City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

June 29, 2012
Sacramento firefighter union ratifies labor deal, saving 44 jobs

The Sacramento city firefighters union has ratified an agreement with city labor officials that will save 44 jobs and require firefighters to pay the employee shares of their pensions. The agreement was announced this afternoon.

The deal must now be approved by the City Council.

Meanwhile, Friday was the last day of work for 16 city police officers who were laid off after negotiations between their union and city officials broke down last week.

The city has reached labor pacts with three of its four largest unions. Local 39 - which represents most employees not in public safety - and a union representing mid-level managers and support staff have also agreed to deals on pension concessions.

June 29, 2012
Sixteen Sacramento cops lose their jobs today, no deal in sight

Today is the last day of work for 16 city police officers who are losing their jobs after negotiations between their union and city officials broke down last week.

Meanwhile, city firefighters will conclude voting today on a tentative agreement their union came to with the city that would require those employees to pay their share of their pensions. If the agreement is ratified, it would save 44 firefighter jobs.

Results of that vote are not expected to be announced until early next week.

June 25, 2012
Big box shows up on K Street, mystery ensues

Is it a new mermaid tank? A light rail station? An arena?

No, no and no. Actually, we don't really know what the city is building on K Street today, but it definitely has something to do with the environment.

City crews are constructing a 30 foot by 30 foot by 30 foot cube in Cathedral Square today, part of the Cut Your Cubes campaign. The box is made out of scaffolding and mesh fabric and will be in Cathedral Square until Thursday.

June 25, 2012
Sacramento City Council adding to packed November ballot

Another week, another ballot measure from City Hall.

The City Council is expected Tuesday to draft a November ballot measure to repeal 1977's Measure A, which prohibited the city from requiring yard waste containers. Repealing Measure A would allow the city to move forward with a much broader revamping of waste collection in the city, including cutting back on yard waste collection by The Claw.

Just last week, the council decided to place an elected charter commission on the November ballot. The council is also discussing a possible sales tax measure in November, and two council races will be on the ballot as well.

June 21, 2012
Sacramento police union walks away from negotiations; layoffs imminent

Talks between city labor officials and the police union have broken down, meaning more than a dozen police officers will almost certainly lose their jobs at the end of the month.

Leaders of the Sacramento Police Officers Association notified city officials late Wednesday that they were walking away from the negotiating table. The union said it was backing away as a result of the City Council's decision on Tuesday to spend $621,000 on a November ballot measure seeking to create an elected charter commission.

"It seemed as discussions progressed, this became less about reform, saving jobs and fiscal responsibility and more about the council's political agenda," acting union president Dustin Smith said in a statement. Union leaders called the council charter commission vote "reckless."

June 19, 2012
Sacramento council likely to ask voters to create charter commission

The City Council is expected tonight to place a measure on the November ballot that would create an elected commission to explore changes to the way the city is governed.

That 15-member elected charter commission would take two years examining the city constitution. If changes are recommended, the new charter would go before the voters in 2014.

The idea of an elected commission was floated in February as a response to Mayor Kevin Johnson's most recent "strong mayor" proposal. Johnson had sought a ballot measure on his proposal to increase his job's authority, but the council rejected his request.

June 15, 2012
First light rail train rolls into station north of downtown Sacramento

The inaugural Sacramento light rail train on the Green Line rolled into a new station at 7th Street and Richards Boulevard this morning - another important step in the redevelopment of the industrial area north of downtown.

Elected officials who arrived on the first train could barely contain their excitement. Fireworks exploded as the green train arrived shortly before 11 a.m., met by more than 100 spectators.

"I am confident that the Green Line will lead us to a renaissance in the River District," said Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, referring to the neighborhood surrounding the new station.

June 14, 2012
Sacramento radio host Carmichael Dave launches comeback

A key figure in the fan-based effort to keep the Sacramento Kings in town is about to re-emerge.

Radio personality Carmichael Dave, recently fired by KHTK (1140 AM), will launch an internet radio station at 7 p.m. on Monday and co-host two weekday shows.

Dave - whose real name is Dave Weiglein - told me this week he will host a 10 a.m. show with former NFL quarterback and ESPN analyst Sean Salisbury. Later in the day, he'll have a show at 7 p.m. with Sean Thomas, his former co-host.

June 13, 2012
Sacramento City Council takes a bite out of Mayor Johnson's powers

Mayor Kevin Johnson may now be the weakest big city mayor in America.

In what the mayor's office considers "petty political game-playing," the City Council moved forward Tuesday with stripping the mayor of the power to appoint an office manager for the mayor and council wing of City Hall. Instead, after 25 years, the council wants the city clerk to take over that authority.

Appointing the mayor-council operations manager had been one of the very few citywide powers the mayor held. The office manager keeps track of council finances and other logistics.

June 13, 2012
NBA Commissioner Stern: Kings not moving - for now

NBA Commissioner David Stern had some words of encouragement Tuesday for Kings fans: the team isn't moving to Anaheim. At least not right now.

During a chat with reporters before the first game of the NBA Finals, Stern said "if there was a vote now (on a relocation request by the Kings), there would be no support for a move."

"And I believe the ownership says they're planning to stay there," Stern added. "On other situations, I might hazard a guess or a prognostication. On this one, I'm out of the business. For now."

June 12, 2012
Tentative deal with Sacramento firefighters would save 44 jobs

Sacramento officials have reached a tentative agreement with the city's firefighter union, a deal that would save 44 jobs.

While details of the tentative deal have not been released, the City Council has sought increased pension payments from firefighters to help fill a citywide $15.7 million deficit.

The council began a key budget hearing Tuesday night, during which it is scheduled to adopt its budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Officials have not reached a deal with the police union over pension concessions, meaning 19 police officers will likely be laid off tonight. Those layoffs would be reversed should a deal be reached before the end of the month.

June 12, 2012
Some on Sacramento council want to strip mayor of power to appoint office manager

It's not a big surprise, but another political - some might say personal - squabble is under way on City Hall's fifth floor.

Some council members - led by Sandy Sheedy - want to strip Mayor Kevin Johnson of the authority to appoint the mayor/council operations manager, who basically acts as the office manager for the city's elected officials. The mayor appoints a chief of staff and three other staff positions, but the council office manager is the only citywide job over which the mayor has unilateral appointment power.

Sheedy called for an item on tonight's council meeting agenda during which the council will discuss the mayor/council manager's job. While the front-burner issue is who that office manager has authority over, there is also talk that the council might wrestle away the mayor's control of the position.

June 12, 2012
Sacramento council to debate public safety layoffs; mayor urging pension reform

As the Sacramento City Council prepares to debate laying off dozens of police officers and firefighters tonight, Mayor Kevin Johnson is again urging for those workers to make pension concessions.

Meanwhile, city officials said the number of public safety workers slated to lose their jobs has gone down slightly, after several officers left voluntarily in recent days and weeks, creating vacancies in the police and fire departments.

As of today, 44 firefighters would be laid off and 19 police officers would be out of work if the council approves a budget plan tonight aimed at filling a $15.7 million deficit. Those numbers do not include a few dozen vacant positions that would also be cut.

June 12, 2012
Evangelist Luis Palau pokes fun at Mayor Johnson - and gets away with it

The short list of people who can stand in front of a bunch of reporters and make fun of Mayor Kevin Johnson apparently includes evangelists who have preached to a billion followers.

Luis Palau, described by many as the heir apparent to Billy Graham, is in town for a festival at Cal Expo this weekend expected to attract 50,000 people. Speaking at a press conference this morning at the downtown Sheraton to promote the event, Palau took the opportunity to let a few good-natured jabs fly at Johnson - who was sitting a few feet away.

The two have known one another since 1988, when Johnson was playing for the NBA's Phoenix Suns and Palau conducted a pre-game prayer service for Johnson.

June 11, 2012
Sacramento union representing managers, support staff agrees to pension and health care concessions

On the eve of a key budget hearing at City Hall, a new city union of management and administrative workers overwhelmingly ratified a labor agreement with the city based on increased pension and health contributions made by employees.

The deal with the Sacramento City Exempt Employees Association (SCXEA) was approved by nearly 83 percent of union members who voted on the deal in recent days, the union announced today. It is expected to be formally approved by the City Council at Tuesday night's council meeting.

Under the agreement, more than 550 employees in the union will pick up their entire share of their CalPERS contributions and new hires "will be placed in a retirement plan that has lower benefits," according to a statement released by the union. The city will continue to make an employer contribution toward employee pensions.

June 8, 2012
Sacramento council steps up talk on pensions, tax measure

The pension and sales tax debates are stepping up at City Hall.

During a discussion on a possible November sales tax ballot measure Thursday night, members of the City Council made their strongest comments to date on what they said was the need for pension reform with city unions.

The conversation included a request by Councilman Steve Cohn that the city attorney's office provide a legal opinion on a possible ballot measure on pension changes - much like San Diego and San Jose did this week. Cohn wants to know whether a ballot measure here requiring added employee contributions to pensions would be legal, given that those changes could supersede the collective bargaining process.

June 7, 2012
Shake-up at Mayor Johnson's office: Top two aides leaving

Mayor Kevin Johnson's top two staffers are leaving to head the mayor's Think Big arena task force.


Chief of Staff Kunal Merchant (pictured with Johnson, right) and Special Assistant R.E. Graswich are leaving to focus on the mayor's "Plan B" for an arena. That plan is exploring whether the city could build a downtown arena without the involvement of the Sacramento Kings.

It seems unlikely an arena would be built without the Kings, given that a $67 million loan the team has with the city would apparently be forgiven if the city built an NBA-quality facility that competes with Power Balance Pavilion.

June 7, 2012
Sacramento council's debate over tax hike continues tonight

A possible sales tax is back on the agenda for the City Council tonight.

The council is scheduled to hear a report at its meeting on options for placing a measure on the November ballot to raise the city sales tax by either one-quarter of a percentage point or one-half of a point. The process is moving quickly: the council could see a draft of an ordinance outlining the ballot measure language as early as June 26.

A vast majority of the City Council has expressed support for a sales tax measure. Mayor Kevin Johnson, however, has indicated he would oppose the measure.

June 5, 2012
Pannell declares victory in tense south Sacramento council race

pannell1.jpegCouncilwoman Bonnie Pannell (left) has declared victory in her bid for a fifth term.

With 32 of 33 precincts reporting, Pannell had taken 53 percent of the vote. Former NAACP branch president Betty Williams - a candidate backed heavily by Mayor Kevin Johnson - had 46 percent.

Pannell, who said the campaign was the toughest fight "in my life," said she would still try to work with the mayor.

"I can work with anyone," she said. "I'm there. He has to want to work with me."


Vote results: Customize your view

Voter guide: The candidates

Bee endorsements

June 5, 2012
Update: Land Park, downtown council race still very tight

As expected, the hotly-contested City Council race in Land Park and the Central City appears headed for the November election.

In returns updated late tonight, architect Joe Yee led with 27.7 percent of the vote. Biotech manager Steve Hansen followed close behind with 26.8 percent. Attorney and non-profit director Phyllis Newton had 24.5 percent.

If none of the candidates reaches 50 percent, the top two will face off in the November run-off.

June 5, 2012
Mayor Johnson declares victory in mayor's race

johnson.jpegMayor Kevin Johnson declared victory Tuesday evening after he won 58.3 percent of the vote in early returns. Johnson needs at least 50 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off in the November election.

Jonathan Rewers, a municipal finance manager and city parks commissioner, had secured 22.6 percent of the vote. Bounty hunter Leonard Padilla had 14.1 percent and insurance broker Richard Jones 4.4 percent.


Vote results: Customize your view

Voter guide: The candidates

Bee endorsements

June 5, 2012
Kerth, Warren emerge in North Sacramento council race

A City Council race in north Sacramento appears headed for the November run-off.

Former Councilman Rob Kerth led the packed field with the absentee votes counted, taking in 33.9 percent of the vote. Developer Allen Warren had 31.1 percent.

Kerth and Warren were followed by Misty Yaj, the first Hmong American to run for Sacramento City Council. Yaj had 13.4 percent.


Vote results: Customize your view

Voter guide: The candidates

Bee endorsements

June 5, 2012
Land Park, downtown council race appears headed for run-off

As expected, the hotly-contested City Council race in Land Park and the Central City appears headed for the November election.

In early returns, architect Joe Yee led with 27.7 percent of the vote. Biotech manager Steve Hansen followed close behind with 27.4 percent. Attorney and non-profit director Phyllis Newton had 24.1 percent.

If none of the candidates reach 50 percent, the top two will face off in the November run-off.


Vote results: Customize your view

Voter guide: The candidates

Bee endorsements

June 5, 2012
McCarty has large lead in Sacramento council race

Councilman Kevin McCarty looks poised to take a third term in the district representing Elmhurst, Tahoe Park and other neighborhoods on the city's southeast side.

McCarty received 74.2 percent of the absentee vote released soon after the polls closed at 8 p.m. He needs at least 50 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off.

McCarty's opponent, information technology manager Mitch Netto, had taken in 25.6 percent of the vote in early returns.


Vote results: Customize your view

Voter guide: The candidates

Bee endorsements

June 5, 2012
Pannell has comfortable lead in south Sacramento race

pannell.jpegCouncilwoman Bonnie Pannell had a comfortable lead after absentee ballots were counted.

Pannell had 54.5 percent of the vote in her bid for another term in the council seat representing Meadowview and parts of Valley Hi.

Former NAACP branch president Betty Williams had 44.8 percent of the vote.


Vote results: Customize your view

Voter guide: The candidates

Bee endorsements

June 5, 2012
Mayor Johnson watching Sacramento council races closely

Mayor Kevin Johnson has a lot invested in today's election.

Not only is he seeking another term, but Johnson has campaigned for candidates in south and north Sacramento.

Taking a break from speaking to voters outside the Clunie Community Center in McKinley Park, the mayor said he was "just really excited to be on the ballot and have a chance to serve four more years in Sacramento." Johnson is challenged by municipal finance manager and city parks commissioner Jonathan Rewers, bounty hunter Leonard Padilla and insurance broker Richard Jones.

June 5, 2012
Sacramento city politics gaining more attention, cash

City politics continue to grow up.

A record field of candidates is seeking seats on the City Council today, bolstered by seven-figure bankrolls.

Seventeen candidates are vying for the four council seats in play today, the most going back at least 20 years. Those candidates have raised just over $1 million, the second election in a row that the council races crossed the $1 million fundraising mark.

June 1, 2012
Campaign to force public vote on Sacramento arena is dead

The campaign to force a public vote on a downtown sports arena is dead - for now.

Campaign organizers failed to get the 21,000 valid signatures they needed for a November ballot measure asking voters whether they approved of public assistance for an arena in the downtown railyard. Organizers would not say how short they fell of that total, but said they are considering regrouping for a later election.

At the same time, the group is taking some credit for the collapse of a tentative agreement between the city and the Sacramento Kings. The team's owners backed out of the deal in April, citing both financial concerns and the signature-gathering campaign seeking to put the project to a vote.

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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