Voters in two Sacramento City Council districts will pick new representatives – one to replace a longtime councilman seeking higher office, the other to succeed a longtime councilwoman who stepped down due to poor health.
While these districts may seem very different – District 3 centered in affluent East Sacramento, and District 8 covering hardscrabble south Sacramento – they both need vocal and effective advocates who can also work well with other council members to look out for all of Sacramento. Voters can feel fortunate to have the choice of candidates who fit the bill and who will strengthen and balance the council whether or not the strong-mayor measure also on the Nov. 4 ballot passes.
This is an open seat with 20-year Councilman Steve Cohn running for the state Assembly. Jeff Harris and Cyril Shah emerged from the seven-candidate field in the June primary.
We continue to recommend Harris. He has a good understanding that this district’s council member must push for smart infill development. Importantly, he also has a citywide perspective. Most notably, he wants to lead an effort to help Sacramento’s homeless in a real and lasting way.
He points out that the time police officers spend with homeless people is time they don’t spend patrolling neighborhoods. He notes that there are many programs, but what is needed is a unified approach, led by Sacramento Steps Forward, that gets services to the homeless and moves as many as possible into permanent housing.
Harris is low-key; if this is an issue he can get passionate about, even better. He learned the ropes as a neighborhood leader and chairman of the city Parks and Recreation Commission. There’s no reason he can’t hit the ground running.
Shah had been the frontrunner, with the most money and endorsements, and we faulted him for acting like it. He told us he took the criticism to heart and has become less defensive. He does appear to be a better candidate now. He has energy and savvy, should continue serving Sacramento on community boards and could easily be a strong candidate in the future.
This seat has been vacant since Bonnie Pannell, first elected in 1998, stepped down in June due to a neurological disorder. Four candidates are vying to serve out the rest of her term, until December 2016.
Pannell has given her blessing to Larry Carr, who has recruited an impressive roster of supporters, including many of the district’s neighborhood association leaders.
Carr is the strongest contender in our view, with the best mix of experience and enthusiasm. He was elected to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District board in 1998 and has served since, has been executive director of the Florin Road Partnership for 12 years and has made connections throughout the city.
That kind of leadership is required to boost a district facing the challenges of not enough business growth and too much gang activity. The next council member can make sure the district shares in the development and prosperity coming to Sacramento, and can also take the lead in making the Police Department more representative of the community.
Carr brings his experience at SMUD, where the board made workforce diversity a priority. The other three candidates – longtime pastor Ronald Bell, education consultant Toni Colley-Perry and community organizer Ted Ware – also have strong views about how the city can diversify its police force through public pressure, youth programs and funding priorities.
They all have their strengths. It’s very encouraging that people passionate about improving south Sacramento are stepping forward to lead. We hope they all stay involved – pushing City Hall from the outside and building their own résumés for a political future.