FRESNO, CA – With more than $600 million needed in sidewalk and street repairs in the city of Fresno, the recent passage of the California state gas tax, Senate Bill 1 Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation funding, (SB1) gives the city access to $9 million in 2019, and more than $12 million a year, in each following year to manage project specific repairs.
Mayor Lee Brand felt it best to distribute the funds equally among all seven districts in the city.
“We have until May 1 to submit our project list to the California Transportation Commission,” said Brand, “and that is why I worked with our Public Works department to jump start this debate by providing the Council (and now the public) with a detailed memo this past Friday explaining our criteria for project selection and a list of proposed projects. I believe the methods and process we go through to select SB1 projects provides the people of Fresno with the biggest bang for the buck.”
However councilmembers Miguel Arias (dist. 3), Luis Chavez (dist. 5), Nelson Ezparza (dist. 7) and Esmeralda Soria (dist. 1) have expressed major concerns for areas of Fresno that have been neglected from any funds to repair grave areas that have had no sidewalks for years, but are near schools, neighborhoods and parks where children play. These crucially needed-repair areas in their districts are considered the oldest parts of Fresno which are in the worst condition.
As a result, Councilmembers Arias, Chavez, Ezparza and Soria revised the Administration’s proposed Public Works projects to be submitted for SB1.
Mayor Brand contends that he wants to make sure that the focus is on safe streets and sidewalks for all the communities affected.
“Changing the proven industry standard we currently use to a single criteria may sound good from a political perspective, but it doesn’t serve the needs of the entire community and it doesn’t maximize our investment in safer streets and sidewalks throughout our City, which is my one and only priority on this issue. Crumbing roads and sidewalk cracks don’t have political affiliations or agendas.”
However in a video statement captured by local ABC30, city councilman Steve Brandau (dist 2), he compared the argument of the government paying reparations to African Americans for slavery. "Is it right for us to make the citizens of north Fresno pay for the sins of the past, you know it kind of reminds me of the whole reparations argument," Brandau said.
Brandau was recently voted in a special election to the Fresno County Supervisor’s seat, replacing Andreas Borgeas as the District 2 supervisor; Borgeas was elected in November to the California State Senate.
However Brandau’s apathetic statement only confirms that the jumbled history of reparations is often lost in translation:
Reparations for slavery was proposed from the 1865 Special Field Orders No. 15 issued by General William Tecumseh Sherman that assured some type of compensation would be provided to the descendants of slaves ("Forty acres and a mule.”) It was to help solve the issue of masses of slaves being freed with nowhere to go, and no money in their pockets to live. The army also had a number of unneeded mules which were given to settlers. Around 40,000 freed slaves were settled on 400,000 acres (1,600 km²) in Georgia and South Carolina.
However, the actual land reparations received by African Americans were later taken away: President Andrew Johnson reversed the order after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, and the land was returned to its previous owners. In 1867, Thaddeus Stevens sponsored a bill for the redistribution of land to African Americans, but it was not passed.
The Atlantic 2014 article reported that the Associated Press published a three-part investigation into the theft of black-owned land stretching back to the antebellum period. The series documented some 406 victims and 24,000 acres of land valued at tens of millions of dollars. The land was taken through means ranging from legal chicanery to terrorism.
Harper's Magazine estimated that the total of reparations due was about "$97 trillion, based on 222,505,049 hours of forced labor between 1619 and 1865, compounded at 6% interest through 1993". The article continued that should all or part of this amount be paid to the descendants of slaves in the United States, the current U.S. government would only pay a fraction of that cost, since it has been in existence only since 1789.
According to a 2008 American Humanist Association published article, it argued that if emancipated slaves had been allowed to possess and retain the profits of their labor, their descendants might now control a much larger share of American social and monetary wealth. Not only did the freedmen not receive a share of these profits, but they were stripped of the small amounts of compensation paid to some of them during Reconstruction.
Profit from slavery was not limited to the South: New England merchants profited from the slave trade. In a 2007 column in The New York Times, historian Eric Foner wrote:
“[In] the Colonial era, Southern planters regularly purchased imported slaves, and merchants in New York and New England profited handsomely from the trade…The American Revolution threw the slave trade and slavery itself into crisis.”
Associate professor of history and African and African diaspora studies at University of Texas at Austin Daina Ramey Berry commented in 2017 Newsweek article on the myth that slavery was a long time ago:
“African-Americans have been free in this country for less time than they were enslaved. Do the math: Blacks have been free for 152 years, which means that most Americans are only two to three generations away from slavery. This is not that long ago.
Over this same period, however, former slaveholding families have built their legacies on the institution and generated wealth that African-Americans have not had access to because enslaved labor was forced. Segregation maintained wealth disparities, and
An accurate Wikipedia historical reference expands on the unresolved issue of reparations summarizing America’s continued legal segregation and oppression of Black people in America for decades:
Reconstruction came to an end in 1877 without the issue of reparations having been addressed. Thereafter, a deliberate movement of segregation and oppression arose in southern states. Jim Crow laws passed in some southeastern states to reinforce the existing inequality that slavery had produced. In addition white extremist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan engaged in a massive campaign of terrorism throughout the Southeast in order to keep African Americans in their prescribed social place. For decades this assumed inequality and injustice was ruled on in court decisions and debated in public discourse.
Under the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, the U.S. government apologized for Japanese American internment during World War II and provided reparations of $20,000 to each survivor, to compensate for loss of property and liberty during that period. For many years, Native American tribes have received compensation for lands ceded to the United States by them in various treaties. Other countries have also opted to pay reparations for past grievances, such as the German government making reparations to survivors of the Holocaust.
Perhaps Councilman/Fresno County Supervisor Brandau can review history before making such outrageous comments where he has a lack of knowledge.
Watch historic legal redlining documentary, a form of housing discrimination done throughout the United States preventing African-Americans from obtaining housing to pursue the American dream:
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