Rethinking Symbolic Legislation, Capitol Relationships
Baines has more than six years of service to District 3 (Downtown and West Fresno) under his belt. He knows the value of symbolic council actions. In mid-2015, amid nationwide debate on display of the Confederate battle flag on public property and as America prepared to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Civil Rights Voting Act, Baines got the council to approve an ordinance banning the sale and city-sponsored display of the Stars and Bars on city property.
The city had never sponsored such a display, nor had it ever sold the flag. Nonetheless, Baines said at the time, the flag is a “symbol of hate” and public debate on his proposal is useful public policy.
I asked Baines in our phone interview last week if the City Council of 2017 is plagued by its own civil war.
“There is no civil war,” Baines said. “The council is deciding which issues we should be taking up. The council should be concerned with issues that are most relevant to our residents, not ideological issues that don’t have any direct benefit to our residents.”
His basic point: Immigration policy and labor costs obviously have a direct bearing on City Hall policy. But both SB 54 and AB 199 are still in their infancy. The finished product could be far different than what council members had before them on March 23. Let’s wait before we man the ramparts.
Chavez has been the District 5 (Southeast Fresno) council member for all of three months. But he, too, is well versed in the political arts. He was District 5 Council Member Sal Quintero’s chief of staff. He has also been a Fresno Unified School District board member.
“I always strive to have respectful dealings with my fellow council members, even when we disagree on fundamental issues,” Chavez said.
Chavez said the key issues before the council at the moment are public safety, infrastructure and jobs.
“Let’s focus on what our constituents hired us to do,” he said.
Chavez said the issues at the core of AB 199 and SB 54 are of legitimate interest to Fresno and its political leaders. But, he added, the content of both bills is in flux. He counsels patience until the bills firm up.
“We have a good working relationship with Sacramento. We have a good working relationship with (Washington) D.C. I see no need to create a rift in those relationships,” Chavez said.
As to the Big Five’s actions on the two resolutions, Chavez said it was only “partially” the goal to send a message to Brandau and Bredefeld.
Olivier was elected to represent District 7 (Central Fresno) in November 2010. He took office in December rather than January 2011 because his predecessor, Henry T. Perea, resigned to take a seat in the state Assembly. Olivier is the council’s senior member.
“There’s absolutely no civil war on the council,” Olivier said. “I am proud of how this group is beginning to jell. I have hope that as we continue to work together, more and better pieces of policy will come forward that will benefit the entire city. It’s still early. I welcome Luis and Garry to the council. As we move forward, things will only get better.”