Is 20 years too long in the same job?
That’s a big question in West Sacramento these days as Christopher Cabaldon seeks another two years as mayor and faces his most serious challenge since 2010.
But if he’s performing well and still has a vision and passion for the city, there’s no good reason to kick him to the curb. Cabaldon has played a key role in West Sacramento’s growth, including Southport, The Bridge District and the broader riverfront.
Now, he’s leading the charge on a groundbreaking education initiative: universal preschool, college savings accounts starting in kindergarten, paid internships in high school and free community college. He is also rethinking transportation, pushing for a seamless network to get residents out of their personal vehicles and into using Jump bikes, on-demand vans and maybe a driverless shuttle on the riverfront.
If re-elected on Nov. 6, he says he also will focus on flood protection, and on proposed new bridges and a streetcar line to Sacramento.
Neither of Cabaldon’s challengers – Esther Moskalets, a retired Sacramento sheriff’s forensics examiner, or Joseph DeAnda, a communications manager at CalPERS – has held elected office before, or can come close to matching the mayor’s experience and connections.
DeAnda, however, does have the clout of the police and firefighter unions behind him, and the money to mount a serious campaign. challenge While he acknowledges Cabaldon’s accomplishments, he says the mayor has lost touch with many residents.
Instead, DeAnda vows to rebuild trust in city government, especially on spending. He is banking on resentment over money going to high-profile projects, such as the streetcar line (voters pledged $25 million) and The Barn event center ($2.6 million from the city), while roads and basic infrastructure go wanting in the city of 53,500.
Yes on Measure N
Both Cabaldon and DeAnda support Measure N to raise the local sales tax by a quarter cent to 8.25 percent, and they’re right to do so.
Of the $3.4 million a year it would raise, about half would give police officers a 16 percent raise because West Sacramento is having extreme difficulty recruiting and retaining them.
Measure N – like Measure U in Sacramento – also calls for funding “inclusive economic development,” though it’s also a general tax, which means the City Council would ultimately decide where the revenue goes.
Cabaldon says he’s committed to investing in needy neighborhoods, including affordable housing and other projects, such as the $5.7 million infrastructure upgrade under way in the Washington District. DeAnda, however, says he wants to use some of the money to give raises to firefighters as well as cops, and then have a citizens commission recommend how to spend the rest.
Ledesma and Liebig for City Council
West Sacramento voters also will pick two City Council members from among four candidates.
Christopher Ledesma, the current vice mayor who was first elected in 2010, is worthy of another term. A banker in his day job, his financial expertise is invaluable on the council.
Mark Johannessen is stepping down after 12 years and moving to Santa Cruz. To fill his seat, Russ Liebig is the best choice. A fisheries biologist, he currently serves on the city’s planning commission. He also lives in Broderick, an older area of the city that isn’t represented on the council now. He is being supported by Cabaldon, whom Liebig supports.
The two other candidates are backing DeAnda – Sheila Johnston, a vice president at the Association of California Healthcare Districts, and Martha Guerrero, a clinical social worker who also ran in 2016.
Guerrero, a former planning commission chairwoman, is the more formidable contender as she is the only council candidate endorsed by DeAnda. Like Liebig, her priorities are improving flood protection, addressing homelessness, helping underserved areas and boosting economic development.
Also like Liebig, she supports Measure N. But in addition to raises for police, she wants to use the tax proceeds to reopen a contract that was just approved in April and further increase pay for firefighters, even though public safety already gobbles up most of the city budget.
Liebig, on the other hand, recognizes the urgent challenge of the city’s rising pension payments. That is a far more responsible stand – and another reason why he will be a better steward for the city.