Sacramento's new mayor met with the editorial board Thursday afternoon. His impatience with business as usual stands out.
Prime example: With the city experiencing declining revenues in the current budget year (requiring mid-year cuts) and looking at a deficit of $45 million to $50 million in 2009-2010, Johnson proposed bringing in a national firm to do an independent review immediately. "This was a no-brainer in my mind," he said. "We are in desperate times here." An outside audit would have provided "extra eyes and ears" to look for savings.
The council defeated it on Tuesday, Johnson's first major defeat. He explained why he chose not to pursue a bid process - the need was urgent to garner any savings during the mid-year cutting process and the 2009-2010 budget process (with March 15 decisions). A bid process of six to eight weeks would be too late - helping only for future years. City staff, he noted, recommended the proposal. The defeat, he said, means that Sacramento won't have an audit to help with mid-year cuts or the 2009-2010 budget.
He minced no words, believing that Tuesday's council vote signals that "The Old Guard is still in charge" and that it is yet another example of Sacramento being "against everything and for nothing."
He has no regrets. He expects to "ruffle feathers" and he insists, "I do not want to scale back on my vision."
Other items on his agenda:
A crime summit on February 28, bringing together law enforcement and prevention/intervention folks across the region. He has a staff person, Chris Young (who was Barack Obama's Deputy Finance Director for Northern California), devoting time to public safety and finding ("leveraging") resources to reduce violent crime.
An education summit at the California Museum March 9. He wants to elevate the profile of the city as a place of innovation. He'll have local folks and a few national speakers to address the following issues: how to attract high quality teachers and principals (including alternative credentialing); school choice (including attracting providers to Sacramento); accountability and data (the state's API, he believes, is "not transparent" and is "convoluted" as a way of identifying good schools); performance pay; and how to bring additional resources to Sacramento. Hear any feathers ruffling?
On the strong mayor initiative:
He wants "responsive, nimble government."
He's building relationships with mayors, current and former, in Fresno, San Francisco, Oakland, Anaheim and Long Beach.
He says he still likes the job...