City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

May 31, 2012
Sacramento's Democratic old guard continues split with Mayor Johnson

The city's Democratic establishment continues to display its dislike of Mayor Kevin Johnson.

Former Sacramento County Supervisor Illa Collin has endorsed mayoral challenger Jonathan Rewers in his bid to unseat Johnson in Tuesday's election. That's the third former Democratic officeholder to endorse Rewers - a Republican and one-time contributor to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"It is with deep honor that I accept Supervisor Collin's endorsement," Rewers said. "Her accomplishments and the respect she commands in Sacramento are without measure."

May 25, 2012
Business group issues misleading campaign ad against Pannell

A campaign ad attacking Sacramento councilwoman Bonnie Pannell exaggerates crime and unemployment figures for Pannell's south Sacramento district, a Bee analysis has found.

A mailer that arrived at homes in recent days claimed that District 8 - which Pannell has represented for 14 years - has the "worst crime area in Sacramento." It also said that 52 percent "of your district (is) out of work."

The ad was funded by the Better Sacramento Political Action Committee - a group of business owners and developers that is supporting Pannell's opponent, former NAACP branch Betty Williams. The group is closely aligned with Mayor Kevin Johnson, who is also campaigning for Williams to unseat Pannell.

May 25, 2012
Mayor continues massive fundraising effort in Sacramento

Jonathan Rewers may have picked up the endorsements of two former mayors this week in his bid to unseat Mayor Kevin Johnson. But with two weeks left before the election, Rewers still faces a monumental fundraising disadvantage.

The latest campaign finance filings show Rewers had raised $1,838 this year, nearly all of it in the form of loans to himself. Neither of the other two mayoral candidates - bounty hunter Leonard Padilla or insurance broker Richard Jones - has raised any money.

On the other hand, Johnson has raised $260,967 this year, including about $165,000 over the last two months, documents show.

May 25, 2012
Neighborhoods stepping in to save Sacramento pools that grocery store effort could not

Save Mart supermarkets and city officials worked for months to open six pools this summer through a fundraising drive. But what about the pools that couldn't be saved?

One of those pools is now going to be open three days a week, after the neighborhood association, a city councilman and county supervisor, and the Sierra Health Foundation did their own fundraising.

Both the swimming pool and wading pool at Tahoe Park will open June 19. The pool is expected to be open on one weekend day and two weekdays.

May 24, 2012
Is Mayor Johnson dismissing competition or taking them seriously? Yes

In one breath, Mayor Kevin Johnson tells us how little he thinks of his competition. But then he insists his re-election campaign is not taking anything for granted.

So which is it? Both, apparently.

The mayor sent out an email to supporters this morning telling them he is "not taking anything for granted in what is expected to be a low turnout election." That statement follows others by the mayor and his campaign dismissing the quality of his challengers.

May 23, 2012
Sacramento city attorney post again creating rift at City Hall

It's one of the most powerful positions at City Hall. And once again, the city attorney job is helping to fuel a political stand-off.

The City Council is looking to replace the recently-departed Eileen Teichert. The council plans to use a headhunter and most members want to have a new, permanent city attorney on the job this fall.

Mayor Kevin Johnson doesn't agree with that timeline. He thinks the council should wait to appoint its top legal adviser until after the November election, when at least two current council members - Rob Fong and Sandy Sheedy - will have given up their seats. The mayor wants their replacements to have a voice in who is named to the post.

May 22, 2012
Former Mayor Fargo endorses Rewers in campaign against Johnson

Former Mayor Heather Fargo apparently hasn't gotten over her loss to Kevin Johnson three years ago.

Fargo has endorsed mayoral candidate Jonathan Rewers in his bid against Mayor Johnson, the Rewers campaign announced. Fargo was defeated by Johnson in 2008.

"I think in the past three weeks I have proven that I am the most qualified candidate to be mayor, have presented a clear plan and agenda, have given the voters the respect they want by going to their events and asking for their vote, and now I have the endorsement of someone who has served this city as mayor and delivered," Rewers said in a statement released by his campaign.

May 22, 2012
Sacramento council considers tax hike; mayor opposes idea

The City Council will discuss today the notion of a ballot measure in November to raise the sales tax in the city.

While the council will not yet vote on whether to place a measure on the ballot, some council members have already expressed support for a tax increase to fund core city services, including police protection, firefighters and parks.

Mayor Kevin Johnson does not appear to support a tax increase. Speaking at an event showcasing the production of energy-efficient air conditioners by Sacramento-based Beutler Corporation, Johnson told reporters this morning he would rather seek to solve the city's budget problems through economic development and job creation.

May 21, 2012
Mayor Johnson plans L.A. fundraiser with AEG chief, Villaraigosa

Mayor Kevin Johnson will be in Los Angeles tonight for a fundraiser hosted by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. But it's also an event that could have an impact on Sacramento's ongoing - although faded - arena effort.

Tim Leiweke, the chief executive of arena operator AEG, is one of the co-hosts of the fundraiser being held at The Ritz Carlton at L.A. Live, an entertainment district developed by AEG. Leiweke's company had agreed to operate Sacramento's downtown arena and Johnson is still hoping to attract the firm to the city, despite the arena effort's collapse.

Wealthy philanthropist Eli Broad - whose education reform interests are similar to Johnson's - and former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan are also listed as co-hosts of the Johnson fundraiser.

May 17, 2012
Business groups continue support of Newton, Williams in Sacramento council races

City business groups are talking big with their wallets in support of Phyllis Newton, one of seven candidates seeking the District 4 City Council seat covering Land Park and the central city.

Better Sacramento, a group of local business owners and developers, filed paperwork on Tuesday indicating it had spent $15,546 on mail pieces and consulting in support of Newton. The organization has emerged as a political and philanthropic interest over the past year.

Newton, an attorney and director of a disaster relief organization, was also the beneficiary earlier this month of mailers paid for by the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce. The chamber spent roughly $33,000 on the mailers, according to campaign documents.

May 16, 2012
Would Sacramento approve tax hike for cops, parks, firefighters?

The debate over whether to ask city voters to approve of a tax increase to fund core services is heating up at City Hall.

After years of behind-the-scenes discussions between the city's labor unions and elected officials, many members of the City Council appear willing to move ahead with a tax measure on the November ballot. Two council members and one council district director told me Tuesday they believe a majority of the council is supportive of a ballot measure.

As I reported in today's Bee, Council members such as Kevin McCarty think that if the city is able to get pension concessions from its unions, the public's appetite for a new tax would increase greatly.

May 16, 2012
Candidate wants to end policy allowing mayor, council members free parking in Sacramento

It's a nice perk that has quietly been on the books for a year: City Council members and the mayor don't have to pay for parking in metered spaces.

But one candidate for council thinks the arrangement is silly and would aim to do away with it if elected.

Steve Hansen, one of seven candidates running for the District 4 seat covering Land Park and the central city, tipped me off to a city policy that grants parking placards to council members, the mayor and their district directors. Using those placards, elected officials and their top aides can park for free in metered spaces - excluding blue, red and yellow zones.

May 15, 2012
War of words continues between union chief, Sacramento council candidate

First he bet Mitch Netto $1,000 he couldn't beat Councilman Kevin McCarty in the race for council District 6. Now, a union leader wants Netto to drop out of that race until he settles federal and state tax liens.

Matt Kelly, the executive secretary of the Sacramento-Sierra Building and Construction Trades Council, released a statement late Monday telling Netto, "It is no joke to refuse to pay the taxes you owe!"

Netto has federal and state tax liens against him for roughly $75,000. He said the liens were a result of identity theft issues, but has not formally challenged the accusations in court.

May 15, 2012
Sacramento City Council budget hearing draws dozens of firefighters

With dozens of firefighters packing City Hall, the City Council has begun a tense budget hearing over proposed cuts to the Fire Department.

More than 60 firefighters would be laid off under a budget plan proposed by City Manager John Shirey. Those cuts are part of Shirey's plan to fill a citywide deficit of $15.7 million.

Dozens of firefighters marched to City Hall this afternoon to attend the hearing. Brian Rice, president of the Sacramento Area Firefighters Local 522 union, said the cuts would reduce "a vital service in a community that quite frankly would be deadly."

May 15, 2012
Group born out of Sacramento redistricting debate enters political fray

A political coalition formed in the wake of last summer's contentious redistricting debate is beginning to campaign behind candidates in the City Council races.

Empower Sacramento, made up of minority and community groups, announced its endorsements on the steps of City Hall on Monday.

The group is supporting developer Allen Warren in north Sacramento's District 2 seat; attorney and disaster relief organization director Phyllis Newton in the District 4 seat covering Land Park and the central city; information technology consultant Mitch Netto in the District 6 race for Elmhurst and Tahoe Park; and former NAACP branch president Betty Williams in Meadowview's District 8.

May 11, 2012
Bounty hunter Padilla says 'Speed Freak Killer' Shermantine supports his mayoral run

Leonard Padilla hasn't sought the support of any of the city's labor unions or business groups. He even turned down an interview with the firefighters union.

But that doesn't mean the self-proclaimed world famous bounty hunter and mayoral candidate is without endorsements.

Padilla told me this week that serial killer Wes Shermantine is supporting his campaign. Shermantine, part of the so-called Speed Freak Killers duo, is on death row. Padilla has offered to pay him to reveal the locations of further victims.

May 11, 2012
Union boss bets candidate $1,000 he can't win Sacramento council race

Labor unions apparently aren't too fond of Mitch Netto.

Matt Kelly, head of the Sacramento-Sierra Building and Construction Trades Council, sent an email to Netto on Wednesday offering to bet him $1,000 that he can't beat incumbent Councilman Kevin McCarty in the race for City Council District 6. McCarty is closely aligned to the city's trade unions.

The Netto campaign had invited Kelly and others to a fund-raiser hosted by steel company executive Steve Ayers and former Councilman Robbie Waters. In his response, Kelly made it pretty clear what he thinks of Netto. His unedited email read:

May 11, 2012
Restaurateurs endorse Newton in Sacramento council race

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A new political action committee of local restaurateurs has made its first candidate endorsement.

The Greater Sacramento Restaurant Political Action Committee has endorsed Phyllis Newton, an attorney and non-profit director running for the council District 4. In addition to Land Park, that district covers midtown and downtown, where there is a high concentration of restaurants.

Seven candidates are vying for the seat.

May 10, 2012
Sacramento could owe you cash

Looking for a few extra bucks? The city might owe you.

City officials have published a list of unclaimed property they are holding, consisting of 15,032 items worth a combined $1.9 million. A searchable list of property can be found on the city's website.

That property includes uncashed vendor checks and utility account credit balances dating back to the early 1990s.

May 2, 2012
Mayor Johnson taking sides in Sacramento council races

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A pair of City Council races should be a good gauge of the mayor's political influence.

Mayor Kevin Johnson is backing former NAACP branch president Betty Williams in her run against Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell for the district representing Meadowview and other south Sacramento neighborhoods.

Johnson is also supporting developer Allen Warren in the packed north Sacramento race to replace Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy, who is stepping down.

May 1, 2012
Mayor urges Sacramento public safety unions to agree to pension changes

He may have side-stepped the issue a bit last week, but Mayor Kevin Johnson now says the battered city budget will be his focus this month.

Johnson told reporters this morning that he wants to be "actively involved" in trying to convince the city's public safety unions to agree to contribute to their pensions. Faced with a $15.7 million deficit, city budget officials said nearly 100 cops and firefighters will be laid off if those workers don't pay the full share of the employee contribution of their CalPERS retirement plans. The city would continue to pay the employer share.

The budget was released on Thursday, the same day the mayor began talks with the owners of the Sacramento Kings in an attempt to revive the city's collapsed arena deal. The mayor was not immediately briefed on the budget and Johnson didn't answer budget-related questions from a television reporter on Thursday.

May 1, 2012
With 'Plan B' still in play, mayor acknowledges city won't have arena done by 2015

At the very least, the collapse of the city's arena plan has delayed the potential opening of a new facility.

As the city explores a "Plan B" to build a downtown arena without the Sacramento Kings, Mayor Kevin Johnson acknowledged today "we're not going to make 2015."

City officials had hoped to open a planned $391 million arena in the downtown railyard in time for the 2015/16 NBA season. That plan fell apart after the Kings' owners pulled out of a handshake agreement to help finance the project. As a result, pre-development work on the arena has been halted, making the city's target date unrealistic.

May 1, 2012
First phase of facelift for downtown Sacramento's Chavez Plaza completed

City crews have put the finishing touches on weeks of renovations to downtown's Cesar Chavez Plaza. And just in time for the park's peak season.

The first two phases of a major facelift of the park were completed just before the farmer's market returns to the plaza on Wednesday. The Friday Night Concert in the Park series kicks off on Friday.

So far, crews have installed raised planters at the corner entries to the plaza; put in new benches; made landscaping improvements; and replaced half the turf in the park. The $300,000 in work was funded by Quimby Act dollars collected from private development projects in the area.



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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