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City Of Fresno Rejects Controversial Bus Banner

Building Healthy Communities

An ad that a local non-profit group wants to run on city buses is the center of controversy, after Fresno officials say it’s too political. As FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports the group wants more parkland in older parts of town.

The banner in dispute points out the disparities in the amount of parkland across the city. According to the nonprofit Fresno Building Healthy Communities, north Fresno residents enjoy 3.6 acres of extra parkland for every 1,000 people, compared to those who live in south Fresno. But the banners won’t be on FAX buses any time soon.

Sandra Celedon-Castro is with the group.

Celedon-Castro: “The City of Fresno decided that the sign behind me, this beautiful sign with this lovely young girl is too controversial and too political for all of you to see.”

Credit Ezra David Romero
More than 100 people gathered to protest the city's decision.

In a written statement, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin said the ad can’t run on city busses because [quote] "local rules prohibit any political speech from being included in city bus ads.”

John Capitman with the Central Valley Health Policy Institute says the banner is a correct depiction of the North-South divide in Fresno.

CAPITMAN: “There’s almost a 10 year difference in how long people are expected to live in southeast Fresno versus North Fresno. Differences in diabetes obesity. When they say we need more parks they are picking up on what’s really true.

The city says it encourages the group to use other forms of advertising that don’t have restrictions, but the group says that blocking the banner is censorship.

Last week the Trust For Public Land ranked Fresno tied for last nationwide for  the lowest park to city acreage in the country.

Ezra David Romero is an award-winning radio reporter and producer. His stories have run on Morning Edition, Morning Edition Saturday, Morning Edition Sunday, All Things Considered, Here & Now, The Salt, Latino USA, KQED, KALW, Harvest Public Radio, etc.
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