KXJZ file photo/Ben Adler
Of the five people challenging Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo, Kevin Johnson has both the highest profile and the best chance to win. KXJZ's series spotlighting the candidates continues with a look at the former NBA star.
To Kevin Johnson, Sacramento is at a crossroads.
Johnson: “Sacramento is going from a small market to a middle market and we’re starting to grow up.”
And he believes it’s about time the city’s leaders started acting that way. Like many of his supporters, Johnson feels things around here simply move too slowly.
Johnson: “In Sacramento, we kinda plan to plan, then we plan, then we have another plan, then we talk about the plan that we’ve planned – as opposed to executing, implementing some of those plans and getting something out of the ground.”
But the right leader can change that, Johnson says. He touts his experience at Sacramento High School and redeveloping Oak Park, and says he’ll bring a new energy to City Hall.
Johnson: “When you have a leader that’s bold in terms of vision and it’s compelling, that inspires people. It gets people excited. It builds confidence. When people start feeling better about themselves, they’re willing to try harder and do more.”
Johnson’s three main policy planks are public safety, education and economic development. With each, he lays out what he feels are the city’s problems – for example, an increase in crime, poor school performance and downtown redevelopment – and says he can do better.
For example, Johnson has repeatedly called on putting more cops on the streets and to be proactive to keep kids out of gangs.
Johnson: “We cannot just try to solve the gang issue by prosecuting people who get in trouble. We’ve gotta do it on the preventive side of things: get kids early on the front end, have interventions, and that’s where education and having a mayor that’s working very closely with our particular school districts is gonna make a tremendous difference in terms of reducing crime in Sacramento.”
Critics say Johnson’s words are often unrealistic. They say he doesn’t offer enough specifics – or when he does, he can’t back them up. Johnson has also faced some personal questions, like allegations of sexual misconduct and a federal investigation into his non-profit, St. HOPE.
Despite all that, he’s kept the race close enough to have a shot at knocking off a two-term incumbent – not an easy thing for any challenger, even an NBA star.