Mayor Kevin Johnson skips forum, candidates don’t mind
The candidates in the race for mayor didn’t pull any punches at a candidate forum Saturday at the County Administration Building, despite Mayor Kevin Johnson’s notable absence.
Leonard Padilla, Jonathan Rewers and write-in candidate Edgar Hilbert-Garcia took the stage Saturday to answer questions from a panel of political media experts, including Foon Rhee and Pia Lopez from The Sacramento Bee, and Cosmo Garvin from the Sacramento News & Review.
Johnson’s campaign manager told media in numerous interviews leading up to the forum that Johnson would not attend because the mayor faces “no viable candidates” in the race.
Padilla dismissed the comment as “ridiculous,” while Rewers suggested that Johnson did not attend because he could not articulate a plan for another four years in office.
Here’s a rundown of some of the main points each candidate made:
Padilla wasted no time getting to the heart of the matter from his perspective: The mayor has wasted his four years in office chasing an arena dream.
“The arena deal appears to be dead now, and I’m here to make sure it stays dead,” said Padilla, well-known bounty hunter and five-time mayoral candidate.
“He essentially tried to get financing of the arena by practically bankrupting the city,” Padilla said. “If it was such a good financial risk, you’d have had multi-millionaires lining up three deep at the railyards, and I haven’t seen that.”
Padilla said Sacramento needs “another Wyatt Earp” to clean up the city and undo local corruption, in the way Earp did in Tombstone, Ariz.
“This may not be the OK Corral, but he did his job to clean things up, and we need that sort here,” Padilla said.
The candidates agreed that retaining police officers is important for public safety, but Padilla went a step further in suggesting that the city’s police department and the county’s sheriff’s departments should be combined to eliminate waste.
“Cut out duplication at the top, have one chief, and make them work together,” Padilla said. “It’ll cost less money, and you won’t be paying twice the people to do the same job.”
For Rewers, it’s all about being able to make a solid case for where the city should be headed.
“I have a solid plan for the next four years, and I know how to get it done,” Rewers said.
The plan, which Rewers calls “Sacramento Ideas” is essentially his goals list in a single page, and covers such goals as promoting city efficiency to save $3.15 million and increasing public safety throughout the city.
Rewers said he has been waging a door-to-door campaign, trying to reach as many residents in person as he can to discuss his list of priorities for the city.
One of those priorities is boosting development and business in the city by reducing costs for developers and making it easier to do business here.
“Redevelopment as we know it may be gone, but it isn’t entirely dead,” Rewers said. “We have been too reliant on development, and I think we need to take another look at the fees we charge, especially on infill projects.”
When it came to the candidates’ priorities for the city, Hilbert-Garcia, who recently qualified for the ballot as a write-in candidate, said simply, “jobs, safety, education and health.”
“The people are the most important thing in the city, and we need to be cared for,” he added.
HIlbert-Garcia said he has specific plans for achieving his goals for the city, but he wants to stay open-minded to listen to the needs of residents, too.
“I need to look into things more,” Hilbert-Garcia said when asked about a possible charter commission. “I think it is the people’s right to vote for what they want. I want to ask them if it is what they want first.”
Development at the railyards has been a high-profile topic recently, and Hilbert-Garcia said he would like to see some of the 240-acre space used to create more “green space” for residents.
“Sacramento has lovely weather, usually,” he said. “Sometimes too hot, sometimes too cold, but still lovely. We should make spaces for people to enjoy that. The railyards would be a good place for that.”
The forum was broadcast live on Metro Cable Channel 14 and will be rebroadcast every Sunday up to the election June 5.
Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.