I think I’ve met most of the members of the Sacramento Bee editorial board. They seem like smart, serious journalists who care about the truth. So I’m always a little caught off guard when they completely make shit up in their editorials.
It never gets weirder and more distorted than when they write about charter reform, and the ongoing fallout from Mayor Kevin Johnson’s three-and-a-half-year-long strong mayor effort. And today was a doozy. (WTF, I just wrote doozy. It’s late.)
As you know, the Sacramento City Council on Tuesday said, “enough,” and voted to put a measure on the November ballot, asking voters if they want to approve a charter commission to consider any possible reforms, including a strong mayor form of government, maybe an independent redistricting commission, or an ethics commission, to name a few.
To help with their decision, the City Attorney provided a two-year estimate, totalling $621,000 in administrative and election costs, that would apply if voters say yes to a charter commission.
That includes the costs of this November’s ballot question (maximum of $205,100), costs for existing city staff to help the commission with research and meetings over two years ($316,578), and the cost of putting any of the commission’s recommendations on the ballot in 2014 (somewhere between $35,000 and $150,000, they went with the high number to be conservative.)
Keep in mind that first number, the $205,000 in election costs, assumes that the charter commission is the only local measure on the ballot in November. It won’t be, there’s also a sales tax measure and a measure doing away with the claw headed to the same ballot, and they will share some of those costs. And the rest of the costs don’t apply at all, unless the voters approve the charter commission measure. Which is no sure thing, since as the Bee editors rightly point out, the public is not clamoring for charter change. (Other than the mayor, of course.. But this fact never occurred to Team Scoopy during strong mayor 1, or strong mayor 2, or strong mayor 3. Then it was all, “let the people vote.”)
In any case, in today’s editorial the Sac Bee editorial board shorthands all those possible costs as simply, “…the council’s 6-3 vote to spend $621,000 to place charter review on the ballot.”
Which is completely, 100 percent wrong and misleading and just wrong wrong wrong.
Then they follow with an equally warped quote from Dustin Smith of the Sacramento Police Officers Association, “The money they voted to spend on charter review could pay for six police officers.”
No, that’s absolutely not true, because the council didn’t vote to spend any money on charter review. They voted to ask us if we think it’s worth spending that money.
(Oh hey, that reminds me. Remember when we got to vote on those hundreds of thousands of dollars in consultant fees and staff time the city spent on a financing plan for a new Kings arena? No?)
The Bee’s City Hall reporter Ryan Lillis is, of course, more conscientious about the facts. But unfortunately he even gives the $621,000 lie some cover in his story today, by running a similar quote from Dustin Smith and never correcting him. And he never makes it clear that there’s no money spent on a charter commission until and unless the voters say they want a charter commission to go forward.
The Bee editorial concludes with this exasperated question, “Is it too late to pull this wrongheaded proposal back?”
I don’t know, is it too late to pull this wrongheaded editorial back? Because I don’t think the usual clarification on page A2 is going to cut it.