Fresno City Council Shakeup

May 22, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Fresno's City Council is about to undergo a major change.More than half the city council members could be gone after this year's election.

Action News reporter Corin Hoggard has what that means for people doing business with the city and how current members plan to deal with the new faces.

The future of the city of Fresno hangs in the balance of elections in June and November of this year, when voters could completely make over the city council.

Brian Calhoun and Jerry Duncan have reached their term limits, so this is their last year on council.

Henry Perea and Mike Dages are both running for mayor. If either wins, they're off the council.

Larry Westerlund is running for re-election, but he's also serving in the U.S. Navy overseas. So even if he wins, he'll be gone for the first six months of next year.

That leaves Cynthia sterling and Blong Xiong as the only two who are definitely returning to mentor their new co-workers.

The new members' task is daunting and it starts immediately.

A thick binder holds the information they'll need for their first meeting.

In his first few weeks, Xiong had to vote on utility rates, developer impact fees, and the downtown hockey rink - all big money decisions.

"You know, my first day coming in - within a week, I already had a request: 'we need to see your district budget.' I'm like, 'budget? What budget are we talking about?'" said Blong Xiong, Fresno City Council.

But political analyst Don Larson says Sterling, Xiong and behind-the-scenes employees should be able to keep the ship running smoothly.

"I wouldn't be too alarmed at working with the city right now looking at these kinds of changes because I think the city staff will, for the most part, continue as it has," said Don Larson.

New members could ring the alarm inside council chambers though, bringing back an old way of doing business.

"Mr. Lung, shut up... Shut up. I'm not your child. Mr. Lung, be quiet."

But that was 1996.

More recent councils have kept the angry arguments outside of the public eye. Keeping that level of respect may be a challenge to new members.

"It may be a little bit difficult at first. I think it's more out of frustration. Not understanding, you know, trying to get your feet solid. I know I felt that when I first came in," said Cynthia Sterling. Sterling and Xiong say it's okay for the new members to think they can change the world. They just better understand they'll need help to do it.


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