Once again, Fresno park commissioners are expressing their frustration about being kept in the dark about the city’s plan to spend Measure P funds.
“I’m very concerned by this process. It just doesn’t strike me as the best way to be doing this.” — Fresno Parks Commission vice-chair Jon Dohlin
The latest instance came Monday night at a Fresno, Parks, Arts, and Recreations meeting.
Budget recommendations from the commissioners are supposed to be heard by the Fresno City Council on Monday, June 13.
However, commissioners continue to face confusing protocols and rules as they try to weigh in on a PARCS budget that has soared to $75 million with parks sales tax monies.
“This process that we are going through, it feels like we have to pull from everywhere to try to get some recommendations to be made to city council,” said the commission’s chair, Kimberly McCoy.
Commissioner Asks for More Transparency by the PARCS Department
Throughout the night, commissioners attempted to make recommendations but said they didn’t have sufficient details on the budget for parks, trails, and cultural arts.
For example, commissioner Jose Leon Barraza, representing District 5, asked for a detailed outline of the funds allocated for the highest-needs neighborhoods.
“How do we make a determination based on the information I see thus far? How do we assess that we are complying with that?” asked Leon-Barraza.
Commissioner Sarah Parkes, representing District 6, also said that the budget information provided was too vague.
“In addition to the highest-needs percentage, there are lots of percentages throughout the (Measure P) ordinance and I think we need to see that level of detail,” said Parkes. “Not to say I don’t trust what’s in this budget, but without that level of detail, I can’t know for sure that it’s meeting the ordinance requirements.”
City Says Trust Us
PARCS Director Aaron Aguirre assured the commission that the budget was developed by city staff with the 33% highest needs in mind.
“You won’t see a specific line-item detailing what those parks are, but that’s something that we did as a department early on to identify those needs, those dollars, and those amounts,” said Aguirre.
Leon-Barraza however, wasn’t satisfied with the answer and requested to see the data.
“So we just have to trust you,” said Barraza. “I believe that we should be able to verify because it is our task. Our responsibility is to be able to make a determination that we are complying with the rules.”
Aguirre then mentioned that the information would be released at the end of the year during the annual city audit on December 31.
But commission vice-chair Jon Dohlin said the commissioners shouldn’t have to wait for an audit.
“Why bury that (information) and wait for an audit to bring that up as opposed to making that clear and part of the budget where we can see it?” Dohlin asked.
Added McCoy: “If we had that information in front of us, it would help guide our recommendations.”
Commissioners Unsatisfied With Their Limited Power
Parkes attempted to make a motion that would require the city council to work with the parks commission to author guidelines for grant requests and proposals.
However, senior deputy city attorney Kristi Costa, shot that down, saying the meeting’s agenda limited the commissioners to budget recommendations.
“I’m very concerned by this process,” said Dohlin. “It just doesn’t strike me as the best way to be doing this.”