City Council Votes Against Strong Mayor; For Charter Commission

SACRAMENTO – In what was a visibly contentious meeting, the Sacramento City Council voted down the strong-mayor initiative proposed by Mayor Kevin Johnson Tuesday night. Therefore, the citizens of Sacramento will not have their say in regards to the “Checks and Balances Act of 2012 3.0” initiative that was requested to be placed on the November ballot for voters’ approval.

The Council voted 5-4 not to place the measure on the ballot, effectively ending the debate until after the November 2012 election.

It was Johnson’s third attempt to revise the city’s charter and place more power in the mayor’s hands. City Council members Sandy Sheedy, Darrell Fong, Kevin McCarty, Rob Fong and Bonnie Pannell voted against the initiative. Council members Angelique Ashby, Jay Schenirer, Steve Cohn and Johnson voted in favor of the proposal. The strong-mayor proposal would have given the mayor authority to hire and fire the city manager, certain veto powers over the council, and present a city budget.

For the most part, the council did not see it as a need to put the decision on the backs of voters without vetting the initative a little longer. The initiative also called for an “at-large” council position that would replace the mayor’s seat and put a 10th council seat at the dais. The mayor would have served as the swing vote in any council issues.

A majority of the people that made comments Tuesday night wanted it to be placed on the ballot. There had been 18 council meetings for the strong-mayor debate. Plus, there were dozens of revisions of the initiative set forth by Johnson’s staff to please the members of the council. Johnson indicated that delay dragged on until it was irrelevant to the council. No sooner than Johnson became mayor of the city in 2008 he was focus on changing he charter.

“Over the course of three years, we have made over 40 changes to the proposal,” Johnson said to the council. “So we went from 40 changes in putting something on, which I think is the ultimate compromise that the public deserves the right to vote. This notion of Checks and Balances is ‘lets separate the powers between executive and legislation.’ That’s not a bad thing,” the mayor stated.

The City Council was able to vote 7-2 in favor place a Charter Commission measure on the ballot, The commission would examine the current charter and suggest ideas for modifications. The commission, brought to the council by McCarty, would consist of 15 members. A person must be a resident of Sacramento to be on the commission and he or she will need at least 20 signatures to be considered a candidate.

The commission is a two-year observation of the charter. Two years that Councilwoman Angelique Ashby does not want at all. Ashby and Johnson voted against the proposal. “Between staffing and meetings and the elections…it’s too expensive,” Ashby said.

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By Antonio R. Harvey

OBSERVER STAFF WRITER