Eye on Sacramento Special Board Meeting

We would like to extend a personal invitation to you to join Eye on Sacramento for a special Board Meeting this Friday, June 24, 2016 at Noon featuring a special guest speaker: Jorge Oseguera, the City Auditor for the City of Sacramento.

We will meet at the Perko’s Cafe located at 925 3rd Street, Sacramento at J Street & 3rd Street.

If you plan to attend, please R.S.V.P. to Anna Robertson at via email at anna@eyeonsacramento.org by Thursday June 23rd.

We hope to see you there!

Statement of Opposition to RT Service Cuts

Eye on Sacramento’s

Opposition to Regional Transit’s Service Cutbacks

The Sacramento Regional Transit District is proposing major service cutbacks to its system that will reduce ridership by 1 million passengers annually in order to cut operating expenses by $2.2 million. This proposal falls on the heels of a very recent 10% fare increase, and it will likely be followed by another 10% fare increase next year (an RT staff recommendation) which will bring RT fares to the highest in the nation. Annual ridership, which had been growing steadily from 1988 to 2009, when it reached 35 million, has since plunged to 25 million trips with no end in sight to the decline. Every major action that RT has taken in recent years seems calculated to further weaken the transit system’s financial and operational integrity and reduce its capacity to serve the public’s transit needs.

Eye on Sacramento understands the serious financial difficulty in which Sacramento Regional Transit finds itself, much of it due to RT’s own making. For example, RT has approved three to four percent wage and salary hikes in recent years at a time when the cost of living was rising only one percent. The Board also approved spending $45 million in local Measure A sales tax funds to build a single mile of track, known as the Green Line, to a developer’s project site in Township 9 (Richards Blvd.). These were funds that could have been used to support RT’s system-wide light rail and bus operations. They could also have been used to avoid RT’s issuance of costly bond debt which now drains $6 million annually from RT’s beleaguered general fund. Although the operating subsidies that RT collects from various government and tax sources have been steadily increasing at a healthy rate of four to five percent per year, their growth is still not large enough (and, frankly, will never be large enough) to sustain the system while the Board gives its staff excessive wage hikes, wastes tens of millions of dollars to benefit a tiny number of downtown developers, adopts ruinous fare hikes and service cuts and then stands back to watch its patronage and the revenue it brings, plummet.

In a report that EOS delivered to RT’s Board in March, EOS recommended that the Board abandon its ruinous path of fare hikes and service cutbacks to alleviate the financial crisis and turn, instead, to cost cutting that will not hurt patronage.[1] EOS offered 15 recommendations, only one of which included service reductions that would depress patronage. Others included such actions as returning to the bargaining table to renegotiate both wages and work rules to, for example, make widespread use of part-time drivers. They also included the Board asking downtown developers to reimburse RT, in part, for the financially destructive decisions that they have forced upon RT.

[1] “EOS’s Recommendations on RT’s Fiscal Crisis: Avoiding Both Bankruptcy and a Transit Death Spiral,” March 14, 2016.

EOS also endorses the principle expressed by the Sacramento Transit Advocates and Riders (STAR) that RT redeploy resources from the operation of unproductive routes to increase service and patronage on the system’s best routes. This can be done when RT reduces its cost structure. We also endorse STAR’s support for immediately mothballing the Green Line to Township 9, upon which RT squandered $45 million in Measure A funds to build. This service attracts only 300 passengers per day. Mothballing it would save $333,000 each year.   We very much oppose the Board’s thinking that it further appeases Township 9 interests by diverting half of the Gold Line service away from the Sacramento Valley Station to Township 9 to preserve current light rail service to Township 9. Doing so would damage intermodal connections to and from the Capitol Corridor for no reason other than to appease a crony. Doing so would also cut savings from discontinuing service to Township 9 from $333,000 per year to only $235,000. Township 9 already is served by two good bus services to downtown.   If the developer of Township 9 wishes to assure a continuation of light rail service to his project site, he should be invited to fund the cost of it.

EOS urges the RT board to start thinking of the best interests of its riders and the populace of Sacramento when making decisions rather than the interests of politically connected developers.

If you have any questions regarding this statement, please contact Professor Greg Thompson (Emeritus), Chair, EOS Transportation Committee, e-mail: greglthompson123@gmail.com, telephone: (916) 246-9230.

Steinberg’s Consulting Arrangements with Metropolitan Water District

MEDIA RELEASE

Date/Time: June 2, 2016, 3:00 p.m.
Contacts: Craig Powell, President,
Eye on Sacramento
Phone: (916) 718-3030
E-mail: craig@eyeonsacramento.org

Eye on Sacramento Calls on Mayoral Candidate Darrel Steinberg

to Fully Disclose the Details of His Contractual Relationship

With Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District

Sacramentans learned for the first time yesterday from a Sacramento Bee story that Darrell Steinberg, while actively seeking the support of Sacramento voters for his mayoral bid, has been covertly providing strategic consulting services to the politically powerful Southern California-based Metropolitan Water District (MWD) whose interests are very much at odds with the interests of the City of Sacramento and its residents on just about every major water issue facing our region. Steinberg’s law firm, Greenberg Traurig, has been collecting $10,000 per month from MWD for Steinberg’s services since July of last year.

Eye on Sacramento (EOS) has been championing the adoption of meaningful transparency and ethics reform in the City of Sacramento for the past 18 months. EOS co-hosted 10 public forums on the subject last year, helped form a broad coalition of supportive community groups and presented reports and proposals for a model ethics code, a robust ethics commission, a strong Sunshine Ordinance and an independent redistricting commission.

We are troubled that Sacramento voters who have already voted via absentee ballot (now fully half of all Sacramento voters) did so without the knowledge that one mayoral candidate was effectively on the payroll of the MWD. While nothing can be done at this late date to cure that significant informational failure, there are some immediate steps that Mr. Steinberg can and should take to fully explain the nature and extent of his relationship with MWD for the benefit of voters who will be casting their ballots on Election Day.

Questions that Mr. Steinberg should now answer include: When did he and MWD first begin discussing a consulting arrangement? How much of his time over the past year has he devoted to providing “strategic advice” to MWD as called for in the contract? Has he been maintaining time records of his services? Will he publicly disclose such records? Has he provided any “deliverables” to MWD, such as reports and other documentation? Will he and MWD now disclose such documents? What public officials in our region did he meet with in the service of MWD’s goal of building relationships with North State stakeholders? Will he and MWD voluntarily release copies of their e-mail communications with one another, without the need for submitting formal public records requests? (Note: Steinberg was providing “consulting services” for MWD, not legal services which would have been protected from public disclosure under the attorney/client privilege).

The voters of Sacramento deserve to know if Mr. Steinberg, in providing consulting services to MWD while campaigning for Sacramento mayor, has been acting appropriately, ethically and loyally as both a Sacramento resident and an aspirant to the mayor’s office or has he acted in a manner that is at odds with the long-term best interests of Sacramento and its residents?

By promptly and fully disclosing these matters to the Sacramento public, Mr. Steinberg will go a long way towards allaying legitimate public concern over the role he is playing with MWD. If Mr. Steinberg fails to provide such disclosures, we would encourage the Sacramento County Civil Grand Jury to consider initiating an investigation into Mr. Steinberg’s relationship with MWD to uncover the facts. One way or the other, Sacramento voters deserve to know the facts and implications of Mr. Steinberg’s dealings with MWD.

The contract between WMD and the Greenberg Traurig law firm involving Mr. Steinberg’s consulting services to WMD may be viewed on the EOS website via this link.

###

Metropolitan Water District of Southern CA agreement with Greenberg Traurig LLP

Metropolitan Water District of Southern CA agreement with Greenberg Traurig LLP

Metropolitan Water District of Southern CA payments to Greenberg Traurig LLP

 

RT’s $10 Million Streetcar Design Contract

MEDIA RELEASE

Date/Time: April 25, 2016, 4:00 a.m.
Contacts: Erik J. Smitt, Policy Director,
Eye on Sacramento
Phone: (916) 215-2275
E-mail: erik@eyeonsacramento.org

REGIONAL TRANSIT’s $10.2 MILLION CONTRACT

DOWNTOWN RIVERFRONT STREETCAR DESIGN SERVICES

Tonight, Sacramento Regional Transit District’s Board of Directors will consider approving a $10.2 million contract with HDR, Inc. for design services of the Downtown Riverfront Streetcar Project. These design services will cover complete track-routing and all other facets of the proposed 4.2 mile system. The $10.2 million will come from federal Congestion Management Air Quality funds.
But there is more to the story.

The community does not want this useless streetcar. Last June, city of Sacramento registered voters in a proposed assessment district voted a resounding “NO!” to a $38 million bond measure to fund the city’s share of the $195 million streetcar project. This “NO!” vote created a significant hole in the streetcar construction funding. As yet, after ten months, the city has not found a funding source for their commitment to the project. Also, the State of California has not firmly guaranteed their $10 million share of construction.

Now, with significant funding still in limbo, the RT Board is asked to roll-the-dice on this $10.2 million financial commitment, which could be used on more important projects.

Another consideration: As pointed out in our recent report, “EOS’s Recommendations on RT’s Fiscal Crisis,” Appendix 1 (www.eyeonsacramento.org), based upon research by transit authority Dr. Gregory Thompson, annual operational expenses will likely range from $6.3 to $8.8 million. The streetcar project’s operational cost projections are woefully below this range, adding another significant project risk.

We want and need smart, long-range decisions for transit problems. Not needed are decisions, such as the one before the RT Board tonight, that may not only cause chronic operational red ink, but also become a waste of taxpayer funds if anticipated local monies fail to materialize.

Unless construction funding by all governmental agencies committed to this project are firmly identified, Eye on Sacramento urges a “No” vote on this Downtown Riverfront Streetcar design services contract.

(The design contract is #13 on RT’s Agenda. The board meeting begins at 6:00 pm and the meeting chambers are located at RT’s headquarters, 1400 29th St.)

###

Statement from Eye on Sacramento to the Sacramento Transportation Authority

Statement from Eye on Sacramento to the Sacramento Transportation Authority

14 April 2016
by Greg Thompson, Chair, EOS Transportation Committee

EOS strongly opposes the proposed sales tax measure for the following reasons:

Regional Transit receives generous and growing sales tax subsidies that amounted to over $80 million this year alone, an increase of over 4% compared to the previous year, and over 9% over the past two years. RT’s existing sales tax subsidy is growing 3 to 4 times faster than the CPI, and yet RT management says that it is not enough to keep its system safe, clean and in good repair.

EOS thinks the existing subsidy is more than enough to do that, and in a report that we presented to the RT Board in March, we outline how (see link 1 below). We oppose any more tax revenues piled on top of those RT already is receiving until RT puts its own house in order. Without RT reform, its costs for running the existing system will continue to rise faster than its subsidies, and it will be back at your door, again and again to ask for additional subsidies just to keep the existing system running.

It is unconscionable placing this ever-growing burden on the backs of RT riders, not only asking them to pay among the highest fares in the country, but also high and ever-growing taxes.

An unreformed RT also blocks the region from having the discussion that we should be having now, which is about our vision for transit in the region’s future. EOS thinks that with RT reform there is an important role for transit in the region’s future. EOS hopes that regional leaders will support RT reform so that the region may start that conversation soon, and EOS will gladly participate in it.

1 Eye on Sacramento. EOS’s Recommendations on RT’s Fiscal Crisis: Avoiding Both Bankruptcy and a Transit Death Spiral, Sacramento, 14 March 2016.

Professor Gregory L. Thompson 
Secretary and Board Member, Train Riders Association of California
Chair, Transportation Committee, Eye on Sacramento
Professor Emeritus, Florida State University, Department of Urban and Regional Planning
Chair, Light Rail Committee of the National Transportation Board based in Washington, D.C.

RT on the Rocks … Fight over fare hikes splits transit board

By Craig Powell

 

To get a sense of how broke Regional Transit is, consider this analogy. Let’s say you’re part of a Sacramento family. You have a fairly well-off, middle-class lifestyle, but in the last couple of years you’ve really splurged, buying yourself a big, new Mercedes and a big, pricey cabin up at Lake Tahoe, all financed to the hilt. Meanwhile, the small business you run, RT Clothing, has never regained the boatload of customers you lost when you decided to jack up your prices by 20 percent in the middle of the last recession (oops), leaving you with a flat income for years. Fortunately, your wife, a retiree who collects both a military pension from the federal government and a healthy state government pension, has been collecting cost-of-living increases for years. She brings home close to 80 percent of the family income these days, bless her. Together, you have a family income of close to $150,000 per year.

The charming new home you bought 30 years ago in Light Rail Estates is showing serious signs of age and, let’s be honest, neglect. Your roof is shot, the paint’s badly peeling, you may need a new furnace and your backyard pool has algae stains and a rather unpleasant odor. Lately, some of the sketchier kids in your neighborhood have been jumping over the fence when you’re not home, swimming in your pool, hanging around for hours on end and leaving their trash everywhere. It’s gotten so bad that many of your longtime friends no longer accept invitations to your summer pool parties. You’ve spotted some of them going into Bob and Nancy Uber’s backyard down the street. The Ubers put in a nice, new pool last year and they let their friends drop in to swim whenever they want.

Things are going so-so until one day you decide to open up your bank and credit card statements for the first time in six months. You’re stunned (stunned!) to see all of the savings you thought you were socking away each month have somehow evaporated. Not only that, you owe a whopping $18,000 on your Visa bill. (How did that happen?) In a panic, you check the balance in your checking account and your heart sinks further. You have just $3,000 in cash and, at the rate your family burns money, it will be long gone in three months’ time.

read more … RT on the Rocks … Fight over fare hikes splits transit board

view/download … RT on the Rocks … Fight over fare hikes splits transit board

InsidePublications.com Copyright © 2013. All Rights Reserved

Eye on Sacramento Urges City Council: Give Back the Tax!

MEDIA RELEASE

Date/Time: March 21, 2016, 4:00 p.m.
Contacts: Craig Powell, President,
Eye on Sacramento
Phone: (916) 718-3030
E-mail: craig@eyeonsacramento.org

Sacramento City Council Poised to Increase Utility Taxes By

$10 Million/Year as Part of its Major City Utilities Rate Hikes;

Eye on Sacramento Urges Council: Give Back the Tax!

Tomorrow evening, the Sacramento City Council is poised to approve double-digit, four-year hikes in city water and sewer rates. In 2018, the council is expected to seek voter approval of 16% annual hikes – for four straight years – in the city’s storm drainage rate. Collectively, the water, sewer and storm drainage rate hikes, if approved, would draw an estimated $88 million more each year from the pockets of Sacramento residents and businesses once fully implemented.

But there is more to the story.

Because of an imbedded 11% city “utility tax” that is unknown to most city residents, close to $10 million of the $88 million will be siphoned each year from utility customer payments and diverted into the city’s general fund to pay for the general costs of government. The diversions will reduce resources available to keep city water safe and clean, and to keep our sewer and storm drainage systems operating effectively. The diversions also drive up the need for future city utility rate hikes.

“The Council has a clear conflict of interest in deciding whether and how much to increase city utility rates,” said Eye on Sacramento President Craig Powell. “They know full well that for every dollar they increase city utility rates, they automatically divert 11 cents of that dollar into the city’s general fund due to the utility tax. This creates an almost perverse incentive for tax-hungry politicians to raise utilities rates as high as possible so as to inject more dollars into the general fund which councilmembers can spend any way they please,” Powell added.

“The Council can eliminate its conflict of interest and ease the burden on hard-pressed Sacramento residents and businesses quite easily: by returning to the Department of Utilities the $10 million in higher utility taxes that the utility rate hikes would generate each year, preferably with instructions to rebate 100% of the funds to utility customers,” Powell said.

“Several councilmembers have made public statements that major utility rate hikes are needed to upgrade and maintain our water, sewer and storm drainage systems. If that is, in fact, their sole and honest motivation for supporting major rate hikes, they can prove it quite easily by returning the nearly $10 million in higher utility taxes that the rate hikes will generate each year back to the Department of Utilities, instead of snatching it from the pockets of hard-pressed ratepayers for purposes entirely unrelated to utilities service,” Powell concluded.

Just how hard-pressed are Sacramento residents? Based on the most recently available data from the U.S. Census, EOS has computed that the mean household income in Sacramento has declined a stunning 12% from 2007 thru 2013.

The City Council will meet tomorrow evening, Tuesday, March 22nd, at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall, 915 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95814. Make your voice heard by phoning, e-mailing or coming down to City Hall tomorrow evening to make your voice heard on these important issues. Join us in urging the City Council to “GIVE BACK THE TAX!”

###

 

Proposed RT Rate Hike & Alternative Solutions to RT’s Fiscal Crisis

MEDIA RELEASE

Date/Time: March 14, 2016, 1:30 p.m.
Contacts: Craig Powell, President,
Eye on Sacramento
Phone: (916) 718-3030
E-mail: craig@eyeonsacramento.org

Professor Greg L. Thompson, Chair
EOS Transportation Committee
Phone: (916) 246-9230
E-mail: greglthompson123@gmail.com

Eye on Sacramento Issues Report Critical of Proposed RT Fare

Hikes and Proposing Alternative Solutions to RT’s Fiscal Crisis

Eye on Sacramento (EOS) issued a report today that is highly critical of a proposal to hike RT fares by 20%, which would make them tied with New York City for the highest transit fares in the county. The report sets forth dozens of proposals for closing RT’s looming budget deficits by reducing RT’s operating expenses without significant cuts to service levels. The RT board of directors will be considering its staff’s fare hike proposal at an RT board meeting this evening.

The EOS report is titled “Avoiding Both Bankruptcy and a Transit Death Spiral.” It makes the case that RT doesn’t have to choose between imposing huge, damaging fare increases, which could very well trigger a transit death spiral, on the one hand, and doing nothing about its looming financial crisis, which would likely lead to bankruptcy, on the other. The EOS report proposes a “third way” for RT to work its way out of its current fiscal crisis: smartly managing its way through the crisis with a laser beam focus on shedding unnecessary costs, renegotiating burdensome labor and other contracts and putting what have been sacrosanct and inefficient functions out to competitive bid.

“There is a road thru RT’s current financial crisis that does not involve massive fare hikes that will punish RT riders, drive down already depressed ridership and risk a transit death spiral,” said EOS President Craig Powell. “EOS has offered today what is essentially a roadmap for how RT can move beyond its fiscal crisis by reining in RT’s bloated operating costs without any serious cuts to service levels. It’s now a question of whether the RT board and its management can marshal the political courage to take the cost-cutting actions that are essential to stabilizing RT’s very shaky finances and protecting its vital role as provider of transit in our region,” Powell added. “The era of protecting sacred cows and entrenched interests must end at RT if it’s to avoid the awful choice between bankruptcy and a transit death spiral,” Powell concluded.

The principal author of EOS’s report is Professor Greg L. Thompson, who recently retired from the faculty of Florida State University. Professor Thompson is a transit expert who currently serves as chair of the Committee on Light Rail Transit of the Transportation Research Board, a Washington, D.C-based organization.

To View/Download EOS’s report, click here
To View/Download the Executive Summary of EOS’s report, click here

###

 

City shares footage of encampment clean-up

MEDIA RELEASE

Date/Time: March 01, 2016
Contacts: Linda K. Tucker
City of Sacramento
E-mail: ltucker@cityofsacramento.org
Phone: (916) 808-7523

City shares footage of encampment clean-up

Hazardous waste, garbage must be hauled off bi-weekly to maintain public health and safety

See video of the clean-up from Thursday, Feb. 25

Note to news editors

  • Total running time of video (b-roll and sound on tape) 2:05
  • Spokesperson in video is Enrique Hernandez, Integrated Waste General Supervisor, Department of Public Works, Recycling & Solid Waste Division
  • High resolution footage is available upon request.

Background

Large truckloads of garbage and hazardous waste from an illegal campground were hauled away late last week from private property near Sutter’s Landing Regional Park and the American River in the City of Sacramento. It’s a recurring event.

Illegal camping of up to two dozen people has periodically occurred at this location for more than a decade. Taxpayers pay for a special police and social service team to offer the group services before clean-ups take place. Those that choose not to accept services simply move on and leave truckloads of hazardous materials behind. Needles, car parts, tires, feces, evidence of stolen items mixed with garbage, wet sleeping bags, and housewares are the norm. Clean ups like this are necessary throughout the City twice a month.

The City taxpayer cost of Public Works equipment and staff amounts to at least $80,000 a year for clean-up of encampments like this one. Also, Sacramento Police dedicate a team of two officers and a sergeant to serving homeless people and addressing encampments. At least 3,700 cubic yards of debris was picked up by the City last year. That’s about 300 large dump truck loads. See the monthly data.

Protestors at City Hall since December repeatedly ask the City Council to repeal the camping ordinance. The City believes repealing the camping ordinance to allow camping anywhere on public and private property is not safe, sanitary, or a means to ending homelessness. Alternatively, the City dedicates taxpayer dollars toward services. The City also works with Sacramento County and multiple partners on finding permanent solutions to housing homeless people.

Get the facts from City Hall.

###