At Dinuba’s December 8 City Council meeting, it was all about the women.
Dinuba has three female city council members, two of which were voted in as mayor and vice mayor.
Council Member Linda Launer, who just won her second term in November, was chosen by her peers to be mayor. Council Member Maribel Reynosa, who has sat on the council for six years, was voted as vice mayor.
It didn’t come without some friendly wrangling though.
The previous mayor, Kuldip Thusu, ran the meeting and nominated Maribel Reynosa for mayor, which was seconded by Council Member Armando Longoria.
Reynosa then nominated Launer for mayor and Launer seconded the motion.
When the city clerk began the roll call to vote, Reynosa stopped the proceedings and asked if there was going to be any discussion.
“Don’t we do a discussion before the vote?” Launer added.
“Would you like to discuss it?” asked then Vice Mayor Longoria.
Launer’s concern arose because two years ago the nominations were made and voted on so quickly council members did not have time to think.
“It was pushed through and bullied,” said Launer.
Thusu opened up the discussion and Longoria said he nominated Reynosa this time around because she had been on the council for six years and would be good for Dinuba. Launer responded that the number of years someone had been on the council has never been an issue when deciding who should be mayor.
This was in evidence two years ago when Longoria nominated himself for mayor, despite the fact it was his first day on the council.
Longoria then admitted that two years ago he asked Reynosa if she wanted to be mayor.
“She said she didn’t want it but didn’t say why,” he said.
Launer responded by asking if it was appropriate for council members to discuss city issues with other council members in private. Longoria defended himself by saying that he had not yet taken the oath of office when he asked Reynosa the question.
Launer ended up winning the mayoral seat 3-2 with newly elected Council Member Rachel Nerio-Guerrero being the third vote.
Nominations were then held for vice mayor. Thusu nominated Longoria and was seconded by Longoria. Launer nominated Reynosa; that was seconded by Guerrero.
Reynosa won by a vote of 3-2.
Concerns swirl around Longoria
With the rushed vote during Dinuba’s reorganization two years ago, Longoria was voted in as vice mayor without any discussion despite major concerns by some Dinuba residents. Questions quickly surfaced in the weeks following the vote about Longoria’s 10 unpaid tax liens spanning over 10 years. Longoria said at the time he was unaware of the liens. He then thought the liens “were all cleared up” when he and his wife filed for bankruptcy.
Before this year’s city council’s reorganization, a concerned Dinuba resident sent The Valley Voice a 2006 article from the Fresno Bee. The article, titled “Housing, jobs – on Dinuba’s list of issues faced by candidates in 3 City Council races,” was written by Sarah Jimenez.
The article states, “Longoria, 35, admits a criminal past, including felony convictions for drug possession and vehicle theft in 1999. But he said he has turned his life around and learned from his mistakes. “Everyone tells me I’m a good person to talk to,” he said. “That’s what it should be about … listening.” The paper went on to say, “Convicted felons, except for certain circumstances, can run for elected office as long as they are not incarcerated or on parole, said Hiley Wallis, Tulare County Elections manager.”
Longoria has run for Dinuba City Council every four years for the last ten years, in 2006, 2010, and 2014, and finally won by a 22-vote margin in November of 2018.
Repeated attempts to contact Longoria through email, the city clerk and several phone numbers were unsuccessful.
Council’s on same page, 99% of the time
Launer’s goals for Dinuba for 2021 echo those of the former mayor, Thusu.
“Foremost, I want a balanced budget. And revitalize business at the end of COVID. We also need to maintain the funding for city services such as water, fire and police,” Launer said.
She also said Dinuba has a new water system that went on line this year. “The problem of the downtown streets flooding during heavy rains has been resolved.”
Launer said that the city has been well managed and is doing well despite the pandemic.
Thusu agreed, saying the economic viability of Dinuba is important and a priority of the council.
“It is small businesses that make a small town viable,” Thusu said. “It has been hard. Despite that, Dinuba is one of the few towns in the black.”