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.
According to the state, the program is intended to fund neighborhood-level projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide local economic, environmental, and health benefits in disadvantaged communities.
Brand says the city should focus the money on infrastructure investments downtown that can support new development around the high speed rail station, and attract additional private sector investment in things like housing.
Brand: “This has got to be something that’s done very carefully and very methodically, because it’s very easy to become a patronage project, where you reward your friends and you have a very inefficient use of this money. My definition is where this money is primarily downtown, it will include parts of Chinatown, it will include parts of Southwest Fresno, but my intention is to leverage this investment to really make it work for the City of Fresno.”
That drew criticism from Perea, who called for a public process to determine how the money would be spent, and a call to direct spending to neighborhoods outside the downtown core, which have some of the highest poverty and pollution burdens in the state.
Perea: “I think some of that money should come here, but I’m also going to support the residents of Southwest Fresno and Southeast [Fresno] to make sure they get the portion of the money they believe they need, whether it’s for housing or to fix their sidewalks, whatever the criteria is.”
Current Mayor Ashley Swearengin has said she hopes that the money will be used to help build so-called transit oriented developments of mixed use housing and retail near the high speed rail station and the city’s new bus rapid transit lines.