SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg is looking to increase his hiring and firing powers at city hall.
The mayor is holding discussions with labor groups this week to mount a “strong mayor” campaign that could go before voters on the November ballot. He has only weeks before the August 7 deadline and will need city council support to do it.
Sacramento’s last mayor, Kevin Johnson, tried four times to gain strong mayor power and failed each time.
Sacramento political expert Roger Salazar says the mayor’s last-minute push is all about timing.
“The mayor’s getting a lot of pressure from people about the pandemic, about racial injustice issues, about the police department,” Salazar said. “It’s an opportunity for someone to say, the public is listening, they’re fed up, and they want some change. Let’s see if this is the change they want.”
Steinberg supported Kevin Johnson’s 2014 strong mayor campaign, but voters rejected it.
In 2010, a separate Johnson campaign created lasting memories when the then-council voted against strong mayor. Johnson took off his jacket and criticized his colleagues.
“I’m really shocked,” Johnson said from his council dais, “with really the way this turned out.”
Region Business CEO Josh Wood has run several city-wide political campaigns including the arena vote, and Johnson’s failed strong mayor campaign.
“We’ve seen in elections that if you go back and you ask voters and they tell you ‘no,’ and you go back again and you ask them and they tell you ‘no,’ that you really have to do a hard look at are the voters just saying ‘no’ to this idea or do I really have something substantive I could change to get them there,” Wood said.
Wood is skeptical a strong mayor campaign can be successful now.
“And especially given in this time, a council that will as of November be a majority-minority council,” Wood said.
The mayor’s office declined to comment and has not revealed any details of the mayor’s proposed strong mayor plan. There are two city council meetings left before the deadline for a council vote to put this on the November ballot.