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December 5, 2006 > Bill Harrison joins Fremont's city council

Bill Harrison joins Fremont's city council

Recently elected city councilperson, Bill Harrison, will take his seat as the new face on the Fremont City Council December 7, 2006 replacing outgoing councilmember Dominic Dutra who chose not to run for reelection. Moving from Planning Commission to City Council, Harrison received the greatest percentage of votes (43.5 percent) for the two vacant seats [Anu Natarajan was also elected with 35.7 percent of the votes to continue to serve on the seat she had been appointed to previously]. TCV asked Harrison for comments just prior to assuming his new role in city government.

TCV: What was your motivation to run for election and what will you bring to the council?

Harrison: I was motivated to run because I was born and raised in Fremont, growing up in this great city. I have two little boys, aged 4 and 2, and I want them to grow up in an even better city where we have jobs, shopping and housing for our citizens. Fremont should be a place where roads are well maintained, police and firefighters can respond quickly and efficiently to emergencies. During my campaign I focused on economic development, restoring city services and preserving our historic neighborhoods.

TCV: What is the role of members of the city council in Fremont’s city manager/council form of government?

Harrison: City councilmembers wear several different hats: goal setter, policy setter, and as proponents and cheerleaders for the city. We need to sell our story of what a great place Fremont is: our location, diversity, parks, schools, hospital system, BART system and that we are on the verge of doing some exciting things. Part of the role of councilperson besides hiring a city manager and city attorney as well as setting policy and considering issues on Tuesday nights is to be visible and the face of the community.

TCV: Will you bring a different energy to the council?

Harrison: Everyone on the council does this in their own way. I would like to think that my connection as someone born and raised here will bring a different flair to the council. Having two young children will give me a certain approach to what is important. Each member brings their own perspective. We all have our own backgrounds and passions whether environmental, public safety, community outreach, planning. Each of us has our own niche of interests and together, we can be a great team.

TCV: What place do the historic districts have in relationship to a “downtown?”

Harrison: My favorite quote of John F. Kennedy is when he coined the phrase that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”  This is a propos to the downtown development. Once we bring people into Fremont, we can show them the historic districts and all the other great things of Fremont. Downtown can be a launching pad for the rest of the city.

TCV: Are you saying that downtown will lead the way before redevelopment of the historic districts?

Harrison: I hope not from a timing perspective. I would like to see projects such as Centerville [Unified Site] get off the ground. I am looking forward 10 or 20 years. I don’t believe downtown will pull away from the historic districts or Pacific Commons and other areas of the city. It should, back to the metaphor I used, “raise all boats.” Downtown is the rising tide. The SummerHill [Walnut Ave.] project is the first small wave of the tide that should enhance our city.

TCV: Where do you see the city in its evolution? Have city politics held us back?

Harrison: If we look back during the first 50 years of the city, there has been a huge change from a farming community to a “bedroom” community that has now changed again. If you look at the area around my office in Centerville, the changes have not happened overnight; it took 10 – 12 years. We are not operating in a theoretical world; this is the real world where we are competing with other cities for projects and resources. I do not think we have been held back but may need to be a bit more proactive by telling our story and letting others know that Fremont is the place to be.

TCV: How will you work to put Fremont in a Bay Area leadership position?

Harrison: The fact that a major league franchise is even looking at our area raises our profile. We are no longer just the fourth largest city in the Bay Area, but have other attributes that will enhance our visibility. We need to get out and tell our story better and let everyone know that we are a microcosm of the world with a lot of great selling points.

TCV: What should Fremont do as pressure mounts for more housing with less area of infill?

Harrison: Infill will only go so far. I felt this way on the Planning Commission and will on the council as well; although infill is planned, we also need to respect those that came to the area first. A vacant lot next door may not remain that way forever, but those in the neighborhood have some right to expect consideration of how any development will affect them. We will have to move vertically as we go forward with higher density. This leads to parking issues that will need to be resolved probably through parking structures although they are very expensive. We may see more mixed use in place of lower performing commercial developments.

The market will decide what the best use is for developments although we need to be careful that what is proposed is right for the city as well. A developer may not know Fremont; its differing requirements and needs for sections of the city. We need to make sure those are respected.

TCV: Any additional comments?

Harrison: I am joining the council at an interesting time in the city’s history.  In our first 50 years Fremont has gone through the growing pains of becoming a city. What we do now and over the next five to ten years will determine how we celebrate our next 50 years. I am looking forward to being a part of that.

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