City Beat

Strong-mayor campaign gets labor support, $100,000 donation from Tsakopoulos

An old friend and an old foe have thrown their support behind Kevin Johnson’s strong-mayor effort.

The Sacramento-Sierra Building Trades & Construction Council, a coalition of more than two dozen unions, announced Wednesday it was supporting Johnson’s November ballot measure to make the mayor more powerful.

That group was the lead opponent of Johnson’s first strong-mayor plan in 2009 and also fought subsequent plans by Johnson to increase his office’s authority; those plans would have granted Johnson more powers than the current proposal. The council’s director, Kevin Ferreira, said Wednesday the measure proposed now “will make Sacramento more accountable and provide the checks and balances our city needs to create high-paying jobs and empower working families.”

The campaign also received a financial boost from the region’s pre-eminent land developer, Angelo K. Tsakopoulos, who last week donated $100,000 to the strong-mayor campaign. According to campaign finance records filed with the city clerk, it was the single largest donation Tsakopoulos or his companies have made to a City Hall political cause since at least 2001.

Tsakopoulos has been a loyal ally of the mayor’s and helped persuade Johnson to seek a career in politics.

“We are pleased to have his support and (that of) others who believe that after nearly 100 years it’s time that Sacramento join the state’s other large cities in having a mayor accountable to its citizens,” said Josh Wood, a spokesman for Sacramento Tomorrow, the campaign committee behind the effort. The group also announced Wednesday the endorsement of the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, which also has backed Johnson’s previous efforts to boost the clout of the mayor’s job.

If approved by voters, Measure L would transfer many of the responsibilities currently held by the unelected city manager to Johnson. The mayor would also be able to appoint the city manager, pending City Council approval, and unilaterally fire the city manager.

Opponents argue the current system serves the city well and that Johnson’s proposal would place too much power into the hands of one elected official.

With the endorsement of the building trades union, the pro-campaign continues assembling support from some of the city’s labor groups. Unions representing construction workers, iron workers and police officers have also supported the plan.

The timing of the building trades’ support is notable, given the high-profile turmoil within the city’s labor leadership over the strong-mayor plan. Bill Camp, head of the powerful Sacramento Central Labor Council, was placed on paid leave last week, and his supporters said the move came in response to Camp’s vocal opposition to the strong-mayor plan.

City Councilman Steve Hansen, who is leading the opposition campaign to the strong-mayor plan, said the endorsements announced Wednesday “aren’t news.”

“The real story here is that, despite a lot of money and support from various business interests, the people of Sacramento don’t really want this,” he said. “They can spend as much as they want, and we’ll put our faith in the people making the right decision.”

Hansen also described the pro-campaign as “panicky” and criticized the effort for announcing “every little endorsement.”

“It seems they’re somewhat desperate to show they’re not alone,” he said.

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