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Fremont Mayor candidate Anu Natarajan is photographed on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012 in Fremont, Calif. (Aric Crabb/Staff)

Fremont is a breath of fresh air.

In an era of political sniping and elected officials who often ignore the fiscal problems confronting their cities, most of the candidates for Fremont mayor and City Council are not only thoughtful and informed, they're also deferential to each other.

In the mayoral campaign, Councilmembers Anu Natarajan and Bill Harrison stand out in the field of five seeking the top post. Picking between them is not easy because either one would do a good job.

We endorse Natarajan because of her strong attention to budget details. Moreover, it's a good opportunity for Fremont, a city that's 51 percent Asian, to have its first woman and first Asian mayor.

Both candidates recognize the city's potentials and its financial vulnerabilities.

They rightly tout the untapped economic opportunities of a city that sits on the edge of Silicon Valley and is about to get a new BART station at Warm Springs in just a few years.

At the same time, they recognize that the city has large debt for underfunded pensions and retiree health plans for city employees.

Specifically, the city is about $383 million in debt. While it's a large sum, on a per-capita basis it's about one-third the burden residents of Berkeley and Oakland face.

City officials deserve credit for taking steps to reduce the city's pension costs.

They're still high, but at least workers are making significant contributions. And while the debt on the shortfall is large, the city has responsibly somewhat shortened the repayment period.

Natarajan and Harrison have both been part of the City Council that approved those prudent fiscal measures. We're glad that both are midterm so neither is risking a council seat for a mayoral bid. In other words, both will still be on the council after the election. We hope one of them is the mayor.

As for the two open council seats, incumbent Suzanne Chan unquestionably deserves re-election.

She has not only been a part of the fiscally prudent council team, she also demonstrates an excellent mastery of financial details.

The second council choice is not as easy because most of the other five candidates would serve ably. We endorse John Dutra for the seat being vacated by his brother, Dominic.

This has nothing to do with preserving family political power (their father was a Fremont councilman and state assemblyman). Quite the contrary.

We were reluctant to endorse John Dutra for that very reason, but during our interview he stood out as the most well-informed and thoughtful challenger.

A final word. We were heartened by the mayoral candidacy of Aziz Akbari, an 18-year-old college student attending the University of Southern California. Akbari is not ready for the mayoral post, or the City Council, but would be an excellent addition to a city committee.

His thoughtfulness and energy make us feel good about the potential of future leaders.