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.

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Expansive Plans … The mayor’s budget message proposes wide-ranging ideas

Published on Wednesday, 01 April 2015

Expansive Plans

The mayor’s budget message proposes wide-ranging ideas

By Craig Powell

As I wrote last month, the mayor and city council have taken aggressive steps in the past few months to assert much greater front-end control over both the city budget and the city manager (hiring an independent budget analyst, forming a new council budget committee, public outreach on budget matters). But the process changes were just the beginning. On March 10, the mayor took the unprecedented step of releasing a “Mayor’s Message on Budget Priorities” that lays out what is likely the most expansive plan ever proposed for the role of city government in Sacramento. It proposes a cautious approach to city spending and debt management in the near future while proposing more than a dozen new and unprecedented programs and initiatives.

Notably, the mayor’s plan was not the product of deliberation and consensus by the council’s new budget and audit committee. Instead, it is the mayor’s own vision and was slated for initial council review late last month. If it ends up being approved by the council, it will represent marching orders to city manager John Shirey on how to draw up the city budget for the next fiscal year that begins July 1.

The central premise of Johnson’s plan is that the city must exercise spending caution in the short term as the city nears a fiscal cliff in 2019 (due to escalating pension contributions and expiration of the Measure U half-percent sales tax hike), but that the city must ultimately fix its fiscal problems by taking aggressive steps to grow the local economy, resulting in higher city tax revenues. His ideas for growing the local economic pie are bold: He proposes a slew of new investments, plans and programs that, if approved, would inject the city more assertively into local economic development than ever before.

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Katy Grimes Piece on Measure L, Sac County GOP and our EOS Report

Here’s a revealing article by Katy Grimes on Measure L and the coopting of the Sac county GOP.

Local ‘Thought Leaders’ Bamboozle Sac GOP on Measure L

Balanced in Name Only … Small budget surplus is no cause to break out the champagne

Published on Sunday, 01 June 2014

Balanced in Name Only

Small budget surplus is no cause to break out the champagne

By Craig Powell

There is only a tiny handful of policy wonks who actually look forward to the release each year of the city manager’s proposed city budget for the fiscal year that starts on July 1. I’m one of them. City budget manager Leyne Milstein drove that point home in my interview of her last month, joking that I was one of only three people who have actually read the document that only a wonk could endure, much less enjoy.

But endure it I did and, knowing that most of you don’t spend your nights curled up with the city budget, I’m offering you the CliffsNotes version of it this month.

The good news is that after five years of battling chronic budget deficits, city manager John Shirey is proposing a $383 million general-fund budget that actually ekes out a small $2 million budget surplus. (The total city budget, which includes fee-collecting “enterprise funds” like city utilities, the convention center and marina, is actually $872 million, but most attention is paid to the city’s general-fund budget, which funds basic city services such as police, fire, parks, etc.) That means no cuts next year in services or city employees.

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Eye on Sacramento issued its Report on the Arena Project and Financing Plan


 For Immediate Release

Date/Time: May 19, 2014; 7:30 a.m.

Contact: Craig Powell, President, Eye on Sacramento

Phone: (917) 718-3030

E-mail: craig@eyeonsacramento.org


Eye on Sacramento Releases its Report

on the Arena Project and Financing Plan

Civic watchdog Eye on Sacramento issued its Report on the Arena Project and Financing Plan this morning. The city council is expected to take final action on the arena project at its meeting tomorrow evening. Attached to this release is: (1) a one-page Executive Summary; and (2) the Report itself.

“Basic notions of democracy and democratic processes fundamentally failed in Sacramento during consideration of the arena proposal. The voters of Sacramento are being denied their rights under the California Constitution to vote on Sacramento’s issuance of $300 million of bonds to fund the arena project. City government leaders have turned their backs on its citizens and thumbed their noses at four decades of consistent voter opposition to a taxpayer-subsidized arena,” said EOS President Craig Powell today.

“Our city government has abandoned all notions of long-range strategic planning, sober assessment of alternative public investment opportunities and all sense of fiscal prudence and caution by approving a general fund-draining, ultra expensive massive bond offering that is pre-programmed to imposes its greatest burden on city finances just as the city goes off a fiscal cliff in 2019,” Powell concluded.

Eye on Sacramento is a nonprofit, nonpartisan civic watchdog organization and policy advisory group that works on challenging issues confronting local government.

 To view/download the EOS Report click here and to view/download the Executive Summary click here

Stunning Revelations in Fraud Lawsuit Against City of Sacramento on Arena Deal

Sacramento attorneys Patrick Soluri and Jeffrey Anderson released this media release today, February 7, 2014, concerning stunning evidence they have uncovered in their fraud and illegal-gift-of-public-funds lawsuit against city officials, principally arising from depositions they’ve recently taken of Sacramento city councilmember Kevin McCarty and Sacramento’s director of economic development, Jim Rhinehart:

View/Download the Media Release Here

Declaring War … Phony Land Values and Early Arena Bond Sales

Published on Thursday, 02 January 2014 03:37

Declaring War

Phony Land Values and Early Arena Bond Sales

by Craig Powell

On Dec. 10, the city of Sacramento effectively declared war on the arena initiative, the measure that would give voters the final say on any taxpayer subsidy of a sports arena. A mere six hours after supporters of the initiative submitted 34,000 petition signatures to the city clerk to secure a spot for the initiative on the June 3 primary ballot, city treasurer Russ Fehr appeared before the city council to reveal a stunning new city strategy to unhorse the measure. Fehr said that the city now intends to accelerate the sales date of the proposed $300 million arena bond from next summer, as originally planned and long touted, to just 14 days before June 3 election.

Why is the city now rushing to sell the bonds in May and not this summer as originally planned?

Because under California law, a ballot initiative cannot dislodge a pre-existing obligation of the city, even if the initiative qualifies for the ballot before the city incurs the obligation.

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Craig Powell – Debate with Joshua Wood hosted by Capital Public Radio’s Insight with Beth Ruyak – Dec 10, 2013

Capital Public Radio – Insight

Arena Ballot Initiative Signature drives for and against a proposed Sacramento Entertainment and Sports Complex are coming to a close Tuesday. Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork (STOP) opposes the new ESC and needs 22,000 signatures to put public financing of the project to a citywide vote. STOP says it could turn in as many as 40,000 valid signatures. Meanwhile, DowntownArena.org, which supports a new sports complex at the K Street Mall, says STOP used misleading information to collect signatures for the ballot initiative and has collected 15,000 signature withdrawal forms that would null some of the 40,000 signatures STOP has collected.

Craig Powell, President of Eye on Sacramento
Joshua Wood, Executive Director of DowntownArena.org
Arena Debate schedule HERE

Politicians seek special enviro deal on arena, Part II

Sacramento has spent 13 years trying to build a publicly funded sports arena.  See more at …

Politicians seek special enviro deal on arena, Part II – Cal Watchdog

The Downtown Plaza

The campaign to keep the Kings in Sacramento has developed into a larger civic plan, with some of California’s richest business leaders promising to inject money and energy into the neglected heart of the capital city.

Now the question is: Can they keep that promise?  Read more here …

Will Sacramento’s downtown grow in the whales’ wake? – Sacramento Bee