The Jesse Morrow Mountain issue is a big one for a lot of people in this area so after a recent Planning Commission meeting two local citizens, one from Reedley and one from Sanger, shared their experience and their thoughts with us here at KRL.
Georgia Linscheid, Member of Friends of Jesse Morrow Mountain Inc. Reedley
The Planning Commission Meeting was held at the Hall of Records Building in Court House Park on Feb 9, 2012. This was to recommend whether or not to mine Jesse Morrow Mountain for gravel. We arrived early because we knew there would be a crowd of people opposing the mine as well as a crowd of hired union people that Cemex paid to represent the mining of the mountain. Doors were not open until 8:30 in the morning.
We arrived at 7:45 a.m. and as the doors were opened for the Cemex people we went in also. We were able to get inside the meeting room. Those who were there at 8:30 and after were left in the hallway. They were given a room that held about 20 people with sound. About 100 remained in the hall with a few benches but most had to stand or sit on the floor. We had two 10-minute breaks during the day and the meeting lasted until 4:00 when the Commission decided to hold another meeting to finish their decision. There were 76 people scheduled to speak in opposition of the mine. Because of the late response period, lots of the people who could not see nor hear went home, and which may have been about half who were scheduled to speak and were stuck in the other room or hallway.
The next meeting will probably be next month to finish the rebuttal and the sur-rebuttal, then the commission will vote. This meeting is not the final decision but goes to the Fresno Co. Board of Supervisors for their vote.
What can you do? You can write to your Board of Supervisors and/or make appointments to talk to them in person. This is very important as a citizen to express your ideas and thoughts. We elect these Board members and they are working for us. For information about the mine, go to our website www.jessemorrowmountain,org
Here is a list of Board members and their email addresses:
Judy Case – firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan Anderson – email@example.com
Debbie Poochigian – firstname.lastname@example.org
Phil Larson – email@example.com
Henry Perea – firstname.lastname@example.org
Fresno county planning commission – email@example.com
Toni Pacini, Sanger
Re: Fresno County Commissioner’s meeting on Thursday February 09, regarding a conditional use permit for Cemex Corporation to mine Jesse Morrow Mountain.
At Thursday’s meeting at the Hall of Records the people in opposition to the mining of Jesse Morrow Mountain were treated like the enemies of growth, jobs and development. When in reality the hundreds of people who were forced to stand in the hallways, were there to defend healthy growth, real jobs, and sensible development.
Although most of the people opposed to the mine arrived an hour to 1 ½ hours before the matter was to be heard at 9:30 a.m., Cemex and their supporters already held several rows of seating. Included were members of Operating Engineers Union and other unions and Cemex employees. Most did not sign the forms to speak and did not speak. It appeared that they only came to take the chairs and we understand that they were paid to do so?
In an article in the Bee on February 8, and also written in the agenda for the meeting, the following was stated, “County planners are recommending the commission allow the mining to proceed.” Many people, laymen not familiar with the difference between the Planners and the Planning Commission, mistook this language to mean that the commission would approve the mine. So we came in mass to beg them not to do so. When citizens brought up this concern, they were chastised by members of the commission and treated like idiots. Although several of the commissioners repeatedly admitted that although they had read all the material, or attempted to, that they were unsure and confused as well?
To add insult to injury and although the article in the Bee on Feb. 8, and the agenda stated that, “The hearing is open to the public” it was anything but open. The majority of people were forced to stay outside of the main chamber. The audio was very poor in the lobby and hallway and having over 100+people bunched together made it worse. People in the halls screamed (in order to be heard by the commission) that the meeting be postponed and changed to a venue that would accommodate the people. Later several people complained at the podium that the meeting should have been rescheduled.
In addition, we asked for “sign up to comment” sheets 1½ hours prior to the Cemex portion of the meeting at 9:30. The chairman of the commission said we would not be required to fill out the forms. Concerned, one citizen asked a city employee (clerk) seated in front of the commissioners dais, and she said that we would not need to fill out request to speak forms, that we would all be allowed to speak. A citizen inside the meeting went out into the hall and told the already upset crowd this and they vowed to stay. Later, before Cemex presented, the chairman said that each citizen would be allowed to speak for five minutes each.
At 9:30, the crowd was restless and Cemex took the floor, they presented for at least 3-hours. The day was dragging on and to our shock it was at this point that the chairman of the commission said we did need to fill out “request to speak forms.” Also that each of us would only have 3-minutes to speak, not 5-minutes as he had previously announced. We objected and told him that he and the clerk had told us that we would not need to fill out the forms and that we would have five minutes. But he did not seem to care.
However, there were no sheets available for us to sign. The clerks scrambled and eventually the sheets started around. Early on they were passed to three rows of Cemex and union people seated in front of a row of citizens. All of them took one, although none of the ones who took them spoke in the public comment portion of the meeting. Why did they take the forms? When the stack went to two Cemex employees seated in chairs in the hall by the press, one of the employees casually tossed the remainder of the stack into his box of files. A citizen had to say, “Hey, pass those on!”
When we finally had forms for the people in the halls, they were understandably very angry, they had been in the halls for hours and could have filled out the forms100-times over, now they were racing to be heard. At this point one 90+ year old lady in a wheelchair had to go to her car for a nap. The meeting resumed after a 10-minute break and the commission opted to allow the handful of people who were there to support the mine to speak first. There were over 70-people at this point that had turned in their requests and more still being sent to the clerk, via the security guard. Less than ten of these supported the mine. Yet the majority of citizens were made to wait again? Why couldn’t they just call the names in the order they were received which is the normal process?
It was after 1:30 in the afternoon before the citizens were allowed to speak. Many were in the lobby and straining to hear their names called over the intercom. This went on for hours and several people had no choice but to leave. The largest portion of the people opposed to the mine was not heard that day, including the determined 90+year old citizen in a wheelchair. Several of those who had a chance to speak were judged because they did not know about information presented by Cemex earlier in the day. How could they know what was presented when none of the power point presentations were shown in the halls and it was impossible to hear anything most of the time? Not to mention that there were not nearly enough handouts provided to the people and Cemex was handing new information to the commissioners during the meeting that the people were not given. I believe that may well be a Brown Act Violation.
In conclusion, the commission ran out of time. About 4:15 they decided that there was not enough time before they had to close at 5 p.m. to hear Cemex’s rebuttal (which Cemex said would take 20-minutes) and then to hear the peoples rebuttal of equal time, to Cemex’s rebuttal. One commissioner (maybe two) said at this point that due to the size of the crowd and the complaints about the venue, that there should be another meeting held in a bigger place. That the citizens be properly notified, and that the others who left because of the conditions, be allowed to speak before the rebuttals. But one commissioner said absolutely not, that she had heard enough, that the people were often redundant and she didn’t want to hear any more. When a citizen in the audience said, “That’s your job.” The commissioner said “no it’s not when you repeat yourselves.”
It is our understanding that at a public hearing everyone has the right to be heard. We could write a 3-minute speech and have each person read it. Each person could stand there for their 3-alloted minutes and stare at the commission if they felt it might move them. After all, the representatives of Cemex repeated their mantras over and over and over again. When asked for facts and clarification to back up their song and dance on about a dozen points, they could not answer the majority of questions.
I hope that you can see our problem here, at worst we have a matter for investigation by the grand jury and possibly a brown act violation. At best we have insensitivity and a lack of understanding of the peoples rights, which does not excuse the actions. In any case, this meeting was a travesty and the people demand rectification.
For more information on this situation check out a 2012 article by KRL and watch for more articles in the future.
These are the opinions of two locals who feel strongly about this situation. Feel free to comment and share yours.