City Beat

League of Women Voters opposing Sacramento leader’s ‘strong mayor’ plan

It’s more than three months until the November election. But clearly, the looming political campaign over whether Sacramento should transform its style of governance is on the minds of some groups.

The Sacramento chapter of the League of Women Voters has sent a letter to Mayor Kevin Johnson and the City Council expressing its opposition to Johnson’s “strong mayor” measure that will appear on the November ballot. The League has also offered to write the opposition ballot argument against the measure, dubbed the Checks and Balances Act of 2014.

The City Council voted 5-4 in November to place Johnson’s proposal on the ballot.

Under the plan, many of the day-to-day responsibilities currently held by the unelected city manager would transition to the mayor, including the authority to propose the city budget. The mayor would also be able to appoint the city manager – pending City Council approval – and could remove the city manager unilaterally.

The mayor could also veto many ordinances passed by the City Council. The council could override vetoes with a supermajority vote.

Johnson and the measure’s supporters said the proposal would modernize Sacramento government and place it in line with most other large cities.

Opponents of the plan, including some labor unions and the League of Women Voters, worry the changes would place too much power in the hands of one elected official.

“The League position, adopted in 2009 (for a previous proposal by Johnson), after a thorough study of city governance and our consensus process, states in part that Sacramento, as a city of neighborhoods, is better suited for a collaborative council-manager form of government,” the League of Women Voters letter stated. “This structure gives the public equal access to a mayor and a city council and assures professional management of our city.”

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