Lee Brand's lofty task: turn City Hall dreams into reality

Ashley Swearengin’s plans raised expectations sky-high. Lee Brand is tasked with implementing the plans and meeting the expectations.


Big City chief executives inherit their predecessors’ dreams.


Sometimes the more apt noun is “albatrosses.”

Either way, Fresno Mayor-elect Lee Brand finds himself in that fix.

It was eight years ago in The Bee that I detailed what I thought were the 10 biggest challenges Mayor-elect Ashley Swearengin was about to inherit from then-Mayor Alan Autry.

All 10 involved some form of debt or onerous financial obligation that had yet to rise to the level of a public crisis – but were, in my opinion, highly likely to do so.

The list included Granite Park, Fresno Metropolitan Museum, Chukchansi Park, No Neighborhood Left Behind bond payments and pension obligation bonds. None had been much of an issue in the 2008 mayoral campaign.

The Great Recession hit with full force almost immediately after Swearengin took office. The new mayor was soon struggling to meet the legal obligations on my list, provide basic city services and keep the city out of bankruptcy court.

I think only Jeff Reid, the city’s former city manager, read my piece. Thank you, Jeff.

Brand, currently the District 6 council member, took office at the same time as Swearengin. He played a vital role in guiding the city through the tough financial times. So, in a very real way, he already knows what it’s like to shoulder the responsibility of someone else’s unfulfilled designs.

Still, 2017 is different than 2009. Swearengin did things differently than Autry. Brand’s inheritance from Swearengin awaits him, but it has nothing to do with long-term bonds.

Swearengin’s two terms weren’t about borrowing. They were about plans. Thick plans, the kind of documents that break coffee tables with their weight.

Many of the plans are done. Some are still making their way through the bureaucratic pipeline. How many altogether? Too many to count.

Swearengin with her plans has raised The People’s expectations sky-high. Brand is tasked with implementing the plans and meeting the expectations.

To tell you the truth, I think Autry handed Swearengin an easier challenge than the one Swearengin is handing Brand.

Anyway, here is my list of challenges to energize (or haunt) Mayor Lee Brand. For each plan I provide a bit of context (The Skinny), an illuminating piece of the plan (The Rundown) and a pertinent quote from officialdom (The Pledge).

There are 12 plans on the list. All involve some type of unrealized but lofty dream courtesy of Ashley Swearengin.

1 comment
  1. The City of Fresno is the 5th largest City in the State of California and has an annual Budget of almost a billion dollars, with approximately 4,000 employees, and does NOT have an Internal Audit Unit to ensure the proper accounting, internal controls and safeguarding of all City Assets are in place and functioning as intended. As the retired Principal Internal Auditor for the City of Fresno, effective January 2016, this area should be of significance to the City and newly elected Mayor and all Council Members. All the top ten Cities in the State of California, except the City of Fresno, have an Internal Audit Unit. For the structure, benefits and type of Internal Audits performed by the Internal Audit Unit I oversaw while employed with the City, I reference all viewers of this comment to the City’s Administrative Order 1-10. I would hope that this significant area of concern and importance might be #11 on the Mayor’s Listing going forward. Thank You!

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