Don't believe revisionist history. Measure U campaign was about economic equity
This is part one in a series of posts Mayor Darrell Steinberg will make over the next week on EngageSac.org to explain critical aspects of Measure U and the debate surrounding the city budget.
Critics of my Measure U spending proposal have recently taken to calling it a “bait and switch” from what we told voters the city would do with the additional $50 million raised by increasing the sales tax from 1/2 cent to 1 cent. They have said that I’ve thrown a “curve ball” by proposing that we issue bonds to raise upfront capital to invest in catalytic neighborhood projects such as new business hubs or badly needed affordable housing.
This is revisionist history. My proposal to earmark $40 million from the expanded Measure U for projects that will create jobs and expand economic equity in Sacramento is exactly what we told voters we would do — over and over again. I also spent months talking about raising capital in an economic equity fund.
The ballot language for Measure U doesn’t just mention funding for public safety, as my friends from the Firefighters Area Local 522 would have you believe, it also lists homeless supportive services, affordable housing, libraries, high-wage job promotion, and youth programming as potential investments. In addition, voters received house visits, phone calls and campaign mail highlighting these themes and potential expenditures. I laid out the vision in speeches, forums and small neighborhood coffees.
The notion that the Firefighters are being shortchanged in the Measure U debate is also not accurate, given that the Fire Department already receives 35 percent of all city department operating funds and is in line to receive $4 million more under the City Manager’s budget proposal, most of it from Measure U, and an additional $5.5 million for station replacements, fire trucks and other capital improvements. The budget adds 30 new positions to the department.
Here is a chronology of how the 1-cent Measure U came to be, and how it was pitched to voters. I’ve also included various steps taken by the City Council along the way that indicated members’ support for using Measure U money to create a more robust and equitable economy in Sacramento.
We communicated this message loud and clear, and that’s why Measure U was supported by a wide range of community groups and business organizations, including the Sacramento Metro Chamber, Build.Black, the Sacramento Association of Realtors, Oak Park and Pocket-Greenhaven neighborhood associations, the Sacramento Central Labor Council, Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Sacramento, the Urban League of Greater Sacramento, the Housing Alliance, Sacramento Area Congregations Together, Sacramento LGBT Community Center, the Sacramento Asian Chamber of Commerce, the North State Building Industry Association and The Sacramento Bee.
January to June, 2016: Mayoral campaign and inauguration
In my campaign for mayor and my inauguration speech, I told voters I ran because I wanted to connect our economic renaissance to all of our neighborhoods. As I said at my swearing in, “Growing the private sector economy in Sacramento is the best chance we have to build a robust tax base. The benefits of that growing tax base must be spread throughout Sacramento’s neighborhoods.”
2017: Project Prosper
The City launched Project Prosper, an initiative to identify the strengths and weaknesses of Sacramento’s economy and find ways to make it stronger and improve the quality of life for residents of all Sacramento neighborhoods. Hundreds of residents attended community meetings and voted on their priorities. Affordable childcare, greater city investment in low-income neighborhoods and help for small businesses emerged as top city needs.
January 2018: State of the City speech
I sounded the theme of economic equity again and raised the idea of creating an upfront capital fund for catalyst projects, saying: “Sacramento needs a robust equity capital fund to match the dreams we have to grow and prosper. We know that growth must be inclusive so that every neighborhood and family experiences its benefits.”
June 2018: Kick-off for Measure U campaign
Speaking in front of an audience of community leaders at Sacramento City College, I laid out the central message of our campaign for a 1-cent Measure U: “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.”
In this speech, I also specifically proposed establishing a capital fund of more than $400 million and securing it with $25 million a year in Measure U revenue.
I made my motivation for supporting the 1-cent measure U quite clear, saying, “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.”
July 2018: Council embraces inclusive economic development strategy
The City Council unanimously adopted a policy and resolution directing the city to make investments to boost Sacramento’s economic growth in an inclusive manner that focuses on neighborhoods and their unique needs. We directed staff to come up with a strategy for achieving our goals and bring it back to council.
Business investments prioritized by the resolution include those that cultivate the entrepreneurial ecosystem, help build industry clusters and provide technical assistance to businesses. The Council also resolved to increase access to affordable housing and promote homegrown talent for a strong cradle-to-career learning pipeline.
My colleagues and I also voted in July to put Measure U on the ballot. One member was absent; everyone else voted yes, except for Councilmember Jeff Harris, who voted no.
October 2018: Council adopts framework for guiding city investment
The Council unanimously approved a preliminary framework for guiding city investments in economic development to ensure they create jobs and benefit all of Sacramento’s neighborhoods and residents. We also voted to establish a Measure U Community Advisory Committee.
The economic development framework includes four principles that emerged from the months of community participation and research that went into the City’s Project Prosper project. Under the framework, city investments should build community ownership, make neighborhoods healthier, create jobs and expand business ownership opportunities.
We asked staff to develop a quality of life index and metrics system we could use to evaluate potential investments. We also directed the City Manager’s office to appoint an investment committee of experts who could help us pick the right projects.
“It’s bold, it’s noble, and I think it’s overdue,” Councilmember Jeff Harris said at the time.
Without additional resources, these new committees will have nothing to do.
November 2018: Measure U passes; next steps laid out
Voters passed Measure U by a 57 percent to 43 percent margin. I laid out my vision once again in my victory speech, interviews and a blog post, saying:
“There may be good reasons to use some resources to bolster essential services and address our homeless crisis, but I will resist any efforts to use the second half cent to merely plug holes or address long-term deficits. If we had merely proposed a half cent, the pension challenge would be the same. There is only one way out of our long-term obligations: to grow the tax base, to create and catalyze new jobs, to build more affordable housing, and to make government more efficient without hurting working people or the services we provide.”
December 2018: City outreach targets People, Place and Business Capacity
Our city staff held three focus group discussions focused on People, Place and Business Capacity. Participants offered their ideas of what was most needed from the city in terms of strengthening neighborhoods, helping small businesses grow and investing in people.
February 2019: State of the City focuses on neglected neighborhoods
I took the unusual step of holding my State of the City address outside the downtown at the Pannell Community Center in Meadowview. The choice was intended to show that as a city we were focusing on neighborhoods that had been overlooked for investment and suffered under generations of systematic racism.
I spelled out my budget plan during the speech, saying: “For at least the first five years, I call for the lion’s share of the second half cent of Measure U to be invested directly in economic equity in our neighborhoods. Let us set aside $40 million a year for at least five years in our economic trust fund. That’s $200 million, and it will demonstrate clearly that this movement is not just a whim or a fancy. Our commitment is long overdue. Our commitment is real. Our commitment is right.”
February - April 2019: City lays groundwork for a new economy
The city began laying the foundation for building a new, more inclusive economy. My colleagues and I authorized spending $700,000 to help business and community organizations get scaled up to help implement the city’s economic vision. We also authorized the City Manger to hire a consulting team to develop a strategy and action plan for the city.
April 2019: City budget adds staff to execute inclusive economic growth strategy
The 2019/20 budget proposed by City Manager Howard Chan clearly reflects the expectation that the city will be investing more in housing, jobs, youth and neighborhood projects. For example, the budget proposes adding 13 positions in the Office of Innovation and Economic Development. Ten of these positions would be funded by Measure U.
The new positions include three new project managers to focus on economic and development needs in city neighborhoods and a new housing czar.
One of the priorities articulated for the City Manager’s office: Introduce and implement a set of priorities to grow Sacramento’s economy, which includes a refocus on strengthening Sacramento’s neighborhoods and increasing inclusive approaches and local capacity.
Lofty goals, but these new economic development project managers won’t have much to do unless we give them some resources to work with.
The City Council is scheduled to vote June 11 on adopting the city budget for 2019/20. In the coming weeks, I will continue to fight for a significant commitment to spend Measure U resources over the next five years in a way consistent with our promises to the voters and our stated priorities as a city.