Inside City Politics
Portland and Sacramento have many similarities. Portland is often about two years ahead of us in development and addressing problems, but we can gain insight from how Portland’s city commission reacts to municipal realities.
The two cities are alike in history, economic development and geography. Both have agricultural roots, comparable populations and two rivers. Both have chronic homelessness and divisions among city leadership. Some councilmembers want to defund police.
We both suffered looting and violence after George Floyd’s murder in 2020. Both experienced economic decline, rising housing costs and rampant homeless squalor. The pandemic left both city councils scrambling for solutions. Members became more polarized.
Substance-use disorders and mental illness are big contributors to homelessness. And our region lacks enough programs to address this problem.
Easy availability of street methamphetamines makes everything worse. Seeking solutions, I worked with WellSpace Health and Sacramento Police in 2019 to create the Substance Use Respite and Engagement center. It’s where people in substance or psychiatric crises can receive help and a ‘front porch’ to recovery-oriented services.
Contenders for the 2024 mayor’s race are quietly jockeying for position, but it’s all talk until December. That’s when candidates must file paperwork for the March 5 primary election.
Between now and then, it’s a waiting game to see who might want to replace Darrell Steinberg.
Knowing candidates have seven months to make up their minds, we decided to look at who might—or should—solicit endorsements, raise money and get the required documents into the city clerk’s hands by Dec. 8.
Pops in the Park music performances are a beloved tradition in East Sacramento—an entertainment mainstay for 31 years.
June is the traditional month for Pops. We had a two-year pause during the pandemic, but picked up the pieces last year with two great shows. People were delighted to have Pops back.
When I joined the City Council in 2015, our public meetings were relatively benign. There was some tension over subsidizing Golden 1 Center. The city’s contribution to the Jeff Koons art piece “Piglet” caused a stir. Relatively easy stuff to work through.
Then in 2018, with the Sacramento Police shooting death of Stephon Clark and the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, things got serious. Protests led to real anger at City Hall. Obscenities became common at our meetings. Several sessions ended early because they could not be calmed.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s life was threatened at the dais. Councilmembers were called racists, murderers and executioners. At one point City Hall was vandalized. Councilmembers left the building for safety reasons.
Progress on the homeless crisis needs five components: monetary resources, political will, a model for housing and services, a place to implement the program and adequate service providers.
With collaborative effort, the city and county can make real progress.
But first, elected officials must admit homelessness is a crisis. We often hear the words “crisis” from the City Council. But the actions enable people to camp in squalor on our streets.
That’s not compassion. And it’s no way to solve a crisis.
An example is “Camp Resolution,” where staff was told to move people illegally squatting on land deemed unfit for humans by state water authorities.