Fresno County will get its day in court to combat a state mandate to change the name of Squaw Valley. It says being forced to change the name is a violation of the First Amendment.
The community in the county’s eastern foothills is now recognized by the federal government and many other groups as Yokuts Valley — a name reflecting its Native American heritage.
In March, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to initiate litigation against the state. Supervisors Steve Brandau, Buddy Mendes, and Nathan Magsig backed the lawsuit; Sal Quintero and Brian Pacheco opposed it.
Now the county has filed the lawsuit in Fresno County Superior Court. The first hearing is scheduled for Aug. 10 in front of Judge Bob Whalen.
“The State, mandating the historical name of an unincorporated Community be changed because some object to the name is a slippery slope, is without any meaningful boundaries, and unconstitutionally allows government officials to restrict and compel speech an association rejected by those most impacted,” the lawsuit says.
In its complaint, the county says the state has no authority to impose AB 2022. The bill by Assemblyman James Ramos, D-Highland — and signed into law last year by Gov. Gavin Newsom — requires “squaw” to be scrubbed from place names and geographic features. The law also requires maps to be updated. It takes effect Jan. 1, 2025.
Fresno County says the Squaw Valley name dates to 1871. Approximately 3,000 people live in the unincorporated community. An “informal survey” found 87% of Squaw Valley residents opposed changing the name. But if a new name is needed, they prefer Bear Mountain, the survey indicated.
The governor’s office is standing by the law.
“Racist and sexist slurs have no place in our public spaces. AB 2022 builds on the Administration’s work to redress racist and exclusionary place names throughout the state in order to better reflect our values and ensure all our communities feel welcomed,” a spokesperson for Gov. Gavin Newsom told Politics 101.
In its lawsuit, the county says determining what is offensive is vague. A state renaming committee would have too much power to make decisions on renaming, especially since it has no designated members to represent Fresno County.
Last year, the federal Dept. of Interior ordered “squaw” to be removed from place names. The lawsuit states California will also use the Yokuts Valley name.
“The 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution would otherwise prohibit (Board on Geographic Names), by executive Order of DOI, from mandating the state to comply,” the lawsuit says.
The county also argues that the law places a financial burden on the county without offering reimbursements. It is asking a judge to declare AB 2022 void.
Clovis attorney Brian Leighton, a former federal prosecutor, is representing the county. His contract calls for him to be paid $275 an hour, and a maximum of $15,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.
Read the lawsuit by clicking here.
Also in Politics 101
- Former Bulldog running for Assembly.
Magsig Staffer Running for Assembly
David Tangipa, a field representative for Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig, has announced his run for state Assembly.
Tangipa, R-Fresno, will run in Assembly District 8, currently occupied by Jim Patterson, R-Fresno. Patterson is termed out in 2024.
“I think we need a new perspective that really looks at the Valley and the foothill community together. That really shows that we can really bridge what’s going on here in the Valley and the foothills and take that voice back to Sacramento,” said Tangipa (pronounced TONG-ee-pah)
A former tight end on the Fresno State football team, Tangipa, 27, is chairman of the Fresno County Young Republicans.
Tangipa is endorsed by Magsig and state Sen. Shannon Grove among others.
Former Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals, is the only other candidate to register so far for the 2024 election. He has one term of eligibility remaining.