Read Mayor Steinberg's Speech on raising Measure U to a full cent
Sacramento City College
June 7, 2018
Allow me to begin today by talking with you about a question that’s on my mind. Why does a third grader living in south Sacramento have less of a chance in life than a third grader living in East Sacramento? Among the many complex policy questions, challenges and opportunities facing our beloved city, that single question should both haunt us and compel us to take dramatic action.
I want to tell you two stories, about two different Sacramentos. In April, with our city in the national spotlight after the Stephon Clark shooting, I met with a third grader, Deiondre, at Parkway Elementary School in South Sac. He was full of personality and asked smart questions…..and he was two years behind grade level in reading. His family is intermittently homeless. His teachers and principal are heroic in their efforts to compensate for what his life has lacked.
When Deiondre heard I was mayor, he asked if that meant I had all the keys to the city. I don’t, I said, but I’ve been thinking about his question ever since.
Then, last week, I attended a gathering of Sacramento’s movers and shakers to celebrate the arrival of an exciting new company headquarters in our city. Highlands Power is making a new type of electric motor—much smaller and more efficient than the existing motors on the market. It’s a small company, but it has plenty of promise. If it grows it could create the kind of jobs that Sacramento sorely lacks – the kind that involve making high-value goods sold to people all over the country and the world.
Will my two stories ever come together? Will Deiondre have the real opportunity to work with an emerging company like Highland Power? I don’t pretend to have every city key, but there ARE keys that we DO have to unlock the doors that separate Deiondre from the same opportunities afforded third graders born into more hopeful circumstances.
City College is the people’s college for Sacramento, a place where students from vastly different circumstances can come together and learn. The perfect place for me to share with you the bold action I see us taking together to spread more of those precious keys around our city.
And boldly we must act. I find it intolerable that poverty in the Sacramento region grew from 12.5 percent of the population in 2010 to nearly 16 percent in 2016 – that’s a bigger increase than in all but seven cities in the country. During the same time, the percentage of Sacramento’s poor who live in extremely poor neighborhoods more than doubled.
I bristled when I heard these numbers. I bristled even more when I learned that even though Sacramento’s workforce is becoming more diverse, people of color are being left behind as the job market changes. Three quarters of the jobs in our region now require high or medium levels of digital skills. But only 18 percent of Latino and black residents obtain at least a four-year degree, and only half go on beyond high school at all.
We can’t afford – either morally or economically -- to have so much of our future workforce unprepared to achieve our region’s great economic ambitions.
The Stephon Clark shooting, our local and national tragedy, was about much more than the vexing and real issues of policing and race found in Sacramento and other American cities. It also shed a harsh light on the continued cycle of poverty, despair and generational trauma that is the reality for too many members of our community.
The gap between the wealthy and the poor isn’t a new problem in Sacramento or in America as a whole. Just like homelessness, it’s easier to shrug and say we wish we could do more….that it’s hard, and too expensive, too complex for one person, or one city, to solve. After all, we can’t do everything, right? But that’s never been my way. It’s never been the Sacramento way. The greater the challenge, the greater the reward when we break through together.
I was elected in 2016 with a mission to elevate this city’s new economic identity, but also to tie it more directly to our neighborhoods and our kids. We clearly are moving assertively on that first part, with more innovation, advanced industry jobs, sports, arts, culture, dining and entertainment – a Renaissance, as we call it, in California’s capital.
We all feel and hear the excitement. The blocks around the Golden 1 Center downtown are bustling with new investment. We’re building a new waterfront science center and expanding our convention center and Community Center Theater. We’re becoming a proving ground for new technologies like 5G wireless, electric vehicle fleets and autonomous cars.
And yet, the connection to those whose lives are far removed from all this excitement is at best remote, and at worst, non-existent. The Renaissance we champion is incomplete until we address together the fundamental issues of neighborhood inequality. Until we address them purposefully and aggressively, until all residents have access to jobs in the advanced industries of the future, our growth will stall. Income inequality can knock as much as 4 percent off the growth rate of an economy over time; the moral costs are even higher. People who lack jobs, education and money simply can’t contribute their talents to the workforce or start new companies. Innovation lags as fewer minds participate. Crime rates increase when hope is merely a mirage.
Let us change this old and tired reality together. Let’s lead Sacramento to become the model of inclusive economic growth for the nation-- the city that actually starts to reverse the divide between rich and poor through education and job creation. Our breakthrough will make us a true destination city.
A dream is just a dream, unless it’s combined with creative, and bold, action. We need a true game changer in Sacramento, one that enables us to move beyond our current limits of just getting by as a city. I’m asking my City Council colleagues and Sacramento voters to extend the current Measure U sales tax to a full cent in November and make it permanent. I propose that we do so as a general tax; which by law means we cannot predetermine how the revenues will be spent. But we can and must describe in detail how we COULD spend those resources.
Over the past six months, in community gatherings large and small, we have solicited responses from hundreds of you about what you think are the most pressing issues facing the city – the places where we should focus our attention. We call this effort Project Prosper. Affordable housing and homelessness topped your list. You wanted the city to do more to help small businesses and to provide preschool and career pathways for high school and community college students. Sixteen and a half percent of young adults in the Sacramento metro area are unemployed, second highest among the 25 largest metro regions in the US. Youth opportunities and educational attainment must be a central part of our city’s vision.
On June 12, my colleagues on the City Council and I will begin a conversation about what we could do with an extended Measure U. Today is not an official campaign launch, as the community dialogue continues. But I want to share with you my current thoughts about how a single penny could change Sacramento.
Measure U at half a penny currently generates about $50 million a year. Keeping it will allow us to continue paying for core city services. The measure itself has been a great success. The police department hired 55 new sworn officers and retained another 60 officers. The fire department was able to restore a company and staff an additional engine. We’ve improved park maintenance and kept libraries open longer. Without an extension of Measure U, these vital services would have to be cut, hurting our quality of life.
And so you ask, why a full cent? Because it’s way past time we invest real public resources into our neighborhoods -- with a clear focus on job creation, housing and youth. One penny could change the economic arc of Sacramento. Who hasn’t wished on a penny for better fortune in their lives? I would not propose a penny if it was going to pay only for a series of worthy but traditional city services. While we should of course consider some immediate restorations or expansions of city services after Measure U’s passage, I am convinced the only sustainable way for us to expand library hours, add more community police officers, and improve emergency response times is to invest directly in advanced, inclusive and dynamic job growth that will ultimately broaden our city’s tax base.
We must get beyond the tired Sacramento experience of essential investments being exceptions rather than the core of what we care about. An example? This year, we put forward $500,000 each for creative economy pilot projects, community organizations serving youth and small business opportunities. One-time money. No continued commitments. It’s our way. Small but worthy attempts to address large, systemic problems. A city budget that’s a little up, then a little down. The constant teeter-totter of the status quo. It’s the approach that in part created the need for Measure U in the first place.
Without a neighborhood-based jobs and housing strategy, we fight for crumbs.
Real economic growth requires sustained public and private commitment to move from heady vision to real change people in neighborhoods can see and trust. A real commitment to create business sectors that bring real wealth into our communities by creating more advanced industry jobs. A commitment to support this growth with targeted workforce training programs that offer pathways into these jobs, creating economic stability and prosperity across neighborhoods.
There are many ways for the city to invest in jobs, housing and workforce preparation. Let the debate and dialogue begin. We can get started year one by building signature community projects like a new library in Del Paso Heights. We can reconstruct the Marina Vista and Alder Grove public housing complexes into a new mixed-income community, transform the River District into our version of Portland’s Pearl District and expand the Crocker to multiply its commitment to kids in every Sacramento school. We can move more aggressively to get development going in the Railyards.
I am bullish on one dramatic possibility. We could commit to devoting one quarter cent, or $25 million, of the money raised annually by Measure U to create a capital fund that catalyzes innovation, job growth and more affordable housing. If we committed that money over multiple years, we could establish a capital fund of $400 million to $500 million. That would only be the start. We would require any expenditure of city money to be matched four to one by private or public dollars – a smart requirement that would allow us to invest as much as $2 and a half billion in Sacramento’s economic future.
Why this emphasis on one-time public capital? Capital seeds small businesses, innovators and entrepreneurs. It allows us to compete with one-time incentives to attract major employers. Capital allows us to strategically invest in advanced industry hubs like health and life sciences and autonomous and clean vehicle technology. Capital allows us to build up funding to test new ideas.
We have committed, for example, to a dynamic partnership with UC Davis to build the Aggie Square innovation and research hub in Oak Park. We want to do the same with Sac State. These are sure-fire job creators that could pay big dividends for the city, especially as we work to entice talented Sac State and Davis graduates to make Sacramento their home. And they are not the only opportunities that will present themselves to us in the years ahead. Partnerships like these require us to participate financially and not just rely on our partners to step up alone. We currently lack the capital to credibly do so.
And then there’s the growing scarcity of affordable housing. Rents are rising faster here than almost anywhere else in the country, but we have just $2.5 million in our housing trust fund, enough to build 15 units in our entire city. Really? This is unacceptable to me and should be for all of us. Let’s build a housing trust fund of $100 million or more and get serious about increasing supply. Building more affordable housing must be our top capital priority.
And then there is homelessness, our city’s toughest issue. We have launched a comprehensive plan, with an ambitious start, but we need more capital for permanent supportive housing, and for preventing calamity for those who are one broken-down car away from becoming homeless. It’s what we promised, and it’s what we must deliver. We have the will; we need the means.
The final quarter of our penny, another $25 million, annually could be allocated to neighborhood-based services, public safety and investments to prepare Sacramento’s youth for the 21st Century workforce. We have shortchanged youth investments and community based organizations in our city for years. It’s time to change that reality.
Preschool for every three and four-year-old is not only a proud goal, it is the best way to make sure young adults are prepared for the modern workforce. A paid internship is the path to getting hired in the field of a young person’s choice, while arts education both improves student performance and creates the possibility of more Greta Gerwigs arising from all of our neighborhoods. Quality child care enables single moms and dads to fully join the workforce without having to compromise themselves or those they love most.
There are other changes our neighborhoods are rightfully calling for. Genuine community policing builds trust in neighborhoods as officers have more positive encounters with residents. As our city grows, people rightfully expect that our firefighters and first responders can get to emergency situations safely and immediately. Libraries and community centers are centers of community that help kids and families grow with hope and confidence. Beefing up code enforcement will make life better for residents of our older neighborhoods.
The voters of Sacramento should rightfully insist that we tie new investments in inclusive economic development to real life positive outcomes, for neighborhoods and people. We must be guided by rigorous analysis and evaluations which assure the public that all investments either create real jobs, grow more workforce housing, enhance public safety or increase the capacity of people to compete in our emerging, advanced economy.
The nationally recognized Brookings economist Amy Liu came to Sacramento in April and described two different tomorrows for our city and region. Continue along as we have been, which is good but not nearly enough, and leave many behind, or shake up the status quo and make investing in inclusive economic growth a core mission of our city.
By pushing for that penny to become more than a wish, we can in fact have it all: A cosmopolitan city with high-quality jobs in growth industries and a tax base that consistently supports a high level of quality public services, including public safety. A city that measures its success not only by whether we continue to build a reputation as a cool millennial city but also whether we’ve built a city where Deiondre, his family and his neighbors all have a fair shot at a better life.
I suppose it would be easier to play it safe here in Sacramento. But I think of the great architect Daniel Burnham, who pulled off the unlikely feat of bringing the world’s fair to what was then called the cowtown of Chicago in 1893, once said, "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will not themselves be realized.”
We have a choice; we either lead together or we simply hope for the best. If being a catalyst with business, labor, and the community to create more high wage jobs and industries is not a core city mission, it must become one. If our insistence on neighborhood and economic equity is not wholly reflected in the way we currently operate, we must change the way we operate. If we can’t see ourselves making a real difference to alleviate homelessness or improve educational outcomes for our young people, we aren’t trying hard enough.
“All in for all of us…All in for all of us.” I don’t know what makes the best or catchiest slogan. But I do know that “All in, for all of us” captures the spirit of what I believe and the city we love.
“All in.” Where there remains a distance between our big-time aspirations and our ability to deliver, let’s close that distance. “For all of us,” for Sacramento, for the country, every advantage, every opportunity, that easily exists for some neighborhoods, for some people, must also exist for all neighborhoods, and all of our people.