Obvious Choice

Pluckebaum deserves to replace Valenzuela

By Cecily Hastings
January 2024

Next month we celebrate 27 years of publishing Inside Sacramento, now the largest print circulation periodical in the region. Covering local politics has been part of our mission since we started.

In recent years, as our beloved city has descended into chaos, we stepped up our coverage. I like to think we’ve led the way with analysis and reports on the toughest city issues. We’ve done our best to hold local elected officials accountable.

On March 5, four of the eight City Council positions are up for reelection. For many Inside readers, the most important race involves District 4, which includes East Sacramento, Midtown and Downtown.

Thanks to City Hall’s redistricting fiasco, residents of District 4 have lacked representation since former City Council member Jeff Harris was drawn out of his district in December 2021.

Harris was a successful councilmember and constituent representative. He would have cruised to reelection in 2022 if the reapportionment debacle never happened.

Now the reconfigured District 4 gets to choose between two vastly different candidates.

Incumbent Katie Valenzuela is campaigning in East Sac neighborhoods that didn’t elect her in 2020. Her old district included Land Park and Downtown. She lives in Midtown.

Valenzuela was elected as a protest vote in 2020 when incumbent Councilmember Steve Hansen in large part ignored his Land Park constituents and focused his energy Downtown on development and homelessness. But in the years since then homelessness has grown to fill our entire city. And it now heavily impacts Sacramento’s struggling small business community. Valenzuela advocates for the unhoused but without any obligation to use mental health services offered or to protect the destruction of our physical environment.

From an East Sac perspective, Valenzuela is an enigma. She has done almost nothing to represent the interests of residents since the districts were redrawn. People who try to work with her find her divisive and alienating.

She works behind the scenes to pressure colleagues not to enforce anti-camping laws that could help alleviate the civic disaster of homelessness. Shame on city leadership for letting her get away with ignoring local ordinances.

Valenzuela claims the housing shortage is the main reason for homelessness. Yet she voted against housing proposals when union labor was not used. Every meaningful homeless initiative met defiance from Valenzuela.

Her opponent is Phil Pluckebaum, who lives in East Sacramento with his wife Toni and their two sons. He has decades of volunteer neighborhood and city experience, and believes in public service with a commitment to improving the lives of local residents.

I worked with Pluckebaum to rebuild the McKinley Park playground in 2015. He can swing a hammer and carry a load, plus manage a team project. He comes away with the respect of his neighbors.

Pluckebaum served many years in leadership for the River Park Neighborhood Association. He worked to protect the American River. He served two terms on the city Planning and Design Commission, where he helped shape responsible growth.

A project manager for UC Davis Health, Pluckebaum endeavors to expand and improve our regional health care system. On City Council, his professional skills will contribute to solving the homeless crisis. Homelessness is linked to public health, and providing appropriate mental and physical health care is a pathway out of this mess.

For the last 27 years, I did my best to present information on candidates so voters could make the right decisions.

Since founding Inside, I’ve made only one political endorsement. I encouraged a mayoral vote for Kevin Johnson. Sixteen years later, I believe he’ll be regarded as the most successful mayor in my lifetime.

Today our city is in crisis. If Katie Valenzuela is reelected, things will get worse. She’s a demagogue for far-left causes, not thinking about the consequences for local residents.

By contrast, Phil Pluckebaum is a consensus builder and problem solver. He listens carefully and thoughtfully expresses his own views. I believe he will fairly hear out anyone with whom he disagrees.

For a preview of how Pluckebaum will engage as a City Council member, consider the thoroughness and dedication demonstrated by Jeff Harris. Pluckebaum and Harris have been friends and allies for decades. Harris endorsed Phil, as did other neighborhood leaders in East Sac.

An obscure fringe candidate, Marilynn Mackey, is also on the ballot. If no one gets 50.1%, a November runoff is held.
The March 5 primary gives voters the chance to throw Valenzuela out of office. Our city deserves better. Please join me in supporting and voting for Phil Pluckebaum.

Readers ask how they can contribute to Inside Sacramento. Here’s how. Consider a paid supporting membership starting at $19.95 a year. Use the QR code and help support our mission to deliver local news. Cecily Hastings can be reached at publisher@insidepublications.com.

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