Sacramento Grinches of the Year
'Tis the season to call out locals whose hearts were just a few sizes too small in 2014
Welcome to SN&R’s fifth annual Grinches of the Year awards. Yes, we know it’s the holidays, which means we’re supposed to be sitting by fires in plaid, flannel threads while sipping hot toddies and reading stories about magic trains and parents who can’t hear bells.
But we’re SN&R. And for us, the end of the year is to call out Sacramentans whose hearts were just a few sizes too small. You know, the public officials, corporations, local celebrities and basketball teams who deserve coal in their stockings on Thursday.
And so, our 2014 Grinches. Muah ha ha.Sacramento’s Grinch of the Year
Cue the slow clap for Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones. This was the year the county’s top lawman concealed his department’s use of warrantless cellphone surveillance technology, known as Stingray; helped lobby a bogus case against Proposition 47; struggled to comply with state laws regarding the detention of undocumented immigrants; and used the tragic deaths of two officers to burnish his political rep on YouTube while trashing the president’s immigration policy. Just one of those would have merited Jones one of SN&R’s annual Grinch awards. Taken together, they earn him top-dog honors—and a tongue-in-cheek poem. On this list, it’s bad to be king:
The Not-So-Great Scott
by Raheem F. Hosseini
Sheriff Scott Jones
Knows down in his bones
He’s the right man for the job,
Don’t you fret or sob.
“Which job,” you ask,
“The badge or the mask?”
No questions, News 10.
Jones won’t answer them.
A badge made of tin,
As is his grin;
The rules don’t apply
To one of the good guys.
That’s why he spies our phones,
Or so says Scott Jones:
“Stingray protects us all!
Its secrecy shouldn’t gall!
“And immigrants are A-OK.
But let’s lock them away.
Obama has it wrong,
Our walls must be strong.
“Call me Great Scott.
The bad guys can rot!
There is evil, there is good,
Now fetch me my hood!
“If Justice works blind,
Then so shall I!
I entertain no new thoughts
That my pension hasn’t bought.
“The paradigm mustn’t shift
‘Twould cause a great rift.
Fill my jails to the brim.
Compassion is the sin.
“The law is a tool
That my hand will rule.
A hammer, in fact,
To beat progress back.
“My name is Scott Jones
And I live in the zone.
My message almost done,
Do support my congressional run.
“Vote for me. Do what I say.
We’ll all be much happier that way.”
Honorable Mentions:Say it ain’t so, Shirley
It’s frankly heartbreaking to have Sacramento City Clerk Shirley Concolino make an appearance in our annual rogue roundup. It’s tempting to give Judge Timothy Frawley the Grinch for blocking a public vote on the city’s massive subsidy for a new Kings arena. But blaming Frawley would be taking the easy way out. It was Concolino who officially refused those citizen initiative petitions, and disenfranchised tens of thousands of Sacramento residents who wanted a vote.
Remember, the idea that citizens should have a vote on public financing of arenas and stadiums was a longstanding policy, adopted by the city council in 1996. We can’t even call Concolino a Grinch, because she and her staff are almost always total pros. But she definitely Grinched that one. (C.G.)Fox-y Grinch
Former Fox40 morning-show reporter and anchor Sabrina Rodriguez was living large until that May morning when her (now ex-) fiancé allegedly blew up their south Sacramento home. He was allegedly manufacturing “dabs,” or what’s known at police headquarters as concentrated marijuana. The May 6 incident also sparked a domino effect of bad mojo, including Rodriguez and her ex Nicholas Gray’s arrest for shoplifting.
Rodriguez was such a nice, young woman on TV. Caring, smart. But then an arrest report detailed a month-long history of theft and braggadocio. Let’s revisit:
Ex-fiancé crows in a text to Rodriguez that it was so “easy” to snatch $640 in purses from the Vacaville BCBG outlet in March 2013. Rodriguez texts back: “Awesome. I love when a plan comes together.”
Now we know Rodriguez was as phony as a Louis Vuitton knockoff. (N.M.)Grinches on a train
Trains have transported dangerous stuff, including volatile Bakken crude oil, for years. That’s not why oil refiners such as Valero Refining Company get a Grinch award this year. The company announced a plan to increase the amount of Bakken crude that would be traveling through local neighborhoods like Roseville, Midtown, West Sacramento and Davis on the way to Vallejo. The new number would be about 100 car trains per day.
That’s a lot of dangerous, potentially explosive crude, were the unfortunate derailment of a train to occur.
But the bigger worry is that the National Transportation Safety Board says the tanks used to transport this oil need to be upgraded. The board also says they should probably take safer routes, ones not through populated or environmentally sensitive areas, and that local responders and companies need to have better action plans in place—you know, in case the worst-case scenario happens.
Communities are fighting back against these train shipments. But even more are going through Sacramento neighborhoods as you read this, according to Union Pacific.
And let’s not forget a UP train (thankfully full of corn and not explosive oil) derailed into the Feather River Canyon just weeks ago. (N.M.)Doh-O-U
Let’s give it up one last time for the leadership at the city of Sacramento’s Department of Utilities!
To recap: For years, city officials put off installing water meters at homes, despite a state law and, recently, a drought. When the DOU finally got around to doing the install, they approved a plan that cost hundreds-of-millions of dollars more than most cities subject to the state’s meter mandate. DOU leaders also rejected a city audit questioning this plan.
Anyway, the plan was approved unanimously by council. Construction crews began tearing up streets and sidewalks in neighborhoods a couple of years ago. Turns out they’ve been, in many cases, replacing water mains and pipes that just might be in perfectly good condition. It’s crazy—yet all the while the DOU has defended the project to SN&R.
But this year, investigative reporter Joe Rubin exposed the plan’s folly, which led the city manager to put a halt on the big install this past November. (See “Flushing money” by Joe Rubin, SN&R Feature Story, November 13.) Now, the city says it’s rethinking whether it’s wise to spend hundreds of millions on work that probably is unnecessary.
In the meantime, SN&R has serious concerns about the DOU, its management doctrine and why such a flawed and wasteful plan was approved in the first place. The city’s response to those concerns: “We are moving on.” That’s how city spokesperson Linda Tucker explained the DOU’s refusal to come clean.
The DOU also decided this year to withhold information from the public about how much water is used by bottlers like Nestlé and Coca Cola—apparently at the request of commercial water users. All this secrecy and waste are pretty hard to swallow. (C.G.)They’re dreaming of white suburbs
The riots in Ferguson, Mo., this year weren’t just about profound problems in our criminal-justice system. It took years of racial and economic segregation to lay the groundwork for Ferguson.
The development patterns are pretty familiar if you look around Sacramento. In fact, housing segregation is a major factor in any number of social ills—from gang crime to failing schools.
A few years ago, Sacramento County embarked on an ambitious effort to fight economic segregation by requiring affordable housing to be included in new development areas. It didn’t last. This year the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors—having received their marching orders from the developers whose campaign cash keeps them in office—abandoned the inclusionary housing strategy.
Honestly, they never really gave it a chance to work in the first place. So we’ll keep building tony new suburbs and keep segregating low-income families into ghettos. What could possibly go wrong? (C.G.)All they want for Christmas is a community-benefits agreement
Back in May, the Kings and the mayor posterized downtown’s longstanding residents and small businesses.
Here’s how: When developers build major projects like sports stadiums or arenas in cities such as San Diego or Los Angeles, there are typically things called “community benefits agreements.” These CBAs happen because major development often impacts existing businesses and residents. CBAs ensure that there will be things like affordable housing, fair-wage jobs, interest-free loans and subsidies for people displaced.
Cities leaders and mayors often push for theses CBAs. When they built the Staples Center, home to the L.A. Lakers and the Clippers, the CBA with the developer included $1 million for parks-and-rec improvements, local-hiring requirements, a 20-percent affordable-housing requirement and a lot more.
Here in Sacramento, not so much. This past May, Mayor Kevin Johnson and the Kings sidestepped a group pushing for a small CBA and instead launched their own group, called Sacramento First, to create the appearance of giving a damn. This new group didn’t include any impacted groups but instead welcomed in pro-arena city officials, Kings reps and lawyers, the mayor’s chief of staff and even the arena’s architects.
Basically, it was a way for the Kings and the mayor to make it look like they were doing something for those adversely impacted by the arena. But all they gave them was coal. (N.M.)Oh what fun it is to ride?
Brutal assaults on passengers, threats to journalists and bribing politicians. These are some of the reasons Uber is on our naughty list this year. Our own Mayor Kevin Johnson took Uber money, then used his position to work against laws that would regulate rideshare companies. At the same time, Sacramento is tightening rules on local taxi drivers, including new tests and new requirements to speak English and follow a dress code. All things Uber drivers are exempt from, because they’re taxi-industry “disruptors,” not taxi drivers. (But really, they are taxi drivers.)
Speaking of disruption, how about when Uber quadrupled rates in downtown Sydney after an armed gunman barricaded himself in a cafe with a bunch of hostages. Uber calls this “surge pricing.” Which is exactly what Krampus would say. (C.G.)‘L’ is for the way you … lose
It’s been nearly two months since Measure L bombed at the ballot box. So long that, in fact, we can hardly remember which incarnation it was of K.J.’s strong-mayor proposal. Anyway, why is Measure L on our list? Waste.
All those campaign donations, more than a million dollars, spent on what? The only silver lining is that Measure L’s defeat united a progressive front against corporate powers that be. Maybe there’s good in the strong Grinch after all? (N.M.)This is what democracy looks like
Eligible voters in California and Sacramento County excavated their way to new low-bottom records this year—twice. This past June, a measly 18.4 percent of eligible state voters and 21.3 percent of those in Sacramento County participated in the statewide primary—both historic lows. We dropped the bar yet again a few months later during the November 4 general election, when only 30.9 percent of eligible California voters and 34.4 percent of Sacramento County ones dragged themselves to the polls. In other nations, voting is seen as a privilege. Here, it’s like writing thank-you cards or using turn signals. We all know we should do it, but, on the other hand, to hell with other people. (RFH)UC Grinch
Get this: The Regents of the University of California put raising student tuition in the crosshairs this year. Again. And despite strong, vocal objection from Gov. Jerry Brown.
There was a battle. Brown pressed hard. Students banged and protested and raised hell. And yet the Regents voted to bump tuition by at least 5 percent each year over the next five years. Higher education at California’s premier universities was already out of reach for so many residents. Now … good luck. (N.M.)The un-fairer sex
From popular entertainment to higher education, there was no escaping ugly acts of men behaving savagely. Over the summer, the anonymous d-bags of GamerGate drew attention to the misogynistic underbelly of video game culture. Then, National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell marred America’s biggest sport with his cowardly response to Ray Rice’s caught-on-camera domestic brutality. In November, Rolling Stone’s (flawed) coverage of an alleged pattern of rape within the University of Virginia’s fraternity system renewed calls to stop ignoring campus sexual assaults. Outside the U.S., April brought the appalling mass abduction of hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls by the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram. Reports circulated in November from Kenya of male attacks on women who dared wear mini-skirts. Recently, a terrorist group that’s against female education massacred hundreds of Pakistani schoolchildren.
And then there was Bill Cosby. TV’s favorite dad was toppled by allegations that he drugged and sexually assaulted numerous women, retroactively tarnishing the childhoods of an entire generation of ’80s kids. To men everywhere: It’s time to burn those Cosby sweaters—and grow up. (RFH)