Vote nobody for mayor

It’s funny how media in this town works. Consider The Sacramento Bee’s recent drive-by on Sacramento city teachers.

You remember? Back in the spring, the Bee editorial board sided with first-time school superintendent Jonathan Raymond (a.k.a. J-Ray, a.k.a. the Biz) and demanded that teachers agree to three unpaid furlough days and a shorter school year. If the union rejected those concessions, the argument went, 250 teachers would be thrown under the bus.

But the teachers went Raymond and the Bee one better: They gave up the three-days pay, but decided to work those days anyway. Apparently, cutting the school year is bad for kids (though the kids might disagree with that argument), and it would also take a big bite out of the teachers’ retirement benefit.

Anyway, concessions were made, the Bee editors gave their blessing and went on to bash the next union. (Seriously, have you ever read a pro-labor editorial in those pages? Ever?)

What the Bee failed to report was that, after all the drama, the Sacramento City Unified School District is now saying that 64 teachers and counselors lost their jobs anyway. Guess it was just a smaller bus that got them.

Shortly after he was elected mayor in 1992, Joe Serna said he wanted to set up a charter-review commission to explore whether the city needs a full-time city council and a strong-mayor form of government.

Under Serna’s plan, the commission’s recommendations would go on the ballot after a thorough public process.

“I want it done slowly and deliberately. This is not something you want to rush into,” Serna told the Bee at the time.

Serna had some perspective that the current mayor lacks. He knew that voters in Sacramento have been very reluctant to change local-government structures.

After all, in 1990, voters rejected a ballot measure that included city-county consolidation, strong-mayor powers and other reforms. In 1974, a similar package was voted down.

Bites wasn’t on the scene back then and isn’t sure why Serna ultimately abandoned charter reform. Did he have a change of heart? Did he find it too difficult, or did he just run out of time?

Bites does know that Kevin Johnson proved himself to be the wrong person to lead any charter-reform effort in Sacramento. The results pretty much speak for themselves.

As Bites has pointed out here before, if you want real charter reform, the best way to go is through a formal charter commission.

Per the California Constitution, it’ll take about 30,000 signatures to place a measure on the ballot creating a charter commission in Sacramento. Members would serve a two-year term, and their mission would be to thoroughly and impartially research local governance and make recommendations.

The method is constitutionally sound, and whatever the citizen commissioners recommend can be considered vetted and good to go before voters.

You can bet the various interests around town—labor, developers, taco-truck operators—will all be jockeying to elect their own people. But Bites thinks it would still end up being a pretty representative group.

The best part is that there would be lots of citizen input, and we can introduce any reforms we want. We could better empower neighborhoods, reform the election system, and reconsider how government services are paid for and delivered.

Hell, we might even decide that we don’t need a mayor at all. We’ve done OK over the last couple of years.