Under the Fresno City Hall skyline where a flag waved in the breeze, over 50 community members representing a broad range of organizations convened Wednesday morning to send a message to local leaders drawing upon values for community change.
They carried signs stating “walkable places,” “close and frequent buses,” “safety,” “One Fresno,” and wore stickers proudly declaring the phrase, “I am a community leader.”
“We’re building a vision for building our city,” stated the Rev. Sharon Stanley of Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries (FIRM) who spoke passionately at the podium. The collaboration of organizations under the auspices of the California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities (BHC) campaign also includes Centro La Familia, Centro Binacional para el Desarrollos Indigena Oaxaqueno, Faith In Community, Fresno Metro Ministry, and West Fresno Healthcare Coalition.
They hosted the press conference to launch a values platform pushing for a healthier Fresno for families and communities in the midst of the city’s 2035 General Plan process.
At tonight’s Fresno City Council meeting, city leaders will determine Fresno’s growth over the next two decades as they vote on a preferred alternative for the city’s 2035 General Plan. The community groups involved in the press conference expressed support for a plan that would re-develop the primary corridors and direct growth and investment to current neighborhoods and major corridors.
The values platform draws from 850 one-on-one interviews conducted since August of last year. In the interviews, community residents were asked to share their vision for change in their neighborhood. Several residents shared many of those visions during the press conference.
Resident Ong Vue called for “leaders to support those in poverty” through the creation of complete neighborhoods, one of the points in the nine-point values platform, that would offer access to local transit, parks, schools, grocery stores, and other necessary services.
Sarah Sharpe, of Fresno Metro Ministry, highlighted the importance of air quality, noting that, “the way we plan our city can affect the way we breathe.” Sharpe also mentioned the need for healthier food options where residents can “walk to buy food.”
A resident of Calwa, Raquel Magallanes emphasized safety as a key issue. As a single mother, she often fears for her safety stating she feels terrified going places alone.
Sophia Dewitt of FIRM spoke about the need to improve transportation by increasing density and enhancing transit services. Many families do not have access to cars in a city dominated by cars, said Dewitt, and thus public transit allows people to access jobs and take care of the needs of daily life.
Community members were also concerned with the lack of parks and open spaces. Filo Lopez, a leader with Faith In Community, stated that the park nearest his home shuts down each winter and currently remains closed.
Kendra Rogers of First Five Fresno County who leads the Children’s Movement spoke about the connection to creating healthier spaces for children. “We urge our City Council to make the needs of children a priority,” she said, which encompasses centering communities around schools, parks, bike trails, and where safety and mixed used developments are achieved. “We need these children,” stated Rogers, “to thrive and succeed.”
Other points lifted up in the values platform were affordable variety of housing options, anti-displacement, funding for infrastructure, along with the need for more local jobs.
Through BHC, the organizations work to ensure that central, southeast, and southwest Fresno neighborhoods are places where all families, children and youth are healthy, safe, learning, and thriving. This platform of values, said Stanley, will make our city healthier.