Council members approve Mayor Steinberg's plan to invest Measure U funds in economic equity

Council members approve Mayor Steinberg's plan to invest Measure U funds in economic equity

Verna Ekpeduma has lived for the past eight years in an apartment at the Mutual Housing at Norwood complex in north Sacramento. She came to the City Council chambers Tuesday to support plans for a $100 million housing bond.      Ekpeduma said she struggled with depression for years while living in substandard housing. But since she moved into Mutual Housing she has served on the board of the complex and learned leadership skills.      “When you have somewhere to live that you’re proud of, you don’t want to mess things up,” she said.

Verna Ekpeduma has lived for the past eight years in an apartment at the Mutual Housing at Norwood complex in north Sacramento. She came to the City Council chambers Tuesday to support plans for a $100 million housing bond.

Ekpeduma said she struggled with depression for years while living in substandard housing. But since she moved into Mutual Housing she has served on the board of the complex and learned leadership skills.

“When you have somewhere to live that you’re proud of, you don’t want to mess things up,” she said.

Members of the Sacramento City Council voted 8 to 1 Tuesday to approve Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s proposal to dedicate much of the new revenue from the Measure U sales tax to investments that promote jobs and economic equity.

More than 200 people packed the Council chambers and spilled out into the lobby as Council members, meeting as the Budget and Audit Committee, approved the policy of earmarking a total of $200 million over the next five years for job creation, youth and workforce development, affordable housing and neighborhood projects.  

 Because the budget committee includes all members of the Council, next Tuesday’s scheduled City Council vote on the budget is considered a formality.

“Thank you, Mayor, for  putting forth a budget that reflects what you advocated in getting Measure U passed. We’re definitely going to continue to stand with you,” said Rev. Les Simmons, a south Sacramento community leader whose church has converted the former CalSkate roller skating rink on Mack Road into a non-profit recreation center for area youth.

Under a proposal by Councilmember Steve Hansen that was incorporated into the Mayor’s plan, up to $15 million of the money set aside for economic equity can be used as potential debt service for $250 million in bonds to fund affordable housing, city facilities and economic development. The bonds will be issued only when specific projects are identified and approved by the City Council.

The committee of the whole also unanimously approved City Manager Howard Chan’s $1.2 billion budget for 2019/20, including $16 million in relatively modest investments proposed by Mayor Steinberg to demonstrate the city’s commitment to investing in underserved neighborhoods.

Another $32 million in budget surplus for fiscal 2019/20 remains to be allocated to specific items. Mayor Steinberg and other members of the Council said decisions on spending that money should go through the community advisory and investment committees created to oversee Measure U funds. Ultimately it will be up to the City Council to make the final decisions.

Among the items included in the Mayors $16 million list of expenditures:

  • $1.3 million for a new soccer and baseball complex in Del Paso Heights

  • $750,000 to support the relocation of the Sacramento LGBT Center

  • $1.3 million to continue the Friday night “Youth Pop Ups” that have provided safe, fun activities for Sacramento teens on weekends this year

  • $1 million to provide fare free transit for Sacramento kids in grades K-12

  • $2 million for design and easement acquisition for the Sacramento River bike trail

  • $900,000 to bolster arts funding in the City Manager’s budget, bringing the total to $2.2 million to begin implementing the city’s Creative Edge cultural plan

  • $150,000 for the Mayors’ Commission on Climate Change led by Mayor Steinberg and West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon

To see the full list of projects, click here.

Most of those who spoke Tuesday expressed appreciation for the items included by Mayor Steinberg in his list of “quick wins.” But others were unhappy that Councilmember Angelique Ashby’s $14 million request for a planned aquatics center in North Natomas was not included.

Mayor Steinberg committed to working with Ashby and Councilmember Jeff Harris on putting together funding proposals for the aquatics center and projects in Harris’ district, which includes South Natomas and the Northgate area.

“Anytime you seek to make change, which is what we’re doing here, It’s going to be a little messy, there’s going to be some elbows. It’s all where you end up. And we’re going to end up in a great place, investing in all of our neighborhoods and all of our communities.”

“Anytime you seek to make change, which is what we’re doing here, It’s going to be a little messy, there’s going to be some elbows. It’s all where you end up. And we’re going to end up in a great place, investing in all of our neighborhoods and all of our communities.”

Many of those who spoke Tuesday expressed strong support for the proposed $100 million housing bond to address Sacramento’s severe shortage of affordable housing.

“One hundred million dollars will be a real stimulant to projects that are being held up now because there are no sufficient funds,” said Pat Sabelhaus of the California Council for Affordable Housing.

School district leaders praised the inclusion of free RT rides for Sacramento youth. “The fare free transit for Sacramento youth will be a huge benefit for the 15,000 students at Twin Rivers who are in the City of Sacramento,” said Bill McGuire, deputy superintendent of the Twin Rivers Unified School District.

Mayor Steinberg told reporters after the budget passed that while the process was sometimes contentious, the important thing is that Sacramento is moving forward with an agenda to invest Measure U dollars in neighborhoods that have been starved for investment for decades.

“Anytime you seek to make change, which is what we’re doing here, it’s going to be a little messy, there’s going to be some elbows. It’s all where you end up. And we’re going to end up in a great place, investing in all of our neighborhoods and all of our communities.”

Dear Sacramento:  Mayor Steinberg answers your questions about the city budget and Measure U

Dear Sacramento: Mayor Steinberg answers your questions about the city budget and Measure U

Track and field competition caps year of new after school sports for thousands of Sacramento kids

Track and field competition caps year of new after school sports for thousands of Sacramento kids