Over a year ago, Faith in Community joined with community partners to begin a process that helped to shape the conversation of those running for chief executive of our city.
We had over 1,500 conversations, giving voice to people who are traditionally overlooked and unheard in our election seasons. We also held a Mayoral Forum on April 21 at St. Anthony Mary Claret Catholic Church that was touted by those running for office as the most organized, the most informative, and the best attended forum, with more than 600 people truly representing the diversity and whole of our city.
Leading up until Election Day, we had over 12,000 conversations with infrequent voters. From those conversations, it is clear that there is an awakening to just how important their voices are and the kind of leadership we need from City Hall.
We congratulate now Mayor-elect Lee Brand on his victory and our coalition and community partners look forward to working with him to begin implementing the following vision with urgency in his first 100 days in office.
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We need our mayor to find funding that will bring usable parks and real green spaces into neighborhoods south of Shaw Avenue, including resources designated for maintenance.
We need our mayor to strategically plan to address police mistrust and gun violence in our city. We are more convinced than ever that there is a critical need for a more authentic community involvement strategy and oversight of our Police Department – in order to hold it accountable to fully implementing a true community policing model, reorganize the Office of Independent Review by giving it power to investigate officer-involved shootings as soon they occur, adding a civilian oversight board, and reorganizing the Ceasefire program into the model that has dramatically reduced gun violence in other cities.
We need our mayor to address the need for environmental justice, air quality and water needs in our city and in our region. It is unreasonable for us to be content with the high concentration of industrial presence in southeast and southwest Fresno that have contributed to higher asthma rates and a 21-year life expectancy difference between southwest Fresno and Woodward Park.
We need our mayor to work to strengthen our city’s general plan to stop urban sprawl and deter industrial uses near all residential spaces.
We need our mayor to actively and aggressively pursue the full, proactive, and systematic enforcement of state and local laws to protect the housing health and safety of Fresno families, and to adequately resource a systematic, routine interior inspection program that finally lets us know all the substandard properties out there and incentivizes the many other property owners who are playing by the rules.
We need our mayor to work to address the issues of poverty, and job and workforce development in our city. We need to see job creation in Fresno that brings in industries that are good both for the local economy and the livelihoods of the employees.
We need our mayor to collaborate with Fresno Unified School District and other nearby school districts to build more effective vocational training, set a five-year green jobs plan that actively applies for state and federal grant money to create 5,000 jobs per year.
He should work with the Workforce Investment Board, Economic Opportunities Commission and other workforce development collaborations to ensure that the local job growth reaches the deepest parts of impoverished communities through job training and local-hire agreements to change the earning trajectories of families.
We need our mayor to work to ensure that every individual has unconditional access to emergency shelter and to coordinated services.
We need our mayor to be sensitive to and work aggressively to address the epidemic of mental health and addiction challenges in our community.
And finally we need our mayor to see and address the issue of improved public transportation. The lack of public transportation prevents individuals and families that reside in southeast and southwest Fresno from traveling to and from places of employment in a timely manner. We need our city to invest in its public transportation and infrastructure in order to create equity and unity within our city.
I know all of these recommendations cost money, yet my experience with the city of Fresno is that we have people in our city that are fully capable of securing funding resources for anything they believe in.
Join me in praying for these goals and priorities for our city. Join me in praying for the “shalom” of Fresno.
May God bless and keep you,
The Rev. Booker T. Lewis II, a board member for Faith in Community, is pastor of Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church.