By Jasmin Acosta, Alesha Blaauw, Mary Cortez, Laura De la Garza Garcia and Madison Duong
Steve Hansen says he is running for Sacramento mayor because he has seen the city go through many challenges during the last few years and wants to fight to see it improve in the future.
Hansen served on the Sacramento City Council, representing District 4, from 2012 to 2020, where he said he contributed to improving conditions for the LGBTQ+ community while also bolstering policies related to immigration, housing, transportation and air quality.
In March 2020, Hansen lost his reelection bid to Katie Valenzuela.
Hansen was Sacramento’s first openly gay city councilman, and if elected, would be Sacramento’s first openly gay mayor.
Hansen has endorsements from several organizations including the Sacramento Association of Realtors, the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Equality California. He also has notable law enforcement endorsements, including the Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association and the Sacramento Police Officers Association.
Hansen recently spoke to a group of Sacramento State journalism students who asked him questions on behalf of the Sacramento News & Review.
Q: With the Comprehensive Siting Plan put forward by the current administration, which listed 20 potential locations that could provide homeless shelter, what specific strategies will you be working towards in order to accomplish the completion of these sites to begin providing housing as soon as possible?
There are a thousand reasons why people might end up unsheltered and the city has a role to play. The county has a role to play. The state has a role to play.
I think right now one of the biggest challenges is there’s such a deep lack of trust in our communities when the city does a shelter. I opened a lot of shelters in my district. Some of them were temporary, some of them were long-term.
We’ve had projects like the Capitol Park Hotel, which had 300 beds in it, but it was a historic building that had a lot of needs. So we got the money to renovate it into permanent supportive housing. That project’s about to open.
But when you look at the X Street shelter, which I had championed, it was a navigation center over on X near Alhambra, we weren’t supposed to allow camping around it. We were supposed to make sure the neighborhood knew that we were going to do this. It wouldn’t hurt the rest of the neighborhood. I always favored sheltering people, opening beds, but doing it well. There’s a huge suspicion right now, as I talk to neighborhood leaders, about even if they said “yes” because they want to help people – is the city going to screw it up?
So I actually think there’s a huge opportunity to rebuild trust and show people through my leadership, while I’m mayor, that we can work with the neighborhoods to show them that a new site isn’t going to hurt them.
Q: Following the K street shooting where six people were killed, there were police cameras and lights installed, as well as more patrol cars put throughout downtown. The police also implemented a “Violent Crime Reduction Strategy” to help. How will you be using or improving on these methods to increase downtown safety?
That shooting was preventable. When I was there, I left at the end of 2020, the nightclub that they came out of, we were in the process of shutting them down for gang related incidents. Someone shot at the Citizen Hotel across the street, all kinds of problems. The owner turned in his license before we could finish that process. Then they reopened. The people who came after me weren’t paying attention.
I love going out but I want to be safe. If one place ruins it, then it’s ruined for a lot of people. That incident ultimately was a gang incident. While they temporarily increased some staffing and safety because everybody was really shocked, embarrassed, it was a terrible gunfight between these gang members. A homeless woman died, and a bunch of other people were caught in the crossfire.
I worked two blocks from where that happened. I lived six blocks from there. There has not been an appreciable increase in public safety presence since right after that happened because as soon as the controversy is over, the system, a lot of times, goes back to the way it is. We have more firefighters on duty at any given time in the city than we have officers.
Q: California is one of the top three most expensive states to live in. Sacramento is definitely going through inflation. People can’t keep up with the cost of living. What is your plan to help offset the cost of living here?
The biggest inputs in cost of living are what? Rent, utilities, car. So if you could live a life without having to pay car insurance, gas, everything else, that’s a piece to it – being able to live differently. Not everybody wants to live like that, but we need to create choices.
Housing’s been so commodified by California ever since Prop 13 passed. That’s why local governments didn’t want to build it, because if you look at the tax revenue produced by a house, it’s not enough to pay for the services. So cities chase sales tax dollars, malls, Walmarts, auto malls, all that stuff.
In our city, I really fundamentally believe this era that we’re in right now is about returning to livability, walkability – dense, urban, vibrant, safe, clean cities where people can have enough housing.
Our region has to produce enough housing because people keep moving here. Not everybody wants people to move here though. The NIMBYs, the “not in my backyard” people, they say, “Go somewhere else. We don’t want you.” I just think that’s wrong. If we have all these empty lots, all these parking lots, all these corridors with small buildings, that could be a mid-rise or something, why don’t we build a lot of housing so families can stay in the city?
Q: Do you feel as if all Sacramento residents can affordably get from one place to another? If not, what will you do to improve affordable and accessible transportation in our city?
No, it’s not affordable to get from one place to another.
When I was on the regional transit board and chair, we made it free for all the kids in Sac City Unified to ride transit. I would like to extend that to our community college students and our university students to make transit free, basically. How do we pay for that? How we do it? There’s lots of different ways.
When I got on the RT board, I was so upset. We didn’t take credit cards. You couldn’t take credit cards for anything. You had to pay cash or whatever. We had 30 different fare types, tickets and all this stuff. So we modernized that. We actually beat the Bay Area on being able to tap your card to pay for a ride.
So I also think as far as transportation goes, there’s a huge need to provide more electric car chargers. We did work with Electrify America on what was called the Gig Car sharing service. Once I left council, the city stopped caring about that stuff and the cost for Gig to be there, especially in low-income communities, because we hadn’t prioritized that.
I brought bike share and scooter share here under Jump. Did you ever see the Jump bikes and scooters? Well, the pandemic kind of killed them, and Uber bought them and then sold to Lime, and Lime kind of made a mess of it. But we had more rides per bike, per scooter, right before the pandemic than any other city in the country because people want alternatives. They’re high quality, accessible, and affordable. I think we have to get back to doing those things.
Q: CBS recently noted a report that listed Sacramento as the second dirtiest city in America. What initiative will you implement in order to make sure the city is clean?
Our systems have failed on picking up garbage and trash. When I represented the downtown area, I had trash cans and recycling bins put out. It’s embarrassing, isn’t it? Sometimes you’re with friends and it’s, “Oh, there’s a huge pile of trash here, or someone’s dumped all this crap and nobody’s picking it up.”
Right now because of the way California laws work we can’t use the money that a homeowner pays for trash pickup to clean up after other people. So I’ve been thinking about a ballot measure where every property owner in the city maybe pays $5 a year, and it’s all to help with illegal dumping, trash pickup, to fund those services.
Again, it’s like we’ve disinvested in the basic things and then our systems fall apart because there is no resource, and then people have to come back around and say, “Why did this happen? How are we going to fix it and have a plan?” Basically the plan is to reinvest.
Q: What strategies will you implement to strike a balance between freedom of expression and maintaining the efficiency of city council meetings?
I think we just have to be very consistent in holding to our standards. If people act out, they have to leave.
We’re living in this polarization where people think that how you solve problems is screaming and yelling at each other. I think if the city is going to do its job well, we have to reset the culture of the chambers of City Hall. It can’t be about pettiness.
So how do we be the antidote to it? It’s by modeling that behavior, holding people accountable in the chambers.