Fresno Bee voter guide

Welcome to our guide for Election 2016 races. Compare candidates' views side by side, then create your own ballot, which you can print or email.

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Fresno City Council District 5

Fresno Bee stories about this race: Fresno voters will select two new City Council members in November

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  • Candidate picture

    Jose Barraza

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    Luis Chavez

  • Candidate picture

    Antonio 'Tony' Gastelum

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Biographical Information

During the Great Recession, the city struggled to keep its budget in balance and mend its finances. That meant painful choices -- slashing departments, jobs and services. As the economy recovers, what should the city's financial priorities be? And if you had to cut, what would you cut from the budget?

The Swearengin Administration wants to build a reserve of about 10% of general fund revenues. That could mean the reserve could be as much as $30 million by 2019. Should the city build a reserve of that size, even if it means limited expansion or even short-term reductions in services and smaller raises for employees?

The city only has limited general fund dollars and is trying to rebuild its police and fire departments. Where does parks fit into this? Park money comes out of the general fund, too. And do you favor new parks or rehabbing older parks?

With its new general plan, the city is trying to discourage sprawl and encourage more development within the existing boundaries – especially in older areas of the city. What is your opinion of the new general plan? If you could change it, what would you do? Or is it perfect as is?

What is your opinion of the proposed bus rapid transit system? Right now, routes are proposed for Blackstone, Kings Canyon and Shaw avenues. Is it a good idea? Is it viable? If not, how should it be changed?

Downtown parking garages are a mess and need millions in repairs. The money would have to come from the general fund. Is it worth it? Left to deteriorate, the repair costs will increase. They structures are needed for the recreated Fulton Street to succeed. But what about police and fire needs?

Why are you the most qualified person for this seat?

Age 68
Residence Fresno
Family Wife Elsa, two daughters(Priscilla and Brittania) and a son (Joey). Three grandchildren ((Ava, Alyssa and Grace)
Education Master of Public Administration and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Fresno State and AS Degree in Business Administration from Fresno City College.
Occupation Business Development Counselor and small business owner and community development volunteer.
Public service experience Former Director of Economic Development for Fresno County and extensive (34 years) experience working for the Fresno County Administrative Office in all aspects of budgeting and finance. management audits, tax-sharing agreements, capital projects , personnel and employee relations.
Facebook/Social media Official campaign website, Facebook, Tweeter. Instagram
Law school N/A
Years practicing law N/A
The highest priority of the City budget should be the adequate funding of programs that protect residents from crime and fire losses in our City. Greater use of the most advanced technology in police and fire protection should be implemented. All programs and services provided by our City should be subject to periodic evaluation for greater efficiencies. The City of Fresno needs to be more creative in the funding of parks, soccer fields, and multi-purpose trails. These programs reduce crime, improve health and quality of life in our City. All parts of our City should have equal access to parks. Programs that promote the retention, attraction and expansion of businesses that contribute to generate more revenue for our City should also be a high priority for funding. During an economic downturn, all programs across the board should be subject to evaluation and reductions can be implemented based on public input. The process should start with an analysis by the City Manager of the impact that each proposed reduction would have on the residents and the alternatives available. However, the preservation of programs that protect life and public safety would be a top priority for me. I would implement the necessary cuts after I have fully analyzed the alternatives and listened to the residents of our City.and District 5.
It is prudent and a good business practice to have reserves along with an adequate contingency fund when sufficient General Fund revenues are available to sustain those funds. However, before our City can create a reserve fund as proposed by the Swearengin Administration, the City must do a much better job in generating more revenue to the General Fund by improving the local economy and being more successful in the attraction, retention and expansion of businesses. City must advocate and seek more state and federal funding to expand job training programs that improve the earning power of residents and improve the local economy. City plan check review and issuance of building permits procedures should be expedited to facilitate the start of construction projects that create jobs and generate revenue to our city. City's performance in this area needs to improve to accelerate the start of construction projects. A robust reserve fund helps reduce the cost of borrowing and it is a good business practice, however, before such a plan can be contemplated, our City needs to do a better job in improving the local economy and increase revenues to the General Fund A reserve fund should not be created on the backs of City employees and City residents.
Adequate funding of the police and fire departments needs to take place and City must be more creative in the funding of existing and new park facilities in our City. Our City ranks at the bottom of national park surveys and the concentration of parks are in North Fresno. This is unacceptable for the voters of South Fresno. In District 5 community groups are seeking the donation of a 49-acre site abandoned by the City of Fresno because District 5 elected official and staff are short of creative ideas on how to fund these projects. This site was donated to the City 10 years ago by the National Park Service and the City has not planted a single tree even when funding has been available. The City received $1.3 million from an insurance claim from a burned building on that site, and contrary to provisions of the agreement with the National Park Service, the City used those funds to fix other city buildings. Where was our District 5 elected official and his staff when District 5 residents needed them?. The General Fund is not the only source of funding of parks. I support the construction of a new park and soccer fields on this 49-acre park site. This and other park projects and the cost of their maintenance and operations can be funded with state and federal grants, private and public foundations, corporate sponsors, service organizations, and volunteers from many sports organizations. Other cities in our valley are more successful in funding parks, we can do better.
The General Plan is a good start in addressing the infrastructure needs of older parts of our City. However, a General Plan cannot be done in a vacuum of housing market conditions. If I could change it I would make sure that adequate incentives are provided to attract investors to develop infill projects but I would propose a policy that allows some growth to occur within the immediate sphere of influence of our City. We continue to have concentrated poverty in our City, the construction industry is a great generator of jobs and revenues for our City. We cannot ignore housing market conditions and the demand of home buyers because if we do that all jobs and revenues will go to neighboring cities. The representatives of District 5 must do a better job in collaborating with school districts that have made the investment of tax payers' dollars and purchased land in Southeast Fresno to build schools, like the State Center Community College District, Sanger Unified School District and Clovis Unified School District. with the anticipation that growth would continue in that direction. The City of Fresno changed its growth policies with the new General Plan without taking into consideration the benefits that adding more educational institutions bring to our community. I served as vice-chair of District 5 Plan Implementation Committee and our City must do a better job in communicating with school districts on planning matters.
I support the rapid transit system for the Ventura/Kings Canyon Corridor.This project will create a more efficient movement of residents from District 5 to Downtown and Blackstone Avenue and Shaw.. It will also contribute to improve air quality.This project also will require to change the culture of using this system instead of the car and will require and education effort to inform the public about the benefits to our residents. In order to take advantage of the economic opportunities that this project brings go Southeast Fresno, we must be ready to be part of this effort.. A community-initiated list of recommendations to improve commerce along the Ventura/ Kings Canyon Corridor were develop with a $250,000 grant provided by Caltrans and administered by the Fresno Council of Governments with City staff participation. These recommendations were presented to the City Manager and to District 5 Council Member and his staff on February, 2015,. The recommendations identified proposed changes to improve the Ventura/Kings Canyon Corridor and make it a regional attraction because of its restaurants and furniture stores and would improve pedestrian safety. District 5 representative on the Council expressed no interest for the study that had involved the State grant and many hours of volunteers and various government agency officials who participated and helped prepared this report and recommendations. I support the implementation of those recommendations.
We should not assume that these type of projects have to be funded only by the General Fund. Other communities create assessment districts. City officials should research what other cities like Visalia and Hanford have done in addressing the parking needs of their downtowns. In those cities parking in downtown is free. This feature has contributed to attract more people to their downtowns.and add to their success.The successful addition of new housing in the Downtown area will contribute to generate more resources to fund projects like the downtown parking structures. We must dream and think positive of what we can do. That includes doing the necessary research as to how other cities have done to successfully improve their downtowns. Let us not be afraid to copy success.
I am the most qualified candidate for the Fresno City Council District 5 because I have extensive experience in various aspects of local government and community-based programs. I am the former Director of Economic Development for Fresno County. In this job I created a countywide enterprise zone (14 cities) and served as Chair of the Fresno County Blue Ribbon Business Committee, I worked 34 years for the County Administrative Office where as an administrative analyst performed duties in the areas of personnel, budgeting & finance, policy development, administrative oversight, management audits and capital projects preparing reports and making recommendations to the Board of Supervisors. Negotiated tax sharing agreements with cities in Fresno County, including an agreement with Fresno to add police officers. Additionally in the area of public safety, I served on SE Fresno Police Advisory Committee , was foreman of a federal grand jury for two years and participated in securing funds for the expansion of Fresno County jail and courtrooms. More recently was CEO and co-founder (six years) of the Southeast Fresno Community Economic Development Association where we provided technical assistance to businesses, job training and employment referrals. and advocated for more parks and recreation facilities for our youth, families and senior citizens.
Age 39
Residence Fresno
Family Two children
Education Master's in Public Administration, California State University, Fresno
Public service experience City Council Chief of Staff, Fresno Unified Trustee
Facebook/Social media Facebook
I had the opportunity to be at city hall and witness the hard decisions that the city had to make during the downturn. I saw many employees laid off, departments slashed and the subsequent cutbacks, but the most important lesson I learned was how to prioritize city services. The police and fire department is a priority for me, I saw the effect on businesses and resident’s sense of safety diminished as a result of service reductions and do not want to return to that during my tenure. Likewise, as someone who will be representing an older district, I see the needs to repair our crumbling infrastructure in our neighborhoods, and I think after public safety this needs to be the next budget priority. Equally important, will be the expansion of code enforcement and aggressively going after blight in our community. We need to find efficiencies within our departments and use those savings to invest in core services.
We need a healthy reserve, it disappears quicker than you think in a downturn, and a healthy reserve also helps ensure the city has the top credit rating. This allows us to borrow money at a lower rate saving taxpayers millions in the long run.
Parks are an important amenity in any city and particularly in my district where many underserved children may lack safe places to play, parks are critical. I think we should focus on rehabilitating many of the city’s current parks which are in disrepair and ensure we have a sound maintenance plan before we build more parks. I led the efforts to open up schools as green space/parks and will look to expand that partnership as the councilmember of the district. Tax payers are already paying for the school grounds and should have access to that park space year-round. Lastly, I worked to secure funding for a “parks master plan” and would like to hear from all stakeholders (little league baseball, soccer clubs, softball leagues, skateboard clubs, basketball associations) before deciding what recreational features our parks will include.
I believe in an all of the above strategy, as someone who represents both 100-year old neighborhoods east of downtown and new suburbs around Sunnyside, I see the need for varying types of neighborhoods depending on individual choice. A vibrant community must grow but it must also preserve its older neighborhoods. Fresno has often neglected the second part and as councilman I will put much more focus on renewal of our older neighborhoods. I will also support outer growth that is well planned and self-sustaining.
As we grow we will need greater capacity in our core corridors to carry larger numbers of people, but I do not support only focusing on the bus rapid transit system at the expense of the rest of the bus system. What most bus riders presently want is expanded routes and expanded hours, giving people without a car greater economic and social freedom. We need to make sure that our bus system integrates both present needs with planning for the future. The majority of riders are students and senior citizens; we need to make the canopies and bus stops areas attractive for the consistent riders. I’ve worked with the City of Fresno to add well-lit bus stops (solar powered) and will continue to support expanding bus service, especially to underserved areas of the city.
Public safety must come first and we have to find creative measures to sustain parking structures downtown. Our older neighborhoods should be a more pressing priority, I have decaying infrastructure all over my district and need the available resources to reinvest in roads, potholes, streetlights and safe routes to schools. The same is true for every neighborhood south of Shaw. I am open to exploring options to fix the parking structures, such as grants, loans, and working with the downtown businesses that would be the beneficiaries of improved parking options. Lastly, I would consider turning over the structures to a private company that can manage, maintain and ensure the structures generate revenue (the PBID would be a good model to consider).
I’ve been extremely fortunate to have served as the Councilmember assistant for 6 years; I don’t need on the job training and will be ready to perform the job on day one. One of the most important lessons I learned during the great recession, is how to effectively prioritize and budget for critical city services. The next council cohort will outline what the city of Fresno will look like for the next generations to come and it’s important that we have folks that have a proven track record of accomplishing goals and results for their communities. I’ve led efforts as both the Fresno Unified Trustee for Roosevelt High area and working at the City of Fresno. I’m the only candidate that has made tough decisions as the President of a $1 billion dollar organization and has made decisions to hire, fire, cut or invest in services for our community. I have in-depth experience with the issues that southeast Fresno faces on multiple levels, whether it’s in the areas of education, public safety, helping small businesses create jobs or parks/green space. I’ve had the opportunity to lead projects that will benefit our children, seniors and community at large. I will continue to work tirelessly for southeast Fresno as the next councilmember of District 5. You can review my list of accomplishments at my website,
Age 47
Residence Fresno
Family 3 grown children: daughter in college and both sons U.S. Marines. Family on both sides immigrated to Central Valley from Sonora/Mex. Bilingual in Spanish and English.
Education Bachelor of Science in Planning/Public Policy from MIT. Graduate business work at Stanford, Cornell.
Occupation Sr. Financial Consultant, ACS Association; Chief Operating Officer/Chief Financial Officer, Safe Passages; former Chief Operating Officer, Fresno County Economic Development Corp.; former CEO, Central Calif Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; former Central Valley Director, James Irvine Foundation/Hispanic Scholarship Fund; former Financial Consultant, Merrill Lynch, Citigroup.
Public service experience Board Treasurer, VASA Valley Arts & Science Academy charter school; Board Member, Measure C Citizen's Oversight Committee; Charter Org Rep/Eagle Scout Alum, Boy Scouts of America Troop 24/Echo Ward; Various legislative and public agency internships.
Facebook/Social media
Public agency budgets should be built based upon the costs of the services that are required by the residents of the city, with revenues anticipated over long-term trend lines and not the randomly varying amounts of one year to the next. Expenses should not be based upon whatever variable amount is available in a given year. Taxes and bond borrowing should be carefully scrutinized -- and minimized.

The city should prioritize core services: water, sewer, roads, signals, sidewalks, street lights, roads, fire and police. Departments like code enforcement and development services should be pushed hard to change to a customer-focused work ethic instead of an adversarial footing toward the taxpayers who benefit from their services.

In times where reductions are needed, I would fight to end PLAs and so-called prevailing wage requirements that vastly increase the costs of public projects.
Tight controls on city expenditure levels and especially on payroll costs should be part of the City's standard operating procedure, regardless of the question of a fund reserve.

$30 million is a tiny fraction of billion and multi-billion dollar budgets. To restrict the 'reserve' to just the General Fund is just a gimmick for public consumption. The City has no intention of relinquishing its taxing and borrowing authority to cover any shortfall.

Any reserve funds in the budget should be part of a detailed strategy to improve the City's financial strength rating from bond agencies which would in turn reduce the City's cost of borrowing capital. It's not obvious how much a small reserve would help in this, however I would support any and all measures to reduce and restrict the growth of local government spending. A more permanent solution to the core issue would be to rationalize and reform the City's tax and fee structure, and then match expenses to planned revenues.
Despite the best efforts of many excellent City employees, too many parks are neither safe nor clean, even before coming to the question of how much green space the City can afford to fund per capita and where those parks should be located.

Partnerships with the flood control district and local school districts can go a long way toward increasing options for children and families to have more local green spaces for recreation, however the long-term solution will likely involve experimenting with privately owned and maintained public spaces.
With a degree from MIT in land use planning and experience ranging from work for the Planning Division of Fresno County's Development Services to current service on the Measure C Citizen's Oversight Committee, I am exceptionally versed in documents such as the City's General Plan. The new General Plan for the City of Fresno is a spectacular example of the worst kind of social engineering and local government overreach. The General Plan should be completely overhauled to place free-market forces and private enterprise at the center of any plans for Fresno's future growth. Development in all parts of the city, new as well as old neighborhoods, should pay for any of its own community costs, neither being subsidized nor penalized based upon utopian ideals of government employees and planners.
It's not clear that public transit in general is a core service that can be better provided by city government than by private enterprise. However it is clear that higher-cost versions of existing service such as Bus Rapid Transit is neither a core service of city government nor something the city should be spending more funds on rather than less. The current plans are highly disruptive to businesses and traffic along the prospective routes and the idea of favoring particular commercial corridors over others is a classic example of government planning hubris. The City needs to get back to basics.
It's not obvious that the City should be in the business of administering public parking, downtown or anywhere else. The current status quo is not acceptable in any case -- the City should most likely liquidate the parking properties so that private owners can develop and maintain parking facilities to serve downtown. Police and fire needs should not be in competition with services that are not clearly core services of city government.
The status quo has not served well the residents of the City of Fresno or of Council District 5 in particular. I am a third-generation Fresnan and my 3 children were all raised here too. I have over 20 years of private sector business experience as well as extensive training in public policy including land use, CEQA and NEPA, transportation planning, and budget management. Both of the other candidates in this race have little or no experience being hired and working real-world jobs. It's time for a new generation of leadership that better matches the needs and priorities of the residents of the district. I will fight every day to get the best value from our tax dollars so our residents receive the services they deserve. I will be the strongest advocate for the City's fiscal health and solvency and for free market solutions to the economic development of the district. I am the only candidate who has not accepted any financial donations from public sector unions or from developers with projects before the City who seek to purchase access and support through their campaign contributions. I am self-funding my campaign, and if elected I am the only candidate who can and will be an independent voice and who will make the City of Fresno a place to hire, invest, and get business done.