Sacramento Mayor Steinberg could try to get strong mayor initiative on November ballot

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg is not commenting about purported efforts to get a strong mayor initiative on the November ballot.

Steinberg explored the idea last year with several private surveys, asking residents how they felt about restructuring the city’s operations and making the mayor the city’s chief executive.

His frustration was evident last year after he pushed through the Measure U city sales tax increase. But with just one vote on the city council, he was unable to distribute the money the way he promised or thought was prudent during the campaign.

He is now being pressured to reform police practices but lacks the clout assigned to the city manager and the city council as a whole.

“You can see the frustration on Mayor Steinberg’s face when he’s trying to implement a lot of things and they go nowhere,” said campaign consultant Steve Maviglio.

Maviglio ran former Mayor Kevin Johnson’s effort to give the office budgeting, hiring and firing powers in place of the non-elected city manager. It failed at the ballot box by a 12% margin.

But are city residents ready for another go?

“I don’t think I’m ready for that and I don’t think the community is either,” said former Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo.

Fargo led the opposition to Johnson’s strong mayor bid.

The League of Women Voters, like Fargo, want neighborhoods represented by their council members, not a strong mayor.

“It makes it a lot easier for lobbyists and for developers and other people with special interests and that leaves a lot of people out,” Fargo told FOX40.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” said Councilwoman-elect Katie Valenzuela.

Valenzuela said she ran a grassroots effort for the District 4 city council seat based on community power, not centralized power.

“You have to have these discussions and really hash things out across a broad array of stakeholders. So, it’s something people are bought into,” Valenzuela said.

Still, some point to other major cities.

“They’re not run by city managers, they’re run by people who elect them,” Maviglio said.

It remains to be seen whether political power brokers and voters will respond differently than they did to Johnson’s effort. Some saw him as a polarizing figure.

“They didn’t like Kevin Johnson. They do like Darrell Steinberg,” Maviglio said.

With an August 7 deadline to get a proposal on the ballot, critics say they are unable to hold public hearings and tweak any kind of proposal during the pandemic. Mayor Steinberg right now is not saying anything about whether he’s prepared such a proposal or whether he has held meetings with possible supporters of such an effort.

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