Hmong Garden Dispute

October 21, 2008 12:22:36 AM PDT
A dispute has erupted between a group of Hmong gardeners and the City of Fresno. City officials want the Hmong to give up a four acre community garden they have been tending for the past 13 years. The garden is located in Southeast Fresno, near Belmont and Dewitt.

Last Friday the city offered the gardeners a one acre plot of land in Melody Park. It's about two miles away near Shields and Fowler. City Public Information Officer John Wallace said last week that the gardeners had agreed to the exchange.

But Monday evening a dozen gardeners along with community supporters gathered at the community garden to dispute the claim any deal had been made.

Hmong Spokesperson Summer Vue accused the city of violating the gardener's constitutional rights. But city employee Monica Vang, who works for City Council member Paul Caprioglio disputed Vue's claim that the gardeners were mislead. In a heated exchange between the two women Vue said:" The gardeners did not want to go but you guys insisted that they go."

Vang responded:" We never insisted we offered to show them."

Vue:"Ok, and I'm not here to argue with you so can you please excuse me."

Vang:"Then get your facts straight before you say anything."

Translator Sara Thau asked each of the gardeners present if they had agreed to move. All denied any willingness to go. But one man explained that they felt the city had given them no choice. Either agree to the move, or have no garden at all.

Assistant City Manager Bruce Rudd explained his side of the story. "When we met with them Friday, we made it very clear that we had been working on options. We had been working with folks who we thought were representing their interests and sharing that information with them." He said.

Rudd went on to say that the city plans to tear out the garden after the first of the year, and create the new community garden at Melody Park in March. That's the same time, he says, ground will be broken on the police substation.

The Hmong and their supporters are planning to take their concerns to Tuesday's meeting of the Fresno City Council. Summer Vue says, "The bottom line is the gardeners want to stay here. The city officials want them out."

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