Many in the community spoke out against the Measure C initiative, urging for time to study before the Council of Governments voted for it to be on the ballot this fall during a meeting Thursday, July 7, 2022 in Fresno. Credit: Eric Zamora

What's at stake:

The Fresno Coalition for Responsible Transportation Spending say there is no urgency to renew Measure C this year as the current version of the tax does not expire until 2027.

Focusing their message on a lack of urgency to renew Measure C this year, the Fresno Coalition for Responsible Transportation Spending urged the Fresno City Council to reject the resolution to put the $7 billion transportation spending plan on the ballot this November. The current version of the tax does not expire until 2027.

The Fresno City Council and the city councils in Huron, San Joaquin, Coalinga as well as the Fresno County Board of Supervisors are scheduled to vote this week on the measure.

The speakers at a news conference in Calwa including Milena Alvarez, youth representative, Friends of Calwa, Marianne Kast, president of the League of Women Voters of Fresno, Rocio Madrigal, outreach specialist at Central California Environmental Justice Network, and Jason Martinez, a carpenter with the Local 701 Carpenters Union, said that Fresno County still has more than five years to develop long-term priorities for transportation spending, taking into account public health, climate change, and affordability.

“We’re not opposed to it; we just want to postpone it,” said Jason Martinez, a carpenter with the Local 701 Carpenters Union. “Just as all carpenters like to do, we like to always ensure we get it right the first time.”

Kast said the Fresno County Transportation Authority should lead the county to meet state climate change goals instead of simply giving “cash-strapped cities a chunk of change to use as they choose.”

“We call that a slush fund,” Kast said. “Will the small cities with their windfalls of [Measure C] cash choose to improve transportation for residents or be able to build significant sidewalks, bike paths or other features that get folks out of their cars?”

Calwa leader calls out Jerry Dyer for Calwa annexation process

Also during the news conference, Laura Moreno, the executive director of Friends of Calwa, said that the negotiations and implementation details for the annexation of Calwa by the city of Fresno has not gone beyond the closed-door meetings between Fresno City officials, Fresno City councilmember Luis Chavez and Fresno County Supervisor Sal Quintero.

On July 8, leaders of the city of Fresno and county officials made a last-second revision to the $7 billion spending plan and reached a compromise, placing Measure C on the November 2022 ballot.

In order to get the support of the Fresno City Council, which threatened to create a transportation sales tax of its own if funding gaps for public transit were not rectified, a coalition of county decision makers, led by Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer, siphoned $185 million in future Measure C revenues away from Fresno County and toward rural and urban cities.

To sweeten the deal, the city of Fresno offered to annex a 119-acre, largely residential, plot of land located in Calwa, a southeast Fresno fringe community.

But a month later, nothing much has happened, Moreno said.

“They bargain with each other, but yet they leave the community out of their meetings,” Moreno said. “Jerry Dyer doesn’t care about anybody but Jerry Dyer.”

Dyer said that the city is still trying to figure out how to get the annex deal done.

“We are in the initial discovery phase to determine the feasibility of the annexation of Calwa,” he said in a statement to Fresnoland on Monday. “Any effort to pursue the annexation will include extensive community outreach and in-depth discussion with the Board of Supervisors.”

Moreno compared the city’s annexation efforts to the community engagement process for Measure C, adding that she is still waiting for local leaders to factor local neighborhoods into the infrastructure decision-making process.

“All we’re asking for is to be included in the process of finding out if it’s beneficial for Calwa,” she said. “If it’s not beneficial, and Dyer is doing it just because he wants more industrial development, then I know we’re not for annexation.”

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Gregory Weaver is a staff writer for Fresnoland who covers the environment, air quality, and development.