As Measure P implementation lurches along, bureaucratic confusion plagues city commission


In another sign of Measure P controversy, filling seats on the Parks, Recreation and Arts Commission has tumbled into a confusing set of missteps. In the last month:

• Commissioner Kimberly McCoy was abruptly told she was being replaced on May 15, but she then wasn’t replaced. She remains on the Commission but has not been not reappointed.

• Former Commissioner Sarah Parkes did lose her seat after learning on May 15 that she was being replaced. But now she’s been invited to possibly come back.

• Commissioners Jose Leon Barraza and Jon Dohlin were scheduled to be reappointed on May 25, but GV Wire reported that the Mayor’s office pulled their names from consideration.

And: As 2 key arts supporters are bounced from the Measure P commission, Fresno arts leaders fight back

Furthermore, Barraza says more Latinos are needed on the Commission to equitably represent Fresno’s demographics in which Latinos are 50% of the population. Barraza is currently the lone Latino on the nine-member Commission.

These are the latest developments in an uneven public rollout of arts funding through Measure P, the sales tax increase approved by Fresno voters to benefit parks and arts. As much as $10 million, according to one estimate, could be available in grants to local arts organizations in the 12 months beginning July 1. Measure P created the Parks, Recreation and Arts Commission and gave it a key role. The initiative says the Commission shall partner with the Fresno Arts Council to implement the grants, and furthermore, “The Commission shall ensure that grant applications are reviewed in a transparent, competitive process.”


Despite these responsibilities, the Fresno City Council retains final authority – and the power that goes with it – because tax money is involved.

The Mayor’s Office nominates people to serve on the Commission, but the Fresno City Council has the final say on who is appointed. Barraza told The Munro Review that he has communicated to Dyer’s office “the composition of the Commission should be more representative of all ethnic groups of the City, both male and female, particularly with Latinos that now represent 50% of the population . . .”

In response, Mayor Jerry Dyer said in a statement: “We strive to have a Parks, Recreation and Arts Commission that is reflective of the community.” Dyer also said Measure P “stipulates” that Commissioners meet specific requirements, including having a demonstrated expertise in certain areas. In addition, at least one-third of the Commissioners must live in the city’s highest-need neighborhoods. “In furtherance of this, I brought forward a Latina female to be confirmed on the Commission who lives in District 3,” Dyer said. “However, that person was rejected by the City Council.”

Christina Soto is that woman, and she lives in the downtown-southwest Fresno District 3. Soto was up for City Council confirmation on May 25, but that didn’t happen. City Council President Tyler Maxwell was asked for comment, but The Munro Review received no reply prior to publication of this article. Barraza said he hopes Soto’s name is brought back to the City Council for appointment to the Commission.

The optics of how the Mayor’s Office has handled the tenures of McCoy, Parkes, Barraza and Dohlin on the Commission have stirred some controversy in the Fresno arts community. The terms of McCoy and Parkes ended on July 1, 2022, but they continued to serve, per the Commission’s bylaws, until they were replaced. With no warning, both received an email from the Mayor’s Office 90 minutes before the Commission’s May 15 meeting informing them that they were being replaced.

They had served on the Commission the same length of time as Barraza and Dohlin, whom the Mayor’s Office wanted to reappoint. Asked about this unequal treatment, Deputy Mayor Matthew Grundy said in May that the selection process considers a number of factors – including a candidate’s expertise, a willingness to serve and council district they live in. He did not directly address the unequal treatment of McCoy/Parkes compared to Barraza/Dohlin, but McCoy and Parkes were strong advocates for the Fresno Arts Council and its role in implementing Measure P. The Fresno Arts Council and City Hall are engaged in a power struggle over Measure P, and arts community leaders bemoaned the news on May 15 that McCoy and Parkes were being replaced.

But shortly after Parkes lost her seat on the Parks, Recreation and Arts Commission, she said that she received a call from Aaron Aguirre, director of the city’s parks department and the top bureaucrat serving the Commission. She said that Aguirre told her that she could reapply for the current vacancy or future vacancies on the Commission and that she followed up by doing so.

Aguirre’s reference to “the current vacancy” is to the seat of Commissioner Maiyer Vang, who has resigned. Parkes said she’s heard nothing since from City Hall about taking Vang’s place.

In his statement, Dyer said a replacement for Vang has not yet been chosen, and that McCoy, Barraza and Dohlin “will continue to serve in their current roles beyond their current terms.” The terms of Barraza and Dohlin end on July 1, 2023. Barraza told The Munro Review the Mayor’s Office told him it continues to support his membership on the Commission, “but it was not discussed with me if and when this matter would come back to the [City] Council.”

On May 25, the City Council took one action on Commission membership that has no associated confusion. The Council approved the appointment of Kelly Kucharski, co-executive director of the Sierra Resource Conservation District, and she attended her first meeting of the Parks, Recreation and Arts Commission on May 31.

Doug Hoagland is a freelance writer in Fresno. He spent 40 years working at Valley papers, including 30 years at The Fresno Bee. The first play he saw was a 1968 production of “Show Boat” at McLane High School.

Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

Comments (1)

  • Jackie Ryle

    All I can say, reading this, is that it breaks my heart


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