Editorials

Mayor Kevin Johnson must explain his staff increase

Mayor Kevin Johnson delivers his State of the City address in February, when he announced he would take a bigger role in the city budget.
Mayor Kevin Johnson delivers his State of the City address in February, when he announced he would take a bigger role in the city budget. jvillegas@sacbee.com

The burden of proof is squarely on Mayor Kevin Johnson to justify increasing the size of his staff from seven to 12.

When the $700,000 expenditure came up at last week’s City Council meeting, Johnson was in Knoxville, Tenn., in his role as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Now he’s back in town. He should take his first opportunity at Tuesday’s council budget hearings to publicly explain why it’s so essential to Sacramento that his office get five more staffers.

Without a convincing case, it looks like a way to get around voters’ overwhelming rejection last November of the “strong-mayor” measure.

Johnson has big dreams for “Sacramento 3.0,” including thousands more downtown residents, an “innovation district” in the railyard and a possible new performing arts center, so he could use some staff support.

It’s also true that the proposed budget includes 22 more positions in the Police Department, more money for parks maintenance and other improvements in services to residents, so basic needs are not being neglected. And in a $404 million general fund budget, $700,000 is a relatively small sum.

Still, Johnson owes taxpayers a good explanation why more staff in his office is the best way to spend still-limited city resources.

Also, the mayor – and City Manager John Shirey – must clear up why three of the five proposed new staffers were squirreled away in the budget for the city manager’s office.

It certainly wasn’t clear in the budget documents that those staffers would report to the mayor. Council members said they didn’t know about the three positions until reading a May 10 story by The Bee’s Marissa Lang and Ryan Lillis.

Johnson carved out a far bigger role in the budget process this year. With that comes more responsibility. He shouldn’t need prodding to defend his proposals.

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