Friday, September 24, 2010

Arden-Arcade cityhood forum: I took notes

Last night, I attended a forum that was held by an involved citizen of the Arden-Arcade area of Sacramento, who opened up his home to friends and neighbors for a discussion of the impending vote on cityhood for this often overlooked unincorporated area of Sacramento County, which butts right up against the city of Sacramento. In attendance were about 30 concerned citizens, and 7 of 22 candidates for city council, who all had an opportunity to speak to the audience and then together do a Q&A at the end.

The issue of cityhood for Arden-Arcade is beginning to heat up now that the pro-cityhood side has released their lawn signs, which are beginning to pop up in front yards across the area (including mine). The anti-cityhood forces had previously gotten their signs out there a few weeks earlier.

So what is all this about? Here is some of what the city council candidates had to say:

After introductions, the first candidate to speak was Gerald Kloss. He has previously run for a California State Senate seat as a Libertarian and is a computer security specialist. He told us that his main concerns about the state of Arden-Arcade right now are police protection and code enforcement. After "digesting" the LAFCO report - the commissioned study that weighs the viability of becoming an incorporated city - Mr. Kloss said he, "can't understand why anyone would be against this (cityhood)." He said that if Arden-Arcade does not vote to become a city, within 2 years, the city of Sacramento will be annexing it. Since Arden-Arcade is revenue-positive where paying taxes is concerned, Sacramento wants that money, because, "They have a $43 million hole to fill."

Next up was Bob Stevens. Mr. Stevens retired as a Lieutenant after 31 years with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department. Regarding the state of Arden-Arcade, he said, "I have never seen it this bad as far as law enforcement is concerned." In his argument for cityhood, Mr. Stevens pointed out that, "Counties are not designed to run cities," which, in effect, Arden-Arcade has become. He pointed out that since Rancho Cordova became a city a few years ago, they now have more code enforcement officers than the entire county of Sacramento.

As someone who has had to deal with the incessant barking of more than one neighbor's dog, and an atrociously ugly RV illegally parked in the driveway of another neighbor, I think more code enforcement would be a very good thing.

Patricia "Pat" Cole was the next candidate to speak. She told the audience that she attended many of the early cityhood meetings, and the more she attended, the more she became convinced that cityhood was the way to go. She described the process of applying for cityhood, as barriers were put up at every turn - barriers that other applicants for cityhood, such as Citrus Heights, never had to face. Ms. Cole said that under even worst-case scenarios, cityhood for Arden-Arcade is fiscally viable, because we have the revenue. She said the leaders of Citrus Heights - which has been a cityhood success story - say that Arden-Arcade is in better shape than they were when Citrus Heights was incorporated. Ms. Cole said that Arden-Arcade would look to Citrus Heights for help in making the transition to cityhood, and that the city council of Citrus Heights would be happy to assist. As just one example as to how incorporation can make a difference, Ms. Cole said that when Citrus Heights was still unincorporated, it cost $300 for Sacramento County to change one light bulb in a streetlight. Once Citrus Heights became a city, they were free to contract this service to another company who will do the same service for $50 a bulb.

The next candidate was Jay Boatwright, who has spent decades in the commercial construction industry. Mr. Boatwright emphasized the advantages of local control. He pointed out that right now, Arden-Arcade is represented by County Supervisor Susan Peters. Each Supervisor of Sacramento County represents approximately 250,000 people. Were Arden-Arcade to become a city, it would then have 7 council members, who, on average, would represent about 15,000 people. He also emphasized the fact that Sacramento County is serious financial straits, but they won't cut expenditures. Instead, the county looks to revenue-positive areas like Arden-Arcade to make up the shortfall.

Matt Powers spoke next. He is a retired Deputy Chief of the Sacramento Police Department. He knows how Sacramento County runs things, and he gave a telling example. A few years back, both Sac County and Santa Clara County received a $13 million dollar federal grant. Santa Clara County hired 2 new employees. Sacramento County hired 25. The federal money is gone, but Sacramento County is still paying those 25 employees. Mr. Powers is a big believer in proactive law enforcement; not just reactive. He would favor an increase in code enforcement, building inspection, and school security in order to take care of problems before they get out of control. He also had some scary statistics. Within the 3 Zip Codes that make up Arden-Arcade, there are 211 severe Megan's Law sex offenders; with the number being probably more like 1,000. There are also 354 felony parolees living in Arden-Arcade. Mr. Powers also brought up the hugely increasing problem of prostitution along Watt Avenue. He said fathers are being propositioned while they are dropping off their kids at Arcade Middle School. Criminals like these know that Arden-Arcade is a good place to be because of the lack of law enforcement, and the fact that Arden-Arcade is the red headed step child (my term) of the county.

The next candidate, Liz Rice, is a stay-at-home mom who is appalled (and rightly so) at the number of "massage" parlors that are beginning to pop up around Arden-Arcade. I should know about this; one of these parlors just opened up about a two-minute drive from my house. Ms. Rice said she, "is passionate to see change... and cityhood."

The final candidate to speak was Joel Archer, who apparently has been the point man on this entire effort to gain cityhood for Arden-Arcade. Mr. Archer arrived late for the forum, still in a suit and tie, as he had just finished at a larger forum of over 100 people where he had been debating those who are against cityhood. Mr. Archer said that, "this is the greatest opportunity the community has ever seen," and that if Measure D doesn't pass, "we will continue to sink." Mr. Archer believes, "less government is better," and that cityhood for Arden-Arcade is, "an example of less government." He said we can turn from a fat government downtown to a lean one right here. As was a common theme among the candidates, Mr. Archer brought up the issue of law enforcement; both of the proactive and reactive variety. It comes down to the fact that the county just doesn't have the resources to properly serve the Arden-Arcade area, and this is beginning to show. Meanwhile, Mr. Archer points out, Citrus Heights has three times the police presence that Arden-Arcade does.

Upon the conclusion of Mr. Archer's remarks, a Q&A period was opened up to all the candidates. The first question from the audience asked about the opposition: what are their arguments against cityhood? The candidates gave their two cents and piggybacked their comments onto that of the others, and what it comes down to is the name and the fear of higher taxes. Unbelievably, there are apparently swaths of people out there who oppose cityhood because they think we will be stuck with the name, "Arden-Arcade." I don't like the name either, but it will not remain. Once cityhood is gained, one of the first orders of business would be to change the name. In fact, 15 of the 22 city council candidates have signed a pledge saying that they would vote to change the name. Most likely, a contest would be held, the list would be winnowed down, and the people of the new city would vote.

As for taxes, the anti-cityhood forces have snookered people into accepting "Stay Sacramento" signs for their lawns by saying that cityhood would mean an increase in taxes. Never mind that the LAFCO report has already stated that raising taxes would not be necessary. As far as revenues go, the worst case scenarios have Arden-Arcade still taking in more money than it receives now from Sacramento County. The best case scenario has Arden-Arcade accruing a $37 million surplus from current revenue streams, all without having to raise taxes. Not to mention, even if the city council candidates wanted to raise taxes - which they don't - they fully realize it would be political suicide and a downright stupid thing to do to the citizens of a brand new city.

Not to mention, if cityhood doesn't pass, Arden-Arcade will almost certainly be annexed and become part of the city of Sacramento. If the "Stay Sacramento" folks are worried about tax increases, they should know that the city recently tripled their utility fees. Is that not a tax increase?

I took enough notes that this post could be almost twice its current length; but I think you get the idea. I found last night's forum to be highly educational, and the questions posed to the candidates to be probing and the answers rather candid. And even though they are competing for a limited number of city council seats, I was impressed by the camaraderie and sense of purpose that was shared by the candidates.

If you live in the Arden-Arcade area of Sacramento County, vote YES on Measure D.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was, and never will be." -Thomas Jefferson


Darren said...

The *only* signs I've seen on the topic have been against cityhood.

Lance Christensen said...

Great post! It was a compelling night that turned out better than I hoped it would thanks to all those who showed up to my house to hear the discussion. I would invite Darren to get out and drive around the whole community. I have spoken for cityhood several times and the only seeming opposition comes from those people who are comfortable, don't want change, or don't realize that Sacramento City is stalking us for annexation (just read their master plan). We have one bite at this apple, and if the vote for incorporation is not successful, count on a quick march to annexation where we will "Stay Sacramento" in all the bad ways.

paul g. mattiuzzi, ph.d. said...

Excellent notes!!

Thank you.


Michael said...

Stay Sacramento (AKA Stay Screwed Up) claims it is a grass roots movement but it turns out they are funded by downtown Sacramento special interests and the big plumbers/pipefitters union. The Bee editorial revealed the game plan for annexation last Monday. Metro Chamber (the downtown groupies) has come out against cityhood for Arden Arcade. It's very clear the Downtown Fat Cats want us to shut up and let them continue to run everything. Word needs to get out that Stay Screwed Up is a false front for the City of Sacramento and its old boy network.

W.R. Chandler said...

Thank you for the info, Michael. I think "Stay Screwed Up" is a great moniker to hang on these guys.

Bill said...

The California Constitution (remember Proposition 13) prohibits any City Council from raising taxes. Taxes can only be raised by a vote of the people of the City of Arden Arcade. Proposition 218, in the California Constitution, provides very strict rules which limit fees to recovery of costs of providing a service. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the authors of Propositions 13 and 218, has provided a letter attesting to the fact taxes cannot be increased without a vote of the people.

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