Governor Schwarzenegger made his way through the crowd at the convention center to watch his friend say a sort of farewell to Fresno. Mayor Autry thanked the governor for helping him accomplish many of the things he set out to do when voters elected him in 2000. "We've been left behind a long, long time," he said to the governor, "and you saw fit to put an end to that."
Autry avoided the type of controversy he's brought on at previous "state of the city" speeches, like three years ago, when he made a drastic call to fix illegal immigration: "I will ask them to support a 2-year moratorium on immigration."
Or last year, when he blamed the Chamber of Commerce and big business for the immigration problem: "It was purely and simply a coalition of greed."
Instead, he focused on the things he's achieved. One of the biggest marks he leaves on the city was improvements in parks. Six years ago, he set out an ambitious goal: "It is our goal to be known as the city of a thousand parks." The city only has about 85 parks now, but that's 17 more than when Autry took over from Jim Patterson.
Autry's legacy will also include a balanced budget, setting Fresno apart from nearly every other big California city. City Council went to work Friday on a new budget that includes no deficits, and no layoffs. Autry says that leaves the next mayor poised for success. "I feel that my responsibility was to lay the foundation," he said, "to plow the field and plant the seeds, if you will. It'll be up to the next mayor to take it to the next level."
Mayor Autry won't rule out a run for higher office in California, but he says some of the stances he's taken as mayor could make him unpopular statewide. One thing he's definitely planning to do after his term ends in January is to get back into acting.