Neighborhood votes heavily against ‘strong mayor’ system

Does the city need a “strong mayor?” Viewpoint posed that question in its October issue, publishing articles by City Councilmember Jay Schenirer in favor of Measure A and SMUD Director Rosanna Herber in opposition.

The answer of voters – both in Curtis Park and throughout the city – was a resounding “no.” In the three neighborhood precincts, the vote was 35% in favor and 65% opposed, according to Sacramento County’s election website link,

The city totals were 42% in favor, 58% opposed. A cluster of four precincts in East Sacramento voted more than 70% in opposition, as did one precinct in the Pocket. Support for Measure A was generally strongest in northern, southern and southeast precincts, although no area of the city registered more than 64% of the vote in favor.

In 2014, a similar measure promoted by then-Mayor Kevin Johnson was defeated by a margin of 44% in favor, 56% opposed citywide.

Measure A would have changed the City Charter to strengthen the mayor’s powers. The mayor would have become the city’s chief executive officer, with powers to appoint and remove the city manager with City Council concurrence. The mayor would have gained veto power over ordinances and the budget, subject to a six-vote City Council override. The mayor would have been limited to two terms.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who pushed for passage of Measure A, issued a statement expressing disappointment with its defeat. Nonetheless, he said, “I am ready to launch a second term under this system and fight for the same causes and people that motivated me to serve as our city’s mayor.”

Schenirer, in campaigning for Measure A, went against the prevailing sentiment in his district, where the majority of precincts opposed the measure and only four precincts narrowly favored it. “The case that I made is if you’re going to vote for a mayor with vision, give him the tools to implement that vision,” he said.

“Change is hard. In many ways, folks in Sacramento see themselves along the lines of a smaller municipality.” Herber said she thinks the defeat of Measure A “shows that people don’t want to give ONE person the power to solve city issues. They want to come together in one place (Council meetings) and work through the issues and problems in our city.

“People want to have MORE say in their government, not less. The strong mayor model would have split the power in the community and would have made it more difficult to bring about cooperation and consensus on the Council.”

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