In a surprising move Monday, Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld, who represents the northeast district, made a motion to spend $30 million of federal stimulus funds on southeast and southwest Fresno.
“If we are to successfully address the adverse consequences of emergencies, like COVID-19, in more vulnerable populations, then we have to provide the resources to improve the quality of life for our south residents and those communities that are more adversely affected,” Bredefeld said at the meeting held via Zoom.
In the past, Bredefeld has clashed with his councilmates over where to spend money. Last year, Bredefeld vociferously objected to a road spending plan that he said didn’t adequately fund needs in his district.
This time, Bredefeld cited CDC reports that racial minorities bore the brunt of COVID-19 more than other racial groups. He also talked about the history of redlining in Fresno, a policy that restricted minorities of where they could get mortgages.
“Our residents in south Fresno have too often been ignored at City Hall,” Bredefeld said. He also praised the councilmembers for that area, Miguel Arias and Luis Chavez, as strong advocates for south Fresno.
Councilman Mike Karbassi, who represents northwest Fresno, helped devise the spending plan and seconded the motion.
Time to get serious about helping those who are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Need action and commitment of real resources. Nexus can be made and CARES Act money can be used. Let’s get it accomplished. https://t.co/0I6LH57cnI
— Garry Bredefeld (@GarryBredefeld) June 22, 2020
Motion by Bredefeld
Bredefeld also has rankled the community with his September 2017 comments about NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem, and more recently with his opposition to mandatory mask-wearing during the pandemic.
However, he joined with the council’s six other members in signing a proclamation last Thursday declaring Black Lives Matter Day in Fresno.
On Monday, Bredefeld stood up for areas of town he doesn’t represent.
“This means addressing hazardous sites, air pollution, water quality, lack of infrastructure, the need to clean streets and alleys, improve transportation and neighborhoods, create greater educational opportunities, more parks, and recreational facilities, and improve the ability to access healthy food via major grocery stores,” Bredefeld said.
Spending $30 million
Bredefeld’s plan would be to spend $20 million in southwest Fresno and $10 million in southeast Fresno, using money from the federal CARES Act.
The city received $92 million from the federal government. Under a plan from Mayor Lee Brand’s office, $50 million has already been earmarked for increased testing, grants for small businesses, and residents having problems paying rent or mortgage.
Bredefeld had nine areas he wanted to spend the money in south Fresno, for things like improving internet access, building sidewalks, and constructing more parks.
“I think we can make a real difference for people suffering from COVID-19,” Bredefeld said.
Bredefeld also wanted to provide incentives for grocery stores to move into south Fresno. He compared the type of incentives to tax breaks the city gave for Ulta and Amazon to build distribution facilities in Fresno.
Bredefeld, citing other unnamed cities, said he was certain that such spending would be allowed under federal guidelines.
Budget Votes Upcoming
The city will vote on more than 30 budget motions on Thursday, with a final vote on the budget scheduled for June 30.
In addition to Bredefeld’s motion on spending in south Fresno, the council will consider how to handle the police budget and its duties. The councilmembers made motions to allow other agencies to handle some functions the police department handles, such as homeless calls and mental health services.
Another motion from Bredefeld includes shifting $1 million from the mayor’s office to the fire department.
City Hall estimates there will be a $32 million reduction in revenue for fiscal year 2020-21 because of COVID-19. Because of the uncertainty of revenue projections, Brand has asked the council for a continuing resolution to carry over last year’s $1 billion-plus budget for one more quarter.
During its budget presentations, each department told the council about budget savings on salaries because of a pending hiring freeze, and other savings through less travel and training.