What now?

Jeff vonKaenel

The Democrats have taken back the U.S. House. In California, Democrats now have a super majority in both the Assembly and the Senate. In Sacramento, we have a Democratic majority on the City Council and the county Board of Supervisors. And of course, we have a super-smart Democratic mayor.

So it is time to turn our attention away from what we are against and toward the much more important question of what we stand for. Here are my ideas.

The Democratic House should begin proposing a progressive agenda for America, even if it is blocked by the Republican Senate and our orange-haired president. We need an increase in the federal minimum wage. We should roll back the Bush and Trump tax cuts for the rich, so we can fund a trillion-dollar federal infrastructure bill for bridges, water treatment and transportation. We should reduce weapons programs. We should approach the drug crisis as a health problem, not a criminal justice problem. And speaking of drugs, we should immediately pass legislation that allows the federal government, as in every other industrialized country, to negotiate lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.

At the state level, we need to help build more housing by removing zoning obstacles and easing NIMBY restrictions. We need to reform Proposition 13, first by establishing a split roll that requires commercial properties to pay more and second by adjusting residential property tax rates to reduce the inequality that results in one homeowner paying 10 times more than their neighbor for the same government services. The revenue raised can fund new housing and reduce development fees.

We need to fix our broken criminal justice system. The recently passed state law on bail reform is an excellent start. We need shorter, more rational sentences. And when we do lock people up, we need to prepare them to return to society with job training and education. Let’s put a greater focus on white-collar and corporate crimes, such as minimum wage violations, environmental damage and financial fraud. Maybe we need a “three strikes” law for bankers.

We must put “affordable” into the Affordable Care Act. We should be paying for successful health outcomes, rather than paying for procedures. Other countries have demonstrated how to have cost-effective universal health care. We can do this, too.

On a local level, we need to enable Sacramento residents to get from point A to point B easily and cheaply without owning a car. This will require a multi-faceted approach, including community electric bicycles, enhanced public transportation with more funding and routes, denser housing near transit centers and ride-share programs that coordinate with public transportation. Most of us work several months out of the year just to support our car habit.

With the best utility company in the country right here in Sacramento, we could become the most environmentally advanced city in the country. We should offer incentives to buy electric cars, convert more of our food waste into energy and fertilizer, adopt more energy conservation measures and create our own renewable energy. We should become a world leader in developing green businesses that can get their start serving the Sacramento market.

These are my ideas. I would love to hear what you think we should do and how we can pay for it. Send me an email at jeffv@newsreview.com.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.