The Collegian editorial board opposes Measure E

A “Yes on Measure E” yard sign on the Fresno State campus. (Manuel Hernandez/The Collegian)

In a little over a week, Fresno County voters will be determining the fate of Measure E, a proposed 0.2% countywide sales tax that would bring Fresno State $36 million per year for the next 20 years.

The Collegian’s editorial board voted on whether or not to endorse Measure E. Of the seven members of the board, two abstained due to being out-of-county voters. The remaining five voted to oppose Measure E.

Managing Editor Ashley Flowers was appointed by the editorial board to write the following opposition to Measure E. In recognition of the opposing viewpoints of other Fresno State students, two reporters from The Collegian also shared their endorsements of Measure E.

In Opposition to Measure E

While Measure E intends to take Fresno State “from good to great,” the intentions and motivations behind the proposed tax increase are too murky to garner my support.

I was born and raised in Fresno and am now only a month away from being a two-time Fresno State alumna. I will readily acknowledge that while I’m a proud Bulldog, there are many areas on campus desperately in need of renovation and impacted majors in need of relief.

But it’s clear that the Fresno State Improvement Zone Committee backing the measure isn’t being transparent enough about its intentions.

It starts with Richard Spencer, the Harris Construction company owner leading the committee and bankrolling the campaign. 

On Oct. 27, Fresnoland’s Danielle Bergstrom shared the most recent contribution report for the Yes on Measure E campaign on Twitter, which revealed that Spencer last week donated another half a million dollars, bringing his donation total to nearly $1.5 million.

If Measure E passes, Spencer – whose company has worked with Fresno State and profited from it before – stands to gain much more than any taxpaying resident.

In 2016, Mackenzie Mays’ article for The Fresno Bee shows that Spencer has already seen similar success with this plan – his $30,000 gift to the committee behind Measure Q, a $280 million bond Fresno Unified passed in 2010, led to him being awarded nearly $115 million in leaseback contracts paid for by funds from Measure Q.

It’s also landed Spencer in some hot water.

“Fresno Unified’s use of leaseback contracts with Harris Construction has landed it in court, with questions raised about whether it has led to a pay-to-play system,” Mays wrote.

This is not the kind of controversy I want the school I love and attend to be involved in. 

Another area of Measure E I’m uncomfortable with is that one-third of the $36 million – $12 million per year – would be going to athletics instead of academics.

There’s no doubt that Fresno State football is big for the Valley and that the Red Wave’s passion calls for a bigger, better stadium. Taxing the entire county of Fresno voters – many of whom will never attend a Fresno State class or even a football game – isn’t a reasonable way to achieve that. Especially not when Fresno County’s 2021 census data revealed that 17.1% of people living in the county were in poverty.

Fresno State needs help, but the burden of that help shouldn’t be on the shoulders of everyone who happens to live within Fresno County – especially not when the tax increase is part of a rich man’s scheme to get richer.

In Support of Measure E

From Aidan Garaygordobil:

As someone who has been an actively involved student at Fresno State since 2019, I feel that Measure E is a very necessary addition to Fresno State’s revenue. 

I feel that despite the school being a great institution that has given me more opportunities than I could’ve ever imagined, there are some glaring problems within the campus that primarily revolve around funding. 

I’ve had experience in nearly every facet of student involvement and extracurriculars. We are in no shortage of students with creative ideas and the ambition and work ethic required to improve the student experience. 

However, Fresno State’s funding for building repairs and modernization of certain areas on campus is completely lacking. I’m not under the impression that our current administration is going out of its way to ignore the issues. Rather, I feel that it most likely want to renovate the campus but lack the capacity to. 

An increase in revenue to address these issues is the most viable option in my opinion. Considering the sheer investment Fresno State puts into the citizens and community of Fresno, I feel that this miniscule tax will not only give back to the school but act as a new investment in itself. 

In addition, one of the most important reasons to pass the measure is for the sake of Fresno State Athletics. While not every Fresno citizen can share the experience of having attended college, the majority of the city can attest to being represented as fans of the Bulldogs. 

As a community that wants to see its sports programs succeed at the highest level, and put ourselves into conversations with other West Coast schools such as USC and UCLA. We should take initiative to invest into Fresno State. 

From Al Scott:

While Valley Children’s Stadium is a fun and exciting place to watch a game, it is not without its glaring weaknesses. 

Golf carts being driven by volunteers going through crowds of drunken football fans is a recipe for disaster. The walkways in and around the stadium are rocky and unsafe. Those in wheelchairs or walkers need at least 20 minutes to get from their seats to and from the concourse.

That needs to change.

With midterm elections coming around the corner, several ballot propositions are on the table, including Measure E.

If Measure E passes, supporters say the tax could take the university from “good to great.” While the majority of funds raised will go to academics, Fresno State will have up to $12 million annually to work with to fund athletics. Where would that money go, though? 

The venue, formerly known as Bulldog Stadium, would certainly be a place to start. Originally opened in the 1980 season, Valley Children’s Stadium has served as the running grounds for Fresno State football ever since. 

There are certainly other areas on campus and in the athletics department that could use the money, but Fresno State should consider spending a large chunk of money on renovating Valley Children’s Stadium should the measure pass.

They could start by adding an extra lane for golf carts on the ramps around the concourse to make it safe. As it is, there are two yellow lines that people disregard, and it’s hard to blame them when you can’t see the ground well late at night. 

Another improvement would be redoing the roads and pathways around the stadium. The asphalt is unsafe and should be No. 1 on a list of things to be fixed. Those in wheelchairs or walkers would especially benefit from this. 

Elevator access from the concourse level to the ADA section of the stadium should also be a priority. It shouldn’t take someone an entire quarter of football to go to the restrooms or grab concessions. 

As with any large facility, updates are essential to ensuring the highest quality possible. Valley Children’s Stadium is no exception and has seen a few renovations over the years. 

In 1991, the university added 10,000 seats – increasing the stadium’s capacity from 30,000 to more than 40,000 – along with 22 sky suites. The stadium also added additional restrooms and concession facilities. 

In the years since, Fresno State has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the stadium, and it would be wise to continue to do so considering the cost to build a brand new facility. 

For example, San Diego State just spent $310 million to build Snapdragon Stadium which opened this fall. That’s a lot of money, and upgrading the stadium now will extend the life of the venue for decades to come.

If Measure E passes, Valley Children’s Stadium could similarly experience this boost.

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