The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

February 29, 2012
Sacramento council gets on board the push for streetcars
The Sacramento City Council is on board with the push to return streetcars to the region.

In a significant step, council members unanimously voted Tuesday night to accept a study laying out a "starter" route that would connect Sacramento with West Sacramento across Tower Bridge.

The study calls for a network of streetcars that would traverse Sacramento's central grid and could ultimately extend into the River District, East Sacramento, Cal Expo and Oak Park.

Streetcars are meant to complement Regional Transit's light rail and buses, attracting riders for short trips for work, shopping or pleasure. The routes are also designed to encourage transit-friendly infill development.

Agreement on the study is necessary to have any real hope of securing federal grants that are the best hope of finding money to build the lines.

As The Bee editorial board pointed out, West Sacramento has been taking the lead, while Sacramento got bogged down in uncertainty over routes and funding.

"We're ready to step up and join as true partners," said Councilman Steve Cohn before making the motion to endorse the study. "The time has come for streetcars in Sacramento."

Councilman Rob Fong pointed out that the cost is "daunting." Just the starter line is projected to cost $125 million to $135 million to build.

But, he added, "If we don't get started, we won't get it done."

Cohn, who has been working on the issue already, also volunteered to be the "champion" for streetcars on the council -- as encouraged in the editorial.

After the unanimous vote, Mayor Kevin Johnson declared, "You have nine champions."
February 23, 2012
NBA Commissioner David Stern speaks on Sac arena deal
For those of you following every twist and turn in the arena saga, you can read and hear for yourself what NBA Commissioner David Stern has said.

In a column in The Bee last May, just after NBA owners gave Sacramento a reprieve, he extolled arena financing deals where the public and private sectors join forces and stressed that the Kings would make a "substantial contribution." "The NBA has experienced the success public-private partnerships can have in developing facilities that contribute to the economic transformation of neighborhoods," Stern wrote.

In an interview this week, he again pledged a "substantial contribution" from the team -- but suggested that money put in by potential arena operator AEG should count toward that sum because "whatever money AEG puts in is because of givebacks by the team to allow AEG to profit from the arena."

That calculation could kill the arena deal because the city is counting on $85 million from the Kings separate and apart from $50 million from AEG. So the proposal should be a non-starter, The Bee's editorial board said today.

Is Stern doing some negotiating in public? Or is he putting down a marker?

We should know pretty soon as negotiations between Mayor Kevin Johnson and other city leaders, league officials and Kings owners the Maloof family shift into overdrive this coming weekend in Orlando, in conjunction with the NBA's All-Star Game. All sides hope to come to terms by Thursday -- and the "term sheet" is to go before the City Council on March 6.
February 13, 2012
Restaurants are struggling with state's new food handler law

You could say that the glitches in California's new food handler rules prove the law of unintended consequences.

Yet, some people -- including me -- saw the problems coming.

In a piece last April titled "Recipe for Confusion," I reported on the legislative meat grinder that produced the new law requiring many workers to get training in safely handling food. "Lots of outfits are elbowing for the lucrative business of training employees and issuing the certification cards, and there are reports of shady operators trying to bilk unsuspecting business owners and workers," I wrote.

Well, the California Restaurant Association just sent an alert to its members that "numerous" businesses are finding that employees have acquired invalid food handler cards and are being penalized or given tight deadlines for compliance.

The issue is "widespread" across the state, says Leslie Huffman, an association vice president. "It's becoming a little bit of a panic," she told me today.

The problems are becoming apparent now because there was a six-month grace period, until Jan. 1, before local health inspectors started enforcing the law. 

The restaurant association is trying to steer members and workers to the right places to get the cards. It has also put together a system for managers to track their employees' compliance.

The intent of the law was laudable. But, as often the case, its implementation has been messy.
February 9, 2012
Big donation could open half of Sacramento's pools
It took a while, but a local company has stepped forward to help open Sacramento's city pools this coming summer.

Last summer, the city's budget crunch meant only six of 12 pools were accessible. This coming summer, only three have been scheduled to open.

As The Bee's editorial board said last August, "This is a prime opportunity for a civic-minded corporation to make a sizable gift that would buy it priceless goodwill."

The Bee's Bob Shallit reports today that Save Mart Supermarkets plans to announce next week that it will match up to $500,000 in donations.

Now, it's up to other businesses and the general public to pitch in.

The full $1 million would be enough to open six pools to full operations, along with all five of the city's standalone wading pools, says Dave Mitchell of the city's Parks and Recreation Department. He told me in an email that he hopes even more will be raised so more pools can open.

It's not a long-term solution to the city's budget woes. But it could bridge the gap until the economy turns around and city revenues bounce back.

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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