Sacramento's new City Council takes office this evening with a great opportunity to start with a clean or at least cleaner slate.
With two newly elected council members creating a majority of five newcomers since 2010, the council can move beyond the division and pettiness that stymied the city's progress the last four years.
Mayor Kevin Johnson can set the right tone by making clear he is ready to engage with each council member, particularly when their district priorities complement the city's larger interests. Johnson's immediate pursuit of "strong mayor" powers and the council's response had toxic effects on City Hall during his first term. The mayor and the council now have a chance to repair and rebuild that relationship.
In his second term, Johnson has decided to take a somewhat different role, The Bee's Ryan Lillis reported Sunday. He plans to spend even more time on the road to promote Sacramento. While the mayor has both the star power and connections to raise the city's stature nationally, we'd hope to see the mayor set a new agenda and operating style on the home front.
To put it gently, Sacramento has a mixed record of communicating and collaborating with neighboring cities and counties. While no one expects Johnson to become the region's No. 1 team player, he could lend his talents to helping advance other people's parades, such as the Next Economy effort, and efforts to transform the Sacramento area into a hub for food technology and "Farm to Fork" businesses.
Johnson and the rest of the council have a lot on their agenda, but the top priority must be jobs and the infrastructure and amenities that will make Sacramento an attractive place for new businesses.
City Manager John Shirey is putting the finishing touches on a five-year economic development plan that is to align with Next Economy. The council needs to be smart and imaginative on its job creation strategy, as well as its decisions regarding the railyard, a key to future development downtown.
Sacramento can't miss out on sizable funding coming from private sources (billionaire Richard Branson) and a public one (Proposition 39) for energy retrofit projects, particularly for public buildings.
As a rebounding economy boosts tax revenues and proceeds start flowing April 1 from the half-cent sales tax hike voters approved last month, the council needs to choose wisely which services to start restoring for residents. To put the city's finances on solid ground longer term, the council must hold the line on employee and retiree benefits as contracts for police officers and firefighters come up in June.
The council must also oversee big changes to garbage collection and a costly upgrade to the water and sewer system to make sure they go smoothly.
City Hall won't fare well on that to-do list without consensus and collegiality on the council. New council members Steve Hansen and Allen Warren will have to move quickly through the learning curve. Angelique Ashby and Jay Schenirer have emerged as strong leaders midway through their first terms, and Darrell Fong has been bold in trying to advance a continuous greenway and bike trail along the Sacramento River. Holdovers Steve Cohn, Kevin McCarty and Bonnie Pannell have to make the most of their experience, but also adapt to the new reality.
This evening, the new council will take the usual oath of office, swearing to support and defend the U.S. and California constitutions and to faithfully discharge their duties. Even if not out loud, council members ought to also pledge to write a new chapter in City Council history.