This meeting of the City Council was a discussion of how to spend the $112 million dollars that Sacramento is getting from the American Rescue Plan Act. Mayor Steinberg laid out 5 categories of spending, and a rough amount he wants to dedicate to each one:
1) $30 million to “commercial corridors”
2) $41 million to go towards funding the city’s Comprehensive Siting Plan to Address Homelessness
3) $17 million (includes $7 million from state budget) towards youth, workforce development, and gang prevention
4) $10 million towards the “creative economy”, so essentially funding for arts programs
5) $25 million towards city employees and operational needs.
On its face, some things here seem good. $41 million towards homelessness is a big number, the biggest of the 5 categories. Arts funding isn’t a bad thing, and providing money to city employees who have worked hard through the pandemic seems noble enough. However, the $41 million towards homelessness is specifically going to fund a deeply flawed Comprehensive Siting Plan - see our previous article on this subject here - that only provides temporary housing options, and does almost nothing to increase the supply of permanent affordable housing in the city. The funding for the arts is fine in a vacuum, but should that truly be the highest priority?
And the $25 million for “city employees” is nebulous, and in fact was confirmed later in the meeting by City Manager Howard Chan to include the police.
Not to mention that the first category is almost entirely money that will go directly towards businesses, with no guarantee of any assistance trickling down to the workers who have been so deeply impacted by this pandemic.
There are a number of very important priorities that need funding which were either left out of this proposal or were given a brief mention and a pittance of funding. Lack of housing and unemployment have both wracked the city for the past year and a half but are only addressed in this proposal by sending funding towards a Comprehensive Siting Plan that is only pretending to be a solution, and by a number of vague platitudes about getting our economy reopened so people can go back to work.
The city, much like the rest of the country, seems to want to pretend that the pandemic is over now, and we can go back to normal, but the Delta variant is hitting just as many people as the first wave of COVID, and the poor and working people are still suffering in the meantime.
The most important takeaway from this meeting is that it’s not too late to force the council to get their priorities in order.
This meeting was discussion only, no vote was held, so there will be another opportunity for public comment in a couple of weeks (they mentioned potentially holding a vote on a final proposal at the September 14th City Council meeting).
The vast majority of public comments at this 4 hour meeting were either members of the local arts community calling in to support the arts funding, or members of the local business community calling in to support the small business funding. One notable comment came from Fabrizio Sasso from the Central Labor Committee, who called in to lay out some very specific demands to assist working people, but only a few other callers echoed any of his points.
To the council’s credit, they did seem receptive to the things Mr. Sasso was saying, as well as to concerns about racial equity brought up by a couple of callers and council member Mai Vang. So it is certainly possible to sway them in a better direction, but we need to step up and provide a louder voice than all the Chamber of Commerce types who flooded the airwaves during this last meeting.