After Making History For Hmong-Americans, Elk Grove Mayor's First Year Void of Any Policy Successes

December 12, 2017 | 

Like many ethnic groups that came before them, Hmongs in the United States took a great deal of pride in November, 2016 when Elk Grove's Steve Ly was elected mayor. With his electoral victory, Ly became the first Hmong elected mayor in the United States and it was noted in national media.

Following the fanfare of his swearing-in ceremony on December 16, 2016, Ly became the city's second directly elected mayor. Although the mayor has no more significant power than city council members, by virtue of the position, the mayor has the ability, some constituents might say the expectation, to formulate a vision for the city.

No one will argue that Ly's predecessor and mentor Gary Davis laid out his vision of the direction Elk Grove should take during his two years terms at the helm of the city. While Davis' visions - transforming Elk Grove into an international tourist destination, and recruiting a Major League Soccer turned out to be both delusional and unrealistic - he nonetheless had a vision.

Since taking office what has Ly laid out for his vision of Elk Grove?

After taking his oath, Ly focused on what can be characterized as parochial interests. Specifically, he tried to secure the mayor's full-time appointed assistant position, making the mayor a full-time position. 

Instead of granting Ly a continuation of the full-time appointed assistant that Davis had, his city council colleagues changed the position to a civil servant who would act as assistant to all five council members. 

Along with this Ly suffered political defeats - some on the dais, some off. Those losses including failure to get his nominee appointed to the Elk Grove Planning Commission; the defeat of every candidate on his slate for the 9th Assembly District California Democratic Party delegation; and the inability to have a special election held for his replacement in the city's District 4 seat he vacated upon his election as mayor.

Ly, who if nothing else likes displaying pictures of himself taken by his photographer on social media, was tone deaf just at the time he should have used his position and social media platforms more effectively.

During the January flooding, while many of his political equivalents were passing along important emergency information on their social media feeds, Ly was AWOL. Additionally, even though Ly attended the U.S. Mayors conference in Miami, he failed to politically seize the opportunity to issue a statement on the Paris climate treaty. 

Along with these setbacks, during this first year Ly has failed to present a vision of where he would like to take the city. There are any number of reasons for this from his lack of support from any of his four city council colleagues, to perhaps just a disinterest in taking a leadership role in how the city develops. 

In spite of this, with one year to go until his 2018 reelection bid, Ly has some things going for him. First, going back to his 2012 landslide election to the Elk Grove Unified School District board of trustees, in each of the two following years in 2014 and 2016 Ly has mounted successful campaigns for the Elk Grove City Council and mayors race respectively.

To date, Ly has one declared opponent next year, Traci Stafford. While Stafford has been extensively campaigning, Ly will likely possess a distinct financial advantage based on his incumbency. 

Another possible candidate rumored to be looking at entering the race is Ly's city council colleague, Darren Suen. While Suen had more cash on hand at the end of the last reporting period that ended on June 30, 2017, Ly should be able to raise the necessary cash to be competitive.

There is one issue that Ly could differentiate himself from Suen, and to a lesser extend Stafford if he chooses. That campaign topic has been the suggestion to change Elk Grove City Council representation to a by-district basis.

Earlier this year, Ly unsuccessfully tried to place a discussion on changing to by-district elections from the current from-district of the city council members on the city council agenda. Additionally, Ly has said he supports by-district representation and has signed a petition seeking to place the question before voters and next year's local ballot. 

Conversely, Suen said he might support the idea, but not until the city grows in size. Elk Grove is one of few cities its size in California that clings to from-district representation.

Given that many supporters of by-district voters are from the progressive wing of the Democratic party, Ly could differentiate himself from fellow Democrats Stafford, and especially Suen, by making this a central part of his platform, such as it is. Likewise, many of voters in Elk Grove who support maintenance of the from-district system seems to be older, more conservative rural voters who probably would not vote for him in any case.   

Regardless, Ly has not shown any policy successes during his first year in office and that could become a liability. When he faces Stafford, and possibly Suen and maybe some other not yet declared candidate,  Ly will need to come up with an issue and some coherent vision beyond safe neighborhoods and economic development lest he sees his string of every-two-year electoral victories broken. 


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D.J. Blutarsky said...

Vision you say? Let's talk about vision...

The Honorable Mayor Emeritus Davis had a vision that was orchestrated by him stacking the Council Chambers with soccer kids/parents and swimmers. That set the expensive path for a soccer stadium and high- dive Olympic Trial aquatic center and waterpark. But that vision was intended to garner votes for him-first and foremost.

No, a Mayor with vision has proven to be a danger to our pocketbook and a threat to the real visionaries-the developers who put the Fab Five in office to begin with.

The only vision we will ever see is contained in that big black binder that comes out every two weeks-the Council meeting agenda. Elk Grove, like all other areas of the Sacramento region, has been created from the vision of the developers.

So in fairness to Mayor Ly, keep up the good work and don't start trying to make Elk Grove into something it was never meant to be.

Unknown said...

So what was elk grove meant to be? Is there some sort of tome you are reading from to get this sense of direction?

Unknown said...

What is Elk Grove "suppose to be", are you reading from some ancient tome that lends itself to EG master plan.

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