City Beat

National mayors conference wraps up in Sacramento

Mayors of the some of the largest cities in the nation wrapped up a two-day conference in Sacramento on Monday morning. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson presided over the gathering in his post as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The mayors held forums on technology and on the response to the violence in Ferguson, Mo. The topic of strengthening the powers of mayors was also discussed as Johnson pushes a November ballot measure in Sacramento that seeks to increase the authority of his office.

West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon said other topics that were discussed included working with large public pension funds, such as CalPERS, to invest in city infrastructure projects. He said Sunday’s Farm-to-Fork dinner on the Tower Bridge also helped promote the message that cities in different counties can work together.

On Monday, Calbaldon’s city was presented with the Conference of Mayors’ 2014 City Livability Award for its universal preschool program UP4WS at West Sacramento City Hall.

The UP4WS program for 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds has gained national attention for making preschool accessible and affordable. The program began with 135 children in 2006-07. But today, anywhere from 450 to 600 are enrolled annually across the city, officials said.

“Part of what (the award) has done is say to other cities that if West Sacramento can do it, maybe we can do it too,” Cabaldon said.

Johnson joked to the crowd that he gets in his car late at night and drives around West Sacramento taking notes on the city’s progress. “This is a city that people in other cities are talking about because you’re doing the small things, the medium things, the large things. From the federal government all the way down, they see you’re doing amazing things,” Johnson said.

At a news conference following the end of the conference, the mayors of Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio, all spoke positively of Johnson’s strong-mayor ballot measure.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said he attended a community event on Friday night at which the ballot measure was discussed and he said he is “strongly encouraging the citizens of Sacramento” to approve the plan.

“You need someone, one person, who’s actually in charge every day making the decisions,” he said.

Mayor Greg Ballard of Indianapolis added, “It is important that somebody, in collaboration with others, sets the vision for the city and has the mechanisms to drive it forward. If people don’t like (what they do), vote them out.”

Measure L would allow the mayor to appoint and remove the city manager, essentially transferring the powers of a city manager appointed by the City Council to the mayor’s office. Opponents argue it would place too much power in the hands of the mayor and have described Johnson’s proposal as a “power grab.”