What's at stake:
The plan does not recommend changing COG’s original funding categories, but it gives local governments flexibility on how to spend their resources.
A majority of the members of the Fresno Council of Governments Policy Board voted 11-4 late on Thursday to put Mayor Jerry Dyer’s 11th-hour Measure C transportation spending plan on the November ballot, despite the protests of many community members asking for more time.
The plan must be approved by the Fresno County Transportation Authority and the Fresno County Board of Supervisors before it officially can be placed in front of voters.
Dyer said the approved plan would boost funds going to the rural cities and Clovis while averting significant transit cuts in the city of Fresno.
“It has enough good things in it that I’m hopeful we can get this passed on the 2022 ballot,” said Fresno mayor Jerry Dyer.
Scott Mozier, public works director for the city of Fresno, estimates that the county would take a $185 million cut in Measure C revenues over the plan’s 30-year horizon under the city’s alternative – but Fresno would also lose some funding for road-widening projects outside of city limits.
The alternative plan from the city of Fresno was first revealed at the meeting, without prior public input. According to Tony Boren, director of the Fresno Council of Governments (COG), the day-old, $7 billion spending plan, was not even shared with the COG board prior to the meeting.
Multiple COG members said they were surprised by the 30-year spending plan that was slipped under their plexiglass tribunes. Michelle Roman, mayor of Kingsburg, and Mary Fast, mayor of Reedley, said they had not seen the plan by the city of Fresno, until Thursday night.
“I feel like we’ve been broad-sided tonight,” Fast said. “I haven’t even seen a document, I don’t think I can vote on something I haven’t seen in good conscience.”
A week after being turned away, Fresno community turns out strong
When technical difficulties shut down COG’s meeting one week ago, some community residents expressed concern about whether they would be able to make the rescheduled one.
However, a crowd of around 200 people showed up at the Fresno City Council Chambers. For three hours, community residents stood in line to tell the COG policy board to delay the Measure C renewal, many citing concerns about a younger generation facing the impacts of climate change.
“This would be comical, if it wasn’t affecting the lives of real people. We and all the young people here today are the future of Fresno,” said Ashens Límon, a 17-year old student. “Listen to our voices.”
Destiny Sandoval, an Edison High student, said she takes eight buses a day.
“How could you not see a need to spend more money on the environment with all the kids that have asthma?“ she said.
Marianne Kast, with the League of Women voters, expressed dismay with both the original COG and Dyer’s plans.
Kast said neither plan resolves the critical issues, including the need for the Fresno region to “provide realistic alternatives to single car travel” and climate resiliency.
What’s in the plan?
The 11th-hour plan, which Dyer said his staff launched Wednesday morning, does not recommend changing the funding allocations from COG’s original categories. It provides for more flexibility for local governments to spend their resources on road maintenance, transit, sidewalks – even broadband.
The approved plan still prioritizes maintenance of local streets and roads, which will receive 51% of the $6.84 billion pie over the next 30 years.
Fresno City Council members had voiced concern that the original COG spending plan would have forced the city to cut funding to their transit system, FAX, by nearly 39%. After the COG vote was delayed for a week on June 30, city leaders constructed an alternative plan to increase Measure C’s allocation to public transit and avoid cutbacks.
The county would get $185 million less in the city’s plan, but Dyer said that annexing the largely residential sections of Calwa into the city of Fresno would help soften this deficit for the county.
By trading local control dollars for the city of Fresno with increased dollars for road repair for rural cities, Dyer believed his plan would win over COG’s board of small-town mayors as well as the Fresno City Council, which had been highly critical of the original plan.
Buoyed by a promise of more support to fix roads, most reluctantly agreed, with the exception of the leaders from Reedley, Selma, San Joaquin, and Mendota, who voted against the plan.
Fresno city councilmember Miguel Arias, who in recent weeks has been increasingly vocal about opposing COG’s plan and withdrawing Fresno’s support completely, is putting his support behind the approved Fresno alternative plan.
“By no means is it perfect or ideal, but it’s much better than what was presented by COG staff, which would have set back city residents for decades, in our interest to develop alternative modes of transportation and improve air quality.”
Some of the elected officials were not swayed by criticisms of a closed-door process and lack of transparency.
Alma Beltran, mayor of Parlier, said that the crowd’s dissent was too late. “I wish that they would have worked more on being more engaged in the workshops,” she said.
Pointing at the bright lights of Fresno city hall, Clovis mayor Jose Flores disagreed with public comments that the plan was drafted in “dark, smoke-filled rooms” over the last few days.
“I’m satisfied that there has been robust public engagement,” Flores said. “We’re doing this in public. This is how policy is created!”
Potential opponents of the renewal this November were resolute with the community turnout against Measure C’s 2022 renewal.
“Tonight demonstrates that decision makers today have no respect for community engagement and community voices,” said Veronica Garibay, co-director of Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability. “I don’t think that the public forgets easily.”