Lose some and lose some

Two more workers have left the hive at The Sacramento Bee, and these two losses really sting. City Hall reporter and nine-year Bee veteran Terri Hardy quietly slipped out in December to take a job at the Capitol. She’s already started her new gig in the Senate Office of Research.

Hardy raised a lot of good questions with her reporting—questions about missing water meters, expensive sci-fi schemes to vaporize garbage and the unfortunate choices of companionship exhibited by certain would-be political leaders—to name just a few examples.

This Friday, environment and development reporter Mary Lynne Vellinga follows Hardy. She’s also headed to work at the Capitol, in the office of Sen. Fran Pavley, who has written many pieces of landmark environmental legislation, including California’s pioneering climate-change law, Assembly Bill 32.

No doubt the Bee has to feel some major brain drain with their departure.

“If there’s any group of people who can weather this, it’s this group of people,” said Vellinga of the colleagues she left behind. “I sure as hell hope they do it.” Bites sure as hell hopes so, too.

Last week, Kevin Johnson pulled back his push for “strong mayor” charter reform, saying the proposed ballot measures had become “a distraction” from the important work of slashing city services and giving pink slips to public employees.

What Johnson didn’t mention, and what the rest of the media chose to ignore, was that the mayor had no choice but to back off the power play. He’d already lost.

The campaign boasted that it had gathered 37,000 signatures for each of the two special measures Johnson was promoting—one giving him more power under the city charter, the other creating an independent budget analyst for the city.

Technically, each only needed 34,000 to qualify for the ballot. But campaigns always collect 30 to 50 percent more than they need, sometimes even double what they need, because a large number of those signatures don’t check out.

Bites figures the campaign was at least 10,000 signatures short of what it needed to go forward. Partly that’s because of a very tight deadline. But one veteran signature gatherer told Bites these measures were unexpectedly divisive. “The kind of negative reaction I would get from some people was unusual.”

Also overlooked was the fact that Johnson had been outflanked by the Sacramento City Council, again. His plan was to piggyback the ballot measures onto a statewide special election, most likely in June. But even if the state calls a special election, the city is not automatically required to put Johnson’s measure on the ballot.

“The council has a lot of discretion in terms of when that would go forward,” explained Sacramento City Clerk Shirley Concolino. The council has lots of options, including just sitting on the measure until the next regularly scheduled election in June of 2010.

K.J. may be a rookie, but he can count. And he knows that he doesn’t have enough support on the council to add up to the five votes (including his own) needed to call a city election.

And why is the council not giving him what he wants? Perhaps it’s because he keeps telling them, “Give me what I want.”

For example, while Johnson was announcing the delay of his charter bid, he took a few minutes to harp about the not-really-free “free audit” scheme he tried to get past the council two weeks before. The council solidly rejected the plan, and “That’s still not acceptable to me,” he complained to the assembled reporters. Then he took his ball and went home.