City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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.

April 10, 2012
Bounty hunter, mayoral hopeful Padilla: arena deal bad for Sacramento

Now we know what Leonard Padilla thinks of this arena deal. And so does the NBA.

Padilla, the famed bounty hunter who is running for mayor this spring for a fifth time, sent a note to NBA Commissioner David Stern saying that he "will make every effort as a candidate for mayor and as mayor to prevent any public funding for the arena."

"I sincerely believe that if the NBA, the Kings, AEG want an arena in Sacramento, be my guest and build it without any public funding," Padilla wrote.

February 1, 2012
Measure to outlaw labor agreements on projects fails to qualify for ballot

A proposed June ballot measure that would have prohibited the city of Sacramento from requiring labor organization agreements on publicly-funded construction projects has failed to gather enough signatures.

Sacramento County elections officials ruled today that 62 percent of the signatures it inspected from proponents of the Fair and Open Competition Sacramento measure were valid. Another 19 percent of signatures were from people not registered to vote and 7.5 percent were from voters registered outside of the city.

Supporters of the measure handed in 46,692 signatures to the City Clerk - far more than the 32,207 required to place the measure on the ballot. But the group fell well short of providing enough valid signatures, officials ruled.

November 11, 2011
Joe Yee running to return to Sacramento City Council

Another former councilman is making a run to reclaim his seat a decade after leaving office.

Joe Yee, who served on the council for seven months in 2000, announced this week that he will enter the race for the District 4 seat being left vacant by Councilman Rob Fong.

Yee, an architect and the chair of the city's planning commission, was appointed by the City Council to represent District 4 in 2000 when Jimmie Yee was named mayor following the death of Mayor Joe Serna Jr. Jimmie Yee was the area's councilman before and after Joe Yee held the seat (the two men are not related).

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

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

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

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

November 8, 2011
Occupy Sacramento will expand to lawns of City Hall

The Occupy Sacramento movement is expanding its presence - right on to the front lawn of City Hall.

Protest organizers have moved some of their operation to the lawns and walkways around both the old and new City Hall buildings, starting with a tent. City Hall is across I Street from Occupy Sacramento's base in Cesar Chavez Plaza.

Organizers of the group said they should be allowed to remain at City Hall because the site is not a park. So far, protesters have been arrested for failing to leave a park during closure hours.

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

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

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

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

November 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 10, 2011
Rob Kerth removed as head of Midtown Business Association

Rob Kerth, a potential candidate for North Sacramento's City Council seat, was removed late Friday from his post as executive director of the Midtown Business Association.

According to an email obtained by The Bee, Kerth was "given notice" on Friday. No reason was given for the dismissal. He had served as head of the MBA for five years.

"Over the past 5 years, Rob has been a tremendous asset to business owners, property owners and residents in Midtown," read the email from MBA board president Jimmy Johnson. "We are very appreciative of his efforts and commitment to MBA and wish him well in his future endeavors."

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.

June 20, 2011
Police union open to pension changes - just not now

In a sharply-worded letter to his members last week, city police union president Brent Meyer wrote that any changes to police pension contributions will have to wait until 2013, when the union's contract expires.

Some members of the City Council have targeted public safety pensions as a long-term budget fix and have said they aren't interested in one-year salary concessions. Police officers and firefighters do not contribute to their pensions. If they did, it would save the city roughly $4 million a year, an audit reported earlier this year.

Meyer told his members that the union "absolutely recognizes and will be prepared to discuss and implement pension reform in 2013."

June 15, 2011
Could a 'sin tax' be the answer to Sacramento's arena puzzle?

Would voters here support a tax on alcohol and cigarettes to help finance a new arena?

A bill introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) would provide local governments a large pallet of options to raises taxes for schools, public safety and other local services. The tax increases, of course, would require voter approval.

One of those options would be an excise tax on alcohol and tobacco - commonly referred to as a "sin tax" or "public health tax." Voters in Cleveland approved similar fees in the 1990s to fund the construction of baseball, basketball and football stadiums.

May 23, 2011
Protect Sacramento campaign opposes police, fire cuts

City cops and firefighters went door to door this weekend trying to gather opposition to City Hall's proposal to lay off 80 police officers, brown out fire rigs and cut dozens of other positions from the police and fire departments.

Campaign-style signs are now showing up on front lawns and hanging from doors in support of that effort. The group behind the campaign - Protect Sacramento - is a coalition of the fire and police unions, along with neighborhood groups.

The group assembled an overflow crowd at City Hall last week, when the police cuts were presented to the City Council during a tense budget hearing. A similar scene is on tap for Tuesday night, when the fire department's budget is laid out.

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 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.

March 15, 2011
Shake-up or status quo at Sacramento City Hall?

Will tonight's City Council meeting lead to a shake-up among the city's most powerful appointed officers? Or will the status quo prevail?

It seems the second is more likely, despite job reviews of both Interim City Manager Gus Vina and City Attorney Eileen Teichert scheduled to take place during a closed-door session prior to the public council meeting. But you never can tell.

Teichert's review was called by Mayor Kevin Johnson after a memo by Vina surfaced two weeks ago accusing the city attorney of misleading the council during a discussion over the city's controversial "crash tax."

February 18, 2011
Would you pay more taxes for a better zoo, expanded arts?

Based upon a 2006 vote and the tenor of public discourse, there doesn't seem to be much appetite around here to fund most of the construction of a new sports and entertainment arena with public money.

But what about a zoo or museums?

That's one topic that could come up on Tuesday when city staffers brief the City Council on a two-year feasibility study of moving the Sacramento Zoo to Sutter's Landing Park in midtown. Such a move "would need to be supported primarily through a regional funding initiative," according to a city staff report.

February 11, 2011
Is now the time for raises at City Hall?

One thing has become clear in this persistent cycle of bad budgets at City Hall: the issue of public employee raises always generates strong reactions.

That was the case on Thursday, when I learned that Interim City Manager Gus Vina had granted raises to three department heads. The news was enough for one council member to say she was "really disappointed" by the move.

"The last thing we should be doing right now is giving people raises," Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy told me. "We're laying off frontline people and giving management raises and that's wrong."

About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at


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