Sacramento City Council Dist. 8 Candidates – Bonnie Pannell (l) & Betty Williams (r)

SACRAMENTO – One of the most interesting and challenging City Council races in the June 5 Primary Election, is the two-person contest occurring in City Council District 8. Incumbent candidate Bonnie Pannell is seeking re-election to the District seat. She is being hotly challenged by candidate Betty Williams, recently retired president of the Sacramento Branch NAACP.

Both candidates are working hard to get their campaign messages out to voters in the District.

In District 8 incumbent Ms. Pannell is seeking her fifth term to the Council. This is Ms. Williams’ first venture into electoral politics. Long active in the community, she is an employment recruitment director.

In a recent interview with both candidates, THE OBSERVER learned each of their priorities, concerns and dreams for District 8. Here are those interviews:

Sacramento City Council Incumbent

Q – What three areas in District 8 do you see as needing the most attention?

A – Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Education, and Public Safety / Crime need the most attention.

Q – How can you, as a Council member, impact these issues?

A – We have brought many jobs and opportunities to District 8, and I will continue these efforts.

We will continue working with Police and neighborhood associations and neighborhood watches to keep crime down, as well as provide programs that work to reduce crime, such as the Boston Cease Fire Program and Street Intervention Teams, but these programs need a million dollars to be effective.

Our education system is not preparing our youth for the jobs that are now available or will be available in the future. There are some people, like Sacramento School Board Member Diana Rodriguez, who try to make teachers, principals and the Superintendent more accountable to parents, and their support of charter schools.

By keeping our community centers and pools open for our young people it will help deter them from crime and violence. Everything has to have a funding source. We tried to put a youth measure on the ballot, but the police and fire departments stopped it. I will continue my work with non-profits to provide programs for our young people and seniors.

Q – What can you do to sustain economic development in District 8?

A – Make the planning and development process more inviting to developers, by providing incentives. We will continue encouraging projects like our North Laguna Target store and shopping center, the College Square Retail Center, Golden Corral Restaurant, the Cosumnes River College Light Rail passenger parking structure, and the approved City Dog Park and state-of-the-art Mini Storage on West Stockton Boulevard.

In Meadowview, we now have the Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Grocery Store, the approved Delta Shores Master Plan with over 4,000 permanent end user jobs, and 1,200 construction jobs. The establishment of the Mack Road Property and Business Improvement District, to retain and attract businesses from Franklin Boulevard to Highway 99, is a $400,000 investment. These are just a few of the completed and approved projects to sustain economic development in District 8.

The City recently adopted a policy where locally owned companies wanting to do business with the city, will have a 2% bidding advantage over non-local firms.

Q – What are your ideas for promoting education?

A – Continue to work with the elected school board member for South Sacramento and support the District.

I work very closely with the Job Corp here in Meadowview. It serves 500-700 youth a year, training them for in jobs that are relevant to today’s market. All of my interns come from there.

We recently approved a new Head Start (SETA) program in District 8. We continue to support family engagement and education programs at our elementary schools, apartment complexes, and community centers.

Q – Do you have any programs to deal with crime and gangs in the District?

A – We have a program that is finally working, we’re using the Boston Cease Fire Model on Mack Road, and crime is down on Mack Road. We are looking for money to take the program citywide. The Street Outreach Ministry is another program that involves several churches in the area. Kids are not shooting each other right now.

Q – What do you think about a strong Mayor City government?

A – Kevin Johnson is a strong mayor, without the title.

Under the current system, I meet monthly with the City Manager, City Attorney, Assistant City Manager, City Parks Manager and all department heads if I have projects that involve their department. I also get a briefing on citywide issues. I think the city charter should be completely updated.

Q – What do you feel you can accomplish by the end of your term?

A – I have worked the last ten years on South Line Light Rail Phase II; we have started building that project. The highway I-5 interchange goes out to bid in June or July of 2012. The interchange will connect Consumers River Blvd to Highway 99 and I-5. The interchange will be completed by 2015. At the same time that the interchange opens, some of the 1.5 million sq. ft. of retail will open providing hundreds of ongoing job opportunities.

Sacramento City Council Candidate

Q – What three areas in District 8 do you see as needing the most attention?

A – My top three priority areas are public safety, the economy, and education.

Q – How can you, as a Councilmember, impact these issues?

A – When I go door to door, I hear too many cases of break-ins, crime and violence. Our economy is also a challenge. I have talked to community members from age 18 to 70 who are ready, willing and able to work, but who can’t find jobs. Education is the foundation of our success. When I look at the school results, I am concerned that 2/3’s of the schools in District 8 are not meeting state standards.

Q – What could you do to sustain economic development in District 8?

A – I will develop a business advisory board composed of business owners and employees from a variety of sectors. This advisory board will help me address any challenges that local businesses are facing. I will advocate for tax incentives for new and expanding businesses, offering more jobs. By proactively seeking feedback and problem solving from the business community, I will be able to sustain and increase business retention and growth. I will help find ways to streamline the processes to make it more attractive for new businesses to locate here.

I am also committed to recruit new businesses to District 8. With the proximity of Kaiser Hospital, my vision includes creating a hub for health careers and biomedical technology along Mack Road.

Right now, individuals should be learning what is required in the way of skills, for the building of the Speed Rail, a 35-year contract, proposed for our District. Leaders should be meeting, right now, to form an agenda stating their expectations for economic opportunities to the Council. We already know that the Seaman Company will be hiring welders, and is currently providing welding training at Florin High School.

Right now there is a program that a lot of people don’t even know about, the Center for Employment Training, recently received a $5 million contract, to train on HVC green economy jobs, for free. The training is for 6-9 months.

Q – What are your ideas for promoting education?

I am very concerned about the achievement gap that persists for Black and brown students. I will convene a local education forum to raise awareness and create community-based solutions. Show students they have education options – the military, college, and vocational/technical green economy training.

As past president of the NAACP, I was proud to help promote parent advocacy through parent education and empowerment trainings. I will definitely continue this work as a councilmember. When parents are involved in education, everyone wins.

Q – Do you have any programs to deal with crime and gangs in the District?

A – There are programs to deal with crime and gangs in District 8, but I think that they need to be strengthened, expanded and refined. For example, I have learned that crime is being under-reported in District 8 because certain crimes can only be reported by Internet or at the central station. These options are not practical for many of the residents of District 8. As a result, it is difficult to effectively provide police services to reduce crime.

In terms of gang prevention, I have been involved in the Mayor’s gang taskforce and in on-going efforts to focus on prevention and intervention rather than incarceration. We can’t arrest our way out of gang problems.

The “Cease Fire” project under the Gang Prevention Taskforce is making great strides to give gang members entrepreneurial skills and there is currently a church working to help with a beauty salon. The NAACP and other crime prevention programs are also helping youth look at options to violence.

Q – What do you think about a strong Mayor city government?

A – Based on my experience walking door-to-door in District 8, it is clear that we need to give the public the opportunity to vote on the strong Mayor form of government. I have met people who agree and disagree with the strong Mayor proposal, but individuals on both sides of the issue would like the opportunity to vote.

Q – What do you feel you can accomplish by the end of your term?

A – By the end of my term, reporting of crime will increase and criminal activity will decrease. There will be additional options for youth including community activities and job training. There will be partnership opportunities for the Faith-based community, with businesses, education and law enforcement.