Future Parks Tax Could Be in Hands of Fresno Council
Fresno councilman Miguel Arias doesn’t want to wait on the mayor to figure out a successor plan to Measure P. So, he wants the council to take the next step.
Now Arias wants to establish a parks and public safety committee, with a focus on determining a new tax proposal to succeed the failed Measure P of 2018. It will be one item on Thursday’s busy agenda.
“We’ve given the mayor six months to reach a compromise. Now, the council will intervene. Ultimately, we’re the ones who have to place the item on the ballot,” Arias said.
Mayoral candidate and Measure P architect Elliott Balch welcomes the news.
“It’s forward progress,” Balch said. “The city council will have an important role regardless. It makes sense to involve them in the process.”
The goal of the committee, according to the staff report, is “to work with (the) mayor and make recommendations on a potential ballot item for parks and public safety” within 90 days.
A Measure P successor could be on the ballot as soon as March 2020. If the council places the item on the ballot directly, voters need to approve it by a two-thirds margin.
However, there’s a question about the threshold for the way Measure P was placed on the ballot — by the petition process. While Measure P received 52%, it did not receive the two-thirds believed needed.
A court case in San Francisco is underway to determine what is considered passed when a measure is placed on the ballot via petition (50% plus one or two-thirds). Measure P supporters filed a similar suit locally. The next hearing for that case happens July 23. Any decision by the state Supreme Court — where these cases are destined to wind up —could be years away.
Arias, Esmeralda Soria, and Luis Chavez would serve on the new committee should it be approved.
Related Story: Measure P Attorney Asks City to Start Collecting Fresno Parks Tax
Council and Mayor Residency act
Currently, candidates for city council have to undergo a laborious application process with the city clerk to establish they actually live where they say they do.
The council is set to vote on expanding the residency act from applying to council candidates to the mayor as well.
Candidates need to prove residency by showing a series of documents, including mortgage statements, tax records with the county, rental agreements, DMV paperwork, and utility bills. Verification is due 30 days before filing nomination papers.
The amendment takes effect upon passage and would apply for the 2020 mayor’s race.
FAX Bus to See Green … Lights
The city wants to add technology to 20 FAX buses rolling along Shaw Avenue (between Polk and Willow) that would change the traffic signal green.
Called traffic signal priority, the council will consider a $224,000 contract with Opticom/Global Traffic Technologies for what the city says will improve service.
“When the bus is running behind schedule it will speed up the light to go green or keep it green to allow the bus to travel through,” says transportation director Gregory Barfield.
Similar technology is used on the Bus Rapid Transit line.
Staffing Help at Planning Department
City staff is asking the council to extend agreements through September with consultants to help out the planning department review and approve projects.
The city has used Brooks Ransom and Associates, as well as Interwest since 2015. A longer-term contract goes out for bid in the coming weeks.
The extension means an additional $30,000 for Brooks, but nothing more for Interwest.
According to the staff report, “the level of development activity experienced by the City will continue and potentially increase in the following months; therefore, in order to proportionally increase staff capacity it is important to maintain agreements with qualified engineering firms for plan checking services.”
Also, the council is set to approve a side letter with the labor unions representing planning department employees in how to implement the Money Back Guarantee Act passed in February.
The city is allowed to hire a third party to help with the increased workload, but it “will not be utilized to privatize staff or work that could be done by employees within the requirements of the Act.”
No jobs will be eliminated or frozen with the third-party hire. However, once the contract ends, it cannot be brought back without the union’s consent.
Hiring a Cannabis PlannerSix months ago, the city council approved a framework to allow retail cannabis businesses to operate in Fresno. Now, the council will be asked to hire a local firm to conduct the environmental impact report.
Quad Knopf of Clovis was the low bidder and will earn the $300,000 contract if the council so deems. The work is expected to be finished by the end of 2019.
According to the bid, Annalisa Perea — QK’s senior associate planner — will work on the project. She is also an elected member of the State Center Community College District board of trustees.
Related Story: Recreational Cannabis in Fresno? Council Will Vote Next Week.
City Wants to Extend SMG, Shelter Contracts
The contract with SMG to manage the Fresno Convention & Entertainment Center expires at the end of June. The city wants to extend that deal another six months while it negotiates a long-term contract for operations of the facilities which includes Selland Arena, the Saroyan Theatre, the Convention Center, and Valdez Hall.
SMG expects to operate the convention center beyond 2019.
Also, Bill Overfelt — who’s worked as the facility’s general manager since the mid-2000s — is no longer working in the Fresno office. He left last month. Theresa Kraus took over on an interim basis. Michael Krouse, SMG’s regional vice president, tells Politics 101 it was “time for a change.”
Similarly, the city wants to extend the animal services contract with the Central California SPCA through June 2020 while it negotiates a long-term contract.
Can you Smell that Smell? Not at Fresno Unified
Fresno Unified trustees will vote on a resolution Wednesday encouraging anyone visiting a campus “to take action to improve indoor air quality and refrain from wearing perfume, cologne and other fragrances.”
The resolution is in the name of air quality and encourages the use of unscented personal care and cleaning products.