The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

October 29, 2010
Another school candidate goes partisan in nonpartisan race

A reader has pointed to yet another candidate who is making an explicit partisan appeal as the focus of an ad in a nonpartisan school board race: Teri Burns, a long-time incumbent on the Natomas Unified school board.

One side the mailer reads: DEMOCRAT in large letters that spread across the whole front. Then, "IT'S OFFICIAL: Teri Burns is the Democratic Party's Candidate."

The reverse side reads:




BOARD. Their agenda could

devastate essential programs.


knows a vote for Teri Burns

ensures our students and

teachers will be supported.

Burns, who was first elected to the board in 1986 and who has served as a former state deputy superintendent of public instruction should know that the California Constitution states that, "All judicial, school, county and city offices shall be nonpartisan" (California Constitution, Article II, Section 6a).

While political parties often send out ads touting their endorsements (and candidates post lists with all their endorsements, party and non-party, and identify their party registration discreetly), it is unusual for a candidate to make an explicitly partisan appeal the focus of an ad in a nonpartisan race.

Do voters really want their school board elections turning into partisan races -or should candidates at least attempt to abide by the spirit of nonpartisanship in the California Constitution?

The Bee's editorial board endorsed Burns for this race.  We are deeply disappointed that she has decided to rely on partisanship, rather than her record, to win a new term of office.

October 29, 2010
Barbara Boxer takes time to hold forth, and is none too pleased

Sen. Barbara Boxer made amends for dashing away without answering questions on Thursday, by calling The Swarm today with a message for all the anonymous donors who are funding the $12 million-plus on ads bashing her:

"Come out, come out," Boxer said in a telephone interview today.

The bulk of the anti-Boxer ads are being aired the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is under no requirement to disclose donors paying for the commercials.

Several other groups also are airing anonymously funded ads attacking Boxer and, by extension, helping Republican challenger Carly Fiorina. A new Field Poll shows Boxer ahead but not by a wide margin.

Here's what Boxer had to say about the motivation behind the ads:

"The special interests want me out and they've always wanted me out. The polluters? I'm their biggest nightmare.

"They don't want me there. They want people they can control."

A U.S. Supreme Court decision in January permits unions and corporations to spend unlimited sums to fund independent campaign efforts, as Loyola Law School Professor Richard L. Hasen in noted in this Slate article.

Corporations are taking the opportunity to bash Boxer.

"This is the first time they can use all this corporate money against me. They're thrilled that they can attack me without being identified. They should step out and be courageous and identify themselves to me and to the American people."

That's not likely to happen any time soon, as we will explain in more detail in Sunday's Forum.

October 29, 2010
Woo's latest mailer makes nonpartisan race explicitly partisan

California's Constitution states that, ""All judicial, school, county and city offices shall be nonpartisan" (California Constitution, Article II, Section 6a).

Most candidates attempt to abide by this spirit of nonpartisanship even if they are registered and active in a particular party - and even if they are endorsed by a political party.

It is highly unusual for a candidate in a nonpartisan race to make a crass partisan pitch on his own behalf - turning a nonpartisan campaign into an explicitly partisan one.

Darrel Woo, running in the Pocket/Greenhaven area for the Sacramento City Unified school board has done just that. He sent out a mailer highlighting his affiliation as a "Registered Democrat" who is "Endorsed by the local Democratic Party." He lambasts one of his opponents as a "Registered Republican" who is "Endorsed by the local Republican Party."

Nonpartisan local elections were a legacy of California's progressives who didn't want party bosses dominating local offices. With his mailer, Woo has signaled that his party affiliation matters more than the nonpartisanship of the school board office, a bad sign.


Woo's latest mailer also uses this line to attack his opponent: "Has no children in our public schools." Neither does Woo. So what is this about? His opponent attended Joan Didion Elementary, Sam Brannan Middle and Kennedy High School (Class of 1992), so it's not about his knowledge of local public schools. His opponent also has been active for eight years in the Greenhaven Soccer Club, with 120 teams serving 1,400 kids. So it's not about his opponent's understanding of or working with kids. What point is Woo trying to make here?


This latest mailer reinforces earlier concerns The Bee's editorial board has expressed about Woo. See "Missing: Candidate sense of decency" (Oct. 22) and "For Sacramento schools -- Bell, Corso, Singh" (Oct. 13).

October 28, 2010
Barbara Boxer bobs, weaves and ducks questions

From Campaigns 101: When you're ahead in the polls, do not engage in any talk that might conceivably trip you up.

Barbara Boxer certainly has studied campaigns during her 28 years in Congress, and long ago learned how to duck a question.

Today, Boxer made a quick stop at and an even quicker exit from a start-up, Clean Energy Systems, in Rancho Cordova. There, she touted clean energy and made-in-America jobs, and took swipes at her opponent, Republican Carly Fiorina.

Boxer had opened her comments by saying how busy she was, and had to dash to the airport, but assured the gathering that she would answer a few questions from reporters about politics.

Sure enough, she completed her remarks, and said if reporters have any political questions, "I'm happy to take them at this time."

Funny thing, though, she didn't pause or look out into the audience. If she had, she might have seen a hand raised, mine. Instead, she seamlessly introduced the next speaker, Obama Administration Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, and skittered off to a waiting vehicle so she could zip to the next stop.

If she had deigned to take a question, some wag might have asked: "Given your stated stand in favor of jobs and economy, why is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spending millions to defeat you."

But Boxer long ago learned how to campaign when polls suggest she might eek out a victory.

October 28, 2010
Inflated claim by Paul Smith, running for Congress vs Matsui

Challenger Paul Smith, running against incumbent Doris Matsui in the Congressional District 5 race, has sent out this message, titled "Bee Endorsement":


"Not only has my opponent not shown up in this election, the Sacramento Bee has refused to endorse her too! You'd expect the hometown incumbent to get the nod from the hometown newspaper!"


The reality: The Bee editorial board does not endorse in non-competitive races.


The Bee endorsed Matsui in the 2005 Special Election and the 2006 Election.

October 27, 2010
Will California be 'ultimate firewall' for Dems in U.S. Senate?

Another day, another poll showing Jerry Brown in good shape in the governor's race, Barbara Boxer hanging on in the U.S. Senate contest and the marijuana legalization ballot measure headed to defeat next week.

This survey comes courtesy of Time magazine and CNN, which queried likely voters in California and four other battleground states.

CNN, which released the results this afternoon, says that California may turn out to be Democrats' "ultimate firewall" to keep control of the Senate.

Unlike Colorado, Kentucky, Nevada and Ohio, where strong support among independents has the Republican candidates in the lead, Boxer holds a 50 percent to 45 percent edge over Republican challenger Carly Fiorina.

Fiorina has closed Boxer's lead by 4 percentage points since CNN's poll last month. She leads among independents 49 percent to 41 percent, but will need to do better than that to beat Boxer. The Republicans in the other states have at least a 13-percentage-point lead among independents, and Rand Paul in Kentucky boasts a 37-point cushion.  

Fiorina is ahead in the Central Valley and most of Southern California, but that is offset by Boxer's edge in the Bay area and Los Angeles County.

Meanwhile, Brown leads Republican nominee Meg Whitman by 51 percent to 44 percent, down 2 percentage points from last month. It's the same geographic division as in the Senate race, with Whitman's strength in the Valley and Southern California and Brown leading in the Bay and Los Angeles.

Californians also appear likely to reject Proposition 19, the ballot initiative that would allow legalize recreational marijuana use and allow adults to grow a small amount, but leave it to local governments to tax and regulate pot. In the poll, 53 percent of respondents oppose the measure, while 45 percent support it.

The CNN/Time/Opinion Research poll, conducted Oct. 20-26 among about 1,500 likely voters, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Its findings are generally in line with a survey out last week from the Public Policy Institute of California and one this week from the Los Angeles Times and USC.

October 22, 2010
Developers say city free to look elsewhere on arena

The development group trying to pull off the three-way land swap for a new downtown Sacramento arena isn't giving up. 

But it also isn't tying City Hall's hands if other arena proposals come down the pike.

The team behind the "Convergence" proposal said this week in a letter to the City Council that it hopes to come back with a revised plan in January, but isn't asking to extend an exclusive negotiating agreement with the city that expires Oct. 25.

"We have to admit that we have yet to find a solution that works for all the key stakeholders," local developers Gerry Kamilos and David Taylor wrote in the letter they released this afternoon. "However, our original commitment remains unaltered - to develop a workable development and financing plan that creates new opportunity at the downtown railyards and in North Natomas, modernizes Cal Expo, and provides an entertainment and sports complex that includes a new arena for the Sacramento Kings."      

Their original plan was to move the State Fair to the current Arco Arena site, sell off the fair site to developers and to use the proceeds to help finance the new arena in the railyards. But it was blocked last month when the Cal Expo board refused to consider relocating the fair.

In their letter, Kamilos and Taylor also disclosed that VisionMaker Worldwide, a Southern California company run by former Disney executives whom they brought in to run the proposed new entertainment complex at the Arco site, including a revamped fair, has agreed to "a full partnership as a potential financier and participating developer." Among the ideas being discussed is expanding the city-owned footprint in the railyards that would be home to the arena and a transit hub, they said.   

October 21, 2010
Poll shows Californians really distrust government

With less than two weeks to Election Day, the big headlines are understandably the horse-race numbers out of the Public Policy Institute of California's new poll.

Jerry Brown has widened his lead over Meg Whitman for governor, but Sen. Barbara Boxer's edge over Carly Fiorina has narrowed.

But the exhaustive survey, released Wednesday night, shows some troubling trends for whoever wins on Nov. 2: They'll face distrust that is at or near record highs.

The poll found that 68 percent of Californians say the federal government is run by a few special interests looking out for themselves, rather than being run for the benefit of all. While below the record 74 percent just before the 2008 presidential election, that's up 9 percentage points since May 2009, and suggests that voters don't see the change in Washington that President Barack Obama promised.

Also, 69 percent say they trust Washington to do the right thing only some or none of the time. And 63 percent say the federal government wastes a lot of tax money.

The confidence in state government is even lower: 75 percent of Californians say state government is run by a few big interests - the highest percentage in the 14 times PPIC has asked the question. Also, 79 percent say they can trust Sacramento to do the right thing only some or none of the time - also a record high. And 66 percent say state government wastes a lot of tax money.

That lack of public confidence will be an overarching challenge for the new governor to carry out their agenda.

October 18, 2010
A campaign breaks out for Sacramento congressional seat

It's an unusually active day in the sleepy 5th Congressional District race.

Democratic incumbent Doris Matsui, the odds-on favorite, is out with a TV ad that brags about her efforts on student loans, green jobs and flood control.

"Representing Sacramento in Congress is such an honor for me and this ad reflects some of my key priorities for our region," Matsui said in a statement Monday. "There are many challenges before us, the most pressing of which is to create jobs, restore our economy and empower small businesses to thrive. We need to keep families in their homes, invest in our schools and rebuild our infrastructure."

Meanwhile, her Republican opponent, Paul Smith, is claiming that she's dodging a debate, using as an excuse that he suspended his campaign briefly in August when he ran out of money.

"Within two days money started coming from all over the country and we were back in business in under 48 hours. I never withdrew from the campaign, just suspended the daily operations that cost money," he told supporters in an email Monday. "If she had paid attention to the district she would have seen me running radio ads, putting up signs, hosting town hall meetings, attending rallies and doing precinct walks in the past five months. This goes to show you just how disconnected she is from the district."

Smith goes on to say that Matsui is afraid to defend her record, and to challenge her to show up next Tuesday night at a forum.

Somehow, we doubt that she'll attend since she has much more to lose than gain from treating him as a political equal.

October 12, 2010
Sacramento County puts off growth guideline update

How contentious are the growth guidelines in Sacramento County's general plan update?

Enough so that the county Board of Supervisors is punting on a decision for several months.

They were supposed to hold their next public hearing Wednesday on the draft proposal to open up nearly 20,000 more acres to development.

But the county disclosed this afternoon that the hearing, and another scheduled for Oct. 19, have been postponed.

"These meetings have been postponed to provide time for county staff to work with stakeholders on refining an appropriate growth management strategy," the notice said. "Staff will return to the Board of Supervisors no later than Wednesday, February 23, 2011."

The proposed 2030 general plan update calls for allowing development along Grant Line Road near Rancho Cordova and along Jackson Highway in the south. But transportation and planning experts say that the county already has more than enough room to grow -- particularly with the recession and housing crash -- and that opening up that much more land would significantly increase the oversupply of housing. But so far, supervisors had directed that all 20,000 acres stay under consideration.

Environmental groups, elected officials and others, including The Bee editorial board, have raised concerns about the draft proposal, saying it would encourage leapfrog development that would worsen sprawl and air pollution.

UPDATE: Sacramento County is postponing the public meetings on the General Plan to allow time to work with stakeholders on several issues including how the County should approach its growth management strategy.

The county's CEO, Steve Szalay, issued this statement today:

"At the time the draft plan was scoped, demand for housing, employment and retail uses was significantly higher. Because of the change in the economy, the county needs additional time to consider long-term opportunities for positive economic growth.

"We have several opportunities for new communities in the Jackson Highway Corridor and the Grant Line East Study areas that are currently outside the urban footprint and we need to consider how best to move forward with these projects. Our current General Plan remains valid and provides good policy guidance for development issues and there is no legal mandate to adopt a new General Plan immediately.

"The county is interested in reasonable growth that can be adequately served at reasonable costs. These goals are shared by all stakeholders. We will return to the Board of Supervisors by next February on the General Plan Update."


October 11, 2010
Metro Chamber comes out against Arden Arcade cityhood

Another loud voice in local politics declared today against cityhood for Arden Arcade.

The Sacramento Metro Chamber, announcing its list of local endorsements for the Nov. 2 election, recommended a "no" vote on Measure D, which would incorporate Arden Arcade as Sacramento County's eighth city. (The Bee also said the time wasn't right for incorporation because the economy is too precarious.)

The Chamber did not take a position on the two other Sacramento measures on the ballot, Measure B to roll back the city's utility rates, and Measure C to tax medicinal marijuana dispensaries and, if Proposition 19 passes, to tax recreational pot shops.

The other local endorsements aren't much of a surprise. The chamber endorsed the incumbents in most local City Council races. For open seats, it is supporting Mel Turner in Citrus Heights, Patrick Kennedy in Sacramento District 5, Darrell Fong in Sacramento District 7, Diana Ruslin in Rocklin and Chris Ledesma in West Sacramento.

"Our choices represent what we feel is right for business, or right for the Sacramento region in terms of growing jobs, prosperity and a quality place to live," Matt Mahood, the chamber's president and CEO, said in a statement.

October 6, 2010
Only small changes in store for Second Saturday, for now

The city is planning minor tweaks -- not wholesale changes -- for Second Saturday this weekend, the first since a Sacramento City College student was killed in an apparent gang crossfire several hours after the event.

The city told residents this evening that music will end at 9:30 p.m. rather than 10 p.m. so there's more time to disperse the crowds. The police department will have officers on foot, bicycle and horseback.

Also, a four-way stop will be added at 20th and K Street to make pedestrians safer. As in the past, ABC and curfew laws will be enforced.

Any bigger changes will wait. "During the winter months when Second Saturday crowds lessen, City Staff will be coming together to further look at all ideas brought forth on how we can continue to successfully manage Second Saturday events," the city's update said.

The future of Second Saturday, which started as an arts walk but has evolved into a street party, has come under question after the shooting death of Victor Hugo Perez Zavala early on Sept. 12.

The Midtown Business Association and other supporters have tried to draw the distinction between the event and the late night crowds that congregate in the hours afterwards.

October 5, 2010
Live Event: The Bee's Head-to-Head team hosts: California attorney general candidates debate

About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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