Sacto spends $$ on UFO fears

You never know what you are going to find on Sacramento City Council agendas. Like the request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for $28,000 for costs associated with “space object re-entry,” Bites spotted last week.

“Parker!” Bites called to a young man milling around the SN&R news room. “Get down to city hall, and get me something on this UFO thing!”

“My name is Ben Schilter, sir. I’m a new intern.”

“Whatever. Listen, there are taikonauts running amok in the city, and the mayor’s calling in the feds. Don’t come back without that story.”

Turns out no space spore landed in River City, according to Sacramento Fire Department spokesperson, Capt. Jim Doucette.

Yes, a Sacramento firefighter was activated to take part in a task force for Operation Burnt Frost, the U.S. Navy’s well-publicized shoot-down of a failing spy satellite back in February. Readers may recall fears that the missile hit would spread toxic rocket fuel across the sky and rain down space detritus on our heads.

None of that happened, of course, so one lucky Sacramento firefighter basically got an all-expenses-paid trip to D.C. out of the deal.

Furthermore, Doucette said that $28,000 grant is likely to come out closer to $5,000, just enough to cover the firefighter’s expenses, travel and salary for the two days.

And so goes the story of the great Sacramento Space Object Re-entry event of 2008. At least that’s the “official” story, given to one cub reporter.

Bites has always liked City Councilman Steve Cohn. But, whoa Steve, you earned SN&R’s Tool of the Day several days running around here, for that crack about a tree branch falling on a Heather Fargo supporter at the mayor’s election party.

Live on KCRA election-night coverage, Cohn, a Kevin Johnson supporter, suggested that the tree branch was like Fargo’s campaign. “Just kind of broken, heh heh heh,” he joked, before being told that yes, indeed, the branch had fallen on someone, and that person had been sent to the hospital.

Bites is sure Cohn feels sufficiently crappy about the whole thing already; he should.

But it also got Bites thinking about what kind of hard feelings this election is going to leave behind, whoever wins.

Considering that Cohn’s council district went big for Fargo on election night, and considering how nasty and divisive this election has become—Bites wonders what all this augurs for Cohn’s own re-election campaign in a couple of years. Will the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party try to take him out in 2010? Maybe, maybe not. But just to be on the safe side, Steve, don’t be a schmuck.

That goes for you too, Heather Fargo. A mere two days after the election, Fargo complained in the daily press about the slowness of the vote count. “Is this all the new technology that was supposed to be so great? I think somebody needs to explain it.”

As Fargo knows full well, that “new technology” is actually pretty old-fashioned. It’s called an envelope.

“We’re basically running two elections at the same time,” explained Jill LaVine, Sacramento County’s registrar of voters. There’s the election held in the voting booth, and then there’s the vote-by-mail election.

Some of you voted by mail early enough to get your votes reported on election night. Then a big chunk of you voted in the polling place. Good for you; your votes also got counted on election day. Then there’s the 20,000 of you who dropped your vote-by-mail ballots, in sealed envelopes, at the polling place on election day. Those are the votes that were still being counted a week later.

LaVine said she thinks the increase in mail-in ballots is a good thing, but wishes people would send them in earlier. “I know that won’t happen. And that’s fine. Just give me the time to process them,” said LaVine.

No problem. The Sacramento County elections folks run a good shop—and Bites would rather they be accurate than fast.

As for Fargo, it’s probably not a good idea to hassle the people who are counting your votes while they are in the middle of counting them.