Solid on the basics – that’s the best way to describe Lee Brand’s first budget as mayor.
The former two-term council member is proposing a $1.1 billion spending plan for Fiscal Year 2018 that includes $321 million in general fund investments.
More cops, new firefighting equipment, renovated parks, a full-time Fresno-based police auditor, expanded Shotspotter coverage, supercharged economic development policies and (my favorite) an Alley Maintenance Team that promises to clean every alley in the city on a semi-annual basis – those are just a few of the blessings in Brand’s financial blueprint.
“This budget is sensible, balanced and provides a road map to make Fresno a better, safer, more prosperous place to live, work and play,” Brand said Tuesday afternoon at a City Hall news conference.
“It represents the best possible use of our limited resources to address our most pressing issues. It also focuses on four key initiatives: economic development, public safety, quality of life improvements and prudent fiscal management.”
Next up for Brand’s budget: June hearings with the City Council. Brand as the District 6 representative routinely asked tough questions during budget hearings. Now he’ll be on the receiving end.
The Great Recession is more than four years in the rearview mirror. Talk of the days when Fresno looked bankruptcy in the eye has the feel of dusty old history. As I recall, the city’s workforce during the worst of the recession dwindled through layoffs and attrition to somewhere near the 3,000-employee level. If I heard Brand correctly on Tuesday, the current workforce is approaching the 4,000-employee level.
That’s one way of suggesting it would be pretty hard for a mayor to propose a 2018 budget that wasn’t chock full of spending highlights.
Perhaps that’s why Brand on Tuesday focused his remarks more on personal opportunity and less on the goodies that City Hall will provide to Fresnans.
“My vision for Fresno is to transform our economy by creating citywide prosperity that will improve the quality of life for everyone in Fresno,” Brand said. “For decades, we’ve dealt with the burden of generational poverty, high unemployment and high crime rates. We can change that now.
“Achieving these goals will require a commitment of city resources and the collaboration of other government agencies and the private sector to be successful, including: Assessing the infrastructure needs and costs and developing a long term plan to fund the infrastructure in our industrial area; focusing on a specific industry group including E-commerce and manufacturing in key strategic locations including the Highway 41 and Highway 99 triangle; and developing a comprehensive marketing and branding of the industrial development effort. We need to continue building our momentum.
“Remember – success breeds success.”
The idea here would be familiar to every mayor in Fresno’s history – a city full of hardworking, ambitious and stable families is a dynamic city that can pay its bills and have some change left over.
The many particulars of Brand’s proposed budget will emerge in the coming weeks. We’ll tackle them at that time.
In my opinion, the most important number in this budget season is this: 17.20.
As in 17.20 inches – the amount of rain Fresno has received so far in this rain year. What a beautiful number.
We can muddle through any budget when Providence gives us enough water.