Lawsuit filed against city of Fresno over Measure P

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There is question surrounding whether or not the initiative needed a simple majority or a two-thirds majority vote.

Measure P was on the November ballot and received 52 percent voter approval.

But now there is question surrounding whether or not the initiative needed a simple majority or a two-thirds majority vote.

Fresno Building Healthy Communities filed a lawsuit on Friday morning against the city of Fresno after council members did not approve "Measure P" during Thursday's meeting.

The organization's leader says the city is stopping a measure they worked on for nearly five years, even though a majority of voters approved it.

"It's very frustrating to see democracy being ignored."

Sandra Celedon with Fresno Building Healthy Communities hopes this 11-page lawsuit will change that reality.

"The frustration is that the city of Fresno is ignoring the will of the people."

That is because the parks sales tax, which was on the November ballot, received 52 percent of the vote.

However, the city is questioning whether the initiative needed a two-thirds vote, requiring at least 66 percent of voters to say "yes".

In a statement, the city of Fresno says in part: "The authors and proponents of Measure P told voters it would take a two-thirds vote to adopt the tax. Now they want a court to change the rules after the election and say that a bare majority outweighs the California Constitution, as modified by Proposition 218, which was passed by the voters in 54 of 58 counties in the state in 1996."

Celedon disagrees in this case.

She says that rule is in place to serve as a checks and balance for when a government body is putting forth a sales tax initiative.

"This does not apply to citizen-led measures such as Measure P so we are just asking for fairness."

And that is what Jennie Lizarraga is asking for too.

She understands money from the measure is designed to improve the parks her kids often visit - parks that she says are sometimes rundown.

"They are dirty and I feel bad for the kids and they need to be out. It's not just not clean," she says.

A spokesperson for the city says it may take three years or longer for this case to be finally settled by the California Supreme Court.

Here is the city of Fresno's full statement:

We received a copy of the lawsuit this morning and I am aware of the Council's request for clarification from the Court on Measure P.

The authors and proponents of Measure P told voters it would take a two-thirds vote to adopt the tax. Now they want a court to change the rules after the election and say that a bare majority outweighs the California Constitution, as modified by Proposition 218, which was passed by the voters in 54 of 58 counties in the state in 1996.

I also believe this action will make it much more difficult to unify the community in support of a balanced measure that not only seeks to remedy our deficiencies in parks, but also in public safety and many other areas where the City does not have sufficient resources to provide the necessary services our residents need and deserve.

It may take three years or longer for this case to be finally settled by the California Supreme Court and in the meantime, the people of Fresno will suffer. I will work to make sure that our residents don't have to.
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