Let’s Be Responsible
City budget doesn’t need mayor’s gamble
By Angelique Ashby
I’m proud of my Sacramento City Council colleague Jeff Harris for articulating his concerns about Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s proposed additions to our city budget.
The mayor wants to take out loans against sales tax income from Measure U. It’s a bonding scheme that could put city assets at risk and possibly bankrupt Sacramento if the economy stalls.
By contrast, the budget proposed by City Manager Howard Chan is responsible and comprehensive. Our city’s solvency and long-term sustainability must always be our paramount goal.
There are so many things we can do within the confines of our current budget. We do not need to put the city in jeopardy of insolvency.
The city manager has proposed a balanced and robust budget that includes millions of dollars for new investment in neighborhoods, arts, youth, public safety, parks and more.
It creates neighborhood economic development teams, a model that has worked well in other cities to create investment. It funds millions in Strategic Neighborhood Action Plans and creates positions for a chief housing officer and Downtown urban housing ombudsman.
The city manager’s budget includes enhanced youth programs and resources to expand services and hours at libraries and community centers. It adds 5,000 hours of access to free internet, youth activities, Prime Time Teen, Hot Spots, homework help, Summer Night Lights and literacy programs.
The budget produced by Chan’s office includes a film commissioner—the top priority for the “Creative Economy” series of forums held citywide. The budget adds $550,000 to launch other Creative Economy priorities—along with the film commissioner position.
As for public safety, the city manager’s budget includes funds for body-worn cameras and the Gang Prevention and Intervention Task Force. It also funds the addition of 22 community service officers and 15 police officers. Additionally, it funds a fourth battalion for Fire Department oversight and fully funds our firefighter academies.
In addition to the expenditures proposed by the city manager, the city has $50 million for one-time projects across Sacramento in every council district.
The list of proposals includes a library in Del Paso Heights, a restored amphitheater in Land Park, bike paths and the riverfront development in Greenhaven, funding for the Freedom School in Del Paso and Meadowview, major improvements to the South Natomas Community Center, a new South Natomas Garden and Arts Center, and funding for Northgate Boulevard improvements.
Also featured in the proposals are a restaurant for Winn Park, improvements along Capitol Mall, $1 million in free bus passes for youth, and gap funding for the community center and pool in North Natomas.
Civic benefits don’t stop there. Beyond the proposed budget and these one-time expenditures, the City Council recently invested more than $40 million to revive the waterfront in Old Sac.
Earlier this year, we invested $18.1 million in programs requested by Mayor Steinberg, including $16 million for homeless programs and $2.1 million for youth and community programs. Among the recipients were the Sims Center in South Sacramento and La Familia Center.
Last month, we committed another $13 million to the build out of homeless housing, with future wraparound care at Capitol Park.
We are investing heavily in neighborhoods, youth and economic development. And we’re working to address homelessness.
Yes, some budget funds will go to salaries and pensions promised to city employees. But this is not a zero-sum game. We must provide services and fulfill the city’s obligations.
The city manager’s proposed budget adds significant investment to our communities, but without risking bankruptcy—and without creating an ongoing debt to burden future city leaders for 30 years.
I’m proud of City Manager Chan and his ability to propose a budget that responds to the diverse requests of the City Council. His budget sets a strong precedent for investment in neighborhoods, essential city services, economic development, housing, literacy, youth and working with community partners.
It’s balanced. It’s fair. It honors our obligations and grows our investment in neighborhoods by millions of dollars.
Thank you to the supporters of Measure U. With your investment, we have an opportunity to better serve, and invest in, every part of our amazing city.
Angelique Ashby is the Vice Mayor and Sacramento City Councilmember for District 1. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.