City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

June 30, 2011
Here We Scuffle: The story behind the arena task force's name

A little bit of drama broke out this week over the new name of Mayor Kevin Johnson's arena task force.

Turns out, according to the mayor's office, the team that set up a "Here We Build" website earlier this year wanted $350,000 if the task force was going to use that name. The mayor's office balked and changed the name of the group this week to "Think Big Sacramento."

"We changed the name to Think Big Sacramento to keep the focus on the incredible excitement and potential of this community-minded, not-for-profit initiative," the mayor's spokesman, Joaquin McPeek, told me this afternoon.

June 28, 2011
Mayor Johnson: City cops must discuss pension reform

In his strongest words to date on the subject, Mayor Kevin Johnson said today that city cops must discuss contributing to their pensions in order to save the jobs of dozens of officers being laid off this week.

There is little to no chance that such an agreement could be solidified before the final day of the fiscal year on Thursday, when police layoffs go into effect. Cops have already begun handing in their badges and 42 officers are slated to lose their jobs, part of a city budget plan to fill a $39 million deficit.

But the mayor said that he and other members of the City Council are "desperately reaching out" to the police union and was hopeful that discussions would continue into the summer.

June 21, 2011
Massive K Street project expected to take big step tonight

K Street's revitalization takes a big step tonight.

The City Council is slated to approve the development agreement for a $47 million project that will bring 137 housing units, restaurants, boutique shops and a live music venue to the 700 block of the K Street Mall.

If all goes smoothly, the developer behind the project said he hopes to break ground by the end of the year - and finish by 2014.

June 21, 2011
Mayor Johnson, other mayors talk job growth with Obama

Mayor Kevin Johnson is returning home today from a weekend U.S. Conference of Mayors event in Washington, D.C.

A highlight of the trip was a Monday meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, where Johnson joined President Obama and 13 other mayors to discuss job growth. Mayors told the president attention should be paid to infrastructure development, regulatory reform, summer job programs and high-speed rail systems.

It's unlikely, however, that the mayor introduced himself as "Little Barack." You might remember Johnson telling Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert after the 2008 election that people were calling him "Little Barack" because he had been elected Sacramento's first African-American mayor.

June 20, 2011
Police union open to pension changes - just not now

In a sharply-worded letter to his members last week, city police union president Brent Meyer wrote that any changes to police pension contributions will have to wait until 2013, when the union's contract expires.

Some members of the City Council have targeted public safety pensions as a long-term budget fix and have said they aren't interested in one-year salary concessions. Police officers and firefighters do not contribute to their pensions. If they did, it would save the city roughly $4 million a year, an audit reported earlier this year.

Meyer told his members that the union "absolutely recognizes and will be prepared to discuss and implement pension reform in 2013."

June 15, 2011
Could a 'sin tax' be the answer to Sacramento's arena puzzle?

Would voters here support a tax on alcohol and cigarettes to help finance a new arena?

A bill introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) would provide local governments a large pallet of options to raises taxes for schools, public safety and other local services. The tax increases, of course, would require voter approval.

One of those options would be an excise tax on alcohol and tobacco - commonly referred to as a "sin tax" or "public health tax." Voters in Cleveland approved similar fees in the 1990s to fund the construction of baseball, basketball and football stadiums.

June 14, 2011
Potential Kings buyer on arena task force; Maloofs not worried

A few names stuck out from the regional arena task force named this week by Mayor Kevin Johnson.

One of those names was Darius Anderson, a well-known Sacramento developer and lobbyist working with Ron Burkle, the billionaire who has expressed interest in buying the Sacramento Kings. Anderson was named to the task force's executive committee, which will take on a major role as the group investigates potential funding mechanisms for the $387 million arena project.

Burkle and Anderson's overtures earlier this year were met with outright anger from the Maloof family, who own the Kings.

June 13, 2011
Members of mayor's regional arena commission named

The members of a regional arena commission have been named. The group, dubbed Here We Build, will spend the next three months analyzing options for how to finance a new sports arena in Sacramento.

Members of the group will hold their first public meeting on Thursday. Details for the session are still being worked out, but its focus will be on combining public and private resources for an arena project.

The 15 members of the group's executive committee are:

June 13, 2011
Full roster of mayor's regional arena commission released

The members of a regional arena commission have been named. The group, dubbed Here We Build, will spend the next three months analyzing options for how to finance a new sports arena in Sacramento.

Members of the group will hold their first public meeting on Thursday. Details for the session are still being worked out, but its focus will be on combining public and private resources for an arena project.

The 15 members of the group's executive committee are:

June 7, 2011
Mayor Johnson: Cop jobs should be saved, but no plan in place

Mayor Kevin Johnson wants the city to save police jobs. But he doesn't know how to make that happen.

Hours before the City Council was scheduled to embark on intense budget negotiations, the mayor told reporters this morning that his "focus is that we do not reduce the sworn officers" on the police department. The city manager's office has proposed laying off 80 officers, a plan that will be debated tonight as the council addresses a citywide $39 million deficit.

"I think the primary role of government is to make sure our streets are safe and secure," Johnson said. "It's fundamental to how we operate."

June 6, 2011
City Hall sends out layoff notices, key budget hearing on tap

Layoff notices went out to more than 200 Sacramento city employees last week, including 80 cops. And unlike years past, it seems almost certain that most - if not all - of those workers will indeed lose their jobs on July 1, when the next fiscal year begins.

In past years, many City Hall workers who received layoff notices would end up staying employed with the city because of bumping rights that moved them into other unfilled positions. After several years of cutbacks, however, most of those unfilled positions have evaporated.

The full scope of the cuts will likely be determined Tuesday night, when the City Council conducts a budget hearing for the parks, police and fire departments. All three are slated for cutbacks in a proposal to fill a citywide $39 million deficit, and council members want to debate the cuts at the same time to drive home their argument that the city is all but broke.

June 2, 2011
What should City Hall's priority be?

How do you want your tax dollars spent?

At a Tuesday budget hearing, the City Council is going to hear from the Big Three: the police, fire and parks departments. All three are slated for cuts and the council wants to compare the budgets side-by-side-by-side to drive home the point that the city's options for dealing with a $39 million deficit are limited.

The pivotal hearing will also place council members face to face with three of the most influential special interest groups at City Hall: the police union, the firefighters union and Local 39, which is the city's largest union and represents many parks workers.



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 rlillis@sacbee.com

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