Sacramentans for Accountable Government
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are these proposals? A: Sacramento voters are being asked to reform the city charter -- the document that guides the city’s government. Two proposals will be put to the voters: one to change the role of the Mayor and City Council, and another to create a position within city government to independently analyze the city budget. Q: Why are these changes needed?
A: These reforms are important steps to modernize Sacramento city government – the first major changes since the 1920s. They will bring our city in line with those of most major cities in California and around the nation. Q: What other cities in California have the same form of government that are proposed in the charter reform? A: Fresno, San Diego, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco are a few of them. Overall, Out of the nation’s top 50 largest cities (Sacramento being the 38th largest), 62% of them have an executive mayor form of government. Q: How will changing the structure of the Mayor and city government more accountable? A: The city’s now relies on an unelected city manager to run city government. The proposed reform will hold elected officials you vote for -- the Mayor and Council -- responsible for Sacramento’s city government. Q: So then what role will the City Manager have if reforms are passed?
A: The City Manager will become the administrator for the Mayor and Council’s decisions instead of directing them. Q: Will there be checks and balances in this new system?
A: Yes. It will work the way our federal and state governments do: The City Council will become the legislative branch and the Mayor will become the executive branch. For example, the City Council will need to approve all of the Mayor’s appointments to key city positions, and it will be able to override Mayoral decisions. Q: Doesn’t the City of Sacramento already have a full-time mayor? What will the charter reform do that is different? A: In November 2002, Sacramento voters overwhelmingly supported a change to have a full-time mayor with a full-time salary. But it did not change the Mayor’s job description. The
mayor, although full-time, has the similar responsibilities as any other part-time councilmember. The City Manager still runs the operation of city government. Q: But why do the Mayor and Council need to run city government?
A: So you can hold them accountable for the performance of city government – re-electing them if you are satisfied or turning them out of office if you aren’t. These reforms will make city government more responsive, and elected officials more responsible. Projects like K Street or the Railyards that have languished for years could be jumpstarted with a more nimble and effective government. Q: How does that differ from the way things are now?
A: Here’s an example: if you want a pothole on your street and you call the mayor’s office to get it fixed, the mayor’s office could not take action. It would have to ask the city manager’s office to take action. Then the city manager would decide whether to fix it. Under the new system, your call to the Mayor’s office would result in the Mayor ordering the pothole fixed. Q: Will the City Council be more accountable too?
A: Yes. The City Council will have more responsibility – and be more accountable to you. Under the reforms, the City Council will have a significant role in directing policy, confirming appointments, and crafting the budget. There will be a City Council president as well. Q: Why do we need these reforms now?
A: Our nation and city voted for change last November. These reforms are a significant step toward making city government effective, nimble, and accountable to you. The sooner they are enacted, the quicker we can make Sacramento a city that works for everyone. Sacramento lags behind most of the state and nation’s major cities in having this type of responsible, accountable government. Introducing the proposal now will give voters at least six months to review these reforms. Q: Is there a special election to vote on the proposed charter reform?
A: The charter reform will be placed on the next statewide special election – not an election that just includes these proposals. It may be held in June or November 2009. Q: What’s the budget analyst proposal?
A: In a nutshell, it is modeled after the highly successful Legislative Budget Analyst in California’s state government. The City Budget Analyst will provide an independent review of the budget and the finances of the city to guide the Mayor and Council without political influence. This will help Sacramento balance its budgets. Q: How were these reforms developed?
A: Mayor Johnson’s transition team was tasked to work on the different policy areas that are important to the city. One of the tasks given to the transition team was to review and research
how to make city government more accountable and responsive. The team reviewed the best practices of other comparable cities for insight on the best way to reform the city’s charter to become a more accountable government including: San Diego, Fresno, Seattle, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Indianapolis.