Final grades, exit interviews

Local Reep fails Mother Earth, K.J.'s opposition says goodbye, school-board member bails

The Sierra Club’s annual legislative report card is always good for a couple of head-scratchers. For example, Republican Assemblywoman Beth Gaines was our only local rep to vote against a new law recognizing that “every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water.” Not so surprising, you say? We all know how the GOP hates entitlements—and human beings.

Then what about Democratic Assemblyman Richard Pan’s lackluster 54 percent score? That’s an F, doc, even in California. (Pan got dinged for voting against a ban on polystyrene food containers, while supporting a measure that would make it harder for cities and towns to regulate landfills.)

Other grades fell along the usual curve. Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada got an overachieving 92 percent, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson got a solid 85 percent, as did State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. And the aforementioned Gaines got just 15 percent. But perhaps the Sierra Club ought to be easier on the Republicans. They are a California endangered species, after all.

Goodbye and good luck to Sacramento City council members Rob Fong and Sandy Sheedy. Their last days in office are this month, and each deserve long, glowing profiles, listing their years of service and accomplishments, the good they did for their districts and for the city at large. Seriously, someone should write those. But that’s not Bites’ thing.

Instead, this column would like to express its deep respect for Fong and Sheedy’s willingness to go toe-to-toe with Boss Johnson over the years. They repeatedly voted down the mayor’s many power grabs and helped shine a light on a lot of the sketchy stuff happening on the third floor of City Hall.

It’s ironic, since both helped Kevin Johnson along the way to become the mayor he is today. Fong was a Sacramento City Unified School District board member and voted to turn Sacramento High School over to Johnson’s St. Hope company, a decision Fong later regretted but which was the real beginning of Johnson’s political career. Sheedy was an early supporter when Johnson ran for mayor, but later became dismayed by how the Johnson administration did business.

Their later opposition, subversion even, is part of the reason that local editorialists like to call City Hall “dysfunctional.” In fact, the last four years would have been so much worse without them.

Speaking of regrets, it’s unfortunate that SCUSD board member Ellyne Bell is bailing out halfway through her term. Had she given more timely notice that she was taking a job in the Bay Area, the voters could have picked her replacement this November. Instead, the current board will handpick a new member in a process that’s considerably less democratic.

The applicants for the job are: Gwynnae Byrd, Jay Hansen, Bina Lefkovitz, Anna Molander, Samara Palko, David Ross, Harold Stewart-Carballo and Kathryn Tobias.

There are some good candidates. Ross ran for the seat back in 2010, and he had a good critique of the school district’s heavy use of expensive consultant contracts. Molander is a progressive voice and an activist in the local Democratic Party. Palko just finished her own run for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District board. Hansen is a lobbyist with the California Medical Association and was an adviser to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

Lefkovitz is interesting, too. She’s run nonprofits that support youth, and has the endorsement of Steinberg. She’s also married to Sacramento City Councilman Jay Schenirer.

Schenirer was on that same school board with Rob Fong and pushed hard for the giveaway of Sacramento High School to St. Hope. That decision is an open wound in the district years later, and, unlike Fong, Schenirer has shown no remorse for it.

Schenirer also helped to cook up the California Administrative Services Authority pension scheme that later turned into a legal and financial nightmare for the district, costing millions.

It’s ironic that Bell was motivated to run for school board partly out of her frustration with the Sac High giveaway. And it was a big part of the reason why Schenirer got dumped by voters in 2004, and Bell got elected in 2006.

But should Schenirer’s past sins be held against Lefkovitz? After all, just because Schenirer did some terrible, destructive things to Sac city schools doesn’t mean Lefkovitz will too, right? Bites is sure the school board will find a delicate way to raise just that question during the candidate interviews next month. Or not. Either way, hold on to your high schools.