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City of Fresno

Lee Brand / Valley Public Radio

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand took office a little less than 30 days ago, and it’s been an eventful first month. Last week he unveiled his plan to tackle one of the city’s biggest issues – substandard rental housing - conditions that in many cases are unsafe and unhealthy. The plan, which includes a baseline inspection of the city’s existing rental apartments and homes, is one of the biggest changes in years in the way city hall works. It’s also the first big test of Brand’s new administration and his relationship with the city council as it goes up for a vote on Thursday.

A lot has happened in Fresno in the last eight years under the leadership of mayor Ashley Swearengin, who leaves office next month. The city weathered a major economic storm, adopted a new general plan that attempts to rein in sprawl, removed the Fulton Mall, and started building major new water infrastructure. The city also added a police auditor, started construction on a bus rapid transit line and adopted a new development code.

Lee Brand / Valley Public Radio

For the first time in eight years, Central California’s largest city is about to get a new leader. Last week Fresno Mayor-elect Lee Brand announced his transition team, plus the hire of two top aides to senior positions in his administration. Brand's former campaign manager Tim Orman will become the mayor's chief of staff, and former campaign rival H. Spees will become Brand's director of strategic initiatives, both with six-figures salaries. 

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

After decades of complaints from residents, a vote this week by the Fresno City Council could signal what some think is a new direction for southwest Fresno. The city is considering a new specific plan that will guide the future of the 3,000 acre neighborhood west of Highway 99 and south of Highway 180. At its heart is a goal to remake the area, and reduce pollution by telling big industrial facilities to move elsewhere.   

When she was a little girl, Kimberly McCoy lived near some of the heavy industry that marks parts of southwest Fresno.

Kerry Klein/KVPR

The streets of Fresno can be dangerous—not just to drivers and bicyclists, but also to pedestrians. Following a trio of fatal accidents last week, more pedestrians have died this year than in all of 2015, and they’ve made up more than half of all traffic-related deaths. Now, a new city plan aim to make the city safer for walking.

It’s 2:30 p.m. on a Tuesday. And in this part of southeast Fresno, that means one thing: school’s out.

City of Fresno

For the last seven-and-a-half years, Lee Brand has been the Fresno City Council's resident policy expert. He's helped write and pass laws about city debt and finance that many say helped the city recover from a deep financial crisis. Now he wants to lead the city from the office of mayor, squaring off against current Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea in the November election.

Henry R. Perea - Facebook

Henry Perea has spent the past 20 years in public service, first as a member of the Fresno City Council, and most recently as a member of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. Now he wants to be Fresno's next mayor. With election day just weeks away, he recently visited Valley Public Radio for a hard-hitting conversation about the issues, from homelessness to the influence developers have at city hall. 

California High-Speed Rail Authority

The Fresno City Council could act this week to bolster the city's push to be chosen as the home for the heavy maintenance facility for California’s high-speed rail project. 

On Thursday, the council is set to vote on a proposal that would set aside $250,000 to secure the rights to property at the proposed site in Southwest Fresno. That money would be used to put non-refundable deposits on the land which is currently owned by several private parties. 

The city has identified the lack of control over the land as a major hurdle in their push to attract the project.

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

While the City of Fresno tries to figure out what to do about discolored water at some homes in Northeast Fresno, some residents there are already taking drastic steps, including repiping their homes.

On a normal day, the first thing you notice when you enter the home of Faith and Buzz Nitschke is the dozens of antique clocks quietly ticking away.

But that is not the case on this day.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The news that the City of Fresno is set to receive up to $70 million from the state in the form of cap-and-trade funding is the latest issue in the Fresno mayor’s race.

Mayoral candidates Lee Brand and Henry Perea offered opposing visions of how to spend the money during a debate last night that focused on issue of downtown revitalization.

It's less than two months from election day and many of the local races that will be before voters in November are heating up. From city council and mayoral contests in Fresno and Bakersfield to a couple of contested congressional races, it's providing plenty of fodder for local political observers. We spoke with former State Assemblywoman and current CSUB political science professor Nicole Parra, and Clovis-based Republican political strategist Jim Verros about what's really happening in some of the most closely watched contests. 

Fresno Police Department

Community violence and a visit to the doctor might seem like two totally unrelated topics. But for people living in violent communities, and the police who patrol them, it might be more closely related than you think. In the first report in a multi-part series on the links between health care and violence in the San Joaquin Valley, we learn what happened when one man’s health care interventions became law enforcement interventions. 

Roger and Freddy Centeno were brothers and part of a big family living in Southeast Fresno. In all, there were nine kids, six girls and three boys.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

A new report from the Fresno Police Department appears to show a pattern of African-American residents being over-represented in interactions with police. African-Americans were disproportionately more likely to be interviewed than Hispanic or white residents in all areas of the city.

While they only make up about 6% of the city’s population, black residents made up between 20-to-25% of all field interviews according to police logs from the Office of Independent Review.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Oliver Baines has a unique perspective on the issue of Black Lives Matter and law enforcement. Currently the only African-American on the Fresno City Council, Baines also served around 12 years as an officer with the Fresno Police Department.  Speaking on Valley Public Radio’s Valley Edition Tuesday, Baines recalled his own experiences with racially biased policing, while pleading for calm and understanding in the wake of recent shootings and protests.  Baines said the often heated rhetoric from people on both sides of the issue serves to distract from the goal of racial reconciliation.

Henry R. Perea - Facebook

Northeast Fresno's water problem - corroded residential pipes that have resulted in rusty water that in some cases contains lead - isn't just an issue for the residents involved, it's now the latest issue in the 2016 mayor's race. 

John Chacon / CA Department of Water Resources

Widespread concern in northeast Fresno about rusty water that can contain elevated levels of lead is the latest issue in the Fresno mayor's race, while the city continues to maintain that its water is safe to drink.

Speaking in separate events within minutes of each other, mayoral candidates Lee Brand and Henry Perea exchanged comments today about the city's response to the problem, both past and present. 

New salary numbers are out today for top City of Fresno administrators. Last year the city’s highest paid employee was retiring pension fund manager Stanley McDivitt, who was paid  $345,000, including a $150,000 leave payout, nearly equal to his entire annual salary. Former Chief Information Officer Carolyn Hogg earned $279,000, including a $100,000 severance package.

The disclosures were released this week by city officials as required by Fresno's Transparency Act.

California High-Speed Rail Authority

Work is progressing on the high-speed rail project’s most visible landmark in downtown Fresno, the new Tuolumne Street Bridge. Workers today began lifting the first of 42 massive steel and concrete girders into place.

The beams are 149 feet long and each weighs 83 tons. They will one day carry vehicle traffic from both Highway 99 and downtown Fresno over the Union Pacific and high speed rail tracks. Officials with the California High-Speed Rail Authority say that construction on the bridge is ahead of schedule.

CMAC

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin delivered a message about long term changes in the city's direction Wednesday in what will be her last State of the City speech.

It was something of a victory lap for Swearengin who is nearing the end of her second and final term in office. Before a crowd at the Convention Center, she touted improvements over the last seven-and-a-half years in a number of areas, from the city’s financial health to Fresno’s shrinking homeless population. 

Kerry Klein/KVPR

Fresno police say they have made an arrest in the case of a hit and run that seriously injured a prominent local doctor. It appears a police lapel video camera helped solve the case.

Dr. William Dominic was hit and badly injured while riding his bike back home from his job at Community Regional Medical Center in February.

The case went cold until a tip came in this week pointing toward 22-year old Brianna Sandoval, who had previously been stopped by a traffic cop for an unrelated reason in April.

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