Sacramento NAACP president talks about legal action for 84 people arrested during Stephon Clark protest in East Sacramento
Sacramento NAACP President Betty Williams is running for Sacramento City Council.
Williams, 62, would replace District 8 Councilman Larry Carr, who is not seeking re-election in the March 2020 vote.
If elected, Williams wants to strengthen the Sacramento Community Police Review Commission and advocate for Measure U sales tax dollars being spent in Meadowview and other south Sacramento neighborhoods.
Williams, who has been with the NAACP for about 15 years, has been a vocal activist for the black community, including in the wake of the high-profile fatal police shooting of Stephon Clark in March 2018. She has publicly pressured Police Chief Daniel Hahn to fire the two officers who fatally shot Clark – Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet.
Williams still believes they should be fired, and if they are not, they should face other consequences, such as a long-term suspension without pay, she said.
“In the black community, it never appears there’s a consequence when a black man is shot and killed in any way with the police officers,” Williams said.
Williams also wants to vote to give the police review commission subpoena power, and for the commission to start reaching out to the community to let them know when the meetings are being held.
“It has become the weakest commission it has ever been,” said Williams, a former member of the commission. “It’s like the best-kept secret in Sacramento.”
Williams, whose two brothers work in law enforcement in other states, also believes the city needs to hire more African American officers and needs to be more aggressive about firing officers who continuously get complaints from the black community.
“There are excellent officers, I’m sure,” Williams said. “My two brothers are an example of that. But there are officers that are constantly showing up on (NAACP’s) radar. We almost can tell who the officer is, based on how they’re treating African Americans.”
Williams did not originally support Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s idea for a November 2018 ballot measure to increase the Measure U sales tax, she said. Because the measure only required a simple majority to pass, it could not be legally tied to specific projects, meaning there was no guarantee the promises made to south and north Sacramento’s “disadvantaged neighborhoods” would be kept, she said.
She also didn’t think the city was transparent enough with voters that the 8.75 percent sales tax rate would be permanent, and that it’s higher than the sales tax rates of its suburbs.
Now that it’s passed, and Meadowview overwhelmingly approved it, Williams wants to make sure District 8 sees a benefit, she said.
So far, the only Measure U money designated explicitly for District 8 is about $500,000 to extend library and pool hours, summer camps and youth programs. The Measure U Community Advisory Committee will make more recommendations throughout the year.
Williams wants the city to use Measure U money for job training. As the owner of a staffing agency, she knows what types of employers are looking for workers and wants the city to fund job training to get residents ready for those types of jobs.
“Being in the industry, I know construction is huge,” Williams said. “I know laborers with the skill set are few. And they make excellent money.”
Williams suggested several of Meadowview’s vacant lots be used to build job training sites. She also wants the city to use Measure U money to provide capital for minorities to start small businesses – a popular idea the mayor has previously said he also supports.
Carr, who was elected to the seat in 2014, said he is not yet making an endorsement in the race, but that there will likely be several serious contenders, including Williams.
“She’s been very good at looking after African American issues at NAACP. That’s been a strength of hers,” Carr said. “We’ll see how that appeal works with the rest of the district. It’s not an African American district like people think it is.”
Hispanic residents make up the highest percentage of the district’s residents, followed by white, then Asian, then African American, Carr said.
The district includes the south Sacramento neighborhoods of Meadowview, Parkway, North Laguna Creek and Jacinto Creek.
Williams previously ran for City Council against Bonnie Pannell in 2012 and narrowly lost. If she wins, she would be the second woman on the nine-member council, joining Councilwoman Angelique Ashby.