Mayoral radio show previews brawl ahead

George Hostetter’s inside look at H. Spees, Henry Perea, and Lee Brand’s radio interview with Brooke Ashjian.


“I’m a longtime Fresno resident – been here 63 years,” Perea said. “My professional career is human resources. I’ve done that for 33 years and still do it on a part-time basis. Like I’ve said, I’ve been blessed. I’ve had the opportunity to serve on a school board – the county Board of Education – on the Fresno City Council, and now I’m in my 12th year on the Board of Supervisors. So, I’ve got a lot of public service behind me.


“And I think what’s unique within all of that – I’ve really embedded myself in the community by serving 15 years as a Fresno police reserve officer. So I understand what it’s like to be in a patrol car, to be in an undercover operation and work with officers side by side. I’ve been an adjunct professor at Fresno Pacific for two years. I’ve done the kinds of things in my life where I believe I’ve grounded my experience. I can speak about a lot of issues because I’ve had experience on both sides of the aisle – City of Fresno, County of Fresno, and school board. I’m ready to serve the people of Fresno as mayor.”


“I know before the recession there were about 850 officers,” Perea said. “Right now, there are probably around 720. There’s definitely an opportunity now to rebuild the department. But when you have that kind of a gap, we shouldn’t be surprised at the amount of crime that we’ve been having in this city in the last three or four years.

“The one thing I understand, having served with Mayor Patterson and Mayor Autry and then watching Mayor Swearengin in her years in office, is I have an appreciation for the strong mayor form of government. In my mind, that is someone who can commit to vision and policy and execution. That’s where I think my mayorship will be different than any of the ones that preceded me. We definitely need to rebuild the Police Department.

“What I do know is this. Because of my background in law enforcement, I am a patrol-centric individual. My philosophy is going to be built around the backbone of the Police Department being the patrol division. You can call that vision. So, how do you execute that vision? What I would do is go into the department, take a look at all the special units that are in the department – now, I’m not saying any of them are not good – I’m just saying if you want patrol officers in neighborhoods, if you want people knowing their police officers, if you want police officers responding to calls for service, you have to have them in uniform in patrol cars.

“So, at the minimum, I would put 50 officers immediately on the street. And I have complete confidence that Chief Dyer is going to do that before the end of the year. But, like I said in my original (mayoral candidacy) announcement, if that’s not done January 1, I will guarantee the public that within the first 100 days those 50 officers, and probably more, will be on the streets. And it won’t cost the taxpayers a dime more, because it’s just being smart about how you allocate your resources.”


“Slumlords were an issue when I was on the City Council,” Perea said. “We passed some ordinances that dealt with property owners and the behavior of their tenants. I know there are other things we can do and will do when I’m the mayor of this city. But it’s an ongoing problem. In a perfect world, you would wish that everybody is responsible – whether they’re the tenant or they’re renting it out. But we know that sometimes you have problems. Sometimes they are not all owner-driven.

“But the point is this – a landlord has a responsibility to the neighborhood. Because once that neighborhood starts suffering and seeing a house that is boarded up or there’s drug activity or any other activity that is affecting their quality of life, the city has a responsibility to step in immediately and fix that. What I saw time after time, and still see today, is people get tired. They get frustrated. The city doesn’t respond. And what do they do? They move. Let me tell you – people want to move to another neighborhood in another part of town or to another community? That’s great. But do that because that’s what you want to do. Don’t do it because you’re running from your neighborhood.”

“I think the mayor has to be strong. The mayor has to make a very decisive call on how they’re going to deal with slumlords. And I can tell you today: I’m going to declare war on slumlords when I take office. We are not going to accept that behavior. They are making a lot of money, and especially the major slumlords who have a lot of properties in this town – and we all know who they are. That’s fine – I don’t have a problem with them making money. But you know what? You’re going to invest back in your properties and you’re going to have a responsible attitude toward the neighbors around those properties.”


“That, to me, is a city not paying attention,” Perea said. “It’s real simple. It’s the way my dad raised us. There were three brothers. We had a yard. He divided our yard into thirds. He knew who to praise. And he knew who to punish if something wasn’t done right in that section. I have a lot of respect for city workers. There are 3,000 of them. I know every day they come to work to do a great job. But, we’re going to be focused in January.”


“There are a lot of great things happening in Fresno,” Perea said. “There’s no question about it. I think the mayor started a lot of good programs. I think the responsibility of the next mayor is to execute those programs she has started and funded, and make them the best that they can be.

“But then you have to look to the future. I’ve always used the phrase, ‘I’m always going to keep one eye on the details and one eye on the horizon.’ The details are this: We are heading for a recession in a couple of years. If you follow all the things the governor has been saying and the numbers that are coming out, we are headed there. We (supervisors) have directed our CAO (county administrative officer) ‘start recession planning scenarios for how we’re going to deal with services.’

“When I was chairman in 2008 and we saw that a recession was coming, this is the direction I gave our board and our CAO: ‘We’re going to reduce the workforce by a thousand positions and we’re going to do it by attrition over the next two or three years.’ I can tell you, we went through the recession and, yes, there were some service reductions. But we didn’t have the problems the City of Fresno had. We came out of it with a double A credit rating.

“You go to the City of Fresno, they were near bankruptcy. They reduced their Police Department far below what they should have. They reduced their Fire Department 25%. They reduced code enforcement by a significant number. We shouldn’t be surprised that Summerset (apartments) happened. That game is over. There’s going to be long-term thinking and planning at the city.”

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