Residents have 10 days — and counting down —to sound off on how $7 billion in local transportation taxes should be spent. A comment period about the 30-year extension of Measure C ends June 27.
Government agencies are finalizing plans for Measure C, the half-cent Fresno County sales tax dedicated to transportation projects.
Despite vocal opposition by social justice groups to placing Measure C on the ballot in November, as of Friday, the Fresno County Transportation Authority had received no public comments. Comments can be emailed here or phoned to the FCTA office at (559) 600-3282.
The plan has been in the works for more than two years, with interest groups voicing varying opinions about the spending plan and the timing of its placement on the ballot. At Thursday’s Fresno City Council meetings, supporters and opponents of placing Measure C on the November ballot debated. The measure needs two-thirds approval from voters for renewal.
More than half of the proposed plan, 51%, would go to street repairs — leaving local jurisdictions to make the decision on where to spend.
Also in Politics 101 …
- A judge soon will issue a final ruling on request to block Tower Theatre sale.
- Fresno County wins court ruling on potential strike.
- Republican farmer Duarte pulls ahead of Gray in congressional primary.
City Tower Theater Purchase Imminent After Judge’s Ruling
Update, 4:45 p.m.: A Fresno County Superior Court judge finalized her ruling, allowing for the sale of the Tower Theater to the city of Fresno to continue.
Judge Kristi Culver Kapetan tentatively ruled to deny an injunction sought by Adventure Church to prevent the sale. One day after in-person arguments, the judge adopted her ruling Friday afternoon.
“The court finds no basis to deviate from its tentative ruling. The Ruling is adopted without modification,” Culver Kapetan wrote.
The move allows the city to complete its sale. It will discuss the item in closes session during a Monday city council meeting.[Original story]:
“Mr. Abbate was playing all sides and he was waiting for the best possible deal.” — Adventure Church attorney David Emerzian
A judge is expected is issue a final ruling Monday on whether to block the city of Fresno from completing its purchase of the Tower Theatre.
Attorneys for Adventure Church and the Tower Theatre argued Thursday in front of Fresno County Superior Court Judge Kristi Culver Kapetan. In a tentative ruling issued earlier this week, Culver Kapetan leaned toward denying an injunction, allowing the sale to move forward.
Adventure Church is asking the court to block the purchase, saying it has the rightful contract to buy the theater.
Church attorney David Emerzian blamed the owner of the Tower Theatre for the legal mess. In legal arguments, the church says Laurence Abbate failed to disclose that a tenant, Sequoia Brewing Company, had a right to buy its property. That omission led to prior court action blocking the church’s opportunity to make the buy.
“The reason we’re here is because Mr. Abbate and the Tower defendants concealed that from the Adventure Church,” Emerzian said. “Mr. Abbate was playing all sides and he was waiting for the best possible deal.”
The attorney for the theater rebutted, saying the church did have a copy of the contract, and that both sides erred.
“We’re here because both parties made a big, giant mistake about what J&A Mash’s (parent company of Sequoia Brewing Company) rights were,” attorney Matthew Fletcher said.
Emerzian also implied that the church was being discriminated against because of religion.
“Everything was fine until word got out that Adventure Church, a Christian organization, wanted to purchase the property, and that’s when the protest started,” Emerzian said.
The Fresno City Council will discuss the Tower sale in a recently-added closed session meeting on Monday.
A trial date of March 11, 2024, has been set if the Adventure Church lawsuit is not settled by then.[This item has also been updated to include the Tower’s rebuttal argument made in court.]
County Receives Court Victory in Potential Strike
Even Sheriff Margaret Mims appeared in the courtroom on Thursday. However, it wasn’t for the Tower case. She was there for a hearing on whether correctional officers and other county employees can go on strike.
The union, Fresno County Public Safety Association, is upset over wages not keeping pace with other county employees, among other things. The union set a Monday, June 20 strike date.
But, the county countered in court that such a work stoppage is illegal and staffing must be maintained in the interest of public safety.
A judge ruled in the county’s favor.
“The County of Fresno is grateful the court has granted the injunction, requiring the minimum staffing requested to uphold safety in the County jail,” Fresno County spokeswoman Sonja Dosti said.
The county tells Politics 101 this means there will be 145 officers and 20 backups at the jail.
Meanwhile, Fresno County Superior Court says it will be business as usual.
“Though some court operations may be impacted as a result, it is anticipated that all calendars will be heard as scheduled, and jury service will proceed without interruption,” spokeswoman Suzanne Olguin said in a statement.
A union representative said “there is nothing new to report.”
Duarte Leads in Congressional Race
A Republican has the most votes in a north Valley congressional district with a big Democratic registration edge.
John Duarte, R-Modesto, leads the five-candidate field with 34.3% of the vote for Congressional District 13 — a seat without an incumbent.
The top two will advance to the November general election. Duarte and Adam Gray, D-Merced, are practically assured of advancing. Gray has 31%; Phil Arballo, D-Fresno is in third place with 17%.
Democrats have a 43%-28% registration advantage over Republicans. In the CD 13 primary, Republican candidates have 51.7% of the votes thus far; Democrats are underperforming with 48.3%.
The district includes parts of Fresno, Madera, Merced, Stanislaus, and San Joaquin counties.