Crafting an interior inspection program for rental housing, establishing a citizens advisory board for public safety, and continuing efforts to make Fresno more business friendly are just a few of the items that Lee Brand wants to start working on as Fresno’s new mayor.
Moments after raising his right hand and saying “I do” at a Tuesday morning ceremony, Brand addressed a laundry list of issues facing him.
One of the first, with a Feb. 2 target date, is developing “a sensible, workable, effective rental housing inspection program” for the City Council’s consideration in response to health and safety issues that some tenants across the city face in substandard housing.
City Manager Bruce Rudd, a 40-year city veteran who was promoted in 2013 by Brand’s two-term predecessor Ashley Swearengin, will be staying on the job for six months to lead the search for a replacement, develop a 2017-18 city budget and implement Brand’s vision.
Rudd said the interior inspection program for rental housing is a complicated and “ever-evolving” situation.
“Actually getting an interior inspection program in front of the council is one thing, but implementing it is completely different,” Rudd said moments after Brand was sworn in.
“When we were talking about this last year, we were focused on apartments, and condominiums weren’t on anybody’s radar. And then the Hotel California came up a month ago. Those are all now part of the equation about how do we implement interior inspections.”
The Hotel California, on Weber Avenue near Belmont Avenue in central Fresno, represents one of the latest focal points of complaints about substandard housing conditions faced by low-income residents following highly publicized problems at the Summerset Village apartment complex.
Brand also declared his desire to establish a citizens advisory board for community-based policing within his first 100 days in office.
But “some of these items will take a little longer because 100 days isn’t sufficient,” he said. A key component of community-based policing, Brand said, is a long-range goal of adding more than 200 officers to the Fresno Police Department. But more officers will depend on ensuring reliable long-term sources of funding to pay for them. “Being the numbers guy that I am, I can guarantee we won’t spend money we don’t have,” Brand said.
Community-based policing is going to take one or two years to effectively do that, to make a difference and to make it work.
Fresno Mayor Lee Brand
“Community-based policing is going to take one or two years to effectively do that, to make a difference and to make it work,” Brand added. “It puts a lot of officers on the streets developing better relationships with the public, developing trust. That’s the bridge we have to cross.”
Brand praised Swearengin’s eight-year tenure as “a major success story for Fresno,” including pushing through a new land-use plan “that for the first time did not expand the sphere of influence and focused on the revitalization of older neighborhoods.”
He pledged to continue Swearengin’s initiatives to curb urban sprawl, improve Fresno’s ability to use its available allocations of surface water and reduce its reliance on pumped groundwater, and streamline the city’s approval processes for development and businesses.
He said he also will keep pushing efforts to attract new businesses and helping existing companies create more jobs for residents, building on the Economic Expansion Act that he authored last year as a City Council member.
Brand credited the act and its various levels of economic incentives and tax rebates for attracting the attention of companies like Ulta Cosmetics and Amazon to consider Fresno as potential sites for e-commerce order-fulfillment warehouses.
“We’re working on branding and marketing … to the business world that Fresno is business-friendly, Fresno is welcoming, whether they be a large business like Amazon or the guy across the street who wants to open a sandwich shop,” Brand said. “We’re going to try to make business easy for everyone.”
Brand also described the act as a way of “reaching out to people who are in hard-core poverty and find a way to lift them out of poverty through education, jobs, whatever it takes.”
“At the end of the road, I want to see one Fresno with opportunities for every citizen in this town,” he said. “The old area where I grew up in southeast Fresno, southwest, northeast, northwest – it’s all one to me right now. It would really make my heart feel good that I’ve done something over four or eight years to really transform this city.”