‘Strong mayor’ will be good for business in Sacramento

Pat Fong Kushida
Pat Fong Kushida

Sacramento business leaders long have recognized the deficiencies in the way our city does business.

Our city has more than 4,000 employees and a $1 billion budget. Yet it is burdened with the “weak-mayor” system of government, one commonly used by communities with part-time elected officials.

Due to the current structure of our city’s government, the city manager has been limited in his effectiveness. His responsibilities have been tied to balancing the needs of nine different City Council members and the mayor.

Without a central vision or master plan, the city manager’s influence is pulled in 10 different directions, which in turn paralyzes the ability of city government to be nimble in attracting jobs and promoting smart development.

In Sacramento, nobody is in charge because everybody’s in charge.

It’s a system designed to fail. So it should be no surprise that Sacramento has lagged behind while other cities have prospered. In fact, Sacramento was ranked 21 out of 23 metropolitan areas for small-business climate across the West.

When it comes to starting a business, growing a business and creating jobs, there is no clear point of contact at City Hall. Is it a council member? Maybe. Is it the mayor? Maybe. Is it the city manager? Maybe. This lack of clarity breeds a lack of accountability when answers aren’t given and needs aren’t met.

Small business owners have no choice but to be responsive and accountable. It’s the difference between making payroll or not, success or failure, growth or decay. We need our city to run with the same urgency and efficiency that businesses do.

If Measure L passes on Tuesday, small businesses will finally know where the buck stops.

If Measure L passes, businesses and the public will be able to hold the mayor accountable for creating common-sense policies to improve our business climate. That includes streamlining permitting, reducing response times and improving business coordination with our region.

The mayor will also be able to create new partnerships with the labor community to drive collaborative solutions on questions of economic growth, wages and workforce development. And the mayor will be able to improve partnerships with school districts and community colleges so our young people can learn the skills needed to fill jobs.

Opponents of Measure L call this a “power grab,” but it is anything but. It’s about taking ownership and responsibility. It is a common-sense reform that works in almost every major city across California and 70 percent of cities nationwide Sacramento’s size or larger.

Why do they use this form of government? Because it works.

The system creates real checks and balances. Council members will continue to represent their districts and act as the legislative branch. The mayor will serve as chief executive, instead of an unelected appointee. This will create clearer lines of accountability and ensure that no one passes the buck.

In addition, there have been key provisions added to Measure L to create good governance, including a package of ethics reforms such as establishing a code of ethics and creating an ethics committee to uphold that code. It would appoint an independent budget analyst to review city finances and ensure the city’s leaders are held accountable.

And, most importantly, in 2020 the measure will be brought back to voters. This means that the mayor will have six years to make a case that Measure L was good for business and good for Sacramento.

Pat Fong Kushida is president/CEO of the Sacramento Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce.