Two hopefuls announced their plans to run for Fresno city council on Thursday (Jan. 4).
Daren Miller, a community advocate and educator in Madera, made a formal announcement in front of about 50 supporters at the Fresno Temple Church of God.
Meanwhile, longtime downtown advocate Craig Scharton says he is almost sure he is running. Scharton is interim CEO of the Downtown Fresno Partnership.
The Rest of the Field
One other candidate, Tate Hill, has filed paperwork and has a website up and running. Hill is a manager with the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission and former CEO of the Fresno Black Chamber of Commerce.
District 3 city councilman Oliver Baines is termed out at the end of 2018.
Barigye McCoy, a commercial sales executive, has announced his intention to run as well but has not filed with the city clerk’s office.
They are all vying for the District 3 seat occupied by Oliver Baines. The two-term councilman is termed out at the end of 2018. Baines has not made an endorsement in the race at this point.
Miller Promotes Development
Miller was introduced at his event by fellow educator Tim Liles (principal of Sunnyside High School), and Golden Westside Planning Committee chairwoman Debbie Darden. The candidate says he does not want southwest Fresno to be left behind.
Miller says attention is returning to District 3 after 40 years.
“A metamorphosis has got to happen in District 3,” Miller told supporters. “For the last 40 years, the City of Fresno has done everything they could to go far north, away from its origins in downtown and west Fresno.”
Miller says there is no room left in north Fresno and attention is now returning to District 3, which covers much of downtown as well as south and west Fresno. He wants to be part of the discussion, especially when it comes to the placement of a planned High Speed Rail station.
Mentioning the demographics of the district, Miller wants to court Hmong voters, saying they are the second largest ethnic group in the area. Miller has had a lengthy career in education, currently serving as a counselor at Desmond Middle School in Madera.
He has earned praise from some in Fresno’s progressive community, including a positive write up last year from Community Alliance.
Scharton Preparing for Run
Scharton is no stranger to City Hall. He served as a councilman from 1987-91 and worked in the Swearengin administration from 2009-2013 as downtown and neighborhood revitalization director.
Scharton: “My goal is to change the dialogue and push forward for best practices.”
A longtime downtown supporter, Scharton owned and operated Peeve’s Public House restaurant until 2016.
He tells GV Wire he is 90% committed to running. “Until the papers are pulled and turned in and votes happen and all of that, life can throw a lot of twists and turns,” Scharton said.
“At this point, I see no reason not to do it. My goal is to change the dialogue and push forward for best practices for revitalization; locally focused economic development. My goal isn’t to win; my goal is to improve our community,” Scharton said.
Scharton’s Council History
A lengthy Fresno Bee blog post from 2013 recounts Scharton’s first time around on council: he voted against a study for a future baseball stadium, supported building a downtown amphitheater (which never happened), and was actually against re-opening Fulton Mall to vehicles at the time.
Scharton has different views today. This past summer, he gave GV Wire a guided tour of the mall prior to its ribbon cutting and reopening in October.
The Bee blog also stated that Scharton was implicated, but never charged, in the Operation Rezone scandal of the 1990s.
Scharton isn’t worried about reliving his past. “Sometimes, it’s good to have a crabby, old warhorse around. I’m very matter of fact at this point. I really don’t care what other people think or don’t think.”
“I’m not easily going to be knocked off the balance beam, because of political winds or unnecessary drama,” he said.
Views on Current Issues
When it comes to homelessness in Fresno, Miller says it shouldn’t be viewed as a problem, rather it is a symptom of many different issues. He wants to take a proactive approach.
The final deadline for filing to run for Fresno City Council is March 9.
Scharton believes more needs to be invested in mental health services to help the homeless.
Last year, some community activists floated the idea of the city contributing to a legal defense fund for unauthorized immigrants detained by federal authorities.
Miller says he would want to look into such an idea. “All people need to be protected,” Miller said. Scharton says it is not a high priority for him.
Filing Deadline Two Months Away
March 9 is the final day to file to run in the June 5 primary. If a candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, they will win the race outright. If no candidate reaches that mark, the top two candidates will meet in a November run-off.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that Barigye McCoy was a Fresno County employee and union advocate. He left his job with the county in May.