Nothing in those debates has caused us to change the recommendation that we made before the June primary: Perea is the best choice to succeed two-term Mayor Ashley Swearengin.
Events of the past five months, in fact, have cemented our opinion. A mayor in Fresno’s executive-style government structure must combine strong leadership, a vision that will move the city forward and the political skills to implement that vision.
A successful mayor must mingle with people from all walks of life, hear their concerns, give those concerns a fair hearing and make tough decisions. A successful mayor must be highly visible and at ease with large crowds and the media. A successful mayor should inspire those around them and be the calm, reassuring face of the city in times of challenges and tragedy.
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Perea, a member of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors and a former Fresno councilman, isn’t perfect. We would prefer that he engaged in less old-fashioned power politics and more in consensus building.
Still, Perea has many more of the qualities and experiences needed to build upon Swearengin’s outstanding work than Brand does.
Brand’s big campaign messages are about competency, command of public policy and yeoman work ethic as a two-term Fresno city councilman: He sees a problem and goes deep into the weeds to fix it.
However, since finishing second to Perea in the primary, he has failed to do anything meaningful about Fresno’s well-documented slumlords and the unsafe and unhealthy substandard housing rented to our city’s impoverished residents.
All summer and fall, voters have had an opportunity to judge how he would perform on this and other issues as mayor. He has been unable to persuade the local apartment owners association, to which he has close ties, and his conservative council colleagues to move forward on a plan that does right by the most-vulnerable residents.
Brand’s political instincts are largely timid and reactive. For example, he did not lead the charge to address water discoloration and health-safety issues in the northeast Fresno neighborhoods that he represents. Instead he waited until citizen whistleblowers brought the longtime problem to light.
And Brand has straddled the middle ground on high-speed rail, which will be an economic game-changer for thousands of families in our region. Instead of championing the project, he has said that he supports whatever good it might provide for Fresno – while questioning the economic viability of the high-speed rail system in California. That’s not leadership. It’s caving in to those who favor the status quo.
The status quo is what Fresno – with its widespread poverty and many other challenges – can ill afford.
In contrast, Perea has been all in on high-speed rail since the beginning and has put tremendous energy into ensuring that high-speed rail projects in Fresno produce jobs and better paychecks for residents. He was a key leader in pushing the Fresno City Council to approve the still sparkling baseball stadium that planted the first seeds of downtown revitalization and has provided summer entertainment for one-half million or more fans every year.
Perea also is better connected to leadership in Sacramento and to the cities and communities that surround Fresno. To Swearengin’s great credit, she was able, as a Republican, to sell Gov. Jerry Brown and other influential Democrats on the importance of investing many millions of taxpayer dollars in Fresno. We believe that Perea will continue the infusion of state-directed funding here.
Perea’s vision for Fresno simply is more ambitious and global than Brand’s, and we believe he possesses the acumen to see these big goals fulfilled. Boiling it down: Perea is the candidate who gets things built; Brand is the candidate who renegotiates leases.