With a $4 billion budget and a say in dozens of public health and safety programs, the five members of the Board of Supervisors wield enormous power over the quality of life in Sacramento County. Who gets elected matters.
It's disappointing then that of the three supervisors running for re-election in the June 5 primary, only one has drawn a challenger.
Ronald Bell, a retired supervisor for the Department of Motor Vehicles, is hoping to unseat Supervisor Patrick Kennedy in District 2. Meanwhile, Phil Serna and Don Nottoli are preparing for their coronations as supervisors of Districts 1 and 5, respectively.
The public is best served when there's a robust discussion of the issues in an election year and Bell is at least providing that in the race with Kennedy.
Bell, who previously ran for City Council as "practice" for this race, makes good points about paying more attention to struggling neighborhoods in south Sacramento and he is rightfully concerned about the unchecked cowboy culture of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department. But voters are still better off with the incumbent.
Kennedy, who was elected following a stint on the board of the Sacramento City Unified School District, has taken the initiative to tackle some of the county's thorniest issues in his first term.
On mental health, he initiated discussions between county staff and health professionals, pushing both sides to find with better ways to treat people. He also has been personally investigating reports of patient dumping by hospitals — a frequent complaint from shelters as the county's homeless population continues to rise.
He also is the point person on the multi-county and multi-state lawsuit filed against pharmaceutical companies over the opioid epidemic.
On homelessness, Kennedy touts his efforts to save the transitional housing program at Mather Community Campus and his work on a new plan to identify the 250 homeless people who cost the county the most in services and then get them off the streets. Also, during last year's debate over whether the Board of Supervisors should help the city pay for the Whole Person Care program, it was Kennedy who was the most critical of county staff once it became clear they had been secretly squirreling away millions of dollars.
Clearly, there is still a lot more to do and the county is notoriously slow about getting things done. But Kennedy is the right catalyst.