On the racks

Vandals prefer city-owned newspaper kiosks.

Vandals prefer city-owned newspaper kiosks.

If you weren’t following SN&R’s breaking-news blog, Snog, last week, you missed a lot of fun reporting on the fracas between Mayor Kevin Johnson and City Attorney Eileen Teichert.

But Bites is still waiting for an answer to one question: Why didn’t Johnson disclose to the city council on August 25 that he had forgiven a $25,000 loan that he made to Sacramentans for Accountable Government?

SAG is the committee running his strong-mayor ballot campaign, and because of the loan, Teichert figured K.J. had a conflict of interest on any council actions having to do with the strong-mayor initiative. But Johnson withheld the fact that he had forgiven the loan—technically removing the conflict-of-interest problem.

What followed was two weeks of political theater that didn’t need to happen (see “Recuse me!” SN&R Bites, September 10, and various Snog posts). But maybe theater is exactly what Johnson was going for. There’s a certain nasty flourish to his politics. Attacking Teichert, or yanking Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy off of the powerful Law and Legislation Committee (because she didn’t tow the strong-mayor line), what he lacks in policy he makes up for in aggression. It can be exciting to watch, but it’s not exactly good government.

Bites asked mayoral spokesman Steve Maviglio, over and over and over again, what possible reason the mayor had for refusing to disclose this important information for two weeks. But Maviglio wouldn’t bite, instead placing all the blame on Teichert.

“Better question: Why didn’t the city attorney—who represents the mayor—meet with him before the meeting, before she drafted her memo accusing him of a conflict, and before she put on a show at the council hearing?”

A fair question. So Bites asked Teichert, “Why didn’t you meet with the mayor before the show …” etc., etc.

And you know what? She answered the damn question. Just like that.

“I used the only avenue of communication that the mayor has made available to me,” Teichert explained. “The mayor is inaccessible to the city attorney’s office. The only means of communicating with him directly is in writing, so that’s what I did.”

Bites doesn’t know if that’s true, but it squares with what other city staff have been saying about trying to communicate with the mayor’s office. And when Johnson first came to power, he moved the mayor’s offices away from the offices of the city council, to another floor in City Hall.

And you know, it wasn’t that long ago that a reporter could call the mayor and ask these questions directly. Heather Fargo, Jimmie Yee, Joe Serna. All of them returned phone calls—sometimes late, but returned them nonetheless—and they all answered the damn questions. Bites can’t imagine Serna wasting two weeks playing “hide the loan” with the city attorney. But hey, things change when you become a world-class city.

On the subject of City Hall clusterf—um, controversies, last month Bites attended the K Street news-rack lottery. What a party.

Regular readers might recall that the city is forcing newspaper publishers with news racks on K Street to ditch their attractive, brightly colored newspaper boxes, in favor of hulking, multicompartment, plain black, city-owned newspaper kiosks (see “Boxed out,” SN&R Bites, May 14).

It’s all part of the city’s multimillion-dollar “streetscape” plan, and apparently, the First Amendment clashes with the new décor.

Anyway, at the lottery, all the publications drew lots to see who would get the best spots in the new boxes. Because daily papers get to pick first, The Sacramento Bee snapped up most of the upper corners of the new city boxes, while SN&R duked it out with Auto Trader, Apartment Finder and the UC Davis Extension magazine for the less desirable lower and middle boxes.

But really, we’ll all be winners when the city installs the new boxes this November, as illustrated by this picture of a city-owned kiosk in Oakland—very similar in design to what’s being proposed for K Street. There’s ample empty space provided for graffiti. Check out how nicely the plastic parts melt and crack. Bites figures these bad boys will create new jobs, because they’ll have to be repainted every day. And you just don’t get that with SN&R’s funky old art racks.