Sacramento Poll Revisits ‘Strong Mayor’ Idea

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SACRAMENTO -- Sacramento’s Mayor Darrell Steinberg came up with Measure U increasing the city sales tax and campaigned hard for it.

But when it was passed, he didn't have the power to implement the spending plan he promised. That's because Sacramento has a weak mayor form of government where the city manager holds the decision-making power. That includes creating the city's spending plan and hiring key department heads, like the police chief.

The recent poll asking how residents feel about a “strong mayor” model wasn't a surprise.

"It's very normal to have a poll and ask people about a wide range of issues,” said political consultant Steve Maviglio.

Maviglio helped in the last effort to change the city charter so the mayor makes all key decisions.

Mayor Kevin Johnson tried four times to make the change, culminating in a resounding defeat of Proposition L four years ago.

"There will be people that are purely don't like the model of government,” Maviglio told FOX40. “They think it gives people much more power to politicians than city managers. They think that's less efficient and less fair.”

During the Measure U budget debates, Mayor Steinberg's efforts to fund projects with bonds were opposed by key council members like Angelique Ashby and Jeff Harris, who are usually supporters of the mayor.

The mayor had to rely on allies on the city council to get most of his budget requests approved.

Some feel the strong mayor idea could still have legs because Steinberg doesn't have the political enemies that plagued Mayor Johnson's efforts.

"I think if the mayor puts heft behind it and gets his allies behind it, I think it has a very good chance of passage,” Maviglio said.

Steinberg is taking a low-key approach. A spokesperson for his office said a strong mayor initiative is not one of his priorities.

In fact, his office said he's proven that he is already a strong mayor with his powers of persuasion and motivation, even without the ability to hire, fire and dictate expenditures.

But that's precisely why the League of Women Voters, which played a key role in defeating Proposition L, said a new strong mayor proposal is not needed.

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