Learning to Live with a New Council
I spoke by phone with the Mayor on Sunday evening. He knows all the gory details of the council fight. Brand gave me just one comment on the record: “You have to be willing to compromise and work collaboratively to get things done.”
Bredefeld in January succeeded Brand as representative for District 6 (Northwest Fresno). In an interview last week, Bredefeld described Brandau and himself as “strong conservatives – and we’ve taken very strong conservative positions.”
Bredefeld said he and Brand don’t see eye-to-eye on all issues. But, Bredefeld added, “Mayor Brand and I have been friends for years. I like Mayor Brand. I respect him. He vigorously fights for what he believes in, and so do I. It’s not a personal thing.”
Bredefeld said he, too, values cooperation in policy-making. But, he said, that doesn’t mean compromising his principles.
“I’m not going to be part of the good old boy club down there,” Bredefeld said. “I’m going to speak very strongly for the people that elected me. And when I see things that I think are terrible policies, such as mandatory rental inspection programs and citizens police advisory boards, I’m going to speak out against them. That ruffles feathers. I get it. But that’s what I was elected to do, and I’m going to do it.”
I’ll give a bit more space to Brandau’s comments from our interview. He represents District 2 (Northwest Fresno), and is starting his second four-year term. That first term had its share of controversial issues, but Brandau seemed to always get along with his colleagues even when he was on the losing side. Perhaps that’s why several council members told me they expect Brandau to eventually swing back to a more collegial game plan.
I took that to mean the Big Five expect Brandau to distance himself from Bredefeld.
“I think the council is in a state flux, as is the country,” Brandau said. “What you see coming out of D.C. – all the debates, all the protests – they eventually come to Fresno. People have their own sets of beliefs, and on the council there are seven people who believe strongly.”
I asked if a civil war is building on the council.
“I think civil war is a little strong,” Brandau said. “We’ve got two new members (Bredefeld and Chavez), and we’re trying to learn what those two members are like and work with them and deal with all of the ramifications. What you’re seeing for sure right now is the council being shaken up a little bit.
Brandau said he was told by several council members shortly before the March 23 meeting began that his resolution of SB 54 would be pulled from the agenda.
“I said, ‘If that’s what you guys have to do, that’s what you have to do,’” Brandau said. “The same council members who said we have to pull it – we’ve had two or three good talks since then. So, I’m prepared to get along with everybody. That’s never changed for me, and it’s not going to change now.”
Brandau and I moved to the Bredefeld drama.
“I think there’s a lot of divide going on right now with the council,” Brandau said. “And I think a lot of them are really concerned over Council Member Bredefeld. He’s got a different style, a different makeup. He’d already served once in a different time when the relationships were a lot more strained than they are now.
“He’s an aggressive guy, he’s got strong beliefs, and he’s not afraid of his beliefs. And sometimes people get put off about that – until you learn that that’s just who he is. Maybe some of them will take a while to figure out this is just his style. Maybe they will never like it.
“The part I don’t like is behind the scenes I’ve heard more sniping than ever before at different council members – and mostly aimed at him. I’ve been in the room dozens of times where I’ve thought, ‘I’ve never felt like this before, but now I want to walk out of the room. I don’t want to participate.’ I haven’t been 100% successful on that. But that’s the direction I’m going.”