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Tuesday on Capitol Public Radio’s “Insight” program, I sat down with host David Watts Barton and Sacramento Bee editorial board member Foon Rhee to discuss the Checks and Balances Act of 2012 – more commonly known as the “executive mayor” or “strong mayor” initiative.
The mayor’s office rolled out the latest version of the strong mayor initiative Dec. 21 by a coalition of supporters led by Mayor Kevin Johnson’s chief of staff, Kunal Merchant.
The issue was scheduled to be on the agenda for City Council discussion Tuesday, and Johnson said he is hopeful that council members will put the initiative on the June ballot.
Rhee pointed out that Tuesday’s meeting was the 16th time the issue has been discussed at City Council – the most recent time being June 2010 when the City Council voted 7-2 against allowing City Attorney Eileen Teichert to prepare a strong mayor ballot initiative.
Although the initiative has been rebranded as the Checks and Balances Act of 2012, Rhee suggested it is more like “strong mayor initiative version 3.0,” because of some similarities with the previous version.
After so much discussion over the last couple of years, it is fair to ask if finally putting the proposal on the ballot will put the issue to rest.
Before the proposal gets put on the ballot, however, council members may want to see some tweaks to language in the draft as suggested by the city attorney’s analysis – such as clarifying ambiguities about a sunshine ordinance and the potential for creating a ninth council district.
The city attorney’s analysis of the proposed Checks and Balances Act can be read HERE.
City Manager John Shirey indicated in November that he wants no part of a strong mayor form of government. If the strong mayor initiative passes at the June ballot, the city may lose yet another city manager – the fourth one in the last three years.
The good news for Shirey is his severance package – guaranteed by contract – that gives him six months’ salary if he leaves office before his three-year contract expires.
In the last couple of weeks, the Checks and Balances Act received some big-name endorsements including former Sacramento mayors Jimmy Yee and Phil Isenberg
and Anne Rudin
. Although she does not endorse the measure itself, former mayor Anne Rudin has said she supports putting the measure on the ballot for a public vote on the issue. Monday, Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg added his name to the list of endorsements of the initiative, calling it “a solid and responsible proposal.”
Johnson has been something of a polarizing figure with the strong mayor initiative: Some people love the idea because of their affinity for the mayor, but others are opposed to it because of a fundamental opposition to Johnson himself.
Because of this, voters may welcome the chance to both vote for a new mayor and charter reform at the same time – an opportunity that wasn’t possible when the previous strong mayor initiative was floated for the 2010 city election cycle.
Read the entire Checks and Balances Act of 2012 proposal HERE.
Check The Sacramento Press Wednesday for a recap of the council meeting and strong mayor discussion.
Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.
Editorial Note: A correction was made to this story after it was published. The incorrect information was struck out and the correct information added.