Local Election

These candidates hope to represent northwest Fresno. Here’s where they stand on the issues

Here are the candidates for Fresno City Council, District 2

Five candidates are competing to fill northwest Fresno's City Council seat left vacant by Steve Brandau. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote plus one, the election will go to a runoff in November 2019.
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Five candidates are competing to fill northwest Fresno's City Council seat left vacant by Steve Brandau. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote plus one, the election will go to a runoff in November 2019.

Northwest Fresno, you have a special election coming up on Aug. 13. Who do you want to represent you on the Fresno City Council?

Five candidates are competing to fill the seat left vacant by Steve Brandau, who was elected to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote plus one, the election will go to a runoff in November 2019.

Ballots can be cast by mail or at one of the more than 20 designated locations within the district, which stretches from Shaw Avenue northward and from close to the west side of Highway 41 stretching to west of Highway 99.

The Bee asked the candidates to fill out a short questionnaire. Below are their responses, lightly edited for clarity.

Lawrence Garcia

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Lawrence Garcia

Age: 47

Occupation: Private security contractor

Party registration: Republican

Why are you running for City Council?

To stop vouchers for criminals and create job opportunities.

Name your top three priorities if elected.

Public safety, neighbored infrastructure, homelessness, job creation.

Describe the role civility should play on the City Council versus partisanship.

Civility and respect is always my starting point.

How should the city approach and balance smart planning and land use with quality economic development?

By bringing all stakeholders and decision makers together to find solutions and middle ground when necessary.

What approach do you support to increase funding for parks and public safety?

Parks are great, as long as public safety is included in the discussion.

What can the city of Fresno do to address the need for affordable housing?

Create jobs create, make existing neighborhoods desirable, remove vagrants, and enforce our laws.

What is the City Council’s responsibility to help Fresno face climate change and reduce pollution?

Climate change and pollution, really!

Jared Gordon

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Jared Gordon

Age: 42

Occupation: Business attorney

Party registration: Republican

Why are you running for City Council?

Fresno has given me a lot: a good education, a great family, and a successful professional life. While I have volunteered and participated in various civic causes since I started my career, I felt it was time to do more for our city.

Name your top three priorities if elected.

Public Safety – We need to help our police officers be more effective and add more officers if we can responsibly do so. We must fix the 911 system so that people can reach first responders, and our police and firefighters need modern communications equipment to be able to respond.

Homelessness – We should treat the homeless with dignity but expect respect – the same respect for our laws that everyone else has. That’s why I strongly support the No Camping ordinance. Now that our homeless residents live throughout the city, we need to provide shelters throughout the city, along with services to help the willing homeless transition back into regular life.

Street Repair – Our northwest Fresno streets need more maintenance. We must fix the potholes and resurface more roads. We also must address significant traffic bottlenecks, especially near where (Highway) 99 meets both Shaw and Herndon, and in the Palm and Nees area.

Describe the role civility should play on the City Council versus partisanship.

We each should strive to do what is best for our district and for the city, which is what I will do. I will advocate strongly for what I believe is best for the people of northwest Fresno and the city, but I will do so civilly. Standing up for our principles does not require partisan name calling.

Being an effective city councilmember requires being able to find agreement with others. Other people often (have) ideas worth considering, because no one has a monopoly on good ideas. In my career, I often negotiate agreements with people who are opposed to what I am trying to achieve. I recognize what is important to the people in the conflict, and I try to find creative solutions that help everyone achieve as many of their goals as they can. I intend to bring that problem-solving approach to the City Council.

How should the city approach and balance smart planning and land use with quality economic development?

We need more flexibility and less red tape. Too often, grand planning conflicts with the visions of every-day Fresnans for what they want to do with their businesses, their property, and their communities. The city should not shut down existing businesses because they get in the way of the city’s plans.

We need to trust that Fresnans know better than bureaucrats what to do with their own property. That includes eliminating permits for anything that our laws allow people to do with their property as a matter of right. We should not have to ask for permission to do something the law already allows us to do. Whether it is to open a new office, start a new restaurant, or just renovate your kitchen, there’s no reason for the planning department to rubber stamp a permit if the law already allows you to do it on your property.

What approach do you support to increase funding for parks and public safety?

I do not support increasing sales taxes for parks or public safety, which hurt the poor most. Instead, we need to focus on economic development and more jobs, which will give us more resources to help both public safety and parks.

We also should consider leasing concessions to vendors for parks in exchange for park maintenance, so that we can do more with our limited park maintenance budget and better take care of new parks throughout the city.

What can the city of Fresno do to address the need for affordable housing?

The best way to get more affordable housing is to build more housing and reduce the costs the city puts on that housing. If we reduce unnecessary permits and improve the speed at which we approve new housing, we can reduce builders’ costs, and in turn make it less expensive for people to buy or rent the new housing.

It is also important that we say “yes” to more housing of all kinds, whether single family, multi-family, mixed use, or tiny houses. The more flexible we are as a city in allowing different ways for people to live, the more options at different price ranges we will have for our residents.

What is the City Council’s responsibility to help Fresno face climate change and reduce pollution?

The City Council should focus on the serious challenges that Fresno faces, not international issues like climate change (that) we can’t adequately address.

George Herman

George Herman
George Herman

Age: 64

Occupation: Attorney, accountant

Party registration: Republican

Why are you running for City Council?

The current makeup of the City Council needs a face with change, unity and an end to the current council’s partisan bickering and politics.

Name your top three priorities if elected.

Fiscal responsibility, economic development, infrastructure.

Describe the role civility should play on the City Council versus partisanship.

Unity must be our ONLY priority; partisanship destroys unity.

How should the city approach and balance smart planning and land use with quality economic development?

Tax and business incentives MUST be emphasized in developing new and existing businesses.

What approach do you support to increase funding for parks and public safety?

Tax increases must be avoided. We should explore our current budgets for both parks and public safety to look to maximize our current budgets for said areas.

What can the city of Fresno do to address the need for affordable housing?

Homelessness: the primary issues behind homelessness are mental health and drug addiction; emphasize mental health counseling and drug addiction first, then homelessness will subside to more manageable levels.

What is the City Council’s responsibility to help Fresno face climate change and reduce pollution?

We need to show a unified front within the City Council on said issues to move into a direction consistent with state and federal requirements for climate change and pollution reduction. Future generations need our current commitments NOW. ACTION IS NEEDED NOW!!!

Mike Karbassi

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Mike Karbassi

Age: 35

Occupation: Small business owner

Party registration: Declined to answer

Why are you running for City Council?

I am running for Fresno City Council because I want to restore Fresno to the greatness of my youth. Fresno has tragically been in a long decline and it is time to reverse that. I want a city government that promotes business growth and keeps our neighborhoods safe. Most of all I want to serve you the voter. My door will always be open, and I welcome you to call my cell phone (559) 601-0564.

Name your top three priorities if elected.

1. Public safety and addressing property crime

2. Business friendly city and cutting red tape

3. Neighborhood infrastructure

Describe the role civility should play on the City Council versus partisanship.

City Council is a non-partisan position for a reason and that is because it is supposed to be non-partisan. Political party should play no role at the Fresno City Council. There are currently five registered Democrats and one Republican on the Fresno City Council, and we have a Republican mayor. I want to work with all of them in both parties to achieve good things for District 2. I will fight for northwest Fresno, but I pledge to do so in a civil manner. I’m about results, not politics.

How should the city approach and balance smart planning and land use with quality economic development?

California is presently in a housing crisis with so many Californians being deprived of the American dream of owning a home. One of the reasons Fresno has traditionally escaped this is because of our pro-growth policies. We must have growth for middle class families to be able to afford a home, and growth is a driving engine of our economy. However, we must also have smart planning to ensure this growth does serve the residents of this city, and that is does not burden our older neighborhoods.

What approach do you support to increase funding for parks and public safety?

As a small business owner in the district I understand how excessive taxes can hurt our economy. Before the city of Fresno seeks additional revenues, it must first ensure that every single penny is being spent as efficiently as possible. We also need to cut red tape to encourage job creation. Only then, if the city still does not have the revenue to support the level of service the residents demands, should a sales tax be put on the ballot to be determined by the voters.

What can the city of Fresno do to address the need for affordable housing?

As stated in the response to smart planning, as our population grows, we need to continue to allow housing growth. It is simple supply and demand economics. If demand increases and supply does not, prices go up. Without growth we will become another Bay Area where the middle class is priced out of home ownership.

What is the City Council’s responsibility to help Fresno face climate change and reduce pollution?

Most of the pollution in the city of Fresno comes from mobile sources on Highway 99, the Bay Area and China. We are limited by what we can do about this at the local level. One solution is to improve bicycle and walking routes. This is an important part of providing safe routes to schools. We can adopt smart planning strategies to relieve traffic congestion. This would go a long way to reduce pollution. We can also increase the quality of life for residents by completing the Eaton Trail, which can be enjoyed by families and active seniors in northwest Fresno.

Oscar Sandoval

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Oscar Sandoval

Age: 26

Occupation: Special needs therapist

Party registration: Democrat

Why are you running for City Council?

There are two reasons I decided to run.

The first is that I study public policy and I want to put my knowledge to better serve my community. Our city has so much untapped potential, however, our elected officials have not always operated with that in mind.

The second reason is I attended the City Council meeting in which the council heard the anti-panhandling ordinance. Steve Brandau said that he spent 18 months working on that proposal. With a crisis-like meth problem, a high school graduation rate at roughly 74 percent, and parks that are among the worst in the country, it surprised me to hear a councilmember spend so much time on something so frivolous. This isn’t what we deserve from our representation and not the leadership we need. More than any other candidate, I provide an understanding of solutions for a brighter future for our district.

Name your top three priorities if elected.

-More resources for District 2

-Strengthen community/police relationships

-Increase accessibility to mental health resources

Describe the role civility should play on the City Council versus partisanship.

Whether it’s Twitter fights or press conferences held purely for the sake of pettiness, I think there has been a wayward trend in behavior of council members. These seats are nonpartisan and are meant for legislators to push for policy that improves our community. In my time as the representative for District 2, I will be clear, honest, and always promote policy that does the most good for the most people. No matter what their political beliefs are, I will always treat my colleagues respectfully as long as they act accordingly. More importantly, I will not let my personal beliefs get in the way of what is best for the city or in my relationships with my colleagues. At the end of the day, working while maintaining a sense of civility and the improvement of our community will always be what I strive for.

How should the city approach and balance smart planning and land use with quality economic development?

Smart land use is done when it is done with considerations for mixed purposes and careful planning. Ideally, a deft mixture of commercial, residential, transit, and green space are what we need moving forward. Furthermore, different types of housing designs that fit the needs of Fresno’s residents moving forward are what we need. We should also invest in communities that are already in more need than the rest of the district such as Radio City and Pinedale. Engaging our citizens and asking them what their needs are as well as collaborating with local employers will put us on the path towards meeting supply with the demand. One thing we must continue to avoid doing is letting developers dictate the use of land and planning roads and such afterward. From now on, we must plan our growth around the needs of our residents and not at the whims of special interests.

What approach do you support to increase funding for parks and public safety?

The voters made it clear when the majority supported to pass Measure P last year. Our community clearly recognizes the need for better parks and more proactive investment in our public safety. With this in mind, we need to do a few things to improve our parks. The first is invest in the parks we already have, whether its resurfacing courts, replacing old nets, or re-sodding fields, we need to take care of our parks. We also need to move these parks into the modern age by doing things like adding WiFi to them in order to draw more visitors. With more interest in technology than ever before and a higher need for internet access, we need to provide a platform for our kids to prepare themselves for the future. This investment will allow us to better address the crime in our city and provide other avenues for our kids.

What can the city of Fresno do to address the need for affordable housing?

Solutions to our affordable housing will come in the form of various solutions. The first is streamlining our housing and transportation regulations. We need to increase the options people in our district have to move around, currently, there are not many. Different types of housing also need to be built that allows for different types of lifestyles, forms, and functions. We also need to be mindful of housing for persons at different stages of life. Doing this would allow for a greater vibrancy for our neighborhoods. Another solution is to require developers to commit to developing affordable housing in high need areas of the city if they want to build new developments elsewhere. More work with community members to re-purpose older buildings into housing is another successful idea that we need to keep pursuing.

What is the City Council’s responsibility to help Fresno face climate change and reduce pollution?

It is clear that we all have a role to play in combating the current climate crisis. With this in mind, as your District 2 council member, I will support policy that allows for different types of transit such as bikes and buses. Doing this will create less reliance on cars and create safer neighborhoods overall. We also need to make investments in energy-efficient buildings and push a policy that updates air units in older buildings. Another solution would be to look into our management of waste. Whether it is a reconfiguration of landfills or investment in our green spaces, this is another issue we need to be proactive about. If not, we will not have a community to fight for much longer.

The Bee has compiled a database that shows the 2018 compensation, including salary, overtime and benefits, for not only elected officials throughout the Valley, but also more than 45,000 public employees from local government agencies.

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Brianna Calix covers politics and investigations for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable and shine a light on issues that deeply affect residents’ lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Fresno State.
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