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News Release - City Of Fresno Ignores Democracy. Lack Of Action Triggers Lawsuit

Community leaders out at Fresno City Hall in Support of #Parks4All
Community leaders out at Fresno City Hall in Support of #Parks4All

(Fresno, CA) At yesterday’s meeting, Fresno City Council failed to implement the will of the people during its meeting by not taking any action to declare Measure P approved.

In November, more than 61,000 residents voted yes on Measure P, the citizen-led initiative that would have created a significant investment in Fresno's parks. These 61,000 residents represent 52 percent of voters - a clear majority

Now, Fresno Building Healthy Communities is the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the City of Fresno for unjustly applying a two-thirds vote requirement on the Measure P initiative - a requirement for special taxes proposed by governing bodies, not citizen-led initiatives.

“We cannot let the City of Fresno disregard the voices of residents and young people who have led the #Parks4All movement for the last several years,” said Sandra Celedon, president and chief executive officer for Fresno Building Healthy Communities. “The law is clear, citizen-led initiatives, like Measure P, require a simple majority and a majority of Fresnans support more and better parks.”

Last summer, the Fresno Building Healthy Communities coalition, including community residents and young people, helped gather more than 12,000 of the 35,000 required signatures needed to place Measure P on the November 2018 ballot. In December 2018, it was certified that Measure P received 52 percent of the vote.

In a letter sent to the City of Fresno and Mayor Lee Brand on Jan. 23, Fresno Building Healthy Communities called on the city to declare the measure approved by voters.

“The city cannot ignore the thousands of community members and young people who want cleaner and safer neighborhood parks any longer,” said Zachary Darrah, executive director of Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries and Fresno Building Healthy Communities coalition partner. “One of our most precious rights as Americans is to be part of a democracy, and the City of Fresno shouldn’t place unnecessary hurdles and block our ability to make our community better. Voters have spoken, and they support ‘Parks for All.’”

Fresno Building Healthy Communities launched its #Parks4All effort in 2015 when advocates heard directly from young people about the need for quality parks, specifically in south Fresno. A three-year public education and advocacy campaign followed, and advocates were successful in securing an update to the City of Fresno Parks Master Plan, which highlighted the fact that 80 percent of Fresno parks are in complete disarray and in need of dedicated investment. At the same time, the city has slashed the parks budget by more than 52 percent over the last 12 years, resulting in a lack of resources to adequately maintain and bring parks up to health and safety standards. In 2018, Fresno Building Healthy Communities and its coalition partners helped bring together the Fresno for Parks campaign and played a key role in drafting Measure P to equitably invest in our parks system with strict citizen-oversight and accountability.

The lawsuit was filed in Fresno County Superior Court on Feb. 1, 2019. Fresno Building Healthy Communities is represented in its lawsuit by Olson, Hagel & Fishburn LLP.

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