City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

December 30, 2011
With redevelopment money gone, effect on K Street mixed

As the dust settles over the state Supreme Court's ruling Thursday that redevelopment agencies can be eliminated, there's both good news and, well, uncertain news when it comes to K Street.

First, the good news. City development officials are confident that a large plan to revamp the 700 block of K Street will not face the threat of losing redevelopment funds.

In June, the City Council unanimously approved the development agreement and financing plan for the $47.7 million project. In doing so, the council allocated $14.7 million in redevelopment funds, an action that city downtown development manager Leslie Fritzsche said designated the money as "an enforceable obligation."

December 29, 2011
Sacramento pastors are a new special interest in local politics

A phenomenon seen often in East Coast cities is developing in Sacramento politics.

Pastors and ministers of mostly African American churches have become a new special interest group in the city, endorsing two City Council candidates in the June 2012 election and Mayor Kevin Johnson's latest proposal to change how the city is governed.

I'll have more on the trend in a story printed in a few days in The Bee. But for now, I wanted to throw out some observations from the reporting I've done so far.

December 28, 2011
Poll shows support of Mayor Johnson's latest charter proposal

Supporters of Mayor Kevin Johnson's latest effort to revamp the city's governing structure released the findings of a survey today that shows support for both the mayor and the proposal.

A survey of 504 likely city voters by pollster FM3 showed 63 percent favored the "Checks and Balances Act of 2012." A memo summarizing the poll's findings was released to the media and supporters of the proposal, which can be found here: MaslinPoll.doc.

Voters particularly liked giving the mayor the authority to propose the budget, subject to City Council approval (67 percent support); giving the mayor veto authority over budget items, subject to council override (67 percent support); and having the mayor and council jointly appoint the city manager, as they do now (66 percent support).

December 27, 2011
Mayor Johnson sees boost in arena effort as Kings play - and win

Perhaps it was the euphoria of the Kings' victory over the L.A. Lakers on Monday. Or maybe it's the holiday spirit. Either way, Mayor Kevin Johnson seems more and more confident about Sacramento's chances of building a new downtown sports arena.

Johnson told reporters this morning, "I think we're going to get it done." City officials are trying to finalize a financing plan for the latest proposal, a $406 million facility in the downtown railyard.

Still, the mayor said the city is "at a critical juncture."

December 21, 2011
Mayor's supporters propose city governance changes

Mayor Kevin Johnson today proposed an overhaul of the way the city is governed.

Well, sort of.

Johnson was noticeably absent during a morning press conference at which the "Checks and Balances Act of 2012" was announced. The mayor will ask the City Council next month to place the measure on the June 2012 ballot.

December 20, 2011
Mayor, community groups announce new gang prevention plan

By Ryan Lillis
rlillis@sacbee.com

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, local law enforcement officials, community leaders and faith-based groups said Tuesday they were shifting the way they deal with gangs and will focus on prevention and intervention tactics.

Speaking at the Boys and Girls Club on Lemon Hill Avenue, the mayor said a task force he put together earlier this year would embark on a three-year plan on tackling gangs. Many of the programs the task force will work on are already in place, but the mayor said the new plan would help to coordinate those efforts.

The gang task force was formed in the wake of community outcry after two people - including a young mother - were gunned down outside a south Sacramento barbershop last December.

December 16, 2011
Developer Warren to announce Sacramento Council campaign

North Sacramento developer Allen Warren will announce this weekend that he is formally joining the race for the City Council seat currently held by Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy.

Warren will make the announcement on Sunday at a 3 p.m. event at Carol's Books on Del Paso Boulevard. He'll be joined by his mother, extended family members and longtime friends from the neighborhoods that make up the north side district.

Warren is part of a packed field running against Sheedy in the district representing North Sacramento, Del Paso Heights and many other neighborhoods north of the American River. Sheedy is running for a fourth term.

December 15, 2011
Mayor Johnson proposes 'strong mayor,' other charter changes for June ballot

Mayor Kevin Johnson is proposing a June ballot measure to overhaul the city's constitution, a plan that is expected to include a strong mayor initiative and a proposal to create an independent redistricting commission.

Johnson will ask the City Council at a Jan. 17 meeting to place the measure on the June ballot.

The mayor requested that council discussion at the end of Tuesday's City Council meeting. He said his supporters have drafted the language for the plan and asked City Attorney Eileen Teichert to analyze the proposal.

December 14, 2011
Some Sacramento council members seeking regional dollars for arena project

There is a renewed push among some Sacramento City Council members to get other local governments involved financially in the building of a new downtown sports arena. But is it too late?

Councilman Rob Fong has been particularly vocal in saying the city of Sacramento shouldn't go at the arena deal alone, a stance he repeated Tuesday night during a pivotal council vote to gauge interest from the private sector in the city's parking operations.

"I think we need to make a real effort to see what the other cities - and frankly the counties - in the region who would kind of be our partners in this venture could contribute in a real way so that they're having these sorts of discussions in their chambers as well," said Fong, who voted to approve moving forward with a request for qualifications from parking companies.

December 13, 2011
Sacramento council on verge of approving key arena vote

It appears the Sacramento City Council will approve tonight issuing a request for qualifications from companies interested in leasing the city's downtown parking operations, the key peg in the financing of a new arena.

Tony Bizjak tweets from the City Council meeting

Mayor Kevin Johnson and four council members have told The Bee in recent days they support issuing an RFQ. In addition to the mayor, Council members Steve Cohn, Rob Fong, Jay Schenirer and Kevin McCarty have all said they are open to the RFQ. Five votes are enough to pass the proposal.

The RFQ is a key step in the arena financing model, but it isn't the biggest step. That will come early next year, when the City Council - armed with a complete financing package that also includes contributions from the NBA, Sacramento Kings and arena operator AEG - will decide whether to issue a request for proposals seeking formal bids for the parking assets.

December 12, 2011
Audit: Sacramento's take-home vehicles costing thousands

The city of Sacramento's fleet of take-home vehicles for employees costs taxpayers roughly $800,000 a year in commuting costs alone, an internal audit has found.

Nearly 250 employees have take-home cars, but in some cases, privileges "were granted to individuals that are not required to provide immediate after hour response or fill an essential City need," the audit found. Most of the cars are taken home by police officers, whose union has an "informal" agreement with the city to allow the practice.

While the perk of a take-home vehicle is granted to officers who are called to incidents and events at all hours - including homicide detectives, hostage negotiators and supervisors - incomplete records kept by the police department have made it difficult to track the total financial impact of those vehicles, city auditor Jorge Oseguera said.

December 8, 2011
Powerhouse Science Center receives $1.5 million from Aerojet

There's more good news for the proposed Powerhouse Science Center on the banks of the Sacramento River north of downtown.

Museum officials announced today that Rancho Cordova-based Aerojet has agreed to give the facility $1.5 million to help launch the center's simulated NASA space mission program. That space center will be named the Aerojet Challenger Learning Center.

"America's many successes in space exploration have always benefited from the tremendous sources of technical talent graduating from our educational institutions," said Scott Seymour, president of Aerojet.

December 7, 2011
Sacramento rock legend Tesla to get key to the city

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of their debut album, Sacramento rock legend Tesla will be given the key to the city today by Mayor Kevin Johnson.

The ceremony is scheduled for noon today at the Rock and Radio Museum on 20th Street in midtown. The mayor is expected to be joined by band members Jeff Keith, Frank Hannon, Brian Wheat, Troy Luccketta and Dave Rude.

December 6, 2011
Top Sacramento managers to contribute to pensions

City Hall continues to chip away at its pension costs.

The city's top management officials - including the police and fire chiefs, as well as other department bosses - have agreed to pay the employee share into their CalPERS retirement funds. In exchange, those employees will no longer be furloughed.

The changes, which the City Council is expected to grant its approval of tonight, will save the city $100,000 a year, according to a city staff report.

December 1, 2011
Sactown Magazine celebrates five years with special cover, song

Sactown Magazine is celebrating its 5th anniversary this month with some artistic flair - and a little music.

Rob Turner, the magazine's CEO and co-editor, told me they commissioned artists from around the country who "specialize in vintage travel poster styles" to design three different covers for this month's issue.

"We've always loved those retro posters of the world capitals like New York, San Francisco and Paris, so since we're waxing poetic about our love for the city in this issue, we thought we'd take a stab at it for Sacramento," 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 rlillis@sacbee.com

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