Last month, I talked about having more ’courageous conversations” - ones where we not only talk about what’s important to our communities, but how we actually put our money where our mouths are and do things the way they need to be done.
The latest school shooting in Florida and the deaths of 14 young people and 3 adults was horrific. However, the emergence of a new set of leaders representing the voices of young people from that shooting was incredibly exciting. With all of the chaos and political upheaval occurring in our wonderful nation, I am nevertheless extremely hopeful about our future. I have never been so excited as when I heard these young people calling bullshit on the excuses we continually hear from certain sectors of our society.
As adults, our responsibility is to create an environment where youth voices will be honored, respected, and heard, and provide them with the resources they need to resist and persist. We must engage our young people in the conversation about our present and future, for it is theirs.
I am excited about efforts at the City as we move to more intentionally work with our future leaders to map our City’s future.
First, in December, the City Council adopted a youth development framework that provides a foundation of quality for all programs that the City either runs or funds.
In January, the Council voted to restructure our parks department into a Department of Youth, Parks, and Community Enrichment to focus on City infrastructure that supports our young people. In February, a number of Council members have decided to pool resources to support the creation of youth Councils in their districts.
And finally, in March, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments will begin discussions about how to create a youth version of the organization to involve young people in weighing in on transportation and land use decisions that will impact their lives.
These are but a few examples where the City of Sacramento is working to become a place that truly supports its young people. I am excited about and confident in our future. The young people in Florida are setting an example of great leadership, and I’m confident that Sacramento’s next generation will follow.
We are all aware of the horrific hit-and-run collision on Freeport Boulevard and Oregon Street that happened on January 31. Two people were hit by a car – one of whom was a young Sutterville Elementary student, as they tried to cross a busy five-lane street. Tragically, the woman lost her life and many other lives have been affected.
Citywide, the City is implementing efforts to develop data-driven solutions to reduce collisions, fatalities, and serious injuries. Freeport Boulevard and surrounding neighborhood streets are no exception. Many have been and will continue to be involved in identifying solutions to these efforts, including my office, City Public Works/Traffic Investigation, Sacramento Police Department, the Sacramento City Unified School District, principals of the four neighborhood schools (Hollywood Park Elementary, Leonardo Da Vinci, Sutterville Elementary School PTA, and St. Robert Catholic School, Sacramento), and neighborhood associations (Hollywood Park Neighborhood Association, South Land Park Neighborhood Association, Land Park Community Association). We have all met in the past weeks to develop constructive solutions for the neighborhoods surrounding Freeport Boulevard.
In the short-term, the City is:
It will take this combination of street investments, enforcement, and education of pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers to be successful and safe.
I have spent a considerable amount of time in my monthly messages talking about my priorities around the importance of economic development, ending homelessness and supporting our youth.
For Sacramento to become the successful city we all desire, we will have to wrestle with a multitude of issues, large and small, controversial and not. My hope is that over the next year or so, we can begin courageous conversations about these topics and start answering a series of questions, some of which are posed below. Here are five topics; I’m interested to know your thoughts on what issues we should be discussing, and what your priorities are to address them.
1. Meaningful Action & Discussion on Diversity and Equity. Sacramento is one of the most diverse cities in the nation. The City is working to diversify its own workforce so that it better reflects the community, and that there is equitable pay for the same work. How do we go beyond simply talking about tolerance, use our diversity as an asset, and have it lead to a better quality of life? What meaningful actions will bring people together? How do we ensure equitable investment of resources, equitable treatment, and equitable returns for all?
2. Transportation. Regional Transit has shown great improvement in its service, safety and cleanliness over the last three years, has piloted a number of free ride days, is cutting fares for youth, and yet it is still losing riders. SacRT is conducting a ‘Route Optimization Study’ this year to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of its bus routes. What else can RT do to increase ridership and how can we afford any increases in service to serve our communities where it's needed the most?
3. Housing. Housing costs in Sacramento are skyrocketing, we have a 2% vacancy rate, and we have been constructing less than 10% of the new housing that forecasts say we need. We have no ongoing source of funding to build more affordable housing. Gentrification is a challenge that no one in the nation has met – can Sacramento? How do we ensure people have the ability to stay in their homes, and that the homes that we do have are safe and affordable? How do we house our most vulnerable, including those experiencing homelessness?
4. Legalization of Cannabis. With the passage of local laws to regulate the cultivation, manufacturing, and transportation of cannabis, I believe this will enhance public safety, public health, and bring significant revenues to the City over time. Are we doing the right thing here? What are we missing?
5. Ongoing Prosperity for All. This is one of the most exciting times in Sacramento’s history. As the City looks toward the future, how do make sure that everyone prospers and no one is left behind?
What am I missing? I would love to engage in these complicated conversations, and I'm happy to work with you to find best way to do that - and maybe even get to solutions.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Leadership comes in all shapes and sizes. It takes many forms, can be loud or quiet, take the lead or encourage from behind the scenes. We all have the ability to be leaders, to lead on specific issues, and step forward when called upon.
Over the course of my time in elected office, I have been in the middle of many controversial issues. On some, I have chosen to be up front and very vocal – even becoming the public face for one side or another. A good example of this would be my role in updating the City’s minimum wage policy. In that case, I wanted to be involved because this was a critical issue for the City. The Mayor appointed me as chair of a working group to make recommendations to the Council on the minimum wage policy for Sacramento.
As Chair, I took on the challenge of finding a consensus among leaders of the labor, business and non-profit communities. It was a difficult and controversial discussion. While not everyone was happy with the result, we were successful in reaching a compromise and in the end, Sacramento was a leader to implement the first increase in local/state minimum wage in decades.
On many topics, I prefer to stay in the background, working with others to move issues forward. The most recent example of this is my work on homelessness. Two years ago, I led a Council Sub-Committee which met over a period of months with key stakeholders to develop a set of twenty-one recommendations for the Council. Those recommendations, many of which were implemented, came into play more recently as Mayor Steinberg took a very public lead role on the issue. I worked with City and County staff, local service organizations, and the private sector to help create an environment that has lead to our current path – an integrated approach to addressing homelessness, its causes, and solutions.
In addition, I am continuing to work on neighborhood-scale solutions to addressing homelessness – including a pilot program to implement a day labor program as well as exploring options for smaller-scale shelters in the district to support those experiencing homelessness in District 5. I look forward to continuing to work with neighborhood organizations, business districts, local government partners, nonprofits, and the private sector to continue to find ways to address homelessness that is right for our communities.
I also find myself in leadership roles simply because I might have a particular role. The best example of this is the development and implementation of local cannabis ordinances. My view on cannabis is straightforward. The people of California have voted to make it legal. It is our responsibility to create a regulatory environment that makes this industry safe and equitable, protects public health and produces significant revenues for the City.
As Chair of the Law and Legislation Committee, I have led the way to support City policies and ordinances to support this emerging industry and I am proud of what we have accomplished. Our permit fees will pay for added enforcement (more police and code officers) to shut down illegal operations and the business operations tax we collect will add tens of millions of dollars to the City’s general fund – money that can be used for public safety, youth services, fighting homelessness, and a host of other important issues.
These are but a few of the many issues in which I’ve taken challenging roles (formal or informal) and often difficult and controversial positions. In all of these situations and many others, including my work as past chair of Regional Transit and my stance on Curtis Park Village, I take these roles, and especially the role as your elected representative on the City Council, very seriously, and determine my positions based on my values and what I’m hearing from my constituents (which can often be vastly different).
There are fewer opportunities to have in-depth and thoughtful conversations about complex policy issues. In today’s social media world, it’s far too easy to criticize from afar and create an environment where compromise becomes difficult, if not impossible. Even though I may have the same goals as others, there may be disagreements about how to best achieve those results. I believe that the answer is most always better communication. To help facilitate those discussions, I am continuing to hold ‘office hours’ in different neighborhoods over the course of the year. I hope that you will participate in these events. With a better mutual understanding of the issues, we can collaboratively plot a path to improve our neighborhoods and create a better Sacramento.
As always, should you have questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch at 916.808.7005 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the eve of Thanksgiving, I had the honor of working alongside many members of Shiloh Baptist Church serving a Thanksgiving meal to hundreds of folks at the Oak Park Community Center. I was accompanied by District 5 staff as well as family of Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn.
It was a quite a meal – turkey, gravy, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce, sweet potato pie, and much more! Personally, I was dishing up the stuffing. The food was prepared by the parishioners of Shiloh. Undoubtedly, they spent hours preparing such a grand neighborhood feast.
What I found most striking was the sheer number of people who came to eat. There was no program, no other incentives - just food. It surely seemed that for many, this was the only real meal of the day – perhaps even the only solid meal for a few days or a week. I saw a few individuals taking to-go boxes home. Initially, I was disheartened by the harsh reality that so many people lack such a basic necessity as food. However, the overwhelming sense of community and fellowship at that event reminded me that when we work together we can impact the lives of others, even if just for a moment.
I want to thank Pastor Sadler and his church members for all the time and effort it took to prepare and serve this great meal to those who need it most. I hope that they will accept an invitation to be honored with a resolution at City Hall for this truly altruistic endeavor.
Important to note, is that I know they are not alone in the provision of service, community, and comfort in this City. Churches and non-profit organizations throughout the City host events in their communities to serve the those in need during the holiday season, and throughout the year.
Reflecting upon this event, I realized that it’s not merely the City that I love, rather, it is the people more than anything. Time and again, we step up to take care of each other. Time and again, we invest our energy and resources into helping one another. Time and again, we give of ourselves to make our community better. In my religion, it’s called Tikkun Olam – healing the world.
In Sacramento, it’s just another day of doing what’s right.
I spent Thanksgiving in Seattle with my wife visiting our son and his fiancé. Seattle is a great city, but when the plane wheels touched down in Sacramento, I was surely glad to be home. I love this place.
I want to wish each and every one of you a Happy Holiday, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, or any other celebration you choose to partake in. Let’s keep making Sacramento a better place, together.
We all love our neighborhood and our City for a variety of reasons. From the community events, to our beautiful tree canopy, to our small neighborhood shops, there is a lot to appreciate. However, none of these things have happened by chance. Over the decades, our neighborhoods have been home to neighborhood and community leaders who have worked countless hours to protect, preserve and enhance our neighborhood and our city as a whole.
As a councilmember, I’m honored to follow in the footsteps of pervious Council District Five representatives such as Joe Serna, Debra Ortiz and Lauren Hammond. They left big shoes to fill and I hope I’m doing my part. However, elected office is not the only way of giving back to our community. Each of our neighborhoods are home to a dedicated group of individuals who work countless hours to make their communities a better place to live work and play.
This month, I wanted to give a shout-out to a few of these community leaders for all their hard work. Michael Blair of South Oak Park for his advocacy and action, building up the SOPAC neighborhood association; Brian Ebbert and Chuck Hughes of South Land Park who are working to create the Del Rio Trail. Eric Johnson of SCNA who is shepherding Curtis Park through a major development project. Joany Titherington and Katie Valenzuela Garcia of Oak Park for all of their work creating and managing the Oak Park Farmer’s Market and neighborhood association, Martin Rosenberg for working to revive the Lawrence Park Neighborhood Association; Gloria Abernethy of Golf Course Terrace for her decades of service. Rose Cabral, Mark Harrington and Rosette Nguyen of Colonial Heights, and John, Dylan and Karla of Hollywood Park. I and our collective neighborhoods owe you a huge thank-you. Your dedication and devotion to our neighborhoods and our City, is a big part of what make this city great.
I am leaving many, many names out. To name every dedicated community leader would would take pages and pages. As a councilmember, I am thankful for the partnership I have with each of you. Together, we get things done and make our neighborhoods and city, a better place to live. To my neighbors who love our neighborhoods, but maybe have not engaged or volunteered, please don’t be shy. Dig in. This is your community too, and it takes a village.
A Light That Shall Remain….
I generally try to keep these messages about local issues, but…
As a nation we are beginning an internal political debate with consequences and a seriousness that we have not experienced since perhaps the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. Our core values as a country are being questioned, but not being debated in an intelligent, deliberate and informed manner. It is up to us as individuals to make sure the values central to our idea of America, remain long after the debate is over. For me, a big part of that is ensuring we are a welcoming and compassionate nation.
New Year’s is always a time for reflection and renewal. Understanding where you’ve been and where you are going. I continue to be privileged and honored to represent you on the City Council. As I take a few moments to think about the past year, I am proud of what we have accomplished and reminded of the work that stands before us.
The Sacramento City Council has taken the position that strict regulations to control every element of the industry is the best and most responsible way to protect public health, deal with illegal activity, mitigate potential negative impacts, employ thousands of Sacramentans and increase city tax revenues.
There will be many, many post-mortems written about the just concluded election and the future of our nation under the Presidency of Donald Trump. Clearly, there is much work to do in protecting the gains that have been made under President Obama and resisting any backward sliding. This will be no easy task, but I maintain confidence in the American people and the values we hold so dear. I hope that each of us will make our voices heard in this effort.
In addition to his council duties, Jay works as an independent consultant and policy advisor on education reform and youth policy and strategies.