Commentary: Is new mayor ready for the bureaucrats?

Before we anoint Ashley Swearengin as Fresno's next great mayor, let's wait until she actually takes office in January and see how it goes. Swearengin, who was elected mayor on Tuesday, is expected to bring excellent collaborative skills and a no-excuses attitude to the job. I like what I've heard so far.

But talking a good game and actually performing are two different things. Politics in Fresno has a way of grinding away at public servants who have the best intentions. If Swearengin thinks her yearlong campaign for mayor was difficult, wait until she confronts the city's well-entrenched bureaucracy.

Let's take one issue that previous mayors have tried to fix: the cumbersome permitting process at City Hall. Swearengin has vowed to speed up the system. But you can bet the people in charge of slowing it down are already working to convince her that everything's fine. They are world-class excuse-makers.

Somewhere into her fourth week on the job, Swearengin could have a press conference to announce this: "After extensive review of the City Hall permitting process, I'm persuaded that Fresno's fine public servants are running this operation as efficiently as humanly possible and my campaign promise about speeding up the system is now inoperative."

I'm not saying that will happen, but Swearengin needs to know how easily she can be knocked off her mission by City Hall politics. It's often simpler to let the tired old ways of doing things continue than spend the time to take on outdated systems.

To read the complete column, visit The Fresno Bee.