This is OUR Community - It's time to step up and claim it!

Thanks to a Federal Grant of $21 million dollars, and Major Funding by Organized Labor, I've been to avoid projected layoffs and raise the snarkiness factor by an additional 22%!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Finally, Some Meat to Chew On!

A few days ago, Dr. Paul wrote a great comment on my post titled "Filing Chapter 13." I have a brief respoonse in the comments section, but promised to discuss his questions in more detail in a new post. Honestly, they were some of the best questions I've heard about incorporation in the past four years. If you haven't read his comment, you really should. Go ahead. I'll wait...

"humm humm humm... if I stay here with you, girl, things just couldn't be the same... cause I'm as free..." Oh, back so soon? Cool, let's move this along.

Here are the questions I want to address this time out, along with my responses.

"What is the vision? What do the candidates see as the most important functions of a new government? Beyond just "we got the money now and can make the decisions," what do people think can actually be accomplished, realistically, with local control?"

It would be presumptious for me to claim to speak on behalf of any candidate. But I do know what the committee has claimed as its goals, and I know what other cities have done. Without repeating what has been stated many times in other places, here is the short list, in the order I hear them discussed the most:

1. Rancho Cordova, Elk Grove and Citrus Heights have all added uniform patrols, and some detectives, to their areas without straining the budget. It's hard to estimate exact numbers, but all three cities have claimed to have reached their targets within the same budgets that were being spent for police protection for their area by the county. This is accomplished through intelligent management, working with...

2. Responsive government. No one can claim to know what the needs of this area will be in ten years. But we can claim that when you shop at the same grocer as your local councilman, and your kid and the mayor's grandkid are on the same little league team, odds are you will get your needs heard more than in the faceless bureaucracy downtown. The plan for Arden Arcade calls for one mayor and six city councilpersons to represent about 100,000 people. That's about 16,600 per council member. Compare that to our current situation, where the entire hundred thousand are just a part of the constituency of one county supervisor. And if annexation occurs, our entire population will get roughly half the ear of one Sacramento city councilperson.

3. Code enforcement. This may not sound like a big deal on the surface, but the impact is huge. The year before Rancho Cordova incorporated, the county towed away a small number of abandoned cars. I'm not positive on the number, but I know it was less than 20. The year after they became a city, they towed away over a thousand. The fact that there were a thousand to be towed clearly indicates the county wasn't making it a priority. And that was in better times, when the county's budget was, maybe not flush, bet certainly not the disaster it is now.

Code enforcement also means we can place limits on businesses like massage parlors, drug paraphenalia and medical marajuana boutiques, thrift stores and check cashing shops. Not that some of these don't have a place, but look at the proliferation they have had over the past decade. Any sociologist will tell you that when these businesses are on the rise any an area, the quality of life is on the decline.

4. Community Services and Identity. Just this morning I heard a report on the radio about a community that had started a new program of volunteers to help seniors. If someone needed a light bulb changed, or a wheelchair ramp installed, or whatever else might come up, the city would send out an experienced volunteer to handle the situation for them. This sort of thing, along with improvements to schools, parks and libraries, can be funded through grants from the fed, the state, or private foundations. Often, but not always, these grants are only available to cities (not the county). But even if they were available, there is no one in the county who can take the time to see the need and find the funding for it.

The impact of this can be enormous. Just ask any high schooler who uses the pool at Mesa Verde. Or a family who spends a Saturday at Rusch Park. Or the teens who longboard at the city skatepark instead of sidewalks and mall parking lots. Or the seniors who use the holiday shuttle busses to do their Christmas shopping. These are the kinds of things that make people want to live in an area. Combine that with better policing and safety, and you begin to see long term effects on property values. And there is so much more than I can talk about here. I invite you to call the city halls of any of our neighbor cities and ask them to tell you their stories. Fascinating stuff.

That's the vision from a "want to" perspective. In a nutshell, here is the "need to" side. Drive down Howe Avenue near Wyda and look at the gang grafitti. Then head over to Watt near Edison and do a quick hooker count. Go ask an Arden Park resident why they have to pay for off-duty deputies to patrol their area. People can only choose to live with their heads in the sand for so long. Eventually you have to come up for air. And when you do, the sight really isn't very pretty.

"How are the candidates planning to deal with the larger question: is this a City that is going to grow? It has to grow to succeed. Are the new leaders planning to adopt a smaller is better approach and keep densities as they are?"

I firmly believe that as a city, we don't need to grow in order to prosper. One argument the opposition makes is that we are landlocked, with no "new dirt" to develop. That is a true statement, but it doesn't have to be a negative. The two fiscal studies that have been done both show that we can br viable. The experience of our neighbors shows we can be better than that. Remember Citrus Heights is landlocked too. And part of the problem Elk Grove has had was in trying to develop the new dirt too quickly, without adequate planning and contingencies for the economic downturn. But even with this, they are managing to keep an even keel and more forward.

"And about taxes: if this City realizes that growth requires investment, are they going to be just another municipality looking to cut services, or are they going to come to the voters with a proposal to raise funds?"

Of course no one can predict the future with 100% accuracy. But we do know that no city (other than Sacramento, which I'm not really sure about) in the county has raised taxes in the past decade. I don't really know about Galt, but I'd be fairly comfortable stating that none of them has raised taxes EVER. Citrus Heights and Rancho Cordova have also cut fees for most municipal services (intelligent management + smaller efficient government at work). But we can't say that will always be the case.

If things do manage to get that bad, I'm sure some tough decisions will need to be made. But this one wil be made by the voters, not the council. You can argue whether Prop 13 is a good or bad thing (and honestly, I see merit on both sides), but it's how we run things these days. If new taxes are needed, I hope the city council will have the courage and wisdom to present their case t the voters, and the voters will respond with the long view for the good of the community.

So yes, there is a risk involved. Stay Sacramento has started using the mantra "Cityhood is just too risky." And on some level there is a smattering of truth there. Any decision on this level brings an inherent element of risk. But the option, to stay where we are, isn't a risk at all. It's a guarantee of failure.

After spending four years becoming a student of municipal government, and paying close attention to what is happening in the community, I'm starting to feel like I'm trying to drink from a fire hose. There is so much more I could say. I could go on for hours, if I haven't already, about why this is the right decision - the only decision that makes any logical sense. And when I think about the day my kids finish school, and decide they want to come back after college to live in Arden Arcade, it's also the only decision that makes any emotional sense.

Paul, thanks again for your questions. Getting down to the meat of the matter is really edifying to me. And consider the invitation open anytime to grab a cup of coffee and talk through any other issues you may have.


Quick reminder, or in case you haven't heard, this Saturday is the kickoff for the incorporation campaign. Head to the old Gottschalk's parking lot at Watt and El Camino at 4pm. Ten bucks gets you in, and firefighters will be fixing up some bbq. There will be kids activities, some classic cars, and a performance by American Idol semi-finalist Stevie Scott. I'm hoping to debut some fancy new incorporation threads as well. Look for me and say hi!

Also, for the more well-heeled among you, there is a gala fundraiser on September 9th, at Mercedes-Benz of Sacramento. That one is way out of my league, so go to the incorporation web site for more details.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Filing Chapter 13

Last Monday I had the privilege of attending an open community meeting sponsored by the Mission Oaks North Neighborhood Association. The meeting format was a debate between Joel Archer, former chair of the incorporation committee, and Mike Duveneck, chair of the Stay Sacramento group. After the meeting ended I was almost bouncing off the walls with excitement. Not because Mr. Archer spoke eloquently and convincingly about the benefits of incorporation (which he did), and not because Dr. Duveneck made absolutely no convincing arguments against incorporation (which was also true). What got my feet to moving and my soul to grooving was the chairs.
The Mission Oaks North group was anticipating a large turnout of 75 or so residents, so they set out a hundred chairs. Fifteen minutes before the meeting the chairs were filled, and people were lined up out the door waiting to sign in. So they started bringing out carts with more chairs stacked on them. Cart after cart came out, until they finally managed to fit about 250 people into the room.
That's 250 people who showed up on a Monday evening for a local political event. 250 people who care enough about the future of their community to take the time to learn the facts to make intelligent decisions. That means the message is getting out! People are learning the truth, and if I can be forgiven the bad paraphrase, the truth of incorporation will set them free.
Of course, there's always a sour grape in the bunch, and this meeting was no exception. This one was especially meaningful to me. While the incorporation committee was proceeding through the LAFCo process, raising funds and rousing supporters, and finding its way through the creation of an environmental impact report and comprehensive fiscal analysis, the LAFCo commissioners decided it would be a good idea to look at every possible option for our area, to see how we could best be served. This included annexation by the City of Sacramento, which as it turned out, would add an extra $40,000 (give or take) to the cost of the report. At that meeting the commissioners also decided that it made sense for the incorporation committee, who never wanted annexation, never asked for annexation, and were all united in vehement opposition to annexation, to pay the extra $40,000 (give or take). Anyone want to take a guess who suggested this? Yeah, I know. Sometimes they are just too easy.
At Monday's meeting Archer reminded the group that although Stay Sacramento claims to be opposed to annexation, they were the ones who insisted that LAFCo require the incorporation proponents to pay for the annexation study. During Duveneck's rebuttal, he said that his group did not ever request that LAFCo require the incorporation committee to pay for this study.
Well, guess what, Dr. D? I was in the room that night. I sat less than 30 feet from you when you personally stood at the podium and demanded that in the interest of serving the community, Arden Arcade cityhood supporters should have to pay all costs associated with a full study of annexation before the issue could go to the ballot. Anyone who wants to invest the time can check old commission agendas to find the date where that decision was made, then check out the video from any county library to see for yourself.
Up to this point, it's been obvious that Stay Sacramento is intellectually bankrupt. But now there is concrete evidence that they, or at least their leaders, are morally bankrupt as well. For as long as they have been saying that cityhood will raise taxes (proven false), lose police protection (proven false), be unable to support itself through its tax base (proven false - notice a trend here?), I've always tried to offer the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they really do believe this, and something just isn't clicking right upstairs. But now the cards are all on the table. We have conclusive proof that Stay Sacramento doesn't feel the need to rely on concepts like the truth to get their way. Their ideas are like a bunch of cockroaches that seem real scary in the dark, but scatter whenever the light shines on them. And while they may seem dangerous, they can't stand up to the fight. If we continue to speak to the truth and keep the light shining, we will send them scurrying off to their little holes.
On a brighter note, I'm really getting tired of dealing with all the negativity Stay Sacramento is tossing around. Next time I'm going to try to get some face time with some of the people who were responsible for making incorporation work in other areas of the county, and share some ideas about how we can realize the vision we have for Arden Arcade. You will want to stick around - I really doubt most of us have allowed ourselves to dream this big!

Friday, August 13, 2010

You Can't Tell the Players Without a Scorecard!

OK, I finally had time to perform my due diligence and get the list of candidates for city council in our new city. As I've mentioned previously, on November we will be voting for incorporation (Measure "D", for those keeping score). On the same ballot we will be voting for seven of the twenty-two people listed below. The top seven will become our new leaders.

Of those seven, the top vote getter will become the new mayor. If that person doesn't want to be mayor, then the group of seven will vote one of their own for the post. Unless it's a full moon. Or there's a playoff game scheduled. I don't know; it gets complicated.

But that doesn't mean your vote doesn't count. You will have the unique opportunity to select the seven people who will be the first city council. The fact that it is huge responsibility for them makes it a huge responsibility for you!

You will probably recognize some of the names below. A handful of them have been working toward cityhood for years. A few have emerged to help out recently. A few are career civil servants, and a few are career politicians (and yes, I believe there is a major difference). A few have been in the media espousing cityhood for some time. A few have enough money to ensure you will see their names quite a bit in the next few months. And as someone who has been on the inside for the past few years, there are a few names that are conspicuous in their absence.

And none of that should make a bit of difference to you. We already know that as a reader of this blog, you are more intelligent, creative, charismatic, and darn it, just plain cuter, than most folks, so of course you are able to cut through all the fluff and find the good stuff. And the good stuff is how they plan to run our new city. Frankly, I've worked tpo hard for this over the past four years to just hand over the keys to the person who steps up to the plate with the biggest bat. I want to see how they swing!

And in that vein, here is your starting lineup!

GREIG L. BEST No email provided

I've included emails where they were provided so that you can contact the candidates to receive their informational literature, subscribe to mailing lists, etc. Keep in mind they need to communicate their platform and beliefs to about a hundred thousand people in the nest 2.5 months. Please don't send them requests for advice on treating Aunt Hazel's bunions?

By the way, your first stop on the tour should be the county's list of candidates. You can learn a lot from this document:

Now go! Play hard, but play nice and play fair!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Myth of the Status Quo

- Warning -
This post includes a good amount of both politics and history. Forgive me for putting you to sleep. But stick with me, and there will be a reward at the end.

Over the past four years I've spoken with a bunch of people about incorporation, and I've heard just about every reason/excuse both for and against incorporation. There are a large number of pro-cityhood folks out there, and a smaller, but still signifigant number of people who don't want to see the communiy improve. So be it.

But what I don't get are the people who just keep saying they want everything to stay like it is. Heck, Stay Sacramento even made that their name, even though this area isn't, and never has been, a part of Sacramento City. And even when we incorporate, we will still be a part of Sacramento County. So the Stay Sacramento folks can rest easy. No matter what happens this fall, we will be just as much Sacramento as we ever were. But I digress.

I've lived in this area for almost 14 years now, and life has been good. Well, mostly. Over the past year or two I've started to notice the decline. Like the morning I dropped my kids at school, then headed down Edison across Watt, where three of our local working girls were soliciting for business. Keep in mind this was directly acros the street from the junior high where my son will be attending next year. I can't help but think there are better ways for him to learn about those sorts of things. That's why God created health class.

The Sheriff's Dept has already issued a statement saying that because of budget cuts and manpower shortages, prostitution will be pushed way down the scale, and it's doubtful they will respond to reports of hookers working our streets. Every update and revision to the budget looks worse, not better. But somehow people keep believing things will get better if we just don't rock the boat. Sorry, I don't see it. And the situation is mirrored when you look at drugs, gang activity, burglaries, etc.

But, let's play pretend for just a moment. Let's say that for now, crime on our streets wasn't rising. Let's say all of our parks were safe places to send our kids, even if they stayed out a little after dark. Let's even say that the county had a change of heart and started considering streets and sidewalks as somewhat important. What happens then?

Hey, if I had a working crystal ball, I'd be at the track instead of sitting at my keyboard writing this. But I can look around, and I see what appears to be taking shape.

Those of you who have studied WWII history, or better yet, lived through it, may remember that Britain and France had a policy of appeasement. They saw Hitler mobilizing Germany's armies on a foreign border, such as Poland, so they scheduled a meeting. At the meeting they would wag their fingers, and Hitler would respond: "Poland? I don't want Poland! I have never wanted Poland! I would never think of attacking Poland! I am happy with the status quo! I will never attack Poland!!!" Then, the French and British delegates would board the train for home, and Hitler would give the order to attack Poland.

This happened over and over again, until Germany controlled a huge chunk of Europe. Lather, rinse and repeat. And the Brits and French kept their heads buried firmly in the sand.

Of course, the big threat mobilizing on our borders is annexation by the City of Sacramento. Until my crystal ball repairman shows up to take a look at the thing ("our representative will be there sometime between 10 am and never."), I can't predict that Sacramento will make an annexation move if we don't incorporate. But I do know that the city included Arden Arcade as a "special interest area" for possible annexation in their 30 year plan: (page 4). Listing a community as an area of interest is the first step toward annexation.

Sacramento's Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) has rules that govern the processes for annexation and incorporation. One of those rules is that while any sort of process is in progress for an area, no other process can be started. So while the incorporation question is on the table, the city can't move forward with annexation. But once the election is over, if we should fail in our bid for cityhood, then the gloves can come off.

At that point the next step will be to declare our area within Sacramento's "Sphere of Influence." Basically that means that they are claiming to have economic, political, and social influence on our area. LAFCo has to approve this, but it's a no-brainer. How many of our residents shop at Arden Fair (in the city)? Attend events at Cal Expo (city)? Spend the occasional Saturday in Old Sac? Of course they have influence over us. That doesn't mean they control us, or that they should, but influence? Undeniable.

Compared to the four years spent on incorporation, the sphere of influence can happen in a heartbeat. They petition LAFCo to include us, there is some time for public comment (not that anyone listens to it), and they make a decision. A month or two, tops. And once the city has gotten the declaration, we have lost any possible chance for incorporation, or any other way to speak for ourselves.

After the sphere is settled, some time passes, mainly to make it look like Sacramento isn't in a hurry to get our tax revenue. Then they send another petition to LAFCo, this time to annex us as a part of their city.

Many people I've spoken with see this as a simple issue. If the city petitions for annexation, we vote that down, just like incorporation. The problem is, we don't get to vote on annexation. We get sixty days to get a certain number of signatures on petitions. I'm not sure of the number, but it's huge. Something like a fourth of registered voters - 15,000 or so. Keep in mind it took the better part of a year for an organized group to gather less signatures than that to start incorporation, even using paid signature gatherers. There won't be an organized group to fight annexation, and the time span is shortened to a fraction of what we had. Think we can pull that off? Sorry, but I have my doubts.

As I said earlier, I have spoken with a lot of people about incorporation in the past four years. The nearly universal truth is that no one in Arden Arcade wants annexation. Even Stay Sacramento has stated publicly on several occasions that they do not want to see annexation. But like Chamberlain in WWII, they either can't or won't see the mobilization taking place around them. And not wanting to be annexed won't mean a thing when it happens.

A successful incorporation effecively takes annexation off the table forever. That is in addition to the benefits we've discussed previously (and more we will be adding soon). That alone should be enough reason to emphatically support cityhood.


Now, for the promised reward. My lovely wife has created a new group page on Facebook: "You're an Arden Arcadian". The idea is to build community by sharing common (and probably a few uncommon) memories and feelings about life in this area. I liked the idea so much that I decided to adopt the phrase "I Am an Arden Arcadian" for this blog and some other actvities I had in mind.

I'm in the process of designing some pro-cityhood t-shirts. This will be a limited run of maybe 50 shirts or so, although I reserve the right to expand that if someone wants to put them up for sale to raise money for incorporation. If you want to get one of these limited edition masterpieces (yes, I am that good - I will post the artwork when it's finished), find my wife's Facebook group, join it, and then share a special memory, or something that makes you feel good about being an Arden Arcadian. My totally unbiased wife will pick the 5 best postings, and those people will get one of the shirts. I'm going to run the promotion through the end of September, to allow plenty of time to post, and still have time to show off the shirt (and your passion for cityhood) prior to the election.

So go, get started!

Friday, August 6, 2010

And away we go...

see the update at the bottom of this post.

Today, at the end of the business day, we will have a final list of the candidates who are running for city council. There was a bit of confusion previously about whether the mayoral race would be separate from the city council, but the word as of now is that every candidate will register for the council election, and the one who receives the most votes will be mayor. If that person turns down the mayor's office, then the council will vote for one of their own to assume the office. And yes, I made that sound much more complicated than it really is.

Soon you will start seeing campaign materials for the candidates. Some will be good; some may not. Your job as a responsible Arden Arcade resident is to go deeper and get to know the candidates. Read the ads, go to their web sites, find out what they stand for. Find out how long they have been cityhood supporters. Get to a meeting where they will be speaking, and find out why they want to be on the council.

I will be doing my best to get out information on all the candidates, to help you make informed choices. I won't endorse anyone here, but I will try to share the information I get. To that end, I will be sending a questionaire to all the candidates (assuming I can get an email address). In a week or two I will collect the ones I get returned, and put the data into some charts and such that I can post on this blog. We'll see how it turns out.

You can be a part of the process. If there's a question you think needs to be asked, that has a general interest for the community, send it to me and I'll try to add it to the questionaire. But keep in mind I want to get these into the candidate's hands as quickly as possible, so send them as soon as you can. And please don't ask the candidates if they will come to your street and make your neighbor trim back her azaleas.

*** UPDATE ***

After spending a couple hours in Dante's 5th circle of Hell - also known as the county election office - I discovered the candidate list is complete, but not really final just yet. I got a list of the candidates who had filed and turned in their paperwork by close of business today, but the people behind the desk explained that the final turn-ins still needed to have their petition signatures verified, and all the other paperwork reviewed for errors or omissions. So even though I have a list, I won't post it here until it's blessed by the county. Look for that about Tuesday, I'd guess.