City Council meeting: Top dog and election changes

Photo by Ron Sundquist – Mayor Nathan Magsig and the Clovis City Council for honoring the Clovis Veterans’ Memorial District on Monday night, June,1,2015

By Jeanine Fiser | Reporter

Clovis Mayor Nathan Magsig and members of the city council discussed possible changes to elections at the city council meeting July 5, and met the newest member of the Clovis Police Department, a two-year-old Springer Spaniel trained in narcotics detection named Murphy.

Capt. Tom Roberts of the Clovis Police Department said Murphy was born in Ireland and arrived in Clovis in June. Upon being certified, Murphy went straight to work and already helped in a successful drug bust on his first call.

“Their first night of patrol, which was actually assigned last night, they received their very first call out, they both responded, and there was currency and narcotics located,” Roberts said. “So that was a very successful first deployment.”

Roberts said Murphy is trained to detect marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroine. Murphy showed off his detection skills at the meeting by conducting a demonstration. He quickly located a shred of a cotton swab the officers earlier hid, proving Clovis has acquired a top dog.

The changes to elections the council considered were in response to two pieces of state legislation, SB 415 and SB 493. City Clerk John Holt described the meaning of both bills and their likely impacts, which include a possible change of when the city will hold elections and how district lines will be drawn.

“The first one is Senate Bill 415, and what it does is prevent the city from holding an election on any day other than a statewide general election date if doing so in the past has resulted in a turnout that is 25 percent less than the last four average state general elections,” Holt said.

Based on data that showed a 30 percent lower turnout in March than in November over the last four elections, it appeared the city will have to begin holding elections on the same day as statewide general elections by 2022. Holt said this would impact the three city council seats filled in March 2019 by cutting their terms short five months to hold elections in November 2022. Holt noted that consolidating elections will likely save the city money.

The second bill Holt discussed affects cities that hold at-large elections for city council.

“This bill permits a city that elects its city council at-large to enact an ordinance switching its election method to by-district without submitting the change to voters for approval,” Holt said.

The bill is intended to prevent the dilution of minority voters’ votes depending on how district lines are drawn. Holt said the city will need to study demographic information and current districts to protect the city from legal action.

Another item of business the city council completed was confirming the City Manager Robert Woolley’s appointment of John Binaski to fire chief following the departure of fire chief Michael Despain.

“John has been with the City of Clovis since 2013 as the deputy fire chief, has over 25 years of experience, he’s been in Kingsburg, Tulare and Orange County so he has an incredible level of knowledge and has done an excellent job,” Woolley said. “It is an honor that I recommend John as the next fire chief of the City of Clovis.”

Binaski said he was honored to receive the recommendation and and thanked his family for supporting his career.

“I would not have been as successful without my wonderful wife who encouraged me and stayed home to care for my two daughters,” Binaski said. “This is actually a dream come true. When I came to the Central Valley 25 years ago I never imagined that I’d be fire chief of Clovis; it’s always been the premier city and the premier department.”

Despain, who is leaving for a job in Nebraska, said he was pleased to see Binaski taking the role as fire chief and was proud of the City of Clovis.

“I loved my time here in Clovis, it is absolutely the best place to raise a family,” Despain said. “I’ve had the best career, better than I could ask for.

Mayor Magsig closed the meeting with a reflection on the importance of the 4th of July holiday and the value of being able to celebrate freedom. He said there are issues facing the city and country, but compared to the rest of the world the nation is still great.

“Despite all the things that are going on I wouldn’t want to live in any other country,” Magsig said. “I want to encourage everyone in this room to be fully engaged in the upcoming election and fully engaged in the community.”