On the phony Kings arena outrage, strong-mayor freshness and city school district accountability

Rich guys are always trying to jam each other up and steer the public process, and public money, toward their own interests

Bites did a double take when charter-school advocate Penny Schwinn resigned her elected post on the Sacramento County Board of Education last month in order to take a high-paying job in the bureaucracy of the Sacramento City Unified School District.

She’s now SCUSD’s new assistant superintendent of performance management—which comes with a $133,617 salary. The job is one of many, many six-figure gigs in the administration, and is described as being “the accountability leader” for the district, which is also the job description of the district’s chief accountability officer ($149,914).

Schwinn is qualified for the big bucks because she was at Teach for America for three years, a St. Hope administrator for two years and, of course, she founded her own charter school,

Schwinn was executive director of the school. It was her baby. But she had to give it up to take the Sac city job.

Sort of. Perhaps as an added perk, the district is appointing Schwinn to Capitol Collegiate’s governing board. According to district policy, Schwinn will be the district’s “eyes and ears” and help provide oversight of the school she founded.

Who better to be the public’s watchdog over a charter school than the person who started that charter school, hired its staff and created its culture? Surely, if there were anything wrong over at Capitol Collegiate, Schwinn will let us know, pronto. Right?

Nevertheless, Bites asked district spokesman Gabe Ross, “Couldn’t there be a conflict of interest there?”

“The role on the board is not a conflict of interest,” he replied. So, there you go.

Sacramento Tomorrow was supposed to be a new, fresh look at Sacramento’s governance. But every time Bites checks in, up pops another crony from the old Boss Johnson brigade.

Here’s an excerpt from the fundraising email for Sacramento Tomorrow sent out by developer Jon Bagatelos—or “The Bag Man,” as he’s sometimes called (in this column). Bagatelos is a big Kevin Johnson fundraiser and one of the money guys behind previous strong-mayor plans.

“In the past few years we have made a lot of changes to the City Council for the betterment of the business environment here in Sacramento—the new Downtown Sports Arena being a huge, visible result of that Council transformation,” Bagatelos says in his email, adding, “Reforming the City’s Charter will be the last step in putting together a business-friendly environment in the City which will help business development here.”

Did he mention business? Take over the city council? Check. Push through the arena? Check. Rewrite the city charter for a “business-friendly environment”? Check. Doesn’t that all sound refreshingly new and different?

Speaking of checks, it turns out that d-bag billionaires act like d-bags. A couple months ago Bites worried the folks at Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork might be “inadvertently doing the dirty work of some other billionaire would-be Kings (or Royals or Sonics) owners in another town.”

And now we know that Seattle billionaire Chris Hansen did indeed give an $100,000 check to the paid signature-gathering campaign that has paralleled STOP’s effort. All the excitable arena bros are lining up to say, “I told you so.” Because, arena bros.

Sacramento media lost their collective mind, naturally. The press ate up California state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s one-word press statement. “Unbelievable.”

Please. What’s unbelievable is the unbelievable volume of phony outrage being ginned up by the phony-outrage machine in this town—which, otherwise, routinely shrugs off low-grade corruption and bribery of the very politicians now acting so scandalized. What’s unbelievable is the daily media’s abandonment of even the pretense of fairness on this story.

For some perspective, check out former Sac Bee opinion page editor Mark Paul’s blog The California Fix. Last week, he posted a reminiscence of the time in 1990 when Kings owner Gregg Lukenbill, along with political consultant David Townsend (the man later pulling the strings on Johnson’s bid for City Hall), and others were accused of sabotaging a publicly financed stadium for the San Francisco Giants. Lukenbill helped raise some money for the stadium’s opposition, figuring if the Giants left, that would give Sacramento a better shot at landing a pro baseball team.

Voters turned the subsidy down, and were better off for it in the long run, since the Giants wound up building their own lovely privately funded park.

But the S.F. district attorney and Mayor Art Agnos tried to have “The Ballpark 5” convicted of a criminal conspiracy aimed at stealing their team. Of course, the charges were tossed.

The point is that rich guys are always trying to jam each other up and steer the public process, and public money, toward their own interests. Sucks. Bites figures we can let the rich guys decide, or we can let the voters decide.