Asm. Joaquin Arambula (D – Fresno) is attempting to expand and reshape the Fresno County Transportation Authority with new, unelected members.
His effort comes as Measure C, Fresno County’s transportation tax, failed last year and could be placed on the ballot next year for renewal.
The big picture: Arambula introduced Assembly Bill 558, which is called the Fresno County Transportation Improvement Act, to bring a more diverse cast to the board.
- The bill says that diversifying the leadership of the FCTA will result in more “inclusive agendas and transform restorative environmental justice and climate policy.”
- AB 558 would add four new members to the FCTA board by appointment.
- The additional members would be a representative of a labor organization, appointed by the Fresno City Council; a youth member, appointed by the governor; a resident from a “disadvantaged” and unincorporated area of the county, appointed by the board of supervisors; and an educational representative, appointed by the Fresno County Board of Education.
The backstory: Arambula’s bill follows in the footsteps of a 2017 overhaul in San Diego County by former Democratic Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez.
- Six years ago Gonzalez introduced AB 805, which was signed by Governor Jerry Brown, to overhaul the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).
- Gonzalez’s bill granted the City of San Diego more power on SANDAG. San Diego and Chula Vista combine for 50 percent of all votes on SANDAG, which shifted the power from Republicans to Democrats.
State of play: The FCTA board is currently comprised of Fresno County Supervisor Buddy Mendes, Clovis City Councilmember Lynne Ashbeck, Parlier Mayor Alma Beltran, rural representative Paul Sihota, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer, Fresno County Supervisor Steve Brandau, Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias, urban representative Sarah Harris and Firebaugh Mayor Felipe Perez.
- Mike Leonardo serves as the FCTA Executive Director.
What they’re saying: Leonardo told The Sun that the FCTA board has not taken a position on Arambula’s bill.
- “As Executive Director, I believe the current Board membership does a good job of representing all of Fresno County and do not see a need for a change in membership,” Leonardo said in an email. “I am also concerned about a large number of unelected Board member positions as they are not accountable to voters the way elected officials are.”