Referendum Against Hanford’s New Zoning Ordinance Filed

vocal group of Hanford advocates for Hidden Valley Park are keeping their promise. During the April 24 Hanford City Council meeting the council passed a new zoning ordinance that changed the designation of the undeveloped 18 acres of the park from public facilities to low-density residential.

Because of the zoning change the group promised a referendum and/or a recall.

A referendum on the zoning ordinance was filed mid-May and a recall effort against Sue Sorenson, whose district includes the park, is being organized. The decision to follow through on the recall is still up in the air.

The city officially filed the new zoning ordinance on May 2, giving the Hidden Valley Park advocacy group until June 1st to hand in 3,300 signatures. Mark Pratter, a familiar face at city council meetings, said that the group plans on handing in the signatures on May 31.

According to Pratter, the referendum gives the city the choice of repealing the zoning ordinance or putting the zoning ordinance up for a public vote. The ultimate goal is to change the zoning of Hidden Valley Park back to its Public Facilities designation.

The referendum states:

“We the registered voters of the City of Hanford Ca hereby present this petition to the City Council of Hanford, California, and ask the council to repeal or submit to the registered voters of the City for their approval or rejection that legislative act adopted by the city council on May 2, 2017 of which the following is a full and correct copy.

Ordinance 17-04 approving Municipal Code Amendment 17-01 amending title 17 of the Municipal Code, as Update to the City of Hanford Zoning Ordinance.”

Mike Quinn, another park advocate, said that during the April 24 city council meeting the council members changed the Downtown zoning fairly easily and could have done the same for Hidden Valley Park.

“It’s not like Hidden Valley Park was a lynchpin of the entire General Plan. They could have easily changed the zoning back to parkland and still voted to pass the General Plan,” he said,

Pratter added that the referendum will need to be a special election. “The group cannot wait until the November 2018 election because the city might sell the park from underneath them.”

Former Hanford Mayor Dan Chin said, “The city of Hanford has had a standing offer from a developer to buy that land for 20 years. I bet not one developer in Hanford hasn’t considered buying it.”

Another longtime Hanford resident participating in the Thursday night Farmers Market said, “I know of a developer ready to buy it tomorrow.”

Vice-Mayor Sue Sorenson Under Consideration For Recall

Vice-Mayor Sue Sorenson, whose district includes Hidden Valley Park, has been under consideration for a recall by the park advocates.

“Sorenson doesn’t want the park expanded and has said that Hanford does not need a 40-acre park. She opposed it before when she was on the council,” said Pratter.

Sorenson was a city council member from 2008-2012.

Nate Odom, a park advocate who has been pounding the pavement getting signatures for the referendum, said he got very suspicious when Sorenson said she would not vote to designate the 18 acres of undeveloped land as surplus, but then turned around and did so at the March 7 city council meeting. Designating the land as surplus is the first step in selling it.

Park advocates are frustrated that Sorenson often argues both sides of an issue, making her support extremely unreliable.  She has flip-flopped on decisions regarding the Bastille, a hotel occupancy tax, and Purple Heart Patient Center, a medical marijuana facility.

Another issue the group has with Sorenson is that she has too many conflicts of interest. Because she has part ownership in the Laundry Building, a downtown office building at 425 W. Seventh Street, she recused herself from voting on Hanford’s new zoning ordinance and the General Plan.

Quinn said, I live in her district and I want to be represented. But she can’t vote on major issues.”

Sorenson commented during a city council meeting that she was unaware she would not be able to vote on the general plan before she got elected. A former public official said, “I have a hard time believing that statement after her 20 years of public service.”

Besides serving on the city council, Sorenson served on the school board for 16 years.

When rumors of a possible recall started circulating on a Hanford facebook page, several longtime residents said that Sorenson would rather resign than go through another recall. Sorenson was on the school board when a fellow trustee went through a nasty recall over the firing of a beloved school superintendent. She allegedly said she never wanted to go through that experience again.

Councilmember Francisco Ramirez is currently facing a possible recall. Recall advocates have until mid August to collect 800 valid signatures from District D. His term is up in November of 2018.

Sorenson represents District B. Her term is up in 2020.

2 thoughts on “Referendum Against Hanford’s New Zoning Ordinance Filed

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  1. Sometimes it’s necessary to provide explanations behind supposed hidden meanings, hidden agendas, and conspiracies. To the citizenry of Hanford, the following is offered as food for thought. The recall efforts of Francisco Ramirez may be one of the hidden agendas. Let me caveat, this is a personal narrative. As such, merely offered to shed some light on the possibility of an agenda which could be personally motivated which seeks to systematically remove duly elected council members. These council members which are being subjected to recall or threat of recall simply do not toe the party line. The following is provided, not if favor or disfavor of any recall action.

    I like to start with, the term “good ol’ boy,” an often a misused term. The term is only being used here as it has been loosely used on various social media sites concerning the recall. The term is not limited to the generally accepted “male” only arena. When in fact, in this case, the term encompasses both male and female, may aptly describe the strategist behind the issues described herein, as well as the recall. The narrative seen on the FaceBook pages “Hanford City Council Actions,” and “Hanford Issues” clearly support the essence of this narrative. There appears to be a systematic plan to remove certain member(s) of the City Council, as well as the City Manager. The foundation for removal of certain city officiants may simply stem from being in opposition to the desires of the “good ol’ boy” clique.

    I like to begin with the post made on the “Hanford Issues” FaceBook page dated May 28, 2017. https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1319877471400712&id=256049181116885 As you can see, the entire Libertarian Party of Kings County supports the recall of Mr. Ramirez. “The Libertarian Party of Kings County supports the recall of Francisco Ramirez from the Hanford City Council District D seat.“ There needs to be a pause to truly consider this statement. Are we to believe that every Libertarian in Kings County has been informed of a possible recall? Was there a consensus? Why was the post made at all? Why was the post not endorsed by the President, Vice President or Chair of the group? Why was this FaceBook post signed by a probable business owner in downtown? We’ll get to this last question in a bit. At face value, it appears a political party which has nothing to do with the city is attempting to wield a hammer!

    Let’s talk about college degrees for a minute. The post above states Mr. Ramirez mislead his constituents. Mind you, there is no supporting documentation which validates this claim one way or the other. So that we are all on the same page, the following is offered.
    There are varying levels of education, varying levels of degree programs and a variety of methods to obtain such certificates or degrees. In a nutshell, colleges fit into many categories, profit v. non-profit, traditional v. technical, accredited v. unaccredited, and so on. As mentioned in the post, Columbia Pacific University, is an unaccredited school in the State of California. However, what wasn’t mentioned is Columbia Pacific University did in fact obtain an accreditation in California and held that accreditation until mid-1997. This paragraph is merely to point out a fact, Columbia Pacific University was recognized as an educational institute capable of offering accredited degrees in California.

    There is no inference made to the validity of Mr. Ramirez’s degrees. However, it was possible for a student of Columbia Pacific University to continue his or her education and not be privy to the inner working of the facility? Is it possible, students continued their educational goals while Columbia Pacific University faced legal issues?
    Continuing, the Libertarian Party of Kings County writes, “We also feel that Ramirez has done a poor job representing his district. District D encompasses all Downtown Hanford. However, he has not supported Downtown Hanford in his votes on the City Council.” What exactly does this mean? If Mr. Ramirez fails to vote in a pre-determined manner, or opposes the “good ol’boy” clique, he is accused of not supporting downtown. Bear in mind, while Mr. Ramirez represents District D, his responsibility and accountability is city wide, as is with the other council members.

    Libertarian Party of Kings County continues, “Downtown Hanford has been struggling. It has vacant buildings which are deteriorating and its historic buildings sit in the possession of the City of Hanford and remain neglected without needed maintenance and repairs. Yet, he supports increased restrictions on conducting business downtown. On Facebook he spoke in support of charging license fees for temporary business vendors at the Thursday Night Market Place, which is an enormous draw for Downtown.” So, let’s break this into chunks so you get an idea on where this statement intends to lead you.

    It is the Libertarian Party of Kings County’s position that Mr. Ramirez is in part to blame for the struggling downtown area. Their logic can only be based on how he has voted. But did you know there is a non-profit operating in the downtown area called Main Street Hanford? Did you know Main Street Hanford receives $81,900.00 a year from tax payers? Did you know Main Street Hanford is under a yearly Service Agreement to provide the following:

    1. Clean the district so that it is appealing to consumers and promotes retail trade.
    2. Maintain the cleanliness (sidewalks, public areas) of the district.
    3. Engage in promoting district businesses though advertising.
    4. Undertake activities that contribute toward the filing of building vacancies.

    The above list is a mere sampling of the Service Agreement made between Main Street Hanford and the city. Now please read the Libertarian Party of Kings County’s statement again. Is Mr. Ramirez responsible for is a struggling downtown? Is Mr. Ramirez responsible for vacant buildings or their deterioration? Does business growth outside of downtown hurt Hanford?

    Let’s discuss for a moment Mr. Ramirez’s support of fees for temporary business vendors mentioned by the Libertarian Party of Kings County. It is understood, a license fee structure for vendors at the Thursday Night Market Place has always existed, yet never enforced. If this is true, and a license fee structure has always been in place, is it up to Mr. Ramirez to enforce this fee? In fact, if the fee structure does exist, why would there be a need to vote whether to collect these fees from vendors?

    It might be of interest, according to California if a person(s), or business conducts business more the twice in a calendar year, those person(s) or businesses are required to collect sale tax? And if said person(s) or business are collecting sales tax, then by definition, must abide by the city ordnance and have a business license and/or Parades/Public Gatherings Peddler License Application ($50.00 per day). Lastly, did you know that Main Street Hanford sponsors the Thursday Night Market Place and pockets a portion of the total collected revenue of the vendors?

    The following alternate view is provided for the following quote. The Libertarian Party of Kings County writes, “We also feel that Ramirez has engaged in blatant self-promotion to a degree which has reached obnoxious proportions. He created his own trading cards for himself and signs them when he gives them to people as if he is a celebrity. He drives a vehicle with “Real Ramirez” in bold letters on the rear of the car and on the driver and passenger-side doors. We were unaware that there were “fake” Ramirez’s running around Hanford, but apparently it is important for him to ensure everyone knows he is the real deal.”

    Taking the above Libertarian Party of Kings County’s paragraph as serious is suspect and downright juvenile. No one can fault Mr. Ramirez for displaying his name, position or sense of pride on a vehicle or trading card. Is it that much different from business cards, or personalized license plates? Seems a bit trivial.
    In summary, Mr. Ramirez holds a coveted position. He is the city council’s representative in the downtown Hanford area. Regardless of any legal violations (federal, state or local) Mr. Ramirez may or may not have violated, he has not been prosecuted or found guilty. Therefore, a recall is the only avenue left. We still live in a society where an individual is considered innocent until proven guilty. If the Hanford District Attorney feels there are substantial violations of the law, then prosecute.

    Above, I have mentioned two different FaceBook pages which have attacked Mr. Ramirez ranging from lying to his constituents to theft. If there is any doubt about these attacks, please familiarize yourselves with the contents of these two pages. I implore you to take note of the common thread or threads on these pages, pay attention to the names of the spokespeople who post on these pages. Speculation can be drawn, from the various posts, Mr. Ramirez is under attack by a group of citizens which may have personal motives, but it doesn’t end there. Additionally, both council members Sorensen and Mendes have also come under fire.

    As noted above, this narrative is purely an opinion, other than publicly verifiable facts. I am neither for or against Mr. Ramirez. If laws have been broken, then the District Attorney should prosecute. But short of a conviction, is a recall necessary? It begs the questions, where did the recall effort originate? Who gains from a recall? I ask you to keep an open mind and judge for yourself.

  2. Please pardon, typos and or syntax errors. Lastly, both FaceBook pages have prevented me from posting this narrative. What does that tell you?

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