By Gina Quinn
In December, Darrell Steinberg was sworn in as the 56th mayor of Sacramento during an event at the California State Railroad Museum that was packed with the Labor supporters who helped him win office.
During a wide-ranging speech that lasted almost 40 minutes, Steinberg laid out a busy agenda for his first days in office that includes jobs and job training for the work of the future, a vision for constructing a new destination neighborhood along the waterfront and in the Railyards, improvements to education and an aggressive plan to curb homelessness.
Steinberg also reiterated his commitment to keeping Sacramento a sanctuary city and protecting immigrants from federal deportations if the Trump administration takes such actions.
“It is most fitting that one of Sacramento’s best known landmarks is a golden bridge leading to the heart of our city, not a wall keeping people out,” he said.
One month into his tenure – and before his first full council meeting, which will take place in January – Steinberg has already begun to deliver on his promises.
“Together, we will expand the economic winner’s circle to include all workers, especially those who have been downsized, underemployed or asked to work more for less,” Steinberg said in his inauguration speech.
Citing the need to especially focus on training and opportunities for local kids to find pathways to the middle class, he promised internships for at least half of Sacramento high school juniors and seniors in the next four years.
Days later, he announced a pilot program with potential state funding of nearly $1 million dollars that will create 500 local internships for high school kids beginning next year at five schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Sacramento Central Labor Council head Fabrizio Sasso and Sacramento-Sierra Building and Construction Trades leader Kevin Ferreira were with Steinberg when he asked the state Employment Training Panel to approve the idea, which it did.
“The Building Trades have 32 Career Paths through our Apprenticeship programs. We are proud to partner with Mayor Steinberg to provide real opportunities towards self-sufficiency for local kids,” said Ferreira.
Sasso said that Steinberg’s dedication to high-wage, career jobs was especially important as unions face potential attack nationwide under the new Trump administration. Steinberg has already made trips to the Bay Area to lure technology companies to the area, and is working with other regional governments to create economic opportunities.
“Under Steinberg’s leadership, Sacramento will remain a stronghold for working women and men,” said Sasso. “Labor backed him for mayor because he understands the needs of working families.”
During his speech, Steinberg stressed the need for unity and activism.
“We must demand the best from ourselves and one another and treat every person in our community with respect and dignity. We will elevate a culture of civic engagement that upholds civility. Sacramento must lead by example and remain a place of calm and respectful discourse,” he said.
On homelessness, Steinberg laid out an ambitious idea to build 2,000 housing units in coming years.
“We can no longer afford to be complacent while more than 1,000 of our neighbors lay their heads on our streets, sidewalks, and riverbanks every night,” he said. “We must emphatically refuse to accept the status quo – that homelessness is hopelessness.”
Within days of taking office, Steinberg brokered a partnership with Sacramento County to open a warming center in Southside Park to provide shelter for up to 40 people each night as temperatures dipped near freezing over the holidays.
He promised to keep that center open any night that the temperature dips below 40 degrees this winter. Under normal rules, it must be below 32 degrees for the city and county to open warming centers. Steinberg said during a press conference at the center that he did not see much difference between the temperatures, but that people should not be forced to sleep outside in such weather.
“Over the last week, Sacramento has experienced night-time temperatures that are absolutely unfit for people to endure without shelter,” Steinberg said. “We must do more and we can do more … We must challenge ourselves to be creative and compassionate and to do more to ensure homelessness need not be hopelessness.”
Steinberg also stressed the need for people to remain involved in government and their communities despite national politics. He said one of the cornerstones of his administration would be to encourage volunteerism, and to improve neighborhood services through those volunteers. He announced that he will have a special office dedicated to facilitating those opportunities.
“Many are struggling to understand and deal with the divisions in our country. I am too,” Steinberg said. “It’s natural to want to withdraw in times of adversity, to disconnect and disengage. We all know there is only one true response to that feeling. Engage and connect.”