BY BRIANNA CALIX
August 09, 2018 05:04 PM
Updated August 10, 2018 08:13 AM
The Fresno City Council voted unanimously Thursday to send the Fresno for Parks initiative to voters on the November ballot, despite three council members voicing strong opposition to the measure.
The council heard from dozens of speakers urging them to allow voters to decide on the three-eighths-cent sales tax that will raise $37.5 million per year over 30 years for clean and safe parks, as well as arts. Supporters voiced how Fresno’s severe lack of parks and green space has held the city back over the years. The measure proposes putting in action the city of Fresno’s parks master plan.
The sales tax initiative would raise money that will help “keep young people from riding in the back of (Fresno Police) Chief Dyer’s squad cars,” said Paul Gibson, previous owner of Guarantee Real Estate who also sits on the San Joaquin River Conservancy board.
Supporters gathered 35,000 signatures to qualify the initiative, and Thursday’s City Council vote confirmed it for the ballot.
Juan Arambula, former state assemblyman and co-chair of Fresno for Parks, said the council in its vote heard the voices of 35,000 Fresnans.
“Fortunately, the public came through,” he said. “A lot of folks had been interested in parks over the years, and when they saw an opportunity, they jumped in with both feet.”
Arambula noted the success came after hurdles. Initially, the effort relied on outside petition gatherers who became busier with better-paying efforts in other parts of the state. So Fresno for Parks leaders turned to citizen volunteers to gather signatures.
“They’re the ones that took us over line,” he said.
The effort’s success also came into question when Mayor Lee Brand announced a competing proposal for a tax initiative for public safety and parks. But he quickly killed the proposal after city council members said they didn’t support his plan. Fresno for Parks leaders hoped to earn the mayor’s support through negotiations, but he stood firm in his belief that a split public safety and parks initiative would earn voter approval.