For Measure P supporters, the Nov. 6 election is not a defeat of the citizen-led campaign that hoped to bring equity to the city’s parks with a bond that would have provided $2 billion in funding over 30 years for clean, safe neighborhood parks through out the city.
“The results shows that Fresnans still wants clean, safe neighborhood parks,” said Sandra Celedón, HUB manager for Fresno Building Healthy Communities, one of the organizations that backed the parks measure.
The measure needed two-thirds of the vote but received 48 percent approval while 51 percent voted it down. As of Wednesday afternoon, the measure has fewer votes than the 35,000 signatures collected to help put it on the ballot.
“When you see the way the measure split, it is pretty even, it is almost 50-50,” Celedón said, adding that it is a fact that “half of our city is living without access to quality parks and that we know that there is a dividing line in the city of Fresno.”
“Unfortunately the current administration wasn’t representing all of Fresno, choose to represent a very specific group and special interest. And that is the other half of our city behind. And that is demonstrated by that the measure is almost a 50-50 split.”
Measure P faced opposition from leaders from City Hall – Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, Police Chief Jerry Dyer and Fire Chief Kerry Donis – all lobbying Fresno residents to vote no.
“We see, time and time again, we talk about the division in our city. And we saw it with Measure P as well,” Celedón said, adding that “it’s clear that measure P was on its way to success.”
“Unfortunately there was some misinformation and confusion that I think hurt us, but ultimately we need to continue work, ensuring that our city provides all residents with safe, usable parks with working restrooms, with adequate recreational programs, with lighting, with resources for seniors and youth, a community that need them the most,” Celedón said.
The day after the election, Brand issued a statement and asked supporters of Yes on P to work with him.
“The results for Measure P are bittersweet for me,” said Brand. “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 he respects “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.”
When ask if the opposition from the mayor, the police and the fire chiefs hurt the measure, Celedón said “absolutely, to an extend.”
“You have the mayor of our city opposing a real solution,” she said. “I think it does hurt. It provides confusion, it creates confusion. I think there was a lot of misinformation, there was also confusion on the ballot language.”
But Celedón is not discouraged; she is hopeful, encouraged.
“But I think it is also a sign for the future,” she said, adding that in the past, many local measure such as Measure Z for the zoo or the library tax didn’t pass the first time.
“What we know is that to me we still have 80 percent of our parks across the city that are unusable and unsafe. We still have parks that are deteriorating, we have restrooms that are closed,” she said. We are committed to working on a solution and working to ensure that in the future when we come back at it and we provide the amenities and the funding necessary to ensure our parks are clean, safe, and usable.”
On his statement, Brand called 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,” Brand added. “We need a broad-based approach to address all of our city’s priorities reasonably and fairly.”
However Brand might not get the welcoming mat he expects from parks supporters.
When asked if there could be a possible join measure in 2020 for funding to be split between public safety and parks, Celedón wasn’t sure.
“I don’t know to be quite honest. I do know that currently 75 percent of the general fund is already allocated to safety – to police and fire. I think it is too early to tell,” Celedón said. “I think again we know that only 4 percent of the general fun is allocated to parks. So there is a huge deficit and need for not only better parks, but adequate funding and I think that the next steps, for me at least and for the campaign, is to recover from all of the work.”
Celedón said once the election is certified, the campaign will look at where the votes came from and how each precinct voted.
With hundreds of volunteers, the hundreds of organizations that endorsed the measure, Celedón said that “tells me that there is support and that there is leadership in our community and means that leadership is not at city hall.
“So I think that this absolutely was a people lead movement and I think we are just getting started. This is just the beginning, its certainly not the end.”
“I think it is also a clear signal that our community is united- the greater community when you look at the level of support Measure P was able to receive both through endorsement, thought donations, through the investment of people’s time, the volunteers,” she said. “I think the other piece is hundreds of young people that for the very first time got involve through the campaign. That to me is a clear message that our work is just getting started. This is definitely not the end for the campaign, this is definitely not the end for parks, this is certainly just the beginning.”