Local Elections

Sacramento mayoral candidates discuss diverse issues at forum

Sacramento’s mayoral candidates answered questions about law enforcement, the Black Lives Matter movement, education and homelessness Saturday at a forum hosted by a local NAACP branch.

About 60 people gathered at the Women’s Improvement Club of Sacramento in North Oak Park to listen to Angelique Ashby, Darrell Steinberg, Tony Lopez and Russell Rawlings discuss the issues.

Ashby, who represents the North Natomas area on the Sacramento City Council, said she wants to improve the community relationship with law enforcement. “We have worked to make a few types of body cameras. The police department is currently testing three,” Ashby said.

According to Ashby’s website, in June 2015, the City Council set aside more than $5 million of the new budget for the Sacramento Public Safety Initiative, “Officer Next Door.” Ashby said she is a part of the committee that oversees the body camera prototypes in use.

Tony Lopez, a Sacramento native and former boxing champion, said he grew up before body cameras were available. Lopez said officers got out of the car to talk with him and play basketball or baseball.“Wasn’t ‘us versus them,’ it was ‘us,’ ” Lopez said.

Steinberg, former state Senate leader, agreed, saying that “transparency is always the best policy.”

“Racism still exists. Black Lives Matter, to me, is recognition that we still have a lot of work to do,” he said.

Rawlings, a disability and homeless rights activist, agreed with the other candidates, but said he upholds the idea that body camera information should be made public.

“It should not be a one-sided conversation,” Rawlings said. “It’s a demand for justice.”

Rawlings said the Sacramento Police Department is not doing justice by placing GPS on bicycles for their “bike bait” program.

“We need to stop criminalizing being poor,” he said.

All candidates agreed that educating young people needs improvement.

Steinberg said he believes in the youth of Sacramento and wants to get everyone on track.

“The quality of education directly affects the quality of life,” he said.

Rawlings said he believes the mayor has the power to change lives.

“Empower them to do better. We need to consolidate efforts to make a better program.” he said.

Ashby said the mayor needs to not be afraid to step on toes and “be a great partner.”

Lopez said the current education system is a mess.

“I’ve seen what happens in the teacher’s room and the classroom. I see the kids be disobedient. We need to do better training,” he said.

Several members of the audience brought up the topic of homelessness and the low-income communities of Sacramento.

Lopez said he wants to work toward creating affordable housing for homeless and low-income people shared his plan.

“We can make a 600-square-foot house that will sleep two and has a kitchenette. They’re train box cars,” he said.

Rawlings said inclusionary housing and integrating homeless people into healthy communities should be a priority. Rawlings said he suggests a plan that allows homeless and low-income individuals access to public transportation.

Steinberg spoke about how he authored Proposition 63, also known as the Mental Health Services Act, that provides treatment, housing and recovery to Californians in need. “This is a ‘housing first’ city,” Steinberg said.

Ashby said the focus shouldn’t just be on how to house the homeless, but how to improve what Sacramento already has to offer.

“We need to find a solution for emergency shelters and support existing entities that house the homeless,” she said.

Jessica Hice: 916-321-1550