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Government & Politics

Social Justice At The Heart Of Fresno Gas Tax Debate

Kerry Klein
Mayor Brand's plan would have distributed $12 million in gas tax funds roughly evenly between Fresno's seven city council districts.

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand has pulled a proposed spending plan that would have funded road repairs in the city, after criticism that it would have perpetuated inequality.

Brand’s plan would have distributed $12 million from the SB1 gas tax roughly equally among the city’s seven council districts, but the plan didn't sit well with most of the councilmembers who say they want equity first.

At least four of the seven council members want more of the funds invested in South Fresno. That’s where historical redlining and underinvestment have resulted in poor neighborhoods with demonstrably lower life expectancies—many of which lack sidewalks and streetlights.

"There’s a difference between equal and equity," said Councilmember Luis Chavez at a press conference on Monday. "If I gave everybody a pair of size-10 shoes here, it might work for some but not for others."

At a press conference the next day, the council’s conservative minority accused their colleagues of waging class warfare and aiming to "raid and pillage our reserve fund" with their social equity platform.

"I think we’re going to be seeing issues related to social justice such as sanctuary cities," said Councilmember Gary Bredefeld. "I think the whole issue of creating funds for people here illegally is coming back, I think they want to take millions of dollars out of our reserve and put it towards housing."

Standing alongside Bredefeld was Councilmember Steve Brandau. He'll leave the council next week to be sworn in as a county supervisor, a move that could further shift the balance of power on the historically conservative council. 

On Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Brand pulled the plan from this week’s city council meeting agenda, in a press release saying he plans to meet with councilmembers individually.