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Sacramento: Where Petty Personal Politics Trumps Progressive Public Policy

Sandy Sheedy is a Sacramento city councilwoman representing residents north of Exposition and east of roughly Northgate. She was one of two to vote against a recent proposal by city staff to invest $500,000 in consultants to map out the leasing of parking spots to create advance capital for the construction of an arena. She and Mayor Kevin Johnson do not get along. Mayor Johnson has, obviously, been a major driver of the entertainment and sports complex effort.

Sheedy ran a poll that she purports shows that Sacramento residents want a public vote on a new facility in the Railyards. She is now touting it in a ploy to stick a wall in front of KJ's plan: if the plan goes to vote, it would likely pass, but it won't be on the ballot until winter 2012, at which point the Kings are already in Anaheim, leaving KJ with a political black eye. This is almost completely transparently political in nature. And it's almost completely the same old s--t Sacramento has dealt with for more than a decade.

A fuller dissection after the jump.

Here's the news story from the excellent Tony Bizjak of the Sacramento Bee. Some snips and responses:

A simmering fight over Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson's downtown arena plan heated up Tuesday when Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy released a poll she said shows that city residents want to vote on any arena proposal involving city assets.

And she is lying. Because here is the actual language of her poll statements, after each of which the pollster asks if the resident opposes or approves:

The City of Sacramento would sell land it owns valued at over $60 million and use that money to help pay for the Arena rather than for basic city services or as a cash reserve for the city.

The City of Sacramento would sell all operations of its parking lots, parking garages, parking meters and parking enforcement to a private firm to finance the Arena. The city would lose the $16 million per year it now receives from these operations that help pay for basic city services.

The City of Sacramento would create a new fee on rental cars. The money from this fee would be dedicated to the new Arena.

Lie, lie, lie.

Tell me how the vacant lots downtown under consideration for future sale/development should a new facility be approved are funding basic city services right now. These are vacant lots that required maintenance and dilapidated, abandoned buildings. If the Railyards is not fully developed, these will likely continue to be vacant lots and dilapidated, abandoned buildings. Vacant lots and dilapidated, abandoned buildings don't pay for police officers. Tax revenue does. Like the tax revenue created by, say, 200 nights of events at a downtown arena.

Think Big has never proposed sell the city's parking infrastructure, only leasing it, like it would lease any other asset: with a concession agreement to be reviewed and approved or denied by the voter-elected City Council. Mayor Johnson has also said any plan to build a new facility must include no net reduction to the general fund. The developers are not going to swoop in and steal $16 million, as Sheedy's poll implies.

There is no rental car fee on the table. None. At all. Period. This isn't even spin at this point, it's an outright lie.

Even with its misleading statements, push poll tactics and outright lies, the poll results still don't say what Sheedy wants them to say. She says the public wants a vote on any arena deal involving public assets. Nope. The last poll question:

Having heard a little more about proposal, should the City Council refer it to the people for a vote?

A majority of respondents said yes. But look at what they actually said yes to: they think the public should vote on not any arena deal involving public assets, but one that poaches public land that would otherwise pay cops, sells off parking infrastructure to the tune of $16 million a year and institutes a rental car fee. Hell, if I was asked if I'd support a deal that did all of that, I'd want the residents to vote to!

But the deal actually does none of that. Not one bit.

And how about this: one of Sheedy's questions asked before all of the mistruths is ...

How important is it to you personally to have the Sacramento Kings stay in the City of Sacramento?

Fifty percent of respondents said it was important. Forty-eight percent said it was not important. Two percent were not sure. I wonder why Sheedy is not highlighting this answer from the poll!

Back to Bizjak's story:

Sheedy, who voted last month against a Johnson-backed decision to allocate $500,000 in city funds for arena studies, said she commissioned her poll to see where people stand in tough times with a shrinking city budget.

"What I'm hearing is they want to be heard," Sheedy said. "This transaction is so large, they need their say."

What an altruistic motive!

Sheedy said she paid for the $8,000-plus poll with campaign funds.


She is running for a third term in her North Sacramento council district.


The mayor is encouraging a candidate to run against her, one of his aides recently said.


It all makes sense. It's all the same old s--t.

Look: the state of California has absurdly strict rules on the raising of revenue by public entities. The Howard Jarvis folks have made sure of that: ask any school district trying to pass bonds for a new school or transit agency trying to expand a highway. It is incredibly hard to raise taxes in California. The law has narrowly defined what municipalities can do to raise revenue. Whenever there's something like a loophole, the Howard Jarvis folks make sure it is closed. If there were anything in this plan that either legally required a public vote or was gray enough to be iffy, you would know about it. You wouldn't be able to escape the ads on radio and TV. The 6 o'clock news on KCRA would feature an endless string of slow-mo sepia shots of a KJ with devil horns and red eyes.

But everything about the proposal to date has been transparently and clearly within the City Council's authority to approve or deny. We have a representative democracy. We elect representatives to make decisions. We hold elections regularly so that if our representatives aren't representing our interests well, we can replace them.

Mayor Johnson was elected over an entrenched incumbent ... handily. He has never made a secret of his desire to see a new entertainment and sports complex built in Sacramento -- not before his election, not after. And he won. And in 2010, when he endorsed various candidates for the council, with the voters knowing full well that they supported a number of his major initiatives, they won. And even in Sheedy's poll now, 47 percent of respondents say that they think Mayor Johnson is doing a good or excellent job. Meanwhile, only 27 percent say that they think the council is doing a good or excellent job. Sacramento still supports Mayor Johnson.

This is a Super Mario Kart tournament. Mayor Johnson is halfway through the final lap on Rainbow Road. Sheedy is just ahead of him on the course ... but is still on Lap 2. The power is going to go out in two minutes. If the power goes out, Johnson can't "win". This push is Sheedy's banana peel. She knows that she is going to lose, and she cannot stop it. All that she can do is try to ensure that Mayor Johnson loses, too. She can try to stop him.

She is playing a f--king game, and it is despicable ... even for Sacramento politics.


Our friend Marcos Breton has also written about Sheedy's nonsense.