To the surprise of many, Fresno’s ambitious Measure P ballot initiative not only failed to attain the two-thirds vote it needed to pass, it didn’t even receive a simple majority of votes in favor.
With 100% precincts reporting, 51% of Fresnans voted “no” on P.
The measure would have raised the city’s sales tax 3/8 of a cent for parks and related programs. It had a broad range of support from former mayors Ashley Swearengin and Alan Autry, to advocacy groups like Fresno Building Healthy Communities.
The “Yes on P” campaign raised more than $2 million in contributions, giving it a nearly a 5-to-1 fundraising advantage over the “No on P” side. That advantage did not carry over to the ballot box.
Brand and Others React to Vote
“I agree that Fresno’s parks need to be improved and expanded, but a 30-year tax with a $2 billion price tag was not the answer.”—Mayor Lee Brand
Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, a Measure P opponent, expressed mixed feelings the day after the local measure was defeated.
“The results for Measure P are bittersweet for me. I agree that Fresno’s parks need to be improved and expanded, but a 30-year tax with a $2 billion price tag was not the answer,” Brand said in a City Hall news release. “I respect the hard work and passion of everyone involved with the Yes on P campaign and I believe once we’re able to move past the results, we will come together for the benefit of the people of Fresno.”
Sandra Celedon, Fresno BHC executive director and Yes on P consultant, was less conciliatory on Twitter.
While Measure P didn’t make it the threshold, half of Fresnans still voted in support of clean, safe parks inspire of the lies spewed by @FresnoPolice @MayorLeeBrand and their cronies. I am inspired by all of the young people that worked on this campaign.
— Sandra Celedon (@sanlens) November 7, 2018
“While Measure P didn’t make it the threshold, half of Fresnans still voted in support of clean, safe parks inspire of the lies spewed by @FresnoPolice @MayorLeeBrand and their cronies. I am inspired by all of the young people that worked on this campaign,” she said, vote totals aside.
She continued, “These young people will forever remember that Chief Dyer denied our young people parks because of greed and that @MayorLeeBrand stood with developers at the expense of their future. They know what leadership looks like and that there is none at city hall at this moment.”
Advocates Not Giving Up
David McDonald provided $850,000 in funding to the Yes on P effort through a combination of contributions and loans. He was frustrated by the election night result.
“Measure P’s defeat is obviously a big disappointment for all Fresnans who care about our city and who want to see Fresno emerge as one of California’s truly great cities. It was unthinkable, and very confusing for voters, to see something this overtly positive being so vehemently opposed by Fresno’s so-called city leaders,” McDonald told GV Wire.
McDonald notes that Measure Z, the zoo initiative he spearheaded, failed twice before finally passing.
“Now, with our amazing Chaffee Zoo, hardly anyone thinks this relentless effort was a mistake. I’m sure that Measure P’s dedicated advocates will not give up either. Our embarrassing parks cannot be left to further deteriorate. A new approach must be developed, and implemented, to save and fix up Fresno’s green space.”
“The two-thirds vote threshold is a hard obstacle to surmount, especially with some powerful political figures in opposition to it,” said Fresno State political science professor Jeff Cummins. “Measure P proponents probably should have considered a presidential election year for the measure.” The next presidential election will take place in 2020.
Bredefeld: Work Within Budget
Fresno councilman Garry Bredefeld expressed his opposition to any future effort to pass a similar tax measure. He wrote on his Facebook page:
“Congratulations to the citizens of Fresno for wisely rejecting the fiscally reckless, thirty-year tax increase, Measure P, which would have been a monetary albatross for decades to come. Now City of Fresno leaders must get back to working within the budget that our citizens give us to meet the needs of our city, and stop trying to figure out ways to tax them and take more of their hard earned money. This must first begin with ending the wasteful spending that is definitely occurring at City Hall.”
John Ostlund, radio station owner and P opponent said “I take no pleasure in the result of yesterday’s vote. I’d like to see Fresno’s parks greatly improved and expanded, but clearly, the public agreed that Measure P was not the answer.
The businessman anticipates Brand working on a plan to “develop solutions for many of Fresno’s problems.”
Seeking Consensus on Next Steps
Throughout the campaign, Brand called for a combined tax measure to be split between public safety and parks.
“This wasn’t necessarily a victory for Fresno. The FPOA shares some of the goals that were in Measure P, just not the way they were going about it.” — Damon Kurtz, FPOA President
“Now the real work begins. Starting today, I will call on my friends on both sides of this issue to join me in developing sensible solutions for Fresno’s biggest problems with the first of many meetings starting in January. This means parks and public safety, but could also include homelessness, blight, job creation and infrastructure. We need a broad-based approach to address all of our city’s priorities reasonably and fairly.
“As Mayor, my first and foremost job is the safety and well-being of the people of this great community. I will continue that focus today and every day that I am your Mayor”
Fresno Police Officers Association president Damon Kurtz also wants to see what happens next. His group also opposed the parks tax.
“This wasn’t necessarily a victory for Fresno. The FPOA shares some of the goals that were in Measure P, just not the way they were going about it. We share the idea that we need more parks, but not at the expense of important services.”
Kurtz says there have been no formal plans for the combined tax, but “we’ll have to sit down and do it the right way and focusing on the community as a whole.”