Downtown has had its fling in the limelight. Fresno’s policy-making action these days is in Council District 5.
If all goes according to plan, you’ve got to figure District 5 Council Member Luis Chavez will be mighty tough to beat next year when he runs for reelection.
“Things are booming in Southeast,” Chavez told me Thursday evening by phone.
I called Chavez because I’ve starting looking at campaign disclosure statements at City Hall. The wild 2016 election season seems like only yesterday. But there’s no denying that the June 5, 2018 primary is less than 10 months away.
Incumbents facing reelection and upstart candidates all across the political spectrum are opening their war chests. Contributions are welcome, they say.
Chavez’s state Form 460 caught my attention for two reasons.
First, his “Luis Chavez for Council 2018” organization was sitting on $31,299 cash as of June 30. Not bad at all.
Second, the form shows that Chavez paid $5,000 earlier this year to The Scozzari Company of Clovis. This was a “win bonus,” the form said.
Mark Scozzari, one of the region’s top political consultants, helped guide Chavez to a convincing win last November in the District 5 special election. The seat had to be filled when incumbent Sal Quintero won a seat on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors in the June primary.
“He’s done a great job,” Chavez said of Scozzari. “We’re keeping our same team together.”
The special election last year means Chavez is facing a fast-turnaround in his quest for a full four-year term. Chavez in 2016 pitched to voters his long service as Quintero’s chief of staff and his years on the Fresno Unified school board. In 2018, look for Chavez to pitch his efforts to spur new growth in District 5 and solidify the growth already in the pipeline.
The latter is probably the most important task. As former City Manager Bruce Rudd often said, cutting the ribbon is fun but the payoff is sustainability.
“We’ve got probably 30 important projects going right now in District 5,” Chavez said.
He listed a half-dozen for me:
1.) The city has set aside more than $500,000 to begin work on a Southeast Fresno specific plan. The idea is to create a master plan for the district’s older areas – think Calwa and neighborhoods around the Fairgrounds.
2.) Everyone talks about Bus Rapid Transit and how the system (when it goes live) will transform the Blackstone Avenue corridor. Well, the Ventura/Kings Canyon corridor through the heart of District 5 also is getting BRT.
3.) The city’s massive Southeast Surface Water Treatment Plant project is actually located in Paul Caprioglio’s District 4, just to the north of District 5. But, Chavez said, “we’ll get the first batch of water when the plant goes operational.” Nothing says growth like a reliable supply of water.
4.) Six million dollars is in hand to build a new headquarters for the Southeast Policing District. The site is in the Fancher Creek neighborhood, near Tulare and Clovis avenues.
5.) The county has sold the old Juvenile Hall on Ventura Street. The place was memorably described by The Bee’s Barbara Anderson as a “Hall of Shame.” The site is slated to be a data processing center that will generate more than 100 jobs.
6.) Local officials are expected to break ground in September on the Cesar Chavez Foundation’s long-planned apartment complex (nearly 100 units plus a community center) on Kings Canyon. The focus is on senior housing.
Chavez said he’s counted at least 15 new businesses (totaling more than 200 jobs) in District 5 since his time in office.
Every council district has unique characteristics, but District 5 stands out. It contains some of Fresno’s most historic neighborhoods, such as Huntington Boulevard. On the other hand, there was a time during the housing bubble that I wondered if Southeast’s proliferation housing tracts would take city all the way to Sanger.
City Hall periodically adjusts the boundary lines of council districts to ensure that each council member represents close to the same number of people. District 5 has had such population growth in recent decades that Roosevelt High School, long a symbol of the District 5 spirit, now resides in District 7.
Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see what becomes of SEGA – the Southeast Growth Area. This was supposed to be a master-planned community covering some 14 square miles in District’s 4 and 5. Little has been built so far, and SEGA certainly has lost some of its luster at City Hall. But something tells me SEGA is far from dead.
Chavez said he knows he won’t have enough time in the District 5 seat to do everything he wants.
But, he added, “I want to make sure we’ve set things up for success in the next generation.”