Inside City Politics
Never underestimate the arrogance of politicians, even at the local level. They know better than you and me. And they won’t take no for an answer.
This summer, the City Council considered a November ballot initiative to steal about $10 million annually from cannabis taxes. The money would flow to private organizations. In theory, they will spend it on kids. Or so they say.
If this sounds familiar, it should. Voters rejected two similar schemes, Measure Y in 2016 and Measure G in 2020.
On Railroad Drive, a security guard blocks a public street with his patrol car. He moves when people ask nicely. Unless they want to build an illegal homeless camp.
At police headquarters, cops hear the words “use of force policy” and get confused. The policy changes often, a politicized moving target. Cops grow frustrated.
In Washington, business executives and city officials meet with local members of Congress and remind them about matters of community importance. One City Council member, Katie Valenzuela, skips the trip. She goes to Cuba and celebrates May Day with comrades.
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.