Written by Frank Lopez
Two years ago, not enough votes were cast for Fresno’s Measure P Sales Tax for recreation and arts. The measure was declared defeated until an appeals court on Thursday validated the vote.
Included on the 2018 November ballot, Measure P enacts a 3/8 percent sales tax for 30 years to fund city parks, recreation, streets and arts — set to raise an estimated $38 million.
It received 52% approval, but officials at the time stated that it would need a two-thirds (66.7%) supermajority vote to pass.
After two days of hearing oral arguments, the California Fifth District Court of Appeal validated the majority vote and Justice Mark Snauffer wrote in the 3-0 ruling that “Measure P has passed.”
Fresno Building Healthy Communities (BHC), a local non-profit that led efforts for the measure, filed a lawsuit in February 2019 arguing that since it was a citizen initiative, it did not require a two-thirds supermajority vote and should have passed with a majority.
“With its ruling, the Court is recognizing the power of people over the power of politics,” said Sandra Celedon, Fresno BHC president & CEO. “The people are the true power of democracy. Their voices must always be respected and upheld by the courts, elected officials and all decision makers.”
Celedon said that this effort was led by young people working to get 35,000 signatures to put it on the ballot, and by Fresno Boys and Men of Color (BMOC) bringing attention to the lack of green spaces for local communities of color.
The case will next go to the Fresno County Superior Court for judgment. Celedon said it is unlikely city officials will appeal the decision, but she is waiting on whether the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association will appeal.
Mayor-Elect Jerry Dyer was a vocal critic of Measure P when it was first proposed, saying that law enforcement deserved a boost and supported a competing sales tax measure.
Dyer has changed his tone as he prepares to take the reigns as mayor in January 2021.
“I look forward to working with the city council and community members as we utilize these dollars to beautify our parks and trails and meet the needs of our youth for decades to come,” Dyer said in a statement.
Mayor Lee Brand said in a statement that the city would respect the judgment. “The City of Fresno will abide by the court’s decision once it becomes final.”
Not everyone is happy with the decision, however.
City Councilmember Garry Bredefeld is not a fan of the recent decision on Measure P.
“Terrible and unfair ruling that will cost Fresno citizens $2 BILLION over 30 years. Not one penny will be spent for police, fire, fixing streets and roads. NOT. ONE. PENNY. Those who can least afford it will now have the burden to pay those taxes,” Bredefeld said on his Twitter account on Dec. 17.
Michael Der Manouel, Jr., president of Der Manouel Insurance, posted a number of times on his “@Lincoln Fresno” twitter account blasting the decision.
“A great Christmas present- a tax increase in the middle of a pandemic, and new greenspace for the homeless to legally inhabit,” Der Manouel, Jr. tweeted on December 17.
“Fresno liberals out celebrating a tax increase in the middle of a pandemic and economic turmoil, decided by a court, that retroactively changed the rules in an election,” another of his tweets read.
Celedon said Measure P highlighted the efforts of young people in the community. They need to be supported, she added.
“It is through victories such as Measure P that we continue to empower and enable young folks, and ultimately, the case is about democracy. I think the greater conversation in the City of Fresno is whose voice matters and for a very long time, young people and people of color in this community have been told that their voice doesn’t matter and we are changing that, because in democracy, all voices matter.”