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Fate of Historic Locomotive Part of Packed Fresno Council Agenda

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The Fresno City Council is scheduled to vote Thursday on the fate of Engine 1238, which has been on display at Roeding Park since the 1950s. (GV Wire/David Taub)
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What happens when the Fresno City Council goes four weeks between meetings?

A huge agenda is scheduled for Thursday. One councilmember told GV Wire to expect a 10-hour day at the minimum.

The agenda from the mysteriously canceled Sept. 15 meeting will carry over to Thursday.

The City Council will discuss the fate of Roeding Park’s iconic train, as well as issues ranging from transparency, housing and much more.

Will Council Come Clean?

Last month, an outside attorney for the City Council recommended that a vote taken in closed session, regarding the criminal case of City Council President Nelson Esparza, should be disclosed to the public.

The council voted on June 23 to pay for Esparza’s legal defense. At the time of that vote, Esparza had a civil defamation suit pending against fellow City Councilman Garry Bredefeld.

When Esparza was charged on July 18 with attempted extortion against the city attorney, the prior vote was interpreted to cover Esparza’s criminal defense as well.

The City Council is scheduled to discuss Esparza’s case again in closed session on Thursday. It is unknown if they will finally reveal how, or why, taxpayers are covering the costs of Esparza’s attorneys.

Concerned about leaks to the media, councilmen Garry Bredefeld and Mike Karbassi are proposing a discussion on “general enforcement approaches to address illegal disclosures of confidential closed session communications to the media that have taken place over the past two years.”

Exact details of what enforcement mechanisms have yet to be made public.

More Tower Theatre Fees Revealed

The cost for a commercial entity to rent the Tower Theatre will depend on the time. Renting from 6 p.m. to midnight will run $1,500.

Renting from 8 a.m. to 12 noon; or 12 noon until 6 p.m. cost $800.

That information is revealed in city documents accompanying a planned discussion on Thursday. Nonprofits renting the theater will receive a discount.

The city purchased the theater in April for $6.5 million (the deal closed in July). A lawsuit filed by Adventure Church — which, at one point, had a deal to purchase the venue — was dropped. Church leaders have been quiet on the decision.

Want to rent the Tower Theatre? Prime time costs $1,500. (GV Wire/Albert Baker)

Goodbye Train?

Southern Pacific Engine 1238 has greeted visitors to Roeding Park for decades, since 1956. It is located — behind fencing — on the Belmont Avenue side of the park, near the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.

But, the city wants to send the train down the tracks to Kingsburg. The City Council will decide on Thursday whether to donate the black engine to the Kingsburg Depot museum at no cost.

Why?

A staff report cites the cost of maintenance and vandalism.

The Kingsburg Depot would be responsible for moving the train and keeping it accessible to the public.

The Fresno City Council may donate a train engine, at Roeding Park since 1956 (above) to the Kingsburg Depot museum (below). (GV Wire/David Taub)

(GV Wire/Paul Marshall)

Measure M/Measure C Consultants

The City Council is scheduled to vote on approving two consulting contracts valued at $750,000 for work related to measures on the November ballot.

Measure M, which would raise the city of Fresno sales tax one-eight of a cent (0.125%) for veterans programs and facilities, was placed on the ballot by the City Council last July. The council wants to pay Local Government Strategic Consulting $500,000 to educate the public about the proposed tax increase. Technically, a government cannot directly advocate for or against a measure.

The consulting firm is operated by Alex Tavlian, known for his conservative activism, and Jim Verros.

The group is already working on the effort by way of a $145,000 consulting contract approved last year.

The city also wants to pay local advertising company Jeffrey Scott Agency $250,000 for “education” on Measure C, which would extend the existing county sales tax for transportation another 30 years.

Normally, contracts in such amounts would need to go through a bidding process. However, if the city manager finds that the firms are “uniquely qualified” — as they have been designated — the City Council can skip the bidding.

But, Wait, There’s More

Other items on the Fresno City Council’s schedule:

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