“Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg is being accused of playing Chicago-style politics,” writes Theresa Clift in the Sacramento Bee, “seeking retribution against two critics on the City Council by ignoring their districts in a $16 million spending proposal.”
According to the report, mayor Steinberg’s budget excludes any new projects in districts represented by Sacramento City Council members Angelique Ashby and Jeff Harris. Steinberg’s plan ignores North Natomas, South Natomas, East Sacramento and neighborhoods along the American river represented by Ashby and Harris. On the other hand, Clift reports, Steinberg’s $16 million budget proposal “includes five projects in Councilman Allen Warren’s north Sacramento district totaling $3.6 million. Warren is considered a potential swing vote on the mayor’s Measure U spending plan.”
Mayor Steinberg’s spokeswoman Mary Lynne Vellinga told the Bee “the list does not exclude any projects. It appropriately delegates to the Measure U committees and ultimately to the City Council how to best prioritize larger investments. In consultation with my Council colleagues, I have identified some early wins that demonstrate that we’re committed to investing in our kids and in neighborhoods that have long been overlooked.”
As Ashby and Harris ponder what that means, city residents might recall an action by Steinberg when he was president pro tem of the state Senate.
In November of 2012, California voters faced four ballot measures on taxes and spending: Propositions 30, 31, 38 and 39. The Senate Governance and Finance Committee held hearings on these measures and the California Channel gave voters statewide a chance to gain insight from the testimony. Unfortunately, Senate boss Darrell Steinberg blocked citizens’ access by killing the live broadcast.
Steinberg is a former attorney for the California State Employees Association and by all indications no state government employee resisted his demand to shut down the broadcast. Steinberg defended the act of censorship by claiming that the hearings could become fodder for television messages about the measures. That prompted outrage from editorial writers and First Amendment activists, who noted that everything the legislature does is fodder for partisans.
“I pride myself on being open and transparent,” Steinberg claimed when he offered an apology and said it wouldn’t happen again. No oversight mechanism or safeguard prevented Steinberg from killing television coverage of the hearing, and the senate boss suffered no penalty for abusing the public’s right to know.
Sen. Steinberg was also the author of the 2004 Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act, which slapped a one-percent tax on millionaires, as the California Globe noted in March. State auditor Elaine Howle and the state’s Little Hoover Commission were critical of the measure, and as David Siders explained in the Sacramento Bee, state watchdogs could not document whether the $13.2 billion in spending even improved the lives of any Californians.
By that time, Steinberg, a former assemblyman, had been termed out of the senate. He ran for mayor of Sacramento in 2016.