Serious misgivings

A quick message to The Sacramento Bee editorial board: You people need to get serious.

Bites generally likes the reporters and editors over at 21st and Q streets, but has to call bullshit on last Saturday’s editorial slamming the Sacramento Charter Review Committee for a draft set of recommendations that—gasp—doesn’t make the job of mayor into a separate executive or give the mayor the power of political patronage.

“These people need to get serious,” the esteemed Bee editors concluded, “If they don’t propose real alternatives, Sacramento could end up with a parade of horribles,” contained in Mayor Kevin Johnson’s flawed “strong mayor” measure.

Good point about the horribles, but what the editorial leaves out

is that the Bee has helped to slam the door on real alternatives, by having an effective blackout on coverage of the charter review committee for the last six months.

When the council, under the influence of some arm twisting by Johnson and his paid political team, rushed the strong-mayor proposal onto the June 2010 ballot—the Bee supported the move. That undercut the work of the charter committee and precluded discussion of many of the alternative reforms that were on the committee’s agenda—including major election reform, term limits and the creation of an ethics commission.

But you wouldn’t know any of that from reading the Bee, which hasn’t covered any of the meetings or any of the discussion of the committee, and indeed has barely even acknowledged that the committee exists.

This is a paper that regularly rolls out important-looking, multipart packages—many of them under the heading “The Conversation”—which are supposed to engage readers on the big ideas and big visions. You know, topics like public transit, saving the Delta or reforming California’s budget process.

But there’s a real conversation happening right now in the Bee’s backyard—and it turns out Sacramentans have all sorts of interesting ideas about the city’s constitution, and governance, and reform. But Sacramento’s paper of record is silent? Seriously?

Chalk it up to global warming, or the political heat being generated at City Hall, but election season seems to have arrived early this year.

Former Sac City school board member (California Administrative Services Authority, anyone?) and city council hopeful Jay Schenirer recently knocked on the Bitescave door, looking for votes.

In his hand was a glossy brochure, titled “Re-thinking City Hall.” But instead of telling Bites what Schenirer is rethinking about City Hall, the candidate seems to be asking voters to do his rethinking for him.

Inside his brochure is a little quiz in which Schenirer—running in the council 5th District, including Hollywood Park, Oak Park and Curtis Park—asks you to check a series of boxes and fill in several blanks. Should the mayor have the power to hire and fire the city attorney? How much money would you give to the police department? How much to city parks? How much land in the Union Pacific rail yard near Sacramento City College should be developed with big-box retail and how much with apartments? And so on.

Hey, Jay, don’t you know the answers to these questions already? And if not, should you be running for council?

If this is the way the modern political campaign is run, Bites can go Schenirer one better. Vote for Bites for the 5th District, and we’ll run things entirely by Facebook quiz.

As a council member, Bites promises to connect voters directly to the levers of power in City Hall via popular social-networking tools.

You want the Curtis Park rail yards to be nothing but skate parks and community gardens? Just click. Tear down the mall? Give millions to the Maloofs? Stick a safe ground compound in Land Park? Click, click, click.

Online polls will dictate Bites’ votes on every issue, with no unwanted influence from developers, unions, conniving city bureaucrats or even superstrong mayors. Seriously.