Fresno Utilities director's bonus fuels fire over water rate hikes

Amid water rate hikes, George Hostetter asks: Where did Fresno’s utilities director’s bonus come from?


Amid all of this, it’s important to step back and consider the Mayor’s public stature in the wake of disaster.

Swearengin used a term from the sports world to explain how her Administration failed to keep the council fully informed of the bonus payments.

“We dropped the ball,” she said.

No need here to explain how “dropping the ball” can cause big problems in a baseball or football game.

But another sports concept may apply to the mayor, as well.

It’s obvious to any fan or sports writer that being No. 1, On Top of the World, King/Queen of the Hill, is intoxicating.

This dominance sways public perception. But the perception is fragile. One disastrous outing and the athlete is viewed in an entirely different light.

Smokin’ Joe Frazier was the undefeated heavyweight boxing champion of the world on January 21, 1973. He had a 29-0 record. He had whipped Muhammad Ali nearly 22 months earlier in one of history’s great fights.

Then the invincible Frazier on January 22, 1973 stepped into the ring against George Foreman. Foreman destroyed Frazier. Frazier never again looked so big or special in the public’s eyes.

Another example occurred on Jan. 12, 1969 in the Miami Orange Bowl. The Baltimore Colts were heavily favored in Super Bowl III. After all, the Colts were champions of the National Football League. The NFL was where real men played. Arrogance was the NFL’s prime product.

The New York Jets were champions of the upstart American Football League. Hadn’t the NFL’s Green Bay Packers crushed AFL teams in Super Bowls I and II? The Jets didn’t stand a chance.

When it was all over, the Jets had a 16-7 victory under their belts, Jets quarterback Joe Namath got to jog off the field waving his right index finger – No. 1! – high in the air and the NFL-AFL rivalry would never again be seen in the same light.

So it will be for Swearengin in the wake of the bonus fiasco. She’s been a fine mayor. She will continue to serve Fresno well. Her future in public service remains promising.

But Swearengin now seems smaller. It happens to everyone. It’s usually for the best.

1 comment
  1. Too bad nobody figured out that the water scam was an enterprise fund financed project that grew city government by $25 million a year. A fee that will never go away.

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