Public Private Life

Acuity with Steve Hansen

Back Q&A Jan 1, 2012 By Douglas Curley

Steven Hansen, 32, is a senior regional manager at California-based biotechnology company Genentech Inc. He is a neighborhood representative for the Downtown Sacramento Partnership board of directors and was one of 15 city residents selected to serve on the Sacramento Redistricting Citizens Advisory Committee. Last November, Hansen announced his run to become Sacramento’s first openly gay council member in the newly aligned District 6. 

“I’ve always been drawn to efforts to make my local community better. I started a paper-recycling program in my grade school. I ran for student council president in 8th grade on a platform calling for testing the school water for lead.”

“At Genentech, we have embraced the spirit of casual intensity. We are critical of ourselves, but when one idea has been around for a long time but doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere, we’re willing to set that aside.”

“Sacramento’s future may not lie in biotech. But there has been some recent activity -— a Chinese company has agreed to open a DNA sequencing lab on Stockton Boulevard near the [UC Davis Medical Center]. Biotech clusters tend to come to places where there is academic research happening, where you have M.D.s with Ph.D.s who are interested in doing this kind of work.”

“It’s more likely Sacramento’s future lies in clean tech and high tech. We have a bunch of Internet entrepreneurs here working in those industries. However, these entrepreneurs have to hire programmers in San Francisco because they can’t get them to live here. Why can’t we get them to live here? Because we haven’t done as good a job as we can in marketing ourselves as a dynamic, happening city. We market ourselves as a historic, gold rush town with ties to the transcontinental railroad. Young, up-and-coming professionals don’t care about that. Also, our close tie to the Capitol is hurting us. Since the media portrays state government as dysfunctional, outsiders assume the city of Sacramento is also dysfunctional.”

“We’ve created a lot of micro-identities — our neighborhoods, parks and schools — and have lost the macro-identity. As a city, we sometimes have an inferiority complex, a lack of self-confidence. We want to be more like Portland, Seattle and San Francisco. Well, I’d like to be more like Brad Pitt. We already have a lot of great things going for us. If we loved ourselves as much as we’d like people to love us, I think we’d have endless potential. The embracing of that big-picture identity is lacking.”

“I don’t think our current system of city government is causing the council to be dysfunctional. I believe it’s our inability to work with each other. It’s not mutually exclusive that business and government have to be at odds. But as a smaller city, people have been around here for generations. On occasion, this old guard turns conflicts into gold nuggets and carries them around for years. But it’s a fool’s gold based on the tension between those that want to hold on to the past and those that want to embrace what we can be.”

“I believe we can put together an appropriate funding mechanism for a new sports and entertainment complex without voter approval. Dating back 100 years, direct democracy has been a mixed blessing for this state. If we want the people to decide on everything, then we should go to the ancient Greek form of government; that didn’t really work out well for them. Mob mentality is rarely right. That’s why our founding fathers created representative government.”

“With the recent redistricting, the grid will now have one councilperson representing its entirety. In the past, the grid was broken up between several districts. No one council member could be held accountable for the failures of the grid. It’s not that those elected officials didn’t care, it’s just that downtown interests usually came second to the concerns of their constituents elsewhere in their district.”

“The fact that I’m openly gay is just a piece of who I am. My work with the Downtown Partnership, building playgrounds in the neighborhood, service on nonprofit boards, that’s also part of me. For a city that prides itself on diversity, having never elected an openly gay person is shocking to me. Stockton did it in 2006. It’s an idea whose time came a while ago. There is nothing gay about dealing with jobs, homelessness, the arts — OK the arts might be a little gay — trash collection and public safety. These are issues we all have to work together on if the city is to successfully compete in the new knowledge based economy. This takes someone fully devoted to the city and the region, no matter their sexual orientation.”

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