What’s up, grinches?!

Bah, humbug! It's SN&R's annual grinch awards, where 13 small-hearted Sacramento haters get put in a corner.

Sacramento tried to give the Maloofs an early Christmas present: some $256 million for a new arena. But the Maloofs opted to regift in 2012 with another big “Eff you.”

Sacramento tried to give the Maloofs an early Christmas present: some $256 million for a new arena. But the Maloofs opted to regift in 2012 with another big “Eff you.”

Illustration by Brian Taylor

We made a list. Checked it twice. Now, it's time to find out who's been naughty and, er, not nice. And nasty and horrible and selfish. It's SN&R's annual “What's up, grinches?!” report, a yearly look at the scrooges and assorted suckers who really ought to get a lump of coal for Christmas. But they'll probably get big-fat Christmas bonuses, instead.

Three unwise men

Thank you, Joe and Gavin and George. Especially you, George. There’s so much in public life to disagree and fight about in Sacramento. So it’s a sort of blessing that we have the Maloofs (making a return appearance in our grinches list this year) to bring us all together. It feels like just a few years back, when Sacramentans of all walks of life were cheering on the (almost) championship-bound Sacramento Kings team, only today, we are united in our loathing for the team owners.

Because how many owners can boast that they completely sabotaged multiple attempts by their host city to lavish them with hundreds of millions of dollars for a new arena as the Maloofs have?

Make no mistake, we at SN&R had deep misgivings about the last deal. The details were supersketchy—though it was pretty obvious the Maloofs would make out nicely. So, we’re not saying there isn’t blame to go around.

But now it’s Christmastime, so for just a little while, all of us—sports fans and sportsphobes, big-government libs, rabid tea partiers, old NIMBY folks and young douche bags alike—can join our voices together in perfect harmony and sing, “Maloofs suck!” And isn’t that just the kind of togetherness the season is really all about?

Heart of doucheness

Absolutely nothing wrong with grabbing some beers and some buddies and heading down the river. But that’s not extreme enough for organizers of Rafting Gone Wild and the more commercial Rage on the River events inflicted on the American River this year. The Gone Wild event turned all Heart of Doucheness as 3,500 partiers took to the water, and drunken bros rioted and threw rocks at law enforcement. Meanwhile, the Rage folks are trying awfully hard to build some sort of brand—what with their sponsorships from Rockstar Energy Drink and Two in the Shirt (Get it? Ugh).

The mean-old grown-ups on the county board of supervisors are a little freaked and have already expanded the river’s alcohol prohibitions. If there’s more trouble, they’ll probably enact a complete booze ban, and no one will be able to enjoy a beer on the river. Thanks, bros. You are horrible.

Homeless for the holidays

“Speak truth to power.” It ought to be right there on the syllabus the first day of journalism school. It’s such an important part of what reporters do that the venerable McClatchy Company actually took it as its slogan a while back.

But somehow, McClatchy employee and Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton never got the memo. Or, when he did, it got all scrambled up in his brain pan and he misread it as, “Suck up to power, beat up on homeless people.”

Here in Sacramento, activists and law-enforcement groups and businesses and residents and even some elected officials are trying to grapple with the multiple, tangled-up issues of homelessness, and drug addiction and mental illness and shrinking social services and, yes, property rights, and even the right to just be in a public place without being harassed—either by a panhandler or by a cop. It’s a knotty set of problems, which require some enterprising thinking.

As a city columnist at Sacramento’s daily newspaper, Breton has enormous power to shed light on these problems, amplify worthy ideas and maybe even speak a little truth to power. Instead, he’s used his bully pulpit to, well, bully, launching a one-man propaganda campaign against the poor.

In column after column, he has equated being homeless with being a criminal. He’s even warned that if the homeless menace isn’t soon eradicated from the American River Parkway, then it is “only a matter of time” before homeless campers start abducting children. Ugh.

Look, we get it. The daily-newspaper audience is skewing older and meaner every day; it pays to throw some red meat to the get-off-my-lawn crowd now and again. But what about telling the other side of the story? And we get that Breton probably thinks he’s being counterintuitive, that he’s standing up to liberal orthodoxy. But he’s not. He’s just being kind of awful.

¿Feliz Navidad?

Earlier this year, at the request of Walmart, Sacramento County sheriffs arrested Juana Reyes—an undocumented immigrant—for selling tamales outside of the Florin Road superstore and turned her over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (see “Deporting the tamale lady” by Nick Miller, SN&R Frontlines, July 26). Walmart is from Arkansas, so it probably can’t help acting that way. But what’s up, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department? The tamale lady had been selling there without problems for two years. She was only one of many vendors at that spot. For that, she gets turned over the ICE for deportation proceedings and possible separation from her two young American-born kids?

The misdemeanor charges—of tamale peddling against Walmart’s wishes—have been dropped. Her immigration case eventually was dropped, too.

Satans of sprawl

Sprawl is back in big way, thanks to Sacramento’s lords (and ladies) of growth in suburban enclaves like Folsom, Elk Grove and, of course, on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors.

Elk Grove is insisting that it needs to break south of the county’s longstanding urban-growth boundary and build a slew of new retail and office buildings in order to fix it’s “jobs-housing imbalance.” Never mind that the area it now wants to develop is out past the giant husk of a shopping mall that died mid-construction because there’s no need for any more development in Elk Grove.

The city of Folsom just leapfrogged its boundaries to take in a vast swath of oak-studded hills south of Highway 50, while at the same time throwing out rules that used to require developers to provide housing for low-income folks in its market-rate projects.

And the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors is still, as I wrote earlier this year, seriously considering a controversial 2,700-acre Cordova Hills project near Rancho Cordova “in an area previously considered off-limits for development.”

Do we need all this far-flung development out in the pastures of the south and east county when we’ve got thousands of acres of developable land inside designated growth areas and next to existing infrastructure? Nope. But in the development game, greed beats need every time.

Galleria at Rose-hell

It’s not grinchitude exactly, but what is with the mayhem that seems to go down with disturbing regularity at the Westfield Galleria at Roseville? A mentally unstable kid sets the roof on the fire in 2010. A flash mob of 5,000 would-be choral singers nearly collapses the floor later that year. Then, on the most recent Black Friday, a riot breaks out at Victoria’s Secret.

Arguably, that stuff’s not the Galleria’s fault. Then again, the Galleria pretty much is the temple of mammon. So when the worshipers start getting out of hand, why shouldn’t the high priests get some of the blame?

Also, that chunk of drywall that fell 10 feet onto a Salvation Army bell ringer and put her in the hospital earlier this month? That’s definitely on you, Galleria. Please, get it together before someone dies. Seriously, that’s not even a joke. Merry Christmas.

The city forgave Campbell Soup Company’s millions in taxes to invest in south Sacramento. But this fall, Campbell’s left anyway. So much for being business friendly.

photo Illustration by priscilla Garcia

Good one, job creators

Comcast fired 1,000 people in Sacramento and the Bay Area this fall, complaining about the high cost of doing business in the state. It’s true, California is damn expensive. The cable bills are outrageous.

Comcast joins another California quitter, Waste Connections Inc. That company’s CEO also cited the business climate when it moved its headquarters from Folsom this year off to the business-topia of Texas. In contrast to California, Texas leads the nation in tax breaks and subsidies for corporations. And also in the rate of people without health insurance. And in the percentage of people earning minimum wage. And also in the number of West Nile cases and Walmart Supercenters. Makes you realize just how awful things are here, doesn’t it?

Sacramento’s abandonment issues have the chamber-of-commerce-types scrambling to figure out how to make Sacramento more desirable to big business. The go-to move usually is usually cutting taxes, gutting regulations and giving subsidies. But don’t put out too much, Sacramento. Those companies will still bolt once they get what they want.

Remember, Sacramento forgave Campbell Soup Company’s millions in taxes to stick around and to invest in its plant in south Sacramento. Despite the generous subsidy, this fall, the company canned all its workers and left Sacramento in the soup.

By the way: Comcast is also trying to help the Maloofs to spirit the Kings out of Sacramento. Something to think about when you sign over your paycheck to pay your cable bill this month. Yay, job creators!

Cop blocked

The Sacramento Police Officers Association police union had a little temper tantrum when Sacramento City Councilman Kevin McCarty and colleagues said they wouldn’t get any strong mayor for Christmas.

When the council advanced Measure M to establish a charter commission, a perfectly reasonable solution to the strong-mayor fight started by Mayor Kevin Johnson and his ally the SPOA four years ago, union leaders angrily torpedoed negotiations with the city manager over changes to pension benefits, which could have avoided further cuts and layoffs.

It was a self-serving smokescreen. Now, the election is over, and the public has said it has no appetite for charter reform (they murdered Measure M at the ballot box). The SPOA can drop the righteous indignation and get back to the bargaining table. We’d all like to see a fair settlement to the pension issue and see the cops back on the beat. Make everybody’s Christmas wish come true, SPOA.

For two years, everyone—neighbors, the planning commission, city leaders—told McDonald’s, “No, you can’t build a new restaurant next door to a child-obesity clinic in Oak Park.” But Ronald wasn’t lovin’ it—until city council finally put an end to such talk.

photo Illustration by priscilla Garcia

Creepy clown of Oak Park

It took McDonald’s two years to figure out that nobody wanted it to open a new restaurant in a residential neighborhood in Oak Park near Stockton Boulevard and Second Avenue. Across the street from the UC Davis Medical Center Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors Park. Next to the pediatric-obesity clinic. The city’s Community Development Department told them no. The Sacramento Planning Commission told them no. The neighborhood told them no, loudly, with signs. But Ronald McDonald kept coming until the city council put a stop to the madness, denying the fast-food pusher’s appeal of the Planning Commission decision. Good. Oak Park deserves a break today.

Pain in the Aggie

Over the last year, the UC Davis campus has been a hot spot for the Occupy movement and anti-bankster activism. It’s been no surprise, then, that students targeted a U.S. Bank inside the student union. The bank was paying UC Davis to let it be the sole bank on campus and to allow student IDs to carry the U.S. Bank logo and also to serve as ATM cards for students who opened accounts with the company—which the activists saw as a basic privatization scheme.

A couple months of Occupy-style blockades put an end to that. U.S. Bank fled the campus, explaining it was “intolerable” for university officials to allow the blockade. No arrests were made during the protests. But three months later, the university convinced the Yolo County district attorney (and “What’s up, Grinches!?” alumnus Jeff Reisig) to retroactively bring charges against 12 protesters. The “Davis Dozen” faces 20 counts each of “willfully and maliciously” obstructing movement to and from the bank. If convicted, each protester faces up to 11 years in jail and $1 million in penalties.

Meanwhile, Lt. John Pike learned this year that he won’t be in any legal trouble at all for drenching peaceful protesters in pepper spray last fall. Oh, and UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi has still got her job. So put that in your stocking and stuff it.

Genetically grinchy

Seriously? Monsanto put $8 million into killing Proposition 37—the law requiring big businesses to put the information about genetically modified food on their labels? Isn’t that a little cliché?

And really, the other leading money sources for the No on 37 campaign were DuPont and PepsiCo Inc. and The Dow Chemical Company? Seriously? Kind of playing into the whole greedy, sinister corporation stereotype, aren’t you guys?

Of course, it worked. Prop. 37 was predictably defeated, drowned in a sickly sweet, genetically modified money sludge.

Are any of these companies headquartered in California? Of course not, but that doesn’t stop them from spending whatever it takes to make sure our food-safety laws are written in the way that suits them.

And, oh, look: Campbell’s Soup gave half-a-million bucks to defeat Prop. 37, too—money that might have made some laid-off workers’ Christmas a little brighter. Mmm, mmm, grinched.

Bike thieves still suck

Is the capital city the bike-theft capital of the world? It sure feels that way; just ask Lance Armstrong. But as Raheem F. Hosseini wrote earlier this year (“Steal this bike,” SN&R Feature Story, July 26) the hundreds of stolen bikes reported this year are likely just a fraction of the bikes actually snicked. And good luck recovering your stolen bike—even if you find it later, locked up outside of a local bar (just ask SN&R co-editor Nick Miller).

But people are fighting back. Check out Stolen Midtown Bicycles on Facebook. Sacramento State University encourages students to take advantage of its registration program—it’s very hard for police to help recover a stolen bike without serial numbers. The Sacramento Police Department was at one time considering a citywide registration program as well.

Another year, another city council

Oh, Sacramento City Council, where to begin?

The council screwed up the food-truck laws more than four years ago, and it still hasn’t fixed them, though it had multiple opportunities this year.

On September 11, the council passed the anti-Occupy ordinance to make it illegal to hold overnight vigils or protests. It was better than the wildly unconstitutional rule first proposed—which would have required expensive permits for any kind of First Amendment activity—but not much. Plus, why lie and say it’s not about Occupy when it’s obvious to everyone that it’s about Occupy? So, yeah, 2012 was not your finest year, city council. See you next year.