Marek Warszawski

Safer neighborhoods? Listen to constituents’ ideas? Just empty words to this Fresno councilman

There’s a reason people roll their eyes whenever a politician claims to listen to the ideas and wishes of those who helped elect them.

For Exhibit A, I nominate Paul Caprioglio.

On June 20, Caprioglio was one of two Fresno City Councilmembers who voted against allocating $200,000 out of the city’s $1.1 billion budget for a program called Advance Peace that three California cities have adopted to help reduce gang-related shootings.

The measure passed 3-2 (Esmeralda Soria was absent) but subsequently got vetoed by Mayor Lee Brand. Since overriding a mayoral veto requires five council votes, Advance Peace advocates from Faith in the Valley hoped to convince one of the two dissenters to change their mind.

With Garry Bredefeld pretty much a lost cause on these matters, supporters lobbied the much more reasonable Caprioglio.

Well, at least they tried to. All they got in response were deaf ears.

Caprioglio is vacationing in Montana, so there was no chance to meet with him in person. Advocates attempted to set up a phone call, but Caprioglio’s staff stopped responding to their messages. On Monday they sent him a letter signed by 27 faith leaders (including nine from Caprioglio’s District 4) that will probably be ignored, as well.

What makes me think Caprioglio even cares about public safety – or paying any heed to those he represents?

While reading Caprioglio’s biography on the City of Fresno website, I came across this:

“As a public official, Paul advocates for safer neighborhoods, and is determined to listen and implement constituent ideas and solutions to improve our community.”

What a bunch of malarkey.

To be fair, I should point out that Caprioglio’s web page has not been updated in years. Perhaps he no longer cares about safer neighborhoods or listening to constituent ideas and simply wants to finish out his second term without making waves – or going against his good friend Brand.

Which is unfortunate. If there’s a time for a politician to set aside personal friendships for the greater good of the community, this is it.

I asked Laura Rios, Caprioglio’s chief of staff, to tell me her boss’ biggest accomplishments during his eight years on City Council.

“I’ll have to get back to you on that,” Rios replied – and never did.

Let me make this perfectly clear: I’m not being critical of Caprioglio for voting against the Advance Peace seed money, nor for not changing his mind.

This is about his refusal to even listen.

There will be no veto override vote during Thursday’s City Council meeting, which means the program isn’t happening this year. But Caprioglio can rest easy. Attending via phone call from his vacation home in Montana, Fresno’s gang-related shootings must seem a million miles away.

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Marek Warszawski writes opinion columns on news, politics, sports and quality of life issues for The Fresno Bee, where he has worked since 1998. He is a Bay Area native, a UC Davis graduate and lifelong Sierra frolicker. He welcomes discourse with readers but does not suffer fools nor trolls.