Business leaders ask next mayor to tackle ambitious to-do list

By Metro Chamber|January 20, 2016|Advocacy, News Coverage|

An ad-hoc group of Sacramento business leaders this week presented mayoral candidates with an ambitious checklist to improve the city’s business environment.

Described as a “statement of principles and priorities,” the document offers a long to-do list that includes sweeping reforms in city finances, culture and procedures.

The city is recognized for its quality of life and is improving economically, the statement notes. But “Sacramento falls short on leveraging these and other assets to make our city a desirable place to conduct business.”

The six-page document was drafted by a group that includes Sacramento attorney Stan Van Vleck, developer Mark Friedman and others. It has been endorsed by the Sacramento Metro Chamber, the Downtown Sacramento Partnership and the new advocacy group Region Business. Other groups also may sign on.

Authors of the document presented it late Tuesday to candidates. The two leading contenders, Angelique Ashby and Darrell Steinberg, both said they welcomed the ideas.

Goals include improving infrastructure, education, transit and amenities. Among steps the group asks the next mayor to take:

  • Appoint private business leaders to a council of economic advisors.
  • Move the city to a two-year budget cycle.
  • Use “external contracts to implement cost savings and improve public services.”
  • In employee negotiations, ask workers “to pay their fair share into their retirement funds.”
  • Embark on a campaign to modernize the city’s infrastructure.
  • Appoint business leaders as the city’s representatives on the Regional Transitboard, with a goal of improving the agency’s financial and customer-service performance.
  • Prioritize development that enhances Sacramento as a tourist destination.
  • Take “bold steps” to tackle the problem of homelessness.
  • Develop a strategy to better integrate the region’s educational institutions.

Business leaders are not asking candidates to embrace all the goals without question, said Metro Chamber CEO Peter Tateishi. And it’s not tied to the chamber’s endorsement decisions.

The document is designed to help them “understand our principles and direction as we try to continue our momentum in Sacramento,” Tateishi said. “It’s an opportunity for the candidates to engage in a conversation about business priorities and help the candidates understand where we are coming from.”

Mark Friedman, who joined Steinberg on stage when the candidate announced his mayoral run, described the document as a conversation-starter.

“This is not intended to be a litmus test,” said Friedman. “Our hope naturally would be the candidates would endorse the policies and principles wholesale, but we recognize they may not agree 100 percent with objectives in the documents, or they may have different mechanisms for achieving the goals. So we have asked them to respond with specificity about where they disagree and why.”

Van Vleck, who is chairman and a partner at law firm Downey Brand, said the document started as a conversation between himself and Friedman. The duo particularly wanted Steinberg — who had a liberal Democratic voting record in the Senate — to understand what a pro-business city agenda could look like. The discussion then expanded into a greater conversation about values of Sacramento’s business community.

In addition to helping frame the mayoral race, Van Vleck said he hoped the document would help align the business community behind a political platform and engage more individuals in the political process. The policies could also frame future local political races, he said.

“It has set up a template for us,” Van Vleck said. “The important part is coming together and giving those thoughts to candidates so they can debate them in the public forum.”

After an initial reading, City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby said the document had no red flags for her. While she wasn’t ready to adopt every plan into her platform, she said she looked forward to talking about each issue.

“The role of a mayor is to take all that in and work with the community,” she said. “Committing as a candidate to how all this happens would probably be a mistake. But committing to the dialogue is reasonable,” she said.

“I think it’s easier for a candidate when the business community works together,” she added.

Darrell Steinberg did not respond to an interview request. But his campaign provided a statement that Steinberg shares the business community’s goal of “making the city we love a powerful center of high-wage job-creation.”

“I look forward to reviewing this document and working with business leaders and all Sacramentans to help create a world-class economy that benefits every community in our city.”

Source: Sacramento Business Journal

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