Fresno County Supervisor Steve Brandau and Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld are battling over the city’s cemetery for veterans.
A recent grand jury report found that Veterans Liberty Cemetery is in a state of neglect, which is disrespectful to the veterans who are buried there.
The backstory: The Fresno County Civil Grand Jury received a complaint that the cemetery was not being adequately maintained, and staff at surrounding cemeteries also received complaints about the unkempt condition of Veterans Liberty Cemetery, according to the grand jury report.
- Veterans Liberty Cemetery is overgrown with grass and weeds, it has several dead trees and many of the headstones are covered with dirt. Some areas also have standing water.
- Along with the landscaping issues, the report found that the flagpole did not display the American Flag and that the restrooms were continually vandalized so they are presently boarded up.
- The cemetery dates back to 1896 and has 4,200 plots at its southwest Fresno location. There are no more plots available to purchase.
- The cemetery is funded through the county’s general fund under Public Works and Planning Resources in the Parks Department.
The big picture: Bredefeld, who is trying to unseat Brandau from the Board of Supervisors, took to Facebook to call the situation a “complete disgrace and disrespect” to the veterans, turning it into a campaign issue.
- Bredefeld targeted the $225,000 in America Rescue Plan Act funds that the county distributed to the National Garlic Festival and Food Expo last year and accused the supervisors of ignoring the cemetery.
- “These County politicians had foster kids sleeping on floors and support handing out 20,000 needles to drug addicts every Saturday outside Roeding Park,” Bredefeld wrote. “When I become your next County Supervisor, your priorities will be respected, your voice will be heard, and we will focus on the real needs of the County and its residents. These disgraceful events will no longer take place or be allowed to happen. Period.”
The other side: In response, Brandau posted a video on his Supervisorial office Facebook page responding to the “latest rant” from Bredefeld, saying he wanted to clear the record.
- Brandau said the one reason why the cemetery has fallen into a state of neglect is because of the homeless population, saying they’ve “invaded” the cemetery.
- “They burnt down a maintenance building, they messed up the restrooms, they tore out the sprinkler lines so the grass has died in some parts, flooded in other parts,” Brandau said.
- He said the county has worked to address the needs at the cemetery, including spending $250,000 to replace the sprinkler lines. The county has removed dead trees and dead bushes and has pressure washed the tombstones. The county is waiting on a claim from its insurance company to replace the burnt building. Brandau added that the county plans to hire a full-time employee who will work on the cemetery’s maintenance and hopefully ward off attacks from the homeless.
- Brandau went on to call out the state of the Veterans Memorial Auditorium, saying it has tens of millions of dollars of disrepair.
- “You would think that the councilmember would get to work on that instead of calling out Fresno County,” Brandau said. “My point is, look, if you live in a glass house don’t throw rocks, bud. “It’s not very valuable.”
- Fresno officials attempted to remedy the auditorium via Measure M, an unsuccessful ballot measure to invest in veterans facilities. Bredefeld was a co-signer on the ballot argument in support of the measure.