Can’t have too many recalls
High-school confidential: It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Still basking in the afterglow of Monday’s opening tap routine by the Bret Harte Elementary School drill team, the Sacramento City Unified School District board of trustees soon was confronted by a less-cheerful spectacle. Bites watched board members’ expressions freeze as 15 parents, educators and community members approached the podium to serve four board members with notices of intent to recall.
The recall portion of the festivities was staged by the Sacramento Coalition to Save Public Education and targeted the board’s president, Rob Fong; vice president, Jay Schenirer; former president, Karen Young; and member Richard Jennings. The four board members voted to close Sacramento High School against the wishes of some of their most vocal constituents.
The coalition accused them of promoting charter schools that had little public support, ignoring the effect that closing Sac High would have on teachers and families, giving Sac High over to an unproven private entity and failing to redraw attendance boundaries, which, coalition members claim, leaves Sac High students with no comprehensive, non-charter public school to attend.
All of this, coalition members say, was done so quickly it made their heads spin. As one disgruntled teacher explained, it took the district longer to decide whether her classroom should have a phone line than it did for the board to decide to close Sac High.
Consultant, heal thyself: Democratic political consultant and lobbyist Richie Ross has officially stepped in it. After he got carried away using threats to bully a couple of assemblywomen into supporting a bill sponsored by one of his lobbying clients, lawmakers circled the wagons. Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson, suddenly curious whether it’s such a good idea to let Ross and a few others like him lobby the very folks he got elected, hastily named a committee to think about that pressing question.
But in addition to the threat of a new law, which could go to the governor’s desk faster than Richie’s handwritten apology cards went out to peeved pols, Ross, who didn’t return Bites’ calls, also faces trouble over on the Senate side.
Senator John Vasconcellos, a powerful liberal icon nearing the end of his four-decade run as a lawmaker, doesn’t like Ross, whom he calls “a foul presence.” The Democrat from San Jose blames Ross for taking out a couple of his pals with sleazy tactics. And Vasco says he’ll be rolling out something big soon—and it sounds like it’s going to have Ross’ name written all over it.
A ban on lobbying one’s own consulting clients “ought to have been done 100 years ago,” Vasconcellos said, adding that “it will surface in a proposal I’m coming up with later on in the month trying to save the government of California and the state from paralysis.” Vasco wouldn’t talk specifics, saying only that it’s going to be a 12-step program in the form of a proposed constitutional amendment “about a variety of things that altogether make the state almost ungovernable, including consultants.”
Added Vasco: “It’s going to be comprehensive and detailed, but I’m not ready to release it yet. I’m going to do it all at once; it’s a blockbuster.”
East End parking blues: Bites recently overheard grumblings that, even as state workers moved into the new East End office complex last week, officials still weren’t sure what would happen with its gargantuan garages.
City and state agencies have been working on how to enable off-hours parking, but the fate of the 1,600 spots remains undecided. The hang-up is that the garages are state property built with bonds that bar for-profit use.
City Economic Development Department honcho Kristan Otto can’t say for sure that the garages will ever be open to the public.
“I’m very upset,” grumbled Councilman Steve Cohn. “It’s a violation of the commitment that the state made to us.” Senator Deborah Ortiz, who’s been refereeing the intergovernmental confusion, admitted it’s hard getting everyone together: “It’s been a little frustrating.”
But Department of General Services spokesman Robb Deignan said the state isn’t reneging on any pledges. In fact, he added, the department is working on some kind of “proposal for what measures need to be taken.” But until that’s ready, sometime later this month, Deignan said he can’t talk specifics.