How a Steve Brandau election win could potentially change city budget votes

With Steve Brandau leading the race for District 2 Fresno County Supervisor, he likely will leave his Fresno City Council seat vacant for the most critical council votes: budget hearings.

The city council must adopt a budget by June 30, and typically budget hearings take place over multiple weeks in June.

If Brandau does win the supervisor seat, which current numbers show is likely, it could be four to six months before another special election is called to fill his District 2 seat that covers northwest Fresno.

That means the council will have six members instead of seven during budget hearings.

“It will be a factor as far as the council now having to work more closely because we’ve got to get consensus on items,” District 5 Council Member Luis Chavez said. “I think what you’re going to see is the council working a little more closely. With the body being smaller, the margin for disagreement is smaller. It will force us to have those conversations a little more closely. At the end of the day, we pass the budget on time every year, and we’re going to do that again this year.”

Mayor Lee Brand and his administration proposes the budget, and council approval is needed to pass it.

The city charter still requires five votes to override a veto, even with a vacant seat. Four votes constitutes a majority.

With Brandau’s seat potentially vacant, District 6 Council Member Garry Bredefeld will be the only Republican on the council. Brandau also is a Republican.

A Latino and Democratic supermajority will consist of District 1 Council Member Esmeralda Soria, District 3 Council Member Miguel Arias, Chavez and District 7 Council Member Nelson Esparza. District 4 Council Member Paul Caprioglio also is a Democrat.

Brand, a Republican, says he doesn’t consider party preference when working with the council.

“My duty is to represent the citizens of Fresno in an impartial, objective manner that delivers core services to the city,” he said. “I have and will continue to work with all council members to try and improve the lives of everyone living in the city of Fresno.”

He and the council share a common interest to improve the quality of life for Fresno’s residents, he said. “I also think we all want a safer city, and we all want to attract good-paying jobs to Fresno,” he said. “All of us want better streets, sidewalks and parks, as well.”

When asked how he plans to stay on course with his agenda without letting the council supermajority drive budget priorities, Brand said he will work to find compromises. “I expect we will be able to find common ground and consensus on most issues,” he said.

Bredefeld said being the only Republican on the council doesn’t change things for him when it comes to taking budget votes.

“It doesn’t matter whether there are seven council members, five council members or two council members,” he said. “I’m always going to make sure our priorities are in place – that we’re funding public safety at the levels we need, we’re not raising fees, not raising taxes and we’re spending wisely and appropriately the money that people send us.”

The mayor’s administration is in the early stages of creating the budget for fiscal year 2020. He predicts the city will maintain current staffing levels but doubts there’s any chance of adding positions without adding revenue streams.

“I expect this year’s budget to be challenging,” he said. “There will be many more well-deserved and articulated needs than we will be able to fund. I expect we will be able to find common ground and consensus on most issues.”

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Brianna Calix covers politics and investigations for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable and shine a light on issues that deeply affect residents’ lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Fresno State.