Yes On P Receives $400k & David McDonald's Backing

David McDonald who played a pivotal role in the passage of Measure Z, zoo sales tax, backs Measure P.

The Measure P Parks/Arts campaign just got more interesting on two fronts.

First, businessman David McDonald is contributing $400,000 to the Yes on P sales tax campaign.


Second, this is the same David McDonald who played such a pivotal role in getting the original Measure Z (Roeding Park zoo) sales tax initiative passed in 2004.

Close to a half-million bucks spent in the final three weeks of the general election campaign can buy a lot of voter influence. This almost certainly will happen.

And McDonald is well positioned to tell Fresno voters exactly how Measure P and Measure Z are alike and how they’re different. Perhaps this will happen.

Measure P supporters held a news conference on Friday at Roeding Park’s Storyland to celebrate McDonald’s contribution and inspire each other for the campaign’s home stretch.

I didn’t make it to the event. Yes on P organizers were kind enough to send me a news release with all of the particulars. I’ll let some of the speakers tell their own stories.

“Great cities are known for the quality of life they provide their citizens with amenities such as parks and green space,” McDonald said. “We’re going to do for our parks what we’ve done for the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.”

Added McDonald:

“When Fresno County voters approved Measure Z, they wanted a spectacular zoo, and this is what they now have. On Nov. 6, voters in the City of Fresno will have the same opportunity to make our parks and recreational programs spectacular with the passage of Measure P. The list of projects funded by Measure P will be transformational for Fresno, and I am proud to support an initiative that is both pro-parks and pro-public safety. Fresnans don’t have to choose between one or the other – both are achievable with Measure P.”

Said Todd Suntrapak, president/chief executive of Valley Children’s Healthcare:

“Valley Children’s Hospital has been dedicated to the health and well-being of children in the Valley for almost 70 years. We proudly support Measure P because we know (that) children who have more access to quality parks and green space stay well more of the time. When kids have access to the outdoors, to neighborhood parks and green space, they recover and heal more quickly, their emotional wellbeing is stronger.”

Said former Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin (now president/chief executive of the Central Valley Community Foundation):

“The Central Valley Community Foundation is a proud supporter of Measure P because we believe in the importance of clean, safe neighborhood parks for the residents of Fresno to enjoy. CVCF is just one of many supporters of this incredible grassroots initiative, and we are grateful for the countless community, parks and arts leaders who have banded together to support this measure. Measure P is a clear win for all Fresnans.”

Measure P proposes a three-eighths-cent boost to the local sales tax to fund parks improvements and arts programs. Only City of Fresno residents will vote on it (Measure Z is a countywide sales tax).

The info sent to me by the Yes On P folks included a flyer that nicely summarizes the measure’s goals:

“By raising $37.5 Million per year through a guaranteed, local source, Measure P will transform Fresno by allowing us to fund the following improvements:”

  1. Police/security personnel in and around Fresno’s parks.

  2. Make our parks green and lush again by repairing irrigation systems using reclaimed water.

  3. Removing graffiti and reducing homelessness in ALL Fresno parks.

  4. Repairing and maintaining restrooms in ALL Fresno parks.

  5. Updating playgrounds and removing safety hazards in ALL Fresno parks.

  6. Improving access for people with disabilities in ALL Fresno parks.

  7. Renovating and maintaining Storyland/Playland at Roeding Park.

  8. Renovating and maintaining the Fresno Memorial Auditorium to honor our veterans.

  9. Completing and maintaining new trails in the San Joaquin River Parkway trail system.

  10. Adding and maintaining 80 miles of new walking and biking trails throughout Fresno.

  11. Renovating and maintaining sports fields and recreational fields.

  12. New parks in neighborhoods where they are needed the most.

  13. Landscaping and removing debris along local roads and freeways.

  14. Arts and cultural programming and education

  15. Job training for at-risk youth and veterans.

No. 1 on that list certainly caught my attention. I don’t recall Yes On P officials in the past touting increased police protection as a key feature of the measure. If I missed an explanation of how this will work, then I look forward to someone pointing me to where I can get educated. If this explanation is still to come, then I hope to get it ASAP (voters are already getting their absentee ballots in the mail).

Nothing in the press release sent to me made mention of Police Chief Jerry Dyer, City Manager Wilma Quan-Schecter or Mayor Lee Brand being at Friday’s celebration. I’m guessing all three would have something to say about how police personnel would be allocated to parks protection should Measure P get the necessary two-thirds voter approval.

Which brings us to McDonald, the former Pelco chief executive who now owns an aircraft charter business. As I recall, the years 2001-2004 were the early years of Alan Autry’s first term as mayor. Money was tight at City Hall in the wake of the bursting of the bubble and 9-11. Autry, who easily beat Dan Whitehurst in the 2000 mayoral election, very much ran things at City Hall with a firm hand. Autry knew that, when it came to finances and policy-making, just about everything was connected. The rough-tough former NFL quarterback didn’t take kindly to rogue policy-makers if he thought they compromised the mayor’s charter authority and, therefore, the People’s municipal constitution.

The original Measure Z campaign, as I recall, was first and foremost about protecting the city’s general fund. As I recall, it was Autry’s perspective that a first-class zoo was fine and dandy as long as its funding could be removed from a general fund that was facing many pressures. If the voters had rejected Measure Z in 2004, as I recall, Autry would have been saddened. But Nosey the Elephant wasn’t nearly as important in the Mayor’s view as the overall well being of the city and the Mayor’s charter responsibility to do what he/she sees as the right course for the entire city.

McDonald, as I recall, operated in 2004 in lockstep with Autry’s vision for a just and prudent government policy.

Seems to me things are turning out differently in 2018. Mayor Brand has already gone on the record as supporting a sales tax measure to greatly improve the funding of parks. But Mayor Brand also wants a sales tax measure that would improve the funding of police and fire protection. Brand sees the same sales tax as doing both.

The Yes On P folks oppose Mayor Brand’s vision. At least that’s the way I understand things at this point. If that has changed, I wish the Yes On P news release had said so. If not, I look forward to McDonald’s explanation of what’s going on.

I’m confused. I’ll bet others are, too. Four hundred thousand dollars worth of explanation can fix that.

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