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Fresno Democrats Support Parks Sales Tax, What About City Council Candidates?

Election 2018

Fresno Democrats Support Parks Sales Tax, What About City Council Candidates?

Fresno County Democratic Party supports Measure P, but will Fresno City Council candidates speak as openly in favor or opposition to the sales increase?

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The Fresno County Democratic Party is going whole hog in favor of Measure P, the Nov. 6 ballot plan that would raise tens of millions of dollars annually for City of Fresno parks and arts needs.

The Fresno Chamber of Commerce is already on record opposing Measure P for reasons we’ll recap later.

Now if we can only get the candidates in the City Council Districts 3, 5 and 7 races to tackle the issue just as bluntly.

The local Democrats issued a statement saying the party at its Sept. 5 meeting voted “overwhelmingly” to support the Measure P.

“Parks and the accompanying amenities define a community,” says Michael D. Evans, chair of the Fresno County Democratic Party, in the statement. “And Measure P will help us make Fresno a better place for our current residents and a more attractive destination for future residents. Kudos to the citizens groups that worked tirelessly to get this measure on the ballot.”

Measure P is a three-eighths-cent sales tax proposal designed to give the city’s Parks Department an ample and sustainable funding stream while reordering the way the way department policy gets created. The 30-year measure in its first full year would raise $35 million to $40 million. Then there’s the general fund and grant money that Parks gets every year. Bottom line: A successful Measure P would revolutionize Fresno’s parks system.

Evans and the local Democrats in their statement make a compelling case for Measure P. They note that the measure would fund the building of new parks and the maintenance of existing parks. There would be more money for walking trails, recreational programs and arts activities.

The statement says: “The need is well-established. On the ParksScore index, which measures how well U.S. cities are meeting the need for parks, Fresno ranks 94th among the nation’s 100 largest cities.

“Our city is a sprawling metropolis, dominated by cars and driving. It is therefore easy for neighborhoods to come disconnected and for people to feel a loss of community.

“Parks and public spaces are forces in a better direction. They draw us together and give us pride in where we live, while encouraging us to mingle with our fellow citizens. Parks are a resource that provide every child with safe and open spaces in which to play and a variety of ways for communities to come together.”

Evans and the local Democrats conclude by trumpeting Fresno’s proven track record of voting for modest tax increases if it means better public resources that deliver a better quality of life for all. Measure Z, the zoo tax, is a prime example. (The Democrats’ statement doesn’t mention Measure C, which, in my opinion, also fits that description.)

“We encourage the community to support Measure P,” Evans says. “Let’s move Fresno from the bottom 10 in parks to the top 10.”

All of which makes Evans and the Democrats sound much like Mayor Lee Brand and the Chamber of Commerce.

Brand and the Chamber have gone on the record with their opposition to Measure P. It’s not that they oppose a top 10 parks system. Just the opposite – they, too, see the immense value in a top notch Parks Department in building a better Fresno for all.

But how best to get there when the municipal infrastructure has many serious funding needs, and the reality is you can’t go too many times to voters with sales tax initiatives?

Public safety and transportation infrastructure are two such funding needs.

If a sales tax initiative is to be on the table, Brand and the Chamber say, then there’s a way to craft an initiative that does a better job of generating money to improve several key municipal services that, in their unique but connected ways, bring communities together.

The Mayor, as should be the case, is especially strong on this point. He says we’re all in this together, therefore voters should reject Measure P and wait for the Administration/City Council to come up with something that serves the entire city.

It’s Miguel Arias vs. Tate Hill in Council District 3, Luis Chavez vs. Paula Yang in District 5 and Brian Whelan vs. Nelson Esparza in District 7.

Measure P should be their decisive battleground issue. Measure P touches on all things Fresno. Candidates – begin the debate.

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George Hostetter

George Hostetter is a contributor to CVObserver.

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