The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

November 30, 2008
Link Box: Local efforts to preserve open space and farm land
Today's editorial urges local governments and nonprofits to take advantage of the downturn in the economy to preserve land for parks, greenways, habitat and flood control projects. Hundreds of millions of dollars in state bond money are available for these purposes, but only if applicants get their act together.

Here are some links to local groups and agencies working to preserve open space and the farm economy:

Natomas Joint Vision

Placer Legacy

South Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan

SACOG Rural Urban Connections Strategy

Sacramento Valley Conservancy

November 26, 2008
Thoughts on Kevin Johnson's gala night
Mayor-elect Kevin Johnson proved one thing Tuesday night: He and his team can pull off a star-spangled spectacle.

A huge American flag. Balloons. Massive digital projectors. Lisa Ling as emcee. A youthful dancing troupe. A soulful choir. A visit by the governor. A teleprompter for K.J. Lots of soaring platitudes, followed by confetti raining down. Sacramento has never seen anything like it.

Some scribbles from my notebook:

-- The new mayor passed on a chance to ding TV comedy host Stephen Colbert, who called Sacramento "unbelievably boring" when Johnson was on his show recently. Johnson's prepared remarks had the mayor-elect saying: "I was not going to let that  fool get away with saying that Sacramento was 'unbelievably boring.'" But when Johnson delivered his speech, he  inserted the word "jokester" for fool. )

-- The local music, dancing and singing on Tuesday night were inspired. I especially liked the 34th Street Dancers. Their performance -- "Obama Song/I have a dream" -- delivered an instant message of generational change. These young people are energized, they are talented and they are ready to mix it up.

November 23, 2008
Where will Darrell Steinberg come down on Peripheral Canal?
Once he takes command of the California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg will have a live grenade thrown into his lap -- the Peripheral Canal.

And who Steinberg selects to chair key committees could determine the fate of this contentious water project.

Southern California water interests and some environmental groups are seeking the canal to reduce fish conflicts in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. They are urging Steinberg to select incoming Fran Pavley of Santa Monica to head the Senate Natural Resources Committee, which handles legislation related to water.

Pavley is a hero to environmentalists for co-authoring Assembly Bill 32, the 2006 legislation that commits California toward cutting greenhouse gases. But Pavley is a curious pick for Natural Resources. While in the Assembly, she didn't show a huge interest in water issues. In the Senate, her interests would seem to be better aligned with the Environmental Quality or Energy, Utilities and Communication committees.

So why are Southern California water interests pushing Pavley for Natural Resources? Because she is not Lois Wolk.

Wolk, from Davis, focused on water issues throughout her terms in the Assembly. But she is a Northern California politician, and it's hard to find many of this species who are publicly supportive off a peripheral canal. In addition, Wolk has also been a longtime ally of the Planning and Conservation League, a group that has fought efforts to fast-track the canal.

So where will Steinberg come down? If he picks Wolk, he'll anger his Southern California caucus, and if he picks Pavley, he'll anger his Northern California base. There's also a third possibility, reports Capitol Alert. Loni Hancock of Berkeley, who chaired Natural Resources in the Assembly, is also in the running for the Senate committee.

In the next few weeks, Steinberg will decide between these three. Who he selects will reveal much about his ability to juggle live grenades. 
November 23, 2008
Have a question for the new mayor?
Sacramento Mayor-elect Kevin Johnson is scheduled to meet with The Bee's editorial board tomorrow afternoon. We'll be asking him questions about his recent meetings with fellow council members and other elected leaders, and his plans for his first 50 days in office.

What are your thoughts? What questions would you like to see posed to Johnson about his immediate agenda? We'll try to get answers to as many as possible.
November 22, 2008
Now that K.J. has saved Santa Parade, he can... Santa Claus in some other roles?

As you may have seen, Mayor-elect Kevin Johnson has stepped in with $20,000 in campaign cash to prevent the annual Santa Parade from becoming the victim of a down economy.

That leaves us wondering what other headlines we might see in the near future:

Mayor-elect saves Uncle Jers by buying two tons of cookies

Johnson goes on shopping spree, preserving "Black Friday" for malls

BREAKING NEWS: K.J. buys Isleton, saving it from bankruptcy

Johnson shows up at repo auction, buys 1,500 homes

Show goes on for boycotted Music Circus, after K.J. buys all tickets

Mayor-elect dishes deep, bails out Zelda's Pizza

Kings land Kobe Bryant, thanks to donation from Johnson

Any others?

November 19, 2008
Not yet mayor, Kevin Johnson wants to play on the regional stage
JV JOHNSON TEAM 02.JPGHe won't be sworn in until Dec. 2, but Kevin Johnson is already showing signs he wants to be more than just Sacramento's mayor.

Since his election on Nov. 4, Johnson and his aides have been reaching out to elected leaders outside of Sacramento. Two weeks ago, he attended a state-of-the-city address in Rancho Cordova, where Mayor Linda Budge presented him with the key to the city. Some in attendance remarked they had never before seen a Sacramento mayor attend such an event.

Today, Johnson announced he will meet Thursday with several of the region's mayors, including Budge, West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis, Roseville Mayor Gina Garbolino, Marysville Mayor Bill Harris, Live Oak Mayor Diane Hodges, Loomis Mayor Russ Kelley, Winters Mayor Michael Martin, Yuba City Mayor-Elect Leslie McBride, Citrus Heights Mayor Steve Miller, Auburn Mayor Keith Nesbitt, Lincoln Mayor-Elect Spencer Short and Rocklin Mayor Brett Storey.

To be sure, this regional love fest will not last beyond the point that Johnson is forced to spar with his counterparts for development projects, state grants and other funding. But for now, Sacramento's new mayor seems interested in developing some regional relationships. That could prove fruitful for the region.
November 19, 2008
Troubled future for futuristic tram at CSUS?
Plans for a tram to link California State University, Sacramento with the light rail station at 65th Street have been pushed back for at least a year, according to a report this week in The State Hornet, the campus newspaper.

Funding for the project has come in spurts, and project leaders have yet to decide if the tram will run on a new fixed guideway that would be built through the campus, or on existing roadways.

Sounds like this project could use some assistance from a local elected leader. Given that the tram would help reduce congestion and air pollution on the Highway 50 corridor, U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui and state legislators should make it a priority as they work to fast-track infrastructure projects. What do you think?

UPDATE: Matsui's office informs me that the congresswoman wrote a letter last year in support of grants for the CSUS tram. This year, however, neither CSUS or Regional Transit requested federal funds for the project. Too bad. If the campus had this project designed and ready to go, they'd be in a position to secure some of the public works spending Congress is likely to approve this year in a stimulus package.
November 17, 2008
CHP: "Noise is a good thing"
Like some other citizens who cherish their eardrums, I was baffled today to read the response of a California Highway Patrol spokeswoman, Kelly Baraga, when asked about the noise blaring from souped-up motorcycles on the street.

"Sometimes that noise is a good thing," Baraga responded when asked by The Bee's Tony Bizjak about motorcycles with loud aftermarket exhaust systems. "Motorcycles are not as easily seen (as cars), so noise is a way they can notify people they are on the road."

Hmm. By that logic, whenever I ride my bicycle through town, I should yell into a bullhorn.

Perhaps Baraga has not read the California Safety and Health Code, which the CHP is sworn to uphold. The code states that "excessive noise is a serious hazard to the public health and welfare" and it goes on from there... 
November 12, 2008
Monster fish found in Sacramento Valley creek
giant-salmon-battle-creek-1.jpgNo this is not a doctored photo. State Department of Fish and Game biologists found this whopper of a chinook salmon while conducting a survey last month of Battle Creek, a tributary of the Sacramento River.

Unfortunately, the 51-inch-long fish was dead when found. If alive, it probably would have surpassed the state record of 88 pounds live weight.

It's been a tough set of years for salmon in California, so this big fish has biologists understandably excited.

"Hopefully this fish was entirely successful in passing on its superior genetic potential," said Dave Killam, a DFG biologist, pictured in the photo. "This is one of the few bright spots this year for one of California's great sport fish, the Chinook salmon."
November 11, 2008
K.J. gets his moment of fake news fame on the Colbert Report
Let's give thanks that Sacramento still has the Raisin Capital to serve as the butt of its jokes.

In introducing one of his guests tonight, Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert laid down this line for Sacramento Mayor-elect Kevin Johnson.

"He better do a good job or they trade his ass to Fresno."

So did Johnson do a good job on Colbert? So-so.

November 11, 2008
California's cap-and-trade stalls, amid rumors on Nichols' future
Bloomberg News reports that California's cap-and-trade system -- the centerpiece of Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2020 -- has hit a major snag.

The story says Cal-EPA Secretary Mary Nichols will convene a panel of outside experts to reach consensus on a market trading system for emissions that has divided business groups, environmental justice advocates and other environmentalists.

That assumes Nichols will still be in California to oversee such a panel. She has been mentioned in a few blogs as a candidate to serve as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency secretary in the Obama administration. See stories here and here and here. 
November 10, 2008
Transcript: Schwarzenegger on budget crisis, furloughs and other topics
BB GOV BOARD 010.JPGBelow are some excerpts from our interview today with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on the state's $11.2 billion revenue shortfall, state worker furloughs, the car tax, the initiative process and other topics.

To listen to audio of the interview, click the link on this page.


On why he proposed one-day-a month furloughs for state workers:

Schwarzenegger: It comes under the auspices of, everyone gets a little hair cut. If everyone sacrifices a little bit, I think we can make it through here. It is the same question as...why do you make cuts from law enforcement. Why do you make cuts from prisons? Why do you make cuts from education. Why do you make cuts from health care?
You have got to look at the whole inventory of things that are available. I thought by closing some of these holidays and also having people, you know, take off one day a month it could save the state some money, and it does. Mike, what are those numbers?

Finance Director Mike Genest: The furlough itself we have at $263 (million) this year and $451 (million) next year. And that is just the general fund.

November 10, 2008
Questions for Schwarzenegger as he visits Bee ed board today?
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is scheduled to meet with The Bee's editorial board this afternoon, to pitch his plan for responding to an $11.2 billion revenue shortfall in the current fiscal year.

We offered our response to his plan Sunday. What are your thoughts? What questions would you want posed to the governor?
November 9, 2008
Will Pelosi, Obama stay neutral as Waxman and Dingell battle it out?
Even as they savor their victories from Tuesday, Democrats are embroiled in a power struggle over what kind of legislation Congress will enact to reduce greenhouse gases and shape the nation's energy future.

In the House, U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman of California is challenging John Dingell of Michigan to chair the powerful Energy and Commerce committee. Dingell, allied with Detroit's auto industry and Democrats who hail from coal states, is pushing a bill that would cut greenhouse gases 80 percent by 2050.

Waxman is pushing for faster reductions, with more controls on coal power plants and stronger fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, than Dingell supports.

Neither House Speaker Nancy Pelosi nor President-elect Barack Obama have publicly taken sides. But you'd have to think that Pelosi would prefer Waxman, from her home state, to take the lead in crafting climate legislation, whereas Obama wouldn't want to anger Michigan and his midwestern base by tossing Dingell out of that post.

The outcome of this fight could reveal much about how Obama and Pelosi will work together in the coming few years.  
November 7, 2008
How the sports media and others covered Kevin Johnson's victory
If you thought the media could resist sports metaphors in covering Kevin Johnson's mayoral victory Tuesday, you'd be wrong.

The Sporting News reported that the former NBA star scored "a double digit victory in Sacramento's mayoral race" by beating incumbent Heather Fargo. The blog  Ballhype proclaimed that "KJ dunked baseline on the hearts of the people of Sacramento..."

The Detroit News reported Johnson's victory in a roundup of 14 other sports figures who either won or lost for public office national on Tuesday. The National Post of Canada has a long recitation of Johnson's basketball career, including the fact that he averaged 32.5 points per game as a senior at Sacramento High School.

Meanwhile, the New York Times Caucus political blog noted that Johnson was an early supporter of President-elect Barack Obama and that, although the two have met, they have not yet played a game of one-on-one hoops.

"I wasn't doing that, I had to keep his confidence up," Mr. Johnson told The Times.
November 7, 2008
Why is CA in fiscal ruin? Start with GOP and state worker unions
California faces at least a $11.2 billion shortfall in the current fiscal year. Let's examine that in real numbers:


This has never happened before. The fiscal year is 4 months over, and yet lawmakers must somehow cut spending or raise revenues by $11.2 billion, enact those savings and cuts now and realize them in a mere 8 months.

Yet forces on both sides continue to live in a fairytale world. Republican leaders, like Mike Villines of the Assembly, insist they can find $11 billion in savings, in programs like health and welfare, even though they couldn't find them during the last session, with a much smaller shortfall to cover.

Meanwhile, state employee unions are saying "Hell No" to the governor's plan to furlough them one day a month and drop two paid holidays from their calendar.

This is incredible. Businesses are laying off hundreds of workers. Some cities and counties are also reducing their ranks. But the state employee unions think they can escape a haircut with California facing an $11 billion hole? What kind of Alice in Wonderland world are they living in?
November 6, 2008
Congressman Tom McClintock? Or Charlie Brown? Suspense lingers
For political junkies, the 4th Congressional District race is the gift that keeps on giving.

BB B4TH DEBATE 0331.JPGSince we last updated this contest, the Secretary of State's web site has posted some new numbers. Republican Tom McClintock leads Democrat Charlie Brown by 709 votes, with 156,516 for McClintock and 155,807 for Brown.

But there are still thousands of provisional ballots and mail ballots dropped off at the polls that have to be counted. That could take several weeks.

Given that Brown seemed to have momentum at the end, you could speculate that those last-minute ballots would favor him. But I wouldn't place any wagers on this race.

As McClintock himself once wrote about gambling, " I don't enjoy it, I'm not very good at it, and I think it's a lousy investment."

UPDATE: It appears the 4th District will be subject to a new state mandate requiring handcounts in 10 percent of selected precincts. Details on Kim Alexander's blog
November 5, 2008
Why the GOP will no longer dismiss "community organizers"
One of Sarah Palin's sadder moments came early in the campaign, at the Republican National Convention, when she dismissed Barack Obama's experience as a community organizer.

As it turned out, Obama won the White House because of that experience. The ground team he put together -- voter registration, neighborhood groups, church groups, students, get-out-the vote groups -- won him the day.

None other than Karl Rove made that point today in the Wall Street Journal:

November 5, 2008
CA ballot propositions: What is the message?
Californians sent mixed messages on ballot propositions yesterday. They supported rights for chickens, but not for same sex couples. They approved about $11 billion in new borrowing for hospitals and high-speed rail, but were more stingy on other spending, including for drug treatment and alternative fuel vehicles.

Much of it came down to campaigning. The Yes-on-8 organizations, opposed to gay marriage, ran a pretty savvy campaign compared to the no-on-8 groups. Proposition 11, the redistricting reform measure, had more money than the opposition, so it seems to have won a narrow victory.

Is there a message here? The Los Angeles Times has an up-to-date chart here.
November 5, 2008
K.J. cruises to victory
With 97 percent of the precincts reporting, Kevin Johnson has easily won the Sacramento mayor's race, leading 57 to 43. That will probably will tighten with returns left to be counted, but his margin is way beyond previous polls suggested. It appears to be an overwhelming vote in support of change in city hall.

So what do you think? Is this a mandate? A referendum on Heather Fargo? A gamble on K.J.?

My take: He has some real political capital at this point. But, with the economy as it is, he faces the same question as many people these days: Where does he invest it?
November 4, 2008
After sitting in chair before elected, K.J. claims victory before Fargo concedes
Kevin Johnson sure likes to buck tradition. After taking an unauthorized "tour" of the city council chambers recently, he is now claiming victory in the mayor's race, even though Mayor Heather Fargo has not conceded.

Update: And just to rub it in, Kevin has invited the security guard who let him into the council chair to join him on stage. "Luis" has just gotten his five seconds of fame.

November 4, 2008
Even in slow economy, some slow-growth pols up in early returns
In my column today, I wrote about several local contests that pitted slow-growth candidates against incumbents.

Here's how they stand in early and incomplete returns, with slow-growth candidates in bold:

November 4, 2008
Obama: "I was never the likeliest candidate for this office..."
83564691.jpgAs I watch Barack Obama deliver his acceptance speech, I feel a sense of pride in this country I haven't felt in some time.

It's not that voters defied the so-called "Bradley effect" and elected an African American as president.

It's not that Obama has inspired millions of young people to come out and vote like they have never voted before.

It's not that Obama has a policy agenda that is close to my own.

What awes me about Obama is that he defied the odds. He was not the annointed candidate of the Democratic Party machine. In an era of such deep cynicism about politics, it's inspiring to know that a once-unknown candidate could rise up, take some chances, run a phenomenal campaign and win.

Photo by Timothy A. Clary, AFP/Getty Images
November 4, 2008
Kevin Johnson up 54-46 in Sacramento mayor's race
Former NBA star Kevin Johnson leads incumbent Heather Fargo 54-46 in the Sacramento mayor's race, with more than half of the precincts reporting. Find results here
November 4, 2008
Women helped put Obama over the top
Voters didn't elect a woman to the White House this year, but women effectively decided the presidential race.

According to the Associated Press, interviews with voters suggested that almost six in 10 women were backing Obama nationwide, with men leaning his way by a narrow
margin.  The results were based on a preliminary partial sample of nearly 10,000 voters in Election Day polls and in telephone interviews over the past week for early

As I write this, Fox News is calling Virginia for Obama. That's more than enough for me to feel confident that Obama has this in the bag.
November 4, 2008
Will Obama's apparent victory cost K.J. some votes?
Barack Obama appears headed toward victory, with CNN calling Ohio for him.

Will this affect voting in California and Sacramento? Possibly.

Imagine you are a John McCain supporter who is leaning to vote for Kevin Johnson for Sacramento mayor. You learn that Obama has it the bag. So, instead of stopping at the polls on your commute from work, you go straight home and enjoy dinner. Imagine a bunch of voters doing this.

Probably it will have little affect on the mayor's race, but if K.J. goes down in a nail-biter against Mayor Heather Fargo, he will have to wonder.

November 4, 2008
Obama up in Florida, behind in Virginia is reporting that, with 34 percent of the precincts reporting, Obama is up over McCain in Florida, 53-37. But McCain is up in Virginia, 55-44, with 38 percent of precincts. So this may not be over before the polls close in California.

UPDATE: I was wrong. This thing is over.
November 4, 2008
An election turnout that can only bode well for America
ACW VOTING4612.JPGNo matter what happens tonight in the presidential race, the turnout at the polls today was inspiring.

I voted near my home in midtown Sacramento. At 7:30 a.m., there was a line of 60 people and the lines continued throughout the morning. About half of the people I voted with, at 11 a.m, were under 30. I've never seen that before -- not four years ago, nor previously.

Here are some stories about the turnout locally and nationally from The Bee, The New York Times and Fox News.

Photo by The Bee's Anne Chadwick Williams, at a Folsom polling place today.
November 4, 2008
Election night at The Swarm
As the polls close tonight, The Swarm team will be live blogging the results, with an emphasis on several races that are hot locally and in California:

-- Pia Lopez will be watching the congressional contests, particularly the 4th District race between Democrat Charlie Brown and Republican Tom McClintock. Polls have shown this could go either way. The reputation of pollsters will be on the line.

-- I'll be focusing on city council and supervisor races that could affect growth and development issues across the region, as I noted in my column today.
November 4, 2008
The Bee's endorsements for today's election
Here are The Sacramento Bee's endorsements, with links to the full editorials:
November 3, 2008
Bill Stall, 1937-2008, wrote the Rx for reforming California
bill stall2.JPGAnyone who cares about California's broken governance is undoubtedly saddened to hear about the passing of William R. Stall on Sunday.

Stall, an editorial writer for the Los Angeles Times, wrote a Pulitzer-prize winning series in 2004 called "Reinventing California." It explored how term limits, ballot-box budgeting, gerrymandered electoral districts and other dysfunctions had led to the state's fiscal crisis, culminating in the recall of Gov. Gray Davis.

Stall laid out a road map for reforming California and urged Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to seize the moment:

Schwarzenegger has a choice. He can submit, Gulliver-like, to being tied by a thousand special-interest strings. Or he can exercise the boldness needed to revive a California of opportunity, beauty and rational growth.

Sadly, we know how this story turned out.

November 1, 2008
T. Boone Pickens - the P.T. Barnum of ballot props - moves to victory
It looks increasingly likely that Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens will fool California voters into approving $5 billion in taxpayer financed bonds for Proposition 10 on Tuesday.

The latest Field Poll shows Prop. 10 up 49-39 amid a blitz of television ads paid for by Pickens' Clean Energy Fuels Corp., which has poured roughly $20 million into passing the measure.

The Prop. 10 campaign is also trying to con voters into thinking their initiative has something to do with Barack Obama's energy plan. See this email from Prop. 10's campaign team.  Yes on 10 Obama email.pdf

Its hard to remember another proposition in which voters have been so fooled into lining the pockets of a billionaire. Among other things, Proposition 10 would give consumers rebates for purchasing vehicles powered by natural gas. That would benefit Pickens' company, which markets natural gas fueling stations.

Would there be some environmental benefit from Prop. 10? Sure. It would subsidize purchases of fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles. But consumers are already moving to hybrids, partly because of tax incentives. There's little argument for a new subsidy, especially one that would add hundreds of million of dollars to California's yearly debt payments, taking money from schools and other programs.

Are California voters so easily manipulated they'd approve this proposition, based a few feel-good television ads? Sadly, it looks that way. We'll find out Tuesday.

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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