Whelan jumps into City Council race with straightforward pitch: quality of life

Small businessman and attorney Brian Whelan on Thursday officially launched his campaign for the District 7 seat. Incumbent Clint Olivier is termed out.

Brian Whelan has the micro-message down pat. Same thing for the uplifting message.

If he can nail the macro-message, Whelan just might be the next city council member for Fresno’s urban center.


Whelan on Thursday officially launched his campaign for the District 7 seat. Two-term incumbent Clint Olivier is termed out in January 2019.

District 7 to a large degree covers central Fresno.

“I’m very proud of the city of Fresno,” Whelan said from the front lawn of his home on Van Ness Boulevard, a short hop south of Christmas Tree Lane “I’m proud of the neighbors I’ve had the great opportunity to meet here in the city of Fresno. And I’m proud to say I’m running for City Council right here in District 7.”

Dozens of supporters cheered and applauded. Mayor Lee Brand and Oliver were among them.

Whelan wasted no time getting to his key issue.

”Crime is something that is common to everyone in our district,” Whelan said. “As a councilman, I would be honored to support Mayor Brand and his vision to put a thousand policeman on the streets. But I realize that solving the problem is incumbent on us. The police can’t be everywhere.”

Whelan’s solution: A more robust Neighborhood Watch program throughout the district. Neighborhoods with lifeless programs would get new energy. Neighborhoods without programs would get onboard.

“I would like to be in a position to help empower people to use their voices and their eyes to identify and prevent some the crime we have going on here,” Whelan said. “It is my pledge that by the end of my first term I will have set up within all of the neighborhoods a Neighborhood Watch program so everyone can be in a position to be more active.”

Positive action among residents builds on itself, Whelan said. Pretty soon, he said, neighbors are also keeping a sharp eye on other quality-of-life issues such as vagrancy and decaying infrastructure.

“It would be my honor to work to lift up the district and the families in it,” Whelan said. “It’s a very diverse group of people and a very great group of people that I would be very proud to represent.”

Whelan delivered his remarks in Spanish, then yielded the spotlight to the Mayor.

“I’m proud to be here to lend my support and enthusiastic endorsement to Councilman Brian Whelan,” Brand said. “The turnout today speaks volumes about the support base that Brian has.”

It was only about 15 months ago that Brand was walking the precincts of District 7 as a mayoral candidate. He pitched to voters his vision of a Fresno enjoying the fruits of safety, unity and prosperity.

“Fresno is at a crossroads,” Brand said. “We need the right people in place to realize my vision of creating more jobs, having the ability to hire up to 1,000 police officers and restoring the neighborhoods of Fresno.”

Whelan, the Mayor added, “is the perfect kind of candidate I need as an ally on the council to move my agenda forward to make Fresno a much better city.”

Next up was Olivier. He introduced Marcelino Valdez Jr., who was Olivier’s opponent in the 2010 District 7 race.

It was a hard-fought campaign, Olivier said. Fast forward to 2018, Olivier added, and “both of us, who have grown to become friends, endorse Brian Whelan for the City Council.”

Whelan’s supporters responded with considerable noise.

Said Olivier: “I think that applause is warranted here.”

Olivier said he and Whelan are friends.

“I know he is a bright shining star with a great future in our city,” Olivier said. “He’s a man whose household is in order. That’s why I’m endorsing him wholeheartedly.”

Whelan is an attorney who lost to Jim Costa in 2012 in a Congressional race. Whelan’s District 7 opponents figure to include Nelson Esparza and Veva Islas.

Think of Whelan as the conservative in this fight, while Esparza and Islas are the progressives. To complete the picture, think of the Mayor as a middle-of-the-road executive with conservative leanings.

The Whelan launch was interesting.

I don’t know if I’ve ever met a council candidate whose signature campaign theme right out of the chute was Neighborhood Watch. Anyone who has heard Roz Clark speak in the Council Chamber knows the importance of Neighborhood Watch to Fresno’s well being. Still, the long-established program, admirable as it is, seems kind of small potatoes for what most likely will be a rip-roaring campaign.

I was chatting with a friend shortly after the Whelan announcement. He was at the event, too. My friend asked what I find so fascinating about City Hall.

“Fresno,” I said, “is an amazing city. Thirty-fourth largest city in America. Fifth largest city in a state with one of the world’s biggest economies. We’ve got 525,000 people and we keep growing. Add in Clovis and the county islands, and the metro area population is 650,000, at least. You know what? Every issue that riles Washington, D.C. or Sacramento at some point passes through Fresno City Hall. What could be more compelling than digging into all that, then reporting to the people what you unearthed? What could be more fun?”

Not much, in my book.

It’s been my experience that the best council members (and mayors) have a similar attitude toward the art of self-rule. It’s a sacred duty, yes. But it’s also a blast.

I’ll bet Brian Whelan has the same enthusiasm.

Next time, Brian, show it!

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