City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

March 31, 2011
Mayor to plead Sacramento's case to NBA owners next month

Four days before the Sacramento Kings' deadline to ask the NBA for permission to leave town, Mayor Kevin Johnson will plead the city's case to the league's team owners.

Johnson said Thursday he will address the league's Board of Governors in New York on April 14. The Kings are negotiating a move to Anaheim and have until April 18 to ask for permission to relocate.

The mayor's priority is to explain the importance of the Kings to Sacramento and promote efforts to build a new arena.

March 31, 2011
Pledges still rolling in for Kings' fans fundraising effort

The grassroots campaign urging to keep the Kings in Sacramento broke the $200,000 pledge mark this morning.

KHTK sports radio's Carmichael Dave said the pledges are flowing in through Twitter and the "Here We Build" Facebook page.

Dave - who prefers to not have his real last name printed - said the true focus of the effort is not to raise the $300 million or so needed for a new arena. Instead, some ideas being tossed around include purchasing bricks with contributors' names on them for outside a new facility and shoring up ticket sales for next season - if there is a next season.

March 30, 2011
City asks Kings for written promise that they'll repay loan

The city of Sacramento has asked the Kings and the NBA for written promises that the team will repay a $77 million loan it owes the city before relocating to Anaheim.

Assistant City Manager John Dangberg wrote Wednesday that "the Kings have taken steps and made statements that indicate that it would be prudent and appropriate for the City to request that the Kings now put in writing the assurance" that the loan will be repaid.

Dangberg wrote the city was encouraged by comments team co-owner George Maloof made to The Bee this week that the team would pay off its debt if it decided to move.

March 30, 2011
Despite Kings news, Sacramento's arena efforts push forward

Anaheim may have opened the door to a Sacramento Kings move to Southern California on Tuesday by approving a $75 million bond package for improvements to the Honda Center. But that doesn't mean Sacramento City Hall and Kings fans are giving up on their own arena quests.

Developer David Taylor and arena builder ICON Venue Group are still working on their arena financial feasibility study and are expected to present their results at the end of May, city officials said Tuesday night.

Meantime, KHTK sports radio's Carmichael Dave has started a "Here We Build" fundraising driving to help get a new arena built. Supporters have set the lofty goal of raising $200 million and have already set up digital billboards on the freeways. The campaign just started, but there is a website and a Twitter hashtag: #HereWeBuild.

March 29, 2011
Sacramento City Council repeals 'crash tax'

Sacramento's "crash tax" was repealed Tuesday night before a penny was collected through the controversial ordinance.

In a 6-2 vote, the City Council decided to reverse the fire cost recovery fee, which would have charged out-of-town motorists hundreds of dollars when they caused auto wrecks in the city requiring a response from the fire department.

The ordinance had been passed in January. But the council decided March 1 to bring the fee program back for another vote.

March 29, 2011
Sacramento attorney says Anaheim bonds for arena are illegal

A legal team from Sacramento thinks the Anaheim City Council would violate state law by approving a resolution tonight that would immediately allow for the issuance of bonds to fund improvements to that city's Honda Center, the presumed future home of the Sacramento Kings.

In a letter sent to Anaheim city officials, attorney Jeffrey Dorso with Diepenbrock Harrison said the Anaheim resolution "appears to directly conflict with applicable state law that provides taxpayers assurances that legislative actions to approve the issuance of bonds are subject to referendum and do not become effective for a period of 60 days."

Dorso asks that the resolution being considered by the Anaheim City Council be amended so that the resolution allowing for the selling of the bonds goes into effect in 60 days. That would allow anyone who objects to the move to collect signatures from Anaheim residents to place a referendum on the ballot repealing the City Council's approval of the bonds.

March 29, 2011
Mayor OK with Kings move to Anaheim if they pay off loan

It wasn't good riddance, but Mayor Kevin Johnson told reporters today he'd be willing to accept a Sacramento Kings move to Anaheim as long as the team pays its loan to City Hall.

"I think the mindset of the city is to make sure that they fulfill their obligation," the mayor said. "And if they do that, then I don't want a messy divorce, I don't want to be a poor sport about it, it's their decision. And quite frankly, if they don't want to be here, then I'm going to be OK with (them moving) and I think our community will be OK with that."

Johnson said the Maloofs, who own the team, told him on Monday that they intend to pay off a $77 million loan they owe the city. George Maloof repeated that message to The Bee.

March 29, 2011
Steinberg's considering bill to protect Sacramento if Kings move

As the Anaheim City Council gets ready to vote in a few hours on issuing bonds to fund improvements to that city's Honda Center - the possible future home of the Sacramento Kings - there's still work being done on the home front.

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, is considering a request by city officials to carry a bill barring Anaheim from moving forward on the bond unless Sacramento is guaranteed the Kings will pay off a loan they owe City Hall.

"At a minimum, the city needs to be protected with its $70 million investment," Steinberg spokesman Mark Hedlund told me this morning. "The pro tem wants to make sure the city is made whole."

March 28, 2011
Mayor KJ and Rhee: lovey-dovey emails and dates with his mom

Dates with his mom. Cute text messages. Sundays at home watching "Mad Men."

That sums up the relationship of Mayor Kevin Johnson and Michelle Rhee, according to an interview the couple recently did with Marie Claire magazine.

Johnson told the magazine's Andrea Todd that he and his fiancée "text and email 'lovey-doveys' throughout the day" and that Rhee handles the couple's wardrobe. He said the couple is very compatible and that he has to "restrain myself from firing off an email or making a phone call" when Rhee is criticized in the press.

March 25, 2011
Sacramento Interim City Manager Gus Vina resigns

gusvina.JPGSacramento Interim City Manager Gus Vina is resigning his post today, the second time in 13 months that the top executive at City Hall has abruptly stepped down.

And once again, a division on the City Council has played a role in the top manager's departure.

In an interview inside his office this morning, Vina told me "it's difficult as a city manager to work when you don't have at least a supermajority of the council (behind you)." Five council members voted earlier this year to conduct a national search for a permanent city manager, while the four others voted to hire Vina.

March 22, 2011
Are Kings fans coming to terms with team's possible departure?

If the Kings end up leaving, no one will ever be able to say Mayor Kevin Johnson didn't prepare us. But are Kings fans coming to terms with their team's shaky future?

In a theme that has repeated itself over and over again for the past several weeks, the mayor told reporters today that "I feel like we are dying a slow death right now, it feels like drip and dying by a thousand cuts. Every day it's a different clue the Kings are going to Anaheim."

Despite his pessimistic outlook of the situation, Johnson said he opposes boycotting the April 1 Kings game, as was suggested recently by local PR exec Doug Elmets.

March 22, 2011
Anaheim officials silent on paying for Honda Center upgrades

Anaheim officials are staying absolutely silent on a plan being thrown around to possibly issue bonds to pay for improvements at the Honda Center, the presumed future home of the Sacramento Kings should the Kings leave town.

Bee colleague Dale Kasler and I spent a good part of Monday trying to get a comment out of someone at Anaheim City Hall about an item on tonight's City Council agenda regarding the funding of improvements to the city-owned Honda Center.

Kasler called Mayor Tom Tait at his place of business. Nothing. He also called the city finance director today, but got redirected to the city's media relations staff.

March 22, 2011
How you can help keep your neighborhood park clean

What would you do to keep your neighborhood park clean?

The city's parks have been hammered perhaps more than anything else by the current budget cycle. Over the past few years, the parks department has seen its budget cut in half and more cuts are likely this year.

There's something you can do about it.

March 21, 2011
Sacramento PR exec: Boycott April 1 Kings game

A local PR guru is urging Kings fans to boycott the April 1 game against the Nuggets at Power Balance Pavilion.

Doug Elmets told me today that several people approached him expressing their frustration over news that an attorney for the Maloofs, who own the Kings, had trademarked the "Anaheim Royals" nickname. He said those people felt that "we as a community are being sandbagged."

In response, Elmets is talking up a "There They Go" campaign. It's a reference to the "Here We Stay" group that has pushed to sell out two Kings games and keep the team in town. Kings officials declined to comment on the boycott.

March 21, 2011
Sacramento's 'crash tax' still alive - for now

Earlier this month, the City Council did a U-turn on the "crash tax" and voted to bring the controversial ordinance back for its eventual repeal.

When the council made that motion, I was told the crash tax would come back in one or two weeks. That was three weeks ago and the ordinance isn't on the agenda for Tuesday night's meeting either.

This means, of course, that the crash tax - known by its supporters as the fire cost recovery program - is on the books in Sacramento. Under the ordinance, out-of-town drivers would be charged if they cause a wreck in the city requiring a response from the fire department.

March 17, 2011
For redistricting advice, City Council turns to friendly faces

When it comes to asking for advice on drawing the boundaries for their districts, some members of the City Council are asking for a little help from their friends.

Mayor Kevin Johnson and the eight members of the council made their appointments last week to a citizen advisory committee to help with mandatory redistricting that will take place in the coming months.

The re-drawing of the eight council districts takes place in years census data is released so that the city is cut into districts with equal populations. That certainly isn't the case right now, as the district covering Natomas and downtown has more than 100,000 people and most others have around 50,000.

March 15, 2011
Mayor sends Sacramento City Limits sign to Afghanistan

Following up on a phone call he received March 4, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and City Hall have assembled a care package to be sent to "Patrol Base Sacramento," a Marine outpost being constructed in Afghanistan.

Johnson spoke with Staff Sgt. Anthony Silva III, a Marine fighting in Afghanistan who asked for a U.S. flag, a California flag and a sign that reads, "Sacramento City Limits" to place at the base's entrance. Johnson got those items - along with a table full of snacks and sporting goods.

"I'm very proud of the city staff who came together," the mayor said Tuesday.

March 15, 2011
Sacramento's sister city in Japan 'safe' after quake, tsunami

It appears Sacramento's sister city of Matsuyama, Japan, has avoided the massive destruction of last week's earthquake and tsunami.

Lisa Serna-Mayorga, who runs the daily operations of the mayor and City Council offices, told me Tuesday she has been in contact with officials in Matsuyama Mayor Katsuhito Noshi's office and "they are safe."

Noshi's office did tell Serna-Mayorga that "the impact of both the earthquake and tsunami have caused the deepest sorrow amongst the Japanese." Matsuyama is one of Sacramento's nine sister cities.

March 15, 2011
If Kings leave, can Charlotte teach us how to get the NBA back?

In yet another sign he is operating under the assumption the Kings are leaving, Mayor Kevin Johnson told reporters today that he has arranged to speak with the former mayor of Charlotte, N.C., about how that city dealt with losing an NBA franchise - then getting a team back.

"There are things that we can do to prepare for life after the Kings, if they do in fact go to Anaheim," the mayor said.

Charlotte had the Hornets until 2002, when the team moved to New Orleans. Right after that move, the NBA promised Charlotte would get an expansion team two years later. It's hard to imagine that kind of promise being offered here until a new arena is built.

March 15, 2011
Shake-up or status quo at Sacramento City Hall?

Will tonight's City Council meeting lead to a shake-up among the city's most powerful appointed officers? Or will the status quo prevail?

It seems the second is more likely, despite job reviews of both Interim City Manager Gus Vina and City Attorney Eileen Teichert scheduled to take place during a closed-door session prior to the public council meeting. But you never can tell.

Teichert's review was called by Mayor Kevin Johnson after a memo by Vina surfaced two weeks ago accusing the city attorney of misleading the council during a discussion over the city's controversial "crash tax."

March 14, 2011
If Kings leave Sacramento, will Warriors become our team?

For more than two decades, the Golden State Warriors were Northern California's only NBA team. That could be the case again, as the Kings consider moving to Anaheim.

And with the Warriors at Power Balance Pavilion tonight, it got me thinking: Should the Kings leave town, will basketball fans around here adopt the Warriors as their team? Sports fans here certainly embrace other Bay Area teams, such as baseball's Giants and A's and the NFL's 49ers and Raiders.

What are your thoughts?

March 10, 2011
Kings fans group trying to sell out April 11 home game

After helping to sell out the Kings' Feb. 28 game against the Clippers, the "Here We Stay" campaign is at it again.

The group is trying to fill Power Balance Pavilion for the Kings' April 11 game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, presumably in an attempt to convince the Maloofs not to move the team. The Thunder are a fitting opponent, the Sactown Royalty blog notes, because that franchise (formerly the Sonics) is in its third season in Oklahoma after leaving Seattle.

The game against the Thunder is the Kings' second-to-last home contest of the season - and possibly in Sacramento. As I'm sure you know by now, the Kings are negotiating with an ownership group in Anaheim to move the team there.

March 9, 2011
Mayor's office hours: tell him what you think about the Kings

If you've been looking for a chance to tell Mayor Kevin Johnson what you think about the Kings' possible move to Anaheim and the push to build a new arena and entertainment center in Sacramento, now's your shot.

The mayor is holding office hours Thursday evening at the Genevieve Didion School in the Pocket. The event is being packaged as "A Night of Public Safety," but it also seems like a good opportunity for city residents to let their opinions be known on all things Kings.

Those who show up at office hours typically get about five minutes of face time with the mayor.

March 8, 2011
Kings fans group planning Sacramento City Hall rally

A vocal Kings fan group wants to take their fight to City Hall.

The "Here We Stay" group, rallying to keep the Kings in town, is discussing converging on City Hall for next week's City Council meeting to tell the Sacramento's elected officials that fans need their help. That's according to the Sactown Royalty blog.

Sactown Royalty acknowledges the Kings "have one foot out the door."

March 8, 2011
Mayor: Sacramento needs a new arena, with or without Kings

Mayor Kevin Johnson's campaign to build a new sports arena in town is becoming less and less about the Kings.

That point was made even clearer this morning at the mayor's weekly press conference, when he said it is "in Sacramento's best interest to build a new entertainment and sports complex."

"We're not building it for the Kings and we're not building it for the Maloofs (the family who has a primary ownership stake in the team)," the mayor said. "We're building it for our community. It's about quality of life."

March 7, 2011
Sacramento arena study moving forward, despite Kings news

Despite television news reports to the contrary, the city-sponsored development team looking at the financial feasibility of building a new arena in town has not stopped working amid the Kings' uncertain future here.

Adam Mendelsohn, a spokesman for developer David Taylor, told my Bee colleague Tony Bizjak this weekend that the study may take "a little longer" than the original 90-day timeframe because of the Kings' relocation negotiations. But Taylor and arena giant ICON Venue Group have not stopped their work and the Kings' cloudy future "doesn't dramatically affect our ability to get this done," Mendelsohn told Bizjak.

I asked Mayor Kevin Johnson's office whether they had heard the work was being put on hold, and the response was the same. "Absoluely not," said mayoral special assistant R.E. Graswich.

March 7, 2011
Mayor, Marine in Afghanistan discuss 'Patrol Base Sacramento'

A little piece of Sacramento is headed for the battle grounds of Afghanistan.

Mayor Kevin Johnson said he received a phone call on Friday from Staff Sgt. Anthony Silva III, a Marine fighting in Afghanistan. Silva had three requests of the mayor: a U.S. flag, a California flag and a sign that reads, "Sacramento City Limits," much like the signs on freeways.

Silva told the mayor his unit is building "Patrol Base Sacramento." The Marine couldn't share too much with Johnson, but told the mayor the city limits sign would stand at the entrance of the base.

March 3, 2011
Is Sacramento losing hope of keeping the Kings?

Could it be that Sacramento is powerless in the fight to keep the Kings?

Mayor Kevin Johnson certainly seems to think so. At an afternoon press conference, the mayor said he does "not think Sacramento can influence the outcome" of the Maloofs' decision on whether to move the team to Anaheim.

There's a couple of reasons Johnson is saying that about the team's owners.

March 3, 2011
Mayor jams with rock legend Jackson Browne

His city's budget is running on empty. He's hoping the Kings stay, just a little bit longer.

But Mayor Kevin Johnson must be feeling a little bit better this morning after sitting down on Wednesday with legendary rocker Jackson Browne.

Browne was in town to perform at the Community Center Theatre. Before the show, however, he attended the mayor's Greenwise meeting at the Crocker Art Museum. Johnson and Browne also sat down for 20 minutes alone to talk about charter schools and Browne's advocacy to rid the world of plastic bags.

March 2, 2011
Update: Johnson, Maloofs have 'candid, productive' conversation

By Ryan Lillis

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson finally met with the Maloofs on Wednesday.

After days of trying to arrange a meeting, Johnson sat down with the owners of the Sacramento Kings at Power Balance Pavilion before Wednesday night's game against Portland, the mayor's special assistant, R.E. Graswich, said.

The sides met for 40 minutes. In an e-mailed statement, Johnson said the sides "had a candid and productive conversation about our mutual goals and interests."

"I made clear that our community wants the Kings to stay, but we are fully aware that this is ultimately their decision," Johnson said. "The Maloofs understand that regardless of what they choose, I will join with other leaders across the region to fight for what's best for our community. This includes developing a new entertainment and sports complex, with or without the Kings. I fully expect to continue an open, direct and proactive dialogue with the Maloofs as we all move forward."

Kings ownership and city officials have done little, if any, talking in recent weeks as the team considers whether to move to Anaheim.

Team officials reiterated Wednesday they were not commenting publicly on the issue of the team's future or the effort to build a new sports arena in Sacramento.

Also Wednesday, the mayor spoke with National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern. The conversation was described as "positive" by Graswich, with Johnson updating Stern on the successful effort by Kings fans to sell out Monday's game.

No significant developments on the city's efforts to build an arena or the Kings' negotiations to move to Anaheim were discussed in the mayor's conversation with Stern.

March 2, 2011
Business, labor groups enter Kings arena battle

Business and labor leaders are beginning to amp up pressure to build a new sports arena in Sacramento and to keep the Kings in town.

Three of the most powerful business groups in the city - the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, the Sacramento Metro Chamber and the Sacramento Convention and Visitors' Bureau - released a joint statement today saying a new arena would create jobs and that building a new facility here "will require a significant commitment and investment from the community."

The Metro Chamber, while opposing many other tax and fee measures, supported the failed 2006 campaign to fund a new arena in the downtown railyard through an increased sales tax.

March 2, 2011
Are City Hall honchos relieved 'crash tax' is dead?

They may have touted it as a band-aid to their battered budget, but most of City Hall's biggest honchos should be relieved that the "crash tax" is headed for an early demise.

That's because 14 of the 22 highest-ranking city officials - including the police and fire chiefs - don't live in the city and would have been susceptible to the fee program, according to a search of public records. Under the proposed ordinance, out-of-towners who cause auto wrecks in the city requiring fire department response would have been charged hundreds of dollars.

But the "crash tax" now appears headed for a reversal after a City Council vote on Tuesday.

March 1, 2011
Sacramento council vote a first step to repeal 'crash tax'

By Ryan Lillis

Sacramento's "crash tax" appears headed for the breakdown lane.

The City Council voted tonight 5-4 to place an item on a future agenda that would repeal the controversial fire cost recovery program, which charges out-of-town drivers who cause auto wrecks in the city requiring a response from the fire department.

The council had voted last month to enact the fee program and it was scheduled to go into effect last week. But a procedural hiccup brought the program back to the council tonight, opening the door to its reversal.

City staffers had asked the council to suspend competitive bidding and settle on Roseville-based Fire Recovery USA as the city's billing agent for the crash tax. Under a proposed contract, Fire Recovery USA would take 17 percent of the fees collected.

But suspending competitive bidding requires a two-thirds vote from the council - or six of nine votes. And the crash tax only had the support of four council members and Mayor Kevin Johnson.

Now the fee is almost certain to be erased before it ever was used. Council members who supported voting on repealing the fee were Jay Schenirer, Sandy Sheedy, Rob Fong, Darrell Fong and Bonnie Pannell.

"I don't think this is the right policy for us," said Schenirer, who made the motion to vote on repealing the crash tax.

March 1, 2011
Mayor: Kings more likely to go than stay, but city will still fight

When it comes to the Sacramento Kings' cloudy future, Mayor Kevin Johnson is talking like a guy who has turned much of his attention to Plan B.

Asked at a morning press conference how confident he was that the Kings would not strike a deal to move to Southern California, the mayor responded, "The likelihood of them leaving is probably greater than them staying, but it's not a done deal."

Meanwhile, Johnson said he has begun speaking with elected, business and labor officials around the region to see what can be done to keep the Kings in town. If that campaign is not successful, the push for a new arena will continue, he said.

About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at


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