For our region to meet its economic potential and elevate the quality of life, leaders must work closely together, identify strengths and weaknesses, agree on short- and long-term strategies, and leverage resources.
This didn't happen nearly enough in 2013, but there are signs that leaders in local government, education and business are figuring out that cooperation packs more wallop than blaming others, litigating past disagreements and grandstanding to land a sound bite on the evening news or a quote in the morning newspaper.
Case in point: The Fresno Housing Authority's $40 million renovation of nine public apartment complexes totaling 407 units in Mendota, Orange Cove and southeast Fresno under a program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Sixty-nine agencies throughout the country were initially chosen to participate in the program, which was introduced last January by Shaun Donovan, HUD's top official. Fresno's agency was the first to get the green light.
"We're excited and proud. We're jumping up and down," Preston Prince, the authority's executive director, told The Bee's BoNhia Lee.
In 2012, Congress passed legislation to address an estimated $26 billion needed for public housing throughout the country. The Fresno Housing Authority seized the opportunity and obtained tax credit allocations for its project.
In addition, the authority received federal subsidies and funding from the city of Fresno and Fresno County, and made agreements with two private investors.
Vital infrastructure such as sewer and water lines will be upgraded. Units will get new paint and drought-tolerant landscaping, and will be made more energy efficient. Some of the three- and four-bedroom apartments will get second bathrooms.
Given the high numbers of Fresno County residents who are living below the poverty line, access to affordable housing is a godsend. But, as Prince points out, "services are key for families to be successful and achieve self-sufficiency."
With this in mind, the authority is teaming up with the Boys & Girls Clubs to operate programs in newly built community rooms at complexes in Mendota and Orange Cove. The authority also will be joined by Fresno Unified School District in bringing educational activities to complexes in southeast Fresno. Recreation, tutoring and mentoring are all things that can keep children in school and out of gangs.
Everyone who had a hand in assembling the funding and cutting through the red tape deserves a thank you.
We also acknowledge Donovan's interest in the well-being of central San Joaquin Valley families in light of the fact we have criticized him in the past for failing to adequately respond to the mortgage default crisis here.
All in all, a job well done.
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