City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

October 31, 2012
Sacramento touted as America's 'Farm-to-Fork Capital'

Flanked by more than three dozen of the region's most notable chefs and restaurateurs, Mayor Kevin Johnson proclaimed Sacramento "America's Farm-to-Fork Capital" today.

Standing in downtown's Cesar Chavez Plaza as shoppers browsed through the weekly farmer's market, Johnson said the designation would serve as a strong marketing tool for the region.

"This is one of the cool things in Sacramento," the mayor said. "Everyone is always talking about what's wrong with Sacramento, but this is the best of Sacramento. We are learning to play to our strengths."

October 26, 2012
Former council candidate launches questionable website

A failed candidate for Sacramento City Council is apparently still trying to influence the campaign.

Terry Schanz, who finished fourth in the June primary for the District 4 seat covering Land Park and the Central City, has registered a website at, according to domain registration records. The website address is a reference to the Stonewall Democrats of Sacramento, the largest gay and lesbian political organization in the region.

Problem is, Stonewall's real website is

October 25, 2012
Mayor Johnson: Vote no on charter panel, but here are my picks if it passes

Mayor Kevin Johnson doesn't want you to vote to create a charter commission next month. But, like some others in the city who share that position, he also wants to cover his bases.

Johnson is urging city voters to shoot down Measure M, which would create an elected commission tasked with exploring changes to the way the city is governed. If it passes, however, the mayor has picked 15 candidates for the panel. Some labor and business groups also oppose the commission but are running slates of candidates of their own.

The mayor's full list of endorsements, including the charter candidates, can be found here.

October 24, 2012
Sacramento City Hall continues to scale back credit card use

City Auditor Jorge Oseguera has echoed the statements of other top city officials: the number of credit cards in use by the city workforce should be scaled back.

Oseguera recommended reducing the number of accounts in circulation - something that City Manager John Shirey has already begun doing.

Shirey has taken away 68 credit cards since news broke this summer that a former mayoral aide had allegedly used her city-issued card for personal purchases, city spokeswoman Amy Williams told me today. The city is now at 224 cards for a workforce of about 3,800 employees, Williams said.

October 23, 2012
Sacramento's backyard chicken ordinance turns a year old

Sacramento's chicken ordinance is a year old. And so far, it appears many hen-keepers are scofflaws.

One year after the City Council passed an ordinance permitting residents to keep up to three egg-laying hens in their backyards, the number of permits filed with the city is far below projections.

As of this month, 39 city residents had purchased permits to keep hens. Those residents licensed a total of 102 chickens, according to a city staff report. City officials had estimated as many as 100 permits and 300 licenses would have been purchased by now.

October 19, 2012
Credit card use for Sacramento City Council revealed

Members of the City Council and their employees charged $406,945 on their city-issued credit cards between July 2008 and July 2012. But the activity varies widely office to office and, in some cases, the city was reimbursed for large travel charges.

For a list of the charges, click here: CC-Mayor-Cards.xlsx

Let's start with Councilman Steve Cohn's office. Records show his chief of staff, Sue Brown, made $78,321 in charges with her card - the most of anyone else in the council and mayor offices. However, roughly $16,000 of those charges were reimbursed for travel charges that Cohn made for trips.

October 18, 2012
City credit card scandal expands to second former Mayor Johnson aide

The city's ongoing credit card probe has expanded to involve a second former aide to Mayor Kevin Johnson, The Bee has learned.

Keith Hart, whom Johnson hired as the chief service officer in 2010, is the subject of a police department inquiry over the use of his city-issued credit card, Officer Doug Morse told The Bee today.

Hart's credit card use came into question during an examination of the credit card accounts for members of the City Council, the mayor and the staffers in those offices.

October 17, 2012
New Sacramento city attorney named

City Hall has a new attorney.

The City Council is expected to finalize an employment agreement Tuesday with James Sanchez as the new city attorney. Sanchez resigned from his post as Fresno city attorney today.

"I'm truly committed to local government, having served in many governmental positions over the years, and I welcome the opportunity to bring my experience to bear in our state's capital," Sanchez said in a statement released by the city.

October 17, 2012
Two big forums on Sacramento politics scheduled for tonight

Two of the biggest candidate forums in city politics will take place tonight.

In north Sacramento's District 2, council candidates Rob Kerth and Allen Warren will take part in a forum at the Artisan Building at 1901 Del Paso Blvd. The event - moderated by yours truly - is sponsored by the Del Paso Boulevard Partnership. It starts with a 6 p.m. reception, followed by the forum at 7 p.m.

On the other side of the city, the Land Park Community Association is conducting a candidate and ballot measure forum from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at California Middle School, 1600 Vallejo Way.

October 16, 2012
Mayor Johnson to campaign for Obama in North Carolina

Mayor Kevin Johnson is hitting the road for the president tonight.

As he has for much of the past month, Johnson will campaign for President Barack Obama for the rest of the week, this time in the swing state of North Carolina. Johnson has also campaigned for Obama in Florida, Arizona and around California.

"It is critically important for Sacramento and America to re-elect President Obama," Johnson said in a written statement. "With the race tightening, I'm doing all I can in a swing state to make sure that we continue to move America forward with the president's leadership."

October 16, 2012
Councilman Schenirer: City's business climate must improve

Following the closure of two large businesses - and after years of financial instability - Sacramento City Hall is talking about changing its business culture.

Councilman Jay Schenirer today unveiled a list of proposals aimed at improving the city's economic condition. Schenirer was flanked by regional business leaders, three council members, City Manager John Shirey and Mayor Kevin Johnson.

Schenirer's proposal will be folded into a broader five-year economic development strategy to be released by Shirey before the end of the year.

October 11, 2012
Sacramento City Hall starts 'whistleblower' hotline

The city today launched a whistleblower program to protect employees who report misdeeds from retaliation. The program will include a 24-hour hotline.

Councilman Kevin McCarty first proposed the whistleblower concept in 2009 following a scandal in the development department involving new home permits issued in the Natomas flood zone.

"This effort will both increase accountability and help prevent waste, fraud or abuse," McCarty said.

October 11, 2012
Mayor's gang task force meets to discuss prevention efforts

Mayor Kevin Johnson convened a meeting of his gang task force this morning to discuss the committee's plan to tackle gang violence.

The task force conducted a training series of gang intervention workers from local schools, faith leaders and other community leaders today at the George Sim Community Center.

Johnson's task force released its strategic plan earlier this month. That plan - the result of 18 months worth of research and community input - calls for an emphasis on gang prevention above enforcement.

October 9, 2012
Mayor Johnson, Berkeley chef Waters start 'edible schoolyard'

Mayor Kevin Johnson launched an "edible schoolyard" at Sacramento Charter High School this morning. He was joined in the venture by renowned Berkeley chef Alice Waters.

The Edible Sac High program was coordinated by Johnson's Greenwise clean technology initiative. As part of the program, students at the Oak Park school will operate a garden, a kitchen classroom and a cafeteria on campus. It is modeled after the edible schoolyard program launched by Waters at Berkeley's Martin Luther King, Jr., Middle School.

Johnson said the Sac High school yard will "teach our children the skills and knowledge necessary for them to be healthy for life." Winter crops will be planted soon and plans call for the garden - along with trees provided by the Sacramento Tree Foundation - to be in place by next summer.

October 4, 2012
Mayor Johnson tweets photos of himself getting out of shower, sleeping

Mayor Kevin Johnson showed a lot of himself to the world today.

Johnson tweeted a photo of himself getting out of the shower wearing nothing but a red City Year jacket and a towel wrapped around his waist. The jacket was a gift of the City Year education non-profit, which held its official launch in Sacramento on Wednesday. During the ceremony, Johnson said he was never taking the jacket off.

"I said I'm serious about my new @CityYear jacket! Turns out it's water proof! Photo credit Michelle Rhee," the Tweet read, mentioning his wife.

October 3, 2012
City Year mentoring program launches in Sacramento schools

Mayor Kevin Johnson's job description doesn't call for a lot of involvement in city schools.

But in another sign that Johnson considers the state of public education in Sacramento his key concern - perhaps above all other issues - the mayor presided Wednesday over the launch of City Year in five city schools. The national non-profit will place 50 young tutors and mentors in challenged urban schools who will focus on improving attendance records and course work for students who are falling behind.

Johnson spearheaded a movement to raise $4 million that will fund City Year here for the next three school years.

October 2, 2012
Council to form committee to oversee sales tax increase

The City Council wants you to feel extra comfortable voting to raise the sales tax.

The council is expected to vote tonight to create a citizens oversight committee that would be charged with overseeing how the estimated $28 million in annual revenue generated by a proposed sales tax is spent. As I reported today, the city wants to raise the sales tax a half of a percentage point through Measure U on the November ballot.

If the tax measure passes, the oversight committee would be made up of a certified public accountant with audit experience; a representative of the business community; someone from a neighborhood group; a representative of a taxpayer association; and a member of the community chosen at-large.

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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