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Davis Tease Tweets on Elk Grove Mall - Too Cute by Half?

Written By EGN on Thursday, October 8, 2015 | 20:30

October 8, 2015 |

Today's tweets by Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis reminds us of a scene from an episode of The Bob Newhart Show - the one in 80's where Newhart played the straight Vermont innkeeper to a bunch of goofballs, not the 70's version where he played the straight man physiologist surrounded by a cast of funny, if not neurotic characters.
Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis -
Too cute by half?

In this episode the kindhearted, but somewhat clueless innkeeper handyman George Utley tells Newhart he was tired from staying up late after seeing repeated news teases exclaiming "President dead - news at 11!"

Staying up to watch the important news, Utley explains  the news finally came at the end of the 11 o'clock news only to learn that is was the 150th anniversary of the death of some long forgotten American President.

We were reminded of this type of news-tease stunt today after seeing a couple of tweets by Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis, a story in the Sacramento Business Journal, and the announcement that the Elk Grove Promenade, now called the Outlet Collection at Elk Grove had landed its first signed lease.

Earlier this week Davis posted, among many, the following messages below on his Twitter feed:

For those unfamiliar with Twitter, Davis appears to be calling out Outlet Collection owner, the Howard Hughes Company - @HowardHughes, as well as HHC Chief Executive Officer David Weinreb - #davidweinreb, and billionaire investor, Bill Ackman - #billackman.

While somewhat cryptic, the Mayor's tweets were not done in a vacuum as we learned this afternoon. In a story broken by the Sacramento Business Journal and reported by Brian van der Meer, "A multi-screen movie theater appears [our emphasis] to the first tenant for the outlet mall planned in Elk Grove."[sic]

van der Meer goes on to write "Mayor Gary Davis said Regal Cinemas submitted plans this week for a theater within the Outlet Collection at Elk Grove under the Edwards designation."

First off - a tip of the hat to van der Meer for getting the scoop.

Beyond that, the city of Elk Grove's handling of what is arguably a huge story is curious. First, why did the city and its public information office not issue a press release regarding this important information? 

Even if van der Meer did scoop it, why not a follow-up press release? This is certainly a significant enough event for city staff to stay a little past quitting time to get the good news out to the entire community. 

Readers may have also have noticed the italicization of the word appears throughout this story. Appears in this context is passive - perhaps there is more to the Regal lease than meets the eye.

Certainly, most every Elk Grove resident looks forward to the day the unfinished mess of buildings greeting out-of-town visitors on our southern border is cleaned up and a functioning member of the city's economy. Still, van der Meer's use of appears, seems, well, squishy.    

And finally there are the Mayor's tweets. 

As we can suffice from the SBJ story, the city appears to have learned early this week that the Regal application had been submitted, and the Mayor most likely knew this too. 

Was Mayor Davis posting these tweets to make it appear that he alone lit the fire under the butts HHC, Bill Ackman and David Weinreb to get the mothballed shopping center moving so he could take all the glory for what appears to be a team effort of the entire city council and city staff?

Or was Davis simply playing a news tease hoping to build up interest in the same way the President Dead! news tease ensnared Utley?

We will never know for sure what the Mayor's exact intentions were. Nonetheless, his tweets also remind us of a saying once used by nationally syndicated political columnist Mark Shields who aptly described a politician who was trying to pull a fast one as being too cute by half.

That certainly was the case with Mayor Davis this week.   

20:30 | 0 comments | Read More

Elk Grove Man Arrested For Animal Neglect, Outstanding Warrants

October 8, 2015 |

An Elk Grove man was arrested late last night after he was allegedly found hitting and kicking a dog.

According to Elk Grove Police, officers responded to the 8900 block of Laguna Place Way after receiving information that a dog was being hit. Upon contacting 55-year old Alonzo Taylor, officers found a dog with bloody paws.

A records check revealed that Taylor also had an outstanding arrest warrant. Taylor was booked into the county jail where he remains in custody ineligible for bail for violating parole, illegal camping, animal neglect and failure to register new address within five day. 

The dog was transported to a local veterinarian for treatment. 


09:30 | 0 comments | Read More

Dismissed by EGPAL, Coach Learns Ex EGPD Officer Conducted Illegal Background Check

Written By EGN on Wednesday, October 7, 2015 | 14:00

October 7, 2015 |

A long time volunteer youth football coach who was abruptly dismissed last year from his position learned recently that he was illegally investigated by a former officer of the Elk Grove Police Department.

Charles Washington, a former volunteer football coach with the Elk Grove Police Activities League's (EGPAL) Dukes football team, learned that an illegal background check had been conducted on him. The findings were recently mailed to Washington after he had requested an internal affairs investigation following his August 14, 2014, dismissal from the EGPAL.

Washington's saga started in July, 2014, when he authored an email to Manuel Saenz, who at the time was the president of EGPAL's football program and an officer with the Elk Grove Police Department. The email was sent in response to concerns by Washington and several other coaches. 

The July 15 email, which Washington wrote and characterized as diplomatic, thanked Saenz for starting the EGPAL Dukes football organization. The email also requested more involvement from Saenz in day-to-day operations, and that the Dukes' board be included in the decision making that the email claimed were being made solely by Saenz.     

Washington said up to this point he had good relations with Saenz, and that the other coaches were reticent to address Saenz about their concerns.   

"It appeared no one wanted to address him," Washington said. "They knew I could talk to him."

In a coaches clinic about one week after the email was sent, Washington said that he was confronted by Saenz. Speaking outside the clinic, Saenz told Washington he wanted to speak to him "'about that bullshit email.'"

Washington said he did not want to discuss it there and after Saenz persisted, the two had a brief argument. After returning to the clinic, Washington said Saenz confronted him in the meeting, reengaged the argument and both ultimately left the meeting.

According to Washington, shortly thereafter Saenz was removed as president of the football operations, but remained a board member of the EGPAL. In the days following, Washington was approached at a practice by the new football president, Trent Smith. 

"He questioned me 'if I had anything in my background,'" Washington said. "I was like 'I got my clearance from the DOJ [Department of Justice]. I got my letter and everything.'"

As is the law, all EGPAL volunteers are required to have an annual criminal background check completed, and for Washington his record was clear. Washington acknowledged he had an arrest years earlier, but the charges were dropped. Arrests do not preclude an individual from coaching, and they do not show up on Department of Justice background checks.

On August 14, Smith personally delivered a letter to Washington informing him that at the direction of "Michelle Orrock, Executive Director of the Elk Grove Police Activities League, the Elk Grove PAL executive board voted to remove you as a volunteer" from all EGPAL programs. The letter also stated that the "information including meeting notes regarding this decision are confidential..."

At the time of the dismissal the executive board included Orrock, a Director with the Cosumnes Community Services District, Lt. Paul Solomon of the EGPD, Greg Bordelon, and Jerry Braxmeyer. 2014 IRS filings show Orrock and Kendra Lewis as the executive directors, Bordelon as president, Solomon as vice president, and Braxmeyer as secretary. 

According to Washington, the only person with access to the volunteers' background check was Lewis. As the former Executive Director of the EGPAL at the time of Washington's dismissal, Lewis was still associated with the group in fundraising activities and continued to be sole custodian of all the background check records.

Lewis verified with EGN her role as the records custodian and that Washington's record from the FBI was clear, she was not on the executive board at the time of their decision to dismiss Washington, and that she did not share the records with anyone. Day earlier on August 6, Washington received a letter from the EGPAL saying that he had been cleared on the background check.

As a result of the action taken against him, Washington emailed EGPD Police Chief Robert Lehner saying that the EGPAL "voted to remove me as a volunteer from all programs based on criminal background information provided to the board by Officer Manuel Saenz." Washington further stated he thought the move was in retaliation by Saenz for the July 15 email and requested an internal investigation claiming a "gross violation of my civil rights, and rights to privacy..."

The September 23, 2015 letter Washington received from the EGPD said that all three charges in his complaint were sustained. The letter did not mention Saenz or any other police officer or city employee who might have performed the act.

The three charges were:
  • Charge 1 - Use of information for personal gain
  • Charge 2 - Wrongful exercise of authority
  • Charge 3 - Unauthorized access to department computers
The letter defines sustained as "the investigation discloses sufficient evidence to sustain the act occurred and that it constituted misconduct."

The letter does not discuss the employment status of any employee saying "specific information regarding our investigation as it relates to a personnel matter is confidential as required by law (Penal Code Section 832.7). As such, we are not able to divulge any further information regarding your complaint."

Contacted by phone, Saenz declined to comment and referred any inquiry to the EGPD.

The EGPD verified that Saenz' employment with the city separated on August 15, 2015. Citing personnel laws, they could not discuss under what circumstances Saenz' employment concluded.

Law enforcement officials illegally accessing databases can be subjected to criminal charges. Last summer two male Fairfield Calif. police officers were placed under criminal investigation after they allegedly accessed the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System database to investigate the background of women on internet dating sites. 

As for civil remedies, Washington's attorney Paul Pereira of the Sacramento law firm of Poole & Pereira said Saenz' actions might be considered slander and could have violated Washington's civil rights depending how, and to whom, the information was disclosed.

"At this point in time we don't know what information exactly he gave the board to trigger the release of Mr. Washington," Pereira said. "Until we have that information, I don't want to speculate."

Pereira added that the September 23 letter from the EGPD "confirms what Charles' position has been for the past year on this subject."

Elk Grove Police Chief Robert Lehner noted that all complaints the department receives are vetted and depending on the seriousness, an internal investigation can be conducted. All complaints are also reviewed by the chain of command, including the chief and a response provided to the complainant.    

"In potentially more serious cases or ones where serious misconduct is alleged, complaints are investigated by our Internal Affairs Unit," Lehner said. "In most cases, a sustained complaint will result in some form of corrective action which can range from additional training to termination in the most serious cases."

Administratively if Washington pursues a civil remedy, the first step that is required is to file a governmental claim against the city of Elk Grove and the EGPD. The city and the EGPD can accept the claim or deny it, and if the claim is denied, only then can the complainant file a civil action against the governmental entity under California law.

As a result of the removal as an EGPAL coach, Washington says his reputation has been hurt and that he was removed from a vocation he truly enjoys, coaching football. Washington said he also believes his civil rights were violated.

"I was humiliated, embarrassed and very upset," he said. "My reputation as a coach was severely damaged."

Copyright © 2015 by Elk Grove News. All rights reserved

Volunteers, participants, and board members of the 
EGPAL's Dukes football team accepted the 
2012 Mayor's Volunteer Award for Community Groups.  

14:00 | 18 comments | Read More

Elk Grove Police Arrest Probationers Found By Mailbox With Stolen Mail, Burglary Tools

Written By EGN on Monday, October 5, 2015 | 12:15

October 5, 2015 |

Elk Grove Police arrested two probationers after they were found in possession of stolen mail late last night.

According to police reports, 26-year old Roneel Deo of Sacramento was operating his vehicle in front of a cluster mailbox on the 9000 block of Heather Ridge Court and was stopped for a vehicle code violation. Police found that Deo, and a passenger, 22-year old Vishal Navinesh Nath, were both on probation. 

A probation search of the vehicle led to the discovery of several pieces of mail that were believed to be stolen, controlled substances, and burglary tools. Both men were arrested and booked into the county jail.

Nath is being held on multiple felony charges with a $115,000 bail and Deo is being held on $355,000 bail for multiple felony charges. Both suspects are scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow afternoon.

Vishal Navinesh Nath
Roneel Deo

12:15 | 1 comments | Read More

Elk Grove Police Earns High Marks Among Regional Agencies in Use of Force Data Collection

Written By EGN on Sunday, October 4, 2015 | 09:30

October 4, 2015 |

Last week Capitol Public Radio released a study of the use of force by 22 regional law enforcement agencies, including the Elk Grove Police Department.

The study, which was conducted via public information requests and looked at statistics over a three year period gave EGPD high marks for what it called "the most robust collection of data for use of force among the 22 departments Capital Public Radio contacted."

On the other end of the spectrum were Stanislaus County Sheriff's, Placer County Sheriff's, and Yuba City Police did not tabulate use of force incidents. Citrus Heights Police only tabulated use of force if it involved a dog bite from a K-9 unit while Manteca Police did not categorize use of force by type.

As far as use of force by EGPD, the department recorded 60, 66 and 73 total use of force of incidents in 2012, 2013, and 2014 respectively. Over the same three year period there was a slight increase in the total number of annual arrests going from 2,684 to 2,732.

09:30 | 0 comments | Read More

Common Sense, Reality Prevail Over Pandering - Davis Exposed In Elk Grove Soccer Fields Hearing - Video

Written By EGN on Friday, October 2, 2015 | 06:40

October 2, 2015 |

See highlights of soccer facility hearing during the Sept. 23 Elk Grove City Council meeting in video posted below

During last week's Elk Grove City Council meeting, Mayor Gary Davis introduced one of his pet projects - the large scale soccer facility with glee. 

"I don't know if anybody is excited about that," Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis said 

The audience, which was packed with dozens of local soccer enthusiast and some well-spoken critics, let out a mild cheer with a few whistles. As the matter unfolded, Davis' cheerleading for an expensive soccer facility gradually evolved into pleas that even his closest ally on the city council would not support him on.

One speaker in particular highlighted perhaps the core reason Davis is so laser focused on building soccer facilities along with a senior center, Veterans hall, and aquatic center. That speaker was Andrew Donnery, president of the Elk Grove Youth Soccer League

In his comments, Donnery noted that EGYSL has 6,500 registrants, which equates into 13,000 parents, 26,000 grandparents for a total of about 40,000 voters. While Donnery's math is fuzzy - not all kids have both parents living in Elk Grove much less all their grandparents, his point was clear - approve this or face the wrath of the voters.

Donnery's comments point out what many local political observers have long said - Davis has been been pandering to the soccer kids and their parents, senior citizens and veterans by promising the goodies they want. Anything for a vote, anything for love.  

Fortunately, Vice Mayor Pat Hume called out Donnery characterizing his comments as a veiled threat and said he would rather be voted out for being fiscally responsible than kowtowing to their demands to retain his office.

Beyond the unabashed pandering and electoral threats, the discussion also pointed out the flaw in Davis' grand plans - how will they be paid for?

After his four colleagues said they would not build any facility that would operate at a loss, Davis offered an alternative. Why not explore a sales tax increase to pay for all the over-budget proposal?

For Davis, the financial realities and the actions taken by his fellow council members are a political setback. He committed a cardinal sin in any sales job - he has over-promised and under-delivered on this, the aquatics center, the veterans hall, job development, the animal shelter and the list keeps growing. 

We will have to wait to see if any candidate takes Davis' unfulfilled promises and attempt to bludgeon him with these mutliple failures in next year's mayoral election. More importantly, will voters even care? Perhaps this is what Davis is hoping for.

In the mean time, as one EGN reader has pointed out, Lincoln-Roseville-Rocklin is "kicking our ass...again" with their athletic complex while Elk Grove's is stuck in purgatory. 

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Chew's Review Doubleheader Edition - Sicario and The Martian

Written By EGN on Thursday, October 1, 2015 | 22:30

By Gary Chew | October 1, 2015 |

Both open tomorrow

Baseball season is just ending, but I've got a doubleheader on my hands here. Movie number one ...

What it is about films set on either side of our southern border that often makes them worth your time? How about drugs, the clash of cultures and extreme poverty … coupled with an almost total absence of humanity? John Sayles 'Lone Star was one of those; more recently: Ridley Scott's The Counselor and the Coen Brothers extraordinary No Country For Old Men. (The poetic nihilism of Cormac McCarthy may have had something to do with the latter two.)

French Canandian director Denis Villeneuve's Sicario packs as much punch. It's the same familiar genre, but Sicario --- just opening --- adds curious new elements to movies that focus on the perpetual war on drugs.

First, it's a war movie. I kept comparing Sicario's depicted police procedural in Juarez with present day Baghdad and Damascus. Automatic weapons fire sounds the same in Mexico as it does in Iraq and Syria.  But there are moments when I'd swear Taylor Sheridan's script for Sicario makes it a horror picture, especially the sequence showing black SUVs “parading” down a Juarez avenue lined with naked dead bodies ... hanging … toes up. Happily, the camera shot of the victims is taken from a lengthy distance.

Later, Sicario looks like animated CGI as U-S agents slog though an El Chapo-like tunnel that burrows beneath the border of the United States of America and the sovereign nation of Mexico. Not to worry, it's just the night vision glasses viewpoint experienced by our people fanning “flames” that drug lords will clamor to extinguish --- but it looks like a spooky video game one might enjoy with a pal.

Emily Blunt plays Kate, a rather butch FBI agent who's chosen to take part in a bigger mission than the grisly gig she's onto as the the film opens wherein members of a Mexican cartel have lined the inner walls of their shoddy hideout house with plastic-wrapped rotting corpses. All of the bodies are cartel kidnapping victims and assorted enemies. It will get your attention. I suggest not eating any of your popcorn before this scene plays out.

Kate moves on to join with two men for the real action ahead. She's not sure whom the pair work for, but suspects them as CIA or DEA. The moviegoer is also suspicious since these two guys are played by Josh Brolin and Benico Del Toro … Matt and Alejandro. They couldn't be less similar. Matt is on the causal side and works for laughs, while Alejandro is filled with dark issues that Kate can't quite decipher. To travel to their first destination, Kate and the men board a private passenger jet. The name Trump isn't painted on the fuselage. What's up?

Sicario reveals what's up at its own pace, although it is quick and always taut. Brolin's character gives hints hidden in his dialogue as he dresses down Blunt's character when she freaks out about legalities of their actions at Juarez. She has yet to learn there are more things a real pro in her line of work must do.

Villaneuve has embellished his picture with startling vistas and authentic lightening strikes streaking from the faces of giant thunderheads as I recall in No Country For Old Men. Slow-motion aerial shots with ominous soundtrack music allow for transitions that are similar to those over used in the second season of HBO's True Detective. These aren't L A flyovers … the camera gazes, instead, straight down on the stark beauty of the barren southern borders of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

“Sicario” is Spanish for hit man. I'll bet some dinero it's one we'll be reckoning with for a while. Now, comments on a film just as new as Sicario but much more distant from home plate, if you will. Here's movie number two ...

NASA informed us Monday that there's salt water on Mars. Then on Friday, we have Matt Damon there too. In fact, Damon may have the most miles traveling in space as a movie star since he was, just a year ago, also on another planet other than Earth along with Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar.

Damon, as Mark, is now left alone due to the rest of the on board NASA crew believing he's been killed in a violent dust storm on the surface of Mars from which they blast off to safety for the mother ship called Hermes. Melissa (Jessica Chastain), as commander of the NASA visit to Mars, gives the order to leave Mark behind.

But Mark is alive. He must use his intelligence and talents to stay that way on the barren orb. That's most of what The Martian is. Any insurmountable problem he's confronted with is not insurmountable.Every issue solved for Mark comes around in what you could call a deus ex machina mode. All are amazing. Most of the solutions are Mark's, like growing his own food. After he figures out how to talk with his NASA colleagues back on Earth, some of the deus ex machina machinations are theirs.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a big Damon fan. I'm a big Chastain fan, too. But The Martian is a two hour, entertainment commercial for NASA. I further hasten to add: I'm a fan of NASA. I believe exploring space is something our nation should fund. On the other hand, had Drew Goddard's script been more subtle, I would have been more comfortable with the stranding of an American on the red planet.

Visually, Ridley Scott's film is striking. All the recent photos taken on Mars by NASA are what you see as Mark won't give up on saving his own butt 50 million miles from home. Inside the giant Hermes ship, all looks authentic, and space flight scenes are awesomely believable. Stanley Kubrick got all of that nailed nearly a half century ago with his odyssey in space.

What gave me discomfort was the script's need to end so many scenes with a goofy punch line. Yes, folks in the military and the space program do such on occasion, but most of those in The Martian are silly and hang heavy. There's a running joke about Melissa's penchant for disco music; too many times going to that one.

Jeff Daniels plays the NASA head decision maker. He does Teddy in The Martian precisely the same as he does Will in HBO's The Newsroom. In fact, I kept thinking about The Newsroom as I watched Scott's film. I couldn't put it out of my mind that The Martian might be The Newsroom, only in space.

Former SNL cast member Kristin Wiig, along with Kate Mara and Chiwetel Ejiofor are not given any depth of character in the roles they play to make it possible say much about their performances. All are fine actors who, like Damon, Chastain and Daniels, have shown their talent in much better movies.

That said, lets hope anti-space program politicians don't try to cut the NASA budget further even if The Martian doesn't hit it out of the park.
 Copyright © 2015 by Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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Suspect Apprehended After Crime Spree That Included Elk Grove Home Invasion, Assault, Shootings

Kenny Nammavongsa.
October 1, 2015 |

A Sacramento man is in custody at the county jail and two others are sought in connection with shootings and home invasion robberies in Elk Grove and Sacramento.

According to Elk Grove Police, three unknown male suspects forced entry into an Elk Grove residence on the 8800 block of Westside Way yesterday morning and entered the bedroom of the 18-year old victim. One of the suspects struck the victim in the face with a handgun, demanded property and fired a handgun

After taking the victim's property, the suspects fled on foot and were seen driving away in a gray Honda. Responding officers were unable to locate the vehicle or suspects.

Based on information obtained from Sacramento Police, EGPD officers were notified that 18-year old Kenny Nammavongsa had been arrested for two attempted burglaries and a shooting that took place in Sacramento earlier in the day. 

Through investigative efforts, Nammavongsa was identified as being involved in the Elk Grove residential robbery. Officers also recovered stolen property taken from the Elk Grove victim in the Nammavongsa's vehicle. 

Nammavongsa is being held on $250,000 bail for felony assault, discharge of a firearm and robbery and will be arraigned tomorrow afternoon. The other suspects remain at large.  

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Time to Bring California’s Open Meeting Law into the 21st Century

By Peter Scheer, First Amendment Coalition | October 1, 2015 |

California’s open meeting law, the Brown Act, was enacted four decades before the arrival of the internet, a quarter century before the first commercial fax machines, and even a few years before “xerox” copying went mainstream. In all the years since, the Brown Act has been amended in ways big and small, but it has never been revised to tap the power of digital technology.
Legislative bodies subject to the Brown Act operate in the dark ages, technologically speaking. Not only does the Brown Act deprive city councils, boards of supervisors and school boards of huge efficiencies available to every 14-year-old with a cell phone, but it also limits the “participatory” part of the “participatory democracy” that the Brown Act was meant to foster.
Take, email, for example. Corporations in today’s economy couldn’t function without  email (or text messaging or online collaboration tools like Google Docs). But city council members are forbidden to discuss government business using group email; indeed, doing so is a crime (albeit one that is almost never prosecuted).
Group email is forbidden because communications among a majority of council members constitute an illegal “meeting” under the Brown Act. Such meetings are barred because they are not public; they deny voters the opportunity to observe the council’s deliberations; and  they keep voters from participating in the political process, however marginally, by offering their comments at a public hearing.
But wait a minute. Couldn’t the same technology be used in a way that makes legislative deliberations even more public,  while also creating more, and more meaningful, opportunities for citizens to register their views with their city council members?
Suppose the Brown Act were amended to permit written digital communications among council members, provided those communications take place in a publicly available, online forum (think of a Facebook page that is open to the public). In that scenario, all communications would occur publicly because they could be seen by anyone. Moreover, the communications would be captured and preserved as verbatim transcripts, available for viewing by the press and public immediately and permanently.
As for public participation, digital communications in a public forum would allow citizens to comment at length, unconstrained by arbitrary time limits, and to submit documentary evidence, pictures, spreadsheets, maps . . . whatever. Citizens who, due to work schedules and other commitments, can’t attend regular council meetings, could still post public comments online.
And while council members tend to ignore public comments at regular open meetings, and rarely deign to dignify them with a response, comments or criticisms on a city council’s uncensored online public forum could not be so easily ignored. Council members would feel a political imperative to read and respond (which, in turn, could lead to further public dialogue, which is a good thing).
All of this would make government decision-making at the local level more transparent and accessible, and make local government more politically accountable as a result.
Some limits would be needed, of course. Digital communications should not be allowed to displace entirely traditional public meetings at city hall. Politics requires the rubbing of shoulders as well as the exchange of typed words on a monitor. Public officials’ seriousness, knowledge of the issues, and candor are better judged in person in a public session than in the dryness of an online exchange.
Nailing down clear (and enforceable) limits would pose perhaps the biggest challenge in amending the Brown Act to adapt it to 21st Century technology. But that challenge is not a reason to avoid modernizing the law. At minimum, digital technology could be used to decide which items to place on a public meeting agenda, thereby opening up an opaque process that now vests too much power in the legislative body’s nominal leader (in the case of a city council, the mayor or city manager, typically making these choices unilaterally). Online virtual meetings are also appropriate to discuss and act on items on the so-called “consent” portion of meeting agendas, since they are never discussed at public meetings at all.
More broadly, digital meetings may be an appropriate forum for legislators to do their homework on issues to be decided at public meetings. Council members can ask question of city staff and fellow board members, with both Qs and As available for the public to see. The public is not served by curbing elected officials’ education on the issues, especially when the internet can provide a clear and complete record of that education.
City Council members shouldn’t be treated as sequestered jurors who must be insulated from the taint of knowledge gained outside of a formally public meeting. They are politicians, after all.
California is the birthplace for digital technologies that the entire country takes for granted. It’s high time California’s cities, counties and school boards were allowed to use them too.
Peter Scheer, a lawyer and journalist, is executive director of the First Amendment Coalition. The views expressed here are his alone; they do not necessarily reflect the position of FAC’s Board of Directors.

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Elk Grove Neighborhood Summit Participants Hear, Discuss Different Services in Elk Grove

October 1, 2015 |

Before a standing-room-only audience, The City of Elk Grove conducted its second annual neighborhood summit last night.

Held in the City Council chambers at Elk Grove City Hall, the meeting was emceed by Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis with Council Member Steve Detrick and Planning Commissioner Kevin Spease also in attendance. In his opening statement, Davis praised the large audience for their interest in participating in the meeting.

"Thank you all for being here tonight," Davis said. "The fact that you are willing to come here, speak volumes about who you are as a community leaders."

Following Davis' comments, the participants heard presentations on the city's general plan, water conservation and the drought, storm preparedness, public safety, problem-oriented policing, and code enforcement. 
Participants rate their neighborhoods in several different
categories at Wednesday night's Neighborhood Summit. 

Not surprisingly, the conversation about the drought and its effects seemingly generated the most interest. Presenting information on water usage and conservation efforts were the two agencies serve to Elk Grove - Sacramento County Water Resources and the Elk Grove Water Agency, who were represented respectively by Forrest Williams and Ellen Carlson. 

Carlson and Williams both said users in each district have met conservation goals established by Gov. Jerry brown but warned that further restrictions noted could be enacted. Following their presentation, Carlson and fielded several questions including whether or not there might be building moratoriums. 

Williams said that was up to municipalities but noted the City of Folsom recently had to use auxiliary pumps to draw water from Folsom Lake as the water levels have fallen below intakes. Coincidentally, in spite of low water levels, the City of Folsom recently approved 10,000 new housing units.

Also making an impromptu appearance at the summit was Assemblymember Jim Cooper. A former Elk Grove City Council member and the city's first Mayor, Cooper, whose district includes portions of Sacramento and Lodi and all of Elk Grove and Galt, praised the city council, city staff and the high level of resident participation at the meeting. 

"You have a good thing going here in Elk Grove," Cooper said. "Elk Grove is a good place to live."


10:55 | 3 comments | Read More

Cooper’s Bill to Assist Elk Grove in Negotiations With Sacramento RT Signed by Governor

Written By EGN on Wednesday, September 30, 2015 | 09:40

September 30, 2015 | 

Assembly Bill 906, authored by Assembly Member Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), will update the city of Elk Grove’s proportionate share payment agreement with Sacramento Regional Transit District (RT) to reflect changes since Elk Grove incorporated as a city in 2000. The bill was signed on Monday by Governor Jerry Brown.

“I thank Governor Brown for signing this important bill for the people of Elk Grove,” Cooper said. “Elk Grove taxpayers can breathe a sigh of relief and know that their proportionate share payment to RT will be fairly negotiated.”

Currently, Elk Grove’s proportionate share payment is based on outdated state law. AB 906 will allow the Elk Grove to negotiate their contribution to Sacramento RT in the same manner as other participating entities within the region.

Proportionate share payments reflect Sacramento RT bus and light rail services that are used by residents of of Elk Grove.

AB 906 will become law on January 1, 2016.

09:40 | 1 comments | Read More

Elk Grove Could Use a Gil Fulbright in 2016

Written By EGN on Saturday, September 26, 2015 | 03:55

September 26, 2015 |

A few days back, a reader left a comment on a new "candidate" for President, "honest" Gil Fulbright.

The satirical video, produced by the non-partisan group Represent Us, racked up over 1 million views in its first 24-hours. The ads feature Honest Gil telling the truth, the real truth about elections and who funds them on all levels from the Presidential race on down to low level politicians like the Elk Grove City Council.

The ads immediate popularity shows how little the public has come to trust what comes from the mouths of our elected officials in this time of major political contributions. Wouldn't it be great for Elk Grove politics if someone could be drafted to run a real campaign like Gil's against one of the incumbents?

Watch Gil's videos from his unsuccessful 2014 run for the United States Senate and his current candidacy for the POTUS.

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More Than A Slogan - Demand Stronger Elk Grove Neighborhoods at Summit

Written By EGN on Friday, September 25, 2015 | 01:00

Brand new house, June 2008 on Shana Way in 
Elk Grove's East Franklin neighborhood. 
September 25, 2015 |

As suburban cities go, Elk Grove is a fairly large one with neighborhoods spread out over a wide-area. Most of us tend not to visit neighborhoods other than our own without a specific purpose.

Unless they are visiting friends or family, an Elk Grove resident living in Sheldon will probably not wander over to the parks or small shops in East Franklin, much less drive through the neighborhoods. That same East Franklin resident may drive through Sheldon if they are going to work in Rancho Cordova, but probably will not stop on their way home for a take-out pizza from Fat Mike's or turn on Rubio Drive, unless they were using it as a shortcut.

Elk Grove teen's used abandoned homes
for so-called abando parties. 
Which brings us to a story posted here several days ago about a man who was held up in front of his house on Tittle Way in Elk Grove's far southwestern neighborhood of East Franklin. One of the 12 comments posted on the story said, "Sadly, that whole neighborhood has gone to hell. We all saw it coming; broken windows not being repaired, cars parked on front lawns, garbage piles in front yards, weeds 3' tall, etc. It will take decades of gentrification before it becomes inhabitable."

The comments reminded of us the three-part series East Franklin Blues posted on EGN over seven years ago about the effects of the housing collapse on the East Franklin neighborhood. Home buyers in those subdivisions had the unfortunate timing to buy just as the market was peaking in the housing boom and were among the first in Elk Grove to feel the effects of the housing collapse of the Great Recession in 2008.

One street profiled in that series was Shana Way, which is about a half-mile geographically away from Tittle Way. At the time, numerous houses on Shana Way were for sale and headed toward foreclosure. 

Although it is hard to tell the true condition of Shana Way given the effects the drought has on lawns, the street appears to have stabilized in terms of houses abandoned housing in the immediate aftermath of the housing collapse. Prior to New York hedge funds' large scale cash purchases of homes in Elk Grove for rentals, the East Franklin neighborhood was a favored spot for youth in Elk Grove to hold so-called abando parties

Like Shana Way, a visit to Tittle Way found all the lawns golden, so it was hard to determine the true status of the street. Although we did not see any broken windows or garbage piles as noted above, there was one house with very tall weeds and one driveway with a car on blocks. 
The north entrance to Monterrey Village in June, 2008. 

A visit to the nearby gated community of Monterey Village (see our May 2008 story on this subdivision), which was a precursor to the housing crisis with its 2007 collapse, visually revealed similar results. In 2008 EGN documented the gated community where construction tools had been abandoned, condominium construction unfinished, non-functioning security gates (perhaps the HOA collapsed too) and the use of the community as a dump. 

Today, the security gates are in use, a functioning homeowners association seems to be in place, the unfinished construction completed and the neighborhood is no longer a dumping ground for unwanted furniture. Unfortunately, construction has not resumed in the gated community, and there is no evidence of any progress to build it out (See before and after video of of Monterrey Village below).

While the above-noted neighborhoods, as well as many others in Elk Grove, face on-going challenges, to be certain the city's newest areas south of Elk Grove Boulevard has rebounded since the 2008 collapse. New homes in previously approved subdivisions are under construction, and some of the unused new retail space is slowly gaining occupants, even if they are churches. Love them or loath them, the area is also home to a new Walmart store, and possibly the only McDonald's in the world without outdoor trash receptacles.
Click to enlarge.

And yet, even though there are several unfinished subdivisions and challenged neighborhoods throughout the city, there are rumblings being heard from residential developers and the Elk Grove City Council about their mutual desire to once again pursue expansion of the city. This time thought it is being done with the veneer of economic development.  

Next week the city will be holding its second annual neighborhood summit. To those who might attend the meeting, beforehand why not closely look around your neighborhood, and more importantly, other parts of town you might not normally visit and take note of the good, bad and ugly. 

Take notes, take pictures and arm yourself with both the positive and negative information you unearth and share it with your fellow citizens, the Elk Grove city staff, and the Elk Grove City Council.  

Furthermore, keep in mind the city's financial health, stability, safety, and road maintenance affect our neighborhoods and ultimately the value of our homes. Long after the developers who fund all our council members with their generous cash donations leave town with carpetbags of booty and city council members slouch their way to some other political office, we the residents who fund this city will be left with the positive and negative consequences of their actions.  

Demand our executive city staff, most of whom can't even be bothered to live in Elk Grove, and elected officials that before they eye expansion of our city for the benefit of their moneyed housing developer patrons, that ALL neighborhoods have properly maintained roads, are built-out, safe, stable and the city is on sound financial footing. 

In the words of Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis, let's throw it back to the city council and mayor and make sure, no demand, stronger neighborhoods isn't just another throwaway campaign slogan.


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City of Elk Grove to Hold Second 'Neighborhood Summit' Next Week

Written By EGN on Thursday, September 24, 2015 | 06:00

September 24, 2015 |

Next Wednesday night The City of Elk Grove will conduct its second annual Neighborhood Summit meeting. 

The meeting is meant to bring neighbors together to learn, share, and discuss local services and solutions that improve the quality in Elk Grove. The meeting will take place in the City Council Chambers at City Hall and will be held from 6 to 8 p.m 

Pre-summit activities will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a resource fair followed by sessions on topics including water conservation, storm preparedness, problem-oriented policing, public transportation, and code enforcement issues including rental properties and “squatters rights.”

The Elk Grove Neighborhood Summit is a free event and pre-registration is encouraged. Visit www.elkgrovecity.org or contact Mona Schmidt at (916) 478-3633 or mschmidt@elkgrovecity.org to register. 

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Chew's Reviews - The Intern

By Gary Chew | September 24, 2015 |

Opens tomorrow

After making the mistake of installing Windows 10 in my pc and trying to figure out what to do next, I hoped all of my files hadn't been swept away with a single click. Then I realized I was a reasonable facsimile of Robert De Niro's rather finely-aged character in his new movie The Intern.

Ben is 70 and a retired widower with time on his hands. He misses being in the thick of the work he enjoyed as a younger man. As Ben is a neat, responsible, organized person, the opportunity to be a senior volunteer intern at About The Fit seems to be a good fit for him. About The Fit is an online retail clothing concern the script has located in Brooklyn that's aggressively run by a savvy young woman with the epicine handle of Jules. The most excellent Anne Hathaway has the part of Jules and plays it with as much aplomb as De Niro does Ben.

Nancy Myers, responsible for Something's Gotta Give, It's Complicated and The Parent Trap directed The Intern.

It's another of those delightful movies that's set in a world perpetually sunny and warm with everyone pleasant and accommodating --- especially Ben. Think: pretty, pretty perky. Issues aren't too serious except for maybe common domestic problems. But none in this picture takes anyone to any kind of looming precipice. A “pleaser of crowds” in spades.

While Ben struggles getting on Face Book and finding the proper things to press on his keyboard, he slips into the workaday, new millennial world of About The Fit. He becomes more than just Jules' intern, but her quasi-chauffeur as well; and for short stretches, he babysits for Jules and her husband's way too darling little girl who's been given great lines. De Niro looks so right at being a grandpa. And the sports jackets and neckties he wears are really cool. The ties look like those dusty ones in my closet.

De Niro can do anything. All we have to do in our head is list the numerous characters he's done across these years. During an internal thought process of mine, as I was watching Ben shuttling Jules in an SUV about Brooklyn for important meetings, I suddenly thought, “Wow, this is the second time I've seen Robert De Niro in the role of a taxi driver.” Then I moved on with where the script (written by Myers) was taking me.

An extended sequence occurs where the movie might have lost forward thrust. By accident, Jules misdirects an email intended for someone else to her grumpy mother, describing her mom using the term “bitchy.” Jules is undone by her blunder and enlists Ben and three younger male employees to help her out of the predicament. It boils down to De Niro and his “gang” entering Jules' mom's home to delete the email from her computer before she gets around to reading it. Funny ... but a bit forced, even if it's a hoot to see De Niro in the middle of a comedic scene while sirens wail outside Jules' mom's place.

The film has a nice balance, cleverly designed for younger people while attracting those who are De Niro’s vintage.  Junior members watching in the cinema will automatically latch on to all the IT action going on, and when De Niro starts dating About The Fit's middle-aged masseuse (played by Rene Russo) after she gives him an in-office, at-the-desk chair massage, everyone one is “all in” for the breezy, sweet fun The Intern allows.

Not to be outdone by De Niro's character, I just want to say that I have now dumped Windows 10 from my pc and so happy to be back with Windows 7.  

Copyright © 2015 by Gary Chew. All rights reserved

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