Brandau, Bredefeld oppose Fresno council’s ‘social justice’ agenda, support mayor’s gas tax plan

‘South Fresno already receives a crap load of money,’ Brandau says

Listen to councilmen Steve Brandau and Garry Bredefeld argue for their districts in response to yesterday's press conference by colleagues.
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Listen to councilmen Steve Brandau and Garry Bredefeld argue for their districts in response to yesterday's press conference by colleagues.

Related story: Fresno Mayor Lee Brand pulls gas tax spending plan due to ‘partisan disagreement’

In response to a council majority opposing Mayor Lee Brand’s spending plan for gas tax money, council members Garry Bredefeld and Steve Brandau warned it’s the beginning of “social justice warrior” politics and called on the mayor to stand up and defend his plan.

The two north Fresno council members during a Tuesday news conference accused their colleagues of planning to “raid and pillage” city reserves while also calling for the council to work together cohesively for all of Fresno.

“South Fresno already receives a crap load of money (that’s) unavailable to north Fresno,” said Brandau, who represents District 2 in northwest Fresno. “Now some of our colleagues want to rob the citizens of north Fresno of any benefit of their gas tax dollars. Is it any wonder why citizens don’t trust government with their money?”

On Monday, council members Miguel Arias, Luis Chavez, Nelson Esparza and Esmeralda Soria all said they oppose the mayor’s spending plan for state gas tax funding and called for more money to go toward road repairs and sidewalks near south Fresno schools.

Fresno council members of the south and west areas of Fresno hold a press conference to announce their opposition to the Mayor Lee Brand's proposal to split gas tax initiative money equally among the city's districts.

Later on Tuesday, Brand pulled his proposed plan completely from Thursday’s council agenda, citing the obvious discord between council members.

Brand said in a news release that he plans to meet with council members as soon as possible to debate a plan that keeps all Fresnans safe.

Brand’s plan to spend about $12 million in Senate Bill 1 funding had given slightly more funding to road repairs in Districts 5, 1 and 3, respectively. A project list would have to be approved by May 1 and submitted to the State Controller. A $800,000 project to repair Nees Avenue, where Bredefeld and Brandau held the news conference on Tuesday, is the most expensive one on the current list. Several other high-cost projects are located in south Fresno.

Bredefeld and Brandau argued north Fresno deserves its fair share of gas tax money since residents there also pay taxes. They listed a number of investments to south Fresno that they supported as examples of funding south Fresno receives that north Fresno doesn’t. They expressed support for the mayor’s spending plan, saying it was fair and created without a political agenda.

“We’re one community,” Bredefeld said. “We shouldn’t be dividing our community, and we should recognize that we all have needs. We all have to fix our streets no matter where it is in the city of Fresno. … I just wanted to show that our district has tremendous needs.”

Bredefeld accused Arias, who represents southwest Fresno and downtown, of being the leader of a “class warfare” battle. Bredfeld called Arias a “social justice warrior” and said he’s promoting a divisive social justice agenda on the council. “This kind of politics should be rejected,” he said.

Bredefeld said he’s always willing to work together with his colleagues, but he’s also willing to stand up and fight for his district.

Brandau worried that as he moves on to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, northwest Fresno residents will be forgotten and without representation.

“The mayor has needed to be stronger in terms of standing up to this kind of outrageous behavior and conduct from the leader of this class warfare, Miguel Arias…,” Bredefeld said. “The mayor needs to remember he represents everybody and if he has the appropriate plan, stand up and defend his plan because it’s the right plan.”

Brandau also clarified comments he made to KFSN-TV yesterday, comparing the issue to reparations for slavery. He called that a “crappy analogy” and said he was trying to say current north Fresno residents shouldn’t pay for the city’s “sins of the past.”

Arias said in an interview with The Bee that the remarks from his colleagues were inappropriate and do a disservice to their constituents. Arias said Bredefeld and Brandau’s comments diminish their credibility and show their incompetence to understand what equity is.

“All they’re doing is further isolating themselves from the constructive conversations the majority of the council and mayor’s office wants to engage in,” he said. “To say that both parts of this city need resources equally is mind boggling. …I think their argument that equality is a path forward is going to be a slippery slope.”

Brianna Calix covers politics and investigations for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable and shine a light on issues that deeply affect residents’ lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Fresno State.