10 things the next mayor of Sacramento absolutely needs to accomplish

A to-do list for the leader of the city

Jobs. Crime. Development. The economy. We get it: These are the proverbial electoral-politics commandments that apparently matter to voters every cycle. And that’s OK—we’re fans of employment!—but the next mayor of Sacramento should be about more than just blanket platitudes that appeal to Joe and Jane Voter.

That’s not to say that the only thing frontrunners Angelique Ashby and Darrell Steinberg do is cough up generic promises to build more housing and get guns off the streets. There’s substance to those two, thankfully. Same goes for challenger Russell Rawlings (read more about him on page 15), and Tony “The Tiger” Lopez (well, perhaps the issues are more opaque in Camp Tony; read Raheem F. Hosseini’s profile on page 16).

Anyway, the clock is ticking and it’s three months until the June 7 election. Time to push forward issues we here at SN&R think the next mayor absolutely needs to get done.

Some of our ideas will encourage the mayor to work with the region at large—which in K.J. Land has been a foreign concept. Other pitches we consider obvious, even low-hanging-fruit priorities—such as more friggin’ trash and recycling cans in public spaces. (What’s up with that?!) And, of course, some of our proposals will sadly be met with all kinds of political pushback. Sigh.

Nevertheless, 10 things our future mayor should definitely put on the front burner:

Fund a 24-hour homeless crisis center

Police or one of the city’s “navigators” encounters a homeless person sleeping outdoors. What happens next? Where do they go? The emergency room, jail or nowhere—those are the options.

Why not a crisis and triage center, a facility with caregivers and social workers, that’s open 24 hours? Yes, city council is currently looking at this as part of its homelessness subcommittee outreach. And, yes, these centers are expensive. But if Sacramento is truly serious about helping its worse-off citizens, it’s time to invest in this type of facility. The county should kick in to pay for it—and the next mayor will have to work with the county to make it a reality.

Regulate Uber

The city passed tough regulations on taxis a few years back—but did nothing to address Uber, Lyft and the ride-hailing economy.

Big mistake. Now, Uber manipulates “surge” pricing to at once undercut the cab companies and screw over users during peak hours (rainy days and busy after-hours nights). Cities such as Portland have passed laws that protect against obscene surge pricing—and that city even gets a $1 fee from certain rides.

Sacramento also needs to protect Uber and Lyft drivers. For instance, some weeks many Uber drivers don’t make minimum wage, after cost of gas and vehicle upkeep. Uber also preys on drivers with dubious car-loan and “rideshare insurance” programs.

In the past, SN&R has recommended holding off on regulating ride-hailing companies. That honeymoon period is long over.

We’re also concerned that local electeds accept money from Uber and at the same time sit on their hands when it comes to oversight and regulation. How is this acceptable?

Think two wheels over four

The demand for two-wheel commuting and recreation far exceeds Sacramento’s bicycling infrastructure. Here are a few suggestions to get the city out of first gear when it comes to bike policy: more public bike racks, including art racks; more paint on the roads and improved connectivity of the Jedediah Smith Memorial Bike Trail.

Bike racks are an easy, highly visible way to promote bikes as a safe and smart alternative to car travel. Let’s ramp up programs that make bike racks at local businesses and city centers more affordable. (Think bike valet at the new Kings arena, eh?)

How many cyclist-vehicle accidents do we have to read about in the news before corridors like Arden Way or Freeport Boulevard adopt safer bike lanes? Ditto the central city: Sacramento is generally flat and ideal for bike commuting—yet the prevalent attitude is that biking here is unsafe. Wha?! More modern bike lanes and road diets is an easy fix.

And how stupid is it that the American River Parkway bike trail, which draws significantly more visitors annually than basketball and soccer matches combined, doesn’t connect citywide, with south Sacramento, the Pocket or West Sac? The new mayor needs to work with the region to link up the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail. It’s a gem, as they say, but it’s also a low-cost recreational option that can better serve the region.

End housing segregation

Our most recent city council made a huge mistake. It essentially gutted the city’s affordable-housing program, on the heels of similar cuts by local governments region-wide. This allows developers to focus only on housing projects for the wealthy in the central city—and poor people, if they get anything at all, are basically priced out to the city outskirts.

This makes zero sense, of course. And, worse, over years it will foster increasingly segregated communities: rich people on the grid, low-income folk relegated to north and south Sacramento.

Our next mayor needs a plan to bring low-income and workforce housing back to the central city. Maybe the solution is to incentivize smaller, affordable multifamily homes and apartments near light rail, a.k.a. transit-oriented development for the poor right here in the central city. We’re ready to hear new ideas!

Because if the next mayor doesn’t have a plan, we’ll be fueling new segregation patterns for years to come.

Bring back the buses

Regional Transit’s annual state-of-the-union breakfast goes down this Thursday morning. There likely will be a lot of chatter about how outgoing General Manager Mike Wiley and Co. are finally “cleaning up RT” and getting light rail ready for the new Kings arena. That’s great. But it’s time for some real talk about RT’s critical deficiencies. In recent years, RT eliminated bus lines, increased fares, canceled free transfers and ditched the $1 central-city fare. Not cool. It’s time to bring all of these services back.

It’s about holding up the bottom and serving transit-dependent riders in the city’s inner-ring neighborhoods. RT needs to focus on route connectivity and better headways. And it needs to have a cheaper monthly pass for low-income riders.

Sure, we love rail and streetcar and all these central-city amenities. But RT should foremost serve those riders who can’t afford cars, who look to buses and light rail as their first and often only option. (Read Cosmo Garvin’s news story this week, “Identity crisis,” on page 6 for more on RT.)

Help sex workers

As SN&R staff writer Raheem F. Hosseini has reported, there’s a public health and Black Lives Matter crisis in south Sacramento on Stockton Boulevard. Sex workers, who once worked online and with the safety of screening clients on websites now deemed unlawful by the FBI, have fled to this corridor, working in the open night. These predominately black woman have no recourse to escape this dangerous lifestyle.

The next mayor needs to work with the council member and county supervisor representing this district to help get these women off the streets. Maybe a solution is a new women’s crisis center that helps with recovery and job hunting? All we know is that the FBI and local law enforcement aren’t finding solutions—so it’s up to us to make it right for the women of south Sac.

More sunshine at City Hall

City council greenlit a whirlwind of good-government reforms last year … but there’s still a helluva lot of work to be done. SN&R says drill down on these three issues: email, public financing of campaigns, and behests.

City employees should be using city email for public work. Mayor Kevin Johnson’s precedent of using private Gmail is dangerous: The city is more vulnerable to litigation, the city attorney can’t access public records and the mayor is much less accountable. The city manager must put a stop to this, and the next mayor needs to set an example.

There need to be city rules for when persons or corporations donate unlimited monies to electeds’ private groups and nonprofits, or what is called “behesting.” City laws need to improve transparency and require electeds to recuse themselves from potential conflict-of-interest votes. As is, if the mayor takes money from, say, the Walton Family, the mayor can still go and vote on the city’s big-box ordinance. Unacceptable.

It’s also clear that getting rid of public financing for campaigns has discouraged candidates to run for public office. (All four council members running for re-election this year, for instance, face scant opposition as of this print deadline.) It’s time to bring back public financing: It makes for a healthier democratic process, and it also means that candidates don’t need major dollars from special interests to get into the game.

Really get green

We thought Sacramento was going to be the greenest city in the world, a proverbial “Emerald City"? What happened to those lofty goals? Hell, we don’t even have recycling cans accompanying trash cans in our most popular downtown hospitality districts, and the city’s green-housing initiative years later still lacks teeth.

Listen to Leonardo DiCaprio, at least. Climate change is real, and it’s time to be aggressive: to force developers to build energy-efficient housing, to motivate residents to curb water and electricity use, to reward businesses that are eco-conscious and better stewards of their products and afterwaste. It’s time to really get green, Sacramento.

Open up the railyards to the River District

By all accounts, there’s likely going to be a Sacramento Republic FC soccer stadium in the blossoming railyards district. That’s fine. But let’s demolish most of the berm, which looks like an unused train trestle, that separates the railyards from north B and 12th streets and the River District. Let’s integrate the overconcentration of low-income and homeless services near Loaves & Fishes with the forthcoming railyards community. There’s scant hope to diversify investment in the River District when it’s cut off from downtown. The next mayor must link vehicle and pedestrian access to Sacramento’s gateway near Highway 160.

Toilets and trash cans!

Where are the hell are the public bathrooms and trash cans? What is wrong with this city?

The United Nations dinged Sacramento multiple times in recent years for not providing public restrooms and drinkable water. The next mayor must fix this.

A solution: Restrooms that are attended to and cleaned by paid homeless people. Ditto trash cans. This at once provides a job for someone who needs one, gives our most disadvantaged citizens a places to relieve themselves (and a better sense of dignity) and keeps our streets cleaner. No-brainer!