City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

July 31, 2012
Mayor Johnson's campaign fires back at Democratic Party

Mayor Kevin Johnson's campaign spokesman has demanded that the head of the local Democratic Party be removed after she asked for a city investigation into the use of City Hall resources by the mayor's nonprofits.

In a letter to Democratic Party of Sacramento County vice chairman Chris Parker, campaign consultant Steve Maviglio asks that party chairwoman Kerri Asbury be disciplined and removed from her post "for repeated violations of the Party's bylaws." Specifically, Maviglio charged that Asbury violated bylaws by working against Johnson - a Democrat.

"The last time I looked, the Sacramento County Democratic Party should be spending its energy and resources on electing Democrats - not attacking members of its own party -- particularly a Mayor who is actively raising funds for our presidential nominee and who just last week testified before the Democratic National Committee on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Mayors," Maviglio wrote, adding he believes Asbury has a "personal grudge" against the mayor.

July 31, 2012
Talking credit card scandal, politics and taxes on Insight

City Beat was in studio this morning on Insight with the show's (somewhat) new host, Beth Ruyak.

Not surprisingly, we talked credit cards - specifically the alleged misuse of credit cards by a former mayoral staffer; the county Democratic Party seeking an investigation into the mayor's nonprofits using City Hall resources; and taxes.

For the audio for the show, click below or on the show's website.

July 30, 2012
Seattle's NBA arena deal hits a snag

The Seattle City Council is balking at a proposal to build a new basketball arena south of the city's downtown.

A proposal to build a $490 million arena in Seattle has fueled hope that the NBA would return to the Northwest, following the departure in 2008 of the Sonics. And much of that hope was turned with a watchful eye toward Sacramento - and the belief among some in Seattle that the Kings are a prime target for relocation.

But now Seattle's own arena plans have hit a snag.

July 30, 2012
Local Dems want probe of Mayor Johnson - also a Democrat

The county's Democratic Party wants city officials to investigate Sacramento's Democrat mayor.

The chair of the Democratic Party of Sacramento sent a letter to city officials on Friday asking for an investigation into the use of City Hall space by Mayor Kevin Johnson's non-profit foundations. Those groups - including his arena task force and initiatives on the arts, green technology and education - use space on the third floor of City Hall, along with other mayoral staffers.

Records sought by the Democratic Party apparently show that none of the groups have "lease agreements or any other arrangements to compensate the City of Sacramento for the office space they occupy," wrote Kerri Asbury, the party's chair.

July 25, 2012
Ex-aide to Mayor Kevin Johnson under criminal investigation

The Sacramento Police Department is launching a criminal investigation into the credit card use of former mayoral aide Lisa Serna-Mayorga, police officials announced today.

Details of the investigation have not been made available yet, but police investigators will be working with the Sacramento District Attorney's Office and the city manager's office in the probe, according to police spokesman Andrew Pettit.

Serna-Mayorga resigned last week after it was revealed she made thousands of dollars in personal purchases using her city-issued credit card, sources have told The Bee. The purchases - estimated at $9,000 - included a trip to Disneyland, gasoline and groceries, the sources said.

July 25, 2012
Sacramento councilman: Audit credit card use soon in wake of scandal

City Hall's reaction to the ongoing credit card scandal is picking up speed.

Councilman Steve Cohn, the chair of the council's audit committee, told me today he wants City Manager John Shirey to find a way to push up a planned audit of citywide credit card use.

City Auditor Jorge Oseguera had not planned to launch that audit until September, due to limited staffing (the auditor assigned to the credit card work is finishing up another audit). But Cohn says he wants the audit to start sooner and be finished by September.

July 24, 2012
Sacramento council formally places sales tax hike on ballot

The Sacramento City Council on Tuesday night formally placed a half-percentage-point increase on the city sales tax on the November ballot.

Council members last week indicated they supported asking the voters to approve the increase. Tuesday's unanimous vote made the ballot measure official.

A half-percentage-point hike in the sales tax would generate an estimated $28 million a year. It would also raise the city's sales tax rate to 8.25 percent - tied with Galt for the highest in the region.

July 24, 2012
Sacramento officials begin to react to credit card scandal

City officials are beginning to react to the news that a mayoral aide resigned last week after it was revealed she allegedly racked up $9,000 in personal charges on her city-issued credit card. But questions remain on how the charges were made - and how they went unnoticed - in the first place.

City Auditor Jorge Oseguera said today that his office is expected to begin an audit of every city-issued credit card in September. That audit has been planned since February. While Oseguera did not know how many employees are granted credit cards, he said the cards are "used significantly throughout the city."

Meanwhile, City Manager John Shirey's office said he has "conferred with the Police Chief so that the matter can be reviewed for any possible criminal wrong doing."

July 20, 2012
Food truck vendors, restaurateurs make good progress in talks

City officials, restaurateurs and food truck vendors held what was described as a productive meeting Friday, as the sides attempt to resolve a series of issues surrounding Sacramento's food truck craze.

Councilman Jay Schenirer, who helped organize the meeting, told me he was "very pleased with both the brick and mortar restaurants' and food trucks vendors' desires to move to a win-win situation." Schenirer said he could not provide details of which issues were resolved, as city staffers work to draft ordinance language that will eventually be debated by the City Council.

The sides agreed to meet again Aug. 3 and hope to finalize the rules at that time. The ordinance language will then move onto the City Council's Law and Legislation Committee either later this summer or in the early fall. The City Council will then debate the issue later this year.

July 17, 2012
Pension talks resume between Sacramento cops, city officials

Nearly three weeks after more than a dozen city cops were laid off, talks have resumed between the police union and city officials over pension concessions that would restore those positions.

Dustin Smith, the acting president of the Sacramento Police Officers Association, told me today that his organization and the city are "trying to see if there is any type of resolution that would fulfill both sides' needs."

City officials want police officers to pay the entirety of their employee pension contributions. The city picks up the tab for both the employee and employer shares of police retirements.

July 3, 2012
Mayor Johnson: Arena 'Plan B' won't work, focus will broaden

Mayor Kevin Johnson's "Plan B" for a downtown arena is officially dead.

AEG, the international arena operator tapped to help fund a proposed arena in the downtown railyard, has determined the project does not make economic sense without an anchor sports tenant. The Sacramento Kings pulled out of a plan to help finance an arena earlier this year.

"The economics just didn't pencil out," the mayor said, describing AEG's concerns. AEG had previously agreed to contribute $58.75 million toward the arena in exchange for operating the facility and receiving a large chunk of the profits.

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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