This post was originally published on Sacramento Observer

By Genoa Barrow

No Black women have sat on the Sacramento City Council since Lauren Hammond and Bonnie Pannell exited in 2010 and 2014, respectively. 

State employee Tamiko Heim seeks election in District 5 — the same district Hammond, the first Black woman elected to the council, represented for more than a decade. She faces three others: Chris Baker, Caity Maple, and Kimberly Sow

“I reached out to Lauren early on to just ask for wisdom on running and how I should just move forward and what her thoughts were on the district,” Heim said. 

“I want to learn from my elders who have done it before. We sat down for coffee and we just talked. Having someone actually being willing to meet with me about what I want my journey to be is amazing.”.

It’s going to take much more than one person’s blessings to win, but Heim said meeting with the veteran leader felt like the “passing of the torch from sistah to sistah.”

Heim joined the race in mid-February. She has done weekly phone banking, participated in community forums and walked the recently redrawn district to engage with potential voters. Residents and neighborhood groups have hosted meet-and-greets for Heim.

The concerns she hears the most pertain to homelessness.

“My philosophy about homelessness is that no one has the right answer, but you need to continue to work with the different partners, meaning county, state, nonprofits and businesses to work together to at least curb the homeless population,” Heim said.

“They’re not going to trust us unless we’re out there regularly, trying to figure out ways to provide wraparound services. It’s one thing to give them a home or give them a key to a home, but are they going to stay without wraparound services? I don’t think so.”

Local activists say the city’s solution still includes rousting the unhoused from their makeshift homes. Encampments in District 5 have experienced large-scale sweeps in recent years. Heim couldn’t speak on why those particular sweeps happened, but she says something must be done.

“Playing whack-a-mole with moving people around just doesn’t help any,” she said. “It doesn’t serve the community and it doesn’t serve the homeless community. We definitely need to figure out a more long-term solution.”

Finding solutions is what got Heim involved and engaged. When she moved to the North City Farms neighborhood, a friend with small children mentioned needing a crosswalk to get into Curtis Park. Heim and her friend started a neighborhood association and started partnering with local nonprofits like the Sacramento Children’s Home and the Franklin Business District. They also “bugged Jay Schenirer’s office.” The partnering and the persistence paid off.

“We got the crosswalk,” Heim said.

Heim was appointed to the Active Transportation Commission, which deals with crosswalks and other priorities for pedestrians and bicyclists. That led to her running for public office. 

“I was thinking I was there to assist someone else, when really the whole time I was setting myself up,” Heim said. “Jay decided he was retiring. This is the perfect time for me to provide my services, my assistance, and my talent to the city, since I had all this behind me.”

Heim says her work background would benefit her on the city council.

“I started in accounting and most of my time I’ve been in either human resources or budgets,” she said. “I have that fiscal responsibility and that know-how to run an office. … For the last three years, I’ve been in infrastructure planning, dealing with long range planning for DMV. With the city and with the current district, the new district, the way it’s going, we definitely need somebody that knows infrastructure and how to plan long-term for the district.” 

Redistricting is a hot topic.

“The interesting fact about the new district is that it now will lose almost 16% of its income,” Heim said. “They removed Curtis Park, they removed South Land (Park) and of course, stuff like Tahoe Park. All the areas that brought in a nice chunk of taxable income have been removed. We now have a lot of needs smashed into one district. We ride (Highway) 99 up Franklin Boulevard and basically curve,” Heim said.

The “new” district includes Phoenix Park and Valley Hi. Golf Court Terrace, where Heim’s grandparents live, is among incumbent District 5 areas that remained within boundaries.

Heim has lived in Sacramento most of her life, leaving only when Mather Air Force Base closed while she was in high school. Her mother worked in the commissary and was relocated to Reno. Locally, Heim has lived in Greenhaven, Lincoln Village, Phoenix Park and Parkway Estates. Her best friend’s mom has lived near Center Parkway since they were in the fifth grade.

“Someone who really truly knows the area should be representing it,” Heim said.

Heim prides herself with being approachable during her campaign. She lists her cell phone on her website and picks up calls.

“I truly want people to be able to get a hold of me to tell me what they need. If it’s realistic, I will get that for you,” she said. “I’m not going to sell you a bill of goods and tell you that I’m going to do all these magical things in the government. Truly, it all comes down to what’s in the budget of what we can accomplish, but I’m going to make sure that I can accomplish the tangible things that we need to move us forward.

“That’s connectivity and that’s clean and safe streets. That’s also economic inclusion for my district. With the money that we lost, we need to make sure that everybody in this district has a way to increase their economic potential.”

While Heim would be new to city politics, she’s not new to civic engagement. She has helped register African Americans to vote and she and her family used to volunteer during elections.

“We used to work the polls so that people saw people who looked like them,” Heim said.

Her own campaign has reconnected her with the people and the purpose.

“It’s very important that people know that local elections are some of the most important elections that we need to look into and make sure that we’re a part of,” Heim said.

“When I started doing my calls, a few people didn’t even realize we were having an election in June. It’s very important that we start engaging early, talking to people and making sure people understand that it’s going to be time to vote. June can be the determinant for your next council member.”

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