Bloggers Note: I digress from my traditional subject to write about the Sacramento’s Mayor election between Angelique Ashby and Darrell Steinberg. I have crossed paths with both–Ashby at the local level, and Steinberg at the state level. My experience with Ashby is that she’s been energetic, responsive, and proactive with Natomas’ grassroots. That’s why the Sundance Lake Homeowners Association Board of Directors I chair endorses Ashby for Mayor. I’ve also found Steinberg impressive, knowledgeable, and hard-working. I believe he is sincere.
The David versus Goliath backdrop of the campaign, however, conjures up comparisons, in my mind, to Frank Capra’s classic movie, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” So I decided to have fun and write about similarities I see between the campaign and the movie.
With that said, I have the following disclaimers:
- My analogy is a metaphor for comparing Ashby’s leadership style of leading grassroots (from the front, if you will), with Steinberg’s “significant reach” to state government, a sort of leading from behind concept in my opinion. It’s not an assessment of either candidate’s integrity or motives; and
- My analysis is neither approved nor endorsed by the Ashby for Mayor Campaign. It is published without their knowledge. The comparisons and opinions in this post are entirely my own, and not necessarily Angelique Ashby’s or her supporters.
With that out of the way, I begin my version of…….
Ms Ashby Goes for Sacramento Mayor
Ashby in the role of Jefferson Smith, the naïve Senatorial appointee with the wholesome public image, dedicated to public service. Steinberg, the fictional Sen. Joseph Payne, the established politician owned by tyrant Jim Taylor’s political machine. Symbolized in this post by Steinberg’s $2 million war chest—purportedly consisting of wealthy San Francisco and Los Angeles donors and special interest political action committees. Having exhausted term limits, and in need of a temporary job, Steinberg’s political bosses arguably bless his decision to use money they gave him to run for Lt. Governor, for a Sacramento Mayor campaign instead; even if one’s conscious dictates that money not used as intended, should be returned.
Money that local candidates, have no capacity to match. The Savvy Ashby, however, is no country bumpkin, and lobs the first political strike against the machine, suing them in court, arguing the court should preclude Steinberg from using monies donated for a Lieutenant Governor campaign, for a Sacramento Mayor race. Although the court rules in Steinberg’s favor, the average layman interprets the court decision as “waffling,” and their gut instinct tells them that cheating’s cheating, lying’s lying, and stealing is stealing– no matter how one sugar coats it.
But gut instincts don’t trump a Court decision, or stop the Steinberg machine from hiring a highly-paid, powerful, and glitzy public relations firm to smother Ashby’s voice. But not before Steinberg does a life imitating art tactic, by suggesting he take Ashby under his wing. He tells voters they get a “twofer” by voting for him–an established politician with “significant reach” to state government, while retaining a politically productive Ashby as Notomas’s councilwoman, and presumably Sacramento’s Pro Tempore. A similar tactic Payne used to try to sideline Smith in Capra’s classic movie.
But Ashby is not swayed, and neither are her grassroots. No Payne is going to bench her from Sacramento’s calling.
It’s clear, Ms Ashby is going for Mayor.
Philosophical and Political Revelations
The Steinberg political machine apparently becomes aggressive. Its army of paid consultants, professional campaigners, canvassers, and telephone bank operators inundate the electorate with campaign literature; appearing to try to buy Steinberg’s run for mayor. The “Ashbyites”dig into their pensions, savings, and family budgets to chip in for their champion.
Through sheer will power and determination, “Ashbyites” trudge door-to-door, engaged in political warfare, in a manner of speaking, challenging the Steinberg machine. Steinberg’s Political bosses allegedly whispering half-truths about Ashby’s status as an intern with the public defender’s office; and purportedly spreading gossip that she’s ill and may have to drop out of the race. The Ashbyites promoting her “One Sacramento Plan,” among voters, and sharing her vision of a “safe, vibrant Sacramento.”
A detailed, doable plan where small businesses blossom, families grow in safety and comfort, and all are united in effort through private public partnership’s (PPP) attacking and managing the City’s challenges. Like the iconic Jefferson Smith with his fictional Boy Rangers, the movie version of the Boy Scouts, Ashby’s plan galvanizes Sacramento’s unsung volunteers under the flag of PPPs, local heroes striving to build a better Sacramento.
The Steinberg machine, on the other hand, critics will argue, offers no substantive plan to match the detailed Ashby proposal. Instead, they appear to resort to “flamboyant phrases, “using words as a substitute for action, and meaningless slogans as a means to purchase the Sacramento’s Mayor Office so their established candidate can leap-frog into higher, more powerful, elected posts.
The campaign has the appearance of Ashby’s penchant for energizing the community’s heroes to attack problems, against Steinberg’s perceived propensity of wanting to be the hero who throws taxpayer dollars at problems. To the astute observer, it’s an obvious revelation of the philosophical and political differences between the two candidates.
Filibuster: Ashby Grit vs “Steinberg-Nomics”
Back to the movie. Sen. Jefferson Smith introduces legislation authorizing the federal government to loan the fictional Boy Rangers money to buy land for a National Boys Camp that the boys will repay. Anticipating Smith’s Bill will pass, youth from across America send their pennies, nickels, and dimes to Washington, pooling their money to repay that loan.
There’s a conflict. Taylor’s political machine wants that same land to construct a Dam, which in reality is a façade for a graft-scheme from which inside investors will profit. Taylor directs Sen. Payne to submit an appropriations measure to fund the dam construction, interdicting Smith’s bill. Smith has no choice but to filibuster to postpone action on Payne’s appropriation, holding the Senate floor until Taylor’s political machine acquiesces, or the junior senator drops from physical exhaustion.
The Taylor machine applies pressure, launching a merciless media campaign in Smith’s home state, publically crucifying him, manipulating his grassroots to bombard the Senate with telephone calls and telegrams, pleading with Smith to end his filibuster. But Smith remains steadfast, emboldened by the new found respect among Senate colleagues who once laughed about him. Even Payne’s heart goes out the Smith, at one point urging Taylor to concede. But the political boss reminds the senior senator that he’s bought and paid for and his allegiances belong to Taylor.
When one peels back the skin from Steinberg’s and Ashby’s homeless proposals, a comparative storyline emerges. Ashby motivating her Boy Rangers, in a matter of speaking, those private-public partnerships, like Sacramento Steps Forward, interfaith groups, charity organizations, and volunteers. They band together, under her plan, to resource its version of Jefferson Smith’s National Boys Camp. A community of formidable temporary shelters, replete with triage center, mental health services, emergency care, security, transportation through which homeless can rotate until long-term housing and productive living situations are resolved.
Conversely, Steinberg’s proposal is comparable to Taylor’s Dam. The former Senate President pro tem touts Assembly Bill 847 that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in April, an offshoot of Proposition 63 that Steinberg championed in 2004. The bill’s expected to inject more than $2 billion into the California’s Homeless programs. But the policies disputably nudge out PPPs–or maybe substitutes them with the “Steinberg Institute” swelled from of Prop 63. And, according to Bay Guardian Group reports, “a cottage industry of consultants stand to profit from the up $200/hour fees they will charge. Los Angeles and San Francisco must arguably also receive their lion’s share of the revenues.
This pattern seems to be a thread interwoven into the fabric of Steinberg’s “significant reach” policies, which I will call “Steinberg-Nomics” for lack of a name. Pull on this strand, and Steinberg-Nomics begins unravelling. Proposition 30, that temporary five-year income and sales tax intended, in part, to erase the State’s more than $22 billion budget deficit and balance the budget, is not keeping pace with, what Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association’s Jon Coupal says, are foolish legislation siphoning off Prop. 30 revenue flows, pushing the state budget dangerously close to going into the red. Compelling Gov. Brown to endorse extending Prop 30.
Tug a little harder and more of “Steinberg-Nomics” starts to unwind. Nationally renowned Spectrums Locations Executive Coach and Location Consultant, Joseph Vranich, says in his report, California Business Departures: An Eight-year Review 2008-2015, that California’s tax policies have driven 2,500 businesses and 105,000 jobs from the Golden State into: Texas; Nevada; Arizona; Colorado; Washington; Oregon; North Carolina; Georgia; Florida; Utah; and Virginia. In addition,“Steinberg-Nomics,” –are forcing retirees to leave the Golden State in droves as the state with nation’s highest sales and income tax soaks more of their disposable income from their pensions, as the Sacramento Bee reported recently.
But its debatably challenging to find a loose thread with Ashby’s grassroots leadership style. With her mentality of teaching a man how to fish, so he can feed himself a lifetime, rather than feed him a fish dinner today risking he’ll go hungry tomorrow, she inspires a “hodgepodge” of small businesses to collaborate with the Natomas Chamber of Commerce in 2012 to salvage jobs for more 300 people after the Comcast call center pulls up stakes and lets them go, as Sacramento News & Review’s Raheem F. Hosseini tells it in “Reinventing Angelique Ashby: Her Campaign to be Sacramento’s next mayor” A consistently strong Ashby fabric resonating with revitalization projects in downtown Sacramento, growing good jobs and encouraging economic investment.
Ashby, and her Ashbyites, have surged a veteran outreach network in Natomas, consisting of more than 1,000 members networked to veteran services through the Nation. A brigade, of sorts, that Ashbyites team with the Natomas Chamber of Commerce, to help USMC vets Jeffery Belaski and Michael Donoho launch their Waffle Experience in 2014, Introducing Sacramento to their unique, “ingredient-infused waffles,” and creating yet a few more jobs in Sacramento.
But long before Waffle Experience’s grand opening, the prudent Ashby was protecting the infrastructure on which their business now stands, spearheading drives for local tax to pay for strengthening Natomas’ weakening levees. A tax matched by state and federal funds, that ultimately leads to stronger levees. Ashby and her “Ashbyites” drive-on, successfully collaborating with our federal elected leaders to lobby the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to redesignate Natomas’ flood risk, qualifying it for preferred risk flood (PRP) insurance rates, and leading to the lifting FEMA’s moratorium on building.
In this age of Climate Change awareness, an astute Ashby is concerned about that coming El Nino, and whether the City’s levees can withstand it. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have rated the majority of Sacramento’s levees as “unacceptable” in their National Levee Database, making the “Capital City susceptible to Katrina-scale floods. With that catastrophic El Nino’s on the horizon, Sacramento is at risk of being submerged beneath 20 feet of water in the aftermath of deadly storms predicted to kill more than 500 citizens, displace 300,000 others, and cause $25 billion in damage. That’s why Ashby’s made flood protection her first infrastructure priority.
Steinberg, on the other hand, seems more concerned about Climate Change as it relates to “Steinberg-Nomics,” saying he believes mass transit is Sacramento’s infrastructure priority. A priority with roots in the “Cap and Trade” legislation he proposed while Senate President Pro Tempore. The controversial climate change policy is intended to fund affordable transit-oriented housing, transit expansion, and high-speed rail by annually lowering green gas emissions. Revenues are generated by auctioning pollution permits to California’s manufacturing industry to pay for their pollution, or purchasing offset credits instead to develop alterative energy sources.
On its surface, Steinberg’s proposal is a great infrastructure priority for Sacramento. But California’s manufacturing industry is challenging the permits and offset credits as a regressive tax in the courts, environmentalists are questioning whether cap and trade is reducing green gas emissions, it’s obviously layered with federal and state bureaucracy, and is arguably nested with special interest groups. Furthermore, the Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters opines that cap and trade may be collapsing. It’s only generated “a paltry $10 million of the half billion dollars it was projected to raise.
Shouldn’t Sacramento’s next Mayor safeguard the City from flooding first? Then phase in cap & trade funded transit afterwards if funds are even available? Unless, of course, Steinberg envisions Sacramento as the next Atlantis, that fictional city in Greek mythology that lost favor with the Gods and was consequently submerged into the Atlantic Ocean, where submarines and ferries are the norm for mass transportation.
What this campaign arguably boils down to is the Ashby Grit with a leadership philosophy of leading from the front, verses “Steinberg-Nomics,” with a thought process of the State Government running Sacramento.
Conclusion: “Smith Vs Payne” Emblematic of Today’s Political Climate
When the smoke clears, and mirrors are removed, one can argue that “Steinberg-Nomics” is debatably all smoke and mirrors; enabling us to see past the illusion of yet another disputably trite Steinberg slogan: “All About Our Youth.” A mirage that masks the reality that “Steinberg-Nomics” are migrating our youth’s future jobs to other states, and kicking out their retiring parents. Not to mention risking becoming the next Atlantis.
The fictional Senator Joseph Payne and the imaginary Jim Taylor perhaps epitomize the anger that 2016 voters from both parties are feeling about established candidates, political action committees, and rich donors. And maybe the nostalgic junior Senator Jefferson Smith is emblematic of the anti-establishment candidates running against them.
The Sacramento mayor’s race undoubtedly has all the drama of Frank Capra’s, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” with the establishment candidate Steinberg, and outsider Ashby. A political climate that offers Sacramento’s electorate a unique “twofer” opportunity: dump a Sen. Joseph Payne, by electing a Sen. Jefferson Smith.
Angelique Ashby–that iconic heroine in Frank Capra Movie Classic.