Here’s the video from today’s Sacramento Press chat with me, Ryan Lillis and Jared Goyette about the mayor’s non-profits. One of us is not wearing pants.
“No, I’m not comfortable with it,” City Manager John Shirey told me earlier today, saying that he doesn’t believe it’s appropriate for the Mayor’s outside initiatives to be housed in City Hall, using City office space and other resources. That includes City interns and volunteers working on the mayor’s many policy initiatives.
“The people who are here need to be engaged in City work. Those non-profit organizations can not be using city resources unless they are sanctioned by the City Council,” Shirey explained.
For now, it’s an administrative matter, and not on the Council’s agenda. Shirey explained that in addition to her long list of regular duties, City Clerk Shirley Concolino has taken over administration of mayor and council offices. That’s the job formerly by Lisa Serna-Mayorga. Serna-Mayora, a long-time friend and aide to Johnson, resigned from the post after reports that she had misused city credit cards.
Concolino and her staff are sorting out who is occupying the seats and offices on the third floor. “What we’re doing now is identifying people who are working for these non-profit organizations and making arrangements for them to not be here anymore,” Shirey explained.
He added that he had been looking at the issue before SN&R’s story on the issue was published, and before the Sacramento County Democratic Party sent a letter to Shirey in July asking for an investigation. But he had other priorities, like the city’s budget deficit, to deal with.
“I inherited this situation. It never should have been allowed in the first place,” said Shirey.
I’ll have more “K.J. Inc.” follow-up in the next week’s new and improved Bites column in SN&R.
This podcast is a sort of companion piece to a story I’ve got out in this week’s News and Review. “KJ Inc.” is an attempt to explain–as succinctly as I can–some of the problems presented by mayor Kevin Johnson’s network of non-profit organizations, starting with the seldom-talked about Sacramento Public Policy Foundation.
These groups allow the mayor to raise unlimited amounts of money from big donors–much of it secretly. See below for documents showing all of the donations to the mayor and council member via “behested” payments for the last 7 years. Most council members raise money in this way for established charities. The mayor is different, raising more than a million dollars for his own organization–which is controlled by him.
The mayor has also managed to leverage a certain amount of free labor and office space for his non-profits, courtesy of the taxpayer. Despite the gift of public resources, some of the people who run the mayor’s operation–like Chris Tapio and Kunal Merchant–don’t feel obliged to answer any questions about what they do.
And it’s all legal.
I hope you’ll read the story, it’s not short. And listen to the podcast, it is short. And I hope the City Manager, John Shirey, will soon decide one way or the other whether he thinks it’s ok for the mayor to use City Hall to support his own private organizations in this way.
Thanks Isaac, for sitting down and talking with me about the story, and for all the other stuff you do.
Not much happening in City Hall this week, so we’re just going to talk about wine. Holy f— what the hell is going on down there at City Hall?
Obviously, we lead this week’s podcast with the mini-embezzlement scandal brewing on I Street. Who knew what, when? And also, WTF Lisa Serna-Mayorga? Disneyland?
As embezzlement scandals go, this one isn’t remotely world-class. Still, it’s the best we’ve got. And it’s brought to us by the same folks who did the Americorps fiasco, and this fiasco, and, you know, the other one. So perhaps it’s not surprising that folks get a little carried away with the speculation.
Luckily, we’ve got a bona fide law enforcement professional on board for this episode, to rein us in a bit. Bill Motmans, a retired investigator who did stints with the state Fair Political Practices Commission, and the Sacramento County District Attorney, helps us sift through the rumors and the political wreckage. Bill’s also a Tahoe Park guy, involved in the neighborhood association, and was on that ill-fated Sacramento Redistricting Citizens Advisory Committee. Never forget.
But really he came to talk about the most recent Sacramento County Grand Jury report, which he helped write–because he was a Grand Juror. The Grand Jury’s tale of a wildly dysfunctional Twin Rivers school district was the obvious star of the report. But Motmans thinks other parts of the Grand Jury’s effort–like the detailed account of the city’s bad garbage deal--deserved more and better media attention.
We also talk Bee layoffs, and get an update on the campaign for a Sacramento Charter Commission. A lot of Kevin Johnson’s allies have pulled papers to run for charter commission. But so have a lot of his critics, include some guys named Isaac Gonzalez and Phil Pluckebaum.
Music this week is from Sacramento’s original Star Trek band, The No Kill I, who have graciously put their songs up for free download and use via Creative Commons. What’s a Sacramento Star Trek band? I’m glad you asked…
After hitting the election parties and digesting the returns, the guys from Sacramento Current are back at 3rd Bedroom Studio to talk about the June Primary results for local races.
Listen in and see what they have to say about the Mayor’s “mandate”, the turn out, campaign money influence, how ugly one council race got, the “social media candidate” vs. the “thoughtful candidate”, and so much more. And, as if that wasn’t enough, as an added bonus, you’ll hear more about the Sacramento County Board of Education (the what?) than you ever wanted to.
Folks, this show is rated “WI” for Wonkishly Informative. . . consider yourself warned.
Sacramento Current sat down for a lively chat with mayoral candidate Jonathan Rewers. While he may not be as famous as current celebrity-mayor Kevin Johnson or as colorful as self-described world-famous bounty hunter Leonard Padilla, he is not short on ideas or FACTS. He also more-than-hints at an upcoming major endorsement.
Listen in as this political upstart talks about what he sees is wrong with the city, how he can fix it and why a Republican can be elected mayor in a Democratic town (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know: it’s a nonpartisan race).
This week’s music track is “We All Fall Down” by Lorenzo’s Music. You can download it for free by clicking here.
I have a confession to make; I’m not a sports guy. There I said it! Don’t get me wrong I enjoy sports. I’m just not fanatical about them. Like many of us, I played soccer and baseball as a kid, but I think I was more interested in the dugout and halftime snacks than the scores. I even made the varsity football team in high school, but I was more of a practicer than a player. What sports gave me was a love for and understanding of games and teams. So once a year I watch the obligatory Super Bowl and can comment without sounding like a complete idiot (even though I rarely know who’s playing and couldn’t tell you a players name for my life).
You know what I really like? Jobs. I really really like jobs. And the arts too. And not just the popular ones (you know who I’m talking about). I really like seeing and hearing what creative people do (not being particularly creative myself either. See my upcoming post “Confession of a non-creative guy”. Even my titles are uncreative.) I like jobs so much that I’d support just about any project that could bring more jobs to our fair City, but I have serious concerns about the current plan to build a Sports Entertainment Complex (SEC? or is it Entertainment Sports Complex? ESC? either way, it needs a better acronym). In his Washington Post column, Norman Chad argues that no arena pays for itself (and at least he’s funny about it) and hot off the Freakonomics webpage, Dave Berri (not to be confused with the much funnier Dave Barry) makes the case that this arena/SEC/ESC deal is not about jobs.
If the experts and economists are right, and this deal is a loser, why is the City Council going along with it? What do we have to lose? Among other things (like possibly the Kings and millions of the City’s dollars), I would say this is, in part, about pride, both personal and civic. Obviously lots of people have put a lot of time, political capital and actual capital into this effort and they’d all like to have something to show for it. But the City and the region have a sense of investment here too. They’ve supported the Kings all those years they didn’t win. They’ve put up with all this back and forth reporting on arena deals and tax measures and land swaps. They’ve been told they’re not world class and even if you don’t want to be world class (which would mean increasing in size several times over), that still kinda hurts. So like hell they’re going to let the Kings leave no matter what the cost!
This deal is a fork in the road for Sacramento. Do we want to continue to live beyond our means and try to be something we’re not, or do we want to be the best City we can be with the population, natural resources and tax base we’ve got? We’ve already made cuts to the police, fire, library, and parks departments. Hell, we’re trying to keep our pools open by shopping at SaveMart (please shop at SaveMart!), and our City’s budget is not likely to get better anytime soon. Channeling my inner Mike Barnbaum and paraphrasing the immortal words of Meatloaf, “I’d do anything for jobs, but I won’t do that. No, I won’t do that!”