The ink was not yet dry on Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s surprising announcement for State Controller when a rather ridiculous oped piece appeared over at Calnewsroom.com. Titled “5 Reasons Why Ashley Swearengin Isn’t Qualified for State Controller“. First of all, I live in Fresno, I’ve worked with Ashley on numerous issues, and opposed her on many issues. No matter what side of an argument she takes, her preparation, work ethic and determination are unquestioned by even her most strident opponents. I have no idea whether she’s qualified to be the State Controller, but I look at the Democrats on the ballot and I know they aren’t.
Let’s take Hrabe’s piece apart based on his statements. First, he cites “Swearengin’s Fiscal Mismanagent”, which need much more explanation. She inherited a complete fiscal disaster from her predecessor and the Obama recession on top of that. Every example he cites as her “mismanagement” was a bad deal made by the administration she succeeded. And not once, publicly or privately, have I heard her make excuses or complain. Instead, she’s signed ordinances like the “Better Business Act” and the “Labor Management Act”, both authored by council member Lee Brand, to keep the City from ever repeating those mistakes. Fresno’s finances are indeed precarious, and many municipal balance sheets across the country are on the verge of collapse. Mayor Swearengin took on the unions, and lost, in her fight to privatize residential waste services in town. Ironically, it was a small group of conservatives that took the initiative down. Still, she will take on every bargaining unit with an aggressive position. Why do you think the cops detest her so much?
Second, Hrabe says “She raised water rates”. True. For 25 years, the political leadership of Fresno has kicked the issue of our decaying water treatment, delivery and conveyance system down the road. In some sections of our downtown, we have wooden pipes. She and the council are fixing it. And yes, it costs money. And yes, some of the money is necessary because we’ve been undercharging for the true cost of water management in Fresno for 30 year. This is a big problem and she put a solution in place to solve it. And yes, people have to pay. Get over it. When government fails for decades, there is a price to catch up. I supported her plan and still do because it provides for the future in one plan. No expensive do over plans later.
Third, “Swearengin Sued Taxpayer Trying to Circulate a Petition to Overturn Rate Hike” Yes, she’s sued the three people who are angry about higher water rates, on advice of counsel, who advised that the petition was illegal. The city held countless town halls, sent mailers regarding the water plan to city residents, and nobody showed up. Nobody. She may have gotten bad advice, but the people trying to stop the water rate hikes are akin to the people who don’t want to fix anything and don’t have a better way themselves.
Fourth, “Swearengin Loves To Conduct Government Business In Secret”, citing the search process for a new President for Fresno State as the example. This is sophomoric argument. It wasn’t her search. She was a participant. She was not asked to dictate the terms and conditions of the search, in fact, this criticism was levied by leftist faculty on campus that wanted to turn the process into a progressive diversity exercise. Thank goodness we didn’t do that. And Fresno State has a great new President, Joseph Castro, to show for a responsible search process. It was not the Mayor’s job to tell the University how to conduct it’s search.
Fifth, and last, is “Swearengin’s Disregard for California Public Records Act”. Woah. This is a huge deal. I mean wow! Frankly, Mr. Hrabe, you need new sources in Fresno. Our Mayor’s administration has been transparent, bringing forward issues and problems for discussion in public that nobody would have even known about had her administration not raised the issues, such as deep debt balances in obscure city funds that nobody, and I mean nobody, had a clue about.
Again, I have no idea if Ashley Swearengin would be a good State Controller. She has been, on balance, a very good Mayor and remember, her opponent was left wing Assemblyman Henry Perea, who would have been a legitimate disaster for Fresno. A Republican running statewide is an uphill situation, that is no secret. Mr. Hrabe’s column is full of historical and contextual errors and examples, when in fact, there were other issues he could have raised to make his point.