Permit me six quick thoughts on Thursday’s Grizzly Fest vote at Fresno City Hall.
As to the nitty-gritty of the 90-minute hearing, I direct you to the excellent news article by Guillermo Moreno, CVObserver’s editor-in-chief. (There’s video, too! Guillermo is bringing a new and compelling game to the site.)
1.) Three cheers for Council President Esmeralda Soria.
There were some tense moments during the public comment period. One man who spoke against the staff proposal (two-day music festival at Woodward Park with later-than-normal curfew) tried a few minutes later to worm his way back to the microphone with the aim of clarifying his original point. Soria in a firm, clear and succinct manner told him to sit down. He did. At another point, a man tried to read into the record what allegedly were some obscene lyrics from the portfolio of Snoop Dog, one of the festival’s scheduled performers. Once again, Soria acted quickly and forcefully to nip in the bud a ploy designed only to inflame a public debate.
2.) Grizzly Fest promoters are paying $100,000 to the cash-strapped Parks Department for use of Woodward Park. The festival on each of the two days (May 18 and 19) will finish at 11:30 p.m., 90 minutes later than the standard 10 p.m. deadline for such entertainment.
Some critics in the audience viewed the $100,000 payment as betraying the process, if not the law. Council Member Oliver Baines from the dais said City Hall often leverages its policy-making discretion for the betterment of the entire city.
Baines gave no examples. I thought of two (one small, the other big) as I listened to his comments.
First, City Hall parking czar Del Estabrooke sometimes issues a no-ticket policy to his troops when there’s an especially important public event in a specific part of Downtown.
Second, I remember in early 2001 when the City Council had to choose between two excellent bids for the construction of what is now Chukchansi Park. The low bidder promised a stadium by June 2002. The other bidder promised a stadium by May 2002. The Fresno Diamond Group’s John Carbray made a dramatic walk to the public microphone and promised a sweeter deal from the Grizzlies if the council got the team into the stadium by May.
City councils love “sweets” when they enrich the city treasury.
3.) Grizzly Fest is expected to attract 20,000 people. The promoters said they will use the half-hour between 11:30 p.m. (when the last note is played) and midnight to get the fans out of Woodward Park and on their way home.
Thirty minutes. I don’t believe it.
4.) A woman who supports the festival in Woodward Park told the council that her views should carry extra weight because of “me being young and modern.”
And, apparently, perfect.
5.) Council Member Steve Brandau (who voted against the staff recommendation) said he’ll be patrolling through his District 2 neighborhoods just to the west of Woodward Park on at least one of the festival days. His goal: Make sure the promoters and City Hall keep their promise to mitigate as much as possible the festival’s disruptive effects.
I like a council member who works his district like that.
6.) District 6 Council Member Garry Bredefeld stole the show.
Woodward Park is in Bredefeld’s district. I’m guessing many of the festival’s critics are District 6 voters. Bredefeld could have gotten on a soapbox about this issue and suffered nothing at the polls.
He didn’t. Bredefeld calmly and eloquently explained why Grizzly Fest with an 11:30 p.m. deadline is a bad idea for Woodward Park and the City of Fresno. He set the stage for what was, in the end, a fine example American democracy in action.
Best of all was when Bredefeld defended his constituents against demagogic charges of racism.
Ours is a system of checks and balances. Garry Bredefeld on Thursday showed how it works.