As a city councilman, Lee Brand authored or co-authored 19 legislative acts covering issues from economic expansion to streetlight funding. Now, as a mayoral candidate, Brand is proposing the first act he would tackle if elected in November – a five-point plan to address local crime, which statistics show has been on the rise.
One of the centerpieces of Brand’s plan – which he unveiled Monday at a news conference in front of Fresno police headquarters – is a statewide ballot initiative that would generate more money for understaffed law enforcement departments.
The proposal was first put forward in April by one of his former mayoral rivals, community leader H. Spees. At the time, Brand called it a “pie-in-the-sky deal that is dead on arrival.”
Spees was eliminated after finishing third in the June primary election and is now supporting Brand, who is facing off against Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea to replace the termed-out Ashley Swearengin. Now Brand likes the idea.
“We are facing a public safety crisis in Fresno,” he said at the news conference.
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Under the plan – which is adopted straight from Spees’ initial idea – the state would be required to return 5 percent of income tax revenue to local governments. Currently, some sales and property taxes are returned to local governments, but not income tax.
Spees stood with Brand on Monday, as did former Fresno Mayor Alan Autry, who had earlier endorsed Spees and will now spearhead Brand’s effort to return the income tax to local governments.
If the idea were to become reality – a seeming long shot in state politics, as Brand acknowledged when he criticized the idea last spring – it would certainly help fund another part of Brand’s proposal: increasing the size of the city’s police force to 1,000 officers. There are currently 804 officers in the department.
The other parts of Brand’s proposal:
▪ Institute community policing across Fresno, which Brand said would engage residents with the department and also deter and reduce crime.
▪ Create a police advisory board to help implement community-based policing and also “provide more accountability and oversight” of the department.
▪ Fight the state’s “dangerous policies of releasing convicted felons onto our streets.”
We are facing a public safety crisis in Fresno.
Fresno mayoral candidate and City Councilman Lee Brand
“There is a trail of blood from the streets of Fresno to Sacramento,” Brand said.
Some of Brand’s proposals, which he previously had disclosed, already have come under fire.
For instance, Fresno Police Officers’ Association President Jacky Parks – a Perea supporter – has attacked Brand’s proposal for a police advisory board.
“He is touting a police advisory board, accountability for law enforcement, as if we’re not accountable,” Parks said recently. “He’s sounding a lot more like a liberal.”
Brand has countered that Parks “has a totally wrong perception of what I’m trying to do here.”
The advisory board, Brand said, would not have investigatory powers or enforcement authority, but instead would be more of a liaison between police and the community.
Perea was especially critical of Brand’s proposal to reach 1,000 officers. It’s not that he is against the idea, Perea said, but that it is not financially viable in the short term unless there is some sort of tax, such as a public safety tax.
Lee is proposing a $20 million safety tax on residents.
Fresno mayoral candidate and Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea
“Lee is proposing a $20 million safety tax on residents,” Perea said.
If residents want an increase in officers immediately, Perea said the realistic solution is to reassign current officers into patrol duty, and to work with other law enforcement agencies, such as the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, to brainstorm new ways of sharing patrol duties.
“That’s a real 100-day plan,” Perea said, referring to how elected officials are measured out of the starting gate.
The idea of returning income tax aside, Brand has spoken about how his Economic Expansion Act could help increase business in Fresno, which would in turn generate more tax revenue to boost the general fund – and hire officers.
Monday’s news conference was about more than that, however.
Autry – who spoke at the news conference but noted that he hasn’t endorsed Brand or Perea – said it would be ideal to “repeal and replace” Proposition 47, which reduced state prison populations by transferring jurisdiction of some offenders from the state corrections department to county probation, and defeat Proposition 57 on the November ballot. Proposition 57 would revamp state prison parole rules.
Brand noted that violent crime is up 20 percent in Fresno this year, robbery is up 15 percent and aggravated assaults have increased 26 percent.
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer and Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims have traced some of the increases to Proposition 47, and Autry harkened back to the high crime levels of the early 1990s in his comments.