Many applaud Mayor Johnson’s budget priorities for neighborhoods

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, shown launching the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council in 2015.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, shown launching the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council in 2015. Sacramento Bee file

Sacramento’s City Council chamber filled with song Tuesday night as a stream of residents expressed their support for Mayor Kevin Johnson’s budget priority memo.

About 50 people signed up to talk, prompting Johnson to ask speakers to get up in groups if they had similar things to say.

One of those groups included Ashanti Lewis, an eighth-grader with South Sacramento Visual and Performing Arts, who gave an a capella performance at Johnson’s request. Her group supported spending on youth programming.

Their remarks and those of the council backed up Johnson’s claim that the budget process was more inclusive of the community and council members’ values than previous years.

Council and community members applauded that the budget priorities this year move the city’s focus from downtown to other neighborhoods across Sacramento that also need investment.

“This council is committed to not just having a vibrant downtown, but a vibrant city,” council member Larry Carr said.

The mayor’s memo outlined five focus areas for funding – economic development, public safety, youth and education, good governance and quality of life.

The majority of speakers at Tuesday’s meeting supported funding for either youth programming or economic development.

Les Simmons, representing the South Sacramento Christian Center, said the values described in the budget memo show commitment to uplifting youth and reinvesting in communities.

“By you approving this budget, you are making that commitment to our youth, that you believe more in them than they do in themselves,” he said.

On the economic development side, many people favored continued emphasis on technological innovation and entrepreneurship in the city.

Brian Collins, chief marketing officer of AngelHack and a member of the I/O Labs board, said Sacramento is at a critical point in becoming a tech community.

“Like any industry, it needs a strong investment to kick off,” he said.

Negative comments from residents and council members revolved around the need for more code enforcement officers in Del Paso Heights. Johnson’s memo recommends the budget include two new code enforcement officers.

Johnson’s memo also mentions that the city is expected to hit budget deficits as soon as fiscal year 2017/2018. Some council members cautioned that the memo is not an official budget.

Council member Angelique Ashby said she’s a slightly apprehensive about the long list because she knows there are tough conversations to come.

“If you’re going to give it, make sure you can sustain it,” she said, because it’s tough for people when the city has to take services away.

The council unanimously passed the memo on to the city manager to come up with a budget proposal that includes as many of the priorities as possible. The council will vote on the final budget in June.

Ellen Garrison: 916-321-1920, @EllenGarrison

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