City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

August 29, 2012
Mayor Johnson to address college Dems at DNC convention

Mayor Kevin Johnson will be the keynote speaker at a gathering of the College Democrats of America this week at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

More than 300 college Democrats are expected to attend the Friday morning event. Alejandra Salinas, the president of the College Democrats of America, said in a statement that Johnson "is a great advocate for student issues and is a mentor to college Dems everywhere."

This is another example of Johnson being more popular with Democrats outside Sacramento than with Democrats in his hometown. Johnson did secure the endorsement of the Young Democrats of Sacramento, but other major Democratic clubs locally have never supported his political ambitions. The mayor has, however, held Obama fundraisers, been endorsed by notable Democrats at the statewide level, and he addressed the Democratic National Committee at an event in Minneapolis last month.

August 28, 2012
Virginia Beach arena plan short on details, doesn't mention Kings

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - For now, it seems Kings fans don't have to lay awake at night worrying about this city stealing their team.

City officials presented only a preliminary plan today to construct an 18,500-seat arena a few blocks from the oceanfront. But they didn't present a financing plan, provided only a cost estimate and - most importantly to Sacramento basketball fans - didn't mention any potential sports teams as tenants.

In fact, the president of the sports and entertainment firm pitching the idea to the City Council went out of his way to distance the effort from the Kings.

August 28, 2012
Virginia Beach officials hearing arena plan details

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The City Council here is hearing the preliminary plans to build an 18,000-seat arena that would house a professional basketball or hockey franchise.

While officials have said they have not identified a potential tenant for the facility, the proposal has sparked speculation that the city is trying to lure the Sacramento Kings.

For those who have watched Sacramento's arena saga play out over the past decade, today's hearing will seem familiar.

Watch it live here.

Follow the Bee's Ryan Lillis, who is live at the meeting.

August 27, 2012
Assessing Virginia Beach as a suitor of the Sacramento Kings

virginia_beachB.jpgVIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- First it was Anaheim. Then Seattle. Now it's this seaside resort city on the Atlantic being mentioned as a potential suitor of the Sacramento Kings.

I arrived here late Sunday to assess how serious a threat this area is to luring the Kings from Sacramento. The City Council is scheduled Tuesday to hear the details of a proposal by Comcast-Spectacor to build an 18,000-seat arena that would house a major league sports franchise.

While officials have declined to identify a potential tenant for that arena, the Kings are the focus of the press coverage here and several media outlets have quoted sources saying the Sacramento team is a target.

August 17, 2012
What does the future hold for Sacramento's Downtown Plaza?

Got ideas for Downtown Plaza?

News this week that the mall had been purchased by JMA Ventures of San Francisco sent a wave of euphoria through downtown and City Hall. Naturally, the first thought on everyone's mind was what will become of a mall that city officials complain had been neglected by its former owner, Westfield.

I've heard a few ideas thrown about. More than one person has mentioned they'd like to see a ski and snowboarding shop in the mall - something that might connect well with JMA's other properties in the Lake Tahoe area. There's even been talk of a snowboarding half-pipe being set up inside the mall.

August 17, 2012
Group files lawsuit over Sacramento sales tax measure

A local watchdog group has filed a lawsuit seeking to have its argument in opposition to the city's November sales tax measure placed in sample ballots.

Eye on Sacramento filed the lawsuit after Mayor Kevin Johnson - who had volunteered to pen the opposition argument to Measure U - failed to get his statement in before the deadline. The group, which has generally been an ally of the mayor's, called Johnson's mishap a "stunning failure."

As it stands now, no opposition argument to the half-percentage-point sales tax hike will appear in ballot pamphlets sent to voters this fall. There is a supporting argument.

August 17, 2012
Ceremony planned for iconic tree being taken down in midtown

A ceremony has been planned for Tuesday to honor the landmark camphor tree at 18th Street and Capitol Avenue in midtown that is scheduled to be cut down next week.

The event was organized by neighborhood groups and restaurants near the large tree, which was planted in 1886 but is infested with a fungal disease called verticillium wilt. City arborists said the tree cannot be saved and will be taken down Wednesday.

The Handle District neighborhood organization, Midtown Business Association, and Paesano's and Mangia restaurants are hosting the ceremony from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on the patio at Paesano's.

August 14, 2012
Sacramento council approves sister cityhood with Ashkelon, Israel

The Sacramento City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to name Ashkelon, Israel, as a sister city.

Most of those in a packed City Council Chambers stood and applauded following the vote. The council vote followed an hour of impassioned - but mostly civil - testimony from supporters and opponents.

It was an unusually tense hearing for a sister city program that, until now, had operated without much controversy.

An overflow crowd of more than 250 people gathered inside the City Council Chambers and in the main foyer of City Hall. Some held Israeli flags; other wore T-shirts reading, "Got human rights? Palestinians don't."

Supporters of the plan expressed disappointment that the proposal had resulted in a political debate over Middle Eastern policy. Opponents of the proposal decried city officials for forming a bond with a city in a country they charge violates human rights.

August 14, 2012
Huge crowd on hand as Sacramento council debates sister city

An overflow crowd has assembled at City Hall, where the City Council will debate naming Ashkelon, Israel, a sister city of Sacramento. More than 250 people have packed the City Council Chambers and the foyer of City Hall.


Opponents of the proposal have decried what they say are human rights violations by Israel. A handful of protesters are wearing T-shirts reading, "Got human rights? Palestinians don't."

Supporters of the plan have said they are disappointed the naming of Ashkelon as a sister city has become a political issue.

August 14, 2012
Sacramento sister city controversy draws attention from Capitol

SISTERCITY.JPGRarely does an issue at City Hall garner much attention from the Capitol. But a proposal to link Sacramento as a sister city with Ashkelon, Israel, has attracted the support of 10 legislators.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat and former councilman, plans to attend tonight's council hearing and speak in support of the sister city plan, his staff aides said.

Steinberg is one of 10 legislators who sent a letter to Mayor Kevin Johnson and the City Council last week urging them to support the Ashkelon proposal. That group was led by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis).

August 13, 2012
Mayor Johnson might sue City Clerk over ballot argument flap


Mayor Kevin Johnson is thinking about suing the woman who sits next to him at every City Council meeting.

Johnson's political spokesman, Steve Maviglio, told me today that a lawsuit against City Clerk Shirley Concolino is "being explored" to try and force the mayor's opposition argument to a sales tax measure onto ballot literature. It's not clear what recourse the mayor has, given that the deadline was in writing and other groups were able to get their arguments filed in time.

August 13, 2012
Interest groups pay ballot fees for city charter panel candidates

A dozen of the 54 candidates running for the city's elected charter commission had their candidate statement fees paid for by interest groups, according to a list provided to The Bee this morning.

Of those candidates, eight had a portion of their fees funded by the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce's political action committee. Officials with the City Clerk's office said they have checked with state elections officials and the arrangement is permitted.

All together, the Metro Chamber PAC cut checks for $11,300 to help candidates it is supporting pay for a ballot statement. The full list of candidates whose statements were funded by interest groups can be found here: CharterCandidatesFunding.xlsx

August 10, 2012
Former Sacramento mayor Fargo among 56 candidates for charter panel

Turns out, there are more than just a few people interested in spending the next two years diving into the city's constitution.

A grand total of 56 city residents have filed paperwork seeking to run for a seat on the elected charter commission (the signatures collected by 17 candidates are still being verified). Voters will be asked in November if they want to create that commission and, if so, to choose 15 candidates to serve on the panel.

Many of the names on the candidate list are recognizable, most notably former Mayor Heather Fargo.

August 9, 2012
Mayor Johnson fails to write argument against tax measure


After volunteering to write the ballot argument opposing a sales tax measure on the November ballot, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson failed to get the language for that argument filed on time. That means city voters will only see a supporting argument in sample ballots sent to their homes this fall.

Johnson had volunteered in July to write the argument opposing the half-percentage-point increase. It's unclear if the argument was written, but it's certain that his aides didn't file the paperwork with the City Clerk before Wednesday's deadline.

August 8, 2012
Sacramento City Council expected to audit its credit card use

As the criminal probe into questionable credit card use at City Hall moves along, the City Council is expected Thursday to fund an external audit of credit card transactions by the mayor and council offices.

Based on a list provided Friday by the city, it appears that roughly a dozen employees in the mayor and council offices have active credit cards. There's at least one card in every council office, but no employees in Mayor Kevin Johnson's office have cards, according to the city.

Council members want to hire an external auditor to look at their credit card use because the city auditor answers to the council and having him conduct the inquiry would represent a conflict of interest.

August 7, 2012
Landmark midtown Sacramento tree to be removed

A midtown landmark is about to be removed.

The large camphor tree at 18th and Capitol - planted more than 120 years ago - is scheduled to be taken down on Aug. 22. The tree has been in decline for a couple of years and "there's no turning things around," city spokeswoman Linda Tucker tells me.

In the meantime, neighborhood groups are discussing ways to commemorate the tree with a ceremony on Aug. 21.

August 7, 2012
Former Sacramento mayor Fargo interested in city charter panel

The growing list of potential candidates for the city's elected charter commission now includes a former mayor.

Former two-term Mayor Heather Fargo picked up campaign papers from the City Clerk's office Monday, the first step in declaring her candidacy for the commission. Fargo was among 10 city residents who picked up papers on Monday, bringing the list of potential candidates to 67.

Joining Fargo in expressing interest in the commission were Jonathan Rewers, a city parks commissioner who ran unsuccessfully for mayor this spring; Kerri Asbury, chair of the Democratic Party of Sacramento County; architect Bruce Starkweather; and Raquel Simental, a public affairs director for Planned Parenthood.

August 3, 2012
City withholding credit card records sought in wake of scandal

Sacramento officials are refusing to release credit card records sought by The Bee and other media outlets in response to the recent scandal involving a mayoral aide's alleged personal use of her city-issued credit card.

In a letter to The Bee sent late Friday, the city attorney's office wrote that the police department has determined that credit card statements for all city employees are evidence in an ongoing criminal investigation of former mayoral staffer Lisa Serna-Mayorga. The Bee has asked for credit card statements for all city workers going back to 2008.

"Premature disclosure of this evidence could hinder voluntary and candid participation in the investigation by city employees and other witnesses, including members of the public," the letter stated. "At this time, the interest in maintaining the integrity of the ongoing investigative process outweighs the public interest served by disclosure."

August 3, 2012
Sacramento charter panel attracting dozens of candidates

There appears to be quite a few people interested in spending the next two years on an unpaid job examining the city's constitution.

As of the close of business Thursday, 57 candidates had picked up campaign paperwork from the City Clerk's office for the elected charter commission, the first step toward getting their names on the November ballot. If the commission is approved in November, voters will choose 15 names from the list.

There are still nearly five business days left to jump into the race and some candidates may not follow through on handing in enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. And while it's very unlikely the commission will attract a pool of 135 candidates - the number who ran for governor in the '03 recall - it appears the city may be forced to fund an extra ballot page to accommodate all the candidate names.

August 2, 2012
Mayor Johnson spent big in re-election, despite mocking opponents

Mayor Kevin Johnson sure spent a lot of campaign cash for a guy who didn't think too highly of his competition.

Newly-released campaign finance documents show Johnson spent a total of $541,281 on the June primary. That's compared to just a few hundred bucks by his three competitors combined.

That spending was part of what was a record year in city elections. I'll have more on that in an upcoming Bee article.

August 1, 2012
Mayor Johnson asks to pen opposing argument against tax hike

How much does Mayor Kevin Johnson dislike the idea of a sales tax hike in the city? He's volunteered to write the opposition argument against the proposal.

Johnson told his City Council colleagues Tuesday night he was "totally comfortable in being the author for the opposition argument on the sales tax measure." That measure, which will appear on the November ballot, is seeking a half-percentage-point increase in the sales tax.

If the increase passes, the city's sales tax rate would match Galt's for the highest in the region at 8.25 percent. But the new tax would also generate an estimated $28 million annually for a city that has battled five straight years of large budget deficits.

August 1, 2012
Anti-arena campaign bankrolled by retirees, Sandy Sheedy

Some political campaigns are funded by unions. Others by business groups, philanthropists or developers.

The defunct campaign to stop public funding of a downtown sports arena? Well, that group has a new demographic to thank for its short-lived crusade: retirees.

According to newly-released campaign finance records, 13 of the 21 people who donated to STOP (Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork) listed their occupation as "retired." What's more, the largest contributor to the cause was Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy - who is about to enter retirement when she steps down from the council later this year.

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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