At a time when local schools and governments are struggling financially, Fresno County voters stepped up to several calls for cash on Election Day, approving more than a half-dozen tax measures.
The renewal of the library sales tax, Measure B, passed handily with a whopping 72% of Tuesday's vote. Bonds to expand school campuses and fix up classrooms were successful at Sanger Unified, Kings Canyon Unified and Washington Unified, according to unofficial tallies.
"There is a general desire, I think, on the part of voters to do the right thing. They want to have good communities. They want to have good libraries. They want to have good schools," said Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Larry Powell. "As long as people know where the money is going, they will show support."
Passage of Measure B, perhaps the most watched of the county ballot measures, ensures that Fresno County's library system will sustain the rapid expansion it's seen in recent years. New branches have been added. There are far more books, and libraries are equipped with computer labs and Wi-Fi.
The one-eighth-cent sales tax accounts for half of the budget for the system's 26 library branches.
The big wins for local measures were made even merrier, for some, by the success of Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30. The statewide hike in sales and income tax means additional money will flow to local schools as well as to law-enforcement agencies.
Fresno County Measure O too close to call
Another ballot measure that county voters confronted Tuesday was Measure O, an effort to streamline the privatization of county services. The measure, which would permit the Board of Supervisors to privatize jobs with four votes instead of the current three, remained too close to call Wednesday.
It was leading 50.6% to 49.4% after Tuesday's votes were counted. Thousands of absentee and provisional ballots, however, are yet to be tallied.
"The first thing I said this morning was, 'Thank God,' " said county employee and union member Michael Vasquez, who works as a job specialist and voted against Measure O. "I'm hopeful this won't pass. ... It contains language that is union-busting."
County election officials have 31 days after the election to finalize vote counts.
Fresno: Measure F, Brandau winners
The city of Fresno's Measure F, which puts fiscal restraints on the City Council, was a clear winner, getting 68% of Tuesday's vote.
In the race for the City Council's one open seat, tea party supporter and small-businessman Steve Brandau beat Pat Di Cicco of the Di Cicco's Restaurant family.
Brandau, who garnered 54% of the unofficial tally, said Di Cicco had called to congratulate him.
"I'm extremely happy," Brandau said.
The newcomer to politics said his message of fiscal restraint and his common-sense values appealed to voters.
"I'm just a regular guy. I'm a guy who works hard. I think that resonates when I'm standing in front of people, talking to them," he said.
Brandau will replace Andreas Borgeas, who won election this spring to the county Board of Supervisors and will be seated in January.
Lopez back on Orange Cove City Council
Perhaps the county's biggest political comeback this election cycle was logged by former Orange Cove Mayor Victor Lopez. The longtime resident appears to have reinvigorated his public life with a seat on the Orange Cove City Council.
Lopez and council incumbent Gilbert Garcia were the top vote-getters in a four-person race for two seats.
"People were confessing to me that they had made a mistake in voting me out of office," Lopez said. "They said they needed me and wanted me back."
The recalls of Orange Cove Council Members Glenda Hill and Frank Martinez, which Lopez advocated for, appeared unsuccessful. Lopez wanted to get people on the board to support his goals of economic development.
"I was hoping that the other candidates that ran with me would win so we could make positive change," Lopez said. "I don't know if we can make that change now."
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