Local Elections

Cabaldon faces West Sacramento mayoral challenge from political newcomer

Christopher Cabaldon leads a city in the midst of an aggressive growth spurt and says he wants another term to build on West Sacramento’s up-and-coming momentum.

Narinderpal Singh Hundal, a new face in West Sacramento politics, says far too many residents aren’t sharing in the city’s transformation and are ready for a change at City Hall.

The race for West Sacramento mayor appears, at first glance, a study in contrasts: A veteran leader in Cabaldon, West Sacramento’s longest-serving elected mayor, vs. a political newcomer in Hundal.

But the issues for both candidates are much alike: attracting new business and investment, supporting education and public safety and creating good-paying jobs.

Cabaldon has touted West Sacramento as a destination for young professionals with events such as last weekend’s TBD Fest in the Bridge District and developments around Raley Field. He says the city is gaining ground on joblessness and points to companies including Norway-based food sorting firm TOMRA Sorting Solutions, Nippon Shokken and Bayer Cropscience that have either relocated or expanded in the city in recent years.

“The unemployment rate is the lowest since the start of the recession. ... We’ve had some of our strongest job growth, and the jobs are really good jobs,” Cabaldon said. “It’s research positions, it’s administration and (research and development).”

Hundal, owner of West Sacramento-based NorCal Security and publisher of the local Punjabi weekly newspaper, the Indo-American Times, says he is focused on creating higher paying jobs. He says he would marshal city resources and seek state and federal funding to attract small businesses.

“I’ve served people for a long time, from my student life on. I’ve created jobs in the community,” Hundal said. “The city has a lot of resources to provide to small-business people. I will encourage that to grow the city. I know ways to bring business people here. I know how to create more jobs.”

Hundal, who emigrated to the United States from his native Punjab more than 30 years ago, talked about his sense of service honed by early missionary work in California’s Punjabi community and how his business experience will serve him as mayor.

But Hundal is a relative unknown in West Sacramento politics, and Cabaldon has questioned whether he actually resides in the city.

Hundal owns the Evergreen Avenue home where his campaign headquarters and security firm are based, as well as a home on Alderburgh Circle in south Natomas. He has maintained that the Evergreen Avenue residence is his primary address and that his daughter and her family live at the Natomas home.

On a recent weekday, Hundal’s Evergreen Avenue house was abuzz and easy to spot with large signs stretched across the garage door and posted in the yard. A wooden lectern stands in the driveway. Inside, volunteers and visitors crowded around a living room table and spilled into the narrow hallway.

“My primary residence is this one,” he said at the Evergreen Avenue address.

In an interview there, Hundal pledged to close a services gap he sees between West Sacramento’s older northern neighborhoods and the newer, suburban south side.

West Sacramento’s Southport area has seen considerable growth. About 4,200 residential units have been built in the area since 2000, many of those single-family homes, according to community development officials. Retailers, including Lowe’s, Nugget Market and Target, popped up to cater to the growing middle-class population, as did new schools.

“When I look all over West Sacramento, on the south side there are a lot of facilities. Eyes are on the south area,” Hundal said, calling the city’s north side a “backwater,” in comparison.

“We see a lot of differences between north and south, and I promise to make it equal.”

It’s an assertion that Cabaldon quickly dismisses. Cabaldon said Hundal “isn’t aware that the majority of investment in the city has been in the north half of the city.”

Recently appointed chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ standing committee on jobs, education and the workforce, Cabaldon points to a slew of projects on his watch nearing completion on the riverfront and down river: the under-construction Mike McGowan Bridge connecting South River Road, as well as sites ranging from the city’s library and adjacent community center to City Hall and Sacramento City College’s West Sacramento campus.

“There are a set of projects that are unprecedented – streetcar, the completion of the Mike McGowan Bridge. We’re proving that small, independent businesses can make it, creating the right conditions for business to succeed,” Cabaldon said.

He is seeking his sixth straight two-year term as elected mayor, though he has been on the City Council since 1996. He also served as mayor before West Sacramento residents made the position a directly elected office in 2004.

Recalling a city “once divided by rail,” Cabaldon said, “We’re a single place and a single community.”

Still, he said, “We have a lot more work to do and the potential to deliver,” asking voters to re-elect him as mayor. “We have to keep investing and make it even better.”

Call The Bee’s Darrell Smith, (916)321-1040.