I attended a solemn news conference on Thursday and, I swear on Abner Doubleday’s grave, I saw out of the corner of my eye the unmistakable image of Parker dancing up a storm.
The news conference was at Fresno Police Officers Association headquarters in the Tower District. FPOA President Jacky Parks and Fresno firefighters union President Carlton Jones held court.
But numbers, not talk, were all that mattered.
A poll funded by the two public safety unions shows Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea with a big lead in Fresno’s mayoral race.
- Perea – 39%
- Fresno City Council Member (District 6) Lee Brand – 16%
- Businessowner/community activist H. Spees – 10%
- Former Fresno County Supervisor Doug Vagim – 5%
- Businessman Richard Renteria – 4%
- Undecided – 24%
The poll shows clinical psychologist Garry Bredefeld with a substantial lead in the Fresno City Council District 6 race.
- Businessowner Holly Carter 16%
- Businessman/entertainer Jeremy Pearce – 14%
- Student/fast-food restaurant manager Carter Pope II – 1%
- Undecided – 41%
The poll also asked about the overall quality of life in Fresno.
- The town’s headed in the right direction – 49%
- The town’s on the wrong track – 31%
- Don’t know – 20%
Oakland-based EMC Research conducted the poll in mid-March. Seven hundred likely voters from all seven council districts were contacted. The most (196) reside in District 6.
The number of contacts in the other six districts ranged from 78 (District 7) to 90 (District 1).
Results for the mayor’s poll have a margin of error of plus/minus 3.9%. Results for the District 6 poll have a margin of error of plus/minus 7%. The survey used both landline and cell phones.
Parks said the poll was heavy with District 6 respondents because the two unions wanted a more detailed look at that district. District 6 is the only contested race among the three council seats up for grabs this election season.
If no candidate gets 50% plus one in the June 7 primary, then the top two head to the November 8 general election.
There you have it – a big-time poll unveiled exactly two months before the primary. Fresnans don’t see many polls on local elections. Professional surveys are expensive.
Parks last week said FPOA is backing Perea and Bredefeld. Parks at the time gave many reasons. He repeated those reasons on Thursday. They don’t need repeating here.
Jones on Thursday said the fire union endorses Perea (if Jones mentioned Bredefeld, I missed it). Jones gave pretty much the same reasons as Parks.
All of the major mayoral and District 6 candidates have said they are strong public safety supporters.
Bottom line: The public safety unions, never keen on backing losing candidates, are confident they can do business with a Mayor Perea without alienating the public.
Bredefeld wasn’t at Thursday’s event, but Perea showed up to stand next to Parks and Jones. Again, there was a large degree of repetition in Perea’s comments. Anyone who has spent even a few minutes on the campaign trail knows Perea promises more cops on patrol and more investment in equipment.
There are six ways from Sunday to decipher the poll.
For example, nearly 53% of the respondents to actually name a favorite mayoral candidate said they like Perea. If Perea can hold tight to that percentage and nab close to half of the undecideds, then he’ll win the prize in June.
On the other hand, 61% of the respondents couldn’t find it in themselves to voice support for Perea. The other four candidates, but especially Brand and Spees, can comfort themselves with the “pursuing bear” metaphor.
If a bear is chasing the two of us, I don’t have to outrun the bear – I just have to outrun you. Brand, Spees, Vagim and Renteria hope Perea (the bear) in June falls short of 50% plus one, and they’re the other survivor in the November runoff.
I’ll leave the poll’s endless analyses to political insiders.
To me, the poll means the end of the downtown stadium as a viable political issue.
A few weeks ago I wrote a 5,000-word story on the stadium’s long and controversial history. I won’t repeat myself, except to say that Perea and Bredefeld in October 2000 were part of the five-member City Council majority that voted to build the stadium.
Some current observers of the political scene thought the stadium might be an effective campaign issue for opponents of Perea and Bredefeld. I know a couple of candidates have tested that tactic.
Hmmm – Perea at 39%, more than the other four candidates combined; Bredefeld at 28%, almost as much as Carter and Pearce together.
In my opinion, the cops/firefighters poll says Fresno voters are ready to move on from a stadium fight that, at its peak more than 15 years ago, exhausted the town.
I live in a county island. I don’t have a dog in these two election fights. But I never viewed the stadium as a wise campaign issue, especially in the mayoral race.
For starters, it’s terribly complex. To do the issue justice, you have dig into a quarter-century of Fresno political history. (That’s why no one read my 5,000-word story!)
But more important, the stadium’s effect on Fresno isn’t an either/or question whose answer settles things for all time. The stadium is a journey. The stadium perfectly captures the challenges of leadership in a nation where the people rule themselves.
City leaders in 2000 didn’t have all the information. Things were changing too fast. And they didn’t have a crystal ball. The future, as it always is, was nothing but conjecture. So, Perea and Bredefeld and a mighty big chunk of the population did their best due diligence, took a deep breath and made a decision.
It wasn’t a perfect decision. But, as I’ve said, we’re on a journey. One of the heroes of the stadium story is Brand himself (I’ve said this to him).
Terms of the original lease with the Grizzlies were too optimistic. There was a good reason why city leaders in 2000 crafted those terms – it was the only way to give the public what it wanted in a way that was palatable to public’s self-image for fiscal prudence.
That’s not cynicism. That’s the way the real world works. After all, we humans are funny creatures.
Still, the time came (as we knew it would) for the lease to be restructured in a way that more closely reflects reality. That time came in 2009, Brand’s first year on the council. He was the key city leader in tough negotiations that resulted in an amended lease.
The lease most likely will change again in the next few years. But the lease we’ve got now is good for the city, good for the Grizzlies and good for Fresno. The same is true for the stadium itself.
And that’s why I’m absolutely sure I saw the outline of Parker on Thursday in the back of the FPOA conference hall.
Parker is the Grizzlies’ mascot. And, truth be told, he wasn’t there. Parker is non-partisan in anything remotely political.
But I thought of Parker as Jacky revealed the poll numbers. And I thought of Grizzlies President Chris Cummings.
I was darn hard on the Grizzlies lease during my days at The Bee. It got to the point where Cummings and I had lunch one day to hash things out. (It was a frank but professional meeting – I have great respect for Chris.)
The cops/firefighters poll sure suggests Fresnans are now of one mind when they think of the stadium: “Play ball!”
Those words always move Parker’s feet.