After hearing presentations from Mayor Lee Brand on his public safety and parks tax initiative proposal and the Fresno for Parks folks about their plan, Fresno Chamber of Commerce leaders decided not to take a position on either idea, but instead on Wednesday called on the two sides to strike a compromise.
The chamber hosted listening forums two nights this week — one session for each of the proposals — and both sides gave presentations to the chamber's government affairs council.
Nathan Ahle, the chamber's CEO, said the business community recognizes the benefits of both plans.
"What we ask as the business community — what we strongly urge as the business community — is that the administration and parks advocates sit down together and come up with a compromise that works," Ahle said.
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"The chamber strongly believes a safe community is good for business. The chamber strongly believes that a good parks system and a good quality of life is good for business," he said.
Both sides want to see a tax initiative on the November ballot.
The Fresno for Parks group wants a three-eighths-cent sales tax that would raise about $37.5 million annually over 30 years for parks and the arts. A group of citizens, community leaders and nonprofit organizations are working to gather enough signatures to put the initiative on the ballot.
The mayor, however, proposed a half-cent sales tax for 15 years that would raise $44 million to $50 million annually. The funding would be split evenly for parks and the city's police and fire departments. Brand planned to seek the Fresno City Council's support to put the plan on the November ballot, but five council members publicly opposed the plan prior to the official vote.
After momentum for his plan sputtered, Brand expressed reluctance to compromise with the Fresno for Parks group. And in his talks with the chamber this week, he's sticking to his 50-50 proposal and holding out hope it still could appear on the ballot.
The chamber is happy to do what it can to bring the two groups closer toward an agreement, Ahle said.
"I think the fact that the mayor was here last night … indicates that the mayor and the administration have not given up on this," he said.
"We hope that they're willing to sit at the table, and we hope that the parks advocates are willing to sit at the table and try to find a way forward that's good for business and that's good for Fresno. We're happy to help those conversations along in any way."