Today, Insight is airing conversations with three candidates for Sacramento’s District 8 City Council seat. District 8 is made up of the South Sacramento communities of Meadowview, Parkway, North Laguna Creek and Jacinto Creek. These candidates are running to replace retiring Council Member Larry Carr, who has represented the district since 2014.
Mai Vang is one of the candidates running for the seat. Here are some highlights from her conversation with Beth Ruyak.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
How do you describe District 8 to someone who might only know Sacramento?
Yeah, district eight is an incredibly diverse community. You have folks from all walks of life. The demographics in District 8 in particular: 30% Latino, 28% Asian, 23% White and 20% African American. So it's incredibly diverse across the spectrum. We have small mom and pop shops, local ethnic supermarkets, and a neighborhood association that it's so invested in the community. It's a beautiful district, but it's also a district that has challenges and needs support.
When we talked to voters in the district, most of the comments were about homelessness. What do you think you can do as a city council member?
I think it's really important for us to understand the reality of homelessness in the city of Sacramento. On any given night there's about 5,500 individuals who are unhomed. Of those 5,500 individuals, 20% and growing of that population is women and children. It's a moral imperative that we do everything in our power to make sure that we can house the unhomed. Because we know that if folks are living on the street, they have a shorter lifespan. And so, for me, I think being a champion of making sure that folks get shelter, making sure that we have all options on deck.
But I also want to add that you can't talk about homelessness without talking about affordable housing in this city. And it's really important for me — especially in District 8, when you have 50% homeowners and 50% renters — if we don't have strong tenant protections, if we don't protect the affordable housing we have and produce more, then you're going to see more folks who are homeless.
How much has Meadowview moved following the Stephon Clark shooting, and in what ways?
So first I just want to say, the situation with Stephon Clark is an absolute tragedy. And when we talk about disproportionate impact on our black and brown communities in terms of law enforcement, that our black and brown communities are disproportionately impacted by police brutality. And it's really important, I think, to acknowledge the pain and the trauma, that this community has been traumatized, and to really acknowledge and own up to that. I think there is a lot of healing and a lot of building that needs to be done in our communities throughout the city of Sacramento, really to address this type of injustice in our community.
How do you view the relationship between law enforcement and diverse communities?
So I think that a big part of it is that it's really about building trust right now in this community. I have tremendous respect for our men and women in the police force, but I think we also have to acknowledge the injustice that has happened in our communities as well. And so I think a big part is building trust. And I think it's also examining our police commission. We have folks on the commission who make recommendations to the city of Sacramento, but oftentimes those recommendations are not taken seriously. And so as councilwoman, I'm really trying to figure out the recommendation that we could implement immediately, because our police commission is really our appointees from the elected to be really the voice.
Some voters don’t trust government and city leadership. Their comments include:
- I don’t vote because I don’t think I have an impact.
- I don’t see any change.
How do you engage these people?
When I came home from college as a community organizer, I think that was something that I was incredibly passionate about, on figuring out how to engage our community in the political process. And I totally understand where they're coming from, especially coming from a community that don't trust government, because we were recruited by the CIA to fight in the Vietnam War. And then after the Vietnam War, there was complete genocide of our people. And so there is this mistrust. But I often say that decisions are made by people that don't understand the pain and the struggle of communities of color on the ground. And it's so important to elect people who understand that. And making sure that we're engaged in the political process, making sure that we turn out to vote, because there's so much at stake, not just at the national level, but also at the local level.
If you don’t win, what value will this campaign have had for you?
Win or lose, I'm not going anywhere. I live in this community. I live in Meadowview. And so the work continues. Whoever gets elected, I'm going to make sure that they're successful, 100%. I will be 110% behind them, because we got to make sure that whoever's in that seat, that they could represent the community and that they will be successful.
I think my campaign, it's about engaging a community that has, you know, feel really disconnected to the political process, right? I'm talking about refugees, immigrants, folks who want to engage in the political process, but don't see that someone that looks like them could be in that position. And so I'm incredibly proud of the campaign that we've run.
Win or lose, I think this community is activated and excited. A lot of the voters are incredibly excited about this campaign.
What else is a key issue for you in the District, something you would work towards or push for as a city councilmember?
I have a passion for public health and food and [agriculture]. And I think as the Capital we talk a lot about the farm to fork movement, although I think oftentimes families don't even have forks. And I think that District 8 is well positioned to really be the heart of the farm to fork movement. Given that we have vacant lots, it's a food desert, but we have so much skills of Hmong farmers of black farmers. We have the urban ag pathway at Luther Burbank. I think that we need to be able to capitalize on all of that and really build and uplift that work and really make District 8 no longer a food desert, but really where people can grow their own food and really be the heart of the farm to fork movement.