Eye on Sacramento Policy Report On Measure L, The Sacramento Checks and Balances Act of 2014


  1. EOS believes that the Sacramento city charter should not be overhauled without a showing by proponents of good cause and strong justification for doing so. The campaign literature of the “Yes” campaign argues that the current charter is “outdated” and that while the city is not broken, Measure L “is just better.” We find such justifications to be exceedingly weak.
  2. The proponent’s core justifications are that the measure will improve government accountability, responsiveness, efficiency, effectiveness and transparency.
  3. While direct election of the city’s chief executive officer is an important indicator of accountability, we believe that real accountability involves “being held to account” for performance. On that score, we find that a city manager is subject to far greater accountability than an elected executive mayor.
  4. Governmental responsiveness comes in several forms: responsiveness to citizens needs, responsiveness to the policy preferences of citizens and, importantly to Sacramento, responsiveness to opportunities for economic growth. We find that Sacramento’s current council-manager system is likely to be more responsive to the needs of citizens, but that there would likely be no appreciable difference in each system’s responsiveness to the policy preferences of citizens. An executive mayor may be more responsive to opportunities for economic growth.
  5. Research clearly demonstrates that cities that employ city managers are more efficient and effectively managed than cities run by executive mayors.
  6. Components of Measure L will increase the transparency of city government, but the details – and thus the effectiveness – of such components are left largely to the future discretion of the city council.
  7. Measure L would likely reduce the power and influence of councilmembers to a considerable degree. Since the influence of neighborhoods depends tremendously on the power and effectiveness of councilmembers, we conclude that Measure L will significantly reduce the influence of neighborhoods on city policy. The possible creation of a neighborhood advisory committee will likely do nothing to arrest a decline in the influence of neighborhoods under Measure L.
  8. Measure L may politicize the appointment of senior city managers and result in a loss of manager professionalism and potential difficulties in management recruitment. At the same time, Measure L may open up management positions for dynamic and action-oriented managers from the private sector.
  9. Measure L may weaken the bargaining position of city government in labor negotiations due to political influence of public safety unions on an executive mayor, potentially leading to higher taxpayers costs and/or reduced service levels.
  10. Measure L may very well lead to an accelerated processing of development projects through the city’s environmental and planning processes, and could possibly lead to a lowering of environmental and planning review standards.
  11. It is highly uncertain whether a sufficient pool of qualified candidates for mayor will run for office following adoption of Measure L. If qualified candidates do not run for mayor, the city will almost certainly experience a deterioration in the quality of city management.
  12. The creation of an independent redistricting commission and a strong code of ethics, as called for by Measure L, will improve the integrity and transparency of city government. However, the city council must truly commit to creating an ethics commission with the authority to enforce a code of ethics.
  13. The increase in mayoral powers under Measure L will likely lead to increased political fundraising by the mayor and greater risks of corruption and “pay to play” abuses involving private interests seeking taxpayer subsidies for private projects, increasing the importance of a strong and effective ethics code and ethics commission.
  14. EOS has major concerns over the steady erosion of democratic values and democratic practices in city government in recent years. We encourage voters to evaluate Measure U, in part, on whether they believe it will enhance or diminish our collective ability to democratically govern our city now and in the future.

For the full report click  Eye on Sacramento Policy Report On Measure L, The Sacramento Checks and Balances Act of 2014

Eye On Sacramento To Release Report and Hold Public Forum on Measure L on October 2nd


 For Immediate Release

Date/Time: September 24, 2014; 2:45 p.m

Contact: Craig Powell, President, Eye on Sacramento

Phone: (916) 718-3030

E-mail: craig@eyeonsacramento.org


Eye on Sacramento Will Issue an Independent Report and Hold a Public Forum on Measure L at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, October 2nd at the Clunie Clubhouse

Eye on Sacramento (EOS) President Craig Powell announced today that EOS will be presenting its own independent, comprehensive report on Measure L (Strong Mayor) at a public forum and panel discussion at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 2nd at the Clunie Clubhouse in McKinley Park, located at 601 Alhambra Blvd. in Sacramento. The public is invited.

At the forum, the authors of the EOS Report will summarize their analyses of Measure L while representatives of both the “pro” and “con” campaigns will offer their responses. Additionally, Chester A. Newland, the Frances R. and John J. Duggan Professor Emeritus of Public Administration of the University of Southern California, will provide critique and commentary on the measure and EOS’s findings.

“We made the decision to dive into the choppy waters of the Measure L debate because we were concerned that voters weren’t getting an accurate picture of the proposal nor a fair and complete assessment of its likely and potential impacts,” said EOS President Craig Powell. “We feel it would be a civic mistake for voters to decide whether to approve a major rewrite of the city charter without the benefit of an impartial, independent and comprehensive assessment of its impacts. We hope our report and October 2nd public forum help to meet the voters’ need for high quality information on the important question that’s before them,” Powell added.

“Our guiding principle in preparing our Report on Measure L has been to ‘call them as we see them’ and to let the chips fall where they may,” Powell concluded.

EOS’s forum on Measure L marks the first of a series of upcoming EOS-sponsored public forums on major policy issues that are challenging local governments in Sacramento.

EOS has invited both the “pro” and “con” campaigns on Measure L to staff information tables outside the Clunie Clubhouse to give voters a chance to learn more about the measure from the perspectives of each campaign. Refreshments and snacks will be available at the forum.

Copies of the EOS Report on Measure L will be distributed at the public forum and will be transmitted generally to the media, as well as to the “pro” and “con” campaigns, via e-mail at Noon on October 2nd. An executive summary of the Report will be included. The Report will be posted on EOS’s website following the public forum. Requests for copies of the Report should be directed to Anna Robertson, EOS Executive Assistant, at anna@eyeonsacramento.org or by calling (916) 403-0592 extension 3.

You may register for this event ahead of time by visiting our Events page and clicking on the link, or you may register through Eventbrite here.

Police and Pension Reform … Burden of new contributions erased by pay hikes

Published on Friday, 01 August 2014

Police and Pension Reform

Burden of new contributions erased by pay hikes

By Craig Powell

After three long years of informal and formal bargaining, mediation, more formal bargaining and, finally, a binding determination by an arbitrator, the city has a new labor contract with the Sacramento Police Officers Association. City police will finally join all other major city bargaining unions and be required to contribute the full employee’s share into the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (9 percent of their salaries)—and then some. In addition, city cops will be required to pony up another 3 percent of their salary to pension contributions—replacing a portion of the city’s existing contribution to cop pensions—for a total contribution by cops of 12 percent of their salary. In contrast, members of the next highest contributing city union, the firefighters, contribute 9.2 percent of their salaries to pensions.

To ease the pain of such a major reduction in take-home pay, the arbitrator awarded the police salary hikes, starting next year, of 3 percent in each of the next 3 years, totaling 9.3 percent once fully implemented. (Sergeants will get 7 percent raises.) The new contract’s near-term impact on the city’s general fund budget: a savings of $1.25 million in the current fiscal year and $2.24 million in 2014-2015, shifting to a net cost of $300,000 in 2016-2017 and $1.59 million in 2017-2018.

The arbitrator’s decision caps off a three-year effort by city manager John Shirey to require all city employees to contribute 100 percent of the employee’s share of their pensions. Until Shirey’s initiative, most nonpublic-safety city employees paid between 3 and 4 percent of their salaries to their pensions, while police, firefighters and city managers paid zip toward pensions. Shirey kicked off his campaign to require full contributions by setting a good personal example: He insisted that his own employment agreement require him to make a full 7 percent pension contribution. (Of course, that’s a little easier when you are making $258,000 per year.) Next, he required all nonrepresented city employees, including all city managers, to pony up. Then, as each city union contract expired, he insisted that each contract require workers to make full contributions.

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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.

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

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Eye On Sacramento files complaint with Grand Jury, Secretary of State and Attorney General

On July 24, 2012, the Sacramento city council passed resolutions which placed on the November 6, 2012 general election ballot a local measure to increase the city’s sales tax rate from 7.75% to 8.25% (see ES). The measure was designated Measure U. A week later (on July 31, 2012), the city council directed three of its members, Steve Cohn, Darrel Fong and Kevin McCarty, to author and submit a ballot argument supporting Measure U. At the same time, the city council directed Mayor Kevin Johnson to author and submit a ballot argument opposing Measure U (see ES).

By designating council members to write both the pro and con arguments on Measure U, the city council monopolized the ballot arguments on Measure U, shutting private citizens and organizations out of the process of submitting ballot arguments.  read more …

Summary of the City of Sacramento’s Ten Serious Measure U Ballot Irregularities

As of September 5, 2012, Eye on Sacramento had identified ten serious ballot irregularities with respect to Measure U for which City of Sacramento officials, elected and appointed, were culpable, either by instigating the irregularity or by failing to perform legally assigned duties to prevent their occurrence or to halt their continuation. The ten serious ballot irregularities are summarized below:

1. The City Council Abused Its Power By Taking Control of Both the Pro and Con Arguments on Measure U.

2. Mayor Johnson Failed to File a Con Ballot Argument As Assigned by the Council, Sandbagging Others Who Were Drafting Con Ballot Arguments.

3. The City Clerk Abused Her Discretion By Refusing To Briefly and Equitably Extend Her Deadline for Submission of Ballot Arguments Opposing Measure U.

4. Three City Councilman Violated the Law by Substituting Shills to “Author” the Argument Opposing Measure U.

5. The City Clerk and the City Attorney Failed to Enforce the Council Resolution and the City Clerk’s Own “Guidelines for Preparation of Ballot Arguments” by Failing to Disqualify the Pro Argument for Clear Non-Compliance With Applicable Rules.

6. Three City Councilman Used Legally Ineligible Ballot Co-Authors as Shills for Their Pro Argument: the Police Chief and Fire Chief.

7. The City Clerk and the City Attorney Wrongfully Refused to Disqualify the Police and Fire Chiefs as Co-Authors of the Pro Argument, Despite Citizen’s Complaint.

8. The City Attorney Authored a False and Misleading Ballot Title and Ballot Summary for Measure U.

9. The Pro Argument Submitted by Three Council Members (Via Five Shills) Contains Numerous False and Misleading Statements in Violation of State Law.

10. The False and Misleading Pro Argument Was Approved Without Objection by the City Clerk and the City Attorney.

D1341  pdf document

Why I Sued the City … Fair elections matter in Sacramento

The folks who volunteer with the local government watchdog group I head up, Eye on Sacramento, spend most of their time examining and then trying to illuminate the behavior of city government that should be of concern to the public. They also spend time studying troubling city problems and suggesting sensible solutions to  them. For example, this past spring we began a transparency project that drafted 10 reforms that would make city government more open to citizens if adopted by the city council.  This month, we are forming a city pools task force of community members, pool industry experts and others who will try to hammer out solutions to keep city pools open permanently.

But our core job is to act as a watchdog of city government and barking loudly when things go amiss.  Barking is usually enough, but on rare occasions, a good watchdog really has to do more than bark. It has to bite. Recently, Eye on Sacramento bit back, suing the city to prevent an injustice that threatens to keep city voters from seeing a ballot argument opposing Measure U, the city council’s proposal to increase city taxes by one half of 1 percent.  read more …

City of Sacramento Sales Tax Increase, Measure U (November 2012)

  • Citizen law suit filed against City of Sacramento 

    Petition for Writ of Mandate – City of Sacramento Measure U – Tax Increase

    … The writ sought by Petitioners will rectify an egregious and extraordinary confluence of actions and dereliction of duties by the City, its City Council and its Mayor which have combined, whether by design or mere neglect of officially assigned responsibilities, to effectively deprive Petitioners of their right and opportunity to place arguments against Measure U before Sacramento voters and, more critically, to deprive Sacramento voters of their fundamental right to see and consider the arguments of both proponents and opponents of Measure U instead of having available to them only the arguments of proponents of Measure U …

Petition for Writ of Mandate – City of Sacramento Measure U – Tax Increase


Exhibit A – Argument Against Measure U


Exhibit Powell-1 Mayor to write argument against Sacramento sales tax hike

Exhibit Powell-2 Selection of Argument Authors …

Exhibit Powell-3 Mayor Johnson’s Ballot Argument Against Measure U

Exhibit Powell-4 Mayor Johnson fails to write argument against tax measure


Exhibit Neufeld-1 E-mail from Dennis Neufeld

Exhibit Neufeld-2 E-mail exchanges between Dennis Neufeld and Assistant City Clerk Stephanie Mizuno