A PRELIMINARY WORD ABOUT OUR ENDORSEMENTS
While our focus is on the completion of the Parkway on the Sacramento River levee, we believe it's also critical that our mayor and city council are committed to the improvement of infrastructure for bicyclists and pedestrians throughout the city. We send questionnaires to candidates to gauge their knowledge of and commitment to this core issue. But we also ensure that candidates will be willing to use the power of eminent domain to complete the Parkway if necessary. While we would prefer that adjacent levee owners be willing to sell a recreation easement to the city willingly, several owners have abjectly refused to sell and vow to resist any future effort to buy an easement. We cannot allow a few to frustrate the interests of the many.
We do not send questionnaires to candidates in a race against an incumbent who won our endorsement in the last election. As long as the incumbent wants our endorsement and commits to the answers they gave previously, they will win our continuing endorsement. Both Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Councilmember Eric Guerra have our continuing endorsement this year.
So, why does the city need to buy an easement at all? Don't all of us who benefit pay to maintain the levees? Yes, we do, but that doesn't answer the question about who "owns" the levee. Farmers built the first levees in the 1800s. At the time, the local drainage district did not acquire the levee itself. In fact, many farmers were using the levee for grazing animals. But the drainage district did acquire a "perpetual right of way and easement" to the levee and a right to control everything an owner wanted to do on the levee. That may actually have transferred all property rights to the drainage district (and to the state as the successor in interest). But sorting out who owns what would probably be a complex case, taking years to resolve, and possibly ending up in the U.S. Supreme Court. By contrast, eminent domain is a reasonably quick and certain process that should allow the city to be in a position to open and pave the Parkway as major levee improvements are completed in the next two to three years.
SACRAMENTO CITY COUNCIL ENDORSEMENTS
Friends endorses Mayor Darrell Steinberg, just as we did when voters first elected him four years ago. Darrell has consistently supported the Parkway in his votes and in public statements. As a mayoral candidate in 2016, Darrell wrote, "Our river parkways are one of the great natural resources in our region. They provide natural and riparian habitat while also providing wonderful recreational opportunities. I strongly support their extension and expansion and believe they are important for encouraging alternative and active transportation routes." But Darrell also vows to speak with Parkway opponents to address their fears that they will lose privacy and security. He has spoken out about the "positive experience of residents with a parkway behind their homes as well as the national experience of parkways as a crime deterrent."
Darrell has been a consistent Parkway supporter throughout his term and has included the Parkway in the mayor's spending priorities. With his blessing, the council has already allotted almost $3 million for planning, permitting, and environmental work that will be necessary to move forward. With unanimous council support, the money will also fund the first stage of easement acquisitions, even if that requires eminent domain. That money is only a down payment. The city has not yet devoted the funding necessary to complete the needed acquisitions. We need Darrell;s support to finish the job.
Friends endorses Ramona Landeros for the District 2 city council seat. But first, we need to discuss the enigmatic incumbent, Allen Warren. Allen is seeking his third term and, to the best of our recollection, he has always voted in favor of the Parkway. Nevertheless, Allen has consistently ignored our questionnaire and has shown no interest in our endorsement. If he is reelected, we hope Allen will continue voting for our interests even though he has declined to make any commitments.
On the other hand, Ramona's answers to our questions show a commitment to advancing not only the Parkway, but also bicycling and pedestrian issues throughout the city. In particular she notes an uncomfortable truth: Sacramento is becoming more bicycling and pedestrian-friendly city even while we lag in the "marginalized communities." "We have very high asthma rates and need to aggressively make our community more walker and bike friendly," Ramona adds. "We have over 10,000 students in the north area and very little safe bike lanes." So why does the Sacramento River Parkway fit into the equitable needs of marginalized communities? Along with the American River Parkway, the city's Bicycle Master Plan instructs that both Parkways "should be considered as backbone improvements for a City-wide low stress bicycle network." The Parkways represent the expressways that allow all neighborhoods to access work, school, urban amenities, and recreation without the need to risk travel on high-speed motor vehicle corridors. Ramona gets it. We hope voters do too.
Friends endorses Katie Valenzuela to replace Steve Hansen. As it was four years ago, District 4 presents the most pivotal race for the future of the Parkway, but Steve got a bye four years ago with no serious challenger. Steve represents the Little Pocket where the levee remains the only link in the Parkway on which the city is making no progress (other than a single recreation easement purchased by the city years ago). When he first ran for council in 2012, Steve told us he would support the Parkway's completion, then called days before the election to say he changed his mind. Since then, he has consistently opposed any effort to complete the Parkway in the Little Pocket. Steve is the reason we started to send questionnaires to candidates to get them on the record before endorsing candidates who truly supported us.
The Little Pocket is also home to Chicory Bend Park, with a broad sandy beach on the river's bend. The main gate to the park remains closed and locked as it has since 1998 when the city leased the property from the state with the promise to make it part of the Parkway. While levee-adjacent property owners take advantage of this city amenity with gates from their backyards into the park, public access has been limited to boaters or those who could walk or s half-mile on a dirt trail from a city-owned drive over the levee at the south end of the Little Pocket. In the past few months, Steve convinced city staff to erect a wrought iron fence and gate to deter public access. When that didn't work because of vandalism to the fence, a sign recently appeared on the fence to make it appear the city was forbidding access. You can read more about the issue on our Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/SacramentoRiverParkwayCoalition/ ). Steve's active efforts to discourage public access for all of his constituents to benefit a few should disqualify him.
But our support for Katie is not all about our opposition to Steve. Katie deserves support in her own right. Even before she sought the nomination for city council, Katie reached out to us to learn more about the Parkway. She eagerly sought our endorsement even before we started the process for this year's council race. And Katie has cited her support for the Parkway in public appearances. In response to our questionnaire, Katie refuted the key argument of Parkway opponents that public access brings crime: "Research shows that time and time again, projects like this increase safety to the surrounding communities." She is correct. The Sacramento Police Department has announced at public meetings that crime is worse on closed sections of the levee than those open to the public who look out for their neighbors - and levee-adjacent homeowners have affirmed that experience. Katie summed it up for us when she contrasted her approach to Steve's support for a small, well-heeled constituency: "the objections of a few cannot override the benefit of the many. In this case, private property owners' unwarranted concerns cannot override the completion of a trail that will benefit everyone - including them." A vote for Katie will be a vote for the Parkway's future.
Friends endorses Councilmember Eric Guerra to return for his third term on the council. We were conflicted about Eric when he ran to fill out his predecessor's unfinished term in 2015. But Eric has shown us that he is committed to the Parkway and to river access: " The American and Sacramento Rivers are natural resources that the entire Sacramento community should enjoy and take pride in. Through access to our rivers through bike and walking paths, the community takes ownership of these natural resources and values their preservation."
Eric has been a consistent vote for the Parkway. Four years ago, he was the only candidate who ran for reelection unopposed. Like Mayor Steinberg, Eric's opponents do not appear to have gained significant traction in this race, though with four candidates, it's possible a vote split could force Eric into a runoff in November. We hope voters will see as we do that we cannot afford to lose Eric's voice and vote on the city council.
Friends endorses Mai Vang for the District 8 council seat. She is among several candidates seeking to replace Larry Carr, another consistent Parkway supporter throughout his eight years on the council. Importantly, Larry has endorsed Mai as have several other public officials who have been our friends through the years. Mai's most significant opponent, Les Simmons, did not return our questionnaire or seek to explain his position on the Parkway. His website seems to make no mention of the need to provide improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians. Les' lack of commitment to these interests ignores that District 8 connects with the Parkway's current southern terminus and will be an important link for residents who want to commute downtown by bicycle without encountering high-speed motor vehicle traffic, or who need safe and convenient recreational opportunities
Time and again in response to our questionnaire, Mai demonstrates her understanding for the importance of the Parkway. She agrees with us that off-road trails are extremely important: "On-road pathways for bikes and walkers have been proven to be dangerous and lead to the loss of lives when an inevitable vehicular accident occurs. Having these off-road corridors ensures safety and rapid movement for bicyclists and walkers." Mai appreciates the need to improve Sacramento's bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure, including the vital importance to her district: "Completing the Parkway would create a significant link between downtown and the southern portions of the city, as well as other proposed separated bikeways such as those in East Sacramento and Land Park. We also need to put work into making our roads more share-friendly by creating separate bike paths, improving infrastructure, and expanding transit connectivity." Mai deserves our vote.
Why can Friends of the Sacramento River Parkway endorse candidates?
We are an unincorporated association of individuals devoted to the completion of the Parkway. We do not accept donations and, if we did, donations would not be tax deductible. Therefore, unlike 501(c)(3) corporations, our political activity is not regulated by IRS regulations. However, tax regulations limit the right of most organizations that support our efforts to be active politically. These endorsements are solely from Friends of the Sacramento River Parkway and are not the endorsements of any other organization or individiual .
Why can Friends of the Sacramento River Parkway endorse candidates? See below.
What can you do to support the Parkway if you can't vote for any of
What can you do to support the Parkway even if you can't vote in this election?