(Editor’s note: The story below is a creative way of looking at our future and the importance of the upcoming election. Which world would you rather live in?)
My preference is to tell you about the hope for a better future. In this world, Andrew Janz wins the election for mayor of Fresno on March 3 and has a majority on the City Council (go Tyler Maxwell!) who will support his progressive agenda.
The first thing Janz could do is establish safe and legal places where the homeless could live. These places would have drinking water, trash pickup and a place to go to the bathroom. Instead of criminalizing the homeless, this new policy improves their lives and makes it possible for a person to get off the streets and into permanent housing.
Within a year, every homeless person will have access to whatever social services they need and ultimately every formerly homeless person will be living a healthier and happier life.
Funding will come from local, state and federal sources that will dramatically reduce homelessness and save taxpayers money. Did you know that maintaining the dysfunctional system we have now (that is not working) costs more than ending homelessness? Janz knows that and has the political will to make the transition, improving homeless peoples’ lives and saving taxpayer dollars.
In the alternative/parallel universe where Jerry Dyer wins the election, more money is diverted from social services and parks and given to the police. The homeless are criminalized, harassed, arrested and soon the jails are full. This mass incarceration drains public funds, and that results in fewer public services for everyone.
The result? Even more homelessness, a vicious cycle of social service cutbacks and the militarization of the police. I can almost see Dyer now as mayor with his “More Cops, Less Parks” button telling us to tighten our belts because the police need another armored personnel carrier. Argh!
Back in the world where social, economic and environmental justice prevail, we have a Janz administration working to provide more parks and recreation opportunities. This is a Fresno where local developers (who have become incredibly wealthy) are made to pay higher development fees so the city can provide adequate parks in every neighborhood.
Roads and infrastructure will be repaired, walking trails built and bike paths established to help clean our air, improve our health and reduce the cost of owning an automobile. Who benefits when there are potholes and other obstacles in the streets? Car repair shops? We can and will do better, if the right person wins in March.
If you see immigrants as your friends and neighbors, not as someone who belongs in a cage, you will want to live in the Fresno that we can make happen. Where anyone, even if you are undocumented, can call the police without being taken into custody and deported. A place where we can declare ourselves a sanctuary city and stand side by side with our neighbors in solidarity.
A place where gays, lesbians and transgendered people are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. A world where West Fresno gets the same attention and resources as the neighborhoods north of Shaw Avenue. In short, an end to the Tale of Two Cities.
This better world is possible if the people in the southern half of the city get out and vote in the upcoming election. Fresno can be an example to others of how we turn this city around by leveling the playing field.
Did you know that in some precincts in south Fresno only 20%–30% of people vote and that 80%–90% of the people vote in many northern precincts. This has to stop if our future is going to benefit the majority of people in Fresno.
If we can unite and build the future that is right there at our fingertips, we will see what it is like to live in a world where we put people before profits. A world that we can be proud to hand off to our children and grandchildren.
If we fail, the Darth Vader of Fresno will bring us a dark dystopian future of Robo Cops, more homelessness and fewer social services.
If you are not doing everything in your power to make this a better world, now is the time to get involved. Do it for the sake of your family, your friends and your neighbors. Another world is possible.
Mike Rhodes is on the editorial board of the Community Alliance newspaper, a member of the Central Valley Progressive PAC and author of the book Dispatches from the War Zone about homelessness in Fresno. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.