The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

August 3, 2011
Sacramento's city manager-to-be and the Cincinnati riots

All indications are that as soon as Thursday, Sacramento will have a new city manager -- John Shirey, now executive director of the California Redevelopment Association.

He has three decades-plus in a series of local government jobs, but he has been the chief administrator only once, in Cincinnati from 1993 to 2001. His tenure there was not always smooth sailing, with controversies over development projects and rocky relations with some council members.

His ultimate undoing came from the April 2001 riots after the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man. The unrest was the worst since the 55 deaths in 1992 in Los Angeles after the acquittal of four police officers in the videotaped beating of Rodney King.

Less than a month after the riots, Shirey resigned to avoid being fired. "I just felt somebody was going to have to take the fall for the unrest and it was likely going to be me," he told The Bee's Ryan Lillis this week. "I just felt that I had used up my capital and done what I could do, and it was time for me to move on."

He had more to say in an April interview with Cincinnati public radio station WVXU marking the 10th anniversary of the riots.

Shirey said he was saddened by the riots, which he described as the culmination of years of ill feeling between the police department and the city's African-American community. Before the fatal shooting that sparked the riots, 14 other black men were killed in confrontations with police in six years on Shirey's watch.

He said he wished the incidents could have been avoided and that community relations would have been better, but he did everything in his power. Fair or not, he added, someone would have to be blamed for the riots. "As a chief executive, the buck stops with me," he said.

You can listen to the entire interview here.

The Bee's editorial board has posed a series of questions that it believes council members ought to answer before moving forward on hiring a city manager. To read what more the editorial board has to say about Shirey's impending selection, come to on Thursday.

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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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