The Regionalist … Under Steinberg, Will Consolidations Be In Our Future?

By Craig Powell

In Darrell Steinberg, Sacramento has an aggressive and politically progressive mayor who is a self-acknowledged change agent. His background as president pro tem of the Senate and former city council member certainly gives him the political juice and local government knowledge to potentially be a high-performance mayor.

Exhibiting the energy and confidence of a man who has been preparing for his new role his entire life, Steinberg has moved quickly to seize the agenda of the city of Sacramento, helped along by the fact that almost the entire city council endorsed his election. Even before he was sworn in as mayor, he persuaded the council to defer selection of a permanent city manager until he could weigh in. A final decision on the proposed expansion of Sacramento Convention Center was similarly deferred at his behest. And he will almost certainly play a major role in the selection of a new police chief, even though the selection is, theoretically, interim city manager Howard Chan’s to make.

Steinberg has made no secret of his intent to serve as a regional leader. He sees many of the most difficult challenges we face as regional in scope: widespread homelessness, growing traffic congestion, economic development, a looming pension crisis, youth underemployment, land-use and environmental policies (i.e., suburban sprawl), poverty, poor educational outcomes, etc.

And Steinberg is a major adherent of New Regionalism, which consistently calls for a regional approach to solving tough municipal problems. After all, Steinberg is the author of the groundbreaking (some would say local-economy-sapping) Senate Bill 375, which mandates that regional planners take affirmative steps to reduce the climate-changing impacts of local decisions on housing, transportation and land use. He’s tried to facilitate sales-tax-sharing agreements between cities and counties to reduce local government competition for major retail developments (like auto malls), which gush the sales-tax revenues that are so coveted by local governments.

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