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Fresno Passes Caste Protections, a California First
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Published 10 months ago on
August 11, 2023

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In a first-of-its-kind for California cities, caste is now a protected status in the city of Fresno.

With a 7-0 vote, the city council added caste and indigenous communities to anti-discrimination bans in hiring and employment law.

Caste is the millennium-old social structure system, found in south Asian cultures. For the city’s purposes, indigenous communities refer mainly to Native American tribes found in California, and communities from Mexico and Central, and South America.

The Jakara Movement supported the bill.

“It is a historic opportunity for the city of Fresno to really have an in-depth understanding of its diverse communities and understand some of the nuances in between them. It is, to my knowledge, the first opportunity for a city in California to actually have an ordinance ending caste discrimination,” said Jakara Movement Executive Director Naindeep Singh during public comment.

“It is a historic opportunity for the city of Fresno to really have an in-depth understanding of its diverse communities and understand some of the nuances in between them.”Naindeep Singh

Singh is also a trustee on the Central Unified School District board.

A similar caste anti-discrimination bill is going through the state Legislature. The California State University system recently added caste protection to its discrimination code.

The bill was sponsored by councilmembers Miguel Arias, Mike Karbassi, and Annalisa Perea. The item passed on the consent calendar with no discussion. A second and final vote is scheduled for Aug. 24.

Karbassi said there has been no issues in hiring practices with the south Asian and indigenous communities.

Earlier this year, Seattle became the first U.S. city to add caste protections.

Pot Retailer Appeal Withdrawn, for Now

Luis Chavez withdrew his appeal of a marijuana retailer’s change of location application, but he said he may appeal later.

Fresno Farms wants to open a location across the street from the Fresno Fairground. It wants to move from its initial address down the road, but across the street from a school.

The cannabis code, first approved by the city council in December 2018, allows councilmembers to file appeals. Chavez did so, saying he wanted to give the public a voice. No members of the public spoke.

Chavez asked several questions of the owners of Fresno Farms about the company’s operations. One query was about a $10,000 fine at its Longmont, Colorado location for allowing a minor into a store, but no sale took place.

Chief compliance officer Jessica Reuven said Fresno Farms would not provide any special promotions during the Big Fresno Fair. They would also offer their parking lot for fair employees to use.

Councilman Miguel Arias criticized Reuven for initially seeking a location across the street from the Farber Education Center that is not under construction. Reuven insisted that the future school never came up in any research. The cannabis code mandates that a cannabis business operates at least 800 feet away, which the prior location failed to meet.

Arias also questioned if the Fresno Farms owners knew how much traffic the fair generates. The retailer would be within 800 feet of the carnival area of the fair. There is a part of the city code that does not allow a retailer to be that close to a youth center. The city, however, says that the retailer would still be in compliance.

Arias did not seem satisfied by Reuven’s answers.

“I’m not confident that you could successfully be able to operate without putting the minors at any undue risk,” Arias said.

Chavez implied he would make an appeal when Fresno Farms applies for its conditional use permit. That process goes to the planning commission before it would reach the city council.

The former Las Islitas restaurant could become the new Fresno Farms cannabis retailer, across the street from the Big Fresno Fair. (GV Wire/David Taub)

Council, Mayoral Candidates Can Raise More

The Fresno City Council also wrapped up a bill that will allow candidates for city council and mayor to raise more money. Limits were extended from $4,900 to $5,500 per individual contributor; and $9,700 to $10,900 for a small contributor committee.

The move is more technical, as the city’s municipal code follows the allowances set by the state Fair Political Practices Committee.

There was no discussion during the 7-0 vote on the consent calendar.

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