Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson continues to receive questioning and criticism after attempting to place a strong mayor initiative on the November 2010 ballot.

The proposal culminated on June 22 when the city council voted 7-2 against placing the measure on the ballot. Only the Mayor and Councilman Robbie Waters voted to continue this measure.

Frances R. and John Duggan Distinguished Professor of Public Administration, Dr. Chester A. Newland from the University of Southern California, took time from his current work in Baghdad, Iraq to speak with PublicCEO on the measure.

“My position was in strong opposition to the proposed charter revision that took the form of a Boss Mayor structure, far surpassing mayoral powers of virtually all well-known Strong Mayor forms of local government,” Newland said.

Newland said within two weeks of entering office and with no broad public consultation, Mayor Johnson presented his proposed strong mayor initiative for placement on the June 8 election of that same year.

A “strong mayor” city would mean that Johnson has the powers and authorities that would otherwise be handed to a hired city manager.

All appointments and other powers would be concentrated through the mayor’s office. In other words, Johnson would be the sole boss of the city manager. Under the current system, the city manager reports to the city council.

“I thought then and I think now that that Boss Mayor proposal was not in the interests of Sacramento or the success of Kevin Johnson as Mayor. It represented self-serving interests of a few, not long-term benefits for a Mayor who, with thoughtfully collaborative leadership, could have risen to high respect for enlarged political roles locally, statewide, and perhaps nationally,” Newland said.

The Mayor’s proposal to revise the Charter by initiative was judicially found to violate the State Constitution in January, and that court opinion was upheld on appeal.

Newland said Sacramento needs the kind of collaborative leadership that Johnson can bring in the next two years,

“Lessons are available from this positive experience that can be useful elsewhere. On a negative note that could turn positive, it is to be greatly regretted that a highly promising young Mayor could have been so misused, losing months of opportunities for paths of personal and political success for himself, for Sacramento, and for larger stages in need of collaborative leadership.”

Newland said his position from the outset was not against Mayor Kevin Johnson, whom he hoped would become an outstanding leader for Sacramento and California.

Newland has been with University of Southern California’s Sacramento Center since 1984.

Newland has worked internationally, including Bahrain, Baghdad, the Czech and Slovak Republics, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Moldova and Poland. Newland was the initial director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, just scratching the surface of a long list of credentials and lifetime achievement awards he holds.