Fresno City Council District 3 has the potential to be a well-populated battlefield by the time the primary election rolls around in June. So far, seven candidates have at least taken out papers with the intention of replacing Councilman Oliver Baines, who has served two four-year terms representing downtown and southwest Fresno and is barred by term limits from seeking re-election.
Miguel Arias, a member of the State Center Community College District board of trustees and the top public information officer for Fresno Unified School District, officially announced his candidacy Thursday. His term on the college board ends this year.
Arias, 39, says his experience as a crisis manager for the state’s fourth-largest school district makes him especially fit for the council job. He was the face of the district when former superintendent Michael Hanson was terminated and when the FBI opened an investigation of the district’s construction contracts. Most recently, he represented the district through more than a year of negotiations with teachers, ultimately avoiding a teacher strike.
“What people underestimate is that our schools are a reflection of our community. They reflect the best potential we have and the most severe challenges. On a daily basis, we have a crisis in the district that we have to be able to respond to,” said Arias.
Arias said his top priority will be public safety, citing an incident last year when he found a 1-year-old girl wandering near his house downtown. The delayed Fresno police response to his call led him to do ride-alongs with officers and firefighters and delve into the city’s safety budget.
“When your house gets burglarized or you go through a smash and grab, it’s not a low priority for you but it has to be for police because they’re under-resourced,” Arias said.
“Somehow it’s become acceptable that you don’t have a police officer respond to a call when you’re a victim of a crime, and it’s a reflection of structurally being completely underfunded,” he said.
“We’ve gotten used to that level of service. It’s a systemic problem and it’s unacceptable. That’s what triggered my attention to what needs to be different at City Hall.”
Arias is the latest to formally announce his candidacy. The filing period for candidates to qualify for the June 5 primary continues through March 9. Among the others who took out signature petitions with plans to run are:
▪ Tate Hill, former president/CEO of the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce. He is a senior manager at a nonprofit that provides technical and financial consulting to small businesses, and owns a communications consulting company. Hill previously ran for City Council in 2010.
▪ Daren Miller, a middle-school counselor with the Madera Unified School District. Miller is a former teacher, coach and principal at schools in the Fresno area and is working on a doctorate degree in educational leadership from Fresno State. He also ran for City Council in 2010.
▪ Craig Scharton, who previously served a four-year term on the City Council from 1987 to 1991. Scharton is the interim president/CEO of the Downtown Fresno Partnership and previously worked as the city’s business development director.
▪ Kimberly Tapscott-Munson, a retired school librarian who was among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit by west Fresno residents against the owners of a rendering plant in their neighborhood because of odors and fears of health effects.
▪ Sean Sanchez, who provided no occupation information to either the Fresno City Clerk or the Fresno County Elections Division when he took out petition papers in January.
▪ Rebecca Diane Wardwell, who provided no occupation information to either the Fresno City Clerk or the Fresno County Elections Division when she took out petition papers in January.