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City council candidates Joe Yee and Steve Hansen engaged in a public forum Thursday night centered on homelessness, land use, public policy, sustainable communities and transportation equity.
The forum, moderated by the League of Women Voters of Sacramento County at Pioneer Congregational United Church of Christ, was less heated than expected, as Hansen and Yee had similar views on the issues at hand.
Both candidates said they were reluctant to expand the housing trust fund, which was created by the city 24 years ago in order to increase financing for the construction of affordable housing near new employment centers.
“I have some reservations about, especially in this climate, of expanding the housing trust fund,” said Yee. “I want to be able to encourage growth, responsible growth, sustainable growth, to encourage businesses to expand and to create jobs. To increase the housing trust fund, at some point, will be detrimental to growth, to business establishment and to the recovery of the area.”
Hansen added, “If we can find other creative ways to expand the trust fund, then why not? But Joe makes a very good point about our city’s economy right now. Unfortunately, development fees are really high in the city, so nothing has been built.”
The candidates fielded audience questions about how to address homelessness in the region.
In response to a question about costly jail processing, citations and prosecution of homeless individuals for loitering or sleeping in public places, Yee and Hansen stated the need for an organization to provide direct care to those who need it. Organizations such as Safe Ground Sacramento, which provides prototype cabins for the homeless in selected areas, were mentioned as a possible alternative, but both candidates said the city needed to do more thorough research before adopting the policy.
Both candidates concluded that homelessness is a regional issue that must be more firmly controlled by surrounding jurisdictions.
Another issue that came up at the forum was how cuts in public transit have affected low-income individuals.
“We’ve seen so many cutbacks in service to people who otherwise don’t have (access to transportation), people that work late and don’t have a car,” Hansen said. “We need to make sure now that some of that service has been restored, we can sustain it.”
Yee added, “It is equity to be able to move about and being able to attain services to live in this community. It has been my goal and action to challenge whenever we have reduction in the service.”
When asked about the role of nonprofit organizations as advisers to city council members, sounded similar notes.
Yee said, “I don’t discount the importance of nonprofits; there is a place for that. But they should not replace what the responsibilities are, your expectation for conduct of city government through elected council members and the mayor.”
Hansen added, “In our form of government, the council is like a board of directors. Unless that changes, the city manager is responsible for the use of space, what happens at City Hall, what happens with public resources.”
This article is a brief published the night of the forum. Look for a more complete analysis of the issues discussed on Monday at SacramentoPress.com.