Political Notebook

Brandau puts up second pro-dam, anti-bullet train billboard

Fresno City Council Member Steve Brandau’s latest pro-dam, anti-bullet train billboard is facing southbound traffic on the west side of Highway 99 at American Avenue on the southern edge of Fresno.
Fresno City Council Member Steve Brandau’s latest pro-dam, anti-bullet train billboard is facing southbound traffic on the west side of Highway 99 at American Avenue on the southern edge of Fresno.

It’s still unclear if Steve Brandau’s pro-dam, anti-bullet train billboards will lead to any real political change in Sacramento, but there’s been tons of positive feedback and even a call from the governor’s office, which is plenty of motivation to keep the first-term Fresno City Council member going.

This week, Brandau unveiled his second billboard, at Highway 99 and American Avenue on the southern edge of Fresno. It’s on the west side the freeway and is visible to southbound 99 traffic.

“Governor, it’s about priorities,” the sign says.

With Brandau moving full speed ahead on his billboards, Oliver Baines, his Fresno City Council colleague, wants the state’s High-Speed Rail Authority to know that Brandau doesn’t speak for the council. Baines recently sent a letter to rail authority CEO Jeff Morales to “confirm the City of Fresno’s support for High Speed Rail.” Baines, the council’s current president, writes that he “can appreciate” Brandau’s right to free speech, but says his position is not that of the council.

The first billboard, erected at Highway 99 and Herndon Avenue on the northern edge of the city, says “Governor put Our Water BEFORE your Train.” It is on 99’s east side and is visible to northbound traffic.

Both signs share one instantly recognizable item — big hands giving thumbs up to a dam and thumbs down to a train.

As with the first sign, Brandau hopes people will see the website on the billboard — www.damtrain.com — and click on it for more information.

Already, Brandau says a third billboard is in the works, this one “further afield,” though he isn’t specifying the exact location.

The first sign cost Brandau’s campaign account around $3,000 for the artwork and to keep the sign up for six weeks. The second sign cost $1,500 and will be up for a month.

Brandau has said his frustration with the lack of progress on new dams at Temperance Flat above Lake Millerton and at Sites Reservoir in Colusa County are what led to the initial billboard. The state’s high-speed rail project looks to be a higher priority for Gov. Jerry Brown than increasing water storage in the state, Brandau says. He says he’d like to see both projects on even footing.

On social media, Brandau was hailed by like-minded conservatives after the first sign went up. More cynical observers noted such political strategies have been tried before in the Valley, but never resulted in real change. The only real beneficiary, they noted, was good press for the person pressing the cause, which in this case was Brandau.

But as word of the sign spread after the first billboard went up, Brandau was suddenly in high demand on Los Angeles-area conservative talk radio, as well as other media outlets. Then came the call from a staffer in the governor’s office.

It hasn’t stopped.

“Major interest now rolling in,” Brandau says.

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