If you have a successful team, why risk ruining the chemistry?
For West Sacramento voters, there’s no good reason to do so – and there are no candidates stellar enough to justify unseating the incumbents for mayor and two at-large City Council seats.
Christopher Cabaldon, who was first elected mayor in 2004; Mark Johannessen, who has been on the council since 2006; and Christopher Ledesma, who has served since 2010, deserve credit for steering West Sacramento through the recession and into an exciting new era.
While they may be a little too boosterish at times, there’s no denying the remarkable progress in what is now one of the Sacramento region’s most dynamic cities.
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Development of the Bridge District and the rest of the riverfront is well underway. The city has landed four international companies since last year as it carves out a niche as a food industry hub. In June, it was named the most livable small city in the America by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
The incumbents’ common message at a candidate forum hosted this month by the West Sacramento Chamber of Commerce is that the city is on a big winning streak, but there’s more to do – and that requires hard work and cohesive leadership.
What also became clear at the forum, however, is that these city leaders can’t neglect public safety and other basics, and they must listen to residents who believe they’re being left behind and ignored.
One of them is the most strident council challenger, Jeff Lyon, who asserts that the city is allowing crime and homelessness to fester, in his Washington neighborhood as well as Broderick and Bryte. Lyon says that residents are intimidated by aggressive panhandlers and don’t feel safe at night, and until that is completely solved, all the shiny new developments don’t matter.
The plan he has promoted at council meetings and now in his campaign, however, is not one of the compassion he claims toward the homeless (the permanent population is estimated at 200). He wants anti-camping ordinances to be strictly enforced, says the city should not offer any homeless services of its own and says police should hand out transportation vouchers so the homeless can go to other cities in the region that do offer services.
Mayoral challenger Narinderpal Singh Hundal, a political newcomer, lobs similar criticism. But he isn’t anywhere near as qualified as Cabaldon, and he lost credibility when he said at the forum that West Sacramento is the “most backward city in America.”
The other council candidate, energy specialist Nancy Heth-Tran, did not attend the forum and, in any case, needs more experience.
While West Sacramento voters will pick their leaders on Nov. 4, Sacramento has a stake in the outcome as well. The success of the two riverfront cities is closely intertwined; on some projects, West Sacramento has been the driving force. It’s under this mayor and council that past rivalries have been put aside.
The two cities are working together on proposals for two new bridges, one north of the existing I Street span and the other just south of the Pioneer Bridge that carries Highway 50 over the Sacramento River. They are also jointly planning a streetcar line that would link the two downtowns across the Tower Bridge, with stops at Raley Field, Old Sacramento and the planned new Kings arena.
There’s optimism about all these projects, but, as Cabaldon declared, “We have to deliver.”
Voters should give him and the other incumbents the chance.