Dominant Democrats Rule and Ruin Sacramento

As Democrats have taken over most of the Golden State, an ugly attitude has crept in. This bad attitude is demonstrative of what’s wrong with today’s Democrats, and why they get called Socialists. They think they are above the law because they now control the law.

With such little respect for the law, Democrats in power appear to think they are not accountable to anyone.

Character is how you conduct yourself when no one is watching. How politicians and public officials conduct themselves when one political party holds all of the cards determines the character of the cities and the state.

Thus far, with the Democratic Party in sole control, California has dropped significantly on the character and integrity scale.  It’s as if they can’t help themselves.

Trickle down attitude

As a native of Sacramento, I feel a little proprietary toward my city–even a little protective. Which is why, after observing decades of lousy leadership, corruption, local special interest deals and incompetence, all under the hand of Democrats, Sacramento is everything that’s wrong in California.

Sacramento has turned into one of the worst anti-business cities in the state, and it’s only getting worse.

two-month survey of more than 6,000 small business owners nationwide by Thumbtack.com found that small businessesrank California among the least friendly states for small business. The survey gave California an “F” grade for business friendliness.

Small businesses rated California as having the second-least friendly tax code of all states nationwide.

Texas, Idaho, Oklahoma and Utah scored “A-plus” grades. Three of the top five business-friendly cities are in Texas. Sadly, four of the bottom five cities are in California, and received “D” and “F” grades: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento.

Of all 50 states, California ranked 41st in growth rate and current economic health, and 35th in level of optimism about the future. California earned mostly “F’s” in the 12 categories. But perhaps the most devastating finding was the three worst cities nationwide for small businesses all are in California.

Sacramento flunked the test

Sacramento’s grades: Eight “F’s” for ease of starting a business; regulations; health and safety; employment labor and hiring; tax code; licensing; environmental; and zoning. Two grades of “D+,” for networking and networking programs. And the top grade was a single “C+” for hiring programs. The final grade for overall business friendliness: “F.”

But no one on Sacramento’s City Council is listening.

“One of the biggest myths floated by members of the Sacramento City Council is that they’ve presided over a scandal-free city,” Sacramento Bee editor Stuart Leavenworth wrote Sunday.

“In a survey released earlier this year, 56 percent of Sacramento city employees said they had concerns about waste, fraud or abuse inside City Hall, but more than half said they didn’t report it, largely because of fear of retaliation,” Leavenworth wrote. “Does that sound like a City Hall with a culture of cleanliness?”

“Probably the biggest scandal is the overinflated image that City Council members have of themselves and Sacramento’s place within the region.”

Leavenworth nailed it with that statement.

Sacramento has had a historical problem getting any real leaders to run for city council or county supervisor. And then many of these non-leaders go on to the state Legislature to cause damage on a larger scale.

Sacramento has produced such gems as Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat and former city councilman. Former Assemblyman Dave Jones, now the California insurance commissioner, is a former city councilman. Assemblyman Roger Dickinson is a former county supervisor. Former Senator Debra Ortiz is a former city councilwoman. And they are all Democrats.

The current makeup of the city council is mostly labor union-funded professional board sitters and government employees. The council includes a former Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment commissioner, the wife of a deceased councilman, a retired cop, a former assistant secretary to the governor, a lawyer, another lawyer, another board sitter and wife of a former county supervisor, one citizen and a former NBA all star, Mayor Kevin Johnson.

There are no business owners on the council, and there is not one leader among them. But the egos could fill the Power Balance Arena, which hosts the Sacramento Kings basketball team. And this group of Democrats voted to put a tax increase initiative on the November ballot to pay for their bad decisions.

Despite dire warnings and public outcry, the city council approved a no-bid garbage contract worth $22 million with BLT Enterprises,which was then acquired by Waste Management Inc. Sacramento city rate payers will have to live with the contract for decades, according to the Sacramento County Grand Jury.

‘We’re all Democrats’

At a meeting with Sacramento City Councilman Rob Fong in 2009, my husband, an elected representative of our city neighborhood association, got a taste of what was ahead for the state. My husband and another association member met with Fong to express concern over the deteriorating condition of the city’s largest regional park, around which our neighborhood was developed in the 1930′s.

But Fong was dismissive and condescending, and played politics over an issue that should not be political.

“You know, we’re all Democrats, Terry,” Fong told my husband, dismissing his concerns. Fong did nothing to help with the park, and continues to this day filling dead space on the city council, while the park is largely maintained by a volunteer group instead of the city employees still on the payroll.

Sacramento’s former Mayors have equally unimpressive credentials. The most recent former mayor, Heather Fargo, was a Parks and Recreation employee. Former Mayor Joe Serna was a farm worker activist and organizer for Cesaer Chavez. Former Mayor Anne Rudin was a nurse.

Current Mayor Kevin Johnson has his eye on the ball, but it’s the wrong ball. Johnson has spent his first four years in office trying to build a new publicly funded sports arena for the Sacramento Kings while Sacramento’s economy crumbles, businesses close, pension debt skyrockets, crime is on the rise, the downtown is a ghost town full of crazy homeless people, city parks are being allowed to deteriorate, city services are getting cut, city utilities costs are increasing and the city’s sewer system is about to collapse after years of neglect.

When the arena talks fell apart for the third time, Johnson announced last week that he will focus his efforts on bringing the Oakland A’s to Sacramento. But he really stepped in it this time. West Sacramento is home to the River Cats, the wildly popular minor league team of the A’s. If the A’s actually came to Sacramento, the River Cats would have to find a new home, leaving West Sacramento with an abandoned ball park, debt and thousands of angry residents who love the River Cats.

Sacramento arena obsession

“Mr. Dickinson most recently made a name for himself with his flaccid handling of the proposed Sacramento Sports Arena,” I wrote in my column for The Sacramento Union in 2007. Despite Sacramento voters soundly defeating the 2006 initiatives, Measures Q and R, which would have raised taxes and spent the money on a sports arena, Dickinson continued to push like crazy to build an arena.

The back room deal was put together by Dickinson Steinberg. They hurried Measures Q and R onto the ballot, leaving voters only a few days to vote on the measures which were missing crucial information. Dickinson continued withholding the information until two courts overruled him. But the measures failed anyway because Sacramento voters are also taxpayers; they didn’t want to fund an arena in 2007, and still don’t.

Steinberg and Dickinson also tried to get the measures passed by a 50 percent simple majority vote, instead of the two-thirds vote required for tax measures. Already strapped by county taxes, taxpayers smelled a rat and told arena supporters to pay for their own sports complex.

Dickinson is now in the Assembly, and Steinberg is president of the Senate.

Library scandal

Dickinson was Chairman of the Sacramento Library Board of Directors when more than $800,000 was stolen by three employees in an over-billing and kickback scheme. In 2008, the Sacramento Grand Jury investigated and found gross mismanagement and financial conflicts of interest within the Sacramento Public Library Authority. The Grand Jury skewered the library’s board, of which Dickinson was chairman, for not overseeing the management, as well as the library’s finances.

But the real eye-opener was that despite the Grand Jury findings of gross mismanagement, even after the library director and two library officials were charged with felonies in the billing scandal, Dickinson stubbornly stood by the library director, Anne Marie Gold, after the Grand Jury recommended that she step down. After the scandal, Gold opened up her own library consulting firm and was hired by the Sacramento County Supervisors as a consultant to a county-led joint powers agency.

The thieving library employees were convicted and received significant jail time. Another former library employee filed a hostile work environment lawsuit, and won.

And Dickinson ran for the state Assembly and won. Two years later, the Sacramento Bee ran an exposé on Dickinson  that found, “In his last 30 months as a Sacramento County supervisor, Roger Dickinson spent almost $70,000 in county funds on expenses — nearly as much as the county’s other four supervisors combined,” the Bee reported.

“Dickinson went on 16 taxpayer-funded trips, bought almost $4,000 worth of furniture and paid about $30,000 to a consultant for work on a youth violence committee, records show,” the Bee reported. This information might have been pertinent to voters in November 2010, when he was a candidate on the ballot for the state Assembly.

Sacramento’s other elected officials are just as bad. Democratic Congresswoman Doris Matsui is the wife of deceased Congressman Bob Matsui, who died while in office. Doris is mostly MIA–rarely is she seen in Sacramento other than for an occasional ribbon cutting. Matsui lives in Washington, D.C., where she was a lobbyist while her husband was Sacramento’s Congressman.

Does it get any more pathetic?
(Katy Grimes is a longtime political analyst, writer and journalist, and CalWatchdog’s news reporter. Originally posted on CalWatchdog.)