The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

About Ginger Rutland

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Ginger Rutland has lived in Sacramento since the 1950s, when K Street was still a street. She began her journalism career in TV with stints at Sacramento's KCRA, Channel 3, and as the Capitol reporter for KRON, Channel 4, in San Francisco. In 1988, she escaped the boob tube and joined The Bee's editorial board, where she writes on police, fire, public employees issues, pensions, transportation and, occasionally, Grant High School football.  She also contributes a weekly commentary to Capitol Public Radio.  Ginger is committed to the notion that opinion is opinion, not holy writ. And yes, she thinks The Bee is sometimes wrong but believes that she and her editorial board colleagues strive to be fair.  

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.   

June 15, 2010
Carly Fiorina disses Barbara Boxer; No news to 'News 10'

Before California Senate GOP candidate Carly Fiorina's hair flub is forgotten entirely, it's worth noting local journalism's connection to it.

Fiorina made her catty remarks about Sen. Barbara Boxer's hair being "soooo yesterday" as she was sitting in a television studio in Los Angeles waiting to be interviewed by KXTV News 10, the ABC affiliate in Sacramento.

Her remarks about Boxer's hair and Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman's questionable judgment in deciding to do her first post primary interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, came as the satellite feed started flowing to News 10 which had the opportunity to air it or not.

KXTV was maybe the only television station on the planet that decided not to air the candidates flub.

When interviewed by the New York Times, News 10's vice president and news director Tim Geraghty said "We had a vigorous editorial debate. ...To put on a clip of an interview with someone talking about someone else's hair did not fit with that brand we are trying to establish for News 10 in Northern California." The full story is here.

And what brand would that be? Bland? Staid? Boring? Predictable?

I couldn't find the interview that News 10 eventually aired with Fiorina on its website, but I've been watching canned TV interviews with political candidates - yes, I've even conducted a few - long enough to imagine what it was like - some mind numbingly boring recital of her stump speech - the same 50 words she gives to every new organization, re-arranged slightly for each.

In that two minutes of unscripted drivel about Boxer's hair and Whitman's judgment, the public learned more about the real Fiorina than anything that came out of any formal interview that eventually aired on Channel 10 or anywhere else - I can guarantee it.

June 14, 2010
News 10 misses the story

Before California Senate GOP candidate Carly Fiorina  hair flub is forgotten entirely, it's worth noting local journalism's connection to it. Fiorina made her catty remarks about Boxer's hair being "soooo yesterday" as she was sitting in a television studio in Los Angeles waiting to be interviewed by KXTV News 10, the ABC affiliate in Sacramento. Her remarks about Boxer's hair and Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman's questionable judgment in deciding to do her first post primary interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, came as the satellite feed started flowing to News 10 which had the opportunity to air it or not.

KXTV was maybe the only television station on the planet that decided not to air the candidates flub. When Interviewed by the New York Times, News 10's vice president and news director Tim Geraghty said "We had a vigorous editorial debate, ...To put on a clip of an interview with someone talking about someone else's hair did not fit with that brand we are trying to establish for News 10 in Northern California."

And what brand would that be? Bland? Staid? Boring? Predictable?

I couldn't find the interview that News 10 eventually aired with Carly Fiorina  on its website, but I've been watching canned TV  interviews with political candidates - yes, I've even conducted a few -  long enough to imagine what it was like - some mind numbingly boring recital of her stump speech - the same 50 words she gives to every new organization, re-arranged slightly for each.

In that two minutes of  unscripted drivel about Boxer's hair and Meg Whitman's judgment, the public learned more about the real Fiorina than anything that came out of any formal interview that eventually aired on Channel 10 or anywhere else - I can guarantee it.  

June 10, 2010
Yes, one more comment on Carly Fiorina's bad hair flub

Not to belabor the Carly Fiorina hair gaffe - but I will - it wasn't just the pettiness of the remark. Look at California's Republican senatorial candidate while she is making it. She hardly bothers to make eye contact with the person off screen she's babbling at. She spends most of the whole two or three minutes scrolling through the text messages on her iPhone as she disses Barbara Boxer's hair style and criticizes her fellow Republican, gubernatorial candidate  Meg Whitman's decision to do an interview with Fox News gabster Sean Hannity the day after her primary victory.

Fiorina, who has yet to win a single public office, snidely opines "I think its a very bad choice..."That's not the one you would do it with."

Hey Carly, drowning your hapless opponents in the Republican primary in cash is not the same as brilliantly out-strategizing them. Prediction: Political novices who adopt "know-it-all" attitudes and mistake money for smarts should prepare to be humbled.

May 26, 2010
Ginger takes a phone bank call from the teachers union
0511-0809-1916-1268_Vintage_Woman_Talking_on_the_Telephone_Clip_Art_clipart_image.jpgI'm not usually at home on a Tuesday morning after 9, but I just happened to be there this past week when the phone rang and the person on the other line announced she was with the California Teachers Association.

Then, without giving me a chance to respond, she immediately launched into her scripted spiel - essentially a long denunciation of the California Legislature in general and Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, specifically, for cutting support to California schools.

Memo to CTA on effective communication: Tell your paid callers to read their scripts more slowly, and with better articulation. Try pausing at the end of sentences or where the comma's go. It helps the listener to understand what the hell they're talking about.

When the CTA's breathless paid caller finished her script, she asked me if I would like her to transfer me to Sen. Darrell Steinberg's office so I could tell him myself how outraged I was. I told her that I'd rather be transferred to CTA union bosses. I wanted to tell them how outraged I was that the union was throwing younger teachers under the bus so that senior teachers wouldn't have to raise their co-pay for a doctors office visit from measly $1 to $15, which is more in line with what most of the rest of the world pays.

She paused then finally, clearly confused, and told me she didn't have the capability to do that. Did I want to speak to Sen. Steinberg?

When I called Steinberg's office the next day I learned that they had gotten between 600 and 700 calls from people who were transferred to their office in the same way that I was about to be. Some clearly bought the CTA's line and blamed Steinberg for education cuts. Many others were confused and wanted to know why Steinberg's office was calling them. And a substantial number were senior citizens who didn't want to be bothered.

Rank and file teachers, I have a question for you: Is this really how you want your dues spent?
April 8, 2010
Don Mette, Sac Metro's ex-chief, is among top ten pensioners
Thumbnail image for PK RANCHO METTE.JPGNewly retired Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District Chief Don Mette just made the list of top ten public employee pensioners in California, a dubious distinction, one that ought to alarm taxpayers. 

Number 8 on the list compiled by a a group of pension reformers, Mette collects $240,999 a year in retirement. For a look at all the top ten pensioners, please go here

Mette's pension shouldn't surprise anyone who's been paying attention. Bloated salaries and benefits have been the long established practice at Sac Metro for some time. A Sacramento Bee investigation last year documented that four of every five five employees at Sac Metro earns more than $100,000 a year.

Teachers are being laid off, libraries closed, and mental health clinics disbanded so that politically powerful fire union members can take home lavish pay and pensions. It's a scandal.

January 12, 2010
Response to Reid column dishonest and partisan

The response to my column today defending Sen. Harry Reid's controversial comments about President Obama's "light skin" and lack of "Negro dialect" has been predictably partisan. A number of readers said I would have been less forgiving if Reid had been Republican. Nonsense. My opinion had to do with the innocuousness of Reid's words not his partisan affiliation. Any fair reading of the column demonstrates that.

The firestorm over it is mostly manufactured outrage, driven, as Rutgers Professor David Greenberg said in a column in the Los Angeles Times today, by the 24/7 news cycle that has to be fed. Partisans, both Republicans and Democrats, regularly exploit that new cycle for their own narrow purposes.

In a separate LA Times column, Jonah Goldberg says Reid "deserves what he is getting" - that just last week he played the race card himself by accusing those who did not support  Obama's health care initiative of racism. I can't disagree with that. Racist is an ugly epithet, thrown around too easily by people on both sides of the aisle.

June 5, 2009
Arnold's dog - Taz

For the first time in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's numerous visits to The Bee's editorial board, I noticed that his security entourage - and it's a big one - includes a dog.

Taz, a German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois mix was posted outside the 3rd floor editorial board room.

To guard against what, exactly? Not drugs, it turns out.

The CHP handler teamed with the dog told me the dog was a bomb sniffing dog. Taz did a very good job. There were no blow ups, metaphorical or otherwise, during the editorial board's first ever live webcast meeting with the governor.

April 17, 2009
Supervisor stymied in quest to cut her salary

In solidarity with county workers who will soon be required to forgo cost-of-living increases and take unpaid furloughs, Sacramento Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan has volunteered to cut her salary by an equivalent amount. But there's a problem. The county attorney has told MacGlashan that a county ordinance prevents her from cutting her salary midterm. MacGlashan says she's trying to get around this prohibition. County Counsel Robert Ryan was out on Friday when I tried to get clarification about the ordinance, but I talked to one of his assistants, who pretty much backed up the supervisor's story. But he did suggest that there is a common-sense way out for MacGlashan and any other elected officials who want to follow her sensible lead. They could just write the county a check for an amount equivalent to the pay cut they want to take. Hey, Supervisors Dickinson, Yee, Peters and Nottoli, are you paying attention?  

 

March 27, 2009
Deficit? What deficit? Sac County purchases a new logo

Sacramento County is $168 million in the hole. No matter. Somehow, it had an extra $79,000 lying around to replace the county's old logo, which was created in 1961. Here is the new one:

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When asked about the expenditure, Supervisor Roger Dickinson told a local television reporter: "You never have a second chance to make a first impression."

February 23, 2009
Oprah highlights homelessness in Sacramento

It's not the most flattering landmark in Sacramento, nonetheless, the capital city's burgeoning tent city will be featured on Oprah Winfrey's talk show on Wednesday at 4 p.m. on Channel 3 and again at 9 p.m. on channel 58. The show is about the recession and homelessness; part of it was filmed in Sacramento.  Below, you can read what Joan Burke, director of advocacy at Loaves & Fishes, had to say about the program. 

  

Dear Friend of Loaves & Fishes,

 

Watch the Oprah Show at 4 PM this Wednesday, February 25! It's about the recession and homelessness and was filmed at Loaves & Fishes, Sacramento homeless shelters and Sacramento's Tent City. They also filmed in other cities to show this is a national problem.

 

Please pass the word by forwarding this on to your e-mail groups, colleagues and friends.

 

The Oprah Winfrey Show asked Loaves & Fishes if they could interview one of the homeless mothers at Maryhouse. Favor Whitesides, a very devoted mother of three bright and beautiful children, agreed to share her story.  Oprah Correspondent Lisa Ling, Sister Libby and I also visited the large tent city in Sacramento with over 100 tents spread out over several acres as far as the eye can see. Over 200 people live there in a scene straight out of the Great Depression. When I asked the film crew if they had seen anything like it anywhere else, the sound man replied, "Only in a war zone."

 

The show airs this Wednesday, Feb. 25.  In Sacramento it will be shown at 4PM on Channel 3 KCRA and again at 9 PM on Channel 58 KQCA. Showing times in other cities vary. A link to info on Oprah's website is below:

 

Tent Cities in America: A Lisa Ling Special Report

http://www.oprah.com/dated/oprahshow/oprahshow_20090218_recession 

Correspondent Lisa Ling brings us the new faces of the recession. The desperate search for work, a hot meal, a place to sleep. Meet families who are struggling every day to get by.

The spiraling economy and the foreclosure crisis are causing an increasing number of middle-class Americans to suffer. On today's show, Lisa Ling investigates the emergence of tent cities--makeshift temporary shelters set up by people who simply have nowhere else to go. Our cameras follow a family that went from living in a condo and driving a Lincoln Navigator a year ago to sleeping in homeless shelters and carrying all their possessions in garbage bags. Then, hear from a woman who was making $70,000 a year and is facing eviction. Get an inside look at how more and more families are struggling every day just to get by.

 

We believe, in the words of Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, that sunshine is the best disinfectant. We hope that those who see this show and its sad and shocking depiction of the pain of homelessness will be motivated to both seek solutions and to help the families and individuals who are homeless now. We will have a special page set up on Loaves & Fishes website by Wednesday for those who wish to help: www.sacloaves.org  

 

Joan Burke
Director of Advocacy
Loaves & Fishes
P O Box 2161
Sacramento, CA 96812
(916) 446-0874
advocate4loaves@yahoo.com
www.SacLoaves.org
February 18, 2009
Hollingsworth postpones fundraiser

At 2:50 this afternoon,just hours into his reign new Republican Senate Leader Dennis Hollingsworth sent out a fresh e-mail invitation for his $1,000 per guest "Third House Reception," ie, fundraiser.  This one  trumpeted his new title. It reads  in relevant part "Don't Miss the Reception TONIGHT with the NEW Senate Republican Leader Dennis Hollingsworth"

Approximately two hours later the brain trust in the Senators office, apparently  reconsidered. The sight of the newly minted Republican Leader gobbling up campaign cash while the state sinks into a fiscal abyss  and workers lose their jobs might not go over well, even with "No Tax Never Republicans." A new notice went out announcing that the Hollingsworth fundraiser was postponed. " RECEPTION TONIGHT POSTPONED!! The Reception at Cosmo Cafe with Senate Republican Leader Dennis Hollingsworth has been Postponed Until Further Notice"

February 18, 2009
Hollingsworth holds fundraiser as state sinks

On the day he was elected the new Republican Leader in the state Senate, Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta, had schedued a $1,000 fundraising reception at the Cosmo Cafe in downtown Sacramento. "You are Cordially Invited to a Reception in Support of Senator Dennis Hollingsworth" the invitation reads.  "$1,000 per guest."

Republican Leader Hollingsworth isn't alone in his ill timed fundraising appeal. On Wednesday, a day when the state stands poised to pull the plug on 374 infrastructure projects worth $5.58 billion because of the budget stalemate, five other legislators have scheduled fundraisers. In fact 38 legislators in all have scheduled fundraisers between today and March 5th.While inaction on the budget is wreaking financial havoc and throwing people out of work up and down the state, legislators continue to do what they do best - raise campaign funds. 

January 8, 2009
Kevin Johnson moves his office
Having introduced a strong mayor charter change initiative that would allow the mayor to skip council meetings, Kevin Johnson may end up never again having to meet face to face with his fellow council members. The new mayor has moved his office  from the 5th floor at city hall, which he shared with the eight other council members to the 3rd floor. Space there was freed up when the city's Planning and Development Services Departments consolidated and moved into new digs on Richards Blvd.

According to Steve Maviglio, the mayor's unpaid volunteer spokesman, Johnson's 3rd floor office has an open design "that  allows for a more collaborative approach because everybody on the mayor's team can see each other." By contrast, the mayor's old 5th floor office consisted of two rooms with doors on them and two cubicles with high walls. Maviglio said no new furniture was purchased and  the move didn't cost the city anything. Johnson got the idea for the move when he visited Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York who has a similar kind of set up there which he calls the " bull pen."

As for Johnson meeting up with his fellow city council members? Maviglio says "they are just a touch of the elevator away."

December 26, 2008
Give Grant Pacers decent competition

Before the glow of the Grant High School Pacers football championship fades away, I have a request for Grant and its legions of loyal fans, my husband among them. Next year, please give this team some decent competition. 

Ever since the powers that be for high school football moved Grant from Division I to Division II at the end of the 2005 season, Grant has been forced to play against not just mediocre but flat out awful teams, against players that should not be on the same field with the Pacers.There's no better proof of that than the series of embarrassingly lopsided scores for Grant's regular season Metro League games. 

Grant beat Sacramento High, 55-0, Kennedy, 61-0 and McClatchy, my alma mater, 89-0. Rosemont got a 58-6 thumping. Hiram Johnson took it on the chin 62-6. The only league game that offered Grant a whiff of  competion was Burbank. Even that score wasn't really close, 35-13.

Those kind of games are painful not just for the players but for the fans. I think Grant should be moved back into Division I for football so it can play the regional powerhouse teams again - the Nevada Union Miners and the Thundering Herd of Elk Grove, among others.

 Prep sports experts say that's not the answer. OK - then suggest something else. Just don't make Grant play McClatchy again next year. Who wants to watch an 89-0 football game? No one!

December 18, 2008
Meeting the new poor in line at welfare offices

Here's my advice to Republicans who are anxious to make deeper cuts in social services and welfare. Visit a welfare office in your home district as I did in Sacramento the other day.

You'll likely found what I did. First time needy, people who have worked hard all their lives and paid the taxes to fund legislators' salaries and  programs for the poor that they now need to access themselves for the first time in their lives.

 I met Jason, a 28 year old who was laid off from a sign making shop a few months ago. He's sleeping on a friend's couch and hasn't had a decent meal for days. He needs food stamps.

  I met Fernando, a laid off pressman with a wife and two kids and a mortgage living on unemployment. His savings have run out and he and his wife need help too. Heather, is 21 and lost her job at a coffee shop in Folsom when she moved to escape a difficult dometic situation.  Unable to find work, she's been sleeping in her car. 

There were more like that, hundreds of them in this one office on one afternnon in Sacramento. Legislators who want to cut benefits to the poor should take time away from their cozy offices at the capitol and talk to these new poor. It will be illuminating for them. It was for me.

December 12, 2008
Tent city for the homeless - Where should it be?

Bob Slobe, the North Sacramento businessman and long-time critic of the way the city deals with its homelss population, and a friend of mine, says location will be the biggest issue if the city sanctions a tent city for the homeless.

He's right about that. Slobe suggests Land Park or Curtis Park for the location. Someone else mentioned Capitol Park, all, enclaves of the rich and powerful. The suggestions are obvious digs at people who recommend solutions that don't impact where they live. Slobe has a point but not a very useful one. Any camp set up must be in walking distance of Loaves & Fishes, the social service complex north of downtown which serves the homelss now.  To work, the tent cities can't just push the homeless to other neighborhoods. They need to be served when they live now. Like it or not, north of downtown is where a huge bulk of the homeless live.

December 11, 2008
Homeless camps - should they be legalized?

The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board is considering endorsing the creation of a legally sanctioned campground for the homeless.

The problem of illegal camps and the futility of closing them down, only to see them pop up somewhere else days later is obvious as a recent story in The Bee  by Cynthia Hubert illustrates.

So does it make sense for local governments in this region to designate "high tolerance" quasi-legal campgrounds where the homeless can set up their tents and shanties  without fear of being arrested or rousted by police? 

What are your ideas? If you oppose the notion, what would be a better alternative, something more humane and effective than the endless homeless chase authorities are engaged in now?

November 21, 2008
Radio commentary: Cut state holidays

Much sacrifice will be required to close the state's $11 billion plus budget gap. Here's one easy  fix the governor has recommended: Cut the excessive number of state holidays. Click on my radio commentary here to hear about all the holidays state workers enjoy and what it all costs.

November 6, 2008
Too much democracy!!!
Tired of crawling through a ballot that's too long? Me too. I have an idea for making the next few elections go faster and smoother - a moratorium on initiatives. You can hear my  Capitol Public Radio rant on democracy gone amok here.
November 4, 2008
Most vote by mail voters are white

A number of voter rights groups who represent minority and poor voters have been skeptical about vote-by-mail balloting. A look at the Field Poll projections on the demographics of vote--by-mail-voters shows why their skepticism is justified.

According to the Field Poll, 70 per cent of all early voter/mail-in ballots were cast by white, non-Hispanic voters. Only 6 percent of mail-in voters were black;  9 percent were Asian and  15 percent Latino. The Field Poll shows that minority voters overwhelmingly vote at their precincts on election day.

Low income voters are also less likely to vote by mail. Only 12 percent of early mail-in-voters had household incomes of $20,000 a year or less. By comparison, the highest percentage of early/mail-in voters, 34 percent, had household incomes of $100,000 or more.

Many have suggested that California should go the way of Oregon and allow for mail voting exclusively. The low mail-in voter participation by minorities and the poor shows why that's not a good idea. So, see you at the polls.

October 27, 2008
US Attorney should resolve St. Hope and Johnson questions

Some labor unions  that want to re-elect Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo and defeat challenger Kevin Johnson are airing a bunch of misleading  ads that say federal funds for school lunch  and reading programs have been cut off at two charter schools run by Johnson's St. Hope organization . The ads appear to be flat out lies. According to the principal of St. Hope's Public Schools, federal funds continue to flow to both schools. A spokesperson for the Sacramento Unified School District says the district has received no confirmation of any cut off of federal funds to either. 

Rumors of a cutoff began flying after Inspector General Gerald Walpin sent out a press release last month  announcing the government was suspending all federal grants to Johnson's St. Hope organization because Johnson may have committed "potential criminal violations," But that investigation targeted only St. Hope Academy's Hood Corps (a domestic urban Peace Corps-type program), not its charter schools. The folks who put out the false ad must know that.

Walpin's report was refered to the U.S. Attorney's office for possible federal prosecution. When I asked him about the report last month, U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott  told me that "he was"sensitive to the bigger picture," and promised to move "as expeditiously as we can in a professional manner to make the decisions required of us in a timely manner. " By timely, I had hoped Scott meant before the election. That's just nine days away now.  It's been almost a month since IG Walpin made his highly sensational allegations public. Johnson says the charges are bogus. Nonetheless, Fargo supporters are exaggerating them to try to defeat Johnson. Parents and students are being alarmed needlessly

 The U.S. Attorney could resolve this issue once and for all. In fairness to Johnson, Fargo, and the voters he should.

October 14, 2008
Kevin Johnson's troubling pledge to union firefighters

Back in early September, we asked mayoral candidate Kevin Johnson for a copy of the pledge he signed at the behest of  Local 522, the Sacramento Area Fire Fighters Union, which had endorsed him. He wouldn't give it to us. So we asked the union for it. They refused as well.

Two weeks ago when Johnson came to the editorial board for an endorsement interview, we again asked for the paper he'd signed.. He refused to give it to us and told us to get if from the union. We tried. They refused as well. So we appealed to Johnson's campaign manager, Steve Maviglio. After several days he persuaded union officials to send us a copy. Here it is. Read it and you'll understand why Johnson and the union wanted to keep it under wraps.

In it Johnson promises to support an as yet unwritten union initiative. "I support the Neighborhood Firehouse Protection Act which guarantees Sacramento City spend necessary resources to keep every fire company in the city open, fully equipped and staffed at a minimum of four firefighters." The promise to maintain four-person staffing is the most troubling part of Johnson's pledge. Many urban fire departments, including the Sacramento Metro Fire Department, use three-person crews. Because the city of Sacramento's contract with city fire fighters requires four crew members, the city has had to shut down fire engines because they cannot all be staffed to that level. If the city had three-person crews it could afford to keep those engines running. It also could afford to open a badly needed new fire station in Natomas. Johnson's pledge, if enacted via an initiative, would lock the city's current, expensive staffing policy in place so that no future city council could change it.

 Johnson is apparently willing to jettison other city budget priorities to give union firefighters what they demand. The pledge he signed goes on to say, "This measure does not include a funding source and I understand possible cuts could be incurred by parks and recreation, youth programs, libraries and other city departments."

Firefighter union leaders sent a cover letter along with Johnson's pledge that obviously seeks to soften its full meaning. They point out that the initiative has not yet been written and that the union has "not decided to go forward with this effort." They also say that Johnson "made it clear to us that every department of city govenment, including the fire department, would be reviewed in light of budgetary constraints."

But if the initiative Johnson has pledged to support does go forward, it would tie the hands of all future mayors and city councils. It would prevent the city from making sensible fire staffing changes  to protect other vital city services -- police, for example.

Because of budget problems, the city council has cut the police budget 8 percent. They cut the fire department only 4 percent. To save money police have been forced to double up in patrol cars. Fire fighters still get to maintain four person crews. Where does Johnson stand on police versus fire? The pledge he signed suggests that fire takes precedence over police. Does it? It's a question that needs answering as the campaign enters the home stretch.

October 9, 2008
Bride is back
Listen up folks. Every Friday I do a commentary on something important or not so important. This week it's about bride and groom - words recently deleted from California's marriage license. The words are being restored,  thanks in part to a Roseville couple who refused to be called Party A and Party B. I say good for them.  You can hear me say it right here
October 6, 2008
No knock outs but Kevin wins on points.

You can't win a debate when you're playing defense at all times.

 Mayor Heather Fargo played defense with challenger Kevin Johnson all night tonight. He was aggressive and he was passionate, especially about education. He offered some new ideas. For example: He suggested that Sac State open a satellite campus downtown. Interesting. He pointed to some real achievements in Oak Park, his attempt to revitalize a forgotten corner of the city.

 Fargo's best moment came when she asked Johnson how he was going to pay for all the new police he wants to hire. What will you cut to pay for them, Kevin, she wanted to know. Good question. He bobbed and weaved - an audit to feret out "waste, fraud and abuse" was the best he could come up with.

In terms of substance - Sac State students asked very good questions. So did the moderators. As for atmospherics - I found the electronic stars and stripes waving behind the two candidates distracting. I also saw very little levity. You get the impression these two really don't like each other. 

  

October 2, 2008
Second thoughts on Palin and Biden
When compared to McCain and Obama, both Biden and Palin won the "Who would you like to have a beer with after work?" contest . They looked at each other during the debate. They smiled and even laughed occassionally.  After the debate they were relaxed and seemed genuinely friendly in their exchange.  Their families seemed to enjoy meeting. What's up with McCain? He seems to have a hard time even looking at Obama.    
October 2, 2008
Ginger's take on the Palin-Biden throw down

Palin proved she could string together coherent sentences, an attribute many Americans had come to doubt in recent weeks. She re-assured her base, and thus did what she needed to do. Biden was great, better than Obama last week, intelligent, articulate and passionate. He treated Palin with respect. He didn't patronize her but he didn't let her get away with distorting McCain's record or Obama's. At one point when he talked about his first wife who died in a car crash and his sons who nearly died he reminded me that sometimes fathers can be mothers too. That was powerful.  I think both Palin and Biden exceeded expectations.



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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