Growth – how to do it and even whether to do it – has long been a point of contention in Elk Grove. And with several high-profile projects in the pipeline, from a casino to an aquatics center, that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
The next few years are crucial for this diverse city of nearly 170,000, south of Sacramento. To navigate the growing pains, voters should look to a mix of incumbents and newcomers in three hotly contested races.
For mayor, we recommend Steve Ly, the city’s ambitious vice-mayor. At 42, he has risen quickly through Elk Grove’s political ranks, starting on the school board and leapfrogging to the City Council.
As mayor, Ly would succeed Gary Davis, Elk Grove’s first and only elected mayor. Davis pulled out of the running months ago, but has thrown his considerable political weight behind Ly.
The endorsement is a sign that Ly will continue the mayor’s mission of transforming Elk Grove from a bedroom community into an urban powerhouse, with entertainment options, recreational amenities and top-notch public safety. Ly has campaigned on attracting more businesses and strengthening the relationship between residents and police. He also supports Measure B, a much-needed countywide half-cent sales tax increase for transportation and transit.
The biggest problem with Ly’s candidacy is what he will leave behind, namely his District 4 council seat. His term ends in 2018, creating yet another vacancy on a council that has seen plenty.
Voters wary of more upheaval have six other mayoral candidates to choose from, including impressive newcomers Tracie Stafford and Joel Broussard. But Planning Commissioner Kevin Spease is the most qualified alternative to Ly.
An owner of two businesses and lifelong resident of the city, Spease’s message is more provincial. Instead of big projects, he talks of alleviating traffic congestion, building sewers and keeping a downward pressure on crime. To bring employers to Elk Grove, Spease wants to reduce red tape for business owners, and create business incubators and maker spaces.
Spease is backed by the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce and Elk Grove Police Officers Association. Ly has Sacramento Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg. The two have raised most of the money in this race.
Four candidates are running for two seats on the City Council. We recommend incumbent Darren Suen for District 1 and, for District 3, newcomer Maureen Craft over incumbent Steven Detrick, who has had trouble with the state Fair Political Practices Commission over the improper use of campaign funds.
Suen was appointed to fill Jim Cooper’s Laguna-area council seat when Cooper was elected to the Assembly. A resident of Elk Grove for 15 years and an engineer by trade, he’s a big-picture thinker. He’s looking beyond projects, such as development of the Civic Center site, and to ways to beef up transit and attract a university to Elk Grove to invest in the workforce.
Craft, a business consultant and San Francisco native, represents the changing face of Elk Grove, which is rapidly becoming a home for Bay Area transplants who want the city to be a one-stop shop for families. If elected, she would work to attract companies that pay a living wage and push the Wilton Rancheria tribe to do the same for employees at its casino. On public safety, Craft says the Police Department needs more diversity and more diversity training.
Elk Grove is evolving rapidly. To manage the momentum, Craft, Suen and Ly are sound choices.