Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin cleaned out the office she has called home for eight years last week, posted a picture on Twitter and tweeted “Out w/the old, in w/the new! Making room for 2017 and @LeeBrand3.”
We expect a smooth transition next week when Lee Brand becomes Fresno’s fourth strong mayor.
As a two-term city councilman, Brand is steeped in the intricacies and the politics of City Hall. Moreover, Brand worked closely with the mayor throughout their two simultaneous terms and received her endorsement in a race in which he narrowly prevailed over veteran Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea.
Fresno is in a much better place than it was before Swearengin’s election in 2008. Much has been made of the plan she drew up to lead our city through the Great Recession and avoid municipal bankruptcy, of her efforts to transform downtown Fresno into a vibrant commercial, entertainment and residential destination, and of her epic battle to rein in developer-driven urban sprawl.
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Often overlooked or undervalued by some is the professional approach that Swearengin brought to the job. She truly was nonpartisan – willing to work with anyone who could help improve Fresno. She believed in the power of sound policy and research. The facts mattered to Swearengin, and we are confident that they will always matter to her in her future endeavors.
We expect the same professional approach from Brand. He, too, is highly analytical and driven by facts – not the talking points that frequently frame debates on both sides of the political aisle. As a councilman, he proved himself to be a good listener and negotiator; these are important skills that should serve him well as mayor.
Brand also has shown himself to be independent and thick-skinned. Though he and a partner built a highly successful property-management business and he has many friends in the development industry, Brand stood solidly with Swearengin on the city’s new General Plan. We expect that he will go to great lengths to successfully implement it and revitalize Fresno’s urban core.
Many politicians make campaign promises and quickly forget many of them. We doubt this will be the case with Brand. He ran for mayor out of a love for Fresno. His promises, we believe, came from the heart – not from a consultant’s suggestions or from polling.
Thus we won’t be surprised if Brand tackles several big police issues immediately. These include creating a citizens police advisory commission, making the independent police auditor a full-time position (and requiring that person to reside in Fresno), and seeing to it that the department moves quickly to community-oriented policing.
We also expect Brand to come up with a rental-inspection program that will protect vulnerable citizens from slumlords without needlessly punishing honest and fair landlords.
Finally, we congratulate Brand on his victory, and look forward to the complete rollout of his agenda – one that we hope will spark increased economic activity, reduce crime and raise the quality of life for all Fresnans.