What's at stake?
Measure C, Fresno County's half-cent transportation tax, is likely to face significant opposition going to the November ballot.
A Valley coalition of labor groups, community organizations, Bitwise Industries and a foundation run by a former mayor of Fresno urged the two major agency boards overseeing the Fresno County Measure C renewal process to delay putting a proposed $6.8 billion transportation sales tax on the ballot by two years.
Signaling an opposition to renewal of Measure C this year, the 36-member Fresno Coalition for Responsible Transportation Spending called on the Fresno County Transportation Authority and the Fresno Council of Governments to plan for Measure C’s renewal in November 2024, instead of the agency’s current plans to seek voter approval this November. The coalition made its request in a letter dated Friday; part of the letter was published as an ad in The Bee on Sunday.
The coalition’s letter claims that Measure C’s existing plan pollutes the air and wrecks the climate while leaving neighborhood streets in disrepair and communities without reliable public transit.
“Measure C expires in 2027. There is no need to rush it onto the November 2022 ballot. We need to take the needed time to properly plan and know where our money should go,” the coalition says. “We respectfully urge you to direct staff to work with a neutral facilitator and community to develop a plan for a 2024 ballot measure.”
Lynne Ashbeck, the co-chair of the executive committee for the Measure C renewal and vice chair of the Fresno County Transportation Authority, said that she’s doubtful that any changes to the Measure C expenditure plan would alter the pattern of resistance from the bloc of community-based organizations on the renewal committee.
“I haven’t seen any evidence in the last 12 to 16 months of any breakthroughs at all,” Ashbeck said. “I don’t think (Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability and Building Healthy Communities) ever engaged in a constructive fashion to move anything forward except to tell us why it was wrong.” The two groups are part of the coalition.
Ashbeck said she was one of the community group’s “biggest advocates,” but agreed that the two groups had been “thick-skulled” over the last year.
Coalition’s potential opposition hard to ignore
Gary Yep, the vice chair of the Measure C renewal executive committee and a board member of the Fresno Council of Governments, said the size and diversity of the coalition makes their potential opposition hard to ignore.
“I think that a letter from 36 organizations is very impressive,” Yep said. “Anytime you get 36 organizations together, you have to be mindful of what’s there.”
Yep said that a new set of community preferences was emerging, beyond those established from his participation in the Measure C renewal expenditure plan that is attempting to garner a two-thirds supermajority from Fresno County voters in six months.
He added that the feedback from a recent neighborhood meeting indicated that including climate change in transportation policy was a center-stage concern.
“How high greenhouse gas emissions and climate change change were as community priorities at the meeting surprised me,” Yep said about a Measure C gathering in mid-April by the Central California Environmental Justice Network and Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability which packed the Kerman Community Center.
“Those are the things about why you need to listen to the voices of your communities,” Yep said. “It opens your eyes up.”
Opposition is ‘a little bit more of the same’
“Over the last year, I don’t have a single indication of anything that could happen that would make them engage in a constructive fashion,” Ashbeck said about the community groups. “So I just think it would be two more years of what we have right now.”
“I haven’t seen any real engagement or constructive help to this point,” she said of the community-based organizations, adding that the ad published in The Bee on Sunday was not an “authentic kind of conflict resolution.”
She said, “Do I think they would ever be satisfied? I don’t know.”