City Beat

Unions line up against, for Sacramento strong-mayor plan

The campaign opposing the November ballot measure seeking to increase the powers of the mayor’s office in Sacramento has landed its first organized-labor support.

The unions representing local carpenters, community college teachers and plumbers have endorsed the opposition campaign to Measure L.

“Were pleased to have the support of working people from Sacramento,” said Councilman Steve Hansen, who is leading the opposition campaign. “Clearly folks want jobs and they would like to see a city government that is trying to do the best for the people.”

Earlier this week, the local plumbers union donated $45,000 to the opposition campaign. That union has spent thousands of dollars fighting Mayor Kevin Johnson since the mayor first ran for office in 2008.

The carpenters and the Los Rios College Federation of Teachers each gave $5,000, campaign finance records show. Hansen said the statewide California Federation of Teachers had also endorsed his campaign.

The campaign pushing the ballot measure has gained its share of union support. This week, the campaign for Measure L announced that it had received the endorsement of the District Council 16 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. Unions representing construction workers, police officers and firefighters support the measure as well.

The United Pastors, a group of 45 faith leaders in Sacramento, also announced its support of the plan this week.

“It’s pretty simple for us: Voters deserve to decide who runs their city,” Vince Echeverria, a representative of the painters District Council 16, said in a statement released by the Measure L campaign. “Right now, they can’t choose the city’s chief executive, which makes no sense.”

Under the current form of government at City Hall, a city manager appointed by the nine-member City Council makes most of the city’s daily decisions. Measure L would allow the mayor to appoint and fire the city manager, transferring many of those decisions to the mayor’s office.

The City Council, with a majority vote, would still have the authority to pass ordinances, approve the budget and have the final say on the mayor’s city manager appointment. The mayor could veto City Council actions, but those vetoes would be subject to an override with a supermajority vote by the council. The mayor could also fire the city manager unilaterally.

Johnson and other supporters argue the system would give voters a clear understanding of who makes the important decisions at City Hall and would allow voters to hold that person accountable.

But opponents worry it would place too much power in the hands of one elected official and have described the proposal as a “power grab” by Johnson.

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