The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

January 26, 2011
Are split votes a trend for new Sacramento City Council?

Close watchers of the Sacramento City Council might have noticed the intriguing way the votes lined up on the two 5-4 decisions Tuesday night, the first really substantive meeting with its three new members.

On the vote to do a national search for a permanent city manager, new councilman Darrell Fong joined Rob Fong, Kevin McCarty, Bonnie Pannell and Sandy Sheedy. Mayor Kevin Johnson, Steve Cohn and new council members Angelique Ashby and Jay Schenirer voted against it.

On billing out-of-town drivers for the cost of fire department response to crashes, Ashby, Cohn, Johnson, McCarty and Schenirer voted yes, while Darrell Fong, Rob Fong, Pannell and Sheedy voted no.

Darrell Fong pledged during the campaign that he would be independent. Though he voted with Rob Fong, Pannell and Sheedy on both issues - on the winning side on one, the losing side on the other -- he repeated that vow today.

No matter how it might appear, he's not part of any alliance, and will vote his conscience issue by issue, Fong said. He said he wanted to reassure his constituents.

"There are many more votes to come," he said.

McCarty, who said he didn't realize until driving home that he was the lone council member on the winning side on both issues, agreed that the same split won't happen going forward. He doesn't believe he'll be the swing vote on this new council.

While it might be better that a clear majority on the council makes policy, he said, he's not troubled by the two 5-4 votes right off the bat. Division, he said, "is the nature of democracy."

January 25, 2011
Council wants full search for new Sacramento city manager

A divided City Council decided today to do a national search for a permanent city manager.

After the latest in a series of closed sessions, the council chose not to give the job to interim City Manager Gus Vina, who took that role last March.

Vina could apply, and is likely to do so, but the fact that a majority of the council wants to look elsewhere first does not bode well for him.

He has the support of Mayor Kevin Johnson, but council members Sandy Sheedy, Rob Fong, Kevin McCarty, Darrell Fong and Bonnie Pannell voted for the national search.

The Bee's editorial board has said he has done a good job in tough times and deserves serious consideration. Whether that will really happen - and how good possible candidates will be - are both open questions.  


January 20, 2011
Sacramento's Vina, UC Davis's Pomeroy get plaudits

There were two intriguing shout-outs during today's "State of the City" festivities in Sacramento.

Mayor Kevin Johnson put in another plug for interim City Manager Gus Vina, whose prospects for getting the permanent gig are uncertain at best.

"I think you would be a great city manager for Sacramento, or wherever you land," the mayor told an audience that included business leaders and fellow council members.

While Johnson and others want to keep him, other council members want to do a national search that could lead to a new city manager. The council has been meeting behind closed doors to discuss the issue and evaluate Vina. After another closed session on Tuesday, it could decide and announce its decision on a search.

Meanwhile, the Sacramento Metro Chamber, which hosted the event, announced that Claire Pomeroy, dean of the UC Davis medical school and CEO of the UC Davis health system, is its "Businesswoman of the Year."

The chamber recognized her for helping make UC Davis "a major contributor to the health care industry and economy of the Sacramento region."

But Pomeroy may be better known these days as one of 36 UC executives who signed a letter to the regents demanding higher pensions, and threatening legal action.

They want their pensions based on their total salary, even the amount above a $245,000 federal cap. Pomeroy made $529,000 in 2009. The San Francisco Chronicle says that if the officials get their way, someone who earns $400,000 a year and retires after 30 years would get an annual pension of $300,000 instead of $183,750.

The execs have been pummeled by the press and by legislators. UC's top officials, including UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, oppose the request.

So the response will be interesting to say the least when Pomeroy joins other awardees in being recognized at the chamber's annual dinner on Feb. 4.

January 20, 2011
Johnson says Sacramento needs 'mojo;' it also needs lots of jobs

Mayor Kevin Johnson called today for Sacramento to return to its pioneering spirit to get back on track, to get its "mojo" back.

Without such risk-taking and entrepreneurship, it will take even longer to recover from the recession, he told some 900 people at his third State of the City speech.

"Things," Johnson said, "are grim."

How grim?

Earlier today, the U.S. Conference of Mayors released a report showing that Sacramento's economy is in worse shape than many other cities -- and that it faces an uphill battle.

The study by IHS Global Insight says that of the nation's 363 metro areas, Sacramento is one of 109 that will still have an unemployment rate of 10 percent or higher at the end of 2011 (a projected 11.9 percent to be precise). At the end of 2014, its jobless rate is expected to still be above 9 percent.

Sacramento is one of only 44 metro areas that will have no job growth or actual losses (a 0.2 percent loss) this year.

And it is one of 152 metro areas that will not return to its pre-recession peak number of jobs until after 2014. The study says that the Sacramento region has lost 103,500 jobs since the peak in the second quarter of 2007, and isn't projected to claw its way back until the second quarter of 2016.

That's nine years.

In his speech, Johnson said supporting the green technology sector and boosting the downtown core can help create jobs. He also said he would fight Gov. Jerry Brown on taking away redevelopment money that he said he will "cripple cities."

And Johnson announced that he had snagged his first national headquarters. Of course, he had an inside track.

His fiancee Michelle Rhee is founding StudentsFirst, a national advocacy organization designed as a counterweight to teacher unions. She plans to have 1 million members in the first year, and 10 million eventually. She plans to raise $1 billion within five years. And she'll work from the national office in Sacramento.

While other big-city mayors "came a-courting" to Rhee, he said to laughter, '"I'm not ashamed to say that I pulled out all the stops."

It's a start, but as the mayors' study shows, there's a long, long way to go..

January 19, 2011
Council will look at citizens panel on Sacramento redistricting

It's nowhere near a done deal, but City Council members agreed Tuesday night to look at the possibility of a citizens advisory committee to help it wade through the redrawing of Sacramento's council districts.

The council agreed to similar public outreach as the last redistricting in 2001, but also asked staffers to come back in two weeks with options on an advisory committee - what its role would be, who would be on it and how its members would be picked.

During the debate, Mayor Kevin Johnson endorsed an advisory committee, and several others said they were at least interested enough to see staff proposals. Under the City Charter, the council would still have the final say, but an advisory panel could put more pressure on the council to adopt districts that are fair and sensible and ensure equal representation for all residents.

Because of how they were drawn 10 years ago and uneven population growth since, the current districts don't meet any of those goals.

But other council members said they should not rely on the advisory panel to hold public hearings and come up with a recommendation. District 2 representative Sandy Sheedy argued that such a committee could decrease citizen input and confuse the public if it was given too much authority.

Angelique Ashby, the new representative in District 1, said council members, themselves, should take the time to hear from the public and come up with the best map. Because it is home to an estimated 101,000 people -- nearly twice as many as four other districts - her district is likely to be significantly changed.

Besides the balancing act between council authority and public input, the redistricting process will also center on the balancing act between approving districts that are nearly equal in population - and also accounting for future growth that could skew the population balance.

Deputy City Attorney Matt Ruyak told the council it can factor in planned growth, but has to be able to justify it with real plans and estimates. If the council goes that direction, it might try to account for continued growth in Natomas, as well as new development in the downtown railyard and Delta Shores. Otherwise, the council could only redraw the maps again before 2021 if there is a major annexation.

January 6, 2011
McClintock delivers bipartisan critique of presidents

Who says bipartisanship is dead in Washington?


Rep. Tom McClintock, a Republican from Elk Grove, is part of the new GOP majority in the House. But in his maiden floor speech of the 112th Congress today, he had praise, and criticism, for Democratic and Republican presidents alike.


Calling for this Congress to restore prosperity, he said government has to cut red tape and slash spending - all to advance economic freedom for consumers and businesses. "That's the fundamental problem that we face today. Our government has not only failed to protect the freedom that creates prosperity, but it has become destructive of that freedom," he said.


McClintock gave Democrats Bill Clinton and Harry Truman a pat on the back for reducing excessive spending that robs individuals of the freedom to decide where to spend and invest. And he slapped Republicans George W. Bush and Herbert Hoover for increasing spending.


As for the current occupant of the Oval Office? Democrat Barack Obama, of course, is in the negative category, according to McClintock.


"Presidents like Coolidge, Truman, Reagan and Clinton who have reduced government spending relative to GDP all produced dramatic increases in productivity, prosperity and the general welfare of our nation," McClintock told his colleagues.


"And presidents like Hoover, Roosevelt, Bush and Obama who have increased government spending relative to GDP all produced or prolonged or deepened periods of economic recession, hardship and malaise.


"Our government is embarked on the latter course, and this Congress must reverse that direction," he added.


January 3, 2011
What's Mayor Johnson's new 'big, bold' idea?

The Bee editorial board gave Mayor Kevin Johnson some friendly advice on Sunday -- mainly to show through actions that he's learned an important political lesson:

To make progress on smaller matters that affect everyday life in Sacramento even as he aims big on systemic change, such as a strong-mayor form of government.

The mayor sent out his own list of resolutions for 2011, telling supporters he would work on jobs and the green economy, schools and public safety. Johnson also said he wants to "keep the Kings," though he didn't specifically mention a new arena.

He also said he would show new Gov. Jerry Brown around town. "Revitalizing our downtown is a top priority, and I'll be first in line to show our new Governor just how hip and lively our city has become," Johnson writes.

Tellingly, Johnson's list includes at No. 10: "Stay bold. I wouldn't be me if I didn't push for at least one big, bold and audacious idea to move our city forward. Stay tuned!"

If it isn't strong mayor, inquiring minds want to know what it might be. His office wasn't giving any hints today.

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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