The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

December 15, 2008
City debates whether K.J. "hid the ball" on city charter revision
Not surprisingly, Kevin Johnson's plan to change the Sacramento city charter is generating both heat and smoke.

Several city council members, bloggers and on-line commentators are calling the mayor's bid a "power play," which it is. But are some are going farther by claiming that Johnson deliberately misled voters about his intentions prior to taking office.

Let's look at the record.

As JoeSacramento has pointed out, candidate Kevin Johnson said on page six of his Day One action plan that he would:

"Explore a change to the city charter moving toward a strong mayor structure....We should engage in a dialogue to determine if we can improve our city through a different governance structure."
Some might argue that, by having his allies file a petition to change the city charter, Johnson is starting that "dialogue." Others say he's trying to avoid it.

Interestingly, Johnson made no mention of the city charter change in his inaugural speech. That long address mentioned a city audit, a gang summit, new office hours, meeting with school superintendents and other "things you can expect to see with the first 100 days of my administration." But no mention of a strong-mayor change.

During the campaign, however, Johnson made clear, as early as July, that enhancing the mayor's powers was one of his priorities. Here's what he said in response to questions from The Bee on July 30:

I think the time may have come to consider modernizing governance of Sacramento, perhaps changing the rule of the mayor from being one of nine city councilmembers, to being a standalone and accountable executive. San Diego and Oakland have taken similar steps in recent years.

Personally, I'm a bit surprised that Johnson is pushing this reform so soon, but it's a stretch to say he "lied" about his intentions, as some are doing. The bigger question is whether the charter revision is a well-crafted proposal, one that will stand the test of time.

You can read the proposal here.

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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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