Darrell Steinberg will enter Sacramento mayor’s office with volunteering, big bash

For Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg, the 189-day wait is almost over. But the hoopla is just beginning.

Six months after a decisive victory in the June primary, Steinberg starts his first term as Sacramento mayor next week. With about 80 hours remaining before he takes his oath of office, Steinberg on Saturday will kick off a marathon of events that includes trolleys, bacon, shovels, prayers, and Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna on bass.

It’s a three-day, $200,000 swearing-in that will take him into all eight city districts before culminating in an Old Sacramento bash on Tuesday night.

“When you get sworn into a position of leadership you have an opportunity to put out a message,” Steinberg said. “I want our Sacramento to continue to be a place where people serve, where people are engaged and ... people care and are excited about their community. It’s even more true since my election because of not only the results of the national election, but just the way people feel about politics in general.”

The privately-funded production begins Saturday with the Big Sac Give Back, a weekend of service projects throughout the city. Steinberg will meet supporters at Tahoe Park restaurant Bacon & Butter in the pre-dawn hours for a free breakfast before heading out on a trolley to take part in projects in each council member’s district.

He’ll start at Carol’s Books on Del Paso Boulevard where Councilman Allen Warren will lead a clean-up of the neighborhood and end his day with Councilman Eric Guerra back at Max Baer Park in Tahoe Park, where Guerra is hosting a tamale-making session that Santa Claus is expected to attend. On Sunday, Steinberg will help Councilman Steven Hansen serve a meal to seniors at Riverview Plaza.

“Volunteerism is so important right now in keeping our city together, but especially our park system,” said Councilman Jeff Harris, who is hosting a clean up of Glenn Hall Park in East Sacramento.

Steinberg will take a break from volunteering Monday to prepare for the main event: His swearing-in ceremony Tuesday night beginning at 5 p.m. at the California State Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento.

That family-friendly fete is free to the public, but Steinberg is asking for donations of sleeping bags or other outdoor gear for local homeless kids, which will be donated to Mustard Seed School, Sacramento LGBT Community Center and Wind Youth Services.

“It’s one of Darrell’s signature and most important issues to him, resolving homelessness, but at some point you need to be proactive on the front end and we have winter coming up,” said organizer Ed Emerson.

The celebration will include the Grant Drumline, Sacramento Children’s Choir, gospel singers The Porter Brothers & Genesis, the Luther Burbank JROTC and others, including a closing performance by Supervisor Phil Serna’s soul-funk band Unsupervised.

Steinberg will be ceremonially sworn in by California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. Councilmen Steve Hansen, Allen Warren, Eric Guerra and Larry Carr will also be sworn in after winning new terms in June.

The event will also feature free food from local restaurants including Federalist Public House, Onespeed/Waterboy and Brasserie Capitale. More than 1,700 people have requested tickets, and 1,000 people are expected to participate in the service projects.

Steinberg is expected to keep to the neighborhood service theme during his speech, which he has been working on for days. He’d like to see residents give back more than just during this week, and thinks City Hall should have a role in promoting civic consciousness. He said he will lay out specific policy for that on Tuesday.

It will be a plan to “take the momentum created over the next several days and to extend it out over the entire year,” he said.

“In the last month, especially, I get asked all the time, ‘What can I do?’” he said. “We want to answer that question ... Everybody who has lived here their entire lives or moved here knows about that intangible feeling about Sacramento, that it’s a place where you belong.”

Forty-three major donors have given or pledged contributions above $1,000 for a total of $197,000 to fund the community service events and the party, said Dan Weitzman, a high-profile fundraiser for Democrats who is handling finances for the event. He added that about 30-40 more individual donors had contributed smaller amounts.

The largest chunk of the donations, $25,000, came from the State Building & Construction Trades Council. Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health each pledged $15,000. Five donors promised $10,000 each: SMUD; UC Davis Health System; law firm Hanson Bridgett; financial services provider Citi and vision benefit company VSP Global.

“He does a lot of things for working people and ... in particular the apprenticeships and opportunities for young people,” said Building Trades head Robbie Hunter of why his organization gave so much.

Hunter said he “sat down” with Steinberg to discuss increasing construction opportunities for young people in Sacramento on state and city funded projects. Steinberg has spoken multiple times about the need to create career pathways for local students.

Missing from the donor list are unions for police and fire personnel, both of whom opposed Steinberg during the campaign and will negotiate city contracts in coming months.

Private car service Lyft also donated a limited number of $5 coupons for revelers who don’t want to drive themselves, Weitzman said.

The money was collected by a “social welfare” 501(c)(4) nonprofit called All About Sacramento created this summer to fund the swearing-in, Weitzman said. Such groups have become popular political tools for fundraising in part because they have no contribution limits and no disclosure requirements for donors. While so-called Super PACs are required to report where their money comes from, 501(c)(4) organizations are not.

The 501(c)(4) designation was at the heart of the 2010 “Citizens United” Supreme Court case that gave labor unions and corporations the ability to raise limitless sums for political purposes. President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team is currently funded by Trump for America, a 501(c)(4) that last week held a $5,000-per-ticket fundraising event.

Under IRS rules, however, they are informally required to spend less than 50 percent of their money directly on politics.

Steinberg has no involvement in the All About Sacramento committee, said spokeswoman Kelly Rivas. Many of the committee members are long-time friends and supporters, and some have business interests that may come before City Council. The list includes developer Mark Friedman, Hunter and public affairs consultants Jose Hermocillo and Donna Lucas.

Weitzman said the committee expected to spend all of its funds on the swearing-in events and would disband in coming weeks. He said that the committee intended to go “overboard” with disclosure, whether required by law or not, to prevent any questions about how the money was spent or who gave it. The group provided the list of donors and amounts this week after The Sacramento Bee requested it.

Election expert and Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson said the committee was “not unusual” for an inauguration.

“People are going to pay for an inauguration and try to curry favor,” she said. But disclosing donors is “as much as we can hope for” and “the media and public will be able to draw lines between the mayor and donors” in the future.

“We fear nothing,” said Weitzman. “We want to make sure we are going to follow every rule possible, full cooperation and disclosure.”

The fundraising marks a new high for a local swearing-in, though it is also paying for the service projects.

Johnson was the first mayor in the city to raise his oath-taking to mega-party status, raising $130,000 and spending $90,000 on a one-night blowout, according to Bee reports. About 2,800 tickets to the Memorial Auditorium event were given out, a giant American flag dominated the scene and confetti fell from the ceiling to honor the celebrity mayor.

Johnson’s two largest donors each gave $25,000: Sutter Health and the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. Johnson donated $20,000 of his remaining funds to save Sacramento’s Santa Parade, which was in danger of being canceled in 2008 for lack of funds. Another $15,000-$20,000 was given to a foundation for distribution to local nonprofits, The Sacramento Bee reported.

Like Steinberg, Johnson chose a community service theme but lacked the council buy-in that Steinberg has. His first term was marred by dissent from the start. The four councilmembers who also won victories that year declined to participate in Johnson’s event and instead had a small, joint ceremony at City Hall. All eight current councilmembers are participating in some part of Steinberg’s efforts, said Rivas.

Steinberg’s inclusive, everyman approach could augur more harmony in City Hall than greeted Johnson.

“We’re plain different people,” said Steinberg. “With me, since I’ve been around for 20 public years, what people see is what they will get.”

Bee writer Ryan Lillis contributed to this report. Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa

Related stories from Sacramento Bee