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At odds with Pannell, Mayor gets behind Williams in D8

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Mayor Kevin Johnson and City Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell haven’t always seen eye to eye – one of the factors in his decision to support opponent Betty Williams in the race for Pannell’s District 8 council seat.

“I want to work with people who are open to a vision and an agenda to move the city forward,” Johnson said at his weekly press conference Tuesday. “If somebody has an agenda that is clearly just to vote in a different way, or if the mayor comes up with an idea and people are just going to automatically say ‘no,’ I don’t feel that’s in the best interests of the city.”

Johnson – who said he supports Williams because of her history of community activism – and Pannell have been on opposite sides of a number of issues in the past four years.

Redistricting and laying off police and fire personnel were two that Johnson called “critical” to him.

But Pannell, who has represented City Council District 8 since 1999, disagrees with Johnson’s perspective of their relationship on the council.

“I’m not sure what his issue is,” Pannell said, noting that she has supported every downtown development and infill project.

“He wants me to vote with him on everything? No. He has his opinion. I have mine,” she added.

When the city went through the redistricting process last year, council discussions were intense as battle lines were drawn among council members.

One sticking point was the boundary between districts 5 and 6 and a question of which district would take “ownership” of the UC Davis Medical Center located on the border of both districts.

The community was divided – and so was the city council. At the final vote, Pannell and Johnson were on opposite sides of the count.

“For the life of me, I still can’t figure out why certain (council) members did not support the redistricting that the community asked for,” Johnson said.

Pannell defended her redistricting vote, saying, “the Med Center is still right where it always was.”

She also defended a vote to lay off 80 police officers during the last budget cycle.

“Police and fire want all the money the city has,” she said. “I’m paying my pension. We were asking them to do the same thing: Pay your pension so no one would have to be laid off.”

Johnson did not address the strong mayor initiative in his press statement – but Pannell said she sees it as key to understanding the mayor’s support of her opponent.

Pannell was vocal in her opposition to Johnson’s proposal to change the city charter and enhance some of the powers of the mayor’s office.

Williams, on the other hand, has expressed her support of the initiative.

“It all comes down to strong mayor,” Pannell said. “He (Johnson) moves Williams into this district and says ‘she’s the one’ because he has her support.”

Pannell and Williams are the only two candidates vying for the District 8 council seat in the June 5 primary election.

Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.

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