A new community group wants the Fresno City Council to reconsider its decision to rename 10 miles of roads in honor of late labor leader Cesar Chavez.
But their request drew a sharp rebuke from Councilmember Miguel Arias, who said the city engaged in robust outreach before voting to honor Chavez.
“This is simply an attempt to set a new standard when recognizing a Latino hero in our community. And I don’t think that is fair, just, or equitable in a city this diverse,” Arias said.
Last month, the Fresno City Council voted 6-1 to rename portions of California Avenue, Ventura Street, King Canyon Road to Cesar Chavez Boulevard. The body also set aside $1 million to help businesses and residents to adjust to the change.
Opponents Voice Their Criticisms
“Our city council has the power to unring this bell and begin the healing process in our city. Democracy should never be manipulated or molded to fit our personal agendas,” said Pastor B.T. Lewis of Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church said. “Governance should never be based on 30-year-old grudges.”
Calling itself a coalition of businesses and residents in south Fresno, 1 Community Compact wants the city council to bring the Cesar Chavez Boulevard resolution back for discussion.
Lewis and other speakers said the city did not conduct enough public outreach, nor did it consider the history of the names replaced.
“You don’t destroy history to start another one,” said Ara Jerian, with Holy Trinity Armenian Church.
Councilman Garry Bredefeld, the only elected leader to appear at the news conference, said it would take “courage” for another councilmember to return the renaming to the agenda. He voted no on the renaming.
Lawsuit a Possibility
If the city does not reconsider, litigation is an option, said those opposed to the name change.
Karen Musson, a member of the coalition and Sunnyside-area resident, prefers the city council “to do the right thing.”
“A courtroom is not the place to have a community conversation. Due diligence wasn’t followed, process wasn’t followed, promises were made and not kept. You know, it’s our hope that they will realize that doing things, you know, in a closet in the dead of night is not probably the best public interest,” Musson said.
But, yes she said, they are prepared to file a lawsuit.
Arias: We Listened
Lewis and another news conference speaker, Cruz Gonzales, repeated their objections inside council chambers during the council meeting.
Arias, with a mock “Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard” sign at the dais, responded by saying that most of the claims from the name-change opponents were false.
“You claim that we didn’t provide opportunity for engagement. False. There were several council meetings held and several hours of public input was received — far more than the one meeting and the 15 minutes the Board of Supervisors provide for this conversation,” Arias said.
Arias said that holding stakeholder meetings was not a requirement and not used for other renaming resolutions. However, the Feb. 17, 2022 vote to start the process called for “the formation of a resident, business owner, and stakeholder committee to engage the public and receive input, recommendations.”
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors voted not to rename the portion of the new Cesar Chavez Boulevard under its control. Those roads will remain California Avenue and Kings Canyon Road.