Fresno · Politics

Fresno City Council mulls opposing Fresno Co.’s marquee road tax

Measure C, Fresno County’s longtime local transportation tax, is facing mounting opposition within Fresno City Hall. 

First approved by voters in 1986, the half-cent sales tax initially ran a 20-year term and resulted in over $1 billion of improvements to state highways, county roads and city streets. 

The tax also funded the construction of more than 50 new lanes of freeway in its initial run, and it has been integral for filling potholes, constructing bridges and bikeways, among other projects. 

Fresno County voters extended the measure for an additional 20 years in 2006, one year ahead of its expiration date. 

Five years ahead of schedule, the Fresno County Transportation Authority and the Fresno Council of Governments – the organizations that oversee the distribution of Measure C funds – are looking to renew the measure this year. 

While the measure has not yet been placed on the November ballot, its backers are pushing to extend it for 30 years. 

However, dozens of organizations have formed a coalition called the Fresno Alliance for Responsible Transportation Spending to request that the renewal vote wait until 2024. 

The group is seeking “a robust and equitable public participation process to discuss how best to invest in our future,” according to its website

Part of the coalition’s focus is to ensure that Fresno County builds “climate resiliency along the way to project our children’s futures.” 

Fresno City Councilman Miguel Arias is of like mind, took to Twitter Tuesday to say that the proposed Measure C renewal will “lead to more deaths of bicyclists.” 

He also called on Measure C to better allocate its funding. 

Come Thursday, the Fresno City Council will consider calling on the Fresno Transportation Authority and the Fresno Council of Governments to postpone Measure C renewal to 2024 through a resolution sponsored by Arias. 

“[T]oo many communities – particularly low-income and communities of color – have historically been left out of the decision-making process and their expertise overlooked,” the resolution reads. 

Arias’ resolution argues that a third iteration of Measure C has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve Fresno’s air quality, increase mobility through public transit, strengthen road infrastructure, create jobs and improve telecommunication facilities along transportation corridors. 

All of those projects will not be realized under the proposed Measure C renewal, the resolution argues. 

“[T]he proposed Measure C renewal allocation plan directs future investments to the City of Fresno fringe and leaves existing City of Fresno neighborhood streets without repair, underfunds the development of complete neighborhood streets with proper bicycle and pedestrian trails, sidewalks, lighting and curbs and gutters…” the resolution reads.” 

“[T]he current Measure C proposal fails to address the needs of the City of Fresno’s current $4.5 billion road network, reduces future public transit resources, and does not prioritize strategic regional growth which threatens the fiscal health of our City by increasing the City of Fresno’s unfunded street maintenance burden by $500 million over the next decade…” 

In addition to calling on the renewal to be postponed until 2024, the resolution requests that the measure’s backers “engage in a robust and equitable public participation process to discuss how best to invest in transportation projects and programs.” 

The resolution also calls on the council itself to advocate for a Measure C renewal that directs more money to existing Fresno streets that rely on the general fund, safe routes to schools paths, and restores active and public transit resources in neighborhoods that lack proper transportation infrastructure. 

Arias is also asking the city to identify $300,000 in the 2022-2023 budget to be used for public education regarding the Measure C renewal process.

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.