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A Look at the Reedley City Council

IN THE April 6 ISSUE

FROM THE 2019 Articles,
andCommunity,
andLorie Lewis Ham,
andReedley News
SECTIONS

by Lorie Lewis Ham

We have been doing a series of articles about different aspects of the City of Reedley. This week we are looking at the City Council, and getting a better idea of what they do. We chatted with Reedley City Council member Robert Beck, who has been on the city council for around seven and half years.

KRL: What inspired you to run for City Council?

Beck: I was asked if I would be interested in applying for the city council because the current council person had recently moved out of District 3. I agreed to apply for the District 3 Council Seat. After going through a vetting process, I was appointed to fill the remaining fourteen months of the District 3’s office by the four members of the city council. The field consisted of five or six other candidates.

KRL: What is your background? Are you from Reedley?

Beck: I am a retired from law enforcement. I moved to the City of Reedley, as a condition of my employment with the police department, in 1970. I was hired in May 1969 as a full time police officer by the City of Reedley.

Robert Beck

Robert Beck

KRL: How long is a City Council member’s term?

Beck: Four years.

KRL: Names of each current council member and how long they have been with the council?

Beck:
Anita Betancourt: Over a decade on Council.
Mary Fast: Over a decade on Council.
Frank Pinon: Our newest Council Member has been here two years.
Ray Soleno: Our longest serving Council Member with almost 35 years on Council.

KRL: Do council members have specific positions or individual duties within the council?

Beck: There is a Mayor, a Mayor Pro-Tempore and three council positions. The mayor is responsible for presiding over all meeting of the city council. In the absence of the Mayor, the Mayor Pro-Tempore is responsible to run the meetings of the city council. The mayor will be called upon to be present and speak at community functions, grand openings and other activities to do with or connected to the city. Again, in the absence of the Mayor, the Mayor Pro-Tempore will be called upon to fulfill the duties. All council members have other duties, such as commissions, boards and their respective districts. However, each council member has one vote and not only is obligated to his or her district but is responsible to the whole city.
* (More detailed information about the various jobs the council members do can be found at the end of this article).

KRL: How is it decided who will be mayor and how long does that term last?


Beck:
We do not vote on the Mayor position in the City of Reedley. We rotate the Mayor and the Mayor Pro-Tempore positions every two years. This is done by districts.

KRL: How often do you meet?

Beck: We meet on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month. If additional meetings are needed, a notice is posted in advance and a special meeting will take place.

city

Council members Ray Soleno and Robert Beck at the Reedley Fiesta

KRL: Are the council members volunteer?

Beck: Yes and no. We do receive some compensation, monetary and health insurance, but mostly it is about a commitment to our community.

KRL: How much time each week do your council duties take up?

Beck: It will vary. During budget time, we will run four meetings a month. During slow times not so much. I have never put a clock on myself because I don’t think about how much I am working. I think more on the terms of my investing in our community and making it a better place to live and raise our children.

KRL: What do you feel have been some of the recent highlights of what the City Council has accomplished?

Beck: This City Council has done a tremendous amount of work over the past few years. We focus on our priorities rather than trying to do everything in a shotgun approach. Public Safety, Economic Development, Beautification, and Fiscal Health of the City are the major focus areas.

When I first came aboard as Council, our City budget was in bad shape. In fact, we were facing bankruptcy. The Council had to make some hard decisions, such as furloughing employees and not moving ahead with projects that we felt were not critical in nature. We also put some strong policies in place for staff to follow, such as General Fund Reserve policies, investment policies, and Credit/Bonding Policies. That helped guide staff in putting better budgets together.
The Council also made a conscious effort to support our Police Department in being more innovative in the way they approached crime. They began to partner with the local school district and other organizations, and they started to really drive their decisions by data, rather than by intuition. Over the course of the time I have been here, we have decreased our crime rate dramatically, and are now one of the safest cities in the Valley, and even the State. We are very proud of that.

city

Members of the Reedley City Council at Reedley College in 2013

Overall, this Council can take a lot of credit for moving Reedley in a positive direction. I think one of the most important things that this Council has done is to consciously make the effort to be non-political and be collaborative. Staff can then rely on us to truly lead, rather than worrying about how issues may get political or whose feathers may get ruffled. That helps them be more innovative and risk-taking if they aren’t worried about issues becoming mired in petty politics. On the Council, we certainly all do not agree 100% of the time, but we are polite and respectful despite our differences.

KRL: What are some of the councils future hopes and goals?

Beck: The Council is really pressing forward aggressively on Economic Development now that we have gotten our house in order on the basics, so to speak. This includes putting together a detailed and action-oriented three-year strategic plan, and pushing staff to build relationships with developers and land owners.

We are also pressing hard on getting grants to help build out our Sports Park and rehabilitate our older parks in town. The City of Reedley has just completed a major renovation of our old, blighted community pool into a new, safe neighborhood splash park for kids. We did this using a $1 million grant we received from the State. And we also received grant funds and rehabilitated the old Mueller Park to include new LED lighting, a modern restroom facility, a dog park, walking path, and additional safety features.

city

Robert Beck in Council Chambers

One of our most pressing goals in the next two to three years, however, is to keep the financial future bright for Reedley. The State’s mismanagement of the public pension funds is threatening to do harm to both big and small cities throughout California. For Reedley, that pension problem is about $1 million over the next two years. That’s a lot of money to come up with for a problem that came from the State. I am hopeful, however, that our staff knows how to weather this, and that our Council will make the wise and prudent fiscal decisions to keep us sound.

*City Council Duties

A council member reviews and makes decisions on various community issues. Such as allocating funding to provide for public services, which include public safety (police department and fire department), public works which provides street repairs, water, garbage and recycling services, community development projects, issues of land use, approve zoning changes, housing and budget matters, community recreational programs, which includes many after school programs. The council is responsible for voting on and implementing state mandated laws, which the city must stay in compliant with.

Boards and Commissions

There are numerous boards and commissions that council members are on. Just to mention a few: Fresno Council Of Government is a joint powers agreement with all the cities and the county. Below is from COGS wed site.

The Fresno Council of Governments (Fresno COG) is a consensus builder, developing acceptable programs and solutions to issues that do not respect political boundaries. Fresno COG is a voluntary association of local governments, one of California’s 38 regional planning agencies, and one of 500+ nationwide. In 1967, elected officials of Fresno County and its incorporated cities informally created the agency, formalizing Fresno COG in 1969 through a Joint Powers Agreement. Fresno COG undertakes comprehensive regional planning with an emphasis on transportation, provides citizens an opportunity to be involved in the planning process, and supplies technical services to its members.

The Kings Basin Water Authority. This is a joint powers agreement with water districts, cities, and counties in the Kings River Basin.

Five Cities Economic Development Board. This is a board designed to help bring economic development to smaller, east side cites outside the sphere of influence of Fresno and Clovis. This board started with five cities and has expanded to seven cities, Reedley, Selma, Sanger, Kingsburg, Fowler, Parlier, and Orange Cove. The board is administered by the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation.

Central Valley Public Transportation Authority, Airport Land Use Commission, Regional Mitigation Fee Authority, Fresno County Rural Transit Authority (Dial Ride), and many more.

We are doing a series of articles on those that serve the City of Reedley in some capacity. You can find more of this series in the Community section of KRL. We have spoken with the Chamber of Commerce, the Reedley City Manager, Reedley’s Chief of Police Joe Garza, and the Reedley Museum so far, if there is anyone related to the city that you would like us to talk to mention it in the comments below.

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and a contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds. Explore Lorie’s mystery writing at Mysteryrat’s Closet.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Wyvonna Wilson April 7, 2019 at 2:22pm

Are we ever going to get a clothing store back in Reedley so us old people don’t have to travel out of town to buy clothes? It is very upsetting how all the clothing stores went out of business here. Why? Seems like our town is losing everything except pizza places. I am saddened by the closures of the stores here.

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