Fresno Mayor Candidates Talk Change

4/3/2008 Fresno Nine candidates taking part in a forum each pledged to work to make downtown a better place, if elected mayor.

Candidate and current City Councilmember Henry T. Perea said his goal would be to bring more housing to the area. "Before you're going to convince anybody to come back downtown is you have to make sure downtown is its own neighborhood."

All of the candidates voiced support for more housing, and City Councilmember Jerry Duncan noted some of those now living downtown were part of the problem. "People are real afraid to come down here because they're going to be confronted by homeless people and until we can address this issue honestly and resolve it, downtowns going to struggle," said Duncan.

Candidates Ashley Swearengin and Mike Dages agreed bringing jobs and business downtown is the key. "The most important thing is to support the business that are here and look for opportunities to bring in additional businesses," Swearengin said.

Dages added, "We need to get people living down here that have spendable income and then those businesses will start to thrive, one thing we cannot do is chase away business and discourage business."

Former Fresno County Supervisor Doug Vagim expressed his support for preserving the Fulton Mall, while candidates Ignacio Garabay and Barbara Hunt called for free parking downtown.

Deputy Mayor Jeff Eben and former City Councilmember Tom Boyajian agreed the city should take action to go after the owners of vacant and neglected buildings in the downtown area.

Downtown advocate Kathy Omachi was among those watching the debate. She was pleased all the candidates seem to believe downtown and the city's Chinatown District are a priority, but added, "We want some positive changes, but we want promises that have been made to be kept."

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