Fresno State alumna Veronica Garibay is leading the local movement against Measure C, a renewal proposal that Fresno County voters will decide on this November that will generate $6.8 billion for local transportation over a 30-year period.
She argues that in its current form it fails to address past issues with the measure, including inadequate tracking of funds raised and community engagement.
“I think it’s important for students to know that their voices have been shut out of the process, and yet they’re going to be expected to pay for a tax that will not benefit our community,” she said.
Garibay graduated from Fresno State in 2010 with her master’s degree in public administration. Within three years, she co-founded the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, which she continues to co-direct.
Leadership Counsel is a nonprofit based in the San Joaquin and East Coachella valleys that advocates for “sound policy and eradicating injustice to secure equal access to opportunity regardless of wealth, race, income and place,” according to its Twitter.
Transportation is one of the focuses of the organization, which has led to Garibay devoting the last year to campaigning against the upcoming vote to renew Measure C.
In 1987, Fresno County voters first passed Measure C, a local transportation, half-cent sales tax measure that applied to every purchase in Fresno County for a 20-year period. It was renewed again in 2006 for a 20-year period, and in its current state, it will expire in 2027.
The renewal proposal is intended for a 30-year period, which has caused some concerns, but Garibay said there’s another major issue.
“We asked as part of [this] process, ‘Where has the money gone? How have we spent these dollars?’ We were given annual reports that report out these lump sums and identify these big major freeway projects in particular, but that’s it,” she said.
The “Yes on Measure C” campaign does promise strict accountability and local control, including requirements to publicly disclose all spending and complete independent audits.
According to Garibay, however, a detailed analysis of specific projects funded by Measure C is often only available through each individual city or the county itself, and that those analyses don’t specify individual street projects and more.
Aside from tracking issues, Garibay said that Measure C has also been controversial among voters due to the lack of community engagement in the renewal drafting.
“Community voices [are] really important in the process for a number of reasons. One is that it should be our standard, right? The basic tenet of a good democracy is public participation,” Garibay said.
Fresno County Supervisor Buddy Mendes, chairman of the Fresno County Transportation Authority, which collects and disburses Measure C revenue, said in a July news release that community input was incorporated in the development of the renewal.
“We have confidence in this compromise plan because it reflects the priorities identified by residents throughout Fresno County over nearly 18 months of community outreach,” Mendes said.
However, the call for more community engagement has been echoed by other local groups and individuals, according to The Fresno Bee, which reported in June 2022 that roughly 100 people spoke out against Measure C and cited inadequate community input.
This is not the first time that an attempt to renew Measure C has faced controversy, either.
In 2002, transportation officials’ first attempt to renew the measure failed because the Central Valley League of Women’s Voters and a local chapter of the Sierra Club opposed it, arguing that it did not properly address issues such as good land use planning and air quality, according to Garibay.
That’s why Garibay wants to work to ensure that a Measure C renewal takes multiple issues into consideration.
“Measure C is about affordable housing, about confronting the effect of climate change, about addressing our poor air quality, about creating local jobs… Fresno County is home to over a million people, and it’s about making sure that people have a way to get to where they need to go. Because we deserve it,” she said.
In light of these concerns, Garibay is urging voters to vote no on Measure C’s current proposed renewal in order to engage more community members and specify how funds will be tracked first.
“Our next steps would be to welcome everybody who wants to work on this process, including decision-makers, to craft a plan that we can all be proud of and we can all stand behind,” she said.
Students interested in working with Garibay can visit votenomeasurec.com to register, volunteer, sign up for a newsletter or endorse the campaign.