Even more so this year, Sacramento voters face a stark choice in the City Council elections on June 5: Keep a team that is working well together, or bring in new voices and fresh faces.
The police killing of Stephon Clark has ignited an important debate about whether all neighborhoods are being treated fairly and whether all voices are being heard. The next council will be trying to answer those questions.
Especially at a time of crisis, experience matters. Incumbents Angelique Ashby, Jay Schenirer and Rick Jennings – all endorsed by Mayor Darrell Steinberg – deserve another term on the council. (Jeff Harris is unopposed in District 3.)
At the same time, it is good for Sacramento to have strong candidates boldly challenging the status quo. If the incumbents win reelection, they need to pay closer attention to those constituents who have felt neglected, and to appoint their challengers to city boards, or find other ways they can have a say at City Hall.
The tough choice for voters is illustrated in this district that includes Oak Park, Curtis Park and Hollywood Park.
Schenirer, who is seeking a third four-year term, has been a judicious presence on the council, and his constituents have been particularly well-served. At the same time, young, diverse – and impatient – voices are rising in the district. He says he understands the need to pass the torch, but wants to see through important projects, such as a technology and innovation campus announced Thursday near UC Davis Medical Center and the remake of the Franklin Boulevard business district.
His best-known challenger, Tamika L’Ecluse, says she offers a new perspective and wants to represent disenfranchised communities. She’s an early education teacher, an LGBT activist and an African-American mother who has two sons. She certainly speaks from a different life experience on issues such as police-community relations, housing and gentrification. But it’s not clear that she can translate that empathy into policy and leadership, or that she can deliver for the district anywhere near as ably as Schenirer.
A third candidate, Joseph Barry, an advocate for the disabled, says he wants to help working people.
It’s a somewhat similar choice in this district, which covers Pocket/Greenhaven and Valley Hi. Jennings came up through the ranks of civic groups and waited his turn to seek this seat. He knows the district and the established leaders, and he boasts a slew of major endorsements.
Yet he can be too timid. If reelected, he needs to stop holding back. In his interview with the editorial board, Jennings was most animated when talking about expanding programs for youths, especially those involving police officers, so they don’t fear each other. Good – he should focus on making that happen.
Meanwhile, there’s a lot to recommend Tristan Brown, a lobbyist for the California Federation of Teachers. He would bring a millennial voice to the council, and has interesting new ideas on housing and economic development. He’s lived full-time in Sacramento since 2009 – a while, but not long enough to compete with Jennings’ roots and connections.
With his energy and smarts, though, he has a real future in civic affairs, even if it’s not elected office right now.
The third candidate, Victor Edinburgh, a charter school counselor and administrator, has been active recently in Black Lives Matter.
The decision for voters is a little clearer in the district that covers north Natomas.
Ashby steered the district through a building ban while the levees were strengthened, and now wants to shepherd the development mushrooming since the moratorium was lifted. The highest profile project is Centene, a health insurer that is supposed to bring as many as 5,000 jobs and start work on its planned Western U.S. headquarters by 2020.
Another priority must be Sleep Train Arena, which has been shuttered since its last event in December 2016. Ashby argues that it’s more important to get Centene done, and then figure out what kind of project would be the best fit for the nearby arena site. Maybe so, but Sleep Train can’t sit vacant too much longer before just becoming an eyesore.
It is also important that Ashby keeps her pledge to bridge her relatively affluent district with struggling neighborhoods. She lost her bid for mayor in 2016, but this would be just as important a citywide role.
Challenger Gabriell Garcia sounds a lot like Ashby did when she first ran in 2010. She presents herself as a fresh face, a neighborhood advocate and small business owner (The Blue Lamp on Alhambra Boulevard).
But Ashby is still in tune with the district. Garcia generally agrees with Ashby on the big issues and doesn’t make a compelling case why she’d be a better representative right now.
A third candidate, Edward Lewis, has been appointed to numerous boards and commissions in the county. A fourth, Don Sim, did not file a candidate statement and has not been actively campaigning.
Voters across Sacramento ought to recall that not too long ago, the mayor and council were a dysfunctional mess. Due to retirements, departures and successful challenges, the council almost completely turned over between 2010 and 2014. Since taking office in December 2016, Steinberg has helped make the council a cohesive group.
At this crucial time, Sacramento needs elected leaders who are on the same team with the same goals. We have that, and now’s not the time to break it up.
To see the Sacramento Bee’s endorsements for Davis City Council, go to sacbee.com/endorsements at 2 p.m. Sunday.