The Fresno City Council on Thursday blessed the new Citizens Public Safety Advisory Board.
The vote: 5-2.
Council President Clint Olivier and Council Members Oliver Baines, Paul Caprioglio, Luis Chavez and Esmeralda Soria voted yes.
Council Members Steve Brandau and Garry Bredefeld voted no.
CVObserver has already written plenty about Mayor Lee Brand’s program. I say “program” because the nine-member Board is actually part of a wider mayoral effort to achieve the twin goals of reducing crime and securing more public trust in the Police Department.
The five council members on the winning side said the Board is a good idea that deserves a chance to succeed.
Bredefeld said the city doesn’t need a board focused on the alleged failures of the Police Department. He said the city needs a board focused on capturing criminals.
Brandau pointed out that Board supporters expect Thursday’s council action to be the “first step” of a government body whose power and influence over the Police Department will only grow. That expectation is cause for worry, he said.
Everyone agreed on the value of trust between police and residents.
One thing in particular struck me about Thursday’s debate.
The hearing’s nature was political, not legal. The Board is a creation of the Mayor’s Office. Brand had no legal obligation to get the council’s OK. But he wanted the Board’s birth to include a show of City Hall unity.
The Board now has that stamp of unity.
But because it is strictly a creature of the Mayor, the Board could, as Brandau warned, change in unexpected ways. Events almost certainly will apply intense and unique pressures on Board members.
The council’s reputation and credibility now belong lock, stock and barrel to the Board for the next 45 months.
So be it. Council members are elected to make tough decisions.
But I am surprised that no council member asked for a codified quid pro quo.
No council member said: “OK, Mayor, we’ll give the City Council’s authority and good name to your cause. But we want something in return. We want a written guarantee that Fresno’s legislative body has a significant measure of oversight over the Board.”
I know – such a demand would have collided with a potentially deal-killing problem involving the state Open Meeting Law. And I heard City Attorney Doug Sloan, at the prompting of Council President Olivier, explain to the public that the Board, coming as it does from the Mayor’s Office, is outside the council’s purview.
Utter nonsense. Fresno is a charter city. The City Council is the straw that stirs the drink at City Hall. Brand came to the council, not the other way around.
If a council majority had demanded that the City Attorney and the Mayor find a way to secure for the next four years the council’s decision-making flexibility regarding what the Board does with the council’s good name, I guarantee it would’ve happened.
Instead, the City Council on Thursday willingly surrendered its decision-making flexibility in this regard to the Mayor and got nothing in return.
We’ve been here before. A timid council acted this way repeatedly from 2000 through 2008. I’m talking about finances.
Fresno nearly went bankrupt in 2011-2012.
It’s called dereliction of duty.