The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

July 20, 2012
Sacramento taxpayers group comes out against charter panel
It's probably a moot point, but the Sacramento Taxpayers Association is now on record against the city's proposed charter commission.

The association had a "healthy discussion" at its board meeting Thursday before voting to formally oppose the idea, association Vice President Bob Blymyer told Mayor Kevin Johnson and the City Council.

Blymyer said that any necessary revisions to the city's constitution could be done by the council, itself, with some outside expertise. 

"Considering the city's current fiscal situation with labor costs and unfunded pension obligations, it doesn't seem in the taxpayers' best interest to set up another layer of administrative functions in hopes of improving some of the city's operations," he wrote.

Potential cost is only one concern. I've written about the likelihood that a charter commission would be dominated by special interests, not civic-minded citizens, and its deliberations would be a distraction that would further divide the city.

But council members Steve Cohn, Darrell Fong and Kevin McCarty told The Bee's editorial board this weekthat they believe the charter panel is a good idea, if only to get the strong mayor controversy off the council's plate.

They have opposed Johnson's proposals to give the mayor's office more power, in part because they say the plans were drafted in back rooms without enough public input.

But Cohn confessed that if there are only slates of candidates beholden to special interests, he may end up voting "no" to starting the commission.

Because a majority of the council has already voted to put the charter commission before voters and it would take a two-thirds vote to rescind that action, the measure appears likely to remain on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Besides deciding whether to create the commission, voters would also choose candidates to serve on it for two years. If voters say yes to the commission, the top 15 vote-getters would serve.
July 19, 2012
Chamber urges City Council to seek smaller sales tax hike
On the eve of tonight's City Council debate on whether to let Sacramento voters decide on a sales tax increase, a major business group has softened its opposition.

A majority of council members appear inclined to put a measure on the Nov. 6 ballot to increase the local sales tax to help restore basic services that have been slashed during the budget crunch, particularly public safety.

The Metro Chamber sent a letter to council members urging them to limit any hike to a quarter cent, rather than a half cent because of "the potential for competitive disadvantage" with neighboring cities.

Increasing the rate from the current 7.75 percent to 8 percent would only put it a quarter cent higher than Elk Grove and West Sacramento and keep the difference with Roseville under 1 percentage point.

The Chamber is also pushing for a "sunset" clause that would automatically end the tax unless voters approve one again. It suggests four years, saying that should be sufficient "given the current forecasts of economic recovery and thus the recovery of your underlying tax base."

Like The Bee's editorial board, the Chamber is also proposing strict accountability. It wants separate budgeting of proceeds from a tax hike, an independent audit and a citizen oversight committee that includes representatives from the business community.

The business group also wants the police and fire departments to get a share of proceeds equal to their share of the 2012-13 budget.

The Chamber makes clear it is still has severe misgivings about increasing costs for business. But, wrote Chamber President and CEO Roger Niello, "We also understand and appreciate the concept of placing the decision before the voters for their ultimate decision."
July 5, 2012
Local nonprofit wants to use golf to help disabled veterans
In reporting and writing about veterans issues in recent months, I've learned that there are quite a few nonprofit groups out there trying to help the surge of service members coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

And as I wrote this past Sunday, there's more emphasis these days on using sports as part of the recovery and rehabilitation for severely injured veterans.

So I wasn't too surprised, but still rather intrigued, to get a message today from a local group looking to golf to help vets with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

Jim Rounsavell, president of Veterans Golf Park for Disabled Vets, is recruiting volunteers. The group, based in Citrus Heights, is also holding a fund-raiser on Sept. 24 at Sunset Whitney Country Club in Rocklin to buy a ParaGolfer cart, which enables those who have lost limbs or who are unsteady on their feet to swing a club.

It eventually wants to open an entire golf course designed for the disabled, similar to one in Lakewood, Wash.

More information is available at the group's website.
July 2, 2012
Angela Madsen qualifies for Paralympics, sets world record
Madsen.JPGFor readers curious about how Angela Madsen fared at the U.S. Paralympics track and field trials over the weekend, I'm happy to report that she made the team for the London games this summer.

In fact, she emailed me to say she broke the world record in her shot put event with a throw of more than 30 1/2 feet.

This makes her a two-time Paralympian. She also competed in rowing in 2008 in Beijing, but missed out on a medal.

She's going for gold in London.

I featured Madsen, a former Marine who is paralyzed from the waist down, in a column on Sunday about how sports is being increasingly used as part of the rehabilitation for seriously injured veterans coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq. Thanks to progress in prosthetic limbs and medicine, more veterans are able to take part in "adaptive" sports and the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Olympic Committee and others are putting more money into programs.

Four other veterans qualified for the U.S. team at the track and field trials in Indianapolis. That makes at least 19 vets headed for the London games, Aug. 29-Sept. 9 -- more than the 16 who competed in Beijing.

Bee photo of Angela Madsen by Hector Amezcua

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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