Politics & Government

Boyajian plans mayoral run

Former Fresno City Council Member Tom Boyajian wants to return to City Hall -- this time as mayor.

He will formally announce that he's running for mayor this evening at his Tower District home. Boyajian, 62, confirmed Thursday that he will become the third mayoral candidate in the race, joining current Fresno City Council Members Jerry Duncan and Mike Dages.

Boyajian, a private attorney, represented west-central Fresno on the council for eight years before being termed out in January. He gained widespread popularity in his district by frequently visiting neighborhoods and working to repave streets, fix sidewalks and cover up graffiti.

Mayor Alan Autry terms out of office in about 15 months. And there will likely be a crowded June ballot of candidates hoping to replace him. If no one wins more than 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters will meet in a November 2008 runoff.

Among those considering joining the mayoral race are Council Members Henry T. Perea and Larry Westerlund and Ashley Swearengin, chief operating officer for the Regional Jobs Initiative, which works to improve the local economy.

During Boyajian's two terms on council, and especially in his last two years, he often voted against the majority of his council colleagues. He was the only council member, for example, to oppose a plan last year to beef up the Fire Department using a $10.8 million budget surplus.

However, he joined council colleagues in a unanimous vote in 2003 to fine owners of dilapidated, vacant buildings that contribute to neighborhood blight. He also pushed to have a grant writer hired for the Public Works Department.

If elected mayor, Boyajian said, he would try to streamline the city's permitting process, making it easier for businesses to get started and expand. Duncan made the same campaign promise when he announced his candidacy Wednesday.

Boyajian also said he would improve morale in City Hall by hiring more competent and passionate managers.

Improving the Valley's air quality also will be on Boyajian's campaign platform. He wants to direct more of Fresno's residential and retail growth to the city's core and discourage urban sprawl. The goal, he said, is to cut down the amount of time Fresnans drive pollution-producing cars.

For the same reason, Boyajian said he'll push plans to have a high-speed bullet train in California that stops in Fresno.