If all goes as expected on Thursday, the Fresno City Council will vote to put the Fresno for Parks sales tax measure — which includes a healthy chunk of funding for the arts — on the November ballot. Here’s what you need to know:
You’re encouraged to attend: Fresno for Parks is putting out the word for supporters to show up wearing green at the council meeting (3-5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9, at Fresno City Hall, 2600 Fresno St.) “to celebrate, support and witness the Fresno for Parks initiative take the final step in becoming a city-wide measure.”
The backstory: The Fresno for Parks campaign gathered more than 35,000 signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot. If approved, it will raise the sales tax ⅜ of a cent for 30 years, with the majority going to the parks system. Arts and culture would benefit greatly as well, to the tune of an estimated $4.5 million a year.
ORIGINAL POST: For the past couple of months, as organizers of the Fresno Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Initiative worked to gather enough signatures to quality the sales-tax measure for the November ballot, there’s been uncertainty about a public-safety tax-increase proposal floating around. If both measures qualified, would two-thirds of voters look kindly on approving not one but two tax increases? Would it come down to essentially an either/or situation: uniformed officers on the street vs. places for our kids to play?
With a City Hall announcement today, the situation got even more complicated — or a lot simpler, depending on your perspective. Mayor Lee Brand is proposing a one-half cent increase in sales tax in the City of Fresno that would fund both public safety and parks. If this measure is supported by two-thirds of the voters, it will raise between $44 and $50 million dollars a year, according to the city.
Half the money would go toward police and fire, including hiring between 160 and 200 additional new police officers, firefighters and civilian support personnel. The other half would triple the annual parks budget and go toward implementing most of the recommendations of the Parks Master Plan.
And how would funding for the arts fare? In the Fresno for Parks ballot measure — which would raise taxes by ⅜ of a cent — arts and culture would get a dedicated funding stream to the tune of an estimated $4.5 million a year. The city’s split proposal does not specifically identify arts funding, says city spokesman Mark Standriff.
“But it certainly will be considered as part of the 1/4 cent going to parks if the measure passes,” he told me.
It’s our most ambitious episode of “The Munro Review” yet! The May edition features three guest segments, including a musical song-and-dance number. (Not by me. Although that would have been a sight.)
Here’s what you can catch in this chock-full episode:
♦ Kathleen McKinley, director of the new Fresno State production of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” fills us in on this ambitious and cutting-edge experience, which opens Friday, May 4. She’s joined by William Ramirez, a student in my Fresno State journalism class, who drops in to talk about our special class project covering “Streetcar” from a number of story angles. (It’ll be unveiled later this week.)
Campaign to put a sales-tax increase on the November ballot is in full swing
Imagine a wonderland in which arts organizations get to divvy up $4.5 million annually in public funds to make their city a better place. What’s that, you say? You can’t quite dare to dream that big?
Go ahead. It’s possible.
If community supporters have their way, a sales-tax-increase on the November ballot will fund parks, recreation and arts programs for 30 years in the city of Fresno. Voters will have to approve it — and by a whopping 66.7 percent margin, which is a steep hill to climb. But it’s possible with a lot of organizing and hard work.
I dropped by an organizing meeting on Tuesday evening to learn more:
The scene: The meeting room at the Central Valley Community Foundation, which is helping to organize the ballot measure, was crowded with the biggest concentration of arts movers-and-shakers (and just plain enthusiasts) that I’ve ever seen.