Fresno

Fresno lawmakers delay ending COVID emergency, stiffen fireworks fines

Fresno’s two-year COVID-19 local emergency order will stay in place for at least another two weeks.

The Fresno City Council was set to vote on a resolution that would terminate the local emergency at Thursday’s meeting. 

Mayor Jerry Dyer recommended the termination with the goal of moving to an endemic strategy for the city regarding the virus.

If the council moved forward with Dyer’s wishes, the mayor would have instituted administrative orders to continue to have city employees perform daily self-screenings and contact tracing, and it would have suspended the weekly testing requirement for unvaccinated employees.

But before the agenda was approved, city staff tabled the item until the meeting scheduled for May 12.

However, in the meantime, the council voted to extend the emergency conditions due to the pandemic to allow for online participation through Zoom to continue for another 30 days in compliance with the Brown Act.

Councilman Garry Bredefeld pulled the resolution for discussion, leading to a moment of brevity at City Hall. 

“We already know what you’re going to say,” Council President Nelson Esparza told Bredefeld while laughing. 

“We don’t need to belabor this,” Bredefeld responded. “I could’ve just said ‘let’s vote no.’ Even Dr. Fauci has said the pandemic is over, gentlemen – even Dr. Fauci. I’m against it.” 

Esparza responded, “Garry, if you come up sick one Thursday I don’t want you to come to work. I want you to stay at home and Zoom in. Keep us all healthy and passing this will give us that option – once a month.”

Crackdown on illegal fireworks

Anyone caught using illegal fireworks in Fresno will face harsher penalties.

The council amended the city’s fireworks ordinance to increase the fine structure as well as add liability for “social hosts.”

With the new focus on social hosts, the city is now allowed to issue citations to owners and tenants who allow people to use illegal fireworks on their property, in a public right of way adjacent to their property or in a road, street or highway adjacent to their property.

That marks a shift from current law, which only allows the police and fire departments to issue citations to the people who actually discharge the fireworks. 

Up until this point, the city’s fine structure for using illegal fireworks was $1,000 per violation. 

Moving forward, the city will have a scaled fine structure of $2,000 for the first citation, $3,000 for the second citation and $5,000 for all subsequent violations. 

Cannabis redraws Fresno’s map

Following last week’s introduction, the amendment to the city’s cannabis ordinance to legalize the uneven distribution of licenses due to redistricting was officially approved Thursday. 

Since redistricting changed the city council map, two dispensaries will be in different districts than the ones they were initially approved in due to the shifting boundaries. 

The council approved an amendment to the cannabis ordinance which grandfathers the 20 approved dispensaries in to comply with city code. 

Any and all future dispensaries must be distributed throughout the city to create an equal number of retail locations in each district.

Fresno shows its cards on military equipment

As has been happening across California, the city council approved the city’s military equipment use policy for the Fresno Police Department. 

While governments such as the Clovis City Council and the Kings County Board of Supervisors took issue with this policy, which includes publicly disclosing what equipment the police department has in stock, Fresno’s lawmakers did not raise any objections. 

The requirement for such a policy comes from Assembly Bill 481, which took effect at the beginning of the year and requires all governing bodies to pass a military equipment use policy and to have an acquisition plan for any future equipment. 

Speaking to the council, Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama said AB 481 is an attempt to increase transparency and accountability related to the equipment that the department uses and purchases. 

He also said that the equipment the state defines as military use is not actually military equipment. 

“I like this because it increases accountability. I like accountability, the fact that we’re not going out there buying equipment that’s going to hurt people. This is life saving equipment. And I would like to point out that our SWAT Team in the last eight years – they use most of this equipment – they have not shot and killed anybody,” Balderrama said. 

“But I’ve lost count of how many lives we’ve saved. This equipment allows us to get close enough to pull hostages out of bad situations, to get close enough to protect our police officers. It is to save lives, and we’ve done so very successfully in this city.” 

The Fresno Police Department’s military equipment includes robots, drones, a Lenco BearCat, an Osh Kosh Mine Resistant All-Terrain Vehicle, a mobile command center, a SWAT Command Vehicle, breaching shotgun rounds, AR-15 rifles and sniper rifles, among other equipment.

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.