This week on Valley Edition we talk about the City of Fresno's new "fiscal sustainability plan," and find out what city leaders are doing to avoid bankruptcy. We also hear about efforts to bring solar power to Valley homes, and a new program that aims to help disadvantaged kids and share with them the joy of cycling.
Valley Edition for March 27, 2012:
Segment 1: City of Fresno Finances
After declaring last week that the City of Fresno is in "severe financial distress", Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin and City Manager Mark Scott outlined a plan to restore the city's fiscal health over the next decade. Since February 2009, the city has cut around $100 million from its operating budget and has eliminated nearly 1,000 employees. But despite those cuts, a projected $15 million deficit remains for the next fiscal year, and that amount grows to a $66 million deficit over the next five years. Mayor Swearengin says the city can't cut core services any more, and now needs employee compensation concessions to close the budget gap. Employee unions say they've already given up millions and shouldn't be blamed for the situation. Can Fresno avoid the fate of Vallejo, which declared bankruptcy in 2008, and Stockton, which is currently considering the bankruptcy protection? Fresno City Council member Lee Brand joins us to talk about how the city got in such a mess, and how it plans to get out. And Dan Oney, editor of the California publication Public CEO tells us how other California cities are dealing with the same problems.
Segment 2: Solar switch-up
With abundant sunshine most of the year, the Central Valley is quickly becoming one of the top spots for solar installations in the state. And on some sunny days, owners of solar systems can even see their electric meters spin backwards, as they send excess power back into the grid. That's thanks to a 15 year old state law called "net metering" which requires utilities to credit users when they generate more power than they consume. But a new effort is underway by some California utilities to change this, as they say all customers should bear the cost of maintaining the electrical grid. Solar expert Tom Cotter of Real Goods Solar, and Adam Browning of VoteSolar.org join host Juanita Stevenson to talk about what this change could mean for solar owners.
Segment 3: Off the Front
A new Fresno based nonprofit organization aims to give bicycles to every 4th grade student in the Fresno Unified School District who meets certain academic, character and community service. The group, known as Off the Front hopes to tackle the problems of education and childhood obesity with this new effort, and instill in youth the joy of cycling. Guest Mike Sladen joins host Juanita Stevenson to talk about Off the Front's mission and programs.