***The content in this section is paid for by the Central Valley Progressive PAC***
By Mike Rhodes
Daren Miller wants to be the District 3 Fresno City Council member who will replace Oliver Baines, who terms out in November 2018. According to Miller, he is comfortable running as a progressive because in that district (west Fresno, downtown and the southern part of the Tower District) there is no downside to being an advocate for working people, demanding decent and affordable housing for residents and establishing Fresno as a sanctuary city. Miller said, “the good thing about District 3 is that if you show yourself as a moderate you are going to lose votes.”
An analysis of District 3 shows that voters overwhelmingly support progressive issues and candidates in every election. It doesn’t matter if the issue is criminal justice reform, defeating Trump or supporting the city sanitation workers’ jobs (Measure G), District 3 is a bastion of progressive support.
This is important because there is a theory among political consultants in Fresno that argues that to win, you must move to the center of the political spectrum. This argument assumes that all the people on the left will vote for you anyway and that to win an election you must move to the right because that is where you will pick up more votes. “There are a couple of candidates who are going to take that stance (moving to the right), and I don’t think it is going to benefit them at all,” Miller said.
Miller is an active member of the Central Valley Progressive PAC because those values “align with my own political and personal philosophy.” All the potential candidates for District 3, seven men (so far), are listed in the side bar. Assuming a progressive candidate wins in this District, there is the potential to have a left-of-center majority at the Fresno City Council.
Everyone assumes that Esmeralda Soria will retain her seat. There is Luis Chavez who represents southwest Fresno. There is the District 3 race and progressives would need to win in District 7 (Clint Olivier is termed out there). Paul Caprioglio, although a Democrat, is so unreliable that you cannot count on him to be a part of a left-of-center coalition.
The movers and shakers in Fresno also see the potential of this shift on the Fresno City Council and are actively trying to move things in their direction. Of course, the Republicans will have their well-funded and slick candidates to represent the interests of the elite— deregulation, privatization of essential government services and tax cuts for the rich. The moderate/right Democrats also have a plan to dominate the Fresno City Council with what will be an unofficial slate of their preferred candidates. That is why it is important for progressives to have a plan and elect representatives that represent their interests.
What makes Miller a progressive?
When I interviewed Miller about his reasons for running and why he thought he could make a difference, he said that there are fundamental differences in how he would get things done. He became particularly animated when I asked him:
Is it possible to get the services, infrastructure and economic growth District 3 residents deserve when there is so much political influence coming from north Fresno? As a representative of southwest Fresno, downtown and the southern portion of the Tower District, how would you leverage your position on the City Council to change the “Tale of Two Cities” phenomena to the benefit your constituents?
Miller said “yes, I do believe it is possible. To give you a real-life example about what is happening now with the TCC (Transformative Climate Communities) money.” The outcome of this process will determine how $70 million is spent in Fresno. There are grassroots community groups as well as conservative forces struggling over how this money will be used.
Miller wants community participation to be the deciding factor, and he believes that it is the role of elected officials to engage affected residents to play a larger role in determining the outcome of how this TCC money is spent. “I believe that community, District 3—those affected areas downtown, southwest Fresno, Chinatown— those areas have an opportunity as a community to exert some muscle and political clout by having their masses there (at the TCC meetings),” Miller said.
Miller believes that the only way to stop the historic neglect of District 3 is to engage people in participatory democracy. He said “the issue is that there is not a quarterback right now. There are three or four organizations that are galvanizing their individual groups to come, which is OK, but it would be so much better if the District 3 representative was leading the community side of their involvement rather than being on the non-community side. Because that is what we have right now.
“Oliver Baines, I mean no disrespect to him, but he is on the non-community side right now. He is part of that camp. He is part of that agenda.”
Miller wants to be a different kind of City Council member—one that would be pushing democracy from the bottom up rather than the top down and that is how he thinks we can end the Tale of Two Cities.
I asked Miller about several issues of concern to those in the progressive community. In addition to supporting a proposal to make Fresno a sanctuary city (because he thinks everyone should have constitutional rights), he believes Fresno should follow state law on the marijuana issue, wants the homeless to be treated with dignity and respect and would move aggressively to stop slumlords.
The CVPPAC does not make endorsements until a few months before an election, so no candidate in the District 3 race has the group’s official support yet. But CVPPAC members, Miller and students from the Martin Luther King Freedom Center were canvassing in District 3 as this issue of the Community Alliance newspaper went to press. They are working hard to make sure a progressive candidate gets elected.
Although it is too early in the process for Miller to be raising money or setting up a Web site, he can be reached at email@example.com or (559) 930-4909. Contact him for more information or about how you can help.
The next meeting of the CVPPAC will be Saturday, August 12, at 3:30 p.m. at the Fresno Center for Nonviolence, located at 1584 N. Van Ness Ave. Miller will give a presentation followed by a Q&A. For more information, call Pam Whalen at (559) 994-9390.
2018 POTENTIAL CANDIDATES
This is a list of potential candidates in the Fresno City Council District 3 race. Because the election is not until November 2018, nobody has filed paperwork to run yet. But these are the people we have heard are interested in running or are being talked about as candidates. This list will change as we move closer to the election.
Miguel Arias (D)
Executive Director, Community and Family Services at Fresno Unified School District
State Center Community College District Trustee
Mike Briggs (R)
Owner, Mike Briggs Property
Executive Director, Central Valley Talk
Former Fresno City Council Member (District 1)
Tate Hill (D)
Senior Manager, Fresno Community Development Financial Institution
Formerly President & CEO, Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce
Barigye McCoy (D, formerly AI)
Vice President, African American Farmers Association
Daren Miller (D)
Longtime educator and community leader
Member, Central Valley Progressive PAC
Guillermo Moreno (R)
Director, Senior Citizen Village
Talk Show Host, PowerTalk 96.7
Craig Scharton (DS)
Interim President and CEO, Downtown Fresno Partnership
Former Fresno City Council Member (District 1)