Voters in Sacramento City Council District 4 have two distinct choices in the runoff election on Nov. 6.
They can go with a known quantity who isn't likely to shake things up. Or they can take a risk with a less tested candidate who can bring change.
With City Hall's problems and the city's imposing challenges, it doesn't make sense to embrace the status quo. That makes biotech manager Steve Hansen a better choice over city planning commissioner Joe Yee.
Hansen's high potential to be a thoughtful and energetic council member, especially on economic development, has been demonstrated throughout this campaign season.
Just consider his call to action after Sacramento's latest string of bad jobs news: Ford's Real Burgers, an institution on Sutterville Road, closed last weekend; Campbell Soup Co. announced last week it would shutter its south Sacramento plant; and Comcast is pulling out of its call center in Natomas.
"After three punches, Sacramento knocked out? Not for a minute," he told supporters this week. That's the kind of can-do attitude this city requires.
Better yet, Hansen offered some worthy ideas. He wants to create a "rapid response team," in partnership with business groups and state and federal agencies, to help displaced workers with benefits and training. He proposes an "economic crisis hotline" to identify and support businesses in danger of closing. And he says the city should launch an innovation fund (started with his council salary) to help high-tech and other entrepreneurs.
Hansen pledges to open up City Hall, where he says people are now treated based on who they know, instead of who they are or what ideas they have. He has to be careful, though, not to have a blind spot on employee pay and benefits. He has the endorsement of the police and firefighter unions and told The Bee's editorial board that he would have accepted an insufficient offer from the police union to pay only part of their pension contribution to CalPERS.
It's in Hansen's favor that he lives in midtown, which requires more attention from the city to continue its success. The redrawing of council districts put midtown and downtown together. With key decisions coming up on the railyard, Downtown Plaza and other major projects, it would be good for the council to have someone focused on the central city.
Hansen, who has the Sacramento Metro Chamber's support, has a good sense of how the projects are all connected, and the importance of working with West Sacramento to develop both sides of the river.
The district has been tilted toward Land Park, where both outgoing councilman Rob Fong and Yee live.
Yee, who was appointed to the council for about six months in 2000, has a longer track record in Sacramento and has endorsements from most local elected officials, the city's other major unions and the Regional Builders and Realtors.
But he is so steeped in the political establishment that it would be almost impossible for him to be a change agent.
The council badly needs one right now, and Hansen fits the bill.