Developers: Take back City Hall!

The Sacramento business community—or at least some of the political players among them—are freaking out.

Steve Ayers, a local developer, and CEO of Armour Steel Company, sent a letter last week to all his business buddies, calling for a private meeting at the end of this month to craft a “clear and cohesive message to City Hall.”

In the letter, Ayers outlines the conversations he’s been having with other downtown big shots, like developer Mike Heller and restaurant mogul Randy Paragary. “Cleary the issues at hand are out of control,” he writes, adding that “We are all going to end up going back to the days of gridlock and red tape that will effectively strangle the economic and business climate of our City.”

It’s a whole constellation of recent disasters that has these prominent citizens so distressed: the nastiness of “strong mayor” politics, the Natomas permits scandal and the suddenly precarious position of their friend, City Manager Ray Kerridge.

Kerridge is on the bubble with the city council right now, mostly because of the Natomas snafu and the ensuing investigation into whether city employees illegally allowed development in a flood zone, without legal permits, and in violation of a federal building moratorium.

Rumors are flying around City Hall that Kerridge is looking for an exit, that he’s pursued city manager gigs in Phoenix and in Beverly Hills. Both cities filled those positions this month, and officials in those towns would not reveal whether Kerridge was among the applicants. (Bites tried to ask Kerridge about the supposed job hunt, but got no response.) But it seems like anyone in Kerridge’s position would want to have a backup plan right about now.

Likewise, it makes sense that the business honchos in the town would want to save Kerridge’s job, along with his mantra, “Get the customer to success.”

Because of the scandal in Natomas—and similar questions about the Nestlé Water boondoggle—one of Kerridge’s signature policies, called the Facilities Permit Program, has been tossed out by the city council. The FPP, by all accounts, has streamlined the development permit process and made it easier to launch new projects. Getting rid of it, Ayers says, was like “throwing the baby out with the bath water.”

A fair point, though really, isn’t it more like throwing the baby out with the disinfected, proprietary mineral formula-flavored, reverse-osmosified overpriced Nestlé water?

In any case, Ayers muses, “Maybe it’s time we actively started supporting pro-business candidates, and actively started pursuing replacement of anti-Sacramento politicians.”

But beyond Permit-gate, Ayers frets that the new faction-based politics in City Hall are just bad for business. For example, “The behind the scenes politics concerning the Strong Mayor initiative is tearing the City Council apart,” Ayers complains, asking, “Is there a way to broker a deal that works for everyone?”

Had Ayers returned Bites’ call to talk about any of this, Bites would have told him to go for it. Go ahead into that backroom with the developers and the mayor and his lawyers, invite the unions and maybe throw in a couple of anti-Sacramento politicians for good measure, and cut that deal. Voters just love stuff like that.