Written by David Castellon
There were a couple pieces of news from Mayor Lee Brand’s State of the City address Wednesday in Downtown Fresno.
First, while there is no solid date set, an official ribbon cutting ceremony for the Fulton Street Restoration Project will take place at the corner of Fulton and Mariposa in the early fall.
The event will include a parade with his predecessor as mayor, Ashley Swearengin, in the lead car. Swearengin was key in getting the project started during her tenure.
“It will be a weekend to remember,” he said.
Brand also described the Fulton Mall changes as a “bridge” between downtown Fresno’s past and its exciting future.
Brand also announced to the crowd that he will be collaborating with City Manager Bruce Rudd a while longer than planned.
Rudd had announced earlier this year his plans to retire, and his successor, current Assistant City Manager Wilma Quan-Schecter, is scheduled to replace him on July 10.
City officials had said after that time Rudd would stay on in an advisory role for a few months, but Brand announced during his speech that Rudd could stay on advising for up to a year after he steps down as city manager.
Rudd said after the speech that he originally planned to be done in December, but the mayor asked him to stay on longer.
Despite this, Rudd said there’s a chance the mayor will not need him to stay much longer than originally planned.
“I still think it’s going to be around December,” Ruud said.
The rest of his remarks to a crowd of nearly 900 centered on a list of major accomplishments in his past six months as mayor.
They included city leaders passing and beginning implementation of the Rental Housing Act to improve substandard rental housing in the city, establishing a Citizens Public Safety Advisory Board to promote higher standards in the city’s police department, improving Fresno’s Standard & Poors credit rating from junk bond levels five years ago to an A-plus rating earlier this year.
“That will save ratepayers and taxpayers over $40 million over 22 years,” he told the crowd gathered at the Fresno Convention Center.
The luncheon speech was organized by the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, with sponsors including Fresno State, Noble Credit Union and Chevron.
Of course, Brand didn’t fail to announce the biggest recent feather in the city’s cap — Ulta Beauty and Amazon’s plans to build large distribution centers in Fresno.
Amazon intends to start out providing 1,500 jobs, which Brand noted could expand to 2,500, while Ulta could employ another 1,000 people.
“Amazon is finally here, and Fresno is on the map for e-commerce,” he said.
“This will change the narrative that has defined Fresno for too many years that includes generational poverty, high unemployment and high crime, to one of community-wide prosperity.”
All this falls in line with the mayor’s plans.
“The goal is to make Fresno the e-commerce capital of the West Coast,” he said.
Remaining steps include installing water and electrical lines and other infrastructure in the area of the “reverse triangle” near the intersection of highways 99 and 41, said Brand, who wants to direct new e-commerce businesses there along with manufacturers and reap higher employment.
“The possibility of sustainable, single-digit employment is finally within our grasp.”