published on June 15, 2016 - 10:10 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff
In her final State of the City address, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin said the city was “gaining traction in virtually every way.”

“The state of Fresno is strong and getting stronger every day,” Mayor Ashley Swearengen proclaimed before an audience of more than 1,000 business leaders who packed the Fresno Convention Center’s New Exhibit Hall during Tuesday’s luncheon, which was sponsored by the Fresno Chamber of Commerce.

While introducing the mayor, whose last day in office will be Jan. 5, City Council President Paul Caprioglio praised Swearengin’s “grit, spunk, tenacity and resolve” as well as her “deep vision for Fresno” and “the positive, never-say-die attitude she brings to each and every meeting.”

Before delivering her speech, the mayor recognized Nexstar Broadcasting as this year’s CHAMPION (Companies Helping Achieve Meaningful Progress in our Neighborhoods) Award recipient “for their history of broadcast excellence and service to the community.”

The mayor also gave the Key to the City Award to Artie Padilla, executive director of Every Neighborhood Partnership, “for his tireless commitment to serving the residents of Fresno and improving the lives of our children through education.”

Swearengin said that after years of discussion and debate, long-delayed proposals like the Fulton Mall Reconstruction Project, the water infrastructure project and Bus Rapid Transit have finally launched.

During her early years in office, the mayor said she “could sense who we were becoming as a city and that there was just enough of a change in our mindset, enough dissatisfaction with the status quo and hunger for change and enough people mobilized in our community that if we added the unwavering focus and undeniable determination from City Hall to the equation, that things could, in fact, be ‘different’ this time.”

“That talk would turn to action and action to results,” Swearengin said.

Noting that during her administration, the city has rebounded from 18 percent unemployment, “a gutted city center” and chronic issues with homelessness, Swearengin added that the city’s bond rating has been upgraded and that “for two straight years now, there has been no mention of ‘going concern’” in the city’s financial status report.

Among her biggest accomplishments during two terms in office, Swearengin cited the kick off of the $20 million Fulton Street Restoration Project, which she called “a defining moment in the city’s history.”

The mayor added that $600 million has been spent in recent years to “secure the city’s water future,” making Fresno “one of the most drought-resistant cities in the nation.”

She also said her administration has bolstered public safety by adding police officers and firefighters, successfully advanced revitalization of downtown “without using any General Fund dollars,” “breathed new life” into the Blackstone Corridor with passage of a new General Plan and beefed up code enforcement to fight blight.

The mayor also said chronic homelessness in Fresno has been reduced by 51 percent during the past seven years.

Using a theme inspired by Walt Whitman’s poem “As I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer,” Swearengin said there was still “lots of work yet to be done” and urged the audience to “set our sights on the years ahead.” 

Thanking her family, members of her staff and city leaders for their support, the mayor fought back tears at the end of her speech. “May God bless the people of the city of Fresno,” she said in conclusion and received a standing ovation.

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