City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

January 31, 2012
Mayor's fundraiser likely to challenge McCarty for Council

The Sacramento City Councilman thought to have the easiest path to re-election in June may end up facing a well-heeled opponent.

Developer Jon Bagatelos - who is Mayor Kevin Johnson's chief fundraiser - appears certain to run against Councilman Kevin McCarty in council District 6, representing Elmhurst, Tahoe Park and several other neighborhoods on the southeast side of the city.

"I'm definitely going to run unless someone gives me a reason not to run," Bagatelos said this week.

January 31, 2012
Poll shows less than half support re-electing Mayor Johnson

A new poll commissioned by opponents of Mayor Kevin Johnson shows that fewer than half of those asked are likely to vote to re-elect the mayor. But with just five weeks left before the filing deadline, Johnson's opposition has been unable to come with a candidate.

The poll - conducted by EMC Research and paid for by the Sacramento Building Trades Union - showed 46 percent of the 400 city voters asked would vote for an unnamed "someone else" in the June primary. Another 41 percent said they were definitely or probably going to vote for Johnson.

While the mayor had a favorable rating of 53 percent, other results showed 30 percent of voters think "Johnson gets things done;" 34 percent said the mayor is "someone we can count on;" and 31 percent think he has the right priorities. The poll can be found here KJpoll1-31.pdf.

January 31, 2012
League of Women Voters supports November vote on strong mayor proposal

One of the region's most respected political groups is supporting placing Mayor Kevin Johnson's revamped strong mayor plan on the November ballot.

The League of Women Voters' board voted to support placing the proposal on the ballot. The board has not decided whether it supports the measure.

The City Council is scheduled to debate whether to place the measure on the ballot next week. However, there appears to be more City Council support for a ballot measure seeking to create a charter review commission to explore changing how the city is governed.

January 30, 2012
Mayor's State of the City focuses on arena, education, green jobs

state_of_city.jpgMayor Kevin Johnson focused on three of his favorite topics during the annual State of the City address today: the arena, the green economy and education. The common theme for all three topics was the city's battered economy.

"None of us can afford to wait for the economy to recover on its own," the mayor said. "We have to take bold actions and determine our own destiny. We have to make the impossible possible."

On the city's ongoing work to finance a new downtown Kings arena, the mayor said he was launching a campaign to raise $10 million for the project from fans and residents. The "Brick by Brick" campaign will allow people to purchase engraved bricks to be placed in front of the proposed facility.

January 30, 2012
City of Sacramento website still down after weekend hacking

A a city of Sacramento spokeswoman Amy Williams said this morning the city's website could be down for several more days, the result of a weekend hacking.

However, Williams told me city officials hope to have links available later today on the city website for residents to pay utility bills and parking tickets. Williams said no financial or confidential data was at risk as a result of the hacking.

This weekend, a city parking website was taken over by someone who wrote: "HaCKed by El_MhUaMMcD. This Turkish Hacker."

January 27, 2012
City Beat poll: Does the Kings' record impact the arena?

After the Kings beat the Lakers on opening night, Mayor Kevin Johnson said, "If there is basketball and the team is doing good, that can only help our efforts" toward building a new arena.

So what happens when the team isn't doing so good? The Kings have fallen to 6-13 and are coming off a 29-point home loss to Denver on Wednesday.

Does the play on the court hurt public support for an arena? Or does it not matter at all? Weigh in.

January 27, 2012
City cops like arena - and the idea of handling game security

The city's powerful police union supports the plan to build a new Kings arena downtown. But this isn't simply an issue of public safety.

Mark Tyndale, the head of the Sacramento Police Officers Association, said his organization has been told city police officers would handle arena security during Kings games should the facility be built.

Since 1999, those duties have fallen to the Sacramento Sheriff's Department in a deal worked out between the team and former Sheriff Lou Blanas. It's an arrangement that has "always been a little bit of a thorn in our side," said Tyndale.

January 25, 2012
City's take-home vehicles scrutinized

The city's costly fleet of take-home vehicles is getting a closer look.

City Council members said Tuesday night they were encouraged by the potential savings of limiting the take-home vehicle policy, as well as reducing the number of under-utilized vehicles in the city's overall fleet that are replaced. An internal audit - released in December - found the city could save millions by changing those policies.

The city spends more than $1 million a year maintaining its fleet of take-home vehicles, most of which are driven by police employees. Records governing vehicle policies are mostly lacking, the audit also found, a situation City Auditor Jorge Oseguera has previously said left the city at risk of having its system abused.

January 25, 2012
Utility rate hikes discussed in Sacramento to fund upgrades

Like many municipalities in the region, Sacramento is proposing to raise its utility rates this year. In the city's case, gradual hikes being proposed over the next three years would tack on $19 a month for most customers.

The city's Utilities Rate Advisory Commission will discuss the proposed rate increases tonight during a 5:30 p.m. hearing in the City Council Chambers, 915 I St. The City Council will eventually need to approve any rate hikes.

Revenue generated by the new rates would help fund needed upgrades to the city's aging water and sewer system. At current funding rates, the sewer system is on a 650-year replacement schedule and the water system a 400-year schedule; the city wants to replace those systems every 100 years.

January 24, 2012
Sheedy to delay debate on Kings arena funding ballot measure

Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy will ask tonight to postpone a council discussion of her request to place a measure on the June ballot regarding an arena financing plan. It's unclear when that talk will now take place.

Sheedy told me she is postponing because Councilman Rob Fong is expected to miss tonight's council meeting and she wants the entire council to weigh in on her proposal.

Sheedy is pushing for a June ballot measure to ask voters if they want to spend public assets on building a new downtown Kings arena. City officials are banking on generating as much as $200 million from the leasing of city-owned parking operations. It's the biggest chunk of money anticipated for the $387 million arena.

January 24, 2012
Mayor benefits, labor loses as City Council undergoes changes

The historic transformation of the City Council could mean a shift in the balance of power at City Hall.

With the announcement Monday that Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy would not seek re-election - combined with Councilman Rob Fong's decision to also step down this year - six of the nine seats at the council dais will have different representatives from just four years ago. That's an incredible shift for a City Council that had been a safe haven for incumbents for nearly 20 years.

With so many seats changing hands, it's worth exploring who benefits.

January 24, 2012
Downtown's Cesar Chavez Plaza to get a makeover

Cesar Chavez Plaza - the site of Occupy protests, rock concerts and farmer's markets - will be rehabbed starting Feb. 6.

City parks officials will place raised planters at the corner entries to the plaza, put planters along J Street, extend a walkway within the park, replace tables, install new benches and replace some turf with granite. The work is expected to be completed by the middle of March.

Two more phases of the makeover will follow. The project's first phase will cost $91,000 and is funded by Quimby Act dollars collected from private development projects in the area.

January 23, 2012
Sheedy will not seek re-election for Sacramento City Council

Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy will not seek re-election in the June primary.

Sheedy told me this morning she would not seek a fourth term for the seat representing north Sacramento neighborhoods in order to spend more time with her family.

"Ted and I have given over 30 years of public service and it's time for us to do this together," she said, referring to her husband, Ted Sheedy, a former county supervisor. "It's time get back to my family."

January 19, 2012
Sacramento City Council to consider arena ballot measure

While City Council support for the move appears limited, Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy's request for a June ballot measure asking voters if they approve of using public parking assets to help fund an arena is scheduled to be debated by the council on Tuesday.

Only Sheedy and Councilman Darrell Fong have expressed support for a public vote on the arena funding package. The council has until next month to place a measure on the ballot.

Sheedy has emerged as the most vocal opponent of a plan to lease city-owned parking facilities and enforcement operations to help finance a new downtown sports and entertainment center.

January 18, 2012
Water scofflaws abound in Sacramento's Elmhurst area

It appears many residents of Elmhurst haven't bothered to look at the calendar - or a thermometer.

Many weekday mornings over the past few weeks, several residents of picturesque T Street have turned on their sprinklers, presumably to combat what has been a severely dry winter. Watering lawns during the week is illegal this time of year - not to mention unnecessary, city utilities officials told me.

Then again, residents aren't the only scofflaws on T Street. The city set its sprinklers to water the iconic parkway that runs down the middle of the street, reports my Bee colleague, water expert Matt Weiser.

January 17, 2012
East Sacramento neighbors save Clunie Center

A new model is emerging for keeping city parks and community centers open as the budget ax continues to chop away at those assets.

Neighborhood groups and businesses are stepping in to do what City Hall can't. The latest example of that involvement is in east Sacramento, where neighbors and businesses raised money and formed an organization to keep the Clunie Community Center open.

Flanked by supporters of the center, Mayor Kevin Johnson said this morning that the movement was "an example of us saving something historic in our community." The 75-year-old Clune Center serves 100,000 people a year.

January 17, 2012
S.F. Giants owner to Sacramento: Arena worth the fight

San Francisco Giants president and CEO Larry Baer has this message for those trying to build a new downtown sports arena in Sacramento: "Don't give up."

Baer, the keynote speaker at this morning's State of Downtown breakfast at Memorial Auditorium, noted that the Giants organization tried multiple times to build its new ballpark before opening AT&T Park in 2000. Throughout those attempts, the franchise threatened to move twice and voters turned down four funding proposals.

"It can be done, don't give up," Baer said. "You must persevere, you must exercise patience, you must have strong leadership in the private and public sector."

January 17, 2012
Steinberg endorses Johnson's 'strong mayor' plan

As he gets ready tonight to ask the City Council to place his latest plan to overhaul the City Charter on the June ballot, Mayor Kevin Johnson has gained the support of one of the city's most influential political figures.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said Monday he was endorsing Johnson's plan - dubbed the Checks and Balances Act of 2012 - saying it is "a solid and responsible proposal."

However, while Steinberg's support is a boost for the mayor, the local Democratic Party remains critical of the mayor's plan.

January 13, 2012
City Beat poll update: Record response to Kings arena poll

If there's one message to take away from the (very unscientific) poll I posted Thursday about the leasing of city-owned parking, it's that readers are incredibly passionate in both their support and opposition of a new downtown sports arena.

As of 1 p.m. Friday, when I closed voting, those who want to lease downtown parking operations to help fund an arena had out-voted those who want the city to hold onto its parking assets. I suspect some people voted numerous times on all sides, which speaks to the emotions swirling around this issue.

In all, 4,116 votes were tallied - by far the largest response to a poll on this blog. Of those, 2,251 supported leasing parking operations to help fund an arena. City officials said that such an agreement could generate up to $200 million toward the $387 million project.

January 13, 2012
Campaign: Mayor Johnson raised $546,775 in 2011

He doesn't have a serious opponent, but that hasn't stopped Mayor Kevin Johnson from amassing a large war chest for his re-election effort.

Johnson's campaign chief Steve Maviglio told me this morning that the mayor raised $546,775 in 2011. Campaign finance figures will be released later this month for all candidates involved in city races.

The fundraising total leaves Johnson with $410,385 on hand, according to Maviglio (Johnson still owes himself $500,000 from a loan he made to his 2008 campaign).

January 12, 2012
Work begins on housing and retail project on 16th Street

It hasn't happened very often lately, but a groundbreaking ceremony was held this morning for a large multi-use real estate project in downtown.

By next year, 84 apartments and 13,000 square feet of retail will fill two Spanish-style buildings at the East End Gateway site at 16th and O streets. The $24 million project will create between 300 and 400 construction jobs.

Financing for the plan had been elusive, until developers Ravel Rasmussen Properties and Separovich/Domich received a $17.5 million construction loan from Union Bank.

January 12, 2012
City Beat poll: What to do with downtown parking assets

As the private sector begins to examine how much downtown's parking spaces, garages and enforcement operations are worth, I thought it might be worth gauging support for leasing those facilities to help build an arena.

You'll find a poll to the right with a couple of answers. But if you'd like to expand on your thoughts, please email me at

There are a few options.

January 11, 2012
City manager: Half of Sacramento's deficit could be wiped out by pension reform

It's more clear than ever that the top brass at City Hall has its eyes set on employee pensions as a way to slow the cycle of persistent budget deficits.

City Manager John Shirey told the City Council on Tuesday that roughly half of the city's budget deficit over the next two years could be eliminated if all city workers paid their employee share of their CalPERS retirement contributions.

While top city management, the mayor and the City Council pay their employee shares, no rank and file workers pick up the entire tab of their retirement contributions. Instead, the city handles those payments - an arrangement that cost the city $16.8 million in 2010, according to a recent Bee analysis.

January 10, 2012
Mayor: Delay in arena parking bid sent wrong message to NBA

Mayor Kevin Johnson said today he was concerned that a decision by city officials to delay soliciting interest from the private sector in taking over downtown parking operations could "send a message to the NBA that something is not quite on track" with the city's bid to finance a new downtown sports arena.

Johnson told The Bee's editorial board that he was not consulted by City Manager John Shirey's office before the decision was made a few weeks ago to push back the release of a request for qualifications from Dec. 22 until Monday. And he said he disagreed with the decision.

City officials are counting on generating as much as $200 million in upfront cash for the $387 million arena by leasing downtown parking spaces, garages and enforcement to a private company.

January 9, 2012
Former mayors Isenberg, Yee support Johnson's latest charter proposal

Two former mayors are supporting Mayor Kevin Johnson's latest proposal to overhaul the city constitution.

Former Mayors Phil Isenberg and Jimmie Yee are endorsing Johnson's plan and will serve as "honorary co-chairs" of the measure's political campaign, according to a news release sent out by the campaign this morning.

Under the plan, Sacramento would be governed by a "mayor-council" form of government, transitioning from the current system in which the unelected city manager handles most day-to-day operations.

January 6, 2012
Ashby named new Sacramento vice mayor

Entering just her second year at City Hall, Councilwoman Angelique Ashby was named the city's vice mayor Thursday night.

In a unanimous vote, the City Council elected the North Natomas councilwoman to the post. While mostly a ceremonial position, the vice mayor does preside over City Council meetings when the mayor is absent - and Mayor Kevin Johnson has missed a meeting or two (or 10).

Councilman Steve Cohn nominated Ashby, saying it has been council tradition that the most senior council member who hasn't served as vice mayor before be given the position. Ashby has one week of seniority over Councilmen Jay Schenirer and Darrell Fong.

January 4, 2012
Sacramento hosts polar bear plunge to raise money for swimming pools

City Hall is hoping that brave swimmers will take a plunge into the bitter cold water this weekend to help fund swimming pools in the city.

The parks department is holding a Polar Bear Plunge at the Clunie Pool in McKinley Park from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Adults and kids are being asked to pay $5 to dive into the water.

Money raised through the event - the first of its kind run by the city - will help fund swimming pool operations in the upcoming fiscal year and beyond.

The parks department budget has been hammered in recent years and neighborhood swimming pools have been greatly impacted.

January 3, 2012
Schanz joins packed field in downtown/Land Park council race

Yet another candidate has jumped into the race for the City Council seat representing downtown, midtown, Land Park and the River Oaks section of South Natomas.

Terry Schanz, a Land Park native and the legislative director for Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, announced today that he was running for the seat being vacated by Councilman Rob Fong.

Schanz joins downtown advocate Steve Hansen, Land Park attorney Phyllis Newton and city planning commissioner Joe Yee in the race.

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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