Valenzuela recall faces key hurdle in September
By R.E. Graswich
Soon after she was elected to City Council in 2020, Katie Valenzuela told me something remarkable. She said she would follow her instincts and didn’t care if voters tossed her out after one term.
Now she might not make it that far.
In September, the group “For a Better Sacramento” plans to submit petitions forcing Valenzuela into a recall election next March.
If organizers and their 300-strong volunteer army succeed in delivering 8,000 valid signatures, Valenzuela will face an angry sea of voters next spring, almost two years before her term ends in December 2024.
In a recall, Valenzuela’s political fate reduces to a yes or no choice. Voters will find a list of people ready to replace the councilwoman elected to represent Land Park, Little Pocket, Midtown and Downtown.
Valenzuela wasn’t the first rookie politician to tell me she would follow her instincts. But she was the first who said she didn’t mind serving only one term.
I told her if that were true, she would be the first politician in history OK with ending her career before it started.
I wrote off Valenzuela’s remarks as youthful, impulsive and self-righteous. I missed the deeper significance, Katie’s fatal flaw as an elected official: her judgment.
In a democracy, leaders serve the public, not themselves.
Valenzuela serves herself.
A few months later, I learned the extent of Katie’s judgmental deficiencies when she hired a City Hall staffer who called himself Skyler Henry.
Henry was an insignificant local agitator with a podcast. Nobody listened to his podcast. Then he began to celebrate protesters who gathered outside the homes of Mayor Darrell Steinberg and City Manager Howard Chan. The protesters broke stuff and raised hell until police told them to go away.
Steinberg and Chan asked Valenzuela to not hire Henry. She hired him anyway.
When I spoke to Katie about what a bad idea it was to employ Henry, she insisted it was a free speech issue and she would be a hypocrite if she dumped him. Her poor judgment was clear.
From there, Valenzuela made things worse.
She became a full-time advocate for homeless people, dismissing or ignoring concerns raised by constituents, abandoning any pretense of representation for residents who elected her.
She engaged in virtue signaling while telling voters she’s not on their side.
The public’s response was predictable. Even progressive residents began to demand the city do something about violence, property crimes, fires and open drug use caused by homeless people.
As tents and trouble spread across her communities, Valenzuela ignored questions about holding homeless people accountable.
When Land Park resident Kate Tibbitts was raped and murdered, her dogs killed and house set ablaze, allegedly by a homeless parolee, the advocacy position staked out by Valenzuela became unbearable.
But Valenzuela hardly blinked.
Last December, our hopelessly confused City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood proclaimed Valenzuela as City Council representative for East Sacramento, thanks to redistricting.
Valenzuela rushed to East Sac, not with humility but with a speech about how East Sac needs more homeless camps.
Recall plans were launched before she finished talking.
No surprise, the city attorney was wrong. Katie doesn’t represent East Sac. Nobody does until 2024, thanks to the city attorney’s mistakes. But the damage was done.
East Sac voters can’t recall Valenzuela because they didn’t elect her. But they can help organize their Land Park, Little Pocket, Downtown and Midtown neighbors.
Prominent among recall organizers is Dan Tibbitts, brother of Kate Tibbitts. He says, “If we want our society to return to the days when we can feel safe in our own homes, we need to rid ourselves of politicians who care more about their social justice agendas than the wellbeing of their own constituents. We need to rid ourselves of Katie Valenzuela.”
I don’t know if “For a Better Sacramento” will submit 8,000 valid signatures by Sept. 7. But if they do, I’ll bet Valenzuela loses her job in March. The recall won’t be about politics or money or virtue signaling.
It will be about a City Council member who serves herself, not the public.
R.E. Graswich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.com.