Fresno City Councilmember Michael Karbassi hosts a press conference Monday in this screenshot from an ABC30 live feed.

published on April 27, 2020 - 12:57 PM
Written by Gabriel Dillard

Members of the Fresno City Council are calling for a gradual reopening of the economy as the current shelter-in-place order is due to expire next week.

Fresno City Councilmember Michael Karbassi on Monday morning called on the mayor and his advisory committee to form a plan before the end of the week to reopen nonessential businesses.

Karbassi hosted a press conference in front of Fresno City Hall asking the group of elected officials, bureaucrats, business executives and other community leaders to form phase one of a reopening plan by this Friday.

Councilmember Garry Bredefeld announced he would host his own press conference Tuesday morning to outline a plan for “immediate re-opening of businesses.”

He said local and state officials have taken a “heavy-handed approach threatening people with fines and jail for violating lockdown orders and operating businesses they deem non-essential,” he said in the announcement.

“This has resulted in trampling our citizens’ constitutional rights, civil liberties, and violates their freedoms,” Bredefeld added. “This is authoritarian government!”

Karbassi challenged the mayor and the advisory committee to have a plan ready to go on day one if the city’s current shelter-in-place order is lifted by May 6 — the current expiration date.

Mayor Lee Brand’s Fresno Recovery Committee is meeting via Zoom videoconference at 2 p.m. today.

As the owner of a family business in Fresno — Persian Rug Collections with his father — Karbassi expressed the frustration many nonessential small business owners are facing as lockdown restrictions extend past the one-month mark in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“There is no reason why I can’t sell someone an area rug from six feet away, always disinfecting, with a facemask,” Karbassi said.

He did say that a May 7 reopening of nonessential business would require such safety protocols.

“Think of it as a dimmer switch,” Karbassi said. “A gradual reopening.”

He also sounded the alarm on the city funding additional more relief efforts. A proposal from Councilmember Esmeralda Soria passed narrowly by the council last week included $1.5 million to help Fresno citizens pay rent.

Karbassi warned of possible layoffs from city hall in the face of a “fiscal state of emergency.”

“We have to be careful with every dollar we have,” Karbassi said.

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