Written by The Business Journal Staff
If passed, the ballot measure would require a statewide vote on local infrastructure projects with revenue bonds in excess of $2 billion.
Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria said proponents of the measure argue the $2 billion threshold means most projects would not be impacted, however, she said many much-needed local projects throughout the state, including those related to water supply and storage, hospital infrastructure and overdue street repairs, would be at the mercy of voters in the state’s urban areas.
“Residents in Los Angeles and San Francisco could have veto power to vote down some of these local projects, which we know there are tremendous needs for here,” Soria said. “Even though these distant voters won’t use, won’t pay for and won’t care about our local Fresno improvements, they will potentially have that veto power.”
Ryan Jacobsen, the executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, said if passed the measure would affect Central Valley agricultural projects related to drought preparedness and water storage, including the Temperance Flat Dam project.
“The Temperance Flat project is a prime example of a specific project that may be compromised simply because of this proposition,” Jacobsen said. “Besides that, we’re also talking storage, recycling and other vital projects that are incredibly important to what we do here in the San Joaquin Valley. Water is our lifeblood and without future water projects obviously the future of California agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley looks bleak.”
Chuck Riojas, the secretary-treasurer of the Fresno, Madera, Tulare, Kings County Building and Construction Trades Council, said not only would vital local projects be brought to a grinding halt, but the businesses and workers associated with the projects would lose out on revenue and income. It could even lead to job loss for some, he said.
“The highly skilled jobs in the construction trades and apprenticeship opportunities as well as those of engineers and associated industries, would be affected,” Riojas said. “This measure is bad news for local governments, the citizens who deserve responsible infrastructure investment, and the workers who are employed to make our community strong.”
Fresno Firefighters Local 753 President Carlton Jones said the measure would “limit the tools in the toolbox.”
“A proposition like 53 limits our ability [to respond to emergencies] because there are no exemptions for emergencies like earthquakes and other natural disasters,” Jones said. “It would be hard for a firefighter, someone who is used to using all the tools in their toolbox, to vote for a proposition that limits the tools and that is what Proposition 53 does. It is almost like telling me ‘I can’t have a Jaws of Life on a fire engine.’ It is a tool that we don’t need that often but when we need it, it is very important. We have to have it and lives depend on it.”