The road to greater prosperity for Fresno residents must be paved by a mayor who can clearly communicate his vision for the city, bring together all sectors in support of that vision, and successfully lobby for supplemental state and federal investments needed to carry out the plan.
Of the five candidates running to succeed Ashley Swearengin as mayor, Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea is best equipped to help our city realize more of its immense potential and also elevate other cities whose fortunes are heavily influenced by what happens in Fresno.
As we see it, the next mayor must forge consensus and implement strategies in six pivotal areas over his next term:
▪ Upgrade the skills of our workforce so that thousands more local families benefit from the billions of dollars in construction projects that are coming to the central San Joaquin Valley.
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▪ Expand career technical education course offerings in high schools and community colleges so that students who don’t want to pursue four-year degrees are job ready upon graduation.
▪ Complete the reorganization and rebuilding of the Police Department so that families and businesses are better protected from criminals and Fresno’s cycle of multigenerational gang membership is disrupted.
▪ Streamline the permitting process so that Fresno doesn’t lose businesses to neighboring counties and put together an incentive program that is geared primarily toward helping local businesses grow.
▪ Build upon Swearengin’s efforts to reduce homelessness and also increase mental health support for people who can be productive members of society with the right help.
▪ Elevate Fresno’s quality of life. This will require more new parks and trails and more collaboration with public agencies and nonprofits. It additionally will require the continued revitalization of downtown and the successful implementation of the city’s controversial infill-oriented general plan.
Perea’s long public service has prepared him well for this formidable assignment. He is a former reserve Fresno police officer, a former member of the Fresno County Board of Education, and a former Fresno City Council member. Win or lose in the mayoral race, he will exit the Board of Supervisors after three terms at the end of 2016.
Thus he has a leg up on the other candidates in his knowledge of law enforcement, education and the state-to-county funding stream that is available to deal with homelessness, mental health and business-growth incentives.
In addition, Perea has supported Fresno’s participation in California’s high-speed rail system since it was approved by voters, and he best understands how important the intermodal passenger station will be to making downtown thrive.
He, along with Swearengin and others, have led the effort to land the high-speed rail maintenance facility – and its many high-paying jobs – in Fresno County. And he has done so in the face of strong opposition from special interests who want Fresno to remain overly dependent on agriculture to fuel our economy.
When a city faces as many social and economic challenges as Fresno does, it needs a leader who won’t waste effort, money and public emotion on trivial pursuits or political long shots – as some of our past strong mayors have done.
Fresno needs a mayor who will clearly identify obtainable objectives, work hard to pursue them and communicate with the public how much – or how little – progress is being made.
Perea made it clear in his interview with the Editorial Board that if he is elected, it won’t be business as usual in Fresno. And he made a point of saying that despite his opposition to the privatization of residential garbage collection – a stand narrowly backed by voters at the polls in the 2013 Measure G election – he will demand that the city’s union workforce come to the table with ideas on how to better serve the public.
Two of the other candidates in the mayoral race, City Councilman Lee Brand and nonprofit executive/pastor H. Spees, also have impressive credentials. Brand possesses a deep knowledge of municipal finances and has demonstrated the ability to analyze problems and author corrective legislation. Spees’ specialty is bringing people together, and he has a long history of fighting for the underserved.
On balance, however, we recommend Henry R. Perea to voters as the clear choice to be Fresno’s next mayor.
June 7 primary election reminders
Last day to register to vote: May 23
Last day to file application to request vote-by-mail ballot by mail: May 31
The Bee’s Voter Guide can be accessed at fresnobee.com beginning Tuesday.