City Council members come and go, but one tradition never changes: pretending City Council jobs are hard.
When Kevin Johnson was mayor, I worked as his special assistant. The job was fun, filled with interesting people and problems. Being a staff member is not the same as elected. But I can’t call it hard.
Working for Kevin was difficult, but nothing like bartending or nursing or driving a delivery van. It was challenging because Kevin always wanted to know where I was and what I was doing, even when he didn’t need me, which was most of the time.
They needed to say something with six bodies scattered around the sidewalk at 10th and K streets. So Darrell Steinberg and Katie Valenzuela took shelter in the safest place they knew. They blamed guns.
With an actor’s studied passion, Steinberg spoke of broken hearts and school shootings. Valenzuela, newer at this sort of performance, tearfully described a phone call at 2:30 a.m. and waded into the weeds of the nation’s fascination with armaments.
I was walking on Ninth Street near City Hall and passed a tiny homeless encampment burrowed into the porch of a vacant building. Empty wine bottles stood sentry around two people asleep. Garbage spilled across the sidewalk. The little hovel was sad and filthy and carried a stomach-churning stench.
The scene triggered a memory. It made me think about a documentary film I saw two decades ago, “The Marshes of Two Street,” by Richard Simpson.
As a guy who enjoys change, I love the Sacramento City Council. This council is all about change.
Two members, Angelique Ashby and Jay Schenirer, are leaving this year because they want new challenges, the state Senate for Ashby, retirement for Schenirer. Jeff Harris doesn’t want to go, but he’s leaving because a reapportionment committee stole his council district out from under him.
Next time, let’s leave the politics to the professionals. Amateur interference just creates a mess. At least with pros, outcomes are transparently based on self-preservation, greed and vengeance.
The latest example of mud pies created by amateurs at City Hall involves the redesign of City Council districts. This exercise commences around the turn of every decade, in alignment with census upheavals.
Officially, the process is called “redistricting,” but that’s a word I’ve sworn never to write or speak. It’s deadly for anyone trying to hold an audience.
Now we know how Darrell Steinberg’s political story ends. The mayor doesn’t fade away to cheers from sports fans thankful for the soccer stadium he coaxed into existence. There is no stadium. He doesn’t salute a revitalized embarcadero along the Sacramento River. There is no new waterfront.
But there are 11,000 homeless people.
After years of parliamentary gamesmanship, passionate speeches, tax hikes and wasted opportunities, Steinberg will be remembered for one thing—how he took Sacramento and turned it into the capital of homelessness.