Jason Martinez of Carpenters Local 701 speaks at an August press conference at Friends of Calwa. The Fresno Coalition for Responsible Transportation Spending says that 2022 is too soon for Measure C renewal. Martinez said his union is “not opposed to it; we just want to postpone it” until 2024. “Just as all carpenters like to do, we like to always ensure we get it right the first time.” Photo by Kevin Hall

C Stands for Community-Labor Coalition

Breaking News – Friday, September 2

Measure C Update: Lawsuit Filed

By Kevin Hall

Members of the Vote No on Measure C Committee filed suit in Fresno County Superior Court today. They’re asking that a judge order the county registrar of voters to place the committee’s argument opposing Measure C on the ballot, effectively overturning Registrar James Kus’s arbitrary decision to place the Libertarian Party’s argument on the ballot instead.

Faced with two arguments, the rookie clerk made an arbitrary decision: to pick the one submitted first, calling it the same as coin flip. Of course, had he brought the two parties together for an actual coin flip, the dispute would have been quickly resolved because even the Libertarians disagreed with him. 

“The authors of the Libertarian argument…tried to withdraw their argument but were told they couldn’t,” the committee’s release said. “We’re asking the Court to do what is necessary and what the Registrar should have done — select the ballot argument that best informs voters and orders its publication in time for this important election.”

Filed this one in the thick file labeled: Only in Fresno.

Nayamin Martinez of the No on Measure C Committee is a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed today in Fresno County Superior Court against the Fresno County Registrar. Photo by Kevin Hall

And now back to the original article. . . C Stands for Community-Labor Coalition

“Abortion rallies do not improve roads.”—Lynne Ashbeck (Fresno Bee, Aug. 7, 2022)

Wuh? The Measure C debate hit its lowest and perhaps weirdest point in early August when Clovis Mayor Pro Tem Lynne Ashbeck argued for nonpartisanship in local politics with some ugly examples of very partisan identity politics. Her mash-up of abortion rights and road repair, followed by a pairing of gay marriage and police staffing, are rooted in the ongoing transportation sales tax renewal effort. And fear.

Conservative backers of the road subsidy–laden proposal are getting desperate. Designed to fool the public with promises of pothole repair, the $6.8 billion program is riddled with loopholes to fund its 30-year project list.

Fresno’s transit funding would be frozen and concentrated on limited routes, reducing service everywhere else, as Clovis does now. Dedicated rural transit funding would be slashed, forcing the agency to compete with local road money on a city-by-city basis to patch together its essential service.

All to fund a road plan that favors new major four-lanes reaching out from the Fresno and Clovis city limits to sprawl developments leapfrogging across the countryside without adequate dedicated funding for repair and completion of streets and sidewalks in existing neighborhoods.

They also want to double down on exurb development in the foothill and mountain wildfire zones beyond the ends of Friant Road and Highways 168 East and 180 East. An entire housing belt is emerging across the base of the Sierra Nevada and on up into the mountains; the bridge below Friant connecting Fresno and Madera counties is to be widened to better connect these highly flammable bedroom communities.

On the other side of the county, officials seek to build out Highway 180 West all the way to I-5 with a new stretch of highway starting in Mendota. Kerman would become the next Los Banos, its downtown further choked with truck traffic. Like the years of fatal accidents along Highway 41 South, cars and trucks hurrying between Fresno and I-5 will have to traverse a new death alley of intermittent two-lane and separated four-lane roads. The funding would also further concentrate mega-warehouse trucking centers in south Fresno fed by all four local freeways. 

Now their campaign of deception begins in earnest. Ashbeck is rolling out talking points designed to tap into identity politics; they’ll be portraying anti-C people as “woke,” their favorite slur for progressive politics, in order to convince their anti-tax base that this government plan is trustworthy because they control it.

But the pro-C developers and landowners fear that this flawed Measure C won’t win over the wave of voters coming out in November to support Prop 1, the Right to Reproductive Freedom Amendment. And they’re right. Pro-abortion voters are pro-health; they’re not going to like this recipe for higher rates of asthma, heart attacks, strokes and more, and you can’t message around those inescapable impacts. 

Measure C as written would worsen air pollution, increase greenhouse gas emissions and leave rural communities and inner-city neighborhoods further behind. Backers see this unexpected bloc of voters working heavily against them in November unless they can confuse enough “informed voters” with false promises of a better environment and sustainability; lies that are—in terms of climate change—criminal.

So it’s onto the ballot fight. As of my deadline, formal opposition had yet to emerge, but a promising press conference was held in front of the Friends of Calwa last month featuring a strong coalition of community and labor interests. Veronica Garibay, co-executive director of Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, said, “This is an incredible opportunity to clean our air, to confront the very deadly impacts of climate change. The plan as written is full of potholes; it is riddled with loopholes.”

League of Women Voters of Fresno President Marianne Kast criticized the measure’s “slush fund” allocations and failure to address transit needs, equity, air pollution and climate change.

Jason Martinez with Carpenters Local 701 said that his union is “not opposed to it; we just want to postpone it” until 2024. “Just as all carpenters like to do, we like to always ensure we get it right the first time.” He pointed out Fresno County still has five years to develop the plan.

The current proposal is devoid of the enforceable commitments to create employment opportunities through apprenticeship programs and community benefit agreements like the Fresno City Council recently approved, but the countywide language would have to be negotiated later and approved by the Fresno County Transportation Authority, a body dominated by conservative interests.

While many of the dozens of entities that signed an earlier petition calling for a postponement to 2024 and public engagement cannot participate directly in a campaign, there can be no missing the political ramifications of their participation in the Fresno Coalition for Responsible Transportation Spending (www.transportation4all.org) and our elected leaders’ rejection of their demands for equity and inclusion. That hurts.

But, really, the status quo-ers’ initial, fatal miscalculation came in early 2021. They doomed Measure C from the start when elected officials on the Fresno County Transportation Authority, their CEO Mike Leonardo and Fresno Council of Governments CEO Tony Boren assembled the original renewal committee and intentionally excluded political and policy powerhouses Fresno Building Healthy Communities and Leadership Counsel.

There has been steady growth in what used to be called “people power” that the status quo stakeholders, which includes people on both sides of the aisle and those with no aisle at all, cannot turn back. The tide of change sweeping in began with policy and funding fights in south Fresno, went citywide with the parks measure, and will now cover all of Fresno County.

Vote no on C. Let’s build a 2024 plan for the future. It’s the right thing to do. Spread the word.

Clovis City Councilkaren

By Kevin Hall

In stating that “abortion rallies do not improve roads,” Clovis Mayor Pro Tem Lynne Ashbeck was writing in response to criticisms leveled at her in the Fresno Bee by Clovis resident Nayamin Martinez, CEO of the Central California Environmental Justice Network, who wrote: “Ashbeck’s misunderstanding is clear to me now. She didn’t grasp my meaning, misquoted me, and misjudged me and my colleagues.”

Both women sat on the Measure C Renewal Executive Committee, which wrapped up its work last month. Ashbeck was appointed to co-chair it 18 months ago; Martinez and other advocates gained their seats at the table in December after more than a year of struggle (Community Alliance, December 2021), only to be ignored and rushed once there.

Martinez was prompted to write her column by a July 30 Bee news story in which Ashbeck was quoted as saying of the leaders of community-based organizations: “The inability of your constituents to have their voices heard is a result of your performance in this process…If you had spent as much time bringing people here to oppose the measure as to help us shape (the spending plan), we might be in a different place.” 

It was a Clovis-Karen* tirade so, of course, all of it’s untrue. There was no “here.” Advocates made multiple attempts to open up the process to the public, but were refused by the committee majority.

Instead, behind the scenes the Fresno County Transportation Authority, while rebuffing advocates, budgeted $700,000 for a public relations firm to run surveys, film everything for online promotions and host a few meetings in late spring after the plan’s structure had been finalized by staff and consultants. It was an old school dog and pony show—many glittering promises, few real commitments.

Martinez continued, “But I would never claim to represent ‘constituents’ and said so at a Measure C steering committee meeting. I’m not a politician, and I don’t have constituents; nor does our organization have members. That’s not how community organizing functions, but it’s clear to me now that local politicians don’t understand our work.”  

*“Karen” is a widespread meme referencing a specific type of middle-class White woman who exhibits behaviors that stem from privilege.

  • Kevin Hall hosts Climate Politics on KFCF 88.1 FM every second and fourth Friday, 5 p.m.–6 p.m. He tweets as @airfrezno and @sjvalleyclimate and coordinates an informal network of climate activists at www.valleyclimate.org. Contact him at sjvalleyclimate@gmail.com for presentations and information.

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