Summer’s waning weeks are here, but voters in northwest Fresno have to think about an election — specifically, the one to replace departed City Councilman Steve Brandau.
He won election earlier this year to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, itself a contest to replace Andreas Borgeas, who got elected last fall to the state Senate.
Now five men are seeking to succeed Brandau to represent District 2 on the Fresno City Council. Mail-in ballots have gone out and voting officially began by mail on July 15. Election Day is Aug. 13.
Of the contenders, The Bee recommends Mike Karbassi, a lifelong resident of the district. In meeting with The Bee’s Editorial Board, Karbassi was impressive in his knowledge of key issues facing both the district as well as city at large; his ideas for solutions to problems; and his willingness to hear all sides of the political spectrum, a practice his predecessor did not always embrace.
Karbassi, 35, attended Malloch Elementary and Tenaya Middle schools and graduated from Bullard High. He then attended Fresno State and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He now runs a rug business that his father started.
The post is nonpartisan, but Karbassi, a Democrat, has as his top issues those that are dear to conservatives: public safety and fiscal responsibility.
Assuring public safety is a matter that Karbassi feels personally: The family’s Persian rug business has operated for four decades, and never was victimized by crime until the last eight years, during which two felony thefts occurred. Karbassi pledges to seek full funding for police and fire.
However, he does not favor a tax increase for that purpose. Rather, he would look to economic growth creating a larger tax base from which to draw the necessary funding.
To learn better what police face on a daily basis, Karbassi has done 14 ride-alongs with officers. Some were during the evening, and they occurred in District 2 as well as elsewhere in town.
The Fresno Police Officers Association is supporting Karbassi, as are Police Chief Jerry Dyer and Sheriff Margaret Mims. He has a list of other endorsements on his campaign website.
Karbassi also wants to fix broken sidewalks, slow down speeders with traffic-calming strategies and finish Veterans Boulevard.
When it comes to homeless people camping in public and privately owned spaces, Karbassi supports creating a network of emergency shelters to get individuals off the street and into a safe situation. Then those individuals can be moved into temporary housing and ultimately permanent sheltering. He advocates using funds from federal, state and local sources.
While Brandau voted most of the time with his colleagues on the council, he sometimes slipped into using divisive language toward those appearing before the council, like when he called certain advocates for low-income residents “poverty pimps.” Karbassi pledges he will never take that approach, but will be respectful of everyone coming before the council.
Two other candidates also stood out to the Editorial Board: attorney Jared Gordon and Oscar Sandoval, a community organizer and former behavioral therapist for children. Both proposed intriguing ideas, but several factors held back The Bee’s recommendation of them:
▪ Gordon was a founding member of the Central Valley Tea Party, a movement Brandau also took part in. The Tea Party’s strident anti-government, no-tax positions do not serve Fresno well due to the city’s low tax-revenue base and high poverty. Local needs are great, and city government must be involved in solutions, often in the form of spending.
▪ Sandoval is new to public service and needs more experience. He can seek the chance to serve on city boards or commissions to start learning how City Hall operates.
The two others running are lifelong Fresno residents: Lawrence David Garcia, who owns a security company with personnel nationwide; and George Herman, a local criminal defense attorney.
Over 44,000 voters are registered to vote. If no one emerges with the majority, a runoff will be held in November to determine the winner; that person will serve all of 2020. However, the District 2 seat’s next regular election happens in the March primary.
For now, voters would do well to choose Mike Karbassi for the District 2 opening on the Fresno City Council.
How The Bee reached its recommendation
The Bee’s Editorial Board interviewed all the candidates in person on a range of issues. The board members then discussed pros and cons of each candidate to arrive at the recommendation. The Editorial Board consists of Publisher Tim Ritchey, Editor Joe Kieta, Opinion Editor Tad Weber, Vida en el Valle Editor Juan Esparza Loera and Maria Ortiz Briones, staff writer for Vida.