By: Dan Waterhouse
In late January, Fresno City Council member Larry Westerlund announced that he was throwing his hat in the ring and running in the Republican primary to replace retiring U.S. Rep. George Radanovich. Now, Mr. Westerlund is evidently not the calmest personality in the world.
In early February, the City Council was debating Westerlund’s brainchild, the “median safety ordinance,” when he and former City Council member Brian Calhoun exchanged words. Calhoun was urging the Council to impose a total ban on soliciting from the city’s medians–with no exception for the Children’s Hospital’s Kids Day fund-raiser. Westerlund got a bit upset and, in footage shown on the local TV news, angrily and loudly retorted that he resented what was being said, that he was not being discriminatory toward the homeless.
A week later, Westerlund was erupting at a group of local atheists who had complained about illegal praying at the beginning of City Council meetings.
Do we really need another “angry white guy” inside the Beltway (or for that matter Sacramento)?
Speaking of Calhoun, he had a posting on Mind Hub, the blog for the local “creatives,” urging people “not to rush to judgment” on his Fresno City College colleague Dr. Bradley Lopez. Lopez is the health science teacher who, according to several students in recent years, uses the Bible as a textbook in his classes.
According to two students who have gotten the ACLU involved, Lopez teaches that gays are a “burden on society” and constitute a danger. Lopez admits he does not agree with the separation of church and state, and apparently (based on remarks he made in a videoed talk he gave to Christ’s Warriors, the People’s Church men’s ministry) expects to become a martyr for his Christianist “faith.”
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s budget director gave the City Council some bad news last week–the $10 million surplus expected this year isn’t going to happen. Swearengin swears there will be no reduction in public safety. Translation: no layoffs of sworn police officers.
However, the fire department is again being sacrificed at the altar of imagined public safety. Cuts in the fire department’s service levels are not as visible as cuts in police service. People scream when their barking dog complaint doesn’t get the attention of someone packing a Glock 40-caliber. They don’t scream when the number of fire units or firefighters staffing those units are reduced in number.
Fresno is no exception. “Public Safety supporters” are outraged when Sheriff Margaret Mims chooses to release people who aren’t supposed to be locked up unless they can’t make bail or have no bail set. Most–95 percent–pretrial inmates are supposed to be released. But people prefer the false security of locking as many people up as often as possible for as long as possible. No one cares that the city’s fire department has quietly closed down at least four companies since the first of the year. It now takes longer to get sufficient help on scene, so the initial fire attack can commence.
I recently reported that Fresno’s Housing Authority was waiting to hear if the bank was going to agree to a short sale of One By One Leadership’s property on historic L Street in downtown Fresno. It took extended negotiation, but the property is now in escrow, with a closing date of March 30.
Two of the properties are scheduled to be sold by Fresno County on March 4 for back property taxes, unless they are redeemed. One By One says they owe $20,000 in back taxes on all of the properties.
A Housing Authority representative told the city’s historic preservation commission in January that Darius Assemi is no longer interested in being involved with the property. Assemi owns one of Fresno’s largest development companies, Granville Homes.