Darrell Steinberg has put out a detailed and optimistic platform to move Sacramento forward as the city’s next mayor, and clearly is the best-prepared and -equipped candidate to follow through.
His main rival, Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, has a bright future if she remains in politics. But Steinberg – an accomplished leader who has served for two decades in the state Senate and Assembly and on the Sacramento City Council – has the experience, wisdom and right priorities.
Even during the rough times as Senate president pro tem, when he was dealing with the scandal of three senators facing criminal charges, he kept his wits and helped push legislation of state and national significance.
Where others might turn away, he can rightly claim credit for bringing about a landmark initiative that provides more than $1 billion a year for the care of mentally ill people. He also helped create state funding mechanisms that could help the city improve services from parks to housing. Throughout, he was accessible, inclusive and a model of integrity.
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His ambitious agenda for Sacramento fits the post-Kevin Johnson era, as he made clear again in Monday’s debate sponsored by The Sacramento Bee, Channel 10 (KXTV), Capital Public Radio and California State University, Sacramento.
He will home in on economic development, and he has important ideas about working with the business community on apprenticeships and internships for young people. He has a passion for helping children and mentally ill people, and he vows to strengthen neighborhoods and break the logjam on homelessness.
Steinberg would use his Capitol connections to bring state grants to Sacramento, including some generated by bills he championed. Though he hasn’t been in City Hall recently, he served on the City Council during the 1990s, knows Sacramento inside and out, and has relationships with a wide spectrum of community leaders.
With the endorsements of three Sacramento County supervisors and elected officials across the region, he is well positioned to strengthen cooperation on regional issues, a shortcoming for too long.
Ashby is more focused on public safety. Again at Monday’s debate, she declared that her top priority is to get Sacramento off the list of cities with the biggest increase in violent crime and to restore more community policing.
It may be smart short-term politics given public concern over the recent spike in violent crime and her strong support from the police and fire unions. Helping to protect the public is a fundamental government function. But public safety is just one pressing issue. Even on that issue she misstated crime statistics in her district, muddling her advantage.
Ashby says she has more relevant recent experience with her 5 1/2 years on the council, including time as vice mayor and mayor pro tem. But that claim is weakened because those who have worked closely with her – six fellow council members – are endorsing Steinberg.
She has a compelling personal story and has been a strong council member, working to pass a library parcel tax and to fund levees protecting Natomas. She can add to that record in the 2 1/2 years remaining in her term, particularly by cooperating with Steinberg to accomplish their shared goals.
Ashby questions whether Steinberg is as fully committed to the city as she is, or whether he might still be eyeing statewide office. He says he’s all in; specifically, he’s not interested in being attorney general if the office is vacated by Kamala Harris, who is running for U.S. Senate.
Sacramento voters should be thrilled – not suspicious – that someone of Steinberg’s stature wants to be mayor. At this moment in Sacramento’s history, we need someone who can think and produce big. He’s the right person for the job.