By The OBSERVER Newsroom
Duke Cooney’s early legislative roles in the California State Assembly and Senate allowed him to influence solutions for issues ranging from disability rights to fair wages for inmate firefighters and other workers.
Cooney, running to unseat incumbent Supervisor Patrick Kennedy in Sacramento’s District 2, believes he can rely on his solution-oriented background to represent 300,000 residents.
“It is time for a change. That’s why I am running for Sacramento County supervisor in District 2,” Cooney said. “It’s time to rewrite the rules and create a new path for Sacramento County, one that combats homelessness, supports our youth, and provides true pathways to well-paying jobs and homeownership.”
The son of a single mother who once was making less than $20,000 a year, Cooney if elected would be the first openly LGBTQ, only African American, and, at 29, the youngest member of the county board of supervisors.
Cooney is a graduate of Sacramento State, earning a bachelor’s in political science and a performing arts degree in dance. He entered public service after graduating.
He lives in South Sacramento with his partner and his daughter and works as an environmental advocate, fighting for greater funding to support the environment and combat climate change.
Cooney serves as an equity advisor for Public Health Advocates, working with cities across California to organize, advocate, and reform 9-1-1 response systems toward care-centered services. He is in his last year of a juris doctorate program at McGeorge School of Law.
Cooney responded to three key questions concerning his campaign when The OBSERVER interviewed him May 5.
Q: A lot of Black businesses in Sacramento were adversely affected during the COVID-19 pandemic more than other businesses. What can be done to strengthen existing Black businesses and create more business opportunities in Sacramento?
A: There are a number of things that can be done to support and grow our small business community: Improving access to grant opportunities and direct financial support; removing barriers to permitting and licensure through investment in workshops and community outreach; updating county websites and app capabilities to ensure that information is readily available.
We must also ensure that we invest in economic justice policies that prioritize small businesses and opportunities for historically underserved groups.
Q: What was the most glaring issue you’ve found on your campaign trail and what can you do to correct it?
A: The lack of investment in South Sacramento. Driving down Florin Road or Meadowview you visually see the funding disappear – more trash piling up, more homeless, less business diversity, and less opportunity.
Walking within those communities – getting to know the different parts of South Sacramento – has given me a glimpse into what life is like for so many South Sacramento residents.
I have seen entire communities that lack safe sidewalks, crosswalks, speed bumps, clean parks, and even street lights. There has been a general lack of care from the current board. I plan to push forward a budget that forces the county to take an active role in addressing historic underfunding by creating youth opportunities, workforce development programs, and investment in first-time homebuyer education.
I want my community to thrive and have the tools it needs to create equity, build generational wealth, and clean up our neighborhoods.
Q: The homeless issue in the city of Sacramento is growing every day. Can you share a couple of ideas to help solve problems?
A: I support preventative measures to combat homelessness such as rent control, funding to support first-time home buyers, and rental assistance. These measures focus on short-term solutions that will deliver public health through mobile showers, as well as access to hygiene products, handwashing stations, and food/water.
I also support scattered housing models where the county leases vacant houses, giving a room to those in need, with a 24-hour onsite monitor to help access long-term services. The health and safety of those on the streets should be prioritized. A lack of permanent housing does not remove the county’s duty to deliver public health and safety.
My long-term solution for homelessness focuses on affordable housing developments using nonprofit developers. This model will ensure that those houses built will go to a first-time homeowner already living within our community, building generational wealth and providing a path to equity in our community.