City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

October 29, 2013
Natural Foods Co-op wins vote for 28th and R store
The Sacramento City Council gave its blessing tonight to a plan by the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op to construct a new retail center along the R Street corridor in midtown.

The plan to build a new store at 28th and R streets had received the unanimous approval of the city's Planning and Design Commission. But that approval was appealed by Co-Op member Michael Garabedian, who argued the design was too "autocentric."

The council agreed with the planning commission and denied Garabedian's appeal. Co-Op leaders said they hope to begin construction next year on a parking facility and finish construction of the store summer 2015.
September 5, 2013
Police begin arrests of Wal-Mart protesters in downtown Sacramento

Roughly 75 people are taking part in a protest against Wal-Mart at downtown's Cesar Chavez Plaza and police have begun arresting some of those involved. Sacramento police had arrested nine protesters as of 5:20 p.m.

The protesters are charging that the giant retail chain underpays its workers and has retaliated against employees who called for better jobs. The protest is one of many taking place around the country.

Assemblymembers Roger Dickinson, Richard Pan and Lorena Gonzalez were expected to attend the event, which was put together by the Organization United for Respect at Walmart, also known as OUR Walmart.

September 5, 2013
Former school board member to face former fire chief in City Council race

Two well-known candidates have emerged for the City Council seat representing the Pocket/Greenhaven and Valley Hi neighborhoods.

Former city school board member and Oakland Raider Rick Jennings announced in a press release today that he would seek the seat being vacated by Councilman Darrell Fong, who is leaving the post to run for state Assembly after one term.

Jennings will face former city Fire Chief Julius Cherry, who told me today he is also running for the seat.

August 20, 2013
Sacramento City Council eases restrictions on 'big-box' stores

The Sacramento City Council eased the city's restrictions of big-box superstores Tuesday night following a contentious two-hour debate that pitted some of the region's top business interests against influential labor leaders.

By a 6-2 vote, the council erased most of a 2006 ordinance that required superstore chains to conduct wage and benefit studies of nearby businesses before being permitted to build new facilities. Complex economic impact studies will also be waived for stores seeking to expand, or open in "food deserts" or some major planned developments.

The City Council chambers were packed for the hearing, with those who opposed easing the restrictions outnumbering those who advocated for easing the restrictions by a 2-1 margin.

July 9, 2013
Three seek leap from Sacramento City Hall to Capitol

City Hall has long been viewed as a springboard to the state Capitol or other higher office. The line for the springboard is particularly long right now.

Three council members are trying to make the leap to the state Assembly - Steve Cohn, Darrell Fong and Kevin McCarty. They're attempting to follow in the footsteps of five other City Hall politicians who have won seats in the Assembly since the 1980s.

The campaigns will make for some interesting council dynamics between now and next June's primary. McCarty and Cohn are running against one another for Assembly District 7, which represents most of the city, West Sacramento, and parts of Antelope and North Highlands.

May 8, 2013
Sacramento moves forward with tighter gun store regulations

City Hall took a step this week toward placing tighter regulations on gun sales in Sacramento.

The City Council's Law and Legislation Committee voted on Tuesday to recommend that new businesses seeking to sell firearms be required to obtain special use permits. The proposed ordinance will now be passed on to the full City Council for a vote.

Gun and ammo stores are currently classified as retail stores under current city code and can open in industrial or commercial zones. A special permit restriction would require the shops to get approval from the city's planning and design commission, which would analyze proposed sites and could place conditions on the establishments.

May 7, 2013
Solar panel farm planned for Sutter's Landing Park in midtown

The City Council is expected tonight to approve the construction of a solar panel farm on about four acres of land at Sutter's Landing Park in midtown.

City officials had originally proposed placing a much larger solar farm atop the former landfill in the park. But that plan was opposed by environmental groups, who said the old dump is a pivotal feeding ground for the threatened Swainson's hawk.

The scaled-back solar facility will now be placed on 3.7 acres of asphalt next to the dog park at Sutter's Landing. Solar panels will also be placed in the dog park for shade and on a carport structure in a nearby parking lot.

April 29, 2013
Sacramento budget: more cops, but only with pension help

The Sacramento city manager has proposed hiring dozens of new police officers - but only if the city's existing cops agree to pay into their pensions.

In his 2013-14 budget released Monday, City Manager John Shirey proposed hiring 58 uniformed police officers with funding from a recent increase in the city sales tax. Those officers - hired over the next 18 months - would beef up street patrols and help the department investigate more violent felonies.

But Shirey said he would withdraw that recommendation if the Sacramento Police Officers Association, the union representing city police officers and sergeants, does not agree to have its members pick up the full employee contribution into their pensions by July 1.

April 23, 2013
Update: Councilman Schenirer now a mayor pro tem

What do you get when you combine a mayor who travels a lot with a vice mayor who's about to have a baby?

This isn't a bad joke. It's actually a question the Sacramento City Council faced tonight.

The council took the unusual - and maybe even unprecedented - step of appointing a mayor pro tem to run council meetings when Mayor Kevin Johnson and Vice Mayor Angelique Ashby aren't around. Councilman Jay Schenirer earned the honor, which comes with the added benefit of a couple of extra words in his title but no more money.

March 15, 2013
Sacramento plans three public forums to discuss arena plan

Responding to calls from the public and City Council for a more open discussion about the details of an arena financing plan, the city has now scheduled three forums next week to discuss the proposal.

The city is still negotiating the plan for an arena at Downtown Plaza with billionaire Ron Burkle and does not expect to release the details until Thursday.

The first forum is scheduled to be held that evening, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at City Hall, 915 I St. Another forum is slated for a week from today from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Robertson Center, 3525 Norwood Ave. The third forum is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on March 23 at the Pannell Center, 2450 Meadowview Rd.

March 12, 2013
Police officers, firefighters, pools funded by new Sacramento tax revenue

Dozens of new cops will be hired, nearly every pool in the city will be opened this summer and one fewer fire rig will be placed on rotating "brownout" under a spending plan approved tonight by the City Council.

The council voted 8-0 to approve how to spend the first $5 million in funds generated by Measure U, a half percentage point increase in the city sales tax approved by voters in November.

The $5 million covers the sales tax revenue through the end of the current fiscal year. The increase, which starts April 1, is expected to generate $27 million a year for the city.

March 5, 2013
Could longer speaker times help end the craziness at council meetings?

There are times when City Council meetings resemble bad open mic nights. There's one guy who comes every week to accuse the council of "pimping the people." Another guy has a tradition of pointing out the best houses in Oak Park to find drugs and prostitutes. Someone once angrily threw a wallet at the mayor.

Now, a local watchdog group says it has a solution that will increase the quality of the discourse Tuesday nights at City Hall: give the audience a little more time in the spotlight.

Eye on Sacramento has asked the City Council to increase the amount of time speakers from the public are given to address the council. One of Mayor Kevin Johnson's first acts when he was elected in 2008 was to cut those time slots to two minutes from three. Eye on Sacramento thinks the three-minute allotment - which they said "was in place for several decades" before Johnson took over - is better.

February 26, 2013
Sacramento Councilman Fong explains no vote on arena

Darrell Fong, one of two councilman to vote against a symbolic resolution last week expressing support for a city contribution to a new arena to keep the Kings here, explained his vote for the first time late Monday in a letter to constituents.

The first-term councilman said he was wary of supporting the resolution "due to the continued lack of information being provided to the Council."

"I cannot in good conscience vote to endorse a resolution or proposal without knowing exactly what I am being asked to support," he wrote. "That is like writing a blank check."

February 19, 2013
Sacramento council committee to debate plastic bag ban today

A Sacramento City Council subcommittee will take its first look today at a possible ban on plastic shopping bags at large grocery stores in the city.

The city's Law and Legislation Committee is expected to ask city staff to begin drafting an ordinance that would ban the bags and place a 5 cent or 10 cent charge on paper shopping bags. The process of approving an ordinance by the City Council would likely take at least two months.

Speaking at a press conference this morning at City Hall, advocates of a ban said regulating plastic bags would have a positive environmental impact on rivers, streams and ocean life.

February 13, 2013
Sacramento sets aside money to replant 'Victory Trees'

The City Council has approved key funding to begin planting between 50 and 100 trees along a stretch of Freeport Boulevard where dozens of "Victory Trees" afflicted with Dutch elm disease were cut down.

According to local legend, the trees were planted in the 1920s with seeds from European battlefields to honor Sacramento residents killed in World War I. The trees stood along Freeport Boulevard near the tiny hamlet of Freeport, but have been steadily cut down in recent years.

On Tuesday, the council approved using $90,000 from Caltrans to start planting trees between Meadowview Road and the southern border of the city. Councilman Darrell Fong, who represents most of that stretch of Freeport Boulevard, was a big proponent of the replanting.

January 8, 2013
Boy raises money to buy ambulance for Sacramento sister city in Israel

A 13-year-old boy will be honored by the City Council tonight for raising money to purchase an ambulance for the city of Ashkelon, Israel - Sacramento's newest sister city.

Robert Leeds, a lad from Los Angeles, asked that guests at his Bar Mitzvah donate money to buy the ambulance in lieu of gifts. The ambulance is a Magen David Adom (MDA) vehicle. The MDA is Israel's Red Cross.

"I realize that in life I have been very blessed," Leeds said in a statement released by Councilman Steve Cohn's office. "This is my Bar Mitzvah statement and the responsibility that I am taking on. It's my hope to show Israel and the city of Ashkelon that I stand with them and that's what becoming a man means to me."

December 31, 2012
Sacramento council to appoint vice mayor on Thursday

In its first order of business in the new year, the Sacramento City Council is scheduled to select a vice mayor for 2013 at its meeting Thursday.

Councilwoman Angelique Ashby served as vice mayor in 2012.

The job is a largely ceremonial distinction, but does involve running City Council meetings when Mayor Kevin Johnson is out of town - a situation that occurs with some frequency.

December 31, 2012
Kings drama, credit card scandal dominated Sacramento City Hall in 2012

The credit card scandal that struck City Hall - and has one of Mayor Kevin Johnson's former aides facing criminal charges - was the big story of the year on City Beat. The Kings, and the city's quest to build the team a new arena, was the other.

Here's the top 5 most viewed stories on the blog in 2012:

5. Record request another sign of strained Kings/city relationship, April 5

December 11, 2012
New Sacramento City Council takes office tonight

It's a little later than usual, but Sacramento's new City Council will be sworn in tonight at City Hall.

Newly-elected Council members Allen Warren and Steve Hansen will take the oath of office prior to the council's regular meeting. Both are coming off victories in November that were so narrow, election officials did not finalize the results until more than three weeks after the election.

Their victories also are another step in the ongoing transformation of City Hall. Five of the eight City Council seats have now changed hands in just the past two years.

November 30, 2012
Warren, Hansen declared winners in Sacramento council races

With the vote count finalized today, developer Allen Warren and biotech firm manager Steve Hansen have been elected to the Sacramento City Council.

Sacramento County elections officials released a final tally this afternoon that found Hansen had defeated architect Joe Yee by 173 votes in the race for District 4, the seat representing the Central City, Land Park and part of South Natomas. That slim margin existed after more than 26,000 votes were counted.

In north Sacramento, Warren prevailed over former Councilman Rob Kerth by 206 votes. A total of 13,281 votes were cast in that district. We'll update the blog as soon as I hear back from the candidates.

November 27, 2012
Warren appears headed for victory over Kerth in Sacramento council race

Developer Allen Warren, a native son of Del Paso Heights, appears to have been elected to the Sacramento City Council to represent the neighborhoods of north Sacramento.

In election results updated today, Warren led Rob Kerth - the area's former councilman - by 198 votes. That's a big increase over the 35-vote advantage Warren held last week. More than 13,000 votes have been counted.

Meanwhile, Steve Hansen - a biotech firm manager and downtown resident - maintained his lead over architect Joe Yee. Hansen leads by 135 votes, roughly the same margin as the last update. That race appears too close to call.

November 21, 2012
Handful of votes still separate candidates in Sacramento council races

County elections officials are down to 27,000 provisional ballots left to count. And even at that late stage, two City Council races remain divided by razor thin margins.

In a surprising development after results were updated today, Allen Warren has taken the lead over Rob Kerth in the race for the north Sacramento council seat. But Warren leads Kerth by just 35 votes after 12,697 votes were tallied.

Meanwhile, Steve Hansen maintained his lead over Joe Yee in the District 4 race in Land Park, the Central City and the River Oaks neighborhood of South Natomas. But Hansen's lead is still slim; just 139 votes separate the candidates after nearly 25,000 votes were tallied.

November 19, 2012
Two weeks later, two City Council races remain too tight to call

The outcomes of two City Council races remained practically unchanged in results posted today - meaning both races are still too close to call.

Rob Kerth widened his lead slightly over developer Allen Warren in the north Sacramento council race. Kerth now leads Warren by 169 votes - an increase of 14 votes - with more than 12,000 votes tallied in District 2.

In District 4, Steve Hansen maintained his lead over Joe Yee. Hansen leads Yee by 151 votes in the campaign for the seat covering Land Park, the Central City and the River Oaks section of South Natomas. Nearly 25,000 votes have been counted.

November 15, 2012
Hansen expands lead over Yee in Sacramento council race

One City Council race is getting closer. In the other, one of the candidates has begun to widen his lead.

Former Councilman Rob Kerth saw his lead over Allen Warren decrease to 155 votes in the race for the north Sacramento council seat after nearly 12,000 votes were counted, according to results updated today. Kerth had led Warren by 200 votes earlier this week.

In the District 4 race, Steve Hansen now leads Joe Yee by 160 votes. Hansen had led Yee by 108 votes earlier this week in his attempt to represent Land Park, the Central City and the River Oaks neighborhood of South Natomas. More than 25,000 votes have been counted in that district, which is close to the total number both campaigns had projected.

November 13, 2012
Sacramento City Council races still too tight to declare winners

Both City Council races remain too close to call.

In results updated this afternoon, biotech manager Steve Hansen has taken the lead over architect Joe Yee in the race for District 4 in Land Park and the Central City. But Hansen's lead is just 108 votes with more than 22,000 counted, meaning the race won't be decided for at least a few more days.

North Sacramento's race is also very close, with the area's former councilman, Rob Kerth, holding a 200-vote lead over Allen Warren. That's after 10,582 votes were tallied.

November 12, 2012
Cost to rebuild McKinley Park playground after arson: $690,000

The effort to rebuild the destroyed McKinley Park playground now has a price tag.

The City Council is being asked Tuesday night to approve a budget for a $686,379 project to rebuild the play structure, which was torched by a suspected arsonist in July. That money will come from a mixture of sources, including insurance settlements and fees collected from developers.

On top of that cash, city officials said donations collected from the public will be used to purchase materials used by volunteers in the construction effort. So far, more than $100,000 in donations have been made, with another fundraiser scheduled for Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Downtown Ford on N. 16th Street.

November 9, 2012
Sacramento council, claw races remain too close to call

Both Sacramento City Council races remain too close to call after election results were updated this afternoon.

Former Councilman Rob Kerth has increased his lead over developer Allen Warren in north Sacramento. Kerth has 51 percent of the vote to Warren's 49 percent, a difference of 215 votes. That margin was just 63 votes earlier in the week.

The District 4 race is even tighter. Architect Joe Yee has taken back the lead in the latest results and now has a 46-vote advantage over biotech firm manager Steve Hansen. In results posted Wednesday, Hansen led by 28 votes.

November 9, 2012
With updates coming, many close calls in Sacramento elections

County election officials expect to update the results of Tuesday's election this afternoon and there are a few city races worth monitoring.

The closest race in the city - and maybe anywhere - is in City Council District 4, where just 28 votes separate biotech firm manager Steve Hansen and architect Joe Yee. That slim margin exists even after more than 16,000 ballots have been tallied in Land Park, the Central City and the River Oaks section of South Natomas.

In north Sacramento, 63 votes is the difference between Rob Kerth and Allen Warren. Kerth seems pretty confident in the final result, telling people on Facebook this week that it "looks good" and saying, "What a wonderful feeling it is to know that about half the people of North Sacramento have decided that I am the person to lead our community forward."

November 7, 2012
Razor thin margins continue in Sacramento council races

The two Sacramento City Council races remain incredibly close.

Results updated just after midnight Wednesday morning showed a difference of just 28 votes separating biotech firm manager Steve Hansen and architect Joe Yee in the race for District 4, the seat representing Land Park, the Central City and the River Oaks section of South Natomas. Hansen held the slim margin over Yee with 16,220 votes counted.

In north Sacramento, the area's former councilman Rob Kerth led developer Allen Warren by 63 votes after 7,949 ballots were counted.

With many more ballots left to be counted, it could be days before either race is determined.

November 6, 2012
Sacramento sales tax measure passes, charter panel fails

Voters in the city of Sacramento have approved an increase in the sales tax to fund core services such as police and fire protection, parks maintenance and pool hours.

With more than 71,000 votes counted, Measure U led 62 percent to 38 percent late Tuesday. The measure calls for increasing the city sales tax from 7.75 percent to 8.25 percent - a hike that city officials said would generate $28 million a year for the budget.

Meanwhile, a measure seeking to create an elected charter commission failed by a large margin. With 69,364 ballots counted, Measure M trailed 75 percent to 25 percent.

Two City Council races remain too close to call.

November 1, 2012
Sacramento council campaign getting tense in final days

Hansenmailer.jpegAfter weeks of cordiality, the race for the city's most coveted council seat has gotten a bit contentious.

One candidate has filed a complaint with the state's political watchdog, charging the opposition with failing to report rent paid or donated for campaign office space. And the other side has taken issue with a campaign mailer they said implies President Obama has taken a position in the race.

First the mailer. Steve Hansen, one of the two candidates running for the seat covering Land Park, the Central City and the River Oaks section of South Natomas, sent out a piece this week featuring a photograph of the president. Under the picture, it reads, "Democratic Leaders & Progressive Organizations Support Steve Hansen for Sacramento City Council."

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 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
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 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.

September 27, 2012
Sacramento Council approves use of K Street building for gym

The Sacramento City Council has approved the use of a pivotal K Street property as a California Family Fitness and granted the gym a parking validation program.

California Family Fitness is in lease discussions with the building's owner, developer David Taylor. The building is adjacent to the Dive Bar/Pizza Rock/District 30 entertainment complex.

City officials hope that the gym - which would be at 1012 K St. - will serve as an amenity to attract young professionals and new residents to the downtown area. The gym plans to build a full-service fitness center, along with a rooftop lounge.

September 21, 2012
California Family Fitness plans move to K Street

A key property in the ongoing redevelopment of K Street is about to get a tenant.

California Family Fitness has proposed moving into an empty storefront at 1012 K St., wedged between the rebranded K Bar and the entertainment complex that houses Pizza Rock, the District 30 nightclub and Dive Bar.

Several ideas had been mentioned as potential uses for the property, including a sports bar or retail. But California Family Fitness approached the city this summer and plans to turn the space into a gym with "an urban flair," according to a city staff report.

September 17, 2012
Homeless groups to host City Council candidate forum

Homeless and affordable housing advocates are hosting a candidates' forum on Wednesday for the Central City and Land Park council district.

Both District 4 candidates - Steve Hansen, a biotechnology senior manager and a former vice chair of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, and Joe Yee, an architect and former city planning commissioner - are scheduled to attend.

The forum will be moderated by the League of Women Voters and will be begin at 7 p.m. at the Pioneer Congregational United Church of Christ, 2700 L St.

September 14, 2012
Sacramento taxpayer group opposes Sacramento tax hike plan

The county's main taxpayers association has - not surprisingly - come out in opposition to the city's proposed sales tax increase.

The Sacramento Taxpayers Association announced its opposition today to a November ballot measure seeking to raise the city sales tax rate by half of a percentage point. The group charged that the city "has the funds it needs, it just needs to use them more expeditiously."

While the taxpayer group suggested the tax was needed to pay for raises and pension benefits given to city employees in past years, city officials argue the increase will provide a jolt to core services that have been severely cut back over the past several years. The tax proposal is also being floated in the same year the city wrestled increased pension contributions from nearly all of its unions.

September 11, 2012
Occupy, ACLU protest law restricting City Hall demonstrations

Protesters with the Occupy movement, the American Civil Liberties Union and homeless advocacy groups dined on the front lawn of historic City Hall afternoon - an action that could land them a misdemeanor charge by the end of the night.

The City Council is scheduled tonight to debate a new set of laws governing the use of the City Hall grounds. The ordinance would allow protests without permits or fees during the day, but require permits for a host of actions - including noisemakers and signs.

The new law would also prohibit protests between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., bathing in fountains on City Hall property and bringing fireworks, fog machines or weapons onto the grounds.

September 10, 2012
Harvego family donates $25,000 to McKinley playground effort

The effort to rebuild the fire-damaged McKinley Park playground just got a big boost.

The Harvego family - owners of The Firehouse and Ten22 restaurants - will present a $25,000 check to Councilman Steve Cohn at tonight's meeting for the rebuilding. The Harvego contribution stems from a pledge to donate 15 percent of the revenue generated at the restaurants between Aug. 19 and 25.

"Since its construction in 1994, the playground at McKinley Park has grown to be a community gathering place, and the Harvego family is proud to aid in the fundraising efforts to recover from the community's loss," Lloyd Harvego said.

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 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 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 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 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.

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 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."

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
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 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 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 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
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
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.

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 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
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 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
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
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
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

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 2, 2012
Mayor Johnson taking sides in Sacramento council races


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.

April 25, 2012
Influential Sacramento firefighter union makes endorsements

The coveted endorsement of the city firefighters' union was handed out for most of the City Hall races this week.

Mayor Kevin Johnson, SMUD director Rob Kerth (council District 2), attorney and non-profit director Phyllis Newton (District 4) and Councilman Kevin McCarty were granted firefighter support in their races in the June primary.

Interestingly, however, the union opted not to endorse either candidate running for the City Council seat in Meadowview's District 8. Neither incumbent Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell nor her challenger, former NAACP branch president Betty Williams, are supported by the union.

April 20, 2012
Councilman McCarty can't guarantee he'll serve full term if re-elected

Councilman Kevin McCarty is running for re-election, but he's not promising voters he'd serve his entire four-year term if he wins.

McCarty relayed that message to The Bee's editorial board Thursday. He is running for a third term in the district representing Elmhurst, Tahoe Park and other neighborhoods on the city's southeast side.

But McCarty also narrowly lost a bid for the state Assembly in 2010 and still has his eye on the Capitol. If a few dominos fall his way - state Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is termed out in 2014 and Assemblyman Roger Dickinson is thought to be eyeing that Senate seat - McCarty is expected to make a run at the Assembly again.

April 20, 2012
Sacramento council campaign gets big cash infusion from business interest group

A powerful business interest group has poured $30,000 into the campaign for Betty Williams, the former NAACP branch president trying to unseat Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell in south Sacramento.

Better Sacramento is paying for field walkers and lawn signs to support Williams, according to a campaign finance report released Thursday. That cash infusion represents a huge investment in a district where only 5,000 people voted in the 2008 primary.

The contribution is also a sign of how contentious this campaign is becoming.

April 19, 2012
Councilwoman Pannell says she will serve one more term if re-elected

Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell said today this will be her final campaign.

Pannell, 63, who joined the council in 1998 following the death of her husband, Sam, told The Bee's editorial board that if she wins re-election in the June primary, her next term will be her last.

Pannell is facing Betty Williams, the former chair of the local NAACP branch, in the June primary. Her district covers Meadowview and other parts of south Sacramento.

April 19, 2012
Councilman: Even with arena deal gone, Sacramento should still explore squeezing more out of downtown parking

Following the collapse of the city's arena deal, the proposal's most ardent opponent says the city should still explore generating cash out of its parking operations.

Councilman Kevin McCarty told me this week the city is "sitting on an untapped asset to potentially make this city millions annually."

Mayor Kevin Johnson and City Manager John Shirey had proposed monetizing downtown parking - either through leasing those assets to a private firm or creating a city-run parking authority - to generate as much as $250 million for the proposed downtown sports arena.

April 18, 2012
Two Sacramento council members delay funds for after-school reading programs

A grant intended to fund afterschool reading programs for kids has been caught up in the funhouse that is City Hall.

Councilwomen Bonnie Pannell and Sandy Sheedy on Tuesday delayed the acceptance of a $250,000 state grant for literacy and gang prevention programs at the Boys and Girls Club, upsetting some of their colleagues.

Pannell's objection stems from the fact that Lisa Serna, who runs the day-to-day operations for the City Council offices, was listed as a contact on a staff report detailing the terms of the grant. Serna was appointed to that job by Mayor Kevin Johnson, who has said he will not support Pannell's re-election bid.

April 9, 2012
Update: Fundraising drive for Sacramento pools approaches goal

A fundraising campaign to keep city pools open this summer has gained momentum in recent days, but is still short of its $1 million goal.

The Save Our Pools campaign, launched by Save Mart supermarket, had generated $818,561 in donations and pledges as of 1 p.m. today. That figure includes a match by Save Mart of donations the store has received.

Save Mart and city officials are holding an all-day phone drive today. Donations can be made over the phone at (855) 895-POOL (7665). The pledge drive ends at 7 p.m., but donations will also be accepted Tuesday via text message at 80888, at the Save Our Pools page on Facebook and at the campaign's website.

April 4, 2012
Sacramento City Attorney Teichert resigns

Sacramento City Attorney Eileen Teichert, one of City Hall's highest-ranking officials, has resigned.

In a letter to Mayor Kevin Johnson and members of the City Council today, Teichert said she has been "presented with an opportunity to continue my career as a municipal lawyer with an excellent organization closer to my family in Southern California." Her letter can be found here: TeichertMemo4-4.pdf

"Although I will miss the many talented and dedicated City officers, staff and elected officials, I must pursue this opportunity," she said.

April 4, 2012
Amid tough times, two Sacramento parks get a boost

Of all the city services hammered by the economic downturn, parks may have taken the biggest hit. But two neighborhoods got a big boost this week that will help ease that cycle.

The city received $5.6 million in state grants to build a new park in the Fruitridge Manor neighborhood of south Sacramento and to renovate McClatchy Park in Oak Park.

The news in Fruitridge Manor was particularly sweet. It's one of the few neighborhoods in the city without a park and residents have been fighting hard for years.

April 3, 2012
With feud simmering, Sacramento council vote on arena begins

Amid an acrimonious backdrop at City Hall, the Sacramento City Council has begun a meeting at which it will decide whether to move ahead with crucial pre-development work needed for a new downtown sports arena.

Live Twitter updates from The Bee's arena team: City Council arena vote

While the council is expected to approve the work, members of the council are also expected to voice frustration with the family that owns the Sacramento Kings over a dispute regarding who will cover the pre-development costs.

Mayor Kevin Johnson voiced his own anger earlier today, when he lashed out at the Maloof family during a press conference, calling their statements that the family never agreed to pay for pre-development costs of a new arena "disingenuous." The mayor also accused the Maloofs of "tactics and antics that are not becoming of a true partnership."

April 3, 2012
With council vote looming, Mayor Johnson lashes out at the Maloofs

By Ryan Lillis and Tony Bizjak

Mayor Kevin Johnson lashed out at the Maloof family today, calling their statements that the family never agreed to pay for pre-development costs of a new arena "disingenuous."

Hours before the City Council is expected to approve the start of crucial pre-development work on the $391 million arena, the mayor accused the Maloofs of "tactics and antics that are not becoming of a true partnership."

"We as a city can't be jerked around," he said. "We can't keep having this issue flare up."

March 22, 2012
Special interests divided in Sacramento City Council campaign

The folks in Land Park, downtown and midtown better get ready for an intense campaign season.

The city's big special interest groups are splitting their allegiances in the race for the area's open City Council seat, meaning multiple candidates are going to have the cash and manpower to mount intense campaigns before the June primary.

In a somewhat unusual situation, interest groups that normally align with one another are disagreeing on whom to support. Seven candidates are running for the District 4 seat being vacated by two-term Councilman Rob Fong, and residents of the district are already reporting multiple visits to their homes from many candidates.

March 20, 2012
Sacramento's 'The Claw' on life support, other changes on tap for waste collection

The City Council voted Tuesday night to all but kill leaf collection by The Claw, scale back the collection of recyclables from homes and to get out of the commercial solid waste business.

The council voted unanimously to make the changes.

The city's solid waste division will now collect recyclables from homes every two weeks, down from the weekly service currently offered. City officials said they did not expect the change to create an inconvenience for homeowners, most of whom they said do not fill up their recycling bins on a weekly basis.

March 19, 2012
VIDEO: Big changes are afoot for The Claw in Sacramento

The Claw may be on the verge of hibernation.

A proposal to be considered by the City Council on Tuesday would call for Sacramento's quirky leaf-collecting machine to be shelved all but three months of the year. At the same time, the city could require all residents to use bins to collect green waste.

First, city residents must repeal 1977's Measure A, which prohibits the city from requiring green bins. The council is expected to place a measure on the November ballot to repeal Measure A.

March 16, 2012
Another packed field for Sacramento City Hall races

Once again, a seat on the City Council is a hot ticket.

A packed field of 17 candidates has filed to run for council in the June primary. Another four candidates are running for mayor.

It was a similar story in 2010, when 16 candidates ran for council. That election marked a shift to more competition in local politics. As recently as 2008, the four council members who sought re-election ran unopposed.

March 14, 2012
Copper wire thefts leaving Sacramento streets in darkness for months

With copper thieves continuing to wreak havoc on city streets, the City Council wants to make cleaning up the mess more of a priority at City Hall.

Councilman Steve Cohn asked City Manager John Shirey on Tuesday to speed up the repair cycle for street lights left inoperable by copper wire thefts. Cohn said he has been told by some residents that it is taking the city six to 12 months to fix broken lights.

"Obviously the problem is much bigger than what we had feared initially," Cohn said.

March 8, 2012
Update: Sheedy not running for Sacramento mayor

All of that Sandy Sheedy For Mayor talk has fizzled.

Sacramento's chief arena opponent has apparently opted not to run against Mayor Kevin Johnson, despite a lot of chatter at City Hall today that she would. The deadline for Sheedy to file her campaign papers has come and gone. For the record, she never returned my phone call today.

As a result, Johnson will run against five candidates with little or no political experience.

March 8, 2012
Is Councilwoman Sheedy running for Sacramento mayor?

There's a lot of talk at City Hall today that Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy is going to jump into the mayoral race.

Several insiders told me today that Sheedy is considering running against Mayor Kevin Johnson and that she plans to file her campaign documents today. If she is, she has until 4:30 p.m. today to file those papers to meet the city's deadline for mayoral candidates to declare.

Sheedy has not returned my phone call seeking comment.

March 7, 2012
Live chat: Sacramento's path to a new arena

February 29, 2012
Sacramento will contribute $255 million to new arena

By Tony Bizjak, Ryan Lillis and Dale Kasler

Sacramento city officials will release details tomorrow of the arena deal reached earlier this week with the Kings, including this notable number: $255,530,000.

That's the amount Mayor Kevin Johnson and his negotiators agreed the city officially will contribute to building an arena in the downtown railyard by 2015.

The official price tag of the arena was also bumped up from $387 million to $391 million.

February 15, 2012
Chat live with Ryan Lillis: Sacramento's arena prospects
February 14, 2012
Chat live: Sacramento City Council takes up arena issue

February 14, 2012
Sacramento arena vote expected to pass easily tonight

The City Council appears ready to overwhelmingly support moving forward with the arena process tonight - with one councilman predicting the vote could be unanimous.

City staff is asking for permission from the council to dive into deeper talks with the 10 private firms interested in leasing downtown parking, the key piece of the financing plan for a new sports and entertainment complex. Tonight's vote is seen as an incremental step in the arena process, setting up a pivotal Feb. 28 meeting at which the council would vote to approve or reject the facility's full financing plan if one is cobbled together by then.

While four council members voted last week to place the parking element on the June ballot - a move that likely would have killed the arena deal - at least one of those council members said he will vote in favor of moving forward tonight.

February 8, 2012
Unions push back against Sacramento's charter commission

Labor unions - those influential groups that have powered many a City Council campaign - aren't thrilled with the council's decision Tuesday night to place a charter review commission on the November ballot.

Hours after the council voted 7-2 to move forward with the ballot measure Tuesday, the president of the city police union told City Manager John Shirey he was suspending negotiations between his union and city officials. Other unions are worried about allowing an outside commission to dive into - and potentially rewrite - the way the city is governed.

The police union's argument is about dollars and cents. Mark Tyndale, president of the Sacramento Police Officers Association, said he was concerned about the cost of a commission and that he refuses "to consider further concessions that will only be used to fund the commission."

February 7, 2012
Mayor Johnson: Charter commission idea 'needs to be dumped'

Mayor Kevin Johnson's latest strong mayor plan goes head to head with a proposal to create an elected charter review commission at tonight's City Council meeting. And the mayor is making it pretty clear where he stands.

Johnson told reporters this morning he thinks "the charter commission idea needs to be dumped." Councilman Kevin McCarty has proposed placing the creation of a charter commission on the November ballot.

"I don't think it's in anybody's best interest and I feel like it's a reaction to the initiative that I brought forward," the mayor said.

February 7, 2012
Group sues for emails related to Sacramento redistricting

An open records advocacy group is suing the city after being denied emails and other communications regarding last summer's volatile City Council redistricting process.

The California First Amendment Coalition (CFAC) filed a suit Friday in Sacramento Superior Court demanding emails between City Council members related to redistricting between April and August of last year.

Peter Scheer, CFAC's executive director, said "we're hoping to open the door on some of the crucial exchanges" between council members as the redistricting process unfolded. He said the city denied a Public Records Act request for the emails, citing a "deliberative process exemption" that allows the withholding of records revealing advice given to elected officials from staff aids and others.

February 6, 2012
Sacramento council to weigh June ballot vote on arena Tuesday

The City Council is scheduled Tuesday to consider Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy's request to place a measure on the June ballot asking voters if they want to use public parking assets to help finance a new sports arena.

Sheedy pulled the item from the agenda last month when Councilman Rob Fong was unable to attend that council meeting. While Fong is not expected to support Sheedy's request, he has played an integral role in the city's ongoing arena fight and Sheedy wanted her colleague present for the ballot measure debate.

There still appears to be limited support on the council for a June vote on the arena. Besides Sheedy, only Councilman Darrell Fong has expressed support for the vote.

February 3, 2012
City utilities commission OKs water and sewer rate hikes

The city's Utilities Rates Advisory Commission has recommended raising water and sewer rates for the average bill by a combined total of $19 a month over the next three years.

By a 5-2 vote on Thursday, the commission approved a recommendation by city utilities officials to raise water rates by 10 percent each of the next three years and sewer rates by 16 percent, 15 percent and 14 percent over the next three years. The City Council has final approval over the rates and is scheduled to debate the matter on Feb. 28.

The new rates would go into effect July 1.

February 1, 2012
Update with video: Man throws wallet at Mayor Johnson

A man by the name of Leo threw his wallet at the mayor during the City Council meeting. The mayor didn't flinch, the wallet struck the dais in front of Johnson and the man was escorted out the City Council Chambers - without further incident - by three police officers.

Leo is a regular at council meetings, showing up dozens of times over the past few years. He was apparently angry at the mayor and City Manager John Shirey for not doing enough to help him regain his identity, which he said was stolen.

The incident also included Leo criticizing the oil companies of killing of fish in the ocean, which "also killed off the fishing industry." At one point, members of Occupy Sacramento applauded for Leo.

January 31, 2012
Mayor's fundraiser likely to challenge McCarty for Council

The Sacramento City Councilman thought to have the easiest path to re-election in June may end up facing a well-heeled opponent.

Developer Jon Bagatelos - who is Mayor Kevin Johnson's chief fundraiser - appears certain to run against Councilman Kevin McCarty in council District 6, representing Elmhurst, Tahoe Park and several other neighborhoods on the southeast side of the city.

"I'm definitely going to run unless someone gives me a reason not to run," Bagatelos said this week.

January 31, 2012
League of Women Voters supports November vote on strong mayor proposal

One of the region's most respected political groups is supporting placing Mayor Kevin Johnson's revamped strong mayor plan on the November ballot.

The League of Women Voters' board voted to support placing the proposal on the ballot. The board has not decided whether it supports the measure.

The City Council is scheduled to debate whether to place the measure on the ballot next week. However, there appears to be more City Council support for a ballot measure seeking to create a charter review commission to explore changing how the city is governed.

January 25, 2012
City's take-home vehicles scrutinized

The city's costly fleet of take-home vehicles is getting a closer look.

City Council members said Tuesday night they were encouraged by the potential savings of limiting the take-home vehicle policy, as well as reducing the number of under-utilized vehicles in the city's overall fleet that are replaced. An internal audit - released in December - found the city could save millions by changing those policies.

The city spends more than $1 million a year maintaining its fleet of take-home vehicles, most of which are driven by police employees. Records governing vehicle policies are mostly lacking, the audit also found, a situation City Auditor Jorge Oseguera has previously said left the city at risk of having its system abused.

January 24, 2012
Sheedy to delay debate on Kings arena funding ballot measure

Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy will ask tonight to postpone a council discussion of her request to place a measure on the June ballot regarding an arena financing plan. It's unclear when that talk will now take place.

Sheedy told me she is postponing because Councilman Rob Fong is expected to miss tonight's council meeting and she wants the entire council to weigh in on her proposal.

Sheedy is pushing for a June ballot measure to ask voters if they want to spend public assets on building a new downtown Kings arena. City officials are banking on generating as much as $200 million from the leasing of city-owned parking operations. It's the biggest chunk of money anticipated for the $387 million arena.

January 24, 2012
Mayor benefits, labor loses as City Council undergoes changes

The historic transformation of the City Council could mean a shift in the balance of power at City Hall.

With the announcement Monday that Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy would not seek re-election - combined with Councilman Rob Fong's decision to also step down this year - six of the nine seats at the council dais will have different representatives from just four years ago. That's an incredible shift for a City Council that had been a safe haven for incumbents for nearly 20 years.

With so many seats changing hands, it's worth exploring who benefits.

January 23, 2012
Sheedy will not seek re-election for Sacramento City Council

Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy will not seek re-election in the June primary.

Sheedy told me this morning she would not seek a fourth term for the seat representing north Sacramento neighborhoods in order to spend more time with her family.

"Ted and I have given over 30 years of public service and it's time for us to do this together," she said, referring to her husband, Ted Sheedy, a former county supervisor. "It's time get back to my family."

January 19, 2012
Sacramento City Council to consider arena ballot measure

While City Council support for the move appears limited, Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy's request for a June ballot measure asking voters if they approve of using public parking assets to help fund an arena is scheduled to be debated by the council on Tuesday.

Only Sheedy and Councilman Darrell Fong have expressed support for a public vote on the arena funding package. The council has until next month to place a measure on the ballot.

Sheedy has emerged as the most vocal opponent of a plan to lease city-owned parking facilities and enforcement operations to help finance a new downtown sports and entertainment center.

January 17, 2012
Steinberg endorses Johnson's 'strong mayor' plan

As he gets ready tonight to ask the City Council to place his latest plan to overhaul the City Charter on the June ballot, Mayor Kevin Johnson has gained the support of one of the city's most influential political figures.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said Monday he was endorsing Johnson's plan - dubbed the Checks and Balances Act of 2012 - saying it is "a solid and responsible proposal."

However, while Steinberg's support is a boost for the mayor, the local Democratic Party remains critical of the mayor's plan.

January 6, 2012
Ashby named new Sacramento vice mayor

Entering just her second year at City Hall, Councilwoman Angelique Ashby was named the city's vice mayor Thursday night.

In a unanimous vote, the City Council elected the North Natomas councilwoman to the post. While mostly a ceremonial position, the vice mayor does preside over City Council meetings when the mayor is absent - and Mayor Kevin Johnson has missed a meeting or two (or 10).

Councilman Steve Cohn nominated Ashby, saying it has been council tradition that the most senior council member who hasn't served as vice mayor before be given the position. Ashby has one week of seniority over Councilmen Jay Schenirer and Darrell Fong.

January 3, 2012
Schanz joins packed field in downtown/Land Park council race

Yet another candidate has jumped into the race for the City Council seat representing downtown, midtown, Land Park and the River Oaks section of South Natomas.

Terry Schanz, a Land Park native and the legislative director for Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, announced today that he was running for the seat being vacated by Councilman Rob Fong.

Schanz joins downtown advocate Steve Hansen, Land Park attorney Phyllis Newton and city planning commissioner Joe Yee in the race.

December 29, 2011
Sacramento pastors are a new special interest in local politics

A phenomenon seen often in East Coast cities is developing in Sacramento politics.

Pastors and ministers of mostly African American churches have become a new special interest group in the city, endorsing two City Council candidates in the June 2012 election and Mayor Kevin Johnson's latest proposal to change how the city is governed.

I'll have more on the trend in a story printed in a few days in The Bee. But for now, I wanted to throw out some observations from the reporting I've done so far.

December 16, 2011
Developer Warren to announce Sacramento Council campaign

North Sacramento developer Allen Warren will announce this weekend that he is formally joining the race for the City Council seat currently held by Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy.

Warren will make the announcement on Sunday at a 3 p.m. event at Carol's Books on Del Paso Boulevard. He'll be joined by his mother, extended family members and longtime friends from the neighborhoods that make up the north side district.

Warren is part of a packed field running against Sheedy in the district representing North Sacramento, Del Paso Heights and many other neighborhoods north of the American River. Sheedy is running for a fourth term.

December 15, 2011
Mayor Johnson proposes 'strong mayor,' other charter changes for June ballot

Mayor Kevin Johnson is proposing a June ballot measure to overhaul the city's constitution, a plan that is expected to include a strong mayor initiative and a proposal to create an independent redistricting commission.

Johnson will ask the City Council at a Jan. 17 meeting to place the measure on the June ballot.

The mayor requested that council discussion at the end of Tuesday's City Council meeting. He said his supporters have drafted the language for the plan and asked City Attorney Eileen Teichert to analyze the proposal.

December 14, 2011
Some Sacramento council members seeking regional dollars for arena project

There is a renewed push among some Sacramento City Council members to get other local governments involved financially in the building of a new downtown sports arena. But is it too late?

Councilman Rob Fong has been particularly vocal in saying the city of Sacramento shouldn't go at the arena deal alone, a stance he repeated Tuesday night during a pivotal council vote to gauge interest from the private sector in the city's parking operations.

"I think we need to make a real effort to see what the other cities - and frankly the counties - in the region who would kind of be our partners in this venture could contribute in a real way so that they're having these sorts of discussions in their chambers as well," said Fong, who voted to approve moving forward with a request for qualifications from parking companies.

November 25, 2011
City's garbage deal up for approval on Tuesday. Does it stink?

The city's controversial garbage contract is going to the City Council on Tuesday.

City staff is scheduled to recommend the transfer of the waste disposal and recycling contracts from BLT Enterprises to USA Waste of California, also known as Waste Management. The move is required to finalize the sale of the recycling and transfer station in south Sacramento from BLT to Waste Management.

Under the new deal, Waste Management has agreed to begin taking city trash to the Kiefer Landfill within the next few months, ending a years-long agreement that had led to city trash getting shipped daily to Nevada. That move will "reduce greenhouse gases, conserve fuel and reduce traffic congestion," according to a city press release.

November 16, 2011
Riding redistricting success, LGBT club endorses Hansen in Sacramento City Council race

Armed with momentum early in the election season, the city's main political organization representing the LGBT community made its endorsement this week in a closely-watched City Council race.

The Stonewall Democrats - the largest Democratic club in the region - endorsed City Council candidate Steve Hansen this week in the race for District 4. That seat, covering midtown, downtown, Land Park and the River Oaks neighborhood of South Natomas, is being left vacant by two-term Councilman Rob Fong.

Stonewall followed that endorsement with a $2,500 donation to Hansen, a downtown resident and advocate.

November 10, 2011
Poll targets Sheedy, shows 35 percent support her re-election

A political committee of local business owners - a group that has been critical of many sitting council members - conducted a poll of Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy last month that showed 35 percent of those interviewed in her north Sacramento district were likely to re-elect the three-term incumbent.

The poll - commissioned by Better Sacramento, a group of local business leaders previously known as the Sacramento 60 - was conducted between Oct. 19 and 21. That's around the same time Sheedy did her own poll of city voters that showed most favor a vote on any proposal for a new downtown sports arena involving the use of public assets.

Of the 300 voters interviewed, 88 percent said they had heard of Sheedy, according to a memo detailing the results of the survey by well-known pollster Jim Moore. While 35 percent said they would vote for her, 43 percent said they would prefer "someone new."

November 4, 2011
Kerth to formally announce Sacramento City Council run tonight

Former Councilman Rob Kerth is making it official tonight: he is running to reclaim the seat representing northern Sacramento neighborhoods.

Kerth is scheduled to make the announcement at a ceremony at the Iceland Skating Rink on Del Paso Boulevard, which Kerth's family owns and operates.

Kerth is part of a crowded field trying to unseat Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy, who has represented the area since 2000. Kerth was the area's councilman from 1992 to 2000, when he stepped down to make an unsuccessful run for mayor.

November 3, 2011
McCarty raises money to open George Sim Community Center on Friday nights

Construction on the $18 million George Sim Community Center in the Glen Elder/Avondale section of the city was completed barely two years ago. But due to budget cuts, the center's doors are already shuttered four days a week.

The area's councilman, Kevin McCarty, along with community organizers, businesses, churches and unions are chipping away at the closures.

McCarty and others are launching the "D6 Hot Spot" on Friday. The program will open the community center every Friday night for the next year from 7 p.m. to midnight, giving teens a place to play basketball and volleyball, watch movies and take part in other activities.

November 2, 2011
FPPC won't investigate Sheedy for Kings arena poll

That didn't take long.

The Fair Political Practices Commission said today it won't open an investigation into Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy in response to a complaint that she improperly used campaign funds to conduct a poll showing city residents want to vote on any plan for a new sports arena involving public assets.

In a letter sent to Sheedy today, Gary Winuk, chief of the FPPC's enforcement division, wrote that "the use of campaign funds to conduct a poll is an appropriate use of campaign funds" and that "since the telephone calls were not for the purpose of advocating for a candidate or ballot measure, no identification by the Sheedy campaign was required."

November 1, 2011
FPPC complaint filed over Sheedy's arena poll - or was it?

There are a lot more questions than answers in the ongoing political tiff over the poll commissioned by Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy's that showed city residents want to vote on any proposal for a new sports arena that involves public assets.

It has been reported that Sheedy is the focus of a complaint made to the Fair Political Practices Commission last week. Copies of the alleged complaint were circulated to the media over the weekend, but there's a problem: the FPPC hasn't received the complaint, according to Gary Winuk, chief of the commission's enforcement division.

There's something else that doesn't make sense. The name on the document is Robert Langdon, a Rosemont resident who wasn't even surveyed by Sheedy's pollsters. And, based on an email exchange I've had with Langdon, it's not clear he knew he was filing a complaint.

November 1, 2011
Fight continues over Sheedy's Kings arena poll

The political tiff continues over the poll paid for by Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy's re-election campaign that showed city residents want to vote on any proposal for a new sports arena that involves public assets.

Sheedy is now the focus of a complaint made to the Fair Political Practices Commission. The charge: Sheedy didn't tell those who were called that the poll was paid for by her campaign.

But there's something about that complaint that doesn't quite make sense: it was made by a guy who doesn't live in the city and wasn't surveyed by Sheedy's pollsters.

October 18, 2011
Occupy Sacramento and City Hall at odds as protesters stay put

Setting up a potential showdown between a small group of protesters and city officials, Mayor Kevin Johnson said today the city should continue to uphold its anti-camping ordinance and clear the Occupy Sacramento group from downtown's Cesar Chavez Park at night.

The mayor said the protesters can stay in the park from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. - and that gives them "ample time" to voice their issues. "I don't think it's in our best interest to remove the (anti-camping) ordinance," the mayor said, adding he "wholeheartedly respects what (the protesters are) trying to do."

As the protest reaches its 13th day, the City Council is scheduled to debate tonight whether to let the demonstrators stay in the park overnight. And if no resolution is found, this is a conflict that could continue to simmer.

October 17, 2011
Unions seek to OK political appointments to influential boards

A candidate questionnaire offers a fascinating glimpse into the depth of influence labor unions seek to hold over local politicians.

It seems that the region's largest union - the Central Labor Council - is not just interested in playing a role in who gets elected to local office. The organization also wants a hand in who politicians appoint to influential boards and commissions.

In a form sent out by the Central Labor Council, candidates were asked if they would allow union leaders to meet with their appointees to planning and land use commissions before those appointments were made.

October 13, 2011
First candidate emerges to replace Fong on Sacramento council

That didn't take long.

Councilman Rob Fong's decision not to seek another term was public for barely 12 hours before I received my first phone call from a candidate seeking to replace him.

That candidate is Steve Hansen, a downtown advocate, who said he decided to run today. While Hansen said he chose to run independent of Fong's decision not to seek a third term, the news did "make it easier."

October 12, 2011
Why Occupy Sacramento may not get to stay in park overnight

The Occupy Sacramento protesters asking to remain in downtown's Cesar Chavez Park 24 hours a day have more than the city's anti-camping ordinances working against them. They have the contentious debate over a sanctioned homeless camp to contend with as well.

As dozens of protesters filled the City Council Chambers on Tuesday to ask that they be allowed to remain in the park without being arrested, more than one City Hall insider mentioned to me that they were concerned about the long-term impact of allowing the demonstrators to stay.

For one, homeless advocates have pushed the city to allow them to camp along the American River Parkway and to establish a city-sanctioned "Safe Ground" homeless encampment. If the city suspends the camping ordinance for Occupy Sacramento, it's certain Safe Ground would demand the same.

October 11, 2011
Occupy Sacramento to target City Council; Mayor indicates arrests of protestors will continue

Following the arrests of dozens of protestors, members of the Occupy Sacramento movement will march on the City Council tonight to demand that they be allowed to remain in downtown's Cesar Chavez Park 24 hours a day.

City laws do not allow overnight camping in the park and 35 protestors have been arrested since last week in violation of that rule. No protestors were arrested Monday night, as all demonstrators left when ordered by police officers, according to the police department.

Mayor Kevin Johnson indicated to reporters this morning that he supports enforcement of the city camping ordinance. "We certainly respect their right to voice their opinion," the mayor said of the protestors. "With that said, there is an ordinance in place that prohibits people from camping overnight and I think people realize that."

October 7, 2011
Candidates entering the mix for Sacramento City Council

Some well-known names are lining up as potential candidates for City Council.

In the last few days, I've spoken with a former councilman, the head of the local NAACP branch and a north Sacramento developer about their interest in running next June.

The interest is notable, given the fact the four council members seeking re-election in June - Sandy Sheedy, Rob Fong, Kevin McCarty and Bonnie Pannell - all ran unopposed in 2008.

October 4, 2011
Sacramento officials, NBA, arena developers to meet in Dallas

Officials with the city of Sacramento, the NBA, arena development group ICON/Taylor and arena operator AEG will hold their first key meeting in Dallas on Wednesday to discuss the construction of a new sports arena in the downtown railyard.

According to a memo written by City Manager John Shirey, the sides will have a "preliminary technical discussion."

"Following this discussion, we will lay out the process and timeline that formal discussions and negotiations will take place," Shirey wrote. "Our collective goal is to reach a definitive financing plan by the end of the year."

September 27, 2011
Pivotal Sacramento arena vote before City Council tonight

The Sacramento City Council will take a pivotal vote tonight on whether to hire a team of consultants to lead the city through the early stages of constructing a new sports arena downtown. But with just a few hours remaining before the debate, it was unclear if the plan had unanimous support from the council.

City Manager John Shirey has recommended hiring a team of lawyers, investment bankers and other consultants to help the city look at potential funding sources, plan for the project's construction and help represent the city in negotiations with the Sacramento Kings and the National Basketball Association.

The total cost of the consultant team would be $555,000.

September 23, 2011
Crime in Sacramento continues to drop, despite budget cuts

Mirroring a trend seen in most other big cities across California, crime in Sacramento is down by 18 percent since 2007 - despite four straight years of public safety cutbacks.

Police Chief Rick Braziel told the City Council this week the drop in total serious crime was the third largest in the state over that time period, behind only San Diego and Oakland. And year to date, crime is down in the city 12.5 percent over last year, Braziel said.

But with the department just three months removed from laying off 42 cops, Braziel and others are skeptical those trends will continue.

September 21, 2011
Proposal to put poker room at former Hard Rock Cafe killed

The City Council killed a proposal Tuesday night to permit a fifth poker card room in the city.

A group including the owner of the Capitol Casino on North 16th Street had sought to operate the fifth card room and proposed placing the facility in the former Hard Rock Cafe space at the Westfield Downtown Plaza.

Clark Rosa, who owns Capitol Casino, said his current card room has been a bonus to an otherwise neglected area and "if we were to go into the downtown area, we would be as great an asset."

September 14, 2011
Councilwoman Pannell apologizes again for expletive

Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell has apologized - again - for aiming an expletive at a woman during last week's City Council meeting.

At the start of Tuesday night's meeting, Pannell said she wanted "to apologize to my colleagues on the council, to the citizens of Sacramento and to Ms. Margo Rose-Brunson," the Oak Park woman she called an expletive during a tense hearing the week before.

Rose-Brunson was at Tuesday's meeting to address the council. Pannell said to her, "After you've done your presentation, please accept my apology. Thank you."

September 12, 2011
Woman: Pannell's apology for expletive doesn't go far enough

The residual impact of the City Council's redistricting effort has gotten personal.

A 61-year-old Oak Park woman will be at Tuesday night's council meeting to demand an apology from Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell, who was caught on video calling the woman an expletive at last week's meeting.

Pannell and the woman, Margo Rose-Brunson, exchanged words during the debate over whether the UC Davis Medical Center should be separated from the council district representing Oak Park. In the end, the council voted 6-3 to draw council district boundaries that included the change.

September 7, 2011
Obama campaign aide to run against Councilwoman Sheedy

The first challenger for Sacramento City Council has emerged.

Kim Mack, who ran President Barack Obama's local campaign in 2008, said today that she is running against three-term incumbent Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy in the June 2012 primary.

"I'm running because sometimes you just need a fresh face," Mack told me. "There's a lot of work to be done in this district and I don't see it getting done."

September 2, 2011
Protesters march in Oak Park as redistricting saga continues

In what continues to be a political fireball, roughly 100 protesters marched through the streets of Oak Park on Thursday, demanding that the UC Davis Medical Center campus be kept in the same City Council district as Oak Park.

The group included several members of the faith community, neighborhood activists and council members Jay Schenirer and Angelique Ashby. Mayor Kevin Johnson did not attend, but his mother and some of his close aides marched.

The City Council is scheduled to finalize its redistricting plan at Tuesday night's meeting. Part of that plan calls for moving the hospital campus from Schenirer's District 5 to District 6, represented by Councilman Kevin McCarty.

August 31, 2011
City firefighters, council reach agreement on pensions

City Hall has made progress in its fight over public employee pensions.

The City Council gave its final approval Tuesday night on a package of salary concessions by firefighters - including pension contributions.

Firefighters have agreed to contribute 6 percent of their salaries to their CalPERS retirement funds starting in January 2013. Those contributions are projected to save the city $2.9 million a year.

August 23, 2011
Tense redistricting debate returns to City Hall tonight

Rarely has an issue with such narrow focus elicited this kind of impassioned response at City Hall.

See the redistricting maps here

But that's the case with the debate over which City Council district should represent the tiny neighborhood of Med Center - a debate that will once again find its way into the Council Chambers this evening. The council is scheduled to take up the matter at its 6 p.m. meeting at City Hall, 915 I St.

At issue is a proposal for new council district boundaries that must be adopted by Sept. 6. Under the plan, District 6 would take on Med Center and its 1,000 or so residents, combining it with Elmhurst, Tahoe Park and other neighborhoods on the southeast side.

August 17, 2011
Olive branch offered in heated Sacramento redistricting debate

Councilman Kevin McCarty is offering a compromise in the squabble over who gets to represent the small neighborhood of Med Center.

McCarty told me this afternoon he's open to keeping the Sacramento Charter High School campus with the council district representing the rest of Oak Park. The rest of the surrounding Med Center neighborhood and the UC Davis Medical Center campus would still transfer to his Elmhurst/Tahoe Park district.

McCarty said the Sac High issue - which has been met with keen interest by Mayor Kevin Johnson's office - had become a distraction. He acknowledged there is "an emotional link (between the school and Oak Park) and I respect that." I have a call into the mayor's office to get their reaction.

August 17, 2011
Redistricting debate attracts heated protests to City Hall

As expected, several dozen people showed up for Tuesday night's City Council meeting to protest a redistricting plan that would separate the small Med Center area from neighboring Oak Park.

Roughly 70 people testified before the council in what was at times a heated two-hour event. The council could not respond to the concerns, given that the matter was not on the evening's agenda and open government laws prohibit the council from discussing issues that haven't been placed on an agenda.

That didn't stop several in the audience from hollering at members of the council for an explanation.

August 10, 2011
Sacramento City Council approves contract for city manager

As expected, the City Council voted overwhelmingly late Tuesday to approve a contract for the new city manager that will make him the highest paid employee in the city's history.

John Shirey is scheduled to start Sept. 1 and will earn roughly $306,000 in salary and benefits. His base salary of $258,000 is the highest of any city manager in the region and is equal to Sacramento County Executive Brad Hudson.

The council approved a three-year contract for Shirey by a 7-2 vote. It's the first time Sacramento's city manager has been under contract.