The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

September 28, 2010
Whopper watch: Tracking half-truths, embellishments in debate

Whoa, that didn't take long for the first truth-stretcher.

Jerry Brown said that Meg Whitman wants to suspend the state's landmark climate change law.

She does, for one year. But that's not the entire story.

After some hemming and hawing, she came out last week against Proposition 23, the ballot measure which would all but kill Assembly Bill 32 because it would suspend it until the state's unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters.

Brown was also right in saying that eliminating the capital gains tax, as Whitman proposes, would mostly benefit the well-off. People with adjusted gross incomes of $500,000 or more do pay about 82 percent of the total state capital gains tax in California. The state's annual take  has ranged from $3 billion to nearly $12 billion over the past decade, averaging about $7 billion a year.

But when he said that money would come straight out of schools, that's not in Whitman's platform. That could be the result, given that school spending makes up so much of the general fund budget. But it's not what Whitman is proposing.

Whitman isn't immune to leaving out context and putting the worst possible spin on Brown's record.

She criticized what Brown did as mayor of Oakland on schools, but she didn't mention that he had little direct control since an elected school board was in charge.

While as Whitman says, Oakland was labeled in one rating as the fourth most dangerous city in the nation when Brown left office, overall crime actually dropped substantially over his term.

And though she's correct that California's unemployment rate was 11 percent when Brown ended his time as governor, the national rate was 10.8 percent at the same time. The state's current rate, 12.4 percent, is substantially higher than the national average of 9.6 percent.

Later during the debate, Brown bragged about how he vetoed state employee pay raises twice. He neglected to mention, however, that after the Legislature overrode his vetoes, he agreed to smaller salary hikes in those instances.

Brown also went after the California Chamber of Commerce for ads critical of him, saying that it should be forced to disclose how much it spent on Whitman's behalf. He didn't acknowledge, however, that the chamber pulled the ads in April after the Democratic Party and others complained.

For her part, Whitman was asked about criticisms of some of her TV ads. She stood by them categorically, even though The Bee and nonpartisan groups such as have found them misleading.

But given all the claims and counterclaims lobbed back and forth during the hour-long debate, their first, Brown and Whitman managed to stick mostly to the straight and narrow, avoiding big lies or completely outrageous whoppers.

September 28, 2010
See what local city council candidates had to say

The races for governor and U.S. Senate and the statewide ballot propositions may be getting the lion's share of attention.


But local city council races can have more impact since municipal officials make decisions that can change your daily life - whether to widen a street or put in a sidewalk, how often garbage gets picked up or a police car patrols your street, whether to allow a big box retailer to open.


To give voters more information leading up to the Nov. 2 election, The Bee's editorial board sent questionnaires to city council candidates in eight cities in the Sacramento region: Citrus Heights, Elk Grove, Folsom, Galt, Rancho Cordova, Rocklin, Roseville and West Sacramento. A questionnaire also went out to the candidates running for the Arden Arcade council, which would only come into being if voters approve cityhood.


The results are available in a searchable database where you can look up candidates, or sort the answers by issue to see how each candidate answered.              

September 8, 2010
Sacramento chamber bucks trend, opposes Prop. 23

For the second election in a row, the Sacramento Metro Chamber is bucking the trend among its peers.

In June, the chamber's board of directors came out against Proposition 16, the ploy by Pacific Gas & Electric to protect its market by making it very difficult for public utilities to form or expand. The chamber stood up for members who benefit from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District's low electricity rates -- and stood apart from the California Chamber and most local chambers of commerce in the state. Prop. 16 failed.

This afternoon, the Metro Chamber announced that it is opposing Proposition 23, the November ballot measure that would suspend California's landmark AB 32 climate change legislation until the unemployment rate -- now north of 12 percent -- falls to 5.5 percent and stays there for a full year. Critics of the proposition say that basically guts AB 32 because it would never be implemented, and that will delay California's transition to a clean energy economy.

Proponents say that AB 32 is a job killer and California can't afford that right now. Supporters include business groups and many local chambers of commerce, including those in Fresno, Bakersfield and Santa Clara County. The statewide chamber has stayed neutral so far.

Sacramento is a center for clean energy jobs. In declaring its opposition, the Metro Chamber said it has been "on the record, for the past three years, supporting the general concepts represented in AB 32."

"Additionally, our continued advocacy for a balanced approach and implementation of AB 32 is more in line with our stated Capitol-to-Capitol Program polices in the areas of air quality and climate change," the chamber said.

Its other stands on statewide ballot propositions are not surprising, though it is taking no position on Proposition 21, which would fund state parks through an $18 surcharge on vehicle license fees. "There's not a legitimate nexus between the VLF fee and funding of parks and wildlife conservation," the chamber said. "The state parks and wildlife conservation programs should continue to be funded through existing state and local funding sources."

September 8, 2010
Deal finally done between city and Local 39

After all the hullabaloo and teeth-gnashing, the deal between City Hall and the city's largest employee union is finally done.

Without fanfare, the Sacramento City Council approved the pact with Local 39 as part of its consent agenda Tuesday evening.

As The Bee's editorial board has said, it's not an ideal agreement. But it will save the city about $3.8 million in both 2010-11 and 2011-12, helping the council balance the budget with fewer cuts to services.

Under the contract, which goes through June 29, 2012, the 1,600 members of Local 39 will take one unpaid furlough day a month and step salary increases will be frozen for two years.

The city, in turn, promises no layoffs until at least next June; 90 jobs that would have been cut this month were saved. There's one potential out: a fiscal emergency in the utilities department, including the passage of a ballot measure in November that would roll back utility rate increases.

Because the negotiations with Local 39 took so long, the council had to use another $1.2 million in proceeds from the sale of the Sheraton Hotel to avoid layoffs during the talks.

There's one more to go. The council received an update in closed session Tuesday about the negotiations with Local 447 of the Plumbers & Pipefitters, and officials say an agreement is near.

September 7, 2010
Sacramento City Council does a 180 on public comments

 The Sacramento City Council did the right thing this evening, and it had to reverse itself to do so.

Last month, it had agreed to move the time for public comments not on agenda items to the end of the meeting from the beginning. Some council members complained that it slowed down meetings and that special interests, including advocates for a safe ground campground for the homeless, had monopolized the period.

But opponents pointed out that with Regional Transit service cuts, buses and trains don't start after 9 p.m. The League of Women Voters and the ACLU subsequently weighed in, saying the change was bad for public access. So did the Bee's editorial board.

This evening, the council voted unanimously to return the comment period to the beginning, with the proviso that if it went past 30 minutes, the rest of the comments would be moved to the end. Of the last 34 meetings, only four comment periods exceeded that half-hour limit.

"I think this is a good day for democracy," said Mayor Kevin Johnson, who opposed the original move.

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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