Sandra Celedon, CEO of Fresno Building Healthy Communities, speaks to a large group including California Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula, left, opposing the renewal of Measure C during a election night watch party at Vibez Lounge in Fresno’s Tower District on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Credit: CRAIG KOHLRUSS / Fresno Bee

What's at stake?

If preliminary midterm elections results hold and Measure C does not pass, Fresno County leaders will have two more election cycles to pass a new version of the tax measure before it expires in 2027.

Updated results late Tuesday show a growing percentage of votes against a measure to extend a nearly $7 billion Fresno County transportation sales tax.

According to the latest returns from the county Clerk/Registrar of Voters as of 10:42 p.m., Measure C received 71,448, or 58.2% yes votes, and 51,331 no votes, or 41.8%. The measure requires two-thirds “yes” votes to pass.

The update reflected 122,779 votes counted thus far. The county’s next update is planned for Thursday.

In a packed elections watch party hosted at Vibez Lounge in Fresno’s arts district, “No on Measure C” committee members celebrated the initial election results.

Veronica Garibay, left, co-director of Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, and Sandra Celedon, CEO of Fresno Building Healthy Communities, check early election results while gathering with supporters who are against the renewal of Measure C during a election night watch party at Vibez Lounge in Fresno’s Tower District on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Credit: Craig Kohlruss / Fresno Bee

“This is an effort driven by community,” Veronica Garibay, co-founder and co-executive director of Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability said in an interview with The Bee/Fresnoland on Tuesday night.

Garibay said she is proud of the “historic” No on Measure C coalition — comprised of young people, community based organizations, decision-makers, faith leaders, public health leaders, doctors, teachers, and others— that came together to tell politicians and decision-makers: “It’s no longer acceptable to make decisions for us without us.”

Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias said if preliminary results continue to hold, “the biggest winners of Fresno County are the residents and regular people.”

He added that the current version of Measure C “simply fueled the sprawl” and left existing older neighborhoods, rural communities, and unincorporated communities behind.

“Yes on Measure C” supporters Fresno Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Scott Miller; and Clovis City Councilmember and Measure C Renewal Executive Committee member Lynne Ashbeck couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

In an email statement to The Bee/Fresnoland on Wednesday, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer said he was “disappointed, but not surprised, by Measure C’s outcome” — and that he vows to work collaboratively on a new version of the measure.

Securing two-thirds of votes is “a very difficult task,” said Dyer, especially in light of the nation’s “inflationary rates not seen in 40 years” and the “numerous tax initiatives” on Fresno County’s ballot.

“Despite the divisiveness caused by the Measure C campaign, it is time for all those involved to come together and work toward an agreed upon transportation measure that can be placed on the 2024 ballot,” said Dyer. “All Fresno County residents deserve nothing less. I pledge to work with all parties to coordinate an initial meeting after the first of the year.”

In a statement to The Bee/Fresnoland on Tuesday night, Fresno City Councilmember and Measure C supporter Luis Chavez said that “at the end of the day, we have to respect the will of the voters.”

Chavez said he looks forward to the “opportunity” to work with all stakeholders — labor, environmental justice advocates, business, construction trades and residents — to formulate a ballot initiative that will ensure both rural and urban neighborhoods “receive the much needed investments the residents deserve.”

Why local leaders were split on Measure C

Measure C is a half-cent sales tax that funds Fresno County’s transportation infrastructure. The measure was initially passed in 1986 and, in 2006, was renewed until 2027. Although the current Measure C passed by voters in 2006 doesn’t expire for another few years, regional transportation officials convened a group of leaders to put a new version of the sales tax on the Nov. 2022 ballot.

In July, Fresno Council of Governments Policy Board voted 11-4 to approve the Measure C spending plan despite protests. A coalition of Central Valley labor groups and community organizations urged the two major agency boards overseeing the Fresno County Measure C renewal process to delay putting the proposed $6.8 billion transportation sales tax until November 2024.

Critics said there wasn’t enough community engagement in the Measure C renewal process. Other members of the No on Measure C committee said the current expenditure plan doesn’t do enough to prioritize public transportation, climate-friendly solutions, or rural communities.

Opponents to Measure C include Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula of Fresno; state Sen. Anna Caballero of California’s 12th District; Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias; the Fresno County Republican Party; the Fresno County Democratic Central Committee; Dolores Huerta Foundation; Fresno Building Healthy Communities, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, Central California Environmental Justice Network and more.

Supporters of Measure C, meanwhile said the tax is will help fix roads, potholes, and infrastructure, expand lanes, and provide jobs.

According to the Fresno County Transportation Authority, in its first 20 years, Measure C has delivered over $1 billion of improvements to state highways, county roadways, and city streets, plus the construction of over 50 new lanes of freeway throughout the county. Most of the funding has gone to roads.

Measure C was endorsed by Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer; Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims; Fresno City Councilmembers Esmeralda Soria, Luis Chavez, and Garry Bredefeld; County Supervisors Buddy Mendes, Sal Quintero, Nathan Magsig, and Brian Pacheco; the Fresno Chamber of Commerce; California Association of Realtors; Fresno-Madera-Tulare-Kings Building Trades Council; Ryan Jacobsen, Chief Executive Officer of Fresno County Farm Bureau, and more.

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Melissa is a labor and economic inequality reporter with The Fresno Bee and Fresnoland.

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