While the renaming of a 10-mile stretch of road in south Fresno to Cesar Chavez Blvd. was not on Thursday’s city council agenda, the public still came out in force to discuss it, with a large contingency voicing their continued opposition.
It resulted in a raucous meeting at City Hall that was already projected to go late into the night with what could end up being the longest agenda of the year.
The backstory: Earlier in March the council approved a resolution to rename Kings Canyon Rd., Ventura St. and California Ave. to Cesar Chavez Blvd, in honor of the late founder of United Farm Workers.
- But southwest Fresno’s Black community came out in strong opposition to the effort, asking for California Ave. to be excluded from the change, to no avail.
- Mayor Jerry Dyer sent a letter to the council last week asking for California Ave. to remain, and in the letter he said he would not veto the resolution since it passed with a supermajority vote.
- There was confusion among the public over the past few weeks with the prevailing thought that the council would have to take a second vote on the renaming on Thursday, but without a veto from Dyer, the resolution’s backers – councilmembers Luis Chavez, Miguel Arias and Nelson Esparza – announced earlier this week that the renaming is official.
State of play: Near the beginning of Thursday’s meeting, City Attorney Andrew Janz explained that the nature of resolution only required one vote and did not necessitate another discussion in front of the council.
- Council President Tyler Maxwell told the public that he had received 70 requests to speak, not including those queued up online through Zoom, and capped public comment at the start of the meeting at one hour. He also cut down the regular allotted time for each member of the public to speak from three minutes to two.
- Maxwell also said the council would prioritize public comment to topics on Thursday’s agenda, pushing the comments on Cesar Chavez Blvd. to the end.
- After over an hour of public comment, the council moved to the rest of the meeting, and in the evening – after closed session – the council returned to hear the rest of public comment for those who waited.
What they’re saying: “California Ave. and Edison High School brings a lot to the African American community,” one woman told the council. “We have produced a number of people who have worldwide recognition, and that should not be erased. What you’re doing at this point in time now, you’re erasing history. You’re erasing all of the efforts that a lot of people, not just one group, made to contribute to the success of Fresno.”