Fresno housing programs that ran into trouble with federal watchdogs, homeless sweeps that landed the city of Fresno back in court, city water meters -- and the prospect of rate hikes in Fresno -- and high-speed rail providing new opportunities for lawyers were among the hot topics with readers this past week.
Here are the top stories of the past week, along with selected comments posted by readers at fresnobee.com.
What happened: Federal auditors found rampant problems with the city of Fresno's housing division over the past three years, including hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted on projects that never got off the ground and millions of federal dollars spent without justification on city code enforcement.
What it means: City officials say things aren't as bad as the U.S. Housing and Urban Development's triennial report suggests. But, they admit, they're bad enough to spark a major shake-up in how City Hall does housing. Just about every housing decision now gets close HUD scrutiny as the feds and City Hall work hand-in-hand to fix things.
What readers said:
"What? The govt wasting money and failing to be good stewards with tax monies confiscated from the citizens? Say it isn't so."
"looks like they need to outsource the city housing division and the city manager instead of the unbroken solid waste division. this is what happens when cronies hire cronies. ..."
"HUD found the city's misdoings and now has to lead them by the nose, so they can do their job correctly? In other words the city now has to be closely watched so our taxpaying money is safeguarded and not put into the wrong pockets, maybe theirs, for personal use. I think the State of California DA should be looking into this."
What happened: A lawsuit filed by several homeless Fresno residents claiming the city violated terms of a 2008 federal-court settlement over cleanup sweeps has withstood a significant legal challenge.
What it means: The city had asked U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill to throw out the entire lawsuit. Instead, the judge allowed some arguments to continue -- including whether the city put the homeless in danger when it destroyed some shelters just as the winter of 2011-12 was beginning.
What readers said:
"The lawyer that filed this lawsuit could care less about the homeless-HE IS IN IT FOR THE MONEY"
"I'm glad to see a danger creation claim recognized. The idea that government officials can do anything they want and then claim "immunity" is B.S."
-- Kay Sieverding
What happened: For better or worse -- and, depending on usage, it could be either -- water meters are now a part of life for more than 100,000 single-family households in Fresno. City officials announced Friday that they had completed the massive capital project -- on time and under budget.
What it means: Usage is down 17% -- a drop that surprised city officials, who ultimately estimate a 20% decrease in water usage, but figured it would come in small increments. While usage has dropped, water could get more expensive. City officials eventually plan to introduce tiered rates, in which the cost would increase for the biggest users. And city utility officials plan to seek a rate hike early next year to cover capital needs, which could total as much as $1 billion.
What readers said:
"Classic bait and switch. Rate payers were told rates would decrease for some users when meters were first installed. Well that lasted a year or two. Now predictably as some had warned rates are going to increase. And you can bet they will eventually far exceed that of the previous flat rate system."
Catching Up is compiled by Bee editors. Go to fresnobee.com/catchingup/ to comment or learn more about these stories.