City Beat

Mayor Kevin Johnson wins labor support for making Sacramento a strong mayor city

Two more groups with ties to organized labor have endorsed Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s November ballot measure seeking to increase the powers of his office.

The campaign behind the strong-mayor measure announced Thursday that the union representing city police officers and an association of electrical contracting firms that use unionized workers have endorsed the plan. Unions representing local construction workers and ironworkers are also supporting the measure, along with some business groups.

“Each day we earn the trust of the community by being accountable and transparent in our police work. That’s what we’re measured on and that’s what our citizens demand,” police union leader Dustin Smith said in a statement released by Sacramento Tomorrow, the campaign committee backing the ballot measure. “We need a government structure that ensures the same kind of accountability and transparency at City Hall.”

Under the plan, the mayor would take on the authority to appoint and fire the city manager, as well as propose the city budget. Supporters argue that would create a more accountable government by transferring many of the authorities currently held by an unelected city manager to the elected mayor.

Opponents counter that the switch would place too much power in the hands of one official and that the city is functioning well under the current system.

Councilman Steve Hansen announced this week that he was forming a political committee to fight the measure. He is expected to be joined in that effort by local Democratic Party organizations.

Still, the mayor has slowly begun to assemble support for his plan from labor unions, a constituency that has historically battled with Johnson. The police union has backed previous strong-mayor plans, but building-trade groups have been among the most vocal opponents of past proposals.

Many of those building groups will represent workers on the downtown arena project, which Johnson has championed.

“Everyone wants strong leadership that benefits our neighborhoods and our local economy,” Fran McDermott, executive director of the National Electrical Contractors Association of Sacramento, said in a statement. “Measure L will increase accountability at City Hall (and) we believe more accountability will improve permitting practices and create jobs.”

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