A push by two Sacramento City Council members to secure funding for special projects in their districts — including a $14 million aquatic center with an Olympic-sized pool in Natomas — was voted down on Tuesday.
The budget committee did advance Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s plan to spend $16 million of the city’s surplus as part of a $1.2 billion budget, despite criticism by Council members Angelique Ashby and Jeff Harris.
Projects in their districts were not on a list of budget priorities chosen by Steinberg, who said the $16 million worth of items would help the underserved and young people. Ashby was upset there was not funding for the pool.
"Many of the things that were talked about today focused on youth. Hard to think of more things than a pool built at a school that would focus more on youth," Ashby said.
Steinberg defended his plan. “Do not the youth engagement and summer programming benefit the kids in District 1 and District 3?” the mayor asked, referring to Ashby and Harris’ districts. “Does not the kindergarten to college savings program benefit the kids of District 1 and 3? How about the free transit passes for Sacramento youth?"
Steinberg pledged to work with Harris and Ashby, however, to fund projects in their districts this summer, and set a timetable for both.
Ashby says funding sources will evaporate if she does not have city buy-in on the aquatic center soon. The full Council is scheduled to vote on the budget plan on June 11.
The $16 million for special projects comes from increased Measure U revenues, this after voters approved raising the sales tax last year. The Council will ask the Measure U Citizens Advisory Committee to make recommendations for how to spend the remaining $32 million in tax revenue.
Ashby eventually voted for the budget on Tuesday, including the mayor’s list of priorities, and Harris was the lone “no” vote.
“Would you vote for the mayoral priorities if your district had nothing?” Harris said.
Public testimony at the meeting took nearly four hours. Many speakers came from Natomas, like Robert Wurgler, who supported the aquatic center.
“Throw us a bone. Give us at least some gap funding,” he told Council members.
Other city residents thanked the mayor for the special project funding, including Rob Kerth, a former Council member whose family owns Iceland skating rink in north Sacramento, which is set to receive $1.3 million for restoration.
“You have a great list before you ladies and gentlemen. Please don’t shorten it,” Kerth said.
District 2 had the most projects under Steinberg’s plan, though Council member Allen Warren said it won’t be enough to address his district’s high crime and unemployment, and many streets without sidewalks.
“When I hear Council members talk about what they don’t have, I try not to be offended,” Warren said. “I have to dig deep for the best me to be present.”
The budget and audit committee is made up of the entire council, whereas in previous years it was a four-member group.
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