On Strong Mayor 4.0

SN&R worries Sacramento Tomorrow’s latest executive-mayor pitch will still be unconvincing

In 1893, business powers in Sacramento wanted a more effective city leader, so that year, B.U. Steinman became the city’s first strong mayor. But this executive-mayor government model was short-lived, due to corruption, and the system dissolved 17 years later in 1910.

And now here we are, 103 years later, trying again to resurrect the strong-mayor model.

Sacramento Tomorrow is responsible for the latest campaign to tweak the city charter. The nonprofit group’s saying all the right things: reach out to stakeholders, listen, learn. It plans to ask city council to place an executive-mayor initiative on next year’s ballot.

The media quickly labeled this new push “Strong Mayor 4.0,” even though organizers insist the operation is independent from Mayor Kevin Johnson’s previous three attempts at reform. (That’s difficult to accept, since there are some familiar Team Johnson faces linked to Tomorrow.)

Anyway, SN&R still wonders whether Sacramentans want, or need, a stronger mayor.

Last year, voters rejected charter reform, with Measure M’s trouncing. And this past spring, Mayor Johnson was able to pass the largest and most expensive urban-redevelopment project in city history, the Kings arena—and with less than 72 hours of public dialogue and feedback.

Is power and executive potency really an impediment to his ability to run the city? If so, how would the city have been “more effective” with strong mayor? A bigger arena subsidy? Less council involvement? A 48-hour review process instead of 72?

Sacramento Tomorrow has yet to make its strong-mayor case, but we worry the argument will be the same unconvincing pitch.