Fresno City Council candidates Tate Hill (District 3), Luis Chavez (District 5) and Brian Whelan (District 7) have been endorsed by the Fresno Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee.
Chavez is the incumbent. All three figure to face tough campaigns leading to the Nov. 6 general election.
Chamber President/Chief Executive Nathan Ahle said in a written statement:
“Our organization is proud to support Councilmember Chavez in his bid for re-election and is excited to endorse Mr. Hill and Mr. Whelan to join him on the dais. During his time in office, Luis Chavez has proven to be a strong voice for business, and we are confident that Tate Hill and Brian Whelan have what it takes to join him in improving Fresno’s business climate and helping to create jobs throughout our community.”
The District 3 race pits Hill (15.3% of vote in June primary) against Miguel Arias (29.4%). District 5 has Chavez (40.8%) vs. Paula Yang (36.3%). District 7 features Whelan (37.9%) vs. Nelson Esparza (37.7%).
What does it take to improve Fresno’s business climate? I would suggest that the first step is defining “business climate.”
A smooth-running City Hall, particularly in the planning/development department, is important. So, too, is a well-funded public safety system, a water system capable of delivering the goods even in a drought, and a road system able to handle growth. And there’s something to be said for a broad-based system of parks and cultural activities.
Those are areas directly impacted by City Hall policy. Schools and job-training options are vital, too.
And don’t forget housing, especially the availability of that ever-popular piece of the American dream, the single-family house.
Saturday’s Wall Street Journal has a good story by Christina Rexrode and Hannah Sender under the headline “The Financial Crisis Changed Home Buying Forever.” The sub-headline is: “Getting a piece of the American Dream looks a lot different than it did a decade ago.”
The Rexrode-Sender article has a national viewpoint, but its hook applies to Fresno, too. The lede:
“It was easy – too easy – to buy a house in the years leading up to the housing crisis.
“Lenders have tightened their standards, and many banks now view mortgages as a side service to offer a small group of wealthier customers rather than a big-volume revenue generator.
“What’s more, developers have pulled back from building after getting stuck with a glut of half-built or unsold homes in the crisis. That is pushing up home prices, which have climbed almost 75% since hitting a low in 2012. Home sales are slowing as a result, as many renters have given up on the idea of being able to buy a home, but prices keep rising.”
I don’t have statistics on the number of single family houses built in Fresno per year since 2008. I do know Fresno and the Valley used to be places where hardworking young people could buy a solid, affordable single-family house and begin their climb up the ladder of success. Somewhere along the line, that model of behavior was demonized. High-density housing was deemed the gold standard of urban planning.
Perhaps a strong business climate for Fresno includes a housing policy with a 1950s flavor. Let the City Council candidates fight it out.