Let K.J. debate

Every election year, political candidates make the rounds, appearing at forums in River Park, or Hollywood Park or North Laguna Creek neighborhoods, the list goes on and on, to debate their opponents and ask for our votes.

Well, most candidates. The North Laguna Creek folks emailed Bites last week to ask, “Why does the Mayor of Sacramento not attend a community-sponsored mayoral-candidates forum? This would seem twice as important since he has selected a candidate to run for office in the same District 8.”

Good question. But don’t feel bad that Kevin Johnson blew you guys off; he’s not doing any debates at all.

As for “selecting” Betty Williams to run against his political foe, south Sacramento rep Bonnie Pannell, Bites is sure Williams would disagree.

Then again, have you seen her campaign signs? The ones with the big smiling picture of K.J.—and no image at all of the actual candidate—which say “Mayor Kevin Johnson says Betty Williams for city council.”

These were paid for by the fanboys over at Better Sacramento—an independent-expenditure committee funded by developers and businessmen who have a big mayor-crush on K.J. Mostly Bites has seen the signs taped up on utility poles in abandoned lots along Meadowview.

The mayor also skipped the regular League of Women Voters candidates forum on Saturday. If you missed it, don’t worry, it’s being rebroadcast on Metro Cable Channel 14, every Sunday morning until the election. Gather the whole family around, and watch as media “experts”—like Bites, The Sacramento Bee’s Pia Lopez and Foon Rhee, the Sacramento Press’ Melissa Corker—try to get the candidates to say something not totally scripted.

Actually, Bites managed to get a rise out of would-be mayors Leonard Padilla and Jonathan Rewers, by reading a statement from the K.J. campaign manager Steve Maviglio, explaining why hizonner ditched Sacramento’s only televised mayoral forum:

“Since there is no viable candidate who has spent any money or is running a campaign against the mayor, it is our decision not to engage in any debates.”

Maviglio added that to appear with “candidates” (his quotes) who’ve put their name on the ballot but aren’t running real campaigns, “seems a bit absurd.”

For some reason, both men got a little bitchy about this. Said Padilla, “A warm body with a pulse would be viable in this election. The people in this city are disgusted with Kevin and his cronies.”

Rewers bristled, too. “It’s unfortunate that he doesn’t understand what the office of the mayor is. It’s to be a representative of the public. To have a vision that will move the city forward and to make the case to the public. I think he’s failed at that.”

Had he appeared at this forum, Johnson would have seen “candidates” a bit less famous than himself, perhaps, not even remotely as well-funded, but probably just as qualified. Frankly, Rewers has simply got the mayor beat on policy, and Padilla’s way past him when it comes to executive swagger.

But seriously. Four years ago, the Mayor of Sacramento, Heather Fargo, appeared at every forum side by side with a whole pack of candidates viable and otherwise.

It was probably pretty grueling, you know, because of the multiple sclerosis. She needed help getting around, but she showed up to defend her record in public. Meanwhile, Johnson ran around and called Fargo weak and ineffectual, promising a “city that works for everyone.”

Today, Sacramento really doesn’t work for anyone. It’s the city itself that seems exhausted. And the mayor doesn’t show up to debate it.