What was cooking at the City Council Meeting

September 18, 2023 – City officials in attendance were Assistant City Manager Andy Haussler, City Manager John Holt, Mayor Pro Tem Vong Mouanoutoua, Mayor Lynne Ashbeck, Councilmember Drew Bessinger, Councilmember Diane Pearce, City Attorney Scott Cross, and City Clerk Karey Cha.

After the meeting was called to order, there was a flag salute followed by a roll call.

Clovis Culinary Center update:

City of Clovis Business Development Manager, Shawn Miller gave a presentation with updates on the Clovis Culinary Center. It has been about a year since the last update on the Center.

The Clovis Culinary Center’s vision is to, “provide kitchen space and create a business incubator to help assist and facilitate commercial culinary success. It’s the ideal facility to support local chefs, entrepreneurs and foodies with their goals.”

Shawn Miller stated that this year marks the Clovis Culinary Center’s 5 year anniversary, and that they have helped about 100 businesses get started. “Right now, there are 77 that are still using the kitchen, [. . .] the facilities and the services,” stated Miller.

The Business Development Manager went on to explain that each one of those businesses has an average of 3.5 employees each. “It’s a lot of fun to watch these businesses start.”

“This year alone, we had some real good success stories,” said Miller. “Dads Cookies, who was here last year, has grown into not just one brick and mortar, but two.”

The good news continued when Miller stated that last week, the owner of Dads Cookies announced that their cookies were chosen as the official cookie of the Fresno State Bulldogs. 

Dads Cookies has even outgrown their brick and mortars, and so they have temporarily started using the Clovis Culinary Center’s kitchen to keep up with production demands.

Shawn Miller went on to introduce the Clovis Culinary Center’s Executive Director and Operations Manager, Kris Marshall. Marshall has been at the center for a year now as of September 19th. “She really has made a difference in this community,” said Miller.

Three businesses currently using the Clovis Culinary Center were also briefly introduced; Miguel’s Salsa, Deer Creek Homestead, and Saint Goods—a unique bakery.

Deer Creek Homestead makes their own vanilla extract, and is currently in the long process of growing their own vanilla. Vanilla orchids are a genus of plants, of which there are over 100 species. The most commonly used vanilla is the flat-leaf vanilla orchid, which is native to Mexico and the West Indies.

According to Simran Sethi of Smithsonian magazine, “While the Totonac people of modern-day Veracruz, Mexico, are credited as the earliest growers of vanilla, the oldest reports of vanilla usage come from the pre-Columbian Maya.”

To many people’s surprise, vanilla can be and is grown in some areas of the United States. It takes years to grow vanilla, and they must be hand-pollinated.

Mayor Pro Tem, Vong Mouanoutoua, asked Shawn Miller if they were keeping data on “all these successes,” and Miller said that they are keeping detailed information “on all levels.”

Mouanoutoua also inquired about the status of sponsorship. “Is it still just as robust as when we first started?” It seems that the answer is that sponsorships are down, even though more people have been needing to use the Clovis Culinary Center to start new businesses since COVID.

After the presentation update on the Clovis Culinary Center, the Council opened up the Public Comment portion.

Affordable housing in Clovis update:

Some citizens raised concerns about affordable housing in Clovis. “I’m really pleased to see that you have acknowledged your need, so let the building begin,” said one of the citizens.

Councilmember Diane Pearce’s Facebook post update:

A couple citizens commented on Councilmember Diane Pearce’s Facebook post from a few months ago, which has since become a big topic of public discourse. Her post was about a display of LGTBQ+ children’s books at the Clovis Public Library. Councilmember Pearce believes that this is not age-appropriate.

There are many news articles with more information on the history of this topic, that we will not delve into within this article. Clovis City Council meeting minutes are also available to the public.

One of the citizens who commented on this topic during the September 18th council meeting praised Pearce after delivering a very passionate speech. 

Another citizen respectfully disagreed. “To be clear, I do not object to Councilmember Diane Pearce sending a letter [to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors]. I support her first amendment right to comment on this or any other issue of her choosing, and I would walk shoulder-to-shoulder with her in support of the right to do so—as a wife, as a mother, as a citizen—even when I disagree with what she has to say, as I do on this case,” said the citizen.

“As some of you may know, I spent most of my career as a journalist and writer under the umbrella of the first amendment. My concern is that I do not want government, or any government official trying to undermine that.”

“But by writing under the [. . .] City of Clovis by using its letterhead, she has done just that,” he continued. “As to the content of the letter, she said she is not trying to ban any book—but that’s not accurate, because the result is the same. She wants to restrict its access.”

“Please, a reasonable solution is simple: let parents decide,” the citizen said.

“Numerous people continue to this day to object to Huckleberry Finn, and have been successful in removing it from library bookshelves. That’s happened to many other books too,”

“And this: I grew up when rock n roll first emerged, and well more than numerous, likely millions, urged the burning of records and wanted government to ban the airways and record shops of the likes of Little Richard, and yes, Elvis. I didn’t want that—would you have? In her letter, she also underscores that it’s important ‘to protect the innocence of our kids in what has become hypersexualized society’, [I] absolutely agree—but it’s the same argument used back then with Little Richard and Elvis.”

Public Comments and Hearing Section:

Another citizen participated in the Public Comments via the internet, and he raised concerns about being able to park his commercial vehicle in a specific area without being ticketed. The council said that one of two local government officials would contact him about whether or not the council chooses to amend the ordinance he was referring to.

As for the Public Hearing portion of the City Council Meeting, Economic Development Director, Chad McCollum discussed the Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report (CAPER) for expenditure of Community Development Block Grant Funds (CDBG).

Some of the grant funds mentioned have directly improved our community through home rehabilitation for the elderly and low-income, as well as alleyway repair and even the community kitchen. Many projects are underway, like recreational trails along canals. McMcollum stated that they are on track for the CDBG 5-year plan. 

City Planner Dave Merchen discussed the proposal to amend the existing density ranges for multi-family residential development in the General Plan and Development Code to correspond to the applicable density requirements specified for the City’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) sites inventory.

We encourage you to attend City Council Meetings. Listen to our neighbors, your fellow Clovis residents, members of our community. Make your voice heard, if you feel so inclined. Learn about what is currently going on in the Clovis government, and what is planned in the future. If you do choose to engage in discourse, please do so respectfully. Remember, we are all here together.

“May we all remember we are here to build community, and we all live here together,” said Mayor Ashbeck.

Destiny De La Cruz is a budding journalist with a passion for photojournalism. As a Fresno State alumni, she earned a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication & Journalism, the Film & Media Arts option with a minor in Anthropology. She has an interest in all things film, food, literature & outdoors.