Sucker city

Team K.J. sent out another “rules of the game” communiqué last week, announcing that investment bank Goldman Sachs had accepted the mayor’s invitation to evaluate proposals for, and possibly help finance, a new Kings arena.

“Anybody who knows anything about the financial world knows what it means to have Goldman Sachs on your side,” Mayor Kevin Johnson wrote. “Simply put, Goldman is one of the largest, most influential and important investment organizations in the world.”

Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi certainly knows something about the financial world. Last summer, he wrote a takedown of Sachs titled “Inside the Great American Bubble Machine.” Taibbi introduced Goldman, and its role in America’s banking crisis, in this way:

“The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

Funny, that’s also more or less how a lot of people describe the relationship between pro sports teams and their host cities. But never mind that. “With Goldman providing help and advice, we are ready to negotiate from strength,” the mayor explained.

In other words, K.J.’s Wall Street buddies have got Sacramento’s back. And they’ll probably jam their blood funnels into it.

Superior Court Judge Loren

McMaster last week ordered Kevin Johnson’s strong-mayor initiative off the ballot. Bites figures K.J.’s got a pretty good chance on appeal, but win or lose, “It’s going to go to the last minute. And that’s going to make it very difficult for everyone,” noted former Sacramento City Manager Bill Edgar.

Edgar just wrapped up his work as chairman of the Sacramento Charter Review Committee. He thinks that after the SMI is beaten, either in the courts or at the polls, the city should then pick up where his committee left off last week when it filed its final report with the city council.

Unlike the mayor, and his Republican campaign lawyer Tom Hiltachk, and the editorial board at The Sacramento Bee, Bites thinks the charter review committee should be praised for the time and care they took investigating local government and possible scenarios for reform.

And the mayor should get some credit, too. After all, the city council voted the charter review committee into being after Johnson decided to temporarily shelve his flawed strong-mayor scheme in order to deal with more pressing city business.

Remember that? On January 28, 2009, Johnson said the

strong-mayor campaign had “become a distraction” from the budget crisis and city layoffs that were coming down the pipe.

Here we are, exactly a year later. The budget is just as grim, the city keeps getting into legal trouble (think city utility funds, Natomas building permits and Nestlé) because nobody listens to the city attorney. We’ve also got the prospect of a very complicated (and possibly very costly to the public) arena deal on deck—the list goes on.

If it was really about what’s best for the city, the mayor would drop his appeal and throw his support behind a formal charter commission, which is provided for in the state constitution. The commission could build on the work of Edgar’s informal committee, and then—in a thoughtful and deliberative way—put something on the ballot that deserves public support.

Instead, Johnson and his opponents will keep fighting the SMI out in the courts right up until election day. If it somehow gets back on the ballot and actually passes on June 8, it’ll be tied up in the courts for months after that. Talk about a distraction.