Marcos Bretón

Marcos Breton: Hansen takes a risk in opposing Johnson on ‘strong mayor’

Marcos Breton
Marcos Breton

Steve Hansen is showing some real daring in standing up to Mayor Kevin Johnson – the kind of political guts we don’t often see in Sacramento.

KJ is easily the most popular politician in town. He is riding high after saving the Kings, cultivating a national profile and going after what he’s always wanted: more hiring power, firing power and veto power for the mayor’s office.

Influential people helped KJ put a strong-mayor proposal on the November ballot, and it appeared there would be no legitimate opposition to Measure L – until Mr. Hansen came along.

The 34-year-old former biotech lobbyist who became the first openly gay member of the Sacramento City Council nearly two years ago is standing out now by breaking ranks from the KJ parade of adulation.

It could be great exposure for an ambitious politico – or political suicide.

If Hansen succeeds and shoots down what he calls Johnson’s “power grab,” it almost certainly would mean Johnson would not run for re-election two years from now.

But if “strong mayor” passes, it almost certainly would mean Hansen would be buried so deep in the City Council chambers they would have to pipe light down to him.

At least for now, he doesn’t seem worried.

“This thing is going down in flames,” Hansen said of the Checks and Balances Act of 2014.

“It’s a tremendous waste of money, time and energy.”

Even if you disagree, it’s admirable that Hansen has the courage to openly pursue his convictions. He stands in stark contrast to Councilman Kevin McCarty, who opposed the downtown arena but didn’t have the spine to lead the charge against it.

Hansen is ready to debate in public. He’s not some wing nut that Johnson & Co. can flick aside as they did to all the mayor’s opponents in the arena debate.

Hansen is duly elected, articulate and dangerous because he has a strong argument.

He rightly says that Sacramento is running well right now, so why change the system?

“The idea that Sacramento doesn’t get stuff done sounds good but isn’t borne out by the facts,” he said.

Some of Johnson’s opponents fear and loathe him, but Hansen isn’t in that group. He fears Sacramento will get stuck with future bad mayors similar to the ones that have dragged down strong-mayor cities such as Oakland, San Diego and Toronto.

Two months before Election Day, the pro-strong-mayor folks have not made a good case. There hasn’t been a compelling response to Hansen’s “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” argument.

On the flip side, Hansen will be at odds with the business people he teamed with to get the arena and other projects done. That could cost him dearly when he runs for re-election two years from now. And the idea of being able to work with Johnson once you’ve crossed him like this?

KJ don’t play that game.

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