Fresno’s Ashley Swearengin is one of eight California big-city mayors – and the only Republican of the bunch – to sign onto a letter supporting legislation that would toughen the state’s greenhouse-gas reduction goals over the next 14 years.
Swearengin joined Democratic mayors Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Robert Garcia of Long Beach, Libby Schaff of Oakland, Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, Edwin Lee of San Francisco, Sam Liccardo of San Jose and Miguel Pulido of Santa Ana in endorsing Senate Bill 32, authored by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills.
The bill would require the state Air Resources Board to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions in the state to be equivalent to 40 percent below 1990 by 2030. If approved by the Legislature, it would formalize Gov. Jerry Brown’s April 2015 executive order setting the greenhouse-gas emission target. Pavley introduced the bill in late 2014.
In their support letter Wednesday to Pavley, Swearengin and the other mayors declared that “our cities continue to bear witness to the consequences of a changing climate.”
“From record heat and fire to the continued water quality and availability challenges, we are increasingly challenged by the consequences climate change,” the mayors wrote. “As these impacts hit our communities, they also strain the resources of local governments.”
What’s unique about my position is not that I’m a Republican. It’s that I’m the mayor of the most-polluted, lowest-income (major) city in California.
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, on supporting Assembly Bill 32
Swearengin pointed out that it’s not unusual for her to depart from conventional Republican political positions. “What’s unique about my position is not that I’m a Republican,” she said Thursday. “It’s that I’m the mayor of the most-polluted, lowest-income (major) city in California. … There is no other city like Fresno that has such a high concentration of disadvantaged communities.”
“In this place, we have to be aggressive,” she added. “We have so many obstacles to overcome and so much ground to make up that we can leave nothing unturned, and that includes resources” to improve the city’s pollution and poverty status.”
The mayors’ letter indicates that Pavley’s bill “will ensure California’s climate program continues to provide support to cities for sustainable affordable housing, clean transportation, and energy independence projects” to benefit low-income residents, “and aligns the state’s growth toward industries that are creating jobs faster than any other sectors of the economy.”
Swearengin added that while she is termed out of office in January and is unburdened with facing an election, those considerations had little to do with her decision to support the bill.
“I was on the record on other polarizing projects before my 2012 re-election and my 2014 run for state controller,” she said. “I’ve been focused on representing the interests of the people of Fresno. Sometimes that means your political base thinks you’re great, when you’re making budget cuts and keeping the city out of bankruptcy.”
“And sometimes it means that people who are not in your political base are, like, ‘Why is she doing that? Why is she putting a stop to sprawl? Why is she talking about improving incomes and lowering greenhouse gases?’ ” Swearengin said. “It’s because I represent Fresno and that’s what Fresno needs.”