Valley Voices

Instead of criticizing outcome, Fresno Bee should unify Measure P sides toward new plan

A drone photo shows unkept fields at Fink-White Park in west Fresno on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. Measure P, the initiative that would have raised sales taxes, was intended to repair and renovate existing parks and create new ones.
A drone photo shows unkept fields at Fink-White Park in west Fresno on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. Measure P, the initiative that would have raised sales taxes, was intended to repair and renovate existing parks and create new ones. Fresno Bee file

In a Nov. 9th editorial, The Fresno Bee described the failure of Measure P as a “pocketbook matter,” noting that Fresno County voters backed a repeal of the gas tax, even though the rest of California did not. The Bee also labeled the vote an example of “fiscal conservatism” in the Valley.

The editorial pointed to Mayor Lee Brand, Police Chief Jerry Dyer, Fire Chief Keri Donis and the north/south divide for the lack of voter support of Measure P. The newspaper held everyone and everything responsible, except the measure itself.

ostlund
John Ostlund Fresno Bee file

I was surprised The Bee wasn’t more introspective about why the majority of voters did not endorse a 30-year, $2 billion increase in sales tax that did not include money for public safety, government’s highest priority.

Any analysis of the vote should also have included whether or not a $200 million earmark for the promotion of art had anything to do with the public rejecting Measure P, but there was no mention of art in the editorial. It could be voters were concerned about the lack of flexibility to adjust funding in the event of a recession that might require cuts to critical services, as has happened in the past under the same circumstances.

Instead, our local newspaper played the blame game.

Immediately following the election, Mayor Brand announced that he had invited Yes on P organizers to join City Hall in the development of a new measure that would include money for parks, public safety and a number of other priorities.

The Bee wasted no time being critical, reporting the Mayor “lost park supporters” with this action.

The Fresno Bee seems to believe that our community should have only one priority, that of parks. While no single idea will solve our many problems, any solution that includes multiple ideas does not mean “parks will once again be secondary in the city’s priorities,” as The Bee wrote in its editorial.

Fresno has extraordinary needs and limited resources. We only have to look at the next largest city in California with a municipal budget three times the size of ours to see this. It’s not hard to understand that when $2 billion of additional taxes are levied, it would be irresponsible not to consider all community needs.

Wouldn’t it be a better for our newspaper to take the lead on this? Maybe host a meeting of the minds? Bringing two divided sides together to do something big? Imagine the bright light of truth that would shine when everyone is “on the record.”

By demeaning our mayor and police chief in an editorial by saying, “if they think the power of their personalities can pass that measure, they haven’t learned a lesson from Measure P’s failure,” the Fresno Bee does little to support their mission statement of “advocating for the enhancement of life in the Valley.”

Finally, why would The Bee lecture readers by telling us we “need to understand that improvements do not come for free.” Voters in Fresno County have taxed ourselves often and generously in support of ideas that deliver great value, including sales tax increases for a world-class zoo, expanded schools, improved streets, additional libraries – the list is long and the cost is significant.

The majority of voters should be congratulated for recognizing what The Fresno Bee did not see — Measure P was flawed. Now it is time to come together in the best interest of our community with a plan that considers a broad agenda of parks, public safety, homelessness, job creation, infrastructure and more.

I encourage The Fresno Bee to lead this effort and help build a better community.

John Ostlund is the owner of One Putt Broadcasting in Fresno.

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