Six months after winning a decisive victory in the June primary, Darrell Steinberg was sworn in as mayor on Tuesday night. Hector Amezcua The Sacramento Bee
Six months after winning a decisive victory in the June primary, Darrell Steinberg was sworn in as mayor on Tuesday night. Hector Amezcua The Sacramento Bee

Local

Darrell Steinberg sworn in as Sacramento’s 56th mayor

By Anita Chabria

achabria@sacbee.com

December 13, 2016 06:42 PM

UPDATED December 14, 2016 07:55 AM

Six months after winning a decisive victory in the June primary, Darrell Steinberg became the 56th mayor of Sacramento on Tuesday night in front of a crowd of nearly 2,000 people.

“We are a confluence of two rivers coming together, a confluence of community, where diversity is celebrated, differences are respected, service is a way of life and, yes, neighbors always stand with neighbors,” Steinberg said in his first speech as mayor. “If you do your part, I promise you, I’ll give you everything I’ve got.”

Speaking at the California State Railroad Museum and visibly emotional after a 189-day wait to take office, Steinberg laid out his vision for the next four years.

He focused on the need to improve neighborhood services, beginning with community policing and more involvement from community members in volunteer work. Earlier, his spokeswoman said he would create an Office of Civic Engagement meant to improve access to the mayor’s office and facilitate volunteer opportunities in Sacramento.

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“These are extraordinary times,” he said. “Many are struggling to understand and deal with the divisions in our country. I am too. 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.”

He also made promises to Sacramento youths, including vowing that within the next four years the city would have a plan to offer paid, year-round internships for at least 50 percent of local high school juniors and seniors, and a greater emphasis on local hiring for local companies.

On homelessness and mental health, key issues for Steinberg both during the campaign and his tenure in the State Senate, he said that he aims to create 2,000 permanent housing units in coming years and increase intensive outreach for those living on the streets, though funding for those items will likely be challenging.

“We must emphatically refuse to accept the status quo,” he said, promising a “series of dramatic proposals” in the next two months.

The standing-room-only crowd encompassed business leaders and politicians including Kevin de León, Steinberg’s successor as president pro tem of the California Senate; Rep. Doris Matsui; State Building Trades leader Robbie Hunter; and local developer Mark Friedman. The crowd was a mix, though, with more than one youngster running knee-high through the packed hall, and well wishers from every district of the city mingling over hors d’oeuvres, including potato chips with foie gras mousse.

“I have friends here from kindergarten,” Steinberg said.

“It’s the first time I’ve actually been able to say I know the mayor,” said partygoer Jodie Rubinstein, 68, who attends the same synagogue as Steinberg. “It’s hot.”

Her friend Bonnie Penix, 71, said that she attended because she thinks Steinberg “is going to be a great mayor” and she wanted to show support.

Hours before the swearing-in ceremony, Steinberg said he will resign from his law firm at the end of the year to concentrate on leading the city.

Steinberg is a shareholder and partner with the Sacramento office of law and lobbying firm Greenberg Traurig, LLP. He joined the firm a week after stepping down as leader of the state Senate in 2014, taking the lead role in its California government and law policy division.

Steinberg won 59 percent of the vote during the June election, giving him an outright victory and keeping him from a November runoff against his opponent, Councilwoman Angelique Ashby. The early victory also gave Steinberg a six-month waiting period before taking office.

Despite being mayor-elect, Steinberg has been highly visible in the ensuing months as Mayor Kevin Johnson has largely withdrawn from view. Steinberg has also been working on his own social and economic agenda and has weighed in on city matters. He was instrumental in the city deciding to halt a national search for a new city manager, pushing to delay action until he could have a direct say in the hire.

Steinberg also said recently that he would use Sacramento’s status as a sanctuary city to fight against federal deportations if the Trump administration moves forward on campaign promises to increase enforcement.

In September, Steinberg pledged $200,000 of his leftover campaign funds to support Measure B, a tax to fund transportation infrastructure on the November ballot. That measure was narrowly defeated. But Steinberg’s involvement helped raise about $1 million from a broad coalition in a matter of weeks.

He has also traveled to the Bay Area in recent weeks to advocate for more technology startups to consider moving to Sacramento and has met with more than a dozen local economic groups in his effort to create more cooperation between regional governments. He has planned three joint sessions with the county Board of Supervisors in coming months to focus on issues that cross jurisdictions, such as homelessness.

Steinberg campaigned heavily on the idea that Sacramento should function as a cohesive region and promised that as mayor he could further that goal, though such cooperation has historically been elusive.

Steinberg was sworn in by California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. Councilmen Steve Hansen, Allen Warren, Eric Guerra and Larry Carr were also sworn in to new terms.

Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa