Sacramento City Council Debates Another Strong Mayor Proposal

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The Sacramento City Council is poised to discuss a third “strong mayor” proposal that would make the mayor the executive officer for the city.  That means the ability to hire and fire the city manager, develop a city budget and have veto power over city council decisions.

Similar proposals have been defeated, frustrating Mayor Kevin Johnson who has felt ham strung in developing his vision for the city. Now a group called Sacramento Tomorrow, which is supposedly independent of the Mayor’s office, has brought a similar proposal to the city council. It must decide whether to go forward and put the measure on the ballot for city residents.

The current “weak” mayor system in the city charter gives the mayor one vote on the nine member city council.

“Leadership means responsibility and some power. If you can’t effect any kind of change you don’t really have any responsibility or leadership,” said Michael Boyd, who is on the group’s advisory committee and who is a community activist.

Boyd said a stronger mayor would make him accountable because it’s easier to throw him or her out of office than nine council members. But others say the current system uses consensus to run the city.

Dean Murakami, Vice President of the Sacramento Central Labor Council, said Mayor Johnson didn’t need the added powers to put together the deal to retain the Sacramento Kings basketball team – which could be the key for economic development in the city.

“His first proposal on the arena deal was… significantly flawed. And when it came back it, was a much better deal,” said Murakami.

Murakami says mayors can be effective using political skills rather than raw political power. But it’s clear that business interests prefer to deal with a powerful mayor rather than a city council.

If the council decides to move forward with the plan, the soonest it can be put on the ballot would be the November 2014 ballot.

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1 Comment

  • Stronglyopposed

    Sounds good Mr. Johnson but give us an example of something that was not achievable under the "weak" mayor system. Give us an example of something Sacramento competed with another city for but lost out because of a weak mayor system. How about I give you one in support of the weak system: The Kings came to Sacramento under the "weak" system and were retained in Sacramento under the"weak" system.

    Do you really believe investors would continue to invest in Sacramento if they thought the current City Council system would not yield positive results? Do you really understand the money they spend on consultants, surveys, impacts and risk forecasting before investing in Sacramento? Name one investor who has declined to invest in Sacramento citing a "weak" mayor system as the reason for not investing.

    Leadership becomes weak when one person starts demanding the balance of power. The more power one is granted, the more likely shortcuts begin to appear and true leadership is eroded. You only have to go as far as the White House to see it. It's called "Executive Orders" and that is what this is really all about.

    If this passes, the council might as well get in the back seat and enjoy the ride. Sound familiar?