'Partisan disagreement' over road repair funds heats up, Mayor delays city council debate

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A city council divided over funding street repairs was expected to debate the measure on Thursday, but Tuesday Mayor Lee Brand said he was delaying any action.

Brand cited the partisan disagreement over how to spend the money. The dispute heated up with a news conference Tuesday.

City council members Steve Brandau and Garry Bredefeld joined forces to protect their north Fresno turf.

"South Fresno already receives a crapload of money unavailable to north Fresno," Brandau said. "Now some of our colleagues want to rob residents of north Fresno of any benefits of their tax dollars."

"The needs in north Fresno are as great as in south Fresno," Bredefeld said.

The issue is $12 million in funds for street improvements.

Mayor Lee Brand's plan proposes giving each of the seven council districts a roughly equal cut of the annual payment.

RELATED: Battle over street repair funding brews between Fresno City Council members

But three council members, Luis Chavez, Esmerelda Soria, and Miguel Arias, held a news conference Monday to say they believe the money shortchanges the older parts of town for every district approach.

Bredefeld and Brandau see the trios complaints as an effort to divide the city.

"We should not be pitting one part of Fresno against another, this is par for the course unfortunately with Councilman Arias," Bredefeld said. "He's been there for three months and already established a reputation as a bully, is disrespectful to most people he comes in contact with."

Arias responded, "I think those kinds of personal attacks are unnecessary and silly and they are just simply inaccurate."

He said the goal is to help the older parts of town get what the new parts of the city take for granted.

"This is simply what we proposed is improving sidewalks near schools for children who walk there, building bike lanes for kids who go to the school, using their bikes," he said. "And making sure the disabled and seniors who live in south Fresno have the same quality of sidewalks you see up north."

Council member Esmerelda Soria says she wants to see priorities established for spending the money.

"North Fresno is not being robbed of any dollar; we are just saying we have a sustainable source of funding that will be here for a long time," she said. "We need to have better planning and have a comprehensive strategy as to how we are going to invest these dollars."

Mayor Brand blamed divisive rhetoric for putting off the vote. Arias noted the mayor did not have the votes to get the plan passed.

The city needs to submit its request for the funds by May 1.
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