Guest Commentary - The Homeless Pinball Machine: Sacramento Political Leaders Are Marching to a New Drumbeat

Just hours after the BBC did a report on homelessness in Sacramento, Mayor Darrell Steinberg
delivered his State of Downtown address with only one mention of the city's homeless population. |  

By DJ Blutarsky | 

Just a few years ago, Sacramento area political leaders found it advantageous to their careers to be supportive of the homeless (aka unhoused, unhomed). Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg in particular, took the lead in this cause and for a while he was riding high in the saddle. 

That is until he gave his State of the Downtown speech earlier this week and he only mentioned "homeless" once. Has Steinberg flip-flopped on his pro-homeless stance and has the political game changed? 


Steinberg's vision for downtown Sacramento is to create a special taxing district to promote new housing construction (upscale) and to have the office workers return to work to support the local businesses. In his press speech, Steinberg was flanked by Barry Broome, the region's economic development guru, who also gave the same pep speech for Downtown as well. 

Yep, the homeless welcome mat is being rolled up.

Coincidentally, Elk Grove City Councilmember Pat Hume is campaigning for a County Board of Supervisor seat and announced last week that his main platform is to essentially not put homelessness first (a shot at the local liberals). Hume is a well-known advocate for regional development interests and seems to have received the same memo as Steinberg. 

Although Hume's campaign website pledges to "reduce homelessness," I assume that means reducing their numbers by prodding them out of the area! 

The much-publicized homeless situation throughout the major cities in the U.S. must keep the Sacramento area developers awake at night. To further add to the developer's insomnia must be the recent British Broadcasting Company (BBC) report on the homeless issues in Sacramento!  This kind of global publicity certainly does not invite new real estate investment or sell new homes at the highest possible price.

It appears that the major Sacramento area development interests have had enough of the political tolerance for the homeless and are coordinating a new drumbeat for all current and aspiring political leaders to march to. The big investors want the homeless welcome mat to be rolled up and to bounce the homeless somewhere else, anywhere out of their fertile investment grounds. Bounced around like shiny chrome pinballs, the area homeless are subtly becoming the targets in the new political pinball game being played in the Sacramento region.

The new drumbeat was beating louder this week when Region Business and other sideline groups announced that they are organizing an effort to have an $8.5 billion County-wide half-cent sales tax increase qualify for the November general election ballot. This 40-year tax would help fund new roadways and maintain older infrastructure. Translated: Let taxpayers pay for roads that developers would otherwise pay for, and let the government agencies off the hook for not properly budgeting for infrastructure maintenance all these years.  

As a sweetener, Region Business also announced yesterday they will seek to place an initiative on the City of Sacramento's November ballot that - not to put too fine of a point on it - make street camping and other activities by the homeless in public areas illegal. Damn Martin v. Boise - full speed ahead! 

It will be interesting to see whether the new drumbeat for Sacramento area politicians gains momentum and succeeds in the next election. I have a sense that the homeless pinballs are now a serious obstacle for them, and that the major investors will feed massive campaign money into this pinball machine before they concede defeat. 


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