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Misty Yaj said she is tired of District 2 being ignored by City Hall, so she joined the race to fill the City Council seat that incumbent Sandy Sheedy will be vacating after 12 years in office.
“There are a lot of vandalized homes and vacant properties (in the district), and businesses here are few,” Yaj said. “I want to change that.”
Yaj said the city has spent too much time on the proposed entertainment and sports complex project and not enough time finding ways to invest in the areas outside the downtown core.
“When I talk to people (in the district), no one asks me about the arena. Not here – that’s for the downtown, not for (DIstrict 2),” Yaj said.
Yaj, 42, owns a small business in south Sacramento and works as an auditor for Bank of America. She has lived in Sacramento since her family moved to the United States from Thailand when she was a small child.
Yaj spent three years in Los Angeles while earning a masters degree in oriental medicine, and then returned to Sacramento in 1995 to make District 2 her permanent home.
She decided to run for the City Council because she said she felt city officials have overlooked District 2 for many years and she’d like to turn that tide.
“I am a person who commits to what she says she will do. People can help me or I will make myself get it done, but I will do it,” she said.
Her priorities for the district include promoting education for children, helping people with housing needs and working to prevent crime in neighborhoods.
Crime issues are especially sensitive to Yaj because her father was murdered in 2007. The tragedy made her want to reach out and prevent it from happening to other people.
“There is a lot of crime in this area. I want to find ways to get gangsters and youths into activities or job training so they don’t have time to go out and create problems,” she said.
When approaching the city budget, Yaj said she recognizes the problems of not having enough money in the coffers to do everything for everyone – but the city has to focus its priorities, especially in the districts.
“We need to help businesses in this community. I know how hard it is to start a business and how much it costs to run a business. It’s not easy and the city should help somehow,” she said.
In a six-candidate race, how does Yaj set herself apart from other, perhaps better-known, candidates?
“I will serve the people better (than other candidates) because I know their feelings better,” she said Wednesday.
From Woodlake to Del Paso Heights, there is a lot of diversity and economic disparity within the district. Yaj said her background growing up in a low-income family and her experience in an active Hmong community give her a better understanding of the needs of a wide variety of people.
“It’s not the same as coming from an affluent background and not having gone through what the people are going through now, or how they are living. I am familiar with all of it. I relate more to the different people in the district,” she added.
Some candidates focus on differentiating specific neighborhoods to appeal to individual groups, Yaj said, but she prefers to see the district more holistically.
“I reach out to everyone to explain how I want to help – it’s all one district. I’m open to everyone, not just this neighborhood or that one. I don’t limit myself that way,” she said.
Yaj also won’t limit herself to sitting in an office all day at City Hall, she said – she would rather spend her time out in her district talking with the people she will represent.
“I’m a very open person. Anyone can contact me anytime. I want to be accessible to people, talking to people and asking what they need,” she said.
Accessibility is a major factor in taking care of business, according to Yaj, because “nothing happens if doors are closed.”
“With having my own business, I serve a lot of people and I understand customer service,” Yaj said. “(Being a council member) is also about customer service. It’s about serving people well.”
Yaj and the other candidate for District 6 – Rob Kerth, Sondra Betancourt, Allen Wayne Warren, Kim Mack and Jason Sample – are slated to participate in a candidate forum Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Robla Community Center.
Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.