Charter Commission Says No to Strong Mayor

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(Sacramento, CA)
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
The commission told the City Council Tuesday night that it’s only recommending a few piecemeal changes. That’s in contrast to Mayor Kevin Johnson’s sweeping initiative to increase the mayor’s power that goes before voters next June.
The way it works now, Sacramento’s city manager runs the city's day-to-day operations. Johnson’s measure would put the mayor in charge instead. It would let the mayor appoint and remove top city officials; propose the entire budget; and have veto power. But council members say Johnson’s initiative goes too far. And after several months of research, a majority of the charter commission agrees. Here’s how commission chair and former city manager Bill Edgar put it after the meeting:
Edgar: “I think the current initiative is a very extreme proposal, overreaching and should be rejected by the voters summarily. It confers much too much power on one individual.”
The commission’s report does recommend a few small but significant changes. For example, currently, the city council appoints and removes the city manager. The report suggests giving that power to the mayor – subject to council approval. Another change: the mayor would have a bigger say in setting budget priorities. But to Johnson, who’s deeply frustrated with the slow pace of City Hall, those proposals aren’t nearly enough.
Johnson: “People in the community are saying our streets are not as safe as we would like them to be, our schools are not performing at the level that we’d like them, we don’t have as many jobs.  Clearly, this is an extension of business as usual from my perspective.”
The question now is whether the council will place an alternate measure to Johnson’s on the same ballot in June. At the council’s request, the commission rushed to finish its report to keep that option open. But most council members, including Sandy Sheedy, want the commission to take its time and propose a more thorough and modern charter revision.
Sheedy: “My feeling is, you’ve done a good job so far but it’s not done. And to put an opposing measure on the ballot right now without it being done is wrong. So I think we need to go back after June and take another look at this and see about finishing and doing it right.”
That would leave Johnson’s initiative to fend for itself, and give voters a choice between a major overhaul and the status quo – with nothing in between.