By Yezdyar S. Kaoosji
The global economic downturn has had its obvious impact on the City of Fresno’s budget. Higher unemployment has led to less consumer spending and therefore to lower sales tax revenues. The real estate bust has resulted in plummeting house prices and lowered property tax revenue. Mayor Ashley Swearengin and a majority of the City Council have refused to consider alternatives such as a 0.5% sales tax increase that could easily replace the lost revenue and spread the burden evenly.
Instead, the administration has decided to tap the only profitable municipal enterprise, Fresno’s trash collection service, and decided to cannibalize it to balance the budget. Because the Fresno City Charter prohibits using enterprise funds to augment its municipal services budget, the strategy to franchise its operations to a private contractor was adopted to gain access to enterprise funds and the lush reserve that should have been rightfully returned to the residents.
Having said that, let us turn to the politics of the situation and examine what every Fresno voter should and should not do to oppose and defeat Fresno City Ballot Measure G on June 4. This ill-conceived ordinance has to be defeated by the voters because a polarized City Council could not rescind it.
We must understand that
- This is not a liberal versus conservative, Democrat versus Republican or union versus non-union debate. The “No” campaign is led by a coalition comprising members of various political parties and union and non-union workers, and is a multi-ethnic effort that includes local businesses and the San Joaquin Valley Taxpayers Association. Rarely are all those names on the same side of any ballot argument.
- This is not about our popular mayor. All administrations make occasional mistakes and her administration is no exception. We do not oppose her personally, as she has done much for the city. But we do oppose a bad judgment call that will affect the City of Fresno in the not-too-distant future, when this mayor and the current City Council members will have termed out and moved on to higher political offices.
- However, it is about preventing the demolition of a well-functioning and profitable municipal enterprise that has accumulated a reserve of more than $16 million through effective management.
What should Fresno residents do between now and June 4?
- Register new voters by May 20. The Registrar of Voters has an online site for registration: www.co.fresno.ca.us/ExternalRedirect.aspx?URL=http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vr.htm.
- Get the word out to neighbors, friends and local businesses to “Vote no on G!”
- Obtain details from www.fresnoMeasureG.com. Call 559-425-6779 for pamphlets and lawn signs, and support the effort with donations.
It will be a sad day for democracy if after the laudable grass roots success of collecting nearly 40,000 signatures to place the measure on ballot, this ill-conceived Measure “G” is approved because of poor voter turnout.
Yezdyar Kaoosji is a member of the Progressive Network of Central California Steering Committee. He recently retired from his work as a management consultant and trainer, following a long career in the nonprofit field. He is a board member of the California Association of Nonprofits and is enjoying his new role as a community activist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 559-903-0404.