The Allen Warren retort
Newly minted District 2 Councilman Allen Warren answers critics, looks forward
One of Allen Warren’s longtime friends and new constituents has just taken a look at the Sacramento city councilman’s car. Warren, looking dapper in a fitted black shirt and slacks, stands in the doorway of New Faze Development, the Del Paso Heights construction company he built from scratch after his professional baseball prospects shattered with his ankle. The councilman, 48, explains that he parked his car downtown under a tree the previous night during a swearing-in ceremony at City Hall. When the newly minted District 2 representative emerged, his car was covered in bird shit.
Somewhere in that mess is a metaphor for what it’s like to be a public servant.
Warren, an affable, soft-spoken guy who’s devoted a lot of time—and his own money—to his hometown, still nurses a slight grudge against SN&R for reporting on his myriad financial difficulties. The paper focused too much on irrelevant negatives, he contends, and not enough on the goals he wants to achieve in his beloved district. But when asked about those goals, Warren says he can’t get specific. Not yet.
And that’s the Warren paradox: He sincerely loves his battered community and wants to see it thrive (he even tries to get a story in SN&R about the vegan restaurant downstairs from his office) but may be distracted by the part of the glass that’s already half full.
Raheem F. Hosseini: You’re inheriting a district that struggles with crime, poverty. There’s this perception that it’s been neglected by the city council. Where do you start?
Allen Warren: When you say “inherited,” I’m born and raised here, so it’s not new to me. I grew up in this community … and I built my business here. … So I understand the challenges of the community, I think, in a pretty unique way, and I recognize them as challenges. They truly are challenges. Do I believe that parts of our community have been neglected? Yes, I do. Do I believe that sometimes our community is mislabeled? Yes, I do. Do I recognize and know that this community has very talented people that live here, good people that live in this community? Absolutely. I know that, I believe in that, and I believe that that’s part of the story that has yet to be told about this community.
So, are you saying this community hasn’t been given its due and proper?
There are a lot of positive things here that seldom get written about, and I want to be about finding, identifying and then exposing those things to people in this community. But also I want other people outside of the community to see and understand they can come here, buy a home and raise a family and be part of the solution. … They don’t have to move to other parts of the city or some other state.
What brings them back?
Well, that’s part of it. We have to give them a reason to come here.
And what are those reasons?
Opportunity. Why do people go anywhere? Why did people move west?
Are you talking about job opportunities?
Why did you come here?
To this office?
To the community.
OK, so that’s why people would come here. If we can create other businesses like the News & Review or the restaurant downstairs [The Green Boheme] or ABC business, then people would come here to work. In addition to that, this is one of the more affordable areas for people to buy homes. … So, people can come here and buy a house for a lot cheaper than they can rent. And then you can rise with the rising tide of the real-estate market, which has driven values and wealth in this country for generations.
The financial collapse attested that you can’t rely too much on one thing or the other. You can’t rely too much on state jobs, you can’t rely too much on real estate to dig you out of a hole. Are you saying that real estate is one facet of the equation?
Real estate is a big piece. … You only lose money in real estate if you’re forced to sell. If you can buy and hold on, the real-estate market will come back. It may not come back in our generation to what it was before, but if your kids hold on to it—
Holding on, though, has become a dicier proposition than ever.
Absolutely. But guess what? Just because you lost it, the next person that comes and buys it from you is going to make money, right? When you lose your house, the person that comes and buys it at the bottom price … that person’s going to make money. You just didn’t make money.
There’s still a lot of losers in that equation.
Why do you think people voted for you?
Let me just say that the race was a very difficult race. It was a tough race. Rob [Kerth] was a very formidable candidate, had been council person for two terms and basically [had] all of the institutional backing here. I think people saw past that because when they looked at who had made what commitments to the community—irrespective of which projects succeeded and didn’t—who took the risk to put their own money, hired people … it was very evident. …
I think that people that know me understand that I’m not a quitter. I work hard and I fight for what I believe in. And I think that was big in terms of people determining that they could entrust me with this position.
As you said, the race was closely divided. During the election, you made some comments claiming that the city brought a lawsuit against you to convince you not to run.
It wasn’t the city. It was part of politics. Politics is a rough-and-tumble business. The city filed a lawsuit and dropped it within two weeks. So they filed it, got the headlines.
But the question is: They did take that step, so how do you—
Let me tell you, I wasn’t there. They had no basis to file the lawsuit, from my perspective, which is why they dropped it. You should ask the people that were there prior to me.
My question isn’t about the lawsuit. My question is how do you work with these people that, one, tried to get you not to run and—
Well, keep this in mind. People tried to get me not to run and others tried to get me to run. That’s politics. That’s just the way it goes.
Kind of an “it’s all part of the game, and now the game’s over” thing?
I’m sure there’ll be other games. They don’t stop. But I think they’re a little different at this point. Just as I need to get five votes, they need to get five votes as well.
A lot of horse trading?
The key is to keep the city’s interests at heart and what I believe is best for the city. … Because that’s why we’re there. The seat does not belong to me. It’s the people’s seat. This is the District 2 seat.
I think you previously said that you didn’t see “strong mayor” as a main priority. You’re kind of looked at as a possible vote in Mayor Kevin Johnson’s favor. He hasn’t really said when he might bring it back again, but where does that fall?
I think the people of Sacramento should have had the right to vote on it. … Why wouldn’t they be able to weigh in on strong mayor? It’s a big enough issue. So I believe that that should’ve been decided, and we should not be talking about that for four years. … Because if we continually talk about the same issues, then our list gets longer.
When an elected representative comes across a company they’ve had business with in the past or still might have business with, like if you’re still haggling with Wells Fargo over some issues, and they come before the council—
I have not seen them come before us about anything. However, there’s a city attorney and the city attorney advises.
And then you go with whatever the recommendation is?
You have to work within the confines of the structure. … And let me just say, for the record, I would love to see Wells Fargo do great things in Sacramento. I would be supportive if I could, if it was not a violation for me to vote for. I’m not going to attack the News & Review for attacking me. I’d love for you guys to keep hiring, keep being a positive influence in the community.
I don’t think I’ve heard something specific that you’d really like to see happen in District 2. Is there something you could point to?
Let me just say that I have substantial goals. I think there are a number of things that I could point to and say, “This is kind of the history of what I’ve been doing here.”
But just like one, one specific thing?
You know, I’m not prepared to give you one, other than we want to create more jobs in District 2, and we want to lower crime in District 2. Those are issues that I think everyone can relate to, and I think they’re tied together, those two.
How about this? I recently did a story on the racial-profiling commission. When I spoke to the Rev. Ashiya Odeye, he mentioned that he might speak with you about getting the commission back up and running. Did you talk to him at all?
I haven’t spoken with him about it, no.
Are you aware of the issues they’re dealing with?
(Smiles.) I’m aware of racial profiling.