Politics & Government

Council hopefuls hear residents' complaints

Pinedale residents concerned that the city of Fresno is dragging its feet in making improvements to their neighborhood received pledges to speed up the process Monday night from two City Council candidates.

Andreas Borgeas, 34, and Michael Karbassi, 24, are running for the District 2 seat held by outgoing Council Member Brian Calhoun. They appeared before members of Faith in Community at St. Agnes Mission Church, where hot-button issues included dangerous drivers who imperil not only Pinedale's children, but also their homes. Trash-covered alleys also were high on the complaint list.

Faith in Community is a citywide network of 20 congregations and community groups that train local leaders to address issues ranging from drugs, to crime, to education and to blight. About 150 people attended Monday's session, where the audience was lively and involved.

"I've been here 26 years, and I've heard a lot of talk and no action," Miguel Mirelas told the candidates.

Of particular concern to residents is speeding traffic on Minarets Avenue, which has become a defacto shortcut between Palm Bluffs and the River Park shopping center. Two children going to the nearby Boys and Girls Club have been struck by cars, club director J.J. Velasco said. He also said the alley behind the club is strewn with syringes and broken bottles.

Residents want their next council member to bring about change by speeding up implementation of the city plans for the neighborhood, which they hope will allow for sidewalks for children walking to Pinedale Elementary. The children need more crosswalks and "Children at Play" signs as well, they said. And residents want a stronger presence from Fresno police traffic officers to enforce safer driving.

The candidates were shown photographs of several homes "bulldozed" by errant drivers, including a home where the parents of Linda Arvizu live. Drivers have plowed into the residence twice, and now her parents are fearful of even being in the living room along Ingram Avenue, Arvizu said.

Both candidates pledged to move quickly to bring about the changes those at the meeting demanded.

Karbassi said he found it surprising that the sidewalk issue had been neglected and noted that similar issues were being addressed in other parts of District 2. He pledged to make the area a priority.

"There's no question this neighborhood has been neglected," he said after the meeting.

Borgeas said he shared Karbassi's concerns about improving the neighborhood but said as a business attorney he could bring "real life experience" to making sure the changes happen.

"They are not asking for unreasonable things -- these are entirely reasonable," he said of the residents.