City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

July 30, 2013
Turner Construction selected to build new Sacramento arena

The Sacramento Kings ownership group has hired Turner Construction to build the planned arena at Downtown Plaza, the team announced today.

Turner Construction is the firm building Levi's Stadium, the new facility for the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara. Turner also built the new Terminal B at Sacramento International Airport.

Kings president Chris Granger, who began his duties in Sacramento on Monday, said Turner is "the best in the business."

July 30, 2013
Mayor: Sacramento, Elk Grove should join forces in Major League Soccer push

Mayor Kevin Johnson thinks Sacramento is a great fit for Major League Soccer. He apparently also thinks Elk Grove would be a great spot, too.

Johnson told reporters today that he'd like to see two potential MLS ownership groups combine forces in an effort to lure the league to the Sacramento region.

One of those groups, led by Warren Smith, is the driving force behind the USL Pro squad called Sacramento Republic FC that is scheduled to begin playing next year at Hughes Stadium. The other group, led by former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis, is trying to lure MLS and build a stadium in Elk Grove.

May 7, 2013
Mayor to Seattle's Hansen: 'Take the high road' and back off

Mayor Kevin Johnson is so confident that the Kings are staying put, he's got some advice for the guys trying to buy the team and move it to Seattle: back off.

While saying he understands why they are fighting, the mayor said today that hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer should "take the high road and be gracious." Hansen and Ballmer have said they are still exploring their options after the NBA's relocation committee recommended by a 7-0 vote against their plan to move the Kings to the Emerald City.

"Once the relocation committee spoke as loud and as clear as it did, I would probably take a step back and understand that I'm probably not going to get this team, so how can I put Seattle in the best possible position to get a team moving forward?" the mayor said.

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 11, 2013
Former Sacramento Monarchs to attend Thursday event promoting pro hoops in city

Mayor Kevin Johnson's pro basketball efforts aren't all about the Kings.

On Thursday, the mayor's Think Big task force will hold an event with two former Sacramento Monarchs stars promoting the region as a viable WNBA market.

A group led by 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov has filed a bid to buy the Kings and block the franchise's planned move to Seattle. But Johnson also announced during his State of the City address last month that the group is interested in bringing the WNBA's Monarchs back to Sacramento. The Monarchs folded in 2009.

February 28, 2013
Mayor Kevin Johnson announces Kings bid in State of the City

By Tony Bizjak

After weeks of backroom talks, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson tonight announced that 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov has agreed to make a bid to buy the Sacramento Kings to keep them from moving this year to Seattle.

The mayor, during his State of the City address at Memorial Auditorium tonight, also announced grocery billionaire Ron Burkle and the owners of the Downtown Plaza have agreed to team with the city to build a downtown arena.

The mayor sweetened his offer, to be delivered to the NBA tomorrow, saying the new group has agreed to bring back the Sacramento Monarchs women's professional basketball team.

In addition, the mayor said former Kings star player Mitch Richmond would join about 20 other investors from Sacramento, each pitching in $1 million to buy a 7 percent stake in the Kings that is being auctioned in bankruptcy court.

In an often impassioned, sometimes theatrical speech before an estimated 3,000 people, many of them Kings fans, the mayor vowed Sacramento will not let Seattle take the Kings. The speech took on the atmosphere of a pep rally, with many in the crowd standing and cheering when Johnson took off his jacket to display his purple shirt and tie, and then announced Mastrov's name.

"Many across the country have counted us out. And I know we are still very much in this game," he said. "I hope Seattle gets a team someday. Let me be perfectly crystal clear, it is not going to be this team. Not our team. no way."

The mayor also announced that Sacramento businesses have committed $50 million in sponsorships for the Kings over the next five years. "Don't tell me we don't have a strong corporate community," he said.

While he said the Mastrov's bid would be competitive, Johnson did not provide details of how much the founder of 24 Hour Fitness is offering for the Kings. The Seattle group's bid for the Maloof family's 65 percent share is estimated to be $341 million. Johnson said he will fly to New York in April to pitch Sacramento to the NBA team owners group.

"As a city we have done everything the NBA has ever asked of us," he said.

Neither Mastrov nor Burkle joined the mayor on stage during his speech.

In a statement issued just after the mayor's speech, Todd Chapman, head of JMA Ventures, the company that recently bought the Downtown Plaza shopping mall, said he is thrilled that Johnson, Mastrov and Burkle have put together a bid for the team, and said his company is excited to participate. But he stopped short of saying his company had fully signed on yet.

"We are excited to continue our discussions with the Mayor, City Manager, Mark Mastrov and Ron Burkle about how Sacramento Downtown Plaza can be a new home for the Kings' organization," Chapman said. "Our goal has always been to create a dynamic center for the city in the heart of Sacramento, and an arena for the Kings at Sacramento Downtown Plaza would certainly be a fantastic addition."

The mayoral announcements should trigger several weeks of intense lobbying by both Sacramento and Seattle, culminating in an NBA vote on April 18 on whether to ratify the deal the Maloof family has struck with Seattle.

In brief statements issued through the mayor's office, Mastrov and Burkle offered no details about their plans, but said they are pleased to be part of something special.

"This is about building a winning franchise for a winning community.
Sacramento has proven time and again to be a great NBA market," Mastrov said. "As a
longtime resident of Northern California with deep ties to Sacramento,
I am thrilled to be a part of an effort to do something special for
this region."

Burkle said he is "excited about the economic possibilities for the arena and for
downtown Sacramento as a whole. We have an opportunity to transform
downtown into a vibrant hub of economic and cultural activity that
will create jobs and generate a positive economic impact for years to
come," he said.

LIVE STREAM VIDEO: State of the City

February 26, 2013
Sacramento council approves arena financing negotiations

For the first time in the latest effort to keep the Kings, the Sacramento City Council has opened its checkbook and dispatched top city officials to enter into formal negotiations over the financing of a new downtown sports arena.

The council voted 7-2 on Tuesday night to grant its approval of City Manager John Shirey's request to negotiate the terms of a new arena plan that is seen as a key element of the city's work to block a Kings move to Seattle. In doing so, the council allowed Shirey to spend $150,000 on attorneys and arena financing consultants.

While city officials have declined to name the investors they plan to negotiate with, it is widely known that Mayor Kevin Johnson is recruiting 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov and Southern California billionaire Ron Burkle to make a bid for the Kings. That bid would be presented to the NBA as a competing offer to the deal the Kings owners have to sell the franchise to a group seeking to move the team to Seattle. The NBA's Board of Governors will rule on the Seattle bid at its mid-April meeting.

February 19, 2013
Sacramento City Council's symbolic 7-2 vote supports Kings, arena quest

By Ryan Lillis and Tony Bizjak

The Sacramento City Council approved a resolution Tuesday night throwing its support behind keeping the Kings in town and contributing resources toward a new downtown sports arena.

While symbolic, the 7-2 City Council vote to approve the resolution showed that the council is willing to get behind Mayor Kevin Johnson's quest to block the Kings' plan to move to Seattle.

What's more, it showed there is an appetite on the council for providing a city subsidy to a new arena seen as vital to Johnson's cause.

February 12, 2013
Mayor Johnson says he's 'very close' to unveiling plan to keep Kings

As he prepares to head to Houston this weekend to lobby the NBA's team owners to keep pro basketball in Sacramento, Mayor Kevin Johnson said he is getting "very close" to revealing the deep-pocketed investors he has recruited to make a pitch to buy the franchise.

Those investors - along with a plan for a new downtown arena - would be the foundation of Johnson's argument to the NBA to block a deal the Kings' owners have to sell the franchise to a group that would move the team to Seattle in time for the 2013/14 season.

Johnson said he is working against a March 1 deadline to secure those investors and an arena plan. That date is the deadline for a team to file for relocation, which the Kings did last week.

February 5, 2013
Kings investors still not revealed, but mayor remains confident

Mayor Kevin Johnson still isn't ready to reveal the identities of the rich investors he's assembled to make a bid to buy the Kings. And despite going past his self-imposed time frame for that announcement, he doesn't sound too worried.

Johnson told reporters today the investors are "doing their due diligence and working very hard" to come to terms on a bid for the Kings. An announcement could come later this week or next week.

The mayor plans to package that bid with an arena plan as a counter-pitch to the deal the franchise's owners have made to sell the Kings to a group in Seattle. Johnson wants that plan solidified by the end of the month at the latest. The NBA will ultimately decide whether to support Johnson's proposal or approve the Seattle deal.

January 28, 2013
Fitness magnate Mastrov meets with local Kings investors

In an indication of how seriously he is considering buying the Kings, 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov was in Sacramento this morning meeting with the local business leaders who have committed $1 million each toward purchasing the team.

Mastrov, who reportedly made an unsuccessful bid of $350 million to buy the Golden State Warriors in 2010, is in serious discussions with billionaire Ron Burkle on teaming up on a bid to purchase the Kings and keep them in Sacramento. The pair has also discussed partnering on a plan to help build a new downtown sports arena, most likely at the site of the Downtown Plaza, sources have told The Bee.

Burkle met with Mayor Kevin Johnson last week and was in New York on Thursday, when he met with NBA Commissioner David Stern. During that meeting with Stern, Burkle expressed his interest in buying the Kings and advocated for building an arena at the Downtown Plaza site - not the downtown railyard, which had been the preferred site of city officials.

January 23, 2013
Mayor doesn't reveal 'whale,' but says talks with potential Kings ownership group moving quickly

Mayor Kevin Johnson isn't quite ready to reveal the identity of the whales.

Johnson told reporters this afternoon that he had "made considerable progress with discussions with major ownership groups" that would make a pitch to buy the Sacramento Kings and block a deal that would move the team to Seattle. The mayor has referred to those deep-pocketed investors as "whales."

A source told The Bee on Tuesday that billionaire grocery tycoon Ron Burkle and 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov are in serious discussions to partner on a bid for the Kings and align themselves with the city of Sacramento on a plan to help finance a new downtown sports arena.

January 22, 2013
Mayor assembles 19 local business leaders in pitch to buy the Kings

Mayor Kevin Johnson this afternoon said he had assembled 19 local business leaders who have each committed $1 million toward purchasing the Kings and keeping the team in Sacramento.

Photo gallery: Johnson's press conference

The group - which includes some of the region's best-known developers and business owners - would partner with at least one deep-pocketed investor to make a counter offer to the deal made by a group seeking to move the Kings to Seattle. Johnson said he is hopeful he will be able to unveil the identity of the ultra-wealthy investor or investors - whom he called "the whales" - by the end of this week.

"We're making progress on the whales," he said.

But Johnson said he wanted to introduce the local investors first, even though their stake will not be nearly enough to buy a team.

"These are folks who realize that the Kings are a civic asset for our community," the mayor said during a boisterous press conference at City Hall, flanked by more than a dozen of those business leaders, throngs of cheering Kings fans and most of the City Council.

January 17, 2013
NBA Commissioner Stern: Still no Seattle-Kings deal

There's still no deal in Seattle to move the Sacramento Kings to the Pacific Northwest, NBA Commissioner David Stern told reporters this morning.

Speaking in London, where the New York Knicks will play the Detroit Pistons today, Stern said "there's been lots of speculation" regarding the possible sale of the Kings to hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen in Seattle.

"The one thing we do know is no purchase and sale agreement has been submitted to (the league)," Stern said.

January 15, 2013
Mayor Johnson aims to make counter offer for Kings directly to NBA

With a Seattle group working to acquire the Kings, Mayor Kevin Johnson said this morning that he has received approval from NBA Commissioner David Stern to present a counter offer for the Kings directly to the NBA's board of governors.

Calling a reported $525 million offer for the team that's being floated by a Seattle group "outrageous," the mayor said during the annual State of Downtown address that he has developed a strategy to keep the Kings in Sacramento.

Johnson said he is looking for potential owners who would keep the team in Sacramento to bid against the Seattle offer led by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen. A new arena "must be part of the transaction" and the ownership group must include local partners, Johnson said.

January 7, 2013
NBA star LeBron James to attend St. HOPE fundraiser Friday

NBA star LeBron James will be the special guest Friday night at the annual fundraiser for St. HOPE, the non-profit organization founded by Mayor Kevin Johnson that operates charter schools in Oak Park.

James, a three-time NBA MVP, will be in town as his Miami Heat play the Kings on Saturday.

Johnson, himself a former NBA star, caused a little stir over the weekend when he tweeted that he was looking forward to James' visit and told followers to "stay tuned for a special announcement." A few Kings fans - apparently desperate for any news regarding the progress (or lack thereof) on a new arena - hit the Twitter waves pleading for more information.

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 3, 2012
California watchdog agency fines Mayor Kevin Johnson $37,500

The state's political watchdog group announced today it has fined Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson $37,500 for failing to report millions of dollars in donations he solicited for various non-profits, including the group he tasked with developing a financing plan for a new arena.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission said it found 25 cases in which Johnson failed to report what are called behest payments within the required 30 days of securing those donations. The FPPC investigation was sparked by a Bee report in September that revealed thousands of dollars in donations to the mayor's Think Big arena task force had not been reported in a timely matter.

The behests examined by the FPPC totaled more than $3.5 million and were made to the mayor's arena task force and education initiative. Donations secured by the mayor were also made to City Year - a national program Johnson recruited to Sacramento that places young tutors and mentors in schools - and Teach for America, another national education organization.

November 28, 2012
Mayor Johnson names new chief of staff

Mayor Kevin Johnson has named a new chief of staff.

Daniel Conway will take over the post on Monday. He was most recently the Legislative and Public Affairs Director for the California Restaurant Association.

The mayor's office also announced that Helen Hewitt would be joining the staff as director of constituent affairs. Hewitt has held various posts at City Hall, including district director of former Councilwoman Lauren Hammond.

November 20, 2012
Winter housing program for homeless gets financial boost

Mayor Kevin Johnson announced this morning that faith, business and elected leaders had raised enough money to fund the Winter Sanctuary program that houses 100 homeless men and women every night in houses of worship.

With a check for $50,000 from Wells Fargo, this is the first time the program has been fully funded before the start of the winter season, the mayor said. All together, 27 congregations have signed on to house homeless people every night at a total cost for the season of $150,000.

"Sacramento is no longer sweeping homelessness under the rug," the mayor said.

November 13, 2012
If Obama calls, Mayor Johnson says he won't leave Sacramento

He spent a good chunk of the fall campaigning for President Obama outside California. But Mayor Kevin Johnson insists he's not trying to position himself for an appointment in Washington.

Asked today by a KCRA reporter whether he would consider accepting a job offer by Obama, the mayor said he was "100 percent committed to Sacramento." The mayor was re-elected to a second term in June, but has yet to be officially sworn in for that term.

"This is the city I love," he said. "I could live anywhere, I came back here (after retiring from the NBA), this is going to be my resting place, I know it. There is nothing I could imagine that I would ever do that would require me to live anywhere but Sacramento."

November 13, 2012
Literacy program launched by Mayor Johnson recognized

A third grade literacy program launched by Mayor Kevin Johnson has received a national accolade.

Sacramento Reads, which places volunteer tutors in city schools, was recognized today with a Pacesetter Honor by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. The mayor's initiative seeks to have 80 percent of third graders reading at grade level by 2020; fewer than 40 percent read at grade level now.

"We can and we must get our kids reading by the end of third grade if we are serious about having them graduate from high school, ready for college, ready for careers, ready to contribute to our nation's participation in the global economy and to end intergenerational poverty," said Ralph Smith, the managing director for the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

November 5, 2012
Mayor Johnson hosting election night party at new K Street bar

His own re-election already assured in the primary, Mayor Kevin Johnson is holding a party Tuesday night - and he's inviting everyone.

The mayor is hosting an election night party at the new Oishii Sushi Bar & Grill at 1000 K St. The party is scheduled to run from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

If you're interested in attending, the mayor's office asks that you RSVP to

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 12, 2012
Mayor Johnson, Ed Secretary Duncan meet in Sacramento

But will they play hoops?

Mayor Kevin Johnson is hosting a California Mayors Education Summit in town today, with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as the featured guest. Johnson and Duncan will be joined by more than 40 mayors and school district superintendents from around the state at the event in the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria.

Duncan - who played basketball at Harvard and later professionally in Australia - is kicking off his national "Education Drives America" bus tour with the stop here.

September 5, 2012
Hey Mayor Johnson, where you been lately?

Mayor Kevin Johnson has been quite the jet-setter lately (if you consider Tampa, Louisville and Charlotte exotic destinations).

Continuing a week-long tour, Mayor Johnson is in Charlotte, N.C., this week for the Democratic National Convention. He's a delegate with the state Democratic Party and has been attending many events - including speaking to the delegations from Georgia, Arizona, Utah and Hawaii.

Johnson also spoke to the national chapter of the college Democrats on Friday and has been in meetings with the U.S. Conference of Mayors - an organization for which he serves as the second vice president.

September 4, 2012
Mayoral staffer in credit card scandal received $4,700 payout

The former mayoral aide at the center of the city's credit card scandal didn't leave empty handed when she resigned in July.

Lisa Serna-Mayorga received a payout of $4,727.30 in unused vacation and holiday time, according to documents obtained by The Bee through a Public Records Act request. Most of the money - $4,617 - was for 125 hours of vacation time Serna-Mayorga did not use. City spokeswoman Amy Williams said the city is required by law to pay out the unused vacation time.

Serna-Mayorga resigned after it was revealed she had allegedly used her city-issued credit card to make personal purchases. Sources have told The Bee she reimbursed the city $9,000 for the charges, which included a trip to Disneyland, gasoline and groceries.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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
Some on Sacramento council want to strip mayor of power to appoint office manager

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Vote results: Customize your view

Voter guide: The candidates

Bee endorsements

June 5, 2012
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 31, 2012
Sacramento's Democratic old guard continues split with Mayor Johnson

The city's Democratic establishment continues to display its dislike of Mayor Kevin Johnson.

Former Sacramento County Supervisor Illa Collin has endorsed mayoral challenger Jonathan Rewers in his bid to unseat Johnson in Tuesday's election. That's the third former Democratic officeholder to endorse Rewers - a Republican and one-time contributor to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"It is with deep honor that I accept Supervisor Collin's endorsement," Rewers said. "Her accomplishments and the respect she commands in Sacramento are without measure."

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 24, 2012
Is Mayor Johnson dismissing competition or taking them seriously? Yes

In one breath, Mayor Kevin Johnson tells us how little he thinks of his competition. But then he insists his re-election campaign is not taking anything for granted.

So which is it? Both, apparently.

The mayor sent out an email to supporters this morning telling them he is "not taking anything for granted in what is expected to be a low turnout election." That statement follows others by the mayor and his campaign dismissing the quality of his challengers.

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
Former Mayor Fargo endorses Rewers in campaign against Johnson

Former Mayor Heather Fargo apparently hasn't gotten over her loss to Kevin Johnson three years ago.

Fargo has endorsed mayoral candidate Jonathan Rewers in his bid against Mayor Johnson, the Rewers campaign announced. Fargo was defeated by Johnson in 2008.

"I think in the past three weeks I have proven that I am the most qualified candidate to be mayor, have presented a clear plan and agenda, have given the voters the respect they want by going to their events and asking for their vote, and now I have the endorsement of someone who has served this city as mayor and delivered," Rewers said in a statement released by his campaign.

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 21, 2012
Mayor Johnson plans L.A. fundraiser with AEG chief, Villaraigosa

Mayor Kevin Johnson will be in Los Angeles tonight for a fundraiser hosted by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. But it's also an event that could have an impact on Sacramento's ongoing - although faded - arena effort.

Tim Leiweke, the chief executive of arena operator AEG, is one of the co-hosts of the fundraiser being held at The Ritz Carlton at L.A. Live, an entertainment district developed by AEG. Leiweke's company had agreed to operate Sacramento's downtown arena and Johnson is still hoping to attract the firm to the city, despite the arena effort's collapse.

Wealthy philanthropist Eli Broad - whose education reform interests are similar to Johnson's - and former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan are also listed as co-hosts of the Johnson fundraiser.

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.

May 1, 2012
Mayor urges Sacramento public safety unions to agree to pension changes

He may have side-stepped the issue a bit last week, but Mayor Kevin Johnson now says the battered city budget will be his focus this month.

Johnson told reporters this morning that he wants to be "actively involved" in trying to convince the city's public safety unions to agree to contribute to their pensions. Faced with a $15.7 million deficit, city budget officials said nearly 100 cops and firefighters will be laid off if those workers don't pay the full share of the employee contribution of their CalPERS retirement plans. The city would continue to pay the employer share.

The budget was released on Thursday, the same day the mayor began talks with the owners of the Sacramento Kings in an attempt to revive the city's collapsed arena deal. The mayor was not immediately briefed on the budget and Johnson didn't answer budget-related questions from a television reporter on Thursday.

May 1, 2012
With 'Plan B' still in play, mayor acknowledges city won't have arena done by 2015

At the very least, the collapse of the city's arena plan has delayed the potential opening of a new facility.

As the city explores a "Plan B" to build a downtown arena without the Sacramento Kings, Mayor Kevin Johnson acknowledged today "we're not going to make 2015."

City officials had hoped to open a planned $391 million arena in the downtown railyard in time for the 2015/16 NBA season. That plan fell apart after the Kings' owners pulled out of a handshake agreement to help finance the project. As a result, pre-development work on the arena has been halted, making the city's target date unrealistic.

April 25, 2012
Padilla convinced he'll win Sacramento mayor's race, but will have a job for Johnson

Leonard Padilla now seems convinced he'll be Sacramento's next mayor. But he graciously offers to reserve a job for Kevin Johnson.

The well-known bounty hunter and five-time mayoral candidate said as much in an email exchange with an NBA fan relations rep. Padilla sent out a copy of the email exchange today.

Padilla has objected to the public financing of a new downtown sports arena, a thought he shared with NBA Commissioner David Stern in a recent note. The NBA thanked him for his response - touching off the following statement from Padilla:

April 24, 2012
Mayor and Maloofs still talking, but time running out on reviving Sacramento arena deal

Mayor Kevin Johnson and Kings co-owner George Maloof spoke again this morning and have decided to meet in person within the next few days in what will likely be a make-or-break session.

The mayor told reporters this morning that the next sit down will probably determine whether the city's collapsed arena deal is back on, or if "we don't have the makings of a deal." Asked how confident he was that a deal would be resurrected between the city and its NBA team, Johnson said he was "hopeful rather than confident."

A Maloof spokesman told The Bee's Tony Bizjak that the meeting would take place in Sacramento on Thursday morning. But aides to the mayor said they had not confirmed their schedule.

April 19, 2012
NBA great Robertson to get key to the city in Sacramento

Mayor Kevin Johnson isn't breaking all ties with the Sacramento Kings franchise.

Johnson will present basketball hall of famer Oscar Robertson with a key to the city at City Hall on Friday. The public event is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in the first floor foyer.

Robertson played 12 seasons, including from 1960 to 1970 for the Cincinnati Royals (the Royals would later move to Kansas City and then Sacramento). His No. 14 jersey has been retired by the Sacramento Kings.

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 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."

March 20, 2012
AEG president: Sacramento 'is a good bet' on arena deal

The man who seeks to operate Sacramento's proposed sports arena was introduced today to the public.

Tim Leiweke, the president of international arena operator AEG, told reporters at City Hall that his firm is making "a huge commitment" to the project, but that he feels strongly "Sacramento is a good bet." AEG has committed $58.75 million in upfront costs to the $391 million project.

"We'll have one of the great arenas not just in the US, but in the world, and Sacramento will be a different community," he 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 6, 2012
Mayor: Sacramento 'on the verge of doing something very special' with arena vote

With the City Council expected to approve a non-binding financial plan for a new downtown sports arena tonight, Mayor Kevin Johnson told reporters this morning that "we're on the verge of doing something very special."

"We're finally at the point where we have one single vote, one moment in time to totally transform the downtown community and Sacramento for generations," he said.

The council is expected to approve a "term sheet" for a $391 million arena. The city has proposed contributing 65 percent of the project cost, mostly through either leasing or borrowing against downtown parking.

February 15, 2012
Bounty hunter Padilla to challenge Sacramento Mayor Johnson

Mayor Kevin Johnson finally has an opponent.

Sacramento bounty hunter and four-time mayoral candidate Leonard Padilla told me today he is definitely running against Johnson after pulling candidacy papers from the city clerk's office on Tuesday. Padilla's main campaign issue: the arena.

"I don't want the Maloofs (who own the Sacramento Kings) given one red cent, much less a quarter of a billion dollars," he said, referring to a proposal for the city to lease downtown parking to help finance a new sports arena.

February 14, 2012
Serna ends rumors, says he won't run for Sacramento mayor

Sacramento Supervisor Phil Serna said today he is not running for mayor, ending weeks of speculation that he might take on Mayor Kevin Johnson.

In an email sent to the media, Serna said he wanted to remain focused on "job growth in places like McClellan Business Park, Downtown Sacramento and the Power Inn Corridor, and I'm dedicated to protecting the American River Parkway."

"Running for mayor now would put campaigning over continuing to give my attention to these and other priorities," he said. "I'm not prepared to do that."

February 14, 2012
Gay rights advocates step up pressure on Mayor Johnson

Marriage rights activists are stepping up their pressure on Mayor Kevin Johnson to join dozens of other elected officials in supporting gay marriage.

Supporters of gay marriage were expected to drop off 338 signatures this morning at City Hall urging Johnson to join the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry. Despite telling reporters last week that he would read the pledge, Johnson still hadn't read it as of this morning.

"Sacramento is one of the most diverse cities in America and a city like ours needs leaders willing to stand up for all of us," Sam Catalano, president of the Stonewall Democrats, said in a statement. "Supporting marriage equality helps make our city stronger both socially and economically. We are all exceptionally hopeful that Mayor Kevin Johnson stands on the right side of history and we eagerly await his response."

February 10, 2012
Could Mayor Johnson face a challenger in re-election bid?

For quite some time, opponents of Mayor Kevin Johnson have sought a candidate to challenge the mayor in the June primary. While no one has formally stepped up, talks appear to be getting more serious behind the scenes.

Those talks are being charged by a poll released nearly two weeks ago - found here MayoralPoll1-31-12.pdf - that showed fewer than half of those surveyed would vote to re-elect the mayor. More than half wanted to elect an unnamed "someone else."

The poll was clearly put together - and then distributed to the media - in an attempt to convince a candidate to run against Johnson. It was funded by the Sacramento Building Trades Union.

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
Sacramento arena talks expected to heat up

Mayor Kevin Johnson expects negotiations on the funding plan for a new downtown Kings arena to intensify, now that 13 firms have expressed interest in leasing the city's parking operations.

The mayor told reporters this morning that the city is "on track and in striking distance" of developing a financing plan for the $387 million arena. City officials are hoping to raise as much as $200 million for the project from the leasing of downtown parking garages, spaces and enforcement.

With more than a dozen firms expressing interest in those parking assets, the mayor said "it's going to be constant negotiations with (arena operator) AEG, the Kings and the NBA and all the interested parties" as the sides work on a funding plan before a March 1 deadline. If a plan does not materialize before then, the NBA has told the Maloofs - the family that owns the Kings - that they can explore moving the franchise.

February 7, 2012
Following Prop. 8 ruling, Mayor Johnson will consider pledge to promote marriage equality

Following a federal appeals court ruling today that California's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, Mayor Kevin Johnson said he would look at a petition signed by dozens of statewide politicians that promotes marriage equality.

While the mayor said he "certainly respects" the court's decision today, he repeated his personal belief that "marriage is between a man and a woman." But, he added, "I strongly oppose discrimination when it comes to our constitution."

Johnson has been urged by the Stonewall Democrats club to join the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, "a bipartisan coalition of over 100 United States mayors dedicated to promoting marriage equality in their communities, state, and our nation."

February 6, 2012
Seattle's interest in Kings not impacting Sacramento's arena work - so far

The news out of Seattle this weekend that city officials are discussing a plan for a new arena in that city - and that they're monitoring the situation here - is so far having no impact on Sacramento's own arena work.

"We are focused on one thing and one thing only: what is in the best interest of the people of Sacramento," Mayor Kevin Johnson told me in an email. "And to that end we have put in place a plan that we believe is good for the League (the NBA), good for the team (the Kings) and, most importantly, good for the City when it comes to jobs and protecting the taxpayers."

At the very least, news that Seattle has a new arena plan in the works tells us one thing: there's potentially a new suitor for the Kings, should Sacramento's own arena deal fail.

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.

February 1, 2012
Man throws wallet at Mayor Johnson during council meeting

Union bosses, local Democratic operatives and neighborhood activists have all spent the last three years taking shots at Mayor Kevin Johnson. But not until Tuesday night had someone actually thrown something at the mayor.

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 of 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 find his missing identification.

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
Poll shows less than half support re-electing Mayor Johnson

A new poll commissioned by opponents of Mayor Kevin Johnson shows that fewer than half of those asked are likely to vote to re-elect the mayor. But with just five weeks left before the filing deadline, Johnson's opposition has been unable to come with a candidate.

The poll - conducted by EMC Research and paid for by the Sacramento Building Trades Union - showed 46 percent of the 400 city voters asked would vote for an unnamed "someone else" in the June primary. Another 41 percent said they were definitely or probably going to vote for Johnson.

While the mayor had a favorable rating of 53 percent, other results showed 30 percent of voters think "Johnson gets things done;" 34 percent said the mayor is "someone we can count on;" and 31 percent think he has the right priorities. The poll can be found here KJpoll1-31.pdf.

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 30, 2012
Mayor's State of the City focuses on arena, education, green jobs

state_of_city.jpgMayor Kevin Johnson focused on three of his favorite topics during the annual State of the City address today: the arena, the green economy and education. The common theme for all three topics was the city's battered economy.

"None of us can afford to wait for the economy to recover on its own," the mayor said. "We have to take bold actions and determine our own destiny. We have to make the impossible possible."

On the city's ongoing work to finance a new downtown Kings arena, the mayor said he was launching a campaign to raise $10 million for the project from fans and residents. The "Brick by Brick" campaign will allow people to purchase engraved bricks to be placed in front of the proposed facility.

January 27, 2012
City cops like arena - and the idea of handling game security

The city's powerful police union supports the plan to build a new Kings arena downtown. But this isn't simply an issue of public safety.

Mark Tyndale, the head of the Sacramento Police Officers Association, said his organization has been told city police officers would handle arena security during Kings games should the facility be built.

Since 1999, those duties have fallen to the Sacramento Sheriff's Department in a deal worked out between the team and former Sheriff Lou Blanas. It's an arrangement that has "always been a little bit of a thorn in our side," said Tyndale.

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 17, 2012
East Sacramento neighbors save Clunie Center

A new model is emerging for keeping city parks and community centers open as the budget ax continues to chop away at those assets.

Neighborhood groups and businesses are stepping in to do what City Hall can't. The latest example of that involvement is in east Sacramento, where neighbors and businesses raised money and formed an organization to keep the Clunie Community Center open.

Flanked by supporters of the center, Mayor Kevin Johnson said this morning that the movement was "an example of us saving something historic in our community." The 75-year-old Clune Center serves 100,000 people a year.

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 13, 2012
Campaign: Mayor Johnson raised $546,775 in 2011

He doesn't have a serious opponent, but that hasn't stopped Mayor Kevin Johnson from amassing a large war chest for his re-election effort.

Johnson's campaign chief Steve Maviglio told me this morning that the mayor raised $546,775 in 2011. Campaign finance figures will be released later this month for all candidates involved in city races.

The fundraising total leaves Johnson with $410,385 on hand, according to Maviglio (Johnson still owes himself $500,000 from a loan he made to his 2008 campaign).

January 10, 2012
Mayor: Delay in arena parking bid sent wrong message to NBA

Mayor Kevin Johnson said today he was concerned that a decision by city officials to delay soliciting interest from the private sector in taking over downtown parking operations could "send a message to the NBA that something is not quite on track" with the city's bid to finance a new downtown sports arena.

Johnson told The Bee's editorial board that he was not consulted by City Manager John Shirey's office before the decision was made a few weeks ago to push back the release of a request for qualifications from Dec. 22 until Monday. And he said he disagreed with the decision.

City officials are counting on generating as much as $200 million in upfront cash for the $387 million arena by leasing downtown parking spaces, garages and enforcement to a private company.

January 9, 2012
Former mayors Isenberg, Yee support Johnson's latest charter proposal

Two former mayors are supporting Mayor Kevin Johnson's latest proposal to overhaul the city constitution.

Former Mayors Phil Isenberg and Jimmie Yee are endorsing Johnson's plan and will serve as "honorary co-chairs" of the measure's political campaign, according to a news release sent out by the campaign this morning.

Under the plan, Sacramento would be governed by a "mayor-council" form of government, transitioning from the current system in which the unelected city manager handles most day-to-day operations.

December 28, 2011
Poll shows support of Mayor Johnson's latest charter proposal

Supporters of Mayor Kevin Johnson's latest effort to revamp the city's governing structure released the findings of a survey today that shows support for both the mayor and the proposal.

A survey of 504 likely city voters by pollster FM3 showed 63 percent favored the "Checks and Balances Act of 2012." A memo summarizing the poll's findings was released to the media and supporters of the proposal, which can be found here: MaslinPoll.doc.

Voters particularly liked giving the mayor the authority to propose the budget, subject to City Council approval (67 percent support); giving the mayor veto authority over budget items, subject to council override (67 percent support); and having the mayor and council jointly appoint the city manager, as they do now (66 percent support).

December 27, 2011
Mayor Johnson sees boost in arena effort as Kings play - and win

Perhaps it was the euphoria of the Kings' victory over the L.A. Lakers on Monday. Or maybe it's the holiday spirit. Either way, Mayor Kevin Johnson seems more and more confident about Sacramento's chances of building a new downtown sports arena.

Johnson told reporters this morning, "I think we're going to get it done." City officials are trying to finalize a financing plan for the latest proposal, a $406 million facility in the downtown railyard.

Still, the mayor said the city is "at a critical juncture."

December 21, 2011
Mayor's supporters propose city governance changes

Mayor Kevin Johnson today proposed an overhaul of the way the city is governed.

Well, sort of.

Johnson was noticeably absent during a morning press conference at which the "Checks and Balances Act of 2012" was announced. The mayor will ask the City Council next month to place the measure on the June 2012 ballot.

December 20, 2011
Mayor, community groups announce new gang prevention plan

By Ryan Lillis

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, local law enforcement officials, community leaders and faith-based groups said Tuesday they were shifting the way they deal with gangs and will focus on prevention and intervention tactics.

Speaking at the Boys and Girls Club on Lemon Hill Avenue, the mayor said a task force he put together earlier this year would embark on a three-year plan on tackling gangs. Many of the programs the task force will work on are already in place, but the mayor said the new plan would help to coordinate those efforts.

The gang task force was formed in the wake of community outcry after two people - including a young mother - were gunned down outside a south Sacramento barbershop last December.

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 13, 2011
Sacramento council on verge of approving key arena vote

It appears the Sacramento City Council will approve tonight issuing a request for qualifications from companies interested in leasing the city's downtown parking operations, the key peg in the financing of a new arena.

Tony Bizjak tweets from the City Council meeting

Mayor Kevin Johnson and four council members have told The Bee in recent days they support issuing an RFQ. In addition to the mayor, Council members Steve Cohn, Rob Fong, Jay Schenirer and Kevin McCarty have all said they are open to the RFQ. Five votes are enough to pass the proposal.

The RFQ is a key step in the arena financing model, but it isn't the biggest step. That will come early next year, when the City Council - armed with a complete financing package that also includes contributions from the NBA, Sacramento Kings and arena operator AEG - will decide whether to issue a request for proposals seeking formal bids for the parking assets.

December 7, 2011
Sacramento rock legend Tesla to get key to the city

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of their debut album, Sacramento rock legend Tesla will be given the key to the city today by Mayor Kevin Johnson.

The ceremony is scheduled for noon today at the Rock and Radio Museum on 20th Street in midtown. The mayor is expected to be joined by band members Jeff Keith, Frank Hannon, Brian Wheat, Troy Luccketta and Dave Rude.

November 28, 2011
What Mayor Johnson's 'strong mayor' proposal looks like

We don't know when Mayor Kevin Johnson's strong mayor initiative will re-emerge. But we probably have a good idea what it will look like when it does.

As I wrote over the weekend, the mayor and his advisers are debating whether to revive the strong mayor proposal for the June primary election or hold off until the November ballot.

The plan favored by the mayor's team likely resembles the proposal they floated last summer, when the City Council rejected Johnson's wishes to have an initiative drafted by the city attorney.

November 23, 2011
Mayor Johnson nominated for basketball Hall of Fame

Mayor Kevin Johnson is about to co-host the California Hall of Fame ceremony. In the meantime, he's been nominated for another shrine.

Johnson - who achieved stardom as a point guard for the NBA's Phoenix Suns long before he entered politics - was added recently to the list of nominees for the Basketball Hall of Fame's class of 2012,'s Scott Howard-Cooper reported Tuesday on Twitter.

Howard-Cooper noted that Johnson is a long shot for induction into the Hall of Fame, but described him as a "credible candidate." For you basketball junkies, Johnson averaged 18 points and nine assists per games in 12 seasons.

November 22, 2011
Firefighters, builders support Johnson - but some Dems don't

It should come as a surprise to no one: The city's firefighters and many in the region's development community are throwing their support behind Mayor Kevin Johnson in his re-election bid.

He's still having trouble with some members of his own political party, however.

Recent endorsements of Johnson by the firefighters and builders follow the support of many well-known elected officials in the Democratic Party that I will report on in an upcoming Bee story.

Even as he gets the support of those elected officials, Johnson is still having a hard time with the local Democratic clubs and the unions that are closely aligned with those organizations. The reasons are varied - some of them are political, some are personal - and I'll explore those reasons in greater depth in my article.

November 15, 2011
Mayor: NBA lockout doesn't hurt public support for arena

The ongoing NBA lockout may not have slowed Sacramento's push to build a new downtown sports arena. But does it hurt public support for the project?

Mayor Kevin Johnson doesn't think so, even as the City Council prepares to make a critical vote in the coming weeks on the project's financing plan.

Johnson told reporters once again today that the project is about more than basketball. Still, the Kings would act as the anchor tenant of a new arena and many still view the proposed facility as a basketball arena.

November 8, 2011
Mayor Johnson returns from London, attends City Council meeting

Mayor Kevin Johnson cut a trip to London short and attended tonight's City Council meeting.

Johnson was in London attending the World Travel Market, one of the world's largest tourism conferences. He was part of a delegation marketing Sacramento and California to international tour operators.

Had Johnson missed tonight's meeting, it would have been his 10th absence of the year.

November 7, 2011
Mayor Johnson in London for tourism event, may miss another City Council meeting

The Kevin Johnson World Tour is stopping in London this week.

The mayor is attending the World Tourism Market, one of the largest tourism trade shows in the world. He is part of a team of California tourism officials and celebrities marketing the state to tour operators from around the world.

Local tourism officials and the mayor's office are touting Johnson's appearance as a marketing gold mine for the city. But it also means Johnson will likely miss his 10th City Council meeting of the year.

November 1, 2011
Mayor Johnson to miss another City Council meeting tonight

Mayor Kevin Johnson's truancy has reached new heights.

The mayor will miss his ninth City Council meeting of the year tonight, his staff said. And with that, Johnson will pass former Mayor Heather Fargo's highest absence total for a single year.

Johnson is in Washington, serving on a panel at the GreenGov Symposium, a conference run by the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The mayor's office said the White House requested that Johnson attend the discussion to talk about progress made by the city in the green technology sector, including a recent $100 million program launched to fund energy-saving retrofits of office buildings.

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 31, 2011
Detroit mayor, former NBA star Bing campaigns for Johnson

dave bing.JPGHe may not have serious competition yet, but Mayor Kevin Johnson is campaigning like a guy facing a fight.

The mayor raised $20,000 on Friday night at a fundraiser at downtown BBQ joint Sandra Dee's. The guest of honor was Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, who like Johnson made his name as a star player in the NBA.

"Dave has been a success throughout his life, both on and off the court," Johnson said in a written statement. "As Mayor of Detroit he has taken a challenge and created an opportunity to make the Motor City a thriving city once again. I'm honored to have his support."

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 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 30, 2011
Sactown Magazine's exclusive photos of the mayor's wedding

Photos of Sacramento's "wedding of the year" are out.

OK, so that wedding didn't take place in Sacramento. But the marriage of Mayor Kevin Johnson to education reform advocate Michelle Rhee in Tennessee earlier this month was certainly talked about a lot around here.

Sactown Magazine has the exclusive photos, which are included in this month's issue. The folks at Sactown sent me one of those shots and it's included below.

September 29, 2011
Mayor Johnson: Don't delay hiring cops funded by federal grant

While Sacramento city officials have indicated they may hold off hiring some of the 25 officers to be funded by a recently awarded federal grant, Mayor Kevin Johnson said today that "wasting even a minute in the race to restore officers is not acceptable."

The city was awarded Wednesday with $8.1 million in U.S. Department of Justice grants. The timing couldn't have been better for the city, which laid off 42 cops just three months ago.

But both Police Chief Rick Braziel and City Manager John Shirey have said the city could hold on to some of the funding until the 2012/13 budget next June. That budget is once again projected to have a shortfall and banking some of the grant money might ease potential cuts to the police department.

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 27, 2011
Firefighters union gives big to Mayor Johnson campaign

Mayor Kevin Johnson's re-election bid got an early financial boost from an old friend.

The city's firefighter union cut a check for $10,100 to the Johnson campaign, said campaign spokesman Steve Maviglio.

Local 522's support of the mayor isn't surprising. The public safety unions have been the mayor's most loyal allies in his first three years in office.

September 21, 2011
Mayor Johnson attends United Nations event

Mayor Kevin Johnson traded his colleagues on the City Council on Tuesday for the president of Mongolia.

The mayor was at the United Nations - yes, the United Nations - for a sustainable energy forum attended by dignitaries and business leaders from around the world. Among the speakers at the event: former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister of Turkey.

At Johnson's table sat several business leaders, as well as Mongolian president Elbegdorj Tsakhia and Meltek Sato Kilman Livtunvanu who is, of course, the prime minister of Vanuatu. No word on whether the mayor was able to line up any foreign investors for a new arena back home.

September 14, 2011
It's official: Mayor Johnson running for a second term

DSC_7330.JPGMayor Kevin Johnson announced today that he is running for a second term, saying "Sacramento has come a long way, but it still has not met its potential as a city."

Speaking before a crowd at the Capitol Academy charter school in Oak Park, Johnson said he would run an aggressive campaign that will include "listening sessions" around the city and door-to-door canvassing.

So far, the only candidate lined up against Johnson is bounty hunter Leonard Padilla.

September 13, 2011
Mayor: 'Sacramento is a baseball town,' could support A's

athletics.jpgWith plans to build a stadium for the A's in San Jose still dragging on, baseball fans in Sacramento will continue to cling to the prospect of moving the franchise here. Mayor Kevin Johnson certainly supports that idea.

Johnson - who was drafted by the A's as a shortstop out of Sacramento High School - told reporters today that "Sacramento is a baseball town" and that he thinks "we have a city that has an ability to support more than one professional team."

That being said, Johnson said the city's priority must be to keep the Kings in town and build a new basketball arena.

September 13, 2011
Mayor Johnson expected to launch re-election bid Wednesday

Mayor Kevin Johnson is expected to announce his re-election bid on Wednesday.

In an email to supporters, Johnson said he would be "making a major announcement" on Wednesday at the Aspire Capitol Heights Academy, a charter school in Oak Park.

It has long been expected that Johnson would seek a second term in the June primary. So far, only local bounty hunter Leonard Padilla has expressed an intent to run against Johnson.

September 6, 2011
Mayor Johnson, Michelle Rhee get married

bp kevin ring.JPGMayor Kevin Johnson and his fiancée, education reformer Michelle Rhee, were married over the weekend.

The couple was married on Saturday at Blackberry Farm, a luxury hotel in the Great Smoky Mountains outside of Knoxville, Tenn. About 40 relatives and close friends attended.

"We had a small ceremony with an intimate group of family and friends and are thrilled to be starting our lives together," the mayor said in an email to The Bee. "We want to thank everyone who has sent us well-wishes, as we are so appreciative of the support."

Photo caption: Mayor Kevin Johnson high-five's a student at Peter Burnett Elementary School during the first day of school Tuesday morning. Photo by Bryan Patrick

September 1, 2011
Mayor Johnson 'strongly thinking about' re-election bid

JOHNSON VOTE.jpgMayor Kevin Johnson is "strongly thinking about announcing plans to run for reelection soon," he wrote in an email to supporters today obtained by The Bee.

Johnson has said multiple times that he intends to run for a second term, but has never said outright that he would seek re-election next year. His email suggests he will run.

"I'm excited to get started - can't thank you enough for all you've done and continue to do," he wrote.

August 30, 2011
Sacramento on the verge of allowing backyard chickens

It appears Cowtown is about to become Chickentown.

The City Council seems poised to approve an ordinance tonight that will allow residents to keep laying hens in backyards. That's sure to please members of the "slow food" movement and those already keeping chickens.

While some residents still have their reservations, one person who has changed his mind and now supports backyard chickens is Mayor Kevin Johnson. And all it took was a chat with one of Northern California's best-known chefs.

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 17, 2011
Sacramento arena funding plan to be released Sept. 8

We now know when and where the proposed financing plan for a new downtown sports arena will be unveiled.

Rich Ehisen, president of the Sacramento Press Club, announced during Tuesday's luncheon that the menu of funding options for the proposed $387 million facility would be revealed during the Press Club's Sept. 8 event.

While precise details of the financing plan are still unknown, Chris Lehane, the chair of the task force, said in a new release this morning that it will include "contributions from both the public and private sectors, including the Kings ownership group, arena developers and operators."

August 16, 2011
The Battle of Med Center: Brawl over tiny enclave continues

Petitions are being signed. Politicians and their staffers are canvassing door to door. Emails accusing the other side of malfeasance are filling up inboxes.

And it's all over a small - but incredibly symbolic - neighborhood many people have never heard of.

Of all the political battles to take place within City Hall the past three years, the fight over which council district should represent the residential neighborhood of Med Center has been perhaps the most colorful. And it likely will reach the next level tonight, when dozens of people from both sides are expected to testify before the City Council.

August 16, 2011
Mayor: Progress made on finding housing for homeless

Mayor Kevin Johnson thinks the region could meet his goal of providing 2,400 permanent shelter beds for the homeless in time for this winter's wet and cold weather.

Sacramento Steps Forward, the mayor's non-profit organization founded to address the region's homeless issue, has helped identify more than 2,000 beds so far, officials said today. Johnson's goal was to find 2,400 before next year.

While officials are ahead of schedule on finding permanent housing for the homeless, "there are still far too many people who are homeless" in Sacramento, the mayor said.

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.

August 8, 2011
Sacramento city manager pay increasing sharply

The job of Sacramento city manager is about to become much more lucrative.

In a contract expected to be approved by the City Council on Tuesday, newly-appointed city manager John Shirey will make a base salary of $258,000. With retirement contributions, health benefits and allowances, his annual compensation will hit $305,940.

That's roughly $35,000 more a year than the previous two full-time city managers - Gus Vina and Ray Kerridge. Shirey's base salary will be equal to the region's highest-paid local government official, Sacramento County Executive Brad Hudson.

August 2, 2011
Mayor: City should have independent redistricting panel

Mayor Kevin Johnson thinks the way the city's redistricting process has unfolded stinks. And he wants to make some changes.

The mayor was very critical today of the way the council has settled on the final six maps it is considering for new council district boundaries. Two of them were submitted by council members - Sandy Sheedy and Steve Cohn.

"That discredits, in my opinion, the whole process," the mayor said. "We say 'integrity,' we say 'involve the public,' and then we put two maps out."

July 26, 2011
City Hall aims to improve business climate in Sacramento

City Hall wants to fix what some officials think is a hostile business environment in Sacramento.

The city is launching an effort aimed at speeding up development and doing away with regulations criticized for scaring businesses away from the city, officials announced today.

The process will begin over the next few weeks, when the city's Community Development Department will move toward placing permitting processes online, reducing fees associated with solar projects and creating "express lanes" for some projects.

July 11, 2011
What should be done with Sacramento's Downtown Plaza?

A majority of young professionals surveyed by a local business group think a redeveloped Westfield Downtown Plaza is "very important" for the city's future and that City Hall should help pay for the project.

In a survey conducted by Metro EDGE, a 40-and-under branch of the Sacramento Metro Chamber, more than half of those asked also thought private investors and the city should partner in purchasing the mall.

Westfield is reportedly trying to sell the mall, which has plummeted in value in recent years. Mayor Kevin Johnson has demanded that the company improve the mall or sell, and many downtown interests see the plaza as a key peg in the area's revitalization.

July 5, 2011
Police union members to weigh in on pension changes

The city police union will survey its membership to gauge interest in officers contributing to their pensions and other benefit concessions.

Any agreement on pensions and benefits would have to come with a condition, the union said: cops, community service officers and dispatchers could not be laid off during the life of the union's current contract, which runs to 2013.

Police officers agreed to their current contract in 2009, delaying raises in the process. That agreement avoided police layoffs at the time.

July 1, 2011
Public safety unions criticize mayor, want closer look at budget

The city public safety unions are firing back at Mayor Kevin Johnson after the mayor told reporters this week that the police union must discuss pension reform if it wants to save the jobs of cops.

In a letter to the mayor, Brent Meyer, the head of the police union, and firefighter union boss Jaymes Butler said the mayor's comments "deeply concern us and leave us more frustrated than ever."

Police officers and firefighters do not pay into their pensions. If they did, city budget officials said it would save the city millions.

June 28, 2011
Mayor Johnson: City cops must discuss pension reform

In his strongest words to date on the subject, Mayor Kevin Johnson said today that city cops must discuss contributing to their pensions in order to save the jobs of dozens of officers being laid off this week.

There is little to no chance that such an agreement could be solidified before the final day of the fiscal year on Thursday, when police layoffs go into effect. Cops have already begun handing in their badges and 42 officers are slated to lose their jobs, part of a city budget plan to fill a $39 million deficit.

But the mayor said that he and other members of the City Council are "desperately reaching out" to the police union and was hopeful that discussions would continue into the summer.

June 21, 2011
Mayor Johnson, other mayors talk job growth with Obama

Mayor Kevin Johnson is returning home today from a weekend U.S. Conference of Mayors event in Washington, D.C.

A highlight of the trip was a Monday meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, where Johnson joined President Obama and 13 other mayors to discuss job growth. Mayors told the president attention should be paid to infrastructure development, regulatory reform, summer job programs and high-speed rail systems.

It's unlikely, however, that the mayor introduced himself as "Little Barack." You might remember Johnson telling Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert after the 2008 election that people were calling him "Little Barack" because he had been elected Sacramento's first African-American mayor.

June 14, 2011
Potential Kings buyer on arena task force; Maloofs not worried

A few names stuck out from the regional arena task force named this week by Mayor Kevin Johnson.

One of those names was Darius Anderson, a well-known Sacramento developer and lobbyist working with Ron Burkle, the billionaire who has expressed interest in buying the Sacramento Kings. Anderson was named to the task force's executive committee, which will take on a major role as the group investigates potential funding mechanisms for the $387 million arena project.

Burkle and Anderson's overtures earlier this year were met with outright anger from the Maloof family, who own the Kings.

June 7, 2011
Mayor Johnson: Cop jobs should be saved, but no plan in place

Mayor Kevin Johnson wants the city to save police jobs. But he doesn't know how to make that happen.

Hours before the City Council was scheduled to embark on intense budget negotiations, the mayor told reporters this morning that his "focus is that we do not reduce the sworn officers" on the police department. The city manager's office has proposed laying off 80 officers, a plan that will be debated tonight as the council addresses a citywide $39 million deficit.

"I think the primary role of government is to make sure our streets are safe and secure," Johnson said. "It's fundamental to how we operate."

May 19, 2011
New building industry PAC will take aim at Sacramento City Hall

A new - and large - political action committee has its eyes set on Sacramento City Hall.

Tired of what they think are slow and outdated development processes, roughly 60 businesses and eight building trade groups have formed Region Builders. The committee is spearheaded by the influential Sacramento Regional Builders Exchange.

The group will enter into the political fray soon, recruiting and campaigning for candidates for next year's City Council races. Four seats are in play.

May 17, 2011
Mayor, two councilmembers absent as city debates police cuts

Of all the budget hearings to take place at City Hall over the next six weeks, none may be as intense as tonight's, when proposed cuts to the police department are rolled out in detail.

The police and fire unions will be there in force, scheduling a press conference before the 6 p.m. hearing to criticize proposals to lay off 80 police officers and shut down fire rigs. Cops, firefighters and neighborhood activists will also be there, as will the media.

But three key people won't be there.

May 6, 2011
Political consultant Townsend surveys mayor's popularity

The mastermind behind Kevin Johnson's election as Sacramento mayor says his client is more popular with voters than his colleagues on the City Council.

Political consultant David Townsend said a poll he commissioned found half of all Sacramentans are satisfied with Johnson's performance, but fewer than 40 percent of those surveyed are satisfied with the council.

The poll was conducted by Jim Moore. Townsend was the consultant who worked on Johnson's successful 2008 mayoral run, and he continues to be one of the mayor's chief political advisers.

Johnson hasn't said for sure whether he'll seek a second term next year. And since we're several months away from campaign season, the existence of a poll concentrating on the mayor shouldn't be seen as a sign that he's launching a re-election effort just yet.

May 5, 2011
Maloof: Kings will spend to improve team, keep key players

We don't know what the future holds for the Kings beyond the 2011-12 season. But team co-owner Gavin Maloof is saying some things about the franchise that might give fans some optimism for the upcoming season.

After an hour-long meeting with Kings sponsors today, Maloof told reporters the team would take advantage of its available salary cap space this off-season. Also of note: Maloof said the Kings would try to re-sign guard Marcus Thornton and center Samuel Dalembert.

"We have money, we have cap space, we have the most cap space of any team in the NBA," Maloof said. "That's how you win. You need players. And we have money and we're going to spend it."

May 5, 2011
Gavin Maloof, Mayor Johnson to meet Kings sponsors at Sheraton

RP NBA KINGS GAVIN AND MAYOR.JPGSacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, left, and Gavin Maloof share a laugh during a season ticket holders luncheon where the two talked about support for the Kings. Photo by Randy Pench

The Maloofs are becoming a visible part of the rebranding of the Sacramento Kings.

That effort takes another big step this afternoon, when Gavin Maloof joins Mayor Kevin Johnson at a 1 p.m. luncheon with Kings sponsors at the Sheraton Grand. Gavin and his brothers, Joe and George, already spent several hours earlier this week calling sponsors and luxury suite holders after deciding to keep the team in Sacramento another year.

Meanwhile, a team of the NBA's top marketing specialists are in town helping the Kings reconnect with season ticket holders. While not giving out numbers, Chris Granger, executive VP of the NBA's Team Marketing & Business Operations group, said the response to season ticket renewals has "exceeded even our most hopeful expectations."

May 4, 2011
Webber will play a role in Sacramento's arena fight

We're going to hear a lot of people weigh in over the next few months on how to finance a new arena for the Kings. But one voice heard this week is having a particularly strong impact with fans.

Former Kings great Chris Webber is saying he has private investors lined up to help fund the construction of an arena. Speaking Monday on TNT, Webber said the city must prove it deserves the team and that there's a lot of work to be done.

"Within this year, we're going to make some special things happen," Webber said.

April 29, 2011
Few details emerge on Sacramento's arena plans

Regional leaders met again today on the Kings' future. Perhaps the most notable aspect of the meeting was the presence of developer David Taylor, who is leading a City Hall-sponsored study of what it would take to build a new arena.

The key element of that study - the cost and how it would be paid for - is still being worked out. But Taylor did provide the group with some other details.

Mayor Kevin Johnson said Taylor told the officials an arena here should be in the 650,000-square-foot range. Power Balance Pavilion is 442,000 square feet. Sacramento doesn't need something on par with arenas built in L.A. or Orlando - but it does need something bigger than its current facility, Johnson said.

April 25, 2011
Sacramento corporations to make deposits on pledges to Kings

In a sign the region is moving one step closer to keeping the Kings in Sacramento for another year, Mayor Kevin Johnson is coordinating a meeting between local corporations and NBA representatives on Tuesday during which companies will agree to make deposits on their sponsorship and ticket commitments to the Sacramento Kings.

With the deposits, officials are seeking to solidify $10 million in corporate pledges gathered by the mayor and the local business community.

Details of the meeting are still being worked out, but it is expected to be held Tuesday morning and be followed by a press conference. At least 30 business representatives are expected to attend the meeting.

April 19, 2011
Regional leaders to meet on effort to keep Kings in Sacramento

Thumbnail image for 20110315_ha_johnson3086.JPGMayor Kevin Johnson will meet with regional political leaders on Wednesday in an attempt to show the NBA that Sacramento isn't alone in the drive to keep the Kings.

Details of the meeting are still being worked out, but it is expected to involve representatives from across the six-county region. A delegation of NBA officials in town later this week will also be introduced to some of the regional leaders.

"(The NBA) is going to want to know what's different this time than the previous times when we've tried to do a new entertainment and sports complex and failed, and I think there's a political will and leadership," the mayor told reporters this morning.

April 14, 2011
Mayor Johnson doesn't think the NBA is done with Sacramento

By Ryan Lillis

Minutes before the Kings took the court for perhaps the final time in Sacramento, Mayor Kevin Johnson sounded defiant. It was a markedly different tone for a guy who just weeks ago said the process of losing the team felt "like a slow death."

"I just don't believe it's the last game here, that's the bottom line," he told me Wednesday night in a tunnel underneath Power Balance Pavilion. "I figure we're a resilient community and we're going to figure out a way to get it done."

Does he have the answer? We'll soon know. The mayor is meeting today with a group of NBA team owners to pitch Sacramento as a viable pro basketball city.

April 12, 2011
Mayor and arena expert will tout Sacramento to NBA

Thumbnail image for 20110315_ha_johnson3086.JPGAs he tries to convince the NBA this week that Sacramento is a city worthy of a pro basketball franchise, Mayor Kevin Johnson will be joined by the guy at the forefront of the latest effort to build a new arena in town.

Tim Romani, president and CEO of the ICON Venue Group, will accompany the mayor during his presentation to the NBA Board of Governors in New York on Thursday. ICON is working with Sacramento developer David Taylor on a City Hall-sponsored arena study due out next month.

"I want the NBA to know that even though we've had failed attempts in the past (at building a new arena), I think it's a new era in Sacramento," the mayor told reporters this morning. "Whether the Kings are here or not, our commitment is to go forward with a new facility in the next four years."

April 7, 2011
Ruling: City Hall, attorney must pay 'strong mayor' legal fees

Sacramento City Hall and the attorney who drafted Mayor Kevin Johnson's halted "strong mayor initiative" are on the hook for more than $114,000 in legal fees to the labor boss whose lawsuit killed the initiative last year.

In a tentative ruling issued Wednesday in Sacramento Superior Court, attorney Tom Hiltachk and the city were ordered to split $114,158 in fees to the attorneys for Bill Camp, head of the Central Labor Council.

Camp had filed a lawsuit in 2009 seeking to block the strong mayor initiative, arguing the measure went beyond a mere amendment of the City Charter and therefore could only have been proposed for the ballot by the City Council or a charter commission. Johnson had proposed the initiative and a council vote had placed it on the ballot.