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Measure U - important recs ignored

Some quick background on Measure U!

The Measure U Advisory Committee is the oversight body for the 1cent sales & use tax levied on all purchases related to the City of Sacramento.

The funds generated from this tax are supposed to be used to “restore essential City services that had been cut or scaled back since 2008, including those provided by Sacramento fire, police, parks and libraries.” Measure U is a general tax, and the revenue it produces goes in the City’s General Fund and can be used for any municipal purpose. Mayor Darrell Steinberg and members of the Sacramento City Council have said Measure U funds could be used to build and bolster an inclusive economy, grow jobs and provide housing that is affordable to all. The Measure U tax was originally a ½-cent sales tax when first approved in 2012 and was increased to a full cent in 2019, which currently generates on average $100 million per year.

The Measure U committee is volunteer based, and only has the authority to make suggestions

Another note: Unfortunately, nearly half of the funds generated by the Measure U sales tax have gone to the Sacramento Police Department since its implementation.

First, let's go over a couple wins!

Participatory budgeting! Last year, the City of Sacramento launched its first ever Participatory Budgeting (PB) process - a process that gave community members the power to propose ideas for how to spend a portion of the City's budget, develop a handful of high priority project ideas into proposals, and vote for their favorite ones!

For this pilot process the City set aside $1,000,000 in Measure U funds to be spent by residents. The City's Measure U Committee - which oversaw implementation for this first participatory budgeting cycle - decided to focus the process in North and South Sacramento. The $1,000,00 was split into two $500,000 pots, one for each area to fund winning projects. Awards have been finalized and implementation is set to begin in July - learn more about the winning projects!

Budgeting recommendations! For the first time, the Measure U Committee was able to submit recs for the current year's proposed budget - 2023/24. These recs were presented at the 5/30 Sac City Budget & Audit (B&A) Committee, and included some really great suggestions for things the City Council should have used to inform this year's budget decision-making process.

The suggestions included: improving data transparency & the metrics used to track how Measure U funds are being spent, a request for $5 million for this year's participatory budgeting process, and an ask that the City Council consider the Committee's priority rankings for what issue categories Measure U funds should be spent on.

The following screen shots have been pulled from the letter submitted by the Measure U Committee to the City's B&A Committee:

So, what happened at the Budget & Audit meeting?

Well, shocking absolutely no one, the Measure U Committee's recs were not listened to. IN FACT the Measure U budget recommendations item was actually put on the agenda AFTER the B&A Committee voted on the 2023/24 budget, as show below.

Howard Chan (City Manager) "apologized" for the placement of the items on the agenda, insisting that they really wanted to have the Measure U recs presented before the budget item, and saying that they'll "do better next time"...the thing is, that's not actually an apology, and also not an honest statement about what happened. Placing the items on the agenda this way was an intentional decision, not an accident or oversight. Clearly there was not a desire for these recs to be taken seriously, and Howard Chan knows he can get away with it, because he did.

The discussion around the Measure U item was very short, with more talk about how "unfortunate" the timing of this item was...again something that was easily preventable. The Committee's recs were sent to the City Council...essentially as a formality since the budget was unlikely to change at that point. No money was set aside for participatory budgeting, instead Steinberg said there will be a workshop in the fall to get a report back on how the first round of participatory budgeting went. He also said there will likely be another $1 million allocated for it during the 2023/24 budget cycle, but that wasn't a promise or vote, just something he said, and that's MUCH LESS than the $5 million the Committee asked for.

Thank you to Councilmember Vang for asking that the fall workshop to be scheduled PRIOR to mid-year budget hearings.

Silencing the voices of Sacramento's advisory government bodies

As we saw above, Howard Chan is willing to not only effectively shut down any chance of Measure U recs being meaningfully considered during budget discussions, but he was also willing to out right lie about it. But that's not the only way this Committee (and others) is being blocked from doing the critical work it was ostensibly created for...

On August 30th, 2022, the Sac City Council discussed an item (16) revising the City Code. What this revision boils down to is that the City Council has officially removed the ability of City committees and commissions to form ad hoc committees. The Sacramento Community Police Review Commission (SCPRC) & the Measure U Committee were explicitly targeted. These bodies are advisory in nature; they cannot create any binding decisions - so taking action to further limit their ability to complete their work is not only unethical, but also entirely unnecessary. Furthermore, this will strongly discourage people from serving on these committees/commissions.

Why is this an impediment to committees & commissions doing their important work?

  • Ad hoc committees were where these commissions and committees got the majority of their work done

  • Commissions and committees instead now have to request the ability to create subcommittees, and, if they are unable to have them, all the work will need to be done in a public meeting

  • Necessitating that all these meetings take place publicly will greatly slow down the ability to get work done because everything will need to take place during one long single meeting

  • Staff are required to be assigned to any newly formed subcommittees - this will be huge impediment because there are not enough available staff for this to be a realistic policy

  • Historically staff have not been provided, and they have not been needed

This boils down to the City Council being bent on disenfranchising the committees and commissions that provide any recommendations that would question the City Council's commitment to supporting the police at the cost of any programs and services that would actually keep our community safe

How has this regulation been impacting the Measure U Committee?

  • The Committee has had to design a work around since these new committee rules kicked in

    • Specific tasks are being given to individual members for action items that can’t be discussed collectively, since there is not enough time in the main meetings

    • Previously, members of the Committee were able to be appointed to ad hoc committees by the Committee Chair and complete their work in those spaces

  • City staff now have to complete tasks that are unable to be completed during the main meeting

So what do we do now?

At the risk of being a broken record, it's important for the community to show up to support the Measure U Committee, as well as other important advisory bodies like the Sac Community Police Review Commission. Be on the lookout for asks from members of these committees & commissions, as well as other community members/organizations, for ways in which we can be there to support, whether it be through public comment or another form of collective action. The City should know that we don't accept the status quo.

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