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Poorer, higher-crime neighborhoods of Fresno backed Measure P the most, analysis shows

Wayne Fine, city of Fresno irrigation specialist, talks at a backflow device which he is tending to after damage to valves by vandals or homeless people camping in Roeding Park, who use pliers to turn, and thus, strip the brass as they attempt to gain access to water.
Wayne Fine, city of Fresno irrigation specialist, talks at a backflow device which he is tending to after damage to valves by vandals or homeless people camping in Roeding Park, who use pliers to turn, and thus, strip the brass as they attempt to gain access to water. Fresno Bee file

You might find the demographics of the Measure P vote to be surprising. I certainly did and the results are worthy of community reflection.

Fresno Building Healthy Communities, a coalition of community-based organizations, recently completed a preliminary Measure P voter pattern analysis. The lowest level of voter support for Measure P was north of Herndon, and the highest was south of McKinley. Precincts that had less than 50% support for Measure P were concentrated in northwest and northeast Fresno (north of Herndon), where it is mostly white and Republican. Precincts that had 50-60% support for Measure P were concentrated in south Fresno (south of Shaw), predominantly in council districts 1 and 4, which are mostly Democrat, white and female. Precincts with greater than 60% support for Measure P were clustered in south-central Fresno, south of McKinley Avenue, in council districts 3 and 5, which are predominantly Democrat, Latino and female.

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Central Valley Community Foundation

While it is difficult to compare voting results with demographic data on crime and income because the data sets use different boundaries, one can reasonably assign other characteristics to the three areas reported on by Fresno BHC. The north of Herndon region is the wealthiest and enjoys the lowest crime rates. The south of Shaw region is intermediate in income and crime and the area south of McKinley is the poorest and has the highest concentration of violent crime. You can view a map representing neighborhood crime in Fresno by visiting www.neighborhoodscout.com. There are 15 “most dangerous neighborhoods” south of McKinley, none north of Herndon.

The central arguments presented by Measure P opponents were that a successful Measure P would crowd out future funding efforts for essential police and fire services to the detriment of us all, and a 3/8th cent sales tax increase would be an unwelcome burden for the poor. The voting patterns suggest that these arguments resonated most strongly in the wealthiest and safest neighborhoods in Fresno, but were overwhelmingly rejected by the residents in the poorest, most dangerous and crime-impacted areas of our city. Fresno residents most often victimized by crime, those living south of McKinley, prioritized investment in parks over investment in police. Those same south-of-McKinley residents have about one-third the income of those north of Herndon, and yet they voted for what opponents of Measure P called a “regressive” tax in order to improve in their substandard neighborhood parks and arts programs.

We clearly have a profound disconnect in the way the different regions of Fresno assess the city’s needs. The wealthiest and safest of our citizens seek even more investment in public safety capacity and rejected efforts to improve parks in the poorest regions of the city. Our poorest citizens, those most affected by high crime and least able to pay additional taxes, value neighborhood investment in parks and arts rather than in public safety, and they voted to tax themselves to achieve that end.

Why is there such a difference in the way the wealthy and the poor voted on Measure P? How do we resolve the differences? What is the obligation of our wealthiest citizens to invest in opportunity for the youngest and poorest among us and how is that done to the greatest net good? Measure P showed us we have much to discuss.

Alan Pierrot is the board chairman of the Central Valley Community Foundation, a committed supporter of Measure P. He can be reached at alanp40@gmail.com.

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