LATEST NEWS:
Fresno City Mayor Lee Brand meets with The Collegian at Fresno City Hall on Sept. 7, 2017. (Alejandro Soto/ The Collegian)

Mayor Lee Brand’s first nine months on the job

Nine months into his term, Fresno Mayor Lee Brand gave an update on some of his 2016 mayoral campaign promises, and weighed in on the national issue of immigration.

In his office at Fresno City Hall on Sept. 7, Brand discussed recent news about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) being phased out, Fresno State security and his thoughts on running for mayor in 2020.

Immigration

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session announced the rescission of DACA, on Sept. 5.

More than 1,000 students and DACA recipients at Fresno State may lose their work authorization in the U.S. as soon as March 5, 2018.

“I would urge, which I have, our Congressional leaders to move fast,” Brand said.

Brand said he would lend his voice to encourage Congress to find a way to give DACA recipients a pathway to become American citizens.

“[Those] who came here as children and had no choice, their parent’s brought them here, in many cases have been very successful, some have been in the military,” Brand said.

“It’s really going to be decided in Washington D.C., and if I can lend my voice to help it, I’ll do it,” he added.

Brand said he feels immigration reform has been neglected for too long and “we’ve kicked the can down the road.”

“I hope that this time around with this new president [Donald Trump], this congress, we finally can find solutions because it has a big impact on our valley,” Brand said.

Security around Fresno State

Brand has made campus safety a priority. He said he and Fresno State President Dr. Joseph Castro meet every three months to discuss safety on and around the university.

As a result of the meetings, LED streetlights are being installed west of Cedar and south of Shaw avenues.

The new Police Department satellite office, has been opened west of campus near Bulldog Stadium, another boost to campus security.

Brand, who graduated from Fresno state in 1973, said he is enthusiastic about the good work Castro is doing for the university.

“I really support what Dr. Castro is doing,” Brand said. “I think Fresno State is on the rise.”

Police, jobs

As for the progress, he hopes to make during this term, Brand said it is hard to get a lot done in four years.

“I think you can, ideally [but] if you talk to Ashley Swearengin former mayor, she’d say you’d need 20 years to do it,” Brand said.

He added, “Moving this government is like turning the Titanic – just take it in small increments.”

The mayor said he believes it will take him eight years, two terms, to create more than 10,000 jobs and hire police officers, bringing the total to 1,000 officers.

“[But it’s all] assuming I don’t get burned out by the first term [and] assuming that voters vote for me,” Brand said.

Brand has hired about 25 new officers, so far. But by “any examination of what’s the right level for policing in terms of per thousand, we’re low compared to other cities,” Brand said.

Big businesses are coming to Fresno, and the opportunity for its students and residents looking for full or part-time work is on the rise.

Brand said creating 10,000 jobs is his eight year goal.

“We may be at 5,000 within a year-and-a-half or sooner,” he said, referring to two big e-commerce distribution facilities coming to Fresno.

“We got roughly 1,000 jobs with Ulta, [and] Amazon will be opening up 2,500 jobs,” Brand said.

He added, “As I talk to you today, we are negotiating with two other companies that would bring up to 2,000 more jobs.”

In 2016, Brand wrote the Economic Expansion Act, a bill with three layers of incentives to attract business.

According to Brand, it’s a combination of four factors that could bring big business to Fresno: the geographic proximity of Fresno to other areas and Highway 99, relatively inexpensive land, a discount of 30% from PG&E and a modest water rate.

In the following weeks. Brand said, he will go to Spain with a delegation from the city and the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation, in an effort to bring the high-speed rail heavy maintenance facility here. He said this will allow Fresno to become “the county, the city, that gets the 1,500 really good jobs.”

Being Mayor what surprises or learning experience have you gained since you began serving as Mayor, he said: I’ve spent eight years as a council member, this is totally different because (…) the level of responsibility is so much greater as a mayor.”

He continued by reminding about recent accomplishments as a Mayor.

“If you just judge by the results, we took on two major legislative initiatives: We brought the Rental Housing Inspection Program that will tackle the slumlord issue in Fresno, we brought in the Citizen’s Public Safety Advisory Board that I think will help the relationship between the community and the police department and we brought in a budget on a 7-0 vote,” Brand said.

The 7-0 caught him by surprise.

“I was here for eight years and we’ve never had a 7-0 vote,” Brand said.