In Support of Measure L

Why a strong mayor will make for a stronger Sacramento

Back Commentary Oct 28, 2014 By Winnie Comstock-Carlson

I’ve watched, listened and learned as the debate over Sacramento’s “strong mayor” initiative has progressed over the past several years. Like many people, I was surprised and a little disappointed when Kevin Johnson started advocating for the strong mayor form of government within months of election to his first term.

But this time it’s different.

The decision now before voters, Measure L, is not the same as the first ill-conceived attempt. Proponents wisely learned from that failed effort and incorporated feedback from aa broad cross-section of city residents to craft the current ballot’s language.

Measure L is about how the city of Sacramento will adeptly respond to opportunities and manage challenges, today and in the future.

Like you, I’ve heard lots of rhetoric about Sacramento “aspiring to be a world-class city.”  Well, the time is now. Are we ready to grow up? Are city residents ready to help their government assume its rightful place among big cities across the country?

In my opinion, and the opinion of many business leaders with whom I’ve discussed this important issue, this is in fact the time for Sacramento to change how it functions, to keep in line with the important economic development changes in the region. At heart of the matter is accountability, which is as important in government as it is in business.

As a voice for business in the greater Sacramento region, I’m supporting Measure L for these important reasons:

  • Measure L makes the mayor directly accountable to city residents for providing the level of city services that are important to them; and for making necessary, and often difficult, budgeting decisions. Accountability is at the heart of the matter. I appreciate knowing that the mayor has to answer directly to the voters for how the city functions. A weak-mayor system allows for a diluted decision-making process, which fosters inaction and finger-pointing.


  • Strong mayor systems tend to attract strong leaders, people with the ability and desire to get things done. There is a reason that almost all large U.S. cities have strong mayor systems. It is the most appropriate governing model for big-city needs.


  • Measure L ballot language provides accountability to, and a voice for, neighborhoods, which is critical to maintaining Sacramento’s culture and livability.


  • I respect the opinion of people who have inside knowledge about how our city government works, and they endorse Measure L. It is no small thing that four current city council members support it. I appreciate the view expressed by councilmember Angelique Ashby, who noted that the measure would empower the city council, led by a council president, to act as counterbalance to the mayor. In fact, there are comparisons to the legislative and executive branches at the state and federal levels.


  • And finally, as a business owner, I appreciate the safeguards in Measure L. — or “off-ramps” as we refer to clauses in contracts that provide the opportunity to get out of a deal if it goes sour. Voters will have the choice in 2020 to make Measure L permanent or to return to the old system. The strong mayor system doesn’t automatically continue unless voted down, voters will have to vote to keep the strong mayor system in place.

Now that’s accountability.


Editor’s Note: In the original version of this piece, it was stated that city manager John Shirey was on record for supporting Measure L. That portion has since been omitted for accuracy. 

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Dave Jones is the California Insurance Commissioner. Jones is a former Sacramento City Councilmember, having represented the 6th District covering southeast Sacramento and College Greens. He represented California's 9th Assembly District from 2004 to 2011.

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