SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -Former NBA star Kevin Johnson jumped into the Sacramento mayor's race Wednesday, announcing he will challenge three-term incumbent Heather Fargo in the municipal election in June.
The 42-year-old Johnson was scheduled to make the announcement at a news conference at the Guild Theater in Oak Park, the Sacramento neighborhood where he grew up and where he has devoted himself to urban renewal projects after retiring from basketball.
Johnson is the only serious opponent to Fargo, who has governed the capital city as it has slid into a deep real estate slump.
The slumping economy has threatened marquee redevelopment projects such as the revitalization of K Street, the main downtown business strip near the state Capitol. The city has begun laying off workers to make up for a revenue shortfall estimated at more than 10 percent of its budget.
Johnson's redevelopment projects also have met with mixed success.
The former Phoenix Suns guard's nonprofit community development corporation, St. HOPE, transformed the failing Sacramento High School into a successful charter school.
St. HOPE also developed the 40 Acres Art Gallery and Cultural Center, with a book store, lofts and Starbucks, in the commercial heart of Oak Park.
But community leaders have criticized Johnson for failing to keep up other run-down properties he bought with an eye toward redeveloping them.
Johnson was forced to issue a public apology after The Sacramento Bee ran a story that said half his group's 37 Oak Park properties had been cited for code violations over a 10-year period. Vacant lots had been left fallow and had become filled with garbage.
Easy market to a key Oak Park intersection.
He returned to Sacramento after retiring from the NBA in 2000 to head up St. HOPE.
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