Faces don’t change very often on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors. The five people who hold enormous influence over the quality of life for the hundreds of thousands of residents in the incorporated and unincorporated areas tend to hang onto that power when they get it.
But on Tuesday, thanks to a rare vacancy created by Roberta MacGlashan, who decided to not to run for re-election last year after serving three terms as supervisor, a slightly new board will take shape.
Sue Frost will be sworn in for her first term as supervisor for District 4. A conservative who served on the Citrus Heights City Council, Frost ran on a vow to improve public safety by securing more resources for the Sheriff’s Department. She will surely have a lot to say about the county’s priorities in the weeks to come.
Also Tuesday, Susan Peters will be sworn in for her fourth term as supervisor of District 3.
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Together, with Supervisors Phil Serna, Patrick Kennedy and Don Nottoli, the board is certain to face tough choices at a time of rapid growth for Sacramento County. The challenge will be to ensure that growth remains sustainable, while also doing a better job of helping vulnerable residents, especially homeless people.
Even with overtures from Mayor Darrell Steinberg to begin a new era of cooperation with the city of Sacramento, that’s a tall order for Sacramento County with the election of Donald Trump. The president-elect, working with a Republican-led Congress, could slash federal funding that passes through the county for critical programs and services. Questions surely will crop up this year about how to handle that.
If Obamacare is gutted, for example, will the supervisors choose to cut health care to undocumented immigrants first, and reduce addiction and mental health care services?
Or if funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is reduced, will homeless people in need of shelter be the first to suffer or will it be other affordable housing programs? Given the failure of Measure B, will upgrades to transit or other projects be put on hold if federal transportation dollars dry up?
More clear are other priorities, such as resisting the temptation to approve to leap-frog development in the unincorporated areas. Sacramento County doesn’t need more subdivisions in the middle of nowhere. Voters – at least in the gerrymandered 4th Supervisorial District that includes Antelope, Orangevale, Citrus Heights, Rancho Murieta, Rio Linda and Folsom – seem to agree.
In a November runoff, Frost beat Mike Kozlowski, an architect who was favored by the pro-development Region Business organization. She should remember that when projects are proposed that would violate the county’s blueprint for growth.
So should Peters, who was a developer before becoming a supervisor, has been a frequent advocate for economic development, and has drawn criticism for pro-development votes in Arden Arcade.
One thing that should not be up for debate is finding new ways to leverage limited resources with the city of Sacramento. Since taking office, Steinberg has made it a point to extend an olive branch to the county. He already worked out a deal with the supervisors to fund a warming center for homeless people and their pets at Southside Park for icy nights this winter.
Steinberg has scheduled three meetings with the full City Council and Board of Supervisors. The first one on homelessness is scheduled for Jan. 31. The other meetings are set for February and March, with topics to be determined.
The supervisors have their work cut out for them. Frost, we hope, will bring new energy and perspectives.