By Raheem F. Hosseini & Nick Miller
Sacramento City Council meetings could get a little extra awkward over the next couple of months.
An anti-“strong mayor” campaign called Stop the Power Grab kicked off Tuesday morning by announcing the results of a critical phone poll and highlighting Councilman Steve Hansen as its leader.
Stop the Power Grab frames itself as a newly formed coalition of neighborhood and civic leaders against Mayor Kevin Johnson’s latest push for an executive-mayor form of government. This fourth incarnation of strong mayor is set to go before city voters in November as Measure L. If passed, the measure would give K.J. many of the powers currently assumed by the city’s nonelected city manager.
The group says a telephone survey of 500 registered Sacramento voters shows 62 percent would vote against the upcoming measure, with 32 percent inclined to support it. At least 42 percent had made up their minds on a “no” vote.
“This is a power grab,” Hansen told SN&R. “It’s not necessary.”
The central city councilman did make a point to say this isn’t about the mayor. “For me, it’s not about being against Kevin Johnson,” he said.
He argued that strong-mayor governments make for weak city councils, which is bad for neighborhoods. “When you put so much power on one person, you take a lot more risks,” he said.
Surveyed voters were also asked their take on individual provisions in the measure, like empowering the mayor to appoint the city manager or veto ordinances passed by the council, with mostly negative feedback, according to a polling memo from David Binder Research, the San Francisco company that conducted the survey.
Hansen says the current form of government, where the mayor and council give direction to the city manager’s office, is effective and does not need to be changed. “I don’t want to work in a system that’s going to be broken,” he said of the possibility of strong mayor passing. “So I have to say something now.”
The telephone survey was conducted August 1-3, using both cellphones and landlines to poll 500 registered voters living throughout the city.