The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

March 30, 2011
Sac redistricting panel will get Latino representation

A glitch became apparent in Sacramento's new citizens advisory committee on redistricting, but the City Council moved quickly Tuesday evening to try to fix it.

Once the mayor and each council member picked one member, and four others were nominated through the usual committee process, it turned out that there was not a single Latino on the panel.

Several Latino political and civic activists showed up at Tuesday's meeting to point that out -- and to urge the council to stand behind its pledge to have a committee that reflects Sacramento's diversity.

A "glaring omission," Councilman Kevin McCarty called it.

It also turned out, however, that no eligible Latino applicants stepped forward, apparently because the word didn't get out or because of confusion about the application process, or a combination of both.

At the suggestion of Councilwoman Angelique Ashby (who originally opposed creating the committee), the council voted unanimously to add two members to the panel, who presumably will be Latino. The deadline is April 3 to apply online, but even on an accelerated schedule, the change could delay the committee's first meeting, which had been scheduled for April 11.

The committee, designed to increase public input into the process, has its work cut out. Census figures show that the population imbalance among the eight districts is even larger than projected, meaning district lines will likely have to be adjusted even more. It's always a politically fraught process, and is likely to be more so with the divisions and rivalries on this council.

March 24, 2011
Orange County Register: No special bonds for Anaheim arena
The Orange County Register today fired a shot across the bow of attempts to lure the Maloofs to Anaheim in an editorial headlined, "Welcome Kings with open arms, not open wallets."

"The owners of the Sacramento Kings reportedly have been in talks about moving their NBA franchise from the state capital to Orange County," the paper's editorial board wrote. "We welcome the idea of a Kings' proposal to move to Orange County. If the owners were to do so, they would be welcomed by a vibrant fan base very fond of our sports teams."

"We support the move, however, with one caveat:" 

No taxpayer subsidies to get the team here. No taxpayer-financed sports arenas. No special bonds to pay for renovations to the Honda Center, where the team presumably would play.
No special bonds? Does that mean the Register would oppose use of public bonds to spruce up the Honda Center, even if those bonds were paid back with private money?

Maybe. Maybe not. The editorial quotes Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait as saying that "a financing structure is being proposed that would allow for private investment to fund improvements at Honda Center."

This also sounds promising, though, the devil usually tends to be in the details.
Yes, those details. One of them involves what would happen if billionaire Henry Samueli and his ownership group were to default on paying back the bonds. Taxpayers would then be on the hook.

Is that too much of a hurdle for taxpayer activists in Orange County, including The Register? We will wait and see.

Update: In the above post, I may have been presumptuous in stating that "taxpayers would then be on the hook" if Samueli ever defaulted. As a reader has noted, the original bonds that were used to build the Honda Center included a letter of credit from Credit Suisse pledging to make good in case of a default. In all likelihood, the city would try to get Credit Suisse (or some other bank) to do a similar co-sign on the loan for any arena-upgrade bonds.

March 15, 2011
Chamber backs Sacramento poultry plant fought by SPCA

The Sacramento Metro Chamber today joined the voices calling on City Hall to allow a poultry processing plant to open off Florin Perkins Road.


After the Sacramento SPCA complained that a plant where chickens are killed would be a bad fit with its shelter near the proposed site, New American Poultry fell one vote shy of the six needed on the city's Planning Commission to get the special-use permit.


Company owner Harry Cheung is appealing to the City Council, saying that unless he can find a suitable site, he'd be forced to close his decade-old business on Broadway because his lease there isn't being renewed.


Metro Chamber CEO Matt Mahood wrote a letter to Mayor Kevin Johnson and other council members urging them to issue the permit. The Bee's editorial board made a similar plea this morning.


"This isn't simply an issue of whether or not 20 new jobs get created; it's also an issue of whether we retain the existing 30," Mahood wrote.


"Your choice is simple. Create up to 20 new jobs; or, lose as many as 50 jobs on net. If you are looking for an opportunity to demonstrate that City Hall's anti-business reputation is overblown, this one is as good as any."

March 14, 2011
Mayor Johnson resigned on Kings, bullish on Natomas

Mayor Kevin Johnson sounded even less hopeful today that the Kings will spurn Anaheim and stay in Sacramento after all.

He told the Natomas Chamber of Commerce that the Kings have one foot "and three toes, maybe four" on the other foot out the door, despite his entreaties to the Kings owners, the Maloofs. Johnson said everyone should know for sure by the NBA owners meeting in mid-April, if not before.

The mayor's advocacy for a new downtown sports and entertainment arena - with or without the Kings - does not go over well in Natomas, where residents and businesses fear what will happen to Power Balance Pavilion (formerly Arco Arena) if a new arena is built elsewhere. Chamber President Ed Koop teased the mayor in his introduction, holding up the plan to build a new arena in Natomas and saying it was still available to the city.

At the 7th annual "State of Natomas" luncheon today, Johnson renewed his commitment that any redevelopment of the Natomas arena site will mean the same economic impact or more.

More broadly, he acknowledged that City Hall has not "met the mark" in fulfilling the "grand vision" for Natomas as a mixed-use paradise. That's partly due to the budget crunch and economic downturn, and partly due to the building moratorium imposed until the levees are shored up, he said. But elected officials "have not lived up that vision," Johnson said.

Even with the building moratorium, Census figures out last week showed that Natomas is where the vast majority of Sacramento's population growth occurred over the past decade. It may be time, the mayor said, to "reset" with a new vision for Natomas going forward.

March 9, 2011
An even bigger challenge on new Sacramento council districts

The official 2010 Census numbers show that the job of drawing new City Council districts in Sacramento will be even tougher than believed.

That's because the gap between the largest and smallest of the eight districts is even larger than what officials thought based on 2009 population projections. The real numbers released by the city today show that District 1, centered in Natomas, has 106,729 residents - at least double the population of every other district except District 8. (Go to the city's redistricting webpage and click on "2010 Population Table" on the left rail.)

District 1's population is 83 percent above the ideal size for a district, while District 4's is 22 percent below the target population.

The district populations were already out of whack because the districts approved in 2001 weren't the best and because of uneven population growth this past decade.

It's going to be a complicated, politically tense task to get the districts close to the ideal of one person, one vote, while still keeping most neighborhoods intact.

The hope here is that success will be at least somewhat more likely this go-round because a new citizens advisory committee will also work on the districts starting next month. The mayor and council members named their nine appointees Tuesday evening. Another four will go through the city's usual appointment process.

The City Charter requires that the new districts be in place within six months of the data release, so the revised schedule calls for the council to adopt new districts on Sept. 6. Circle that date on your calendars.

March 8, 2011
Live chat: Should states rethink collective bargaining?

March 2, 2011
If lawmakers can't find the loo, can they lower pensions?

I was standing outside one of those obscure, in-the-dark hearing rooms at the state Capitol where a joint Assembly/Senate Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security committee was holding a hearing on the Little Hoover Commission report on pensions. The hearing was packed, so I was watching the testimony on the TV screen outside in the corridor.

Suddenly, freshman Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, a committee member and Democrat from, stepped out. Appearing confused, he looked around at the lobbyists assembled and asked, "Where's the men's room?"

Craig Brown, the long-time lobbyist for the  California Correctional Peace Officers Association (read prison guards) politely pointed the way and directed him and Wieckowski strode off down the hallway to do his business.

My point? The assemblyman who doesn't yet know his way to the Capitol bathrooms will be deciding one of the most important matters facing government in California today - how to deal with California's sky rocketing pension costs.

Don't get me wrong. Wieckowski is no dummy.  He has a law degree from Santa Clara School of Law, has been on the city council in Fremont and was a staffer to a congressman. But the pension crisis facing the state and local governments has a long and torturous history. Understanding that history, the ins and outs of pension spiking, the run up in formulas over the last decade or more,  the double talk on "average" retirement pay outs, and rates of return and funding status - all the mumbo jumbo that has been used to obscure this issue for so long - will be thrown at Wieckowski and other lawmakers who are being asked to reform our pension system.

Because of term limits, too many of them are like Wieckowski. Literally they don't know their way to the bathroom or, more importantly, their way around testimony they will hear over the next year as this subject is debated, testimony calculated to confuse, obscure and obfuscate instead of inform. 

Because of term limits, fixing pensions and dozens of other crucial issues facing our state is made harder, perhaps impossible.   

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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