City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

November 28, 2011
What Mayor Johnson's 'strong mayor' proposal looks like

We don't know when Mayor Kevin Johnson's strong mayor initiative will re-emerge. But we probably have a good idea what it will look like when it does.

As I wrote over the weekend, the mayor and his advisers are debating whether to revive the strong mayor proposal for the June primary election or hold off until the November ballot.

The plan favored by the mayor's team likely resembles the proposal they floated last summer, when the City Council rejected Johnson's wishes to have an initiative drafted by the city attorney.

November 25, 2011
City's garbage deal up for approval on Tuesday. Does it stink?

The city's controversial garbage contract is going to the City Council on Tuesday.

City staff is scheduled to recommend the transfer of the waste disposal and recycling contracts from BLT Enterprises to USA Waste of California, also known as Waste Management. The move is required to finalize the sale of the recycling and transfer station in south Sacramento from BLT to Waste Management.

Under the new deal, Waste Management has agreed to begin taking city trash to the Kiefer Landfill within the next few months, ending a years-long agreement that had led to city trash getting shipped daily to Nevada. That move will "reduce greenhouse gases, conserve fuel and reduce traffic congestion," according to a city press release.

November 23, 2011
Mayor Johnson nominated for basketball Hall of Fame

Mayor Kevin Johnson is about to co-host the California Hall of Fame ceremony. In the meantime, he's been nominated for another shrine.

Johnson - who achieved stardom as a point guard for the NBA's Phoenix Suns long before he entered politics - was added recently to the list of nominees for the Basketball Hall of Fame's class of 2012,'s Scott Howard-Cooper reported Tuesday on Twitter.

Howard-Cooper noted that Johnson is a long shot for induction into the Hall of Fame, but described him as a "credible candidate." For you basketball junkies, Johnson averaged 18 points and nine assists per games in 12 seasons.

November 22, 2011
Firefighters, builders support Johnson - but some Dems don't

It should come as a surprise to no one: The city's firefighters and many in the region's development community are throwing their support behind Mayor Kevin Johnson in his re-election bid.

He's still having trouble with some members of his own political party, however.

Recent endorsements of Johnson by the firefighters and builders follow the support of many well-known elected officials in the Democratic Party that I will report on in an upcoming Bee story.

Even as he gets the support of those elected officials, Johnson is still having a hard time with the local Democratic clubs and the unions that are closely aligned with those organizations. The reasons are varied - some of them are political, some are personal - and I'll explore those reasons in greater depth in my article.

November 21, 2011
Sacramento arena namesake Power Balance files for bankruptcy

Power Balance, the Southern California wristband company that purchased the naming rights of the Sacramento Kings' arena earlier this year, filed for bankruptcy protection last week, documents show.

The company's filing for Chapter 11 reorganization comes after it settled a $57.4 million class action lawsuit in September filed by customers who charged the company with false advertising. Power Balance officials denied a report on TMZ that the company would close.

Kevin Boyle, an attorney with Panish, Shea & Boyle and the lead counsel on the case against Power Balance, confirmed the settlement for The Bee. There is a 1:30 p.m. court hearing scheduled for today on Power Balance's bankruptcy filing.

November 17, 2011
Sacramento looks to Kansas City for lessons on arena deal

Proponents of a new downtown Sacramento sports arena think they have a pretty good model to follow in Kansas City.

That Midwestern city - which is comparable in size to Sacramento - opened the Sprint Center in 2007. The $276 million downtown arena was financed through both private and public sources and, even without a professional sports team as an anchor tenant, has exceeded city officials' expectations.

The public contribution to the project comes in the form of a tax on rental cars and hotels that was passed by voters. That revenue covers the annual $14 million bond payments on the project and - so far anyway - enough tax has been collected to cover those payments, keeping the city off the hook, Dennis Gagnon, a spokesman for the city of Kansas City told me today.

November 17, 2011
Former Kansas City mayor in Sacramento to talk about arena

The mayoral task force charged with coming up with a workable proposal for a new downtown sports arena is holding a forum today with a mayor who helped oversee the construction of an arena in her city.

Former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes will speak at Think Big Sacramento's event today at the Hart Senior Center, 915 27th St. The forum is scheduled from 11 a.m. to noon and I will update the blog after her presentation.

Barnes was mayor from 1999 to 2007. Kansas City's Sprint Center was opened in 2007.

November 16, 2011
Riding redistricting success, LGBT club endorses Hansen in Sacramento City Council race

Armed with momentum early in the election season, the city's main political organization representing the LGBT community made its endorsement this week in a closely-watched City Council race.

The Stonewall Democrats - the largest Democratic club in the region - endorsed City Council candidate Steve Hansen this week in the race for District 4. That seat, covering midtown, downtown, Land Park and the River Oaks neighborhood of South Natomas, is being left vacant by two-term Councilman Rob Fong.

Stonewall followed that endorsement with a $2,500 donation to Hansen, a downtown resident and advocate.

November 16, 2011
City attorney dismissing charges against 31 Occupy Sac protesters

The City Attorney's office began dismissing charges this morning against 31 people arrested in the Occupy Sacramento protest.

The defendants had been arrested for violating a city code prohibiting them from remaining in a city park after closure hours. The Occupy Sacramento demonstration has set up its base in downtown's Cesar Chavez Plaza and has asked City Hall to remain in the park overnight, a request that has been repeatedly denied.

Each of the protesters arrested was booked at the Sacramento County Jail and spent up to one day in jail.

November 15, 2011
Homeless advocates say funding short on shelter program

Officials with the homeless advocacy nonprofit Sacramento Steps Forward said Tuesday that they are $80,000 short of having the funding needed to keep the region's winter sanctuary program operable this year.

The winter sanctuary program kept more than two dozen faith-based organizations and congregations open last winter to provide beds, meals and services to 100 homeless men and women every night.

With a funding shortfall, "there is a critical need at this point," said Leo McFarland, president of Volunteers of America. So far, about $66,000 has been raised.

November 15, 2011
Mayor: NBA lockout doesn't hurt public support for arena

The ongoing NBA lockout may not have slowed Sacramento's push to build a new downtown sports arena. But does it hurt public support for the project?

Mayor Kevin Johnson doesn't think so, even as the City Council prepares to make a critical vote in the coming weeks on the project's financing plan.

Johnson told reporters once again today that the project is about more than basketball. Still, the Kings would act as the anchor tenant of a new arena and many still view the proposed facility as a basketball arena.

November 12, 2011
Mayor in Ferrari leads parade as cars return to K Street

For the first time in 42 years, automobiles rolled onto the K Street Mall this afternoon in a moment that city officials and business leaders hope will inject new life into downtown Sacramento's historic thoroughfare.

The first car to roll onto K Street was a red 1966 Ferrari 275 GTS with Mayor Kevin Johnson riding in the passenger seat. That car was followed a parade of classic automobiles driving past hundreds of spectators in a parade-like atmosphere that even included red, white and blue confetti falling from rooftops.

"K Street is finally changing," said Steve Cohn, Sacramento city councilman.

November 11, 2011
Joe Yee running to return to Sacramento City Council

Another former councilman is making a run to reclaim his seat a decade after leaving office.

Joe Yee, who served on the council for seven months in 2000, announced this week that he will enter the race for the District 4 seat being left vacant by Councilman Rob Fong.

Yee, an architect and the chair of the city's planning commission, was appointed by the City Council to represent District 4 in 2000 when Jimmie Yee was named mayor following the death of Mayor Joe Serna Jr. Jimmie Yee was the area's councilman before and after Joe Yee held the seat (the two men are not related).

November 10, 2011
Poll targets Sheedy, shows 35 percent support her re-election

A political committee of local business owners - a group that has been critical of many sitting council members - conducted a poll of Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy last month that showed 35 percent of those interviewed in her north Sacramento district were likely to re-elect the three-term incumbent.

The poll - commissioned by Better Sacramento, a group of local business leaders previously known as the Sacramento 60 - was conducted between Oct. 19 and 21. That's around the same time Sheedy did her own poll of city voters that showed most favor a vote on any proposal for a new downtown sports arena involving the use of public assets.

Of the 300 voters interviewed, 88 percent said they had heard of Sheedy, according to a memo detailing the results of the survey by well-known pollster Jim Moore. While 35 percent said they would vote for her, 43 percent said they would prefer "someone new."

November 8, 2011
Mayor Johnson returns from London, attends City Council meeting

Mayor Kevin Johnson cut a trip to London short and attended tonight's City Council meeting.

Johnson was in London attending the World Travel Market, one of the world's largest tourism conferences. He was part of a delegation marketing Sacramento and California to international tour operators.

Had Johnson missed tonight's meeting, it would have been his 10th absence of the year.

November 8, 2011
Occupy Sacramento will expand to lawns of City Hall

The Occupy Sacramento movement is expanding its presence - right on to the front lawn of City Hall.

Protest organizers have moved some of their operation to the lawns and walkways around both the old and new City Hall buildings, starting with a tent. City Hall is across I Street from Occupy Sacramento's base in Cesar Chavez Plaza.

Organizers of the group said they should be allowed to remain at City Hall because the site is not a park. So far, protesters have been arrested for failing to leave a park during closure hours.

November 7, 2011
Mayor Johnson in London for tourism event, may miss another City Council meeting

The Kevin Johnson World Tour is stopping in London this week.

The mayor is attending the World Tourism Market, one of the largest tourism trade shows in the world. He is part of a team of California tourism officials and celebrities marketing the state to tour operators from around the world.

Local tourism officials and the mayor's office are touting Johnson's appearance as a marketing gold mine for the city. But it also means Johnson will likely miss his 10th City Council meeting of the year.

November 4, 2011
Kerth to formally announce Sacramento City Council run tonight

Former Councilman Rob Kerth is making it official tonight: he is running to reclaim the seat representing northern Sacramento neighborhoods.

Kerth is scheduled to make the announcement at a ceremony at the Iceland Skating Rink on Del Paso Boulevard, which Kerth's family owns and operates.

Kerth is part of a crowded field trying to unseat Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy, who has represented the area since 2000. Kerth was the area's councilman from 1992 to 2000, when he stepped down to make an unsuccessful run for mayor.

November 4, 2011
Rumor of grave unfounded, midtown development continues

A small development in midtown could have been buried had rumors of a grave on the site been true. Turns out, it was nothing more than a ghost story.

Work began recently at the site of nine single-family homes on a lot near 21st and S Streets. A few months ago, as the project made its way through the planning commission, a staff report mentioned the fears of a neighbor who thought there may have been a headstone marking a grave on the lot that had been removed when the former property owner moved.

Finding a body buried on the land could have tied things up - at the very least, it would have led to a delay in the project as investigators took over. But, at least so far, the grave rumors are "unfounded and work is proceeding as normal," said Maurice Chaney, a city spokesman.

November 3, 2011
McCarty raises money to open George Sim Community Center on Friday nights

Construction on the $18 million George Sim Community Center in the Glen Elder/Avondale section of the city was completed barely two years ago. But due to budget cuts, the center's doors are already shuttered four days a week.

The area's councilman, Kevin McCarty, along with community organizers, businesses, churches and unions are chipping away at the closures.

McCarty and others are launching the "D6 Hot Spot" on Friday. The program will open the community center every Friday night for the next year from 7 p.m. to midnight, giving teens a place to play basketball and volleyball, watch movies and take part in other activities.

November 2, 2011
FPPC won't investigate Sheedy for Kings arena poll

That didn't take long.

The Fair Political Practices Commission said today it won't open an investigation into Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy in response to a complaint that she improperly used campaign funds to conduct a poll showing city residents want to vote on any plan for a new sports arena involving public assets.

In a letter sent to Sheedy today, Gary Winuk, chief of the FPPC's enforcement division, wrote that "the use of campaign funds to conduct a poll is an appropriate use of campaign funds" and that "since the telephone calls were not for the purpose of advocating for a candidate or ballot measure, no identification by the Sheedy campaign was required."

November 2, 2011
Plan to use parking revenue for Sacramento arena to be discussed

We should start to get a pretty clear idea Thursday of how city officials intend to lease city-owned parking facilities to help finance a new downtown sports arena.

City officials and the task force charged with developing a financing plan for a new arena will hold a public meeting Thursday to discuss that potential revenue stream. The meeting is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. in the City Council Chambers of Historic City Hall, 915 I St.

At the meeting, the arena task force - Think Big Sacramento - will present a recommendation for how that parking agreement could work. If approved, development officials say a parking agreement could generate millions of dollars for the construction of the $387 million arena.

November 1, 2011
Mayor Johnson to miss another City Council meeting tonight

Mayor Kevin Johnson's truancy has reached new heights.

The mayor will miss his ninth City Council meeting of the year tonight, his staff said. And with that, Johnson will pass former Mayor Heather Fargo's highest absence total for a single year.

Johnson is in Washington, serving on a panel at the GreenGov Symposium, a conference run by the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The mayor's office said the White House requested that Johnson attend the discussion to talk about progress made by the city in the green technology sector, including a recent $100 million program launched to fund energy-saving retrofits of office buildings.

November 1, 2011
FPPC complaint filed over Sheedy's arena poll - or was it?

There are a lot more questions than answers in the ongoing political tiff over the poll commissioned by Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy's that showed city residents want to vote on any proposal for a new sports arena that involves public assets.

It has been reported that Sheedy is the focus of a complaint made to the Fair Political Practices Commission last week. Copies of the alleged complaint were circulated to the media over the weekend, but there's a problem: the FPPC hasn't received the complaint, according to Gary Winuk, chief of the commission's enforcement division.

There's something else that doesn't make sense. The name on the document is Robert Langdon, a Rosemont resident who wasn't even surveyed by Sheedy's pollsters. And, based on an email exchange I've had with Langdon, it's not clear he knew he was filing a complaint.

November 1, 2011
Fight continues over Sheedy's Kings arena poll

The political tiff continues over the poll paid for by Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy's re-election campaign that showed city residents want to vote on any proposal for a new sports arena that involves public assets.

Sheedy is now the focus of a complaint made to the Fair Political Practices Commission. The charge: Sheedy didn't tell those who were called that the poll was paid for by her campaign.

But there's something about that complaint that doesn't quite make sense: it was made by a guy who doesn't live in the city and wasn't surveyed by Sheedy's pollsters.

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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