Bring it on

The opening salvo in Sacramento’s mayoral campaign was pitiable. Mayor Heather Fargo jumped on challenger Kevin Johnson like an “opposition research” devotee on espresso with her out-of-the-gates false charge that Johnson owed back taxes.

But OK, it’s time to look beyond that. Hopefully, what comes next will be a genuine and essential community debate about leadership and the future of Sacramento.

Here are a few random thoughts for our multiple mayoral contenders:

The region is predicted to grow by a whopping 1 million people in the next few decades. So how about a leader who says a firm “no” to endless sprawl, leapfrog development and the increased traffic and air pollution that comes along with it? We need to go even further than we have yet to greening Sacramento, with infill and transit friendly development that truly enhances walking, bicycling and the use of public transit. We need some boldness in a city leader in this regard. How about a call for eliminating city construction fees for installing rooftop solar panels on homes in the region? How about a leader willing to take unpopular stands—like further regulating parking so as to enhance the use of public transit—in the name of the greater, greener good?

What else? We want a city leader who won’t kowtow to developers by approving, for example, development in flood-prone regions like Natomas. We know it’s tough to say “no” to new construction in down-turn budget times, but that’s what we expect of a leader.

We’re proud of the Sacramento region’s diverse population and want to continue enhancing the “inclusiveness” aspect of our communities. That means a greater emphasis on affordable housing and greater mix of both standard and innovative approaches to making our communities safe places to live.

We don’t want to turn back the clock when it comes to the advances Sacramento’s public-school system has made in the last decade when it comes to the dropout rate and other criteria. So we’ll need a city leader who can work with the school’s changing leadership landscape (à la Mayor Joe Serna Jr.?) to hold the gains and produce even more.

We want a thriving and creative city with more community-enhancing ideas (like art Second Saturday!) spiraling to the top of the agenda. We want to trust that the free wireless Internet we’ve been promised in most parts of downtown and Midtown Sacramento will really be there in 2009. And oh, yeah … Sacramento has extremely few parks for a city its size. We want more open space and parks! And while you’re considering what to do with the downtown, rail yard and riverside areas, how about considering a full-time farmer’s market?

In short, we want a leader who will push a bold agenda for a thriving, innovative municipality with smarts, creativity and progressive grace—one that is also capable of caring for its most needy citizens.

Let the debates begin!