A new community group has formed to press the Fresno City Council to reconsider changing a 10-mile stretch of road in south Fresno to Cesar Chavez Blvd.
The new group, named 1 Community Compact – held a press conference outside of Fresno City Hall Thursday morning before the council’s meeting calling for action.
The backstory: Last month the city council voted on a resolution to rename Kings Canyon Rd., Ventura St. and California Ave. to Cesar Chavez Blvd to honor the late founder of United Farm Workers.
- The move was first proposed by Councilman Luis Chavez a year ago, but nothing came of it until Chavez and fellow Councilmembers Miguel Arias and Nelson Esparza brought it forward in March.
- Many Fresno residents, especially those in southwest Fresno’s Black community, spoke out against the vote and argued that the council did not consider the public’s voice throughout the process.
- The council has allocated $1 million to assist residents and businesses along the corridor with the name change.
The big picture: B.T. Lewis, pastor at Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church in southwest Fresno, led the call and later spoke directly to the council during Thursday’s meeting.
- Councilman Garry Bredefeld joined Lewis at the press conference calling for reconsideration. Others who spoke included Pastor P.L. Binion of Westside Church of God, Sarah Pilibos, a shopping center owner on Kings Canyon Rd., and Ara Jerian, a representative from Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church.
- Lewis said the group could explore litigation if the council does not reconsider.
Go deeper: The group claimed that eliminating the names of Kings Canyon, Ventura and California without robust community engagement is an injustice and that the council breached the public’s trust throughout the process.
What they’re saying: During the council meeting, Arias responded to the community group opposed to the change, claiming that their opposition is targeted against Latinos.
- “In my view, this is simply an attempt to set a new standard when recognizing a Latino hero in our community, and I don’t think that is fair, just or equitable in a city this diverse,” Arias said.
- During the press conference, Lewis called the renaming divisive and a travesty.
- “Democracy should never be manipulated or molded to fit our personal agendas. It should always represent the will and the desire of all people impacted by our decisions and our choices,” Lewis said. “Governance should never be based on 30-year-old grudges. Governance should be based on the desires of our current constituency and what is best for the future of our city.”