EDITORIAL: Fresno solves major problem and lights up the night again

November 20, 2013 


COL___ City Council members Steve Brandau, left, and Paul Caprioglio, donning safety gear in lift buckets, replace the final light bulb on a street light, at the end of a press conference, at Champlain Drive near Perrin Avenue, to celebrate the completion of a city project to repair streetlights damaged by copper wire theft, and to show the protective measures that are taken to prevent copper wire theft, Tuesday morning, November 19, 2013.

JOHN WALKER — Fresno Bee Staff Photo Buy Photo

In April, we wrote of Fresno's ongoing problem of blacked-out streetlights: "There were 4,000 unlit lamps (a year ago). There are 3,000 now. Does this mean Fresno won't be fully lit until 2016?

Thanks to City Hall ingenuity and teamwork, and prodding from taxpayers concerned about public safety, the answer is no. On Wednesday, city officials announced that the last streetlight on the fix list would illuminate its section of Perrin Avenue that night.

The city's ability to solve a serious problem created by drug addicts stealing copper wire offers a lesson to public officials everywhere.

Council Member Lee Brand worked closely with Public Works Director Patrick Wiemiller to understand the scope of the problem and come up with a way to thwart future wire thefts. The solution involved protecting the wiring with a thick covering of concrete.

As The Bee's George Hostetter wrote, "... thieves can't get at the valuable recyclable without a jackhammer."

Brand also authored and worked to pass legislation for the $500,000 effort — a considerable accomplishment given the city's precarious budget and Mayor Ashley Swearengin's 2010 opinion that 10,000 more lights should go dark to save money.

In addition, City Council members Steve Brandau and Paul Caprioglio rolled up their sleeves and replaced burned-out streetlights and light sensors on their own time. Yes, they received favorable publicity for their efforts. But it shouldn't be overlooked that they performed a community service by augmenting a workforce decimated from budget cuts.

At the peak of the blackout, thieves had ripped wiring from about 5,000 of the city 42,000 streetlights. This left, in some areas, entire blocks and neighborhoods in the dark. Residents protested — so much so that Swearengin reversed her stance — and Hostetter kept the issue front and center with comprehensive reporting.

As this case illustrates, government works best when citizens participate, elected representatives research ideas instead of shouting partisan talking points and the press holds officials accountable.

We applaud this teamwork and look forward to more creative problem-solving from City Hall.

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