Opinion: The Pros vs. Cons of a Strong Mayor

Publisher’s Note: The opinions in the two following articles do not reflect those of the publication. Both authors were given a deadline and word limit. The articles are posted in the order which they were submitted for publication.

Paula Lee pic

Paula Lee

NO on Measure L

FOR THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

Measure L will appear on the Nov. 4th ballot as “The Checks and Balances Act of 2014.” Don’t let the title deceive you. The League of Women Voters is committed to transparent, ethical & accessible government and we strongly OPPOSE this measure.

Big donors, most outside our city, have spent over $1.1 million to overhaul our charter, our city’s constitution. This is not to move the city forward, but to take us back to the days of favoritism & politically run cities. It is easier to use money and political power to influence a single elected official privately, rather than obtain a public majority of city council support.

Under Measure L, a Mayor no longer attends city council meetings or listens to pubic testimony yet has the power to veto council decisions and budget items, and fire the city manger at will. A veto over-ride requires 75% of the council, giving the current mayor and future mayors more power than a Governor or President.

This shift in the current balance of power weakens the voice of neighborhoods and the proposed neighborhood “advisory council” is not an adequate replacement.

The LWV believes in civic participation and open meeting laws. A mayor removed from public decision-making can make decisions in private about how public money is spent and then have leverage over council members with this extraordinary veto power.

Decisions such as land use and public services, directly impact our lives. It is important that our governing body, the mayor and council, represent the people who live in Sacramento.  Discussion and debate with the council & mayor provides balance, ideas & democracy.
Achieving the overall best result for the city requires leadership, not ultimate power.

A city manager directed only by a mayor, who can fire him or her without cause, is essentially acting as a “chief of staff” so employees and city jobs could be influenced by politics and favoritism. Currently, our city manager is held accountable every day by the mayor and council and can be removed for poor performance. In contrast, removing a mayor from office would require a costly recall effort by voters.

The “sweeteners” added to this proposal covering ethics, sunshine and an independent redistricting commission, could be enacted now without changing the charter.

Sacramento’s future is bright. We’re moving past the worst recession in 100 years and Mayor Kevin Johnson has been successful at implementing his vision in the current system. Many who share this mayor’s vision agree that Measure L is wrong for Sacramento.

The League of Women Voters finds that no convincing arguments have been made to support this change. Let’s keep democracy working in our city. We’ve seen how big money has a corrupting influence at the state and federal level.  Sacramento voters have a chance to keep the influence of money and its potential for legal corruption, at least in check, by rejecting Measure L, the oddly named “Checks and Balances Act of 2014”. Don’t let the name deceive you. Vote NO.

Paula Lee has been an active member of the League of Women Voters for 20 years. She works as a legislative advocate and is a violence prevention educator and child
sexual abuse prevention trainer, founder of PreventionWORKS.


YES on Measure L

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Angelique Ashby

FOR THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

Election Day is near and the ballot is full of important decisions; what to fund, who should lead and how we should function. I am hoping Natomas breaks with the national trend of apathy and instead uses our collective voice to drive our community forward. The most important thing you can do is participate in the conversation by casting a ballot.

Over the past four years it has been my honor to serve Natomas and help lead our city. I am humble and grateful for the continued opportunity. My goal here is to walk through Measure L, the initiative that proposes to change our City Charter.

I am in support and I urge a Yes Vote, but I want you to be comfortable with what the measure means and what it doesn’t mean. It’s a charged discussion and as such much of the intellectual debate has been lost in rhetoric and political tactics rooted in fear. Let’s get beyond that and talk about the merits.

Measure L shifts the current authority of our City Manager to our Mayor. Right now decisions about budgets and leadership fall to the City Manager.  Amongst other key decisions, he chooses our Fire and Police Chief. Ultimately, it is his vision that is the final optic at City Hall.

Most cities our size have outgrown the City Manager style of leadership. 70% of the cities our size or larger have moved to the Executive Mayor system – cities like San Francisco, Fresno, San Diego, Oakland and Los Angeles.

Under this system the Mayor would no longer be part of the council. Instead he would be an executive, like the Governor is with the legislature. He would propose the budget, lead the city and have veto power.

The council would also have increased authority. We would implement the proposed charter changes such as creating an Independent Budget Analyst’s office, a redistricting commission, neighborhood advisory groups and an ethics code and committee. And while the Mayor will have veto power the final decisions actually rest in the collective of the council, with a majority veto override authority.

These checks and balances will serve Sacramento well. We have a great City Manager. He is smart, and works hard, but he is not elected by you. He is not accountable to you. In fact, you have little to no access to him and zero ability to influence his decision making.

We had no say in who he chose to be Police Chief. I tried to engage in that process but ultimately I had no influence. I have never been accused of being shy or passive, but even with a proactive approach it can be difficult to gain attention, and therefore resources, in our current system.

We’ve had many positive outcomes in Natomas, reduced crime rates, new facilities, new and improved parks, partnerships with schools, increases in jobs, advances in flood control and more resources coming into our community, but we can do more.

And we should.

Mayor Pro Tem Angelique Ashby serves as the Sacramento City Councilmember for District 1, representing North Natomas.


  1. Steven Maviglio says

    It’s unfortunate that the President of the Sacramento League of Women Voters cannot be factual in her assessment. The $1.1 million raised is from BOTH sides of Measure L. The NO side has received $34,000 from a Washington, DC special interest political action committee as well as $54,000 from a union currently negotiating with the city manager — two facts she fails to mention.

    In addition, she neglects to mention that “power” is actually “responsibility.” Do you know the role the City Council and Mayor played in selecting the new police chief? The answer is no role whatsoever. They found out who it was in an email from the city manager. That’s why Sacramento’s former city manager, former police chief, and former Mayors Isenberg and Yee also support Measure L.

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