City Hall Preview

City Council meetings start back up on Tuesday and a variety of issues, proposals, and ideas are expected to be presented in the upcoming months. While there will be many things to discuss, here some things to look for in the coming months:

Will grocery shopping come back to Del Paso Blvd? This has been a question since Safeway closed its doors in May 1989 and was soon replaced by Kragen Auto. While stores such as Arcade Market and Market Basket have continued to operate in Hagginwood and Del Paso Heights, the neighborhoods of Old North Sacramento and Woodlake have yet to see a full-service market. This is probably going to change. In early December, the City adopted plans to construct a Fresh & Easy Market on what was an RV lot. Don’t expect to be shopping too soon, for Fresh & Easy has slowed down its expansion due to financial hard times. Still, it is a bright outlook for an area that has gone far too long without a full-fledged grocery store.

Del Paso Blvd Streetscape Part II
Late last year, the City Council adopted a resolution to begin work on the second half of the streetscape of Del Paso Blvd extending from Acoma Street to Arden Way. The overall goal is to eliminate blight and reinvigorate activity on the boulevard. The original plan cost close to $6 million to complete, which is a bargain for the way it turned out. No date has been set to start construction.

Public Safety

The tone of the budget talks in regards to Police and Fire has been a need for more money. Police say they need money in order to maintain the number of officers they have, whereas Fire say they need more money simply to operate (thus, the rotation closure of fire stations across the city). What’s ironic is Police receives 31% of General Fund Money from the budget, while Fire receives 22%; the top two recipients, respectively. Also, the Sacramento Bee found that 41 of the 50 city employees earning the most overtime worked for the Fire Department. The same analysis found Police has 953 full-time employees earning an average of over $6,000 of overtime. These findings may make it difficult for Police and Fire to maintain a tone of poverty in future budget meetings. Moreover, both department’s lack of money may not be from the city tightening the belt, but due to financial mismanagement within both departments, respectively.

Strong Mayor
During the election, Mayor Johnson brought up the idea of potentially restructuring the city’s system to provide the Mayor with more power. Johnson said he would discuss this idea with residents, only to draft a petition less than one month into his term. This “miffed” some councilmembers – including those who supported him – and the Stationary Engineers Local 39, the city’s largest union, are generally against the idea. Mayor Johnson said a strong-mayor format will make the city more accountable; however, as Local 39 pointed out, a special election for this year may cost upwards of over $1 million, a potential burden to an already strained budget.

Mayor Johnson’s idea is not necessarily bad, but its timing certainly is; the city’s budget deficit is not projected to improve. It is also interesting why Johnson feels he needs to be a strong-mayor to have an impact. Sacramento’s last four mayors – Anne Rudin, Joe Serna (who Johnson consistently discusses), Jimmy Yee (who served after Serna’s untimely passing), and Heather Fargo – achieved many things for Sacramento during their respective administrations under the current system, suggesting Johnson can operate just as effectively.

One of the big things Mayor Johnson wants to do is put Sacramento “on the map”. This was a theme of his campaign, and was reiterated after the Grant Pacers’ championship and in aiding Sac State with a competition. What he has discussed minimally is the arena issue. Most plans for an arena have centered on building an arena somewhere downtown, while another proposal suggested construction on farmland in North Natomas. The Cal Expo talks began in late 2007 and have been extended until 2009. Still, there is rumor talks to build at Cal Expo have slowed and the city has started looking at the possibility locating a new facility next to ARCO Arena. The idea has always been to construct an arena downtown to increase its profile and bring business to the area; essentially, put downtown on the map. With talks at Cal Expo slowed, along with the status of the Kings fading, it will be interesting to see if and when the arena is put back in the hands of the city and where they propose it should go.

The City Council Meeting will be held this Tuesday, January 6 2009 at 2:00pm, with an evening meeting at 6:00pm.

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