Local Politics

Friday, November 09, 2007

I keep thinking I ought to post more often, but stuff keeps coming up. So I guess the solution is to post about stuff . . .

I wrote a letter-to-the-editor this morning to the Times-Delta. Fresno Pacific University is busting at the seams at their Visalia satellite campus (where Vicki has her evening classes for her masters’ degree), and wants to build a bigger campus north of the airport, near the intersection of freeways 99 and 198. The land is field crops right now, but is part of what the Master Plan calls “The Industrial Park.” The planning commission liked the idea, but Mayor Greg Collins wants FPU to put their new campus downtown. For a long time (He was mayor in the 1980’s, left and came back) he has wanted to renovate an area on the east side of the downtown, and he’d like the university there.
I remember sitting down with Greg, about 1982, at a local eatery, along with John Lindt, publisher of the Valley Voice Newspaper, for which I was then writing a column. We wanted to know why the Master Plan (which Collins was then working to write) kept allowing new housing developments to gobble up prime agricultural land, when the under-developed land around the Industrial Park was too alkali to have much agricultural value.
So here we are 25 years later, still wondering the same things. This morning Vicki opened the Times-Delta, read the front page story, and deputized me to write the letter. Here it is:

While we support the renovation of Visalia’s east downtown area, it makes better sense for a new Fresno Pacific University campus to be near the intersection of highways 198 and 99.
FPU is a regional university, with students coming from throughout Kings and Tulare Counties. This satellite campus shares instructors driving down from the Fresno campus. No matter where the campus goes, all of these commuters arrive by either 198 or 99. Even for Visalia residents, most will arrive via 198. From the east, these students would be forced to approach a downtown campus via left turns from either the Lovers Lane or Ben Maddox exits—already Visalia’s most frustrating freeway exits. From the west, the exit choices for reaching a North Ben Maddox campus each require a series of stop-and-go red lights.
A high percentage of FPU students are teachers, trying to race between day jobs and evening studies, usually at peak traffic hours. The poor freeway exits, awkward traffic flow between them and the Ben Maddox/Mineral King intersection, and the failure of Santa Fe Street to serve as a north-bound arterial all point to filling the east downtown area with destinations which would draw balanced traffic flow throughout the day.
Directing traffic to the proposed new site by the airport both reduces rush hour congestion and establishes the university in a location where they have room to grow.