Measure P Fails, But Parks Are Still Top of Mind

Parks tax headed to defeat as Fresno Mayor Lee Brands begins the difficult task of addressing public safety and parks needs.

Tuesday’s Measure P results were stunning. So stunning that it appears all the key players are in a hurry to quietly and quickly move on to the next stage of Parks Department policy-making at Fresno City Hall.

With all 271 precincts reporting, Measure P received 35,664 No votes (51.13%) and 34,085 Yes votes (48.87%). The Fresno County elections office is still counting late vote-by-mail and provisional ballots. But it seems likely that Measure P will fall short of a 50%-plus-1 majority.


Of course, Measure P didn’t need a simple majority to become law. It needed a two-thirds majority. That won’t happen.

Here’s is Mayor Lee Brand’s post-election statement:

“The results for Measure P are bittersweet for me.  I agree that Fresno’s parks need to be improved and expanded, but a 30-year tax with a $2 billion price tag was not the answer.  I respect the hard work and passion of everyone involved with the Yes on P campaign and I believe once we’re able to move past the results, we will come together for the benefit of the people of Fresno.

“Now the real work begins.  Starting today (Nov. 7), I will call on my friends on both sides of this issue to join me in developing sensible solutions for Fresno’s biggest problems with the first of many meetings starting in January.  This means parks and public safety, but could also include homelessness, blight, job creation and infrastructure.  We need a broad-based approach to address all of our city’s priorities reasonably and fairly.

“As Mayor, my first and foremost job is the safety and well-being of the people of this great community.  I will continue that focus today and every day that I am your Mayor”

The Yes on Measure P folks issued a written statement, stating it comes from the campaign:

“We are overwhelmed with gratitude for the outpouring of support from people of all walks of life in and around our community. While we are disappointed with last night’s (Nov. 6) results on Measure P, our commitment level to improve our city’s parks is no different today than it has been since the inception of the ‘Fresno for Parks’ initiative. Measure P was originally inspired by the youth of our community who went door-to-door in their neighborhoods for the last five years to mobilize support for their neglected parks. More than 35,000 of us signed a petition, 500 of us volunteered, and nearly half of voters were eager for change. Our grassroots, non-partisan coalition worked tirelessly for a worthy and necessary cause, bringing this issue to the forefront of our community’s agenda. We are confident these efforts will continue as we strive towards improving our city’s parks system and investing in our youth.”

I understand from the always fascinating David Taub at GV Wire that the Yes on P team raised as much as $2 million to fund various aspects of its campaign. To have raised that kind of money only to produce (at this point) fewer Yes votes than petition signatures leaves two questions: What happened? Who’s responsible?

Those are volatile questions. Maybe it’s best to take the Mayor’s diplomatic attitude and concentrate now on getting the public safety-parks-funding policy right. Don’t look back, Satchel Paige used to say. Something might be gaining on you.

I’ll make one exception. I owe an apology to the Mayor and his team.

Brand in late June held a new conference in front of City Hall. He announced his intention to push a half-cent public safety-parks sales tax measure. The voters would decide in November.

The measure never got close to the general election. It soon emerged that Brand’s proposal didn’t have the City Council support to get on the ballot. Brand withdrew his proposal.

I was critical of the Mayor. Didn’t he and his team know enough to count noses on the dais before making such a proposal?

Well, events since late June unfolded in a complex way. No one could exactly predict their path. But it’s clear now that they broke in such a way that the Mayor’s tactical gamble in late June is paying off as he pursues his strategic ends on behalf of Fresno. We’re still a long way from a successful sales tax measure that would supplement the funding of key municipal services. But at this point, the Mayor is the undisputed leader in that quest. That late June news conference was pivotal in putting him in that position.

We’ll now see if the people who professed to love parks during the Measure P campaign truly love parks or were in it mainly for the power.

I apologize to the Mayor and his team.


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