City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

April 18, 2012
Two Sacramento council members delay funds for after-school reading programs

A grant intended to fund afterschool reading programs for kids has been caught up in the funhouse that is City Hall.

Councilwomen Bonnie Pannell and Sandy Sheedy on Tuesday delayed the acceptance of a $250,000 state grant for literacy and gang prevention programs at the Boys and Girls Club, upsetting some of their colleagues.

Pannell's objection stems from the fact that Lisa Serna, who runs the day-to-day operations for the City Council offices, was listed as a contact on a staff report detailing the terms of the grant. Serna was appointed to that job by Mayor Kevin Johnson, who has said he will not support Pannell's re-election bid.

"Lisa Serna is an office clerk," Pannell said. "So why is her name on that agenda item? She has nothing to do with gangs, she has nothing to do with police."

Pannell's opponent in the June primary immediately jumped on the situation, calling the move "simply outrageous."

"This is yet another example of Bonnie Pannell turning her back on our community and playing politics," Betty Williams said in a statement released by her campaign.

I asked Pannell if Williams' statement was true, and she responded, "I have no idea what my opponent is talking about."

City officials said Serna was mistakenly listed as an administrator of the grant. Parks officials will take on that role.

Sheedy told me she wants more information on the grant, given that the city has apparently had trouble in the past overseeing similar funds. But Sheedy's no fan of the mayor, either, and the mayor's reading program and gang prevention task force will play a role in the grant program.

Sheedy is also not very close with Councilman Jay Schenirer, whose office spearheaded the grant application. Schenirer's Way Up neighborhood improvement initiative is also helping to run the after-school program funded by the grant.

Asked if he thought politics are playing a role in the grant's delay, Schenirer said, "I have no personal squabbles with any members of the council."

For now, the grant won't come back for council approval for another two weeks. The council needs to vote to accept the funding before the after-school programs can begin.

The mayor's response to all of this?

"This is amazing," he said.

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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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