Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and his allies in the Yes on Measure A campaign claim that if the “strong mayor” charter amendment passes on November 3 it will promote “transparency and accountability,” as well as “an equitable Sacramento, increasing citizen participation in establishing budget priorities,” and a “Stronger City Council and improved representation for neighborhoods.”
A review of contributions made through October 1 to the Yes on Measure A campaign provides evidence that these claims are not true and the harmful and corrupt opposites will occur.
Keep in mind just some of the important changes to Sacramento’s City government that will be cemented into the City Charter if Measure A passes.
The Mayor would:
- Have the power to veto the entire City budget proposed by the City Council or veto any line item of the Council’s proposed budget subject only to override by a supermajority (6 of 9) of the Council;
- Have the power to remove the City Manager without cause subject only to override by a supermajority of the Council;
- Have veto power over all ordinances adopted by the Council subject only to override by a supermajority of the Council;
- Only have to attend City Council meetings once per quarter at the invitation of the Council
- Only have to “be reasonably available to the public.”
Also, Measure A would create a “set aside” in the City budget of $40 Million or more “for inclusive economic development and youth services,” a vague and undefined description.
State law requires all ballot measure committees to file Contribution Reports itemizing contributions made to them. In the case of the organizations for and against Measure A, the Reports are filed with the Sacramento City Clerk’s office and are available online to review. That, by the way, is real transparency and accountability.
Review of the reports submitted by the Yes on Measure A Campaign shows that through October 1st, a month before the election, it has received $242,500 in contributions. No doubt the Yes campaign will raise significantly more money.
So who are the organizations and individuals contributing such large amounts of money to the Yes campaign and how much have they contributed?
DEVELOPERS —The California Association of Realtors Issues Mobilization Political Action Committee whose address is in Los Angeles–$25,000. John D Stanek (The Greenbriar Project Owner, LLC) of Newport Beach–$10,000. Signature Homes, Inc., of Pleasanton–$5,000. The California Hotel and Lodging Association–$25,000. 29th St. Management of Sacramento–$10,000. IGS, Inc., of Orangevale–$25,000.
UNIONS AND ASSOCIATIONS RELATED TO DEVELOPMENT — The Sacramento Electrical Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperation Trust–$25,000. The Committee for Home Ownership, Sponsored by North State Building Industry Association–$25,000. The District Council of Iron Workers Political Issues Committee, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 447 Federal Political Action Fund, Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3 and the Local Laborers 185 Political Action Committee accounted for $56,000, with the Iron Workers and Plumbers and Pipefitters contributing $25,000 each. California-Nevada Conference of Operating Engineers PAC Small Contribution Committee–$5,000. Members Voice of the State Building and Construction Trades Council–$25,000.
BIG BUSINESS—Markstein Beverage Company of Sacramento–$25,000. Park West Casinos, Inc.–$10,000.
INDIVIDUALS—Tina Thomas contributed $25,000, as did Marc Turtletaub.
It’s not obvious who some of the contributing organizations and people are, so we dug in a bit further.
The Greenbriar Development Project is a development in North Natomas that will consist of 2,922 residential units as well as retail, parks and a school site; in a Planning and Design Commission Report dated November 16, 2017, the owner is listed as “John Stanek, The Greenbriar Project Owner, LP, a Delaware Limited Partnership,” with an address in Newport Beach, CA.
The California Association of Realtors Issues Mobilization Political Action Committee is headquartered in Los Angeles and says its “primary mission is to influence state and local political issues on behalf of (its) members….” No doubt a $25,000 contribution to the Mayor’s effort earns a lot of influence.
According to its website, the North State Building Industry Association “is the leading advocate for the homebuilding industry in the greater Sacramento region.”
The Signature Homes website shows that it builds developments in several locations in Northern California, including Natomas.
In its filing with the Secretary of State’s office, Park West Casinos, Inc. gives an address in Los Angeles and describes its type of business as “Cardroom.”
Tina Thomas is a Sacramento attorney whose practice specialty is land use issues and legislation for developers, government agencies and environmental agencies. She was the Treasurer of the Steinberg for Sacramento Mayor 2020 committee. According to her firm’s website, Thomas “represented the prior project applicant (for the Greenbriar Project) during the administrative permitting process and successfully secured the appropriate land use entitlements and EIR certification for the project.”
Marc Turtletaub is listed on the Contribution Report as a Film Producer in Los Angeles, but he is also the former CEO/President of The Money Store, a leading subprime lender in the 1990’s that, according to an article in the Sacramento Business Journal, was sold to First Union Bank in 1998 for $2.1 Billion.
Does anyone think these organizations and people don’t know that they and their members, employees and clients will benefit from their investment in Measure A if it passes? Of course they do. And the citizens of Sacramento will get the opposite of what is promised by the proponents of Measure A. We will get less “transparency and accountability,” significantly decreased “citizen participation in establishing budget priorities,” a very weak City Council and virtually no “representation for neighborhoods.”
Of course, there is nothing illegal or unethical about these organizations and individuals, their contributions to the Yes on Measure A campaign, or how the money raised is being spent. But as the saying goes, “money talks,” and here it is talking very loudly. The provisions of Measure A take political power away from the City Council and by extension from the citizens who have access to their districts’ Council Members. The citizens of Sacramento won’t have access to the mayor. When Sacramento’s mayor has virtually all the power nothing will be left for the voters because the City Council will be little more than an advisory committee.
In contrast to the Yes campaign, the Contribution Reports show that by October 1 Neighbors Against Strong Mayor received contributions of $104,195.
Supporters of Measure A may point out that two of the organizations making contributions are unions—Sacramento Area Fire Fighters Local 522 Issues PAC contributed $49,500 and Service Employees International Union Local 1021 Issues PAC contributed $25,000. But there is a significant difference between these unions and those contributing to the Yes campaign. The Fire Fighters and SEIU are not related to developers or development and cannot gain any advantage by opposing the measure. In fact, if Measure A passes, they may suffer from the Mayor’s hostility.
In a voter mailing from the Fire Fighters, teachers, and League of Women voters, they stated their reasons for opposing Measure A in the following way: “Less Accountable and Transparent Government, Too Much Power in One Person’s Hands, Fiscal Restrictions Hamper Reform, Big Money Influence (and) An Unnecessary Change.” A representative of SEIU Local 1021 told me that Local 1021 opposes the measure because it is “a direct attack on democracy,” and, among other things, it would lessen the power of neighborhoods and take the mayor out of City Council meetings and the Brown Act. (California’s Brown Act guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies.) The Fire Fighters and SEIU Local 1021 are exactly correct.
So what have the Mayor and the Yes on Measure A campaign done with the contributions of $242,500? The Campaign Disclosure Statement filed September 24 shows combined payments and accrued expenses of almost $200,000.
Where most of the money goes is revealing:
- $175,248 has gone to or will go to firms that specialize in political campaign consulting and fundraising. For example: $82,848 to Grindstone Field Solutions of Sacramento, which, according to its website, provides “data-driven outreach strategies for political campaigns….”;
- $34,500 to Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates of Oakland, which does research for ballot measures;
- $25,000 to LG Campaigns of Sacramento, which, according to its website, “specializes in developing and implementing creative communications strategies for today’s complex issues;”
- $10,000 to AMW Consulting of Sacramento, which does fundraising and event planning.
The Yes on Measure A investment in scientific political campaign consulting and fundraising is not illegal or unethical either. But it is important not to ignore the fact that the money is being spent to develop strategies for the best way for Measure A to win, not to determine what is best for the citizens of Sacramento.
Mayor Steinberg has repeatedly said that Measure A is not about him and he stresses that Measure A limits the mayor’s position to two terms, which will limit him to one more term, as if he has conceded something significant.But does anyone think he hadn’t long ago planned only two terms as mayor and then on to another political position?
However, Steinberg would get 4 years of being the strong mayor so that the developers, development-related unions and his supporters would benefit. And long into the future, Sacramento’s mayors would be hand-picked and influenced by the same financial interests who would continue to benefit while the citizens of Sacramento don’t have a voice.
Sacramento’s voters should not let the developers, development-related organizations and other wealthy interests have control of the City.