As Kevin Johnson winds down as mayor and Darrell Steinberg prepares to succeed him, both are capitalizing on change.
Thanks to Steinberg’s decisive win in the June primary, they have the luxury of a six-month handoff, and with a city manager to replace and a downtown renaissance in progress, it’s needed.
Johnson has been spending the time trying to help bring Major League Soccer to Sacramento and working on a big plan to boost Oak Park, the neighborhood where he grew up. It includes seeking a five-year federal grant of $20 million to $30 million for education, health, jobs and housing.
Steinberg, meanwhile, has been reaching out to groups that can help advance his ambitious agenda – and making himself clear, nice guy though he may famously be, on some political matters.
As The Bee’s Anita Chabria reported Tuesday, he’s been huddling with groups that backed his election rival, City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, including the local firefighters union and the Sacramento Metro Chamber. The former backed Ashby without even interviewing Steinberg and the latter slammed him during the campaign with misleading attack mailers.
Steinberg has to have a working relationship with public safety unions, to drive hard bargains on retiree costs and efficiencies. And the chamber is far from Sacramento’s only economic player. In fact, partly because it has for so long been so insular and ineffective, it increasingly has been challenged by groups like the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council and Region Business, which endorsed Steinberg.
Some fights are worth having, and Steinberg is right to call the Metro Chamber and firefighters union on the carpet.
But some fights are worth having, and Steinberg is right to call both groups on the carpet. The city has for years needed to take a firmer hand with the politically powerful firefighters union. And Sacramento needs and deserves civic leaders who can ante up and pull together. The Metro Chamber’s attacks were not only cowardly, but raised the question of what the chamber has done lately for the community.
As the guard changes and the city reboots, however, we do have one request for Johnson. As The Bee’s Phillip Reese documented, the mayor has often been AWOL since announcing in October that he wouldn’t seek a third, four-year term. As of last week, he had entirely missed 16 of the last 39 council meetings, and left early from another 16.
Being part of the council quorum is only one aspect of being mayor, and the big goals Johnson has focused on are surely important. But showing up also is part of the job, and people feel a little less heard every time their renowned mayor is not on the dais to hear them.
He has missed some important debates and votes. Just last week, he was absent when the council voted to delay putting a measure on the ballot to tax recreational marijuana. He also missed votes on creating a new parking zone near the downtown arena that opens in October, and on combating homelessness.
There’s a time for politics and there’s a time to govern, as both Steinberg and Johnson know well. It’s all about making the most of the mix.