Fresno County supervisors voted unanimously this week to appoint two of their members to a working group to meet with their Fresno City Hall counterparts on a raft of regional issues.
“This will be the year that we make an effort to reach out to the city of Fresno to re-establish a good working relationship,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Brian Pacheco said Tuesday. “A couple of weeks ago, Mayor (Lee) Brand reached out to me and asked that I and Supervisor (Buddy) Mendes attend an informal meeting with him. At the conclusion of that meeting we determined that we would each come back to our respective bodies and form an ad hoc committee to open up lines of communication in preparation for a joint meeting” of the supervisors and the Fresno City Council.
Pacheco said he is naming himself and Mendes to represent the county. “There will also be two (city) council members, the mayor, the (county administrative officer) and the city manager.”
It’s been “many, many years” since the entire membership of both the City Council and Board of Supervisors have held a joint meeting, Pacheco said. “I think it’s about time, and with everyone’s help, we can make that happen.”
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Cultivating a better relationship between the city and county has been an issue Brand has mentioned repeatedly since he was elected as mayor in November. Brand said Thursday that he was pleased to see the supervisors move forward with the selection of their members to a working group, and he is looking forward to seeing who City Council President Clint Olivier will name to the group.
We’re simply trying to act like the government officials that we’re supposed to be, and working together for the benefit of all of our people.
Brian Pacheco, Fresno County Board of Supervisors chairman
Mendes and Brand have met several times since the November election, and Mendes said he’d met occasionally with Brand’s mayoral predecessor Ashley Swearengin as well. “We’ve been working on this for about a year, and it’s been a very good working relationship,” Mendes said.
It’s not always been such a feel-good relationship. Andreas Borgeas, who served for four years on the City Council before he was elected as a county supervisor in late 2012, tried in 2013 to forge a standing committee between the two elected bodies, but that proposal died on a split vote by the board. Pacheco blamed political antics by former supervisors for stonewalling Borgeas’ effort.
Now, Pacheco said, “we’re simply trying to act like the government officials that we’re supposed to be, and working together for the benefit of all of our people.”
“Ever since Supervisor Mendes and I were elected, we’ve heard that people want a closer relationship between their county government and their city government to find synergies that are more efficient for everyone to be a part of,” Pacheco added. “People have asked for it, and we’re going to deliver on it.”
“Frankly, it’s a political mandate, and it’s beyond common sense,” Borgeas added.
The issues that Brand, Pacheco and Mendes envision the group discussing to bring before a full joint meeting are those that aren’t bounded by jurisdictional lines on a map. They include economic development and job creation, homelessness, animal control and, perhaps most critically, the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
The water law, which seeks to impose conditions on cities and counties for replenishment of underground water tables even as the population continues to increase, is something that both agencies will have to come to terms with. “The county controls land use, and the policies we implement here will impact the growth of not only the city of Fresno, but all the cities in the county,” Pacheco said. “That was one of the items that (Brand) expressed to Supervisor Mendes and I, that we all want to be on the same page because we’re all going to have to live under the same rules.”