised $3,900 in large donations since.
More money from big endorsements could appear soon. Perea earned the nod from the Fresno Chamber of Commerce; Catalano scored with the Fresno Police Officers Association endorsement. Both groups are known to contribute generously through their political action committees.
In 2014, when Catalano and Esmeralda Soria advanced to the general election for District 1 — won by Soria with 52.41% of the vote — Catalano spent approximately $65,000 during the primary. This time, he had already spent more than $87,000 through Dec. 31. Perea spent $65,000 in the same time period.
Two other candidates in the race, Mike Briggs and Jeremy Preis, have not reported significant numbers in cash on hand or large donations.
If a candidate wins a majority in the June 7 primary, that person will be the councilmember-elect. If not, the top two advance to the November general election.
Fresno City Council District 1 Finances
|Candidate||Cash on Hand through Dec. 31||Large Donations Since|
Also in Politics 101
— Candidate says signs vandalized.
— Fresno council discusses Granite Park.
— Chavez hosts Fresno investment forum.
— Dyer is drawn into gambling initiative battle.
— Delano councilman fined for not reporting campaign contributions.
Catalano Says Signs Vandalized
In a campaign tradition as old as knocking on doors and kissing babies, a candidate’s signs are being vandalized.
“Woke up to this. In the last two weeks over 45 signs have been destroyed, in the same fashion and intention. This is intentional vandalism. Not to worry, I will keep replacing them and we will not be deterred,” Fresno City Council District 1 candidate Cary Catalano wrote on Facebook.
Catalano estimates the damage at $2,250.
Chavez, Others Optimistic on Fresno
Councilman Luis Chavez went from one Zoom meeting to another — organizing an investment forum to tout Fresno.
Joining Chavez were Fresno EDC president and CEO Lee Ann Eager, High-Speed Rail board member Henry R. Perea, and other local business and labor leaders.
Most of the meeting was cheerleading about what a great place Fresno is to invest.
“If you want to invest in the direction we are going in, now is the time to do that,” Eager said.
High-Speed figured prominently in the discussions. Eager said economic development increases around train stations, citing a small city in Spain. Perea said the HSR board will talks about the stations at its next meeting.
Eager also said that five national companies that hadn’t previously considered Fresno for investment are now taking a look.
A buzz term mentioned multiple times was building “20-minute communities” — meaning that jobs, recreation, and shopping are available within a 20-minute commute.
Chavez laid out a goal of attracting $1 billion in new investment in five years.
Tribes Put Dyer in Bull’s-eye About His Gambling Stance
California voters could see an initiative or two about legalizing sports wagering this November. Multiple initiatives are possible, sponsored by groups like casinos, card rooms, and Indian tribes, all with their own interests.
Flyers are already showing up in Fresno mailboxes, attacking Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer because of his support for a plan backed by online gaming interests like DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM.
Dyer has joined the mayors of Sacramento, Oakland, and Long Beach in supporting a statewide ballot measure that would dedicate 15% of the taxes from online gambling to the Tribal Economic Development Account. The other 85% of the tax revenue would fund homelessness and mental health services in the state.
The mailer, sponsored by a group funded by California Indian Tribes, contends that allowing wagering on devices like cell phones is detrimental to children.
The proposal needs nearly one million signatures to go on the November ballot. If approved, it could go into effect next year.
Under current law, California doesn’t allow team sports gambling, either online or at casinos.
Former Delano Councilman Faces Hefty Fine
A former Delano city councilman has a hefty price to pay for not filing campaign documents.
Joe Aguirre faces $36,000 in fines for not filing campaign finance documents with the Fair Political Practices Commission. At a meeting last month, FPPC approved default proceedings on eight counts against Aguirre, who never responded to the state watchdog agency’s allegations.
The case has been going on for years, stemming from failures to report in 2014. Aguirre lost his election that year, ran again and won in 2016 (Delano City Council elections are at-large), and lost in 2020.
“It gets closed by a default judgment, which means the person is on the hook for the money, but we have to go to a collections process to try to obtain anything. That usually doesn’t get us/taxpayers much, but it’s legal, on the books, and we do have the ability to place liens and garnish tax refunds, that sort of thing,” FPPC spokesman Jay Wierenga said.
Aguirre did not respond to a text and email message seeking comment.
“Sometimes people simply ignore everything and hope it goes away. It doesn’t,” Wierenga said.
Fresno Council Discusses Granite Park
While one insurance issue at Granite Park has been resolved, another remains.
Last week, city councilman Garry Bredefeld notified the media that the nonprofit that operates the park, CVCSF, does not have the proper level of insurance to protect city taxpayers.
That issue has seemingly been settled, but a question remains about whether the park has sufficient insurance coverage to sell alcohol.
The city council met in a special closed session Monday morning to discuss Granite Park. While no official action was taken, City Attorney Douglas Sloan authored a letter to the park about the consequences for not curing the outstanding issues.
The letter states that Granite Park now has the correct name of the insured on its policy. There are still two issues related to Granite Park serving alcohol — failure to add the city as an additional insured under liquor liability, and failure to provide the proper policy limits.
The city says Granite Park has until Friday to solve the problem, or it may no longer be allowed to serve alcohol. It can still operate the park without alcohol sales.
“The City reserves the right to pursue all available legal remedies, including termination of the lease,” if proof of insurance is not provided, Sloan wrote.
CVCSF, in a statement, say it “is simply not true” that there is an insufficient level of liquor liability insurance.
“Instead the City has crafted a technical argument that the liquor liability needs a separate ‘additional insured’ endorsement. It’s just one additional hurdle the City is putting in front of us to try to push Mr. (Terance) Frazier and CVCSF out as operators of Granite Park,” the nonprofit said.
Early Morning Meeting
The city council convened at 7:45 a.m. to discuss three closed session items — leases with other city tenants such as the Grizzlies minor league baseball team, Kocky’s Bar and Grill, and the Piccadilly Inn/Steak & Anchor Restaurant; a lawsuit filed by developer and Granite Park operator Terance Frazier against the city; and deciding whether to initiate litigation against CVCSF.
Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria was not present during the brief Zoom-only open portion of the meeting. Sloan said she was recusing herself from all items. Soria is engaged to Frazier.
This is at least the second closed-session discussion about Granite Park and its insurance issues. The council met on March 24 and voted 5-1 to restrict alcohol sales and give seven days for the operator to fix the insurance problem. Today’s actions are similar, sources familiar with the discussion said.